Sanctioned cruelty

People desperately want to find people it is socially acceptable to be cruel to.

halvorz, tweet (reformatted)

Hot weather

It was one of those days in Buenos Aires when one feels not only insulted and abused by the summer, but actually degraded.

Jorge Luis Borges, “There Are More Things”

Traditions masquerade as technology

We have always proposed a complete alternative computing and literary universe -- sweeping, simple and principled -- which has remained very different from the evolving computer world and its evolving traditions that masquerade as "technology".

The specialist-to-theoretician pattern

Over and over we see the same pattern: the red-hot specialist becomes a grand theoretician.

Frantic defenders of our little castles

We read webcomics and watch movies to have vicarious whimsy in our lives - pretend for a moment that we’re adventurers rather than frantic defenders of our little castles.

Joseph Gentle, “In defense of sillyness” (emphasis mine)

The California style

[... F]or your typical consumer, the generic California/BoBo style works fine. It signals elegance, which means, more or less, that it’s designed for educated, high-Openness, upper-middle-class, urban people. When I enter a space or a website with this aesthetic, or buy a product with this branding, it’s shorthand for “Ahhhh, this place is run by competent professionals who know how to give me a pleasant experience. I will not feel harried or inconvenienced or confused here; I will be well taken care of. I will easily be able to slot my existing behavior patterns into the implicit “rules” of how to use and navigate this place or device or website.”

Sarah Constantin, “Naming the Nameless”

The security/hacker mindset

[...] I think unexpected Turing-complete systems and weird machines have something in common with heist movies or cons or stage magic: they all share a specific paradigm we might call the security mindset or hacker mindset.

What they/OP/security/speedrunning/hacking/social-engineering all have in common is that they show that the much-ballyhooed ‘hacker mindset’ is, fundamentally, a sort of reductionism run amok, where one ‘sees through’ abstractions to a manipulable reality. Like Neo in the Matrix—a deeply cliche analogy for hacking, but cliche because it resonates—one achieves enlightenment by seeing through the surface illusions of objects and can now see the endless lines of green code which make up the Matrix (and vice-versa).

Gwern Bran­wen, “Surprisingly Turing-Complete” (footnote removed)

The past

Almost any time you interpret the past as "the present, but cruder", you end up missing the point.


Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth.

Game designers are drug designers

“You know, I’ve come to the conclusion that as a game designer, I’m basically a drug designer,” [Jason Rohrer] told me. “If I’m going to be a drug designer I may as well take the job seriously.”

Free software over time

Over several decades, the usability of any non-Free software approaches zero, unless you can still emulate the eventually-defunct application vendor’s last supported operating system in whichever future operating system you’re using. And even if you can, you won’t have the platform integration expected of a native application.

The man who killed Trotsky

Trotsky haunted his killer. Allegedly, Ramón Mercader’s last words were “I hear it always. I hear the scream. I know he’s waiting for me on the other side.”

System software time scale

If you have a system software project and it can advance without being lashed to a company, definitely do it that way! It’s always a poor fit—they have to succeed on different timelines.

Premature documentation

Unfortunately, premature documentation is the second root of all evil, so some of the vagueness you sense is due to immature code. It’s always a mistake to document a system into existence—that is the path of vaporware. Better to run and have weak docs, than have good docs but not run.

Hard problems

If you’re from an academic background, discipline yourself to solve important problems rather than hard problems.

Jon Harrop, Reddit comment


We shape our buildings and afterwards our buildings shape us.

Winston Churchill, address to the House of Commons on October 28, 1943 (according to Deborah Winslow)

Understanding corporate decision making in the 1980s

Remember, kids, cocaine is real.

Tim Rogers, his podcast


[...] Reality doesn’t grade on a curve.


The Oscars suggest a related idea: what we want is social credit for anticipating fashion.

Robin Hanson, “Why Prefer Potential?” (emphasis mine)

DFW and the great needy masses

[U]ntil recently DFW was in that place in the dusty warehouses of my attention economy occupied by the things people have been a little too insistent I should check out, a place also occupied by Hemingway, Khalil Gibran, “E.T.,” “The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” and for reasons that would take a lot of tedious explaining, Cointreau. Things perhaps of substantial intrinsic merit, but already shown by the form of the recommendation, even in their absence, to lend themselves to conversations of awkward and unpleasant intensity, not to mention unearned intimacy. The sort of conversations I imagine a more-brilliant-and-famous-than-me and eventually-suicidally-depressed DFW being cornered into often by great needy masses of folks who thought he owed them a little piece of himself because he had gotten them all excited and they took it personally.

Choosing an implementation

To choose an implementation is to choose a tribe. Since Scheme is so minimal, you begin to rely on extensions that are only present in your implementation, and so through code you bind yourself to a world of code, people, and practice, loosely bound to the rest of the Scheme world through a fictional first-person-plural. This is OK! Going deep into a relationship with an implementation is the only way to do great work. The looser ties to the rest of the Scheme world in the form of the standards, the literature, the IRC channel, and the mailing lists provide refreshing conversation among fellow travellers, not marching orders for a phalanx.

Cute characters, cruel mathematics

[...] “The players will come for the cute characters, and stay for the cruel mathematics.”

Startup naming trends

Startup naming trends:
  • -ster, 1999
  • -ify, 2006
  • -ly, 2009
  • .io, 2013
HackerNewsOnion, tweet (list formatting mine)

Laughing with Kafka

[G]reat short stories and great jokes have a lot in common. Both depend on what communication-theorists sometimes call “exformation,” which is a certain quantity of vital information removed from but evoked by a communication in such a way as to cause a kind of explosion of associative connections within the recipient.
No wonder they cannot appreciate the really central Kafka joke—that the horrific struggle to establish a human self results in a self whose humanity is inseparable from that horrific struggle.
David Foster Wallace, Laughing with Kafka

See also

Tags: history, literature, psychology, quotes, software design, UI/UX, video games.