TNH's Particles
* The Bobblehead Project.
* John Holbo's review of David Frum's Dead Right.
* Mormon Transhumanist Association.
* Howard Rheingold quotes.
* Ignaz Trebitsch-Lincoln.
* How to invest when no one really knows what to do.
* If the Moon were only 1 pixel.
* Ignatius Timothy Trebitsch-Lincoln.
* Make a plan to vote with Biden and Obama.
* Jon Stewart's Twitter war with Donald Trump.
More...
PNH's Sidelights
* Harlan Ellison, 1934-2018
* Efrain Rios Montt is dead. Greatest Easter ever.
* John Perry Barlow, 1947-2018
* Ursula K. Le Guin, 1929-2018
* Jo Walton: Not my gods.
* Kit Reed, 1932-2017
* Storytelling for Medievalists: A Proposal
* Goodbye, and Good Riddance, to Centrism
* And the sequel: Lee's Reputation Can't Be Redeemed
* The Myth of the Kindly General Lee
More...
Abi's Parhelia
* History of Ball Bearings [PDF]
* Universal basic income trials being considered in Scotland
* Basic Income - from utopian vision to policy proposition to movement
* How do liberals halt the march of the right? Stand our ground and toughen up
* Opposition in the Age of Gish Gallops
* Schneier on the next four years
* Thomas Merton's letter to a young activist
* EU negotiators will offer Brits an individual opt-in to remain EU citizens, chief negotiator confirms
* Democrats and the idea of a leader of the opposition
* Trump's businesses and potential conflicts: sorting it out
More...
Avram's Phosphenes
We Made a Song Our King
A Guide to Weird Leftist Internet Slang
How did world newspapers handle the translation of Scaramucci’s tirade?
Hayao Miyazaki’s Cosmologics
So a Nazi Walks Into an Iron Bar: the Meyer Lansky Story
Now is the Time to Talk About What we are Actually Talking About
Anil Dash on the work that needs to be done now
Autocracy: Rules for Survival
The gender of Brexit
West Wing Cabinet Battle
More...
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Commonplaces
“We are prophets of a future not our own.” (Oscar Romero)

“Peace means something different from ‘not fighting’. Those aren’t peace advocates, they’re ‘stop fighting’ advocates. Peace is an active and complex thing and sometimes fighting is part of what it takes to get it.” (Jo Walton)

“Fascism doesn’t look like jackboots dragging a man off a plane. It looks like people defending it.” (Emily Gorcenski)

“You really think that safety can be plucked from the arms of an evil deed?” (Darla, “Inside Out”)

“Forgiveness requires giving up on the possibility of a better past.” (unknown)

“The whole point of society is to be less unforgiving than nature.” (Arthur D. Hlavaty)

“Terror consists mostly of useless cruelties perpetrated by frightened people in order to reassure themselves.” (Friedrich Engels)

“Any sufficiently advanced neglect is indistinguishable from malice.” (Deb Chachra)

“Let me never fall into the vulgar mistake of believing that I am persecuted whenever I am contradicted.” (Ralph Waldo Emerson)

“You don't owe the internet your time. The internet does not know this, and will never learn.” (Quinn Norton)

“Great writing is the world's cheapest special effect.” (Teresa Nielsen Hayden)

“Everyone gets so much information all day long that they lose their common sense.” (Gertrude Stein)

“Very few people are stupid. It’s just that the world really is that difficult and you can’t continually be careful.” (Quinn Norton)

“Armageddon is not around the corner. This is only what the people of violence want us to believe. The complexity and diversity of the world is the hope for the future.” (Michael Palin)

“Just because you’re on their side doesn’t mean they’re on your side.” (Teresa Nielsen Hayden)

“The fact that ‘there are only a handful of bad cops’ cuts no ice with me. If ‘only a handful of McDonald’s are spitting in your food,’ you’re not going to McDonald’s.” (Ta-Nehisi Coates)

“Young men and women, educated very carefully to be apolitical, to be technicians who thought they disliked politics, making them putty in the hands of their rulers, like always.” (Kim Stanley Robinson, Red Mars)

