The Owl of Minerva

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“This is by far my favorite story of all those I have written.” – Isaac Asimov on The Last Question


The famous final Sunday strip, “Let’s Go Exploring” is dominated by a massive white space in the center of the page, spreading outward toward the margins. It is often said that “Let’s Go Exploring” ends Calvin and Hobbes on an upbeat note, exhorting readers to remember that life, after all, is a tabula rasa, and you can make it whatever you wish. But this gets it backward. The end of Calvin and Hobbes is not about filling a blank sheet. It is about taking a colored sheet and making it blank again.
Why Bill Watterson Vanished, Nic Rowan

“I was laying in bed one night and I thought, ‘I’ll just quit. To hell with it.’ And another little voice inside me said ‘Don’t quit. Save that tiny little ember of spark. And never give them that spark because as long as you have that spark, you can start the greatest fire again.’”
Charles Bukowski


Some summer reads:

Sharvay by Mansi – 3.5/5. Interesting premise. Drags at several places. Writing and plot development are far from best but not too bad either.

The Origins and Development of Classical Hinduism by A. L. Basham – 4/5. Compact summary of the author’s thoughts on his matter as a distillation of his other works. Not a review/comparison of other theories on this subject.

A Certain Ambiguity by Gaurav Suri, Hartosh Singh Bal – 4/5. The introduction to some of the concepts in mathematics is beautifully executed in the context of a ‘novel’, making up for most of the shortcomings in terms of story development and the idotic premise that Stanford undergrads not knowing some of the concepts being discussed.

No One Writes to the Colonel by Gabriel Garcia Marquez – 5/5. “We are the orhpans of our son.” Beautiful. One of the best last lines of any book I have read as well :)

Chronicle of a Death Foretold by Gabriel Garcia Marquez – 5/5. Relished every sentence and page of this book. “Fatality makes you invisible.”

The Complete Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi – 5/5. Edgy, candid, enlightening.


The quiet lives, though, pass on soundlessly in the background. And yet those are the lives in our skin, guiding us from breakfast to bed. They’re the lives that have made us, that keep the world turning. (…) All around us are these lives — heads down and arms open — that ignore the siren call of flashy American individualism, of bright lights and center stage. I’m fine right here is the response from the edge of the room, and that contentment is downright subversive.
Obituary For a Quiet Life, Jeremy B. Jones


The Red Hand Files from Nick Cave. “Something curious is happening on the world wide web. Intimacy. And not of the more sordid kind with which you might commonly associate it.” (source). A treasure trove.

Four Thousand Weeks by Oliver Burkeman - 5/5. “mortality makes it impossible to ignore the absurdity of living solely for the future.”

Read. Read as much as possible. Read the big stuff, the challenging stuff, the confronting stuff, and read the fun stuff too. Visit galleries and look at paintings, watch movies, listen to music, go to concerts – be a little vampire running around the place sucking up all the art and ideas you can. Fill yourself with the beautiful stuff of the world. Have fun. Get amazed. Get astonished. Get awed on a regular basis, so that getting awed is habitual and becomes a state of being. Fully understand your enormous value in the scheme of things because the planet needs people like you, smart young creatives full of awe, who can minister to the world with positive, mischievous energy, young people who seek spiritual enrichment and who see hatred and disconnection as the corrosive forces they are. These are manifest indicators of a human being with immense potential.

Absorb into yourself the world’s full richness and goodness and fun and genius, so that when someone tells you it’s not worth fighting for, you will stick up for it, protect it, run to its defence, because it is your world they’re talking about, then watch that world continue to pour itself into you in gratitude. A little smart vampire full of raging love, amazed by the world – that will be you, my young friend, the earth shaking at your feet.
Nick Cave


The Triumph and Terror of Wang Huning and review of America Against America. Very interesting read on the work of “arguably the single most influential “public intellectual” alive today”.

The Long View: Why We Need to Transform How the World Sees Time by Richard Fisher. 4/5 Very interesting ideas, fluent read. A much needed book in this “time-blinkered” world.


I have noticed that when all the lights are on, people tend to talk about what they are doing – their outer lives. Sitting round in candlelight or firelight, people start to talk about how they are feeling – their inner lives. They speak subjectively, they argue less, there are longer pauses.
Life is too short to be all daylight. Night is not less; it’s more.
Jeanette Winterson

To Know the Dark

To go in the dark with a light is to know the light.
To know the dark, go dark. Go without sight,
and find that the dark, too, blooms and sings,
and is traveled by dark feet and dark wings.
Wendell Berry


The modern condition is this: We’re hairless apes who evolved on the third planet from an unexceptional star in an unremarkable galaxy adrift in a desolate universe ruled by mathematical laws of no discernible purpose. The only thing separating us from the various molds, bacteria, and mammals that swarm the planet is that we’re aware of that fact. We’re so barely in this existential funk, we’ve only had this realization for a couple of centuries; large numbers of us aren’t even educated and well-fed (or simply bored) enough to realize it yet.

Anything anybody believes beyond the purely empirical is so much sweet metaphysical frosting on a pretty bitter nihilist cake. The adherents of Sunni Islam or ‘effective altruism’ are engaged in a debate among flavors of frosting, chocolate or vanilla?, with no obvious criterion other than maybe picking the flavor that’s least bad for your (and society’s) health while still allowing you to pay your taxes and not step in front of an oncoming Caltrain.
Antonio Garcia-Martinez


Algorithmic Black Swans – “Organizations building AI systems do not bear the costs of diffuse societal harms and have limited incentive to install adequate safeguards. Meanwhile, regulatory proposals such as the White House AI Bill of Rights and the European Union AI Act primarily target the immediate risks from AI, rather than broader, longer-term risks. To fill this governance gap, this Article offers a roadmap for “algorithmic preparedness””

More on AI and algorithms: Resisting Deterministic Thinking by danah byod, Will AI Obliterate the Rule of Law by Matthew Butterick, AI: Practical Advice for the Worried by Zvi.

To put it somewhat poetically, software is the invisible writing that whispers the stories of possibility to our hardware … and we are the storytellers. It’s up to us to decide if those stories amplify us, or diminish us.
Grady Booch


The long-overdue-hence-long issue

Some examples of people quickly accomplishing ambitious things together and a page of impressive things accomplished by small teams.

I, Pampa Kampana, am the author of this book.
I have lived to see an empire rise and fall.
How are they remembered now, these kings, these queens?
They exist now only in words.
While they lived, they were victors, or vanquished, or both.
Now they are neither.
Words are the only victors.
What they did, or thought, or felt, no longer exists.
Only these words describing those things remain.
They will be remembered in the way I have chosen to remember them.
Their deeds will only be known in the way they have been set down.
They will mean what I wish them to mean.
I myself am nothing now. All that remains is this city of words.
Words are the only victors.
Salman Rushdie, Victory City

“The Good News”

They don’t publish
the good news.
The good news is published
by us.
We have a special edition every moment,
and we need you to read it.
The good news is that you are alive,
and the linden tree is still there,
standing firm in the harsh Winter.
The good news is that you have wonderful eyes
to touch the blue sky.
The good news is that your child is there before you,
and your arms are available:
hugging is possible.
They only print what is wrong.
Look at each of our special editions.
We always offer the things that are not wrong.
We want you to benefit from them
and help protect them.
The dandelion is there by the sidewalk,
smiling its wondrous smile,
singing the song of eternity.
Listen! You have ears that can hear it.
Bow your head.
Listen to it.
Leave behind the world of sorrow
and preoccupation
and get free.
The latest good news
is that you can do it.
Thích Nhất Hạnh

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