Skip to content

Cormac McCarthy on language and the subconscious

The Kekulé Problem: where did language come from?

Language can be used to sum up some point at which one has arrived—a sort of milepost—so as to gain a fresh starting point. But if you believe that you actually use language in the solving of problems I wish that you would write to me and tell me how you go about it.

A quote from Babylon 5

I used to think it was awful that life was so unfair. Then I thought, “wouldn’t it be much worse if life were fair, and all the terrible things that happen to us come because we actually deserve them?” So now I take great comfort in the general hostility and unfairness of the universe.

Universe 25

Universe 25, 1968–1973

Writing in a report summary in 1979, Calhoun noted that “no single area of intellectual effort can exert a greater influence on human welfare than that contributing to better design of the built environment.”

Universe 25: The Mouse “Utopia” Experiment That Turned Into An Apocalypse

[…] the experiment design has been criticized for creating not an overpopulation problem, but rather a scenario where the more aggressive mice were able to control the territory and isolate everyone else. Much like with food production in the real world, it’s possible that the problem wasn’t of adequate resources, but how those resources are controlled.

Mouse Heaven or Mouse Hell?

Ultimately Calhoun’s work functions like a Rorschach blot—people see what they want to see. It’s worth remembering that not all lab experiments, especially contrived ones such as Universe 25, apply to the real world. In which case, perhaps the best lesson to learn here is a meta-lesson: that drawing lessons itself can be a dangerous thing.


[An actual Christmas post]

In Defense of Ebenezer Scrooge

To the Dickens with Dickens.

another day, another reason to distrust

[why am i posting Serious Stuff at 7:25 am on Xmas Day? well i could explain why i’m up, and it isn’t because i’m excited about my presents. maybe i can explain why i have nothing better to do, even. but for now, i just was surfing a bit, while waiting for the oven to heat for some fresh bread for holiday dinner at a friend’s place, and wanted to note this article (as a former applied scientist, bogusness in science is still of interest), and as always, whenever something is too edgy for Facebook i stick it here. make myself feel like i’m doing something about it.]

Blots on a Field?

“You can cheat to get a paper. You can cheat to get a degree. You can cheat to get a grant. You can’t cheat to cure a disease,” he says. “Biology doesn’t care.”

Power laws

Million Dollar Murray by Malcolm Gladwell

Solving problems that have power-law distributions doesn’t just violate our moral intuitions; it violates our political intuitions as well. It’s hard not to conclude, in the end, that the reason we treated the homeless as one hopeless undifferentiated group for so long is not simply that we didn’t know better. It’s that we didn’t want to know better. It was easier the old way.

a Grammy would be nice, though

Are We Finally Ready to See Neutral Milk Hotel for What It Really Was?

 Many of that period’s acclaimed songwriters professed to be allergic to the concept of fame. Mangum just meant it.

Joe Matt

a letter from joe matt

Here’s where’s I’m compelled to impart what I consider an important life lesson–

If you’re lost, career-wise, and haven’t a clue what to do wit your life–I think it’s crucial to metaphorically “sit perfectly still and do absolutely nothing” for as long as possible. Jobs, friends–just about anything could be considered a distraction. But, if left to ones own devices (like I was) I think eventually one begins to hear their calling. Passions, interests–these things all lead you to it. And for me, it was just doodling in my sketchbook and eventually making autobiographical vignettes. You can’t go looking for money or success–in fact, you have to act as if you already have those things and still don’t know what to do with yourself–and then it’ll come to you. At least that’s how it happened for me.

Comics Beat obituary

in a just world, a saint


Dear Student

Milgram was ultimately denied tenure because the ethics of his experiment were rightfully questioned. Still, Milgram’s experiment has been continually re-created. Perhaps, what is most telling is not Milgram’s results, but the fact that the experiment continues to be repeated and debated and supported and refuted. When faced with an oppressive authority figure, we wonder how we’ll act, what we’ll do, who we’ll obey. The answers, unfortunately, aren’t clear. Even good teachers, kind teachers, given an oppressive hierarchical system, will misuse their authority.