“The poor have been rebels, but they have never been anarchists; they have more interest than anyone else in there being some decent government. The poor man really has a stake in the country. The rich man hasn’t; he can go away to New Guinea in a yacht. The poor have sometimes objected to being governed badly; the rich have always objected to being governed at all. Aristocrats were always anarchists.” (G. K. Chesterton, The Man Who Was Thursday)

“When liberty is mentioned, we must observe whether it is not really the assertion of private interests.” (Hegel)

“History is the trade secret of science fiction.” (Ken MacLeod)

“But isn’t all of human history simultaneously a disaster novel and a celebrity gossip column?” (Anonymous LJ commenter)

“I see now that keen interest can illuminate anything, and that anything, moreover, has something worth illuminating in it, and that without that interest gates carved by Benvenuto Cellini from two diamonds would merely look chilly.” (Lord Dunsany)

“I grieve for the spirit of Work, killed by her evil child, Workflow.” (Paul Ford)

“The opposite of ‘serious’ isn't ‘funny.’ The opposite of both ‘serious’ and ‘funny’ is ‘squalid.’” (R. A. Lafferty)

“Ki is, of course, mystical bullshit. That’s why it works so well, both as a teaching idiom and a tool of practice in martial arts. It’s as nonexistent as charm, leadership, or acting. Humans are all about bullshit.” (Andrew Plotkin)

“We act as though comfort and luxury were the chief requirements of life, when all that we need to make us happy is something to be enthusiastic about.” (Charles Kingsley)

“Nobody panics when things go according to plan. Even when the plan is horrifying.” (The Joker)

“Hope has two daughters, anger and courage. They are both lovely.” (attributed to St. Augustine)

“Plot is a literary convention. Story is a force of nature.” (Teresa Nielsen Hayden)

“This movie has way too much plot getting in the way of the story.” (Joe Bob Briggs)

“If there is no willingness to use force to defend civil society, it’s civil society that goes away, not force.” (Teresa Nielsen Hayden)

“Always side with the truth. It’s much bigger than you are.” (Teresa Nielsen Hayden)

“Listen, here’s the thing about politics: It’s not an expression of your moral purity and your ethics and your probity and your fond dreams of some utopian future. Progressive people constantly fail to get this.” (Tony Kushner)

“I don’t want politicians who are ‘above politics,’ any more then I want a plumber who’s ‘above toilets.’” (Ta-Nehisi Coates)

“Plans are nothing; planning is everything.” (Dwight D. Eisenhower)

“People never lie so much as after a hunt, during a war, or before an election.” (Otto von Bismarck)

“Every organization appears to be headed by secret agents of its opponents.” (Robert Conquest)

“Not forgiving is like drinking rat poison and then waiting for the rat to die.” (Anne Lamott)

“Nothing makes one so vain as being told that one is a sinner.” (Oscar Wilde)

“Life isn’t divided into genres. It’s a horrifying, romantic, tragic, comical science-fiction cowboy detective novel.” (Alan Moore)

“See everything, overlook a great deal, improve a little.” (John XXIII)

“You will never love art well, until you love what she mirrors better.” (John Ruskin)

“Having a smallpox vaccine scar is like walking around with the moon landing and the Sistine Chapel on your upper arm.” (Angus Johnston)

“They lied to you. The Devil is not the Prince of Matter; the Devil is the arrogance of the spirit, faith without smile, truth that is never seized by doubt. The Devil is grim because he knows where he is going, and, in moving, he always returns whence he came.” (Umberto Eco, The Name of the Rose)

“I can hire one half of the working class to kill the other half.” (Jay Gould)

“I’m a leftist. I don't argue with anyone unless they agree with me.” (Steven Brust)

“Adam was but human—this explains it all. He did not want the apple for the apple’s sake, he wanted it only because it was forbidden. The mistake was in not forbidding the serpent; then he would have eaten the serpent.” (Mark Twain)

“Details are all that matters; God dwells there, and you never get to see Him if you don’t struggle to get them right.” (Stephen Jay Gould)

“Tradition is not the worship of ashes, but the preservation of fire.” (Gustav Mahler)

“But this kind of deference, this attentive listening to every remark of his, required the words he uttered to be worthy of the attention they excited—a wearing state of affairs for a man accustomed to ordinary human conversation, with its perpetual interruption, contradiction, and plain disregard. Here everything he said was right; and presently his spirits began to sink under the burden.” (Patrick O’Brian, Master and Commander)

