Tag Archives: Quotations

Calvino’s invible cities and their web of relationships

(Image from Maggie Digital, released under Creative Commons BY-NC-ND)

Quote from Calvino’s Invisible Cities

In Ersilia, to establish the relationships that sustain the city’s life, the inhabitants stretch strings from the corners of the houses, white or black or gray or black-and-white according to whether they mark a relationdhip of blood, of trade, authority, agency. When the strings become so numerous that you can no longer pass among them, the inhabitants leave: the houses are dismantled; only the strings and their supports remain.
From a mountainside, camping with their household goods, Ersilia’s refugees look at the labyrinth of taut strings and poles that rