People silently struggle from all kinds of terrible things. They suffer from depression, ambition, substance abuse, and pretension. They suffer from family tragedy, Ivy-League educations, and self-loathing. They suffer from failing marriages, physical pain, and publishing. The good thing about politeness is that you can treat these people exactly the same. And then wait to see what happens. You don’t have to have an opinion. You don’t need to make a judgment. I know that doesn’t sound like liberation, because we live and work in an opinion-based economy. But it is. Not having an opinion means not having an obligation. And not being obligated is one of the sweetest of life’s riches.

Paul Ford,“How to Be Polite”

Citizens in a democracy make a certain pact with one another: to answer speech with more speech, not violence. No matter how angry what I say makes you, you do not have a right to pull a gun on me. But now the gun has already been drawn, nominally as an act of symbolic speech — and yet it still remains a gun. A slippage has occurred between the First and Second Amendments, and the First suffers as a result.

Patrick Blanchfield, “What Do Guns Say?“, New York Times

As it gets easier for one member of a group to destroy the entire group, and the group size gets larger, the odds of someone in the group doing it approaches certainty. Our global interconnectedness means that our group size encompasses everyone on the planet, and since government hasn’t kept up, we have to worry about the weakest-controlled member of the weakest-controlled country. Is this a fundamental limitation of technological advancement, one that could end civilization? First our fears grip us so strongly that, thinking about the short term, we willingly embrace a police state in a desperate attempt to keep us safe; then, someone goes off and destroys us anyway?

Bruce Schneier

Chilling.

The Justice Department is sanctioning the destructive, anticompetitive campaign of a corporate giant with billions in cash and boundless ambitions. The situation is bizarre, and without precedent, to our knowledge: the Justice Department is intervening to help entrench a monopolist

The Authors Guild Blog

I’m thinking seriously about how to dump my Kindle, and my large investment in Kindle books, for a Nook.

When the haters hate, when the bigoted politicos try to drag us back there, when the warped logic and the lies and the bullshit starts to fly, it’s worth remembering an uncle I never knew, and the moment when he knelt on the floor of his apartment, opened the door of the oven, and leaned in.

A commenter on MetaFIlter, telling a powerful story of how our society has changed in just a few generations. (via Mathowie)

I have always felt that no matter how inscrutable its ways and means, the universe is working perfectly and working according to a greater plan than we can know. In the last few days, I have had to battle with the fear that everything is actually just random, that the universe is a howling void of meaningless chaos, indifferent to everything that I value. All hope has at times seemed unjustified to me. But groundless hope, like unconditional love, is the only kind worth having.

John Perry Barlow, eulogizing his fiancée in 1994

I choose to fit myself into most of Apple’s intended-use constraints because their products tend to work better that way, which makes my life easier. But that requires trade-offs that many people can’t or won’t make. Previous-me tried to persuade everyone to switch to my setup, but I now know that it’s not worth the effort. I’ll never know someone else’s requirements, environment, or priorities as well as they do.

Marco Arment on technical evangelism and product choices.

I have reached the exact same conclusion. I can tell you what works well for me in my particular setup, but I can’t tell you what will work for you, nor can I solve your particular technical problems.

I miss the radio dedication show. People would phone in, and dedicate songs to one another. This only worked because of serendipity: the voice on the radio would catch your attention by calling you by name like someone in the next room. They’d then say the name of someone that you knew, then play a dedicated song from them. It was a thoughtful gift traveling through waves in the air. The whole thing works under the presumption that you would be listening. Dedications don’t work if we don’t regularly congregate in the same place, so there is a part of me that fears it may be gone forever. What made the whole thing great was a special presence of a felt, but invisible connection. There was a thoughtfulness in the choice of the song, but also in the communal aspect of knowing that everyone else listening to the radio was hearing your song as well. And then it was gone. Vanished, evaporated, and you’re left with that warm feeling when something good passes.

Frank Chimero

[Drowning] is the number two cause of accidental death in children, age 15 and under (just behind vehicle accidents) –- of the approximately 750 children who will drown next year, about 375 of them will do so within 25 yards of a parent or other adult. In ten percent of those drownings, the adult will actually watch them do it, having no idea it is happening.

Mario Vittone

Well worth a read. At a recent pool party I was keeping an eye on the kids in the pool, but I wonder if I would have actually spotted a drowning incident in time.

Senior officers say [PowerPoint] does come in handy when the goal is not imparting information, as in briefings for reporters. The news media sessions often last 25 minutes, with 5 minutes left at the end for questions from anyone still awake. Those types of PowerPoint presentations, Dr. Hammes said, are known as “hypnotizing chickens.”

Elisabeth Bumiller, “We Have Met the Enemy and He Is PowerPoint“, New York Times

Somehow I’ve gotten to a stage in my life where I can buy all the tech stuff I want, and it’s just no longer that interesting. I used to dream about new gadgets and imagine how they’d improve my life, but of course they never really did. […] But there’s something to be said for owning beautiful, useful objects that light up your home and make you smile every time you see them—and that always work just as expected, that will never crash, need a motherboard replacement, burn your legs, or talk back to you with indecipherable demands.

Designer Amy Hoy, in an interview about the technologies she uses to do her work.

I know what she means. I guess maybe I’m starting to grow up too.

This movement in the direction of emptiness is profoundly difficult for contemporary culture — and particularly American culture — to grapple with. Occasional recessions and other setbacks aside, we assume that our national trajectory always moves toward fullness, that our cultural progress can be measured by how much new square footage we’ve created and occupied. But that process has completely reversed itself in many of cities hardest hit by economic crisis.

Christopher Hawthorne, “The Burj Dubai and architecture’s vacant stare

Do your shoelaces always come undone? Do your shoelace bows sit vertically instead of across the shoe? If so, you’re probably tying a “Granny Knot”, and one simple change to your technique will result in a balanced knot that sits straight and stays secure.

Ian’s Shoelace Site

My eyes have been opened!

After Al Qaeda killed nearly 3,000 Americans, eight years ago on Friday, we went to war and spent hundreds of billions of dollars ensuring that this would not happen again. Yet every two months, that many people die because of our failure to provide universal insurance[.]

Nicholas Kristoff

Imagine it is 1965. You’ve seen the curves Gordon Moore discovered. What if you believed the story they were trying to tell us: that each year, as sure as winter follows summer, and day follows night, computers would get half again better, and half again smaller, and half again cheaper, year after year, and that in 5 decades they would be 30 million times more powerful than they were then, and cheap. If you were sure of that back then, or even mostly persuaded, and if a lot of others were as well, what good fortune you could have harvested. You would have needed no other prophecies, no other predictions, no other details. Just knowing that single trajectory of Moore’s, and none other, we would have educated differently, invested differently, prepared more wisely to grasp the amazing powers it would sprout.

Kevin Kelly asks, “Was Moore’s Law Inevitable?”

[A]s night fell over the tumultuous capital, gunfire could be heard in the distance. And from rooftops across the city, the defiant sound of “Allah-u-Akbar” — “God is Great” — went up yet again, as it has every night since the fraudulent election. But on Saturday it seemed stronger. The same cry was heard in 1979, only for one form of absolutism to yield to another. Iran has waited long enough to be free.

Roger Cohen on the turmoil in Iran

Despite changing attitudes, polls continue to show that atheists are ranked lower than any other minority or religious group when Americans are asked whether they would vote for or approve of their child marrying a member of that group.

Mr. Obama is the only popular politician left in the world. He would win an election in any one of the G-20 countries, and his fellow world leaders will do anything to take home a touch of that reflected popularity.