minsky quote of the day [from 1974]

I cannot state strongly enough my conviction that the preoccupation with consistency, so valuable for mathematical logic, has been incredibly destructive to those working on models of mind. at the popular level it has produced a weird conception of the potential capabilities of machines in general. at the "logical" level it has blocked efforts to represent ordinary knowledge, by presenting an unreachable image of a corpus of context-free "truths" that can stand almost by themselves. and at the intellect-modelling level it has blocked the fundamental realization that thinking begins first with suggestive but defective plans and images, that are slowly (if ever) refined and replaced by better ones. -- marvin minsky [conclusion to AI memo no. 306, a framework for representing knowledge, june 1974]


recently noted quotes

i have invented some very powerful ways of wasting time. -- john d. conway

we have no idea what "the center of our being" is, but i hope it is chocolate cream. -- penn gilette [penn & teller bullshit]

brevity is the handmaiden of force. -- jack hart [a writer's coach]

"Intelligent design" is a science stopper. Once something is explained as "designed" by a disembodied invisible "intelligence", we can proceed no further in our inquiry. Intelligent design proponents themselves state that science is not allowed to pursue the identity or motivation of the designer. -- jeffrey shallit

sometimes the truth is arrived at by adding all the little lies together and deducting them from the totality of what is known. -- terry pratchett [going postal]

If you feel exhausted, it's not necessarily because there's something wrong with you. Maybe you're just running fast. -- paul graham [is it worth being wise?]

we don't stop questioning because we grow weak; we grow weak because we stop questioning. -- anon [based on a quote by g. b. shaw]

songs are simple. voices aren't. -- simon cowell

I assume goosebumps are good. -- melinda dolittle

I feel like one big goosebump. -- paula abdul


recent bookish disappointments....

ruby on rails, up and running: away, for the most part. like spolsky, bruce tate continues to be taken seriously while remaining voluminously underwhelming. this is basically a weak how-to book; there are many authors in computing, like pulp authors of another era, who can produce these mediocre volumes during their coffee breaks. these people do not lack technical skill; they just lack imagination, depth and rigor. i am barely keeping his beyond java not because it is well written (it is not, though hard to tell if you go by the google found reviews) but it is a classic of what i these days call nudge, nudge, wink, wink critique, a mixture of proof by repeated, unsubstantiated assertion and appeal to nodding masses. we all know what we are talking about here, aren't we? heh heh heh. nudge, nudge. let's ask john about it, shall we? ...

core python programming: i have rarely come across so much verbiage for so little effect. it is like having a proverbial fire hydrant nearby that spews wet sand. this is not a bad book, just a small one stuck in a very large one. wesley can do better with a good editor, and python certainly deserves it.


two mac utilities - an ounce of prevention

my dual g4 mac started locking up lately; i had some fleeting indications that one of the two disks was not entirely healthy. first i installed julian mayer's smartreporter to monitor the s.m.a.r.t. status and get alerts with email. when it finally started reporting that (sigh) the boot disk was getting close to failure, i brought in mike bombich's carbon copy cloner [essentially a wrapper around asr apple software restore] to make a bootable clone of the failing boot disk. [not wise to wait as long as i have] an hour later, a bootable clone is created and the system is running from the second disk.

phew. both utilities are free (ccc is donation-ware), simple to deploy and are recommended.