What was most striking about the Obama speech in Berlin was not anything he said so much as the alternative reality it fostered: many American children have never before seen huge crowds turn out abroad to wave American flags instead of burn them.

— "How Obama Became Acting President" by Frank Rich

There’s a reason elite schools speak of training leaders, not thinkers—holders of power, not its critics. An independent mind is independent of all allegiances, and elite schools, which get a large percentage of their budget from alumni giving, are strongly invested in fostering institutional loyalty. […] The college career office has little to say to students not interested in law, medicine, or business, and elite universities are not going to do anything to discourage the large percentage of their graduates who take their degrees to Wall Street.

— "The Disadvantages of an Elite Education" by William Deresiewicz

The moral of the story is we’re here on Earth to fart around. And, of course, the computers will do us out of that. And, what the computer people don’t realize, or they don’t care, is we’re dancing animals. You know, we love to move around.

— Kurt Vonnegut (via Matt)

So I was talking to one of the nurses. What brought most of these patients here? Smoking and drinking, was the short answer. Reminded me of what a doctor friend told me many years ago. “Without tobacco and alcohol, you could close half the hospitals.” We can’t get rid of stuff that’ll kill us in the long run. But we can choose not to indulge them.

Doc Searls

Unlike any other creature on this planet, humans can learn and understand, without having experienced. They can think themselves into other peoples minds, imagine themselves into other peoples places.

Of course, this is a power, like my brand of fictional magic, that is morally neutral. One might use such an ability to manipulate, or control, just as much as to understand or sympathise.

And many prefer not to exercise their imaginations at all. They choose to remain comfortably within the bounds of their own experience, never troubling to wonder how it would feel to have been born other than they are. They can refuse to hear screams or to peer inside cages; they can close their minds and hearts to any suffering that does not touch them personally; they can refuse to know.

I might be tempted to envy people who can live that way, except that I do not think they have any fewer nightmares than I do. Choosing to live in narrow spaces can lead to a form of mental agoraphobia, and that brings its own terrors. I think the wilfully unimaginative see more monsters. They are often more afraid.

— J.K. Rowling, an excerpt from the commencement address (video) she delivered a few hours ago here at Harvard.

[Richard Feynman] must have noticed my mood, because he suddenly stopped the story and asked, “Hey, what’s the matter?”

I hesitated. “I’m sad because you’re going to die.”

“Yeah,” he sighed, “that bugs me sometimes too. But not so much as you think.” And after a few more steps, “When you get as old as I am, you start to realize that you’ve told most of the good stuff you know to other people anyway.”

— Danny Hillis writes about Richard Feynman's time at Thinking Machines, working with him on some of the first massively parallel computer systems.

As people like Jessica Yellin, Katie Couric, Phil Donahue and Scott McClellan are making clear, these media outlets are controlled propaganda arms of the Government, of the political establishment generally. For many people, that isn’t a new revelation, but the fact that it’s becoming clearer by the day — from unimpeachable sources on the inside — is nonetheless quite significant.

Glenn Greenwald on how Scott McClellan's new book is forcing the media to confront accusations of corruption that they have long ignored

Even if you haven’t seen the movie by now, you’ve probably seen the pointy-headed crystal skull, and in this movie we all learn exactly where that skull came from: outer space. (Or another dimension, but same thing, right?) Unfortunately, every Indiana Jones movie so far has been about the power of religious artifacts. Not only are the skull’s powers nebulous (it stops ants? It makes you go crazy if you look at it? It’s a magnet?), thereby making it a terrible MacGuffin, it calls into question the God-given power of every artifact Indy’s ever seen in action. Were the Shankara stones space rocks? Was the Ark radioactive? Was the Holy Grail a life-extending alien beverage container? Everything we know has been cast into doubt — now imagine how Indy feels, after spending a lifetime chasing this stuff.

— "You Are Now Leaving Indiana" from Television Without Pity

If girls and young women ruptured their A.C.L.’s at just twice the rate of boys and young men, it would be notable. Three times the rate would be astounding. But some researchers believe that in sports that both sexes play, and with similar rules — soccer, basketball, volleyball — female athletes rupture their A.C.L.’s at rates as high as five times that of males.

— "The Uneven Playing Field," a New York Times Magazine investigation of sports injuries. What's scary is that no one can figure out why A.C.L.s snap.

I would join in their jubilation, but frankly I’m tired of being right all the time. It was fun for a while, but now it’s just depressing.

Mark Pilgrim on Microsoft's decision to shut down their "PlaysForSure" music store, leaving their customers with music that no longer plays for anything.

For people old enough to remember phone booths, a blunt reference to salary in a social setting still represents the height of bad manners. But for many young professionals, the don’t-ask-don’t-tell etiquette of previous generations seems like a relic. For them, salary information is now fair game, at least among friends. Many consider it crucial to prosper in an increasingly transient, winner-take-all workplace — regardless of the envy that full disclosure can raise.

— "Sharing Salary Figures on Facebook" by Alex Williams in the New York Times

On the eve of tomorrow’s hotly contested and relatively close Democratic presidential primary in Pennsylvania, a number of voting activists are sounding the alarm one last time about the state’s election systems. Over 85 percent of PA voters will vote on paperless touchscreen machines that are hackable, failure-prone, and fundamentally unauditable. 

— "PA primary will be unauditable; GOP blocks e-voting reform" by Jon Stokes in Ars Technica

Some people are determined to deliberately misunderstand much of what they encounter in life. Sometimes I have a hard time realizing that that’s their problem, not mine.

— Jason Kottke, interviewed at Clusterflock

CBS won’t be the only network experimenting with Realism Programs. NBC has a full slate of the revolutionary new programming planned, highlighted by Crooning With the Stars, Celebrity Hooverville, and New Deal or No New Deal. In that last show, contestants match wits with host Eddie Cantor for the right to receive government contracts handed out by a shadowy government figure — rumored to be Eleanor Roosevelt herself!

— "'Realism Programs' Turn Radio On Its Ear" from Radeeo, the April Fools edition of TeeVee

I told her I just want to bum around for a few years. She says, “your brother is a Vice President and makes over $100,000 a year.” Yeah, but we own the company. It doesn’t count when daddy buys you a business.

— Overheard in Harvard Square. Later she said she wants to open a bookstore in Italy, even though she doesn't speak Italian.

Without giving away too many details of this stealth project, let’s just say if you’re looking for a decent knish, you’re gonna find a fuckin’ decent knish.

— Teaser copy from a site called Husky Jew. No idea...