Almost all absurdity of conduct arises from the imitation of those we cannot resemble.

— Dr. Johnson

Weal and woe

I should fear those that dance before me now
Would one day stamp upon me. It has been done:
Men shut their doors against a setting sun.

— Shakespeare, Timon of Athens

Standard input

One of my favorite business model suggestions for entrepreneurs is, find an old UNIX command that hasn’t yet been implemented on the web, and fix that. talk and finger became ICQ, LISTSERV became Yahoo! Groups, ls became (the original) Yahoo!, find and grep became Google, rn became Bloglines, pine became Gmail, mount is becoming S3, and bash is becoming Yahoo! Pipes. I didn’t get until tonight that Twitter is wall for the web. I love that.

— Marc Hedlund

The Parable of the Clothes Line

A story might be told by a series of sketches of the clothes of a given family hanging out to dry. A love story might be told in the washes hung out in adjacent gardens. Then there should be three washes and a gentleman nightshirt and a lady nightshirt should be alone. By and by there should be some little nightshirts.

A philosopher might be tempted, on seeing the little nightshirt, to think that the old nightshirts had made it. What we do is much the same, for the body of a baby is not much more made by the two old babies, after whose pattern it has cut itself out, than the little nightshirt is made by the old ones. The thing that makes either the little nightshirts or the little babies is something about which we know nothing whatever at all.

— Samuel Butler’s Notebook


Spoon feeding in the long run teaches us nothing but the shape of the spoon.

— E.M. Forster

Means and Ends

The practical revolutionary will understand Goethe’s “conscience is the virtue of observers and not of agents of action”; in action, one does not always enjoy the luxury of a decision that is consistent both with one’s individual conscience and the good of mankind. The choice must always be for the latter. Action is for mass salvation and not for the individual’s personal salvation. He who sacrifices the mass good for his personal conscience has a peculiar conception of “personal salvation”; he doesn’t care enough for people to be “corrupted” for them.

— Saul Alinsky

Plus ça change

“How strange is this wild urge for rapid locomotion seizing people of all nations at the same instant. ‘The dead go swiftly’, says the ballad. Are we dead then? Or could this be some presentiment of the approaching doom of our planet, possessing us to multiply the means of communication so we may travel over its entire surface in the little time left to us?”

— Théophile Gautier, 1884

Books Read in 2016

The value in posting this list is not only that it preserves the work it took to compile it, but also that it provides me with some hint as the sources I took this year’s passages from.


  • Home Fires by Wolfe, Gene
  • The Forever War by Haldeman, Joe
  • Far North by Theroux, Marcel
  • The Last Wish by Sapkowski, Andrzej
  • The Dark Forest by Liu, Cixin
  • The Killing Machine by Vance, Jack
  • Star King by Vance, Jack
  • Castle of the Otter by Wolfe, Gene
  • The Lions of al-Rassan by Kay, Guy Gavriel
  • The Weird by VanderMeer, Jeff
  • Rendezous with Rama by Clarke, Arthur C.


  • The Art of Philosophizing and other Essays by Russell, Bertrand
  • But What if We’re Wrong? by Klosterman, Chuck
  • Man-Eaters of Kumaon by Corbett, Jim
  • Sur Plusieurs Beaux Sujects by Stevens, Wallace
  • The Note-Books of Samuel Butler by Butler, Samuel
  • The Dyer’s Hand and Other Essays by Auden, W. H.
  • The Old Patagonian Express by Theroux, Paul
  • Too High and Too Steep by Williams, David B
  • In Defense of Sanity by Chesterton, G. K.
  • Commonplace Book by Forster, E. M.
  • Ranch Life and the Hunting Trail by Roosevelt, Theodore
  • By Design by Caplan, Ralph
  • Interaction of Color by Albers, Josef
  • Structures: Or Why Things Don’t Fall Down by Gordon, J. E.
  • Atlas of Cursed Places by Le Carrer, Olivier
  • The Inevitable by Kelly, Kevin
  • Wind, Sand, and Stars by Saint-Exupéry, Antoine de
  • Code by Petzold, Charles
  • Rats by Sullivan, Robert
  • Cradle to Cradle by Braungart, Michael
  • A Certain World by Auden, W. H.
  • Atlas of Remote Islands by Schalansky, Judith
  • Wayfinding by Arthur, Paul
  • A Burglar’s Guide to the City by Manaugh, Geoff
  • The Basic Writings of Bertrand Russell by Russell, Bertrand
  • On Bullshit by Frankfurt, Harry G.
  • Consilience by Wilson Edward Osborne
  • Interdisciplinary Interaction Design by Pannafino, James
  • The Food Lab by López-Alt, J. Kenji
  • Architecture: Form, Space, and Order by Ching, Francis D. K.
  • Nothing to Envy by Demick, Barbara
  • Trillion Year Spree by Aldiss, Brian W, editor.
  • The Big Con by Maurer, David
  • 100 Things Every Designer Needs to Know About People by Weinschenk, Susan
  • At Ease by Eisenhower, Dwight D.
  • Playing at the World by Peterson, Jon
  • The Progress Paradox by Easterbrook, Gregg
  • Too Big to Know by Weinberger, David
  • The Knowledge by Dartnell, Lewis
  • Data and Goliath by Schneier, Bruce
  • Cubed by Saval, Nikil
  • Good-Bye to All That by Graves, Robert
  • Gunfighter Nation by Slotkin, Richard
  • Symbol by Bateman, Steven
  • A Time of Gifts by Fermor, Patrick Leigh
  • Steering the Craft by Le Guin, Ursula K.
  • How to Lie with Maps by Monmonier, Mark
  • Uncanny Valley by Weschler, Lawrence
  • Seventy-nine Short Essays on Design by Bierut, Michael


  • 100 Great Science Fiction Short Short Stories by Asimov, Isaac

Ken and Robin’s Spy Movies 101

From Episode 227 of Ken and Robin Talk about Stuff.

Robin D. Laws

  • Spione (1928)
  • The Parallax View (1974) ✓
  • The Spy Who Came in from the Cold (1965) ✓
  • Notorious (1936) ✓
  • The Third Man (1949) ✓
    • Ken: “You know what’s another good movie with no spies in it? Jaws.”
  • From Russia with Love (1963) ✓
  • Army of Shadows (1969) ✓
  • Ronin (1998) ✓
  • Sicario (2015) ✓
  • Charade (1963)
  • Hopscotch (1980)

Kenneth Hite

  • The Three Days of the Condor (1975) ✓
  • Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (2011) ✓
    • “Since you can’t allow TV shows in Spy Movies 101, we must pass over Alec Guiness with a wistful sigh.”
  • The 39 Steps (1935)
  • The Manchurian Candidate (1962) ✓
  • Thunderball (1965) ✓
  • The Ipcress File (1965) ✓
  • The Bourne Trilogy (2000s) ✓
  • OSS-117: Cairo, Nest of Spies (2006) ✓