“Hatred is a banquet until you recognize you are the main course.” (Herbert Benson)

“For a Westerner to trash Western culture is like criticizing our nitrogen/oxygen atmosphere on the grounds that it sometimes gets windy, and besides, Jupiter’s is much prettier. You may not realize its advantages until you’re trying to breathe liquid methane.” (Neal Stephenson)

“‘There are no atheists in foxholes’ isn’t an argument against atheism, it’s an argument against foxholes.” (James Morrow)

“And after the fire a still small voice.” (1 Kings 19:12)

“The man who tries to make the flag an object of a single party is a greater traitor to that flag than any man who fires at it.” (Lloyd George)

“The United States behaves like a salesman with a fantastic product who tries to force people to buy it at gunpoint.” (Emma of Late Night Thoughts)

“I’m a fuzzy-headed warm-hearted liberal, and I think fuzzy-headed warm-hearted liberalism is an ideological stance that needs defending—if necessary, with a hob-nailed boot-kick to the bollocks of budding totalitarianism.” (Charles Stross)

“The real test of any claim about freedom, I’ve decided, is how far you’re willing to go in letting people be wrong about it.” (Bruce Baugh)

“As with bad breath, ideology is always what the other person has.” (Terry Eagleton)

“Only he who in the face of all this can say ‘In spite of all!’ has the calling for politics.” (Max Weber)

“No, it’s not fair. You’re in the wrong universe for fair.” (John Scalzi)

“I don’t understand death, but I got hot dish down pretty good.” (Marissa Lingen)

“Skepticism is the worst form of gullibility.” (John “adamsj” Adams)

“We have a backstage view of ourselves and a third-row view of everybody else.” (Garrison Keillor)

“The Reign of Sin is more universal, the influence of unconscious error is less, than historians tell us.” (Lord Acton)

“All human progress, even in morals, has been the work of men who have doubted the current moral values, not of men who have whooped them up and tried to enforce them.” (H. L. Mencken)

“Tomorrow never happens. It’s all the same fucking day, man.” (Janis Joplin)

“Words are always getting conventionalized to some secondary meaning. It is one of the works of poetry to take the truants in custody and bring them back to their right senses.” (W. B. Yeats)

“It is a little embarrassing that, after 45 years of research and study, the best advice I can give to people is to be a little kinder to each other.” (Aldous Huxley)

“Never believe in a meritocracy in which no one is funny-looking.” (Teresa Nielsen Hayden)

“Probably no man has ever troubled to imagine how strange his life would appear to himself if it were unrelentingly assessed in terms of his maleness; if everything he wore, said, or did had to be justified by reference to female approval [...] If he gave an interview to a reporter, or performed any unusual exploit, he would find it recorded in such terms as these: ‘Professor Bract, although a distinguished botanist, is not in any way an unmanly man. He has, in fact, a wife and seven children. Tall and burly, the hands with which he handles his delicate specimens are as gnarled and powerful as those of a Canadian lumberjack, and when I swilled beer with him in his laboratory, he bawled his conclusions at me in a strong, gruff voice that implemented the promise of his swaggering moustache.’” (Dorothy L. Sayers)

“Grown ups are what’s left when skool is finished.” (Nigel Molesworth)

“If you don't like the ‘blame game,’ it’s usually because you’re to blame.” (Jon Stewart)

“Slang is for a war of signals.” (Unknown semiotician/palindromist)

“Science fiction is an argument with the world. When it becomes (solely) an argument within science fiction, it breathes recycled air.” (Ken MacLeod)

“All worthy work is open to interpretation the author didn’t intend. Art isn’t your pet—it’s your kid. It grows up and talks back.” (Joss Whedon)

“I really don’t know what you do about the ‘taxes is theft’ crowd, except possibly enter a gambling pool regarding just how long after their no-tax utopia comes true that their generally white, generally entitled, generally soft and pudgy asses are turned into thin strips of Objectivist Jerky by the sort of pitiless sociopath who is actually prepped and ready to live in the world that logically follows these people’s fondest desires.” (John Scalzi)

“So whenever a libertarian says that capitalism is at odds with the state, laugh at him. It’s like saying that the NFL is ‘at war’ with football fields. To be a libertarian is to say that God or the universe marked up that field, squirted out the pigskins from the bowels of the earth, and handed down the playbooks from Mt. Sinai.” (Connor Kilpatrick)

“True religion invites us to become better people. False religion tells us that this has already occurred.” (Abdal-Hakim Murad)

“There is a machine. Its program is ‘profit’. This is not a myth.” (Joss Whedon)

“There's always romance at the top of a system.” (Will Shetterly)

“Power always thinks it has a great soul and vast views, beyond the comprehension of the weak.” (John “Second US President” Adams)

“There is a document that records God’s endless, dispiriting struggle with organized religion, known as the Bible.” (Terry Eagleton)

“There comes a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can’t take part, you can’t even passively take part; and you’ve got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon all the apparatus, and you’ve got to make it stop, And you’ve got to indicate to the people who run it, the people who own it, that unless you’re free the machine will be prevented from working at all.” (Mario Savio)

“Racism is not merely a simplistic hatred. It is, more often, broad sympathy toward some and broader skepticism toward others.” (Ta-Nehisi Coates)

“To live is to war against the trolls.” (Henrik Ibsen)

“There is at the back of all our lives an abyss of light, more blinding and unfathomable than any abyss of darkness; and it is the abyss of actuality, of existence, of the fact that things truly are, and that we are ourselves incredibly and sometimes almost incredulously real.” (G. K. Chesterton)

“Perhaps all the dragons in our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us act, just once, with beauty and courage. Perhaps everything that frightens us is, in its deepest essence, something helpless that wants our love.” (Rainer Maria Rilke)

“It’s just a ride and we can change it any time we want. It’s only a choice. No effort, no work, no job, no savings and money, a choice right now, between fear and love. The eyes of fear want you to put bigger locks on your door, buy guns, close yourself off. The eyes of love instead see all of us as one.” (Bill Hicks)

“I don’t think we have a language, will ever have a language, that can describe transcendence in any useful way and I am aware that that transcendence may be nothing more than the illusory aspiration of a decaying piece of meat on a random rock. The thing is to be humble enough to be content with that while acting to other people as generously as if better things were true, and making art as if it might survive and do good in the world. Because what else are we going to do with the few short years of our life?” (Roz Kaveney)

“I hate living in a satirical dystopia.” (Arthur Hlavaty)

“No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.” (Samuel Beckett)

“Fuck every cause that ends in murder and children crying.” (Iain Banks)

“If it doesn’t connect with people around you who aren’t like you, it isn’t politics.” (Teresa Nielsen Hayden)

June 17, 2018
I was naive
Posted by Patrick at 05:43 PM * 319 comments

I’ve realized that the reason I no longer write blog posts about politics is that events taught me that I was completely full of shit. I imagined I lived in a country that doesn’t exist.

Turns out I live in a country 35-45% of which are super-happy with fascism, including the concentration-camps part. And 45-60% of the same country are insufficiently bothered by this fact to do anything to stop it.

This has me rethinking about hundreds of conversations I’ve had over the decades with people I thought meant well. I was wrong. Most of them didn’t mean well.

I’ve seen the future, baby; it is murder.

March 01, 2018
Adventures in being me
Posted by Patrick at 06:21 PM * 88 comments

It’s been a time.

One evening in mid-November, Teresa tried to say something to me, and it came out as fractured phonemes, broken language, the kind of thing that says “get me to an ER without delay.” TL,DR: It wasn’t a stroke, but we may have averted one by getting her to the ER as fast as we did. She was in the hospital for several days. We still don’t have a full diagnosis.

In late November, my youngest brother (I’m the eldest of three brothers) died in a hospice after years of hard living, age 52. We weren’t close, but he was my brother. I was…knocked off balance by it. I’m 59 and this was the first time I lost a close family member. To those of you who’ve been through this particular one-way door at an earlier age: Respect.

In December I got shingles. I’m still not completely over it, but as far as I can recall I spent late December and most of January in a haze of pain and dissociation. I was out of the office for the better part of four weeks, and I still haven’t completely caught up. Life advice: Don’t get shingles.

In early January we learned that our landlord of nearly 14 years was, at long last, selling our building to someone who wants to make it a single-family home. Our deadline for getting out was the end of March.

In early February we found a terrific apartment in a much more pleasant Brooklyn neighborhood. But while it’s not tiny, it’s smaller than our current place, so we’ve been in WEED OUT ALL THE THINGS mode for about three weeks now. Our lease on the new apartment begins today, and we aspire to be actually living there by the second half of March.

And in the fullness of time, today this happened. It’s a lot of change, even more than this was, back in 2016.

What can I say? I’m fortunate in my colleagues. I’m even more fortunate in my employees. Also, watch this space.

February 24, 2018
We’re back
Posted by Patrick at 01:42 PM * 57 comments

As I best understand it, the machine we’re hosted on abruptly melted down; Hosting Matters scrambled to migrate the sites on that machine to other servers; this had to be done in a tearing hurry; in the process somehow an old index page became the front page. I didn’t have the spoons to deal with it because see below. This morning, our intrepid friend Sumana Harihareswara, with our grateful permission, dived into the back end and fixed it. All honor and glory to her; also, many many thanks.

The “see below” from above is that Teresa and I are moving house. We take possession of an apartment in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Park Slope on March 1. It has slightly more space for living, and a lot less for storage, than the place we’ve lived in since 2004, so the move involves a great deal of Getting Rid. Expect more from us when we emerge from all the boxes, sometime late next month.

January 22, 2018
Open thread 220
Posted by Abi Sutherland at 01:58 PM * 1357 comments

Overheard: “You think he’s cool because he’s a dwarf? Or because you read about him online?”

Discuss.

October 07, 2017
My grandmother’s clock
Posted by Abi Sutherland at 08:10 AM * 76 comments

I have a chiming clock in the house. It was originally my maternal grandmother’s, and my mother very kindly gave it to me a number of years back. Hearing it tick in the background, I often think about the song “My Grandfather’s Clock”. We used to sing it* in elementary school. That song is a sweet remembrance of someone’s stout, elderly grandfather.

But.

But it’s such a patriarchal clock in the song, isn’t it? A huge investment on the day a baby is born. It won’t fit anywhere convenient, so you have to make an extra space for it. And then everything comes to a stop when Mr Center of Attention leaves the scene. I understand that in the sequel it ends up in a junk shop, broken down for parts and chopped up for kindling.

My grandmother, whom I never met but am told I strongly resemble, was born into a poor immigrant family. She was a smart woman but had very little access to higher education. She was also a gifted crafter; I have one small piece of her weaving. She was not always happy in the space she was allowed to occupy in society, and she didn’t raise a very happy family. Her death in her fifties was all the harder as a result, for her and for everyone who had to carry on.

But she left this clock, which she’d liked and bought as an adult. A little wooden Seth Thomas mantel clock, now with a chipped face after a shipping mishap. It has a soothing tick and a clear chime. It went through a phase of refusing to go for a few years, but has mysteriously resumed working again. Its ticking is the heartbeat of the house, a reminder of someone I wish I’d known.

And this is a great gift because she also left us ourselves: the female line, unnamed the way female lines are in our culture. A daughter, two granddaughters, one great-granddaughter†, all of whom have inherited something of her smile and a lot of her brains. I look at my hands as I bind books and Fiona’s as she draws, and wonder what hers looked like on the loom. I look at the good in my life and wish more of it had been in hers too.

My grandmother’s clock is at home on its shelf
As it was on so many before.
Not a gift at her birth, for she bought it herself
In LA at a secondhand store.

It has sounded its chimes
Through the good and happy times;
Been a comfort on days that I’ve mourned.
For it ticks on, though she herself was gone
Before I was born.

Her heart beating in memory.
(tick, tock, tick, tock)
Her voice singing the hours to me.
(tick, tock, tick, tock)
For it ticks on, though she herself was gone
Before I was born.

(I don’t think today is any kind of anniversary. But since her genes and her clock are ever-present in my life, any day will do to post this.)


* the first verse, anyway. I’ve just looked it up and it does go on a lot longer.
† I have other cousins and nieces, but this is the female line I’m talking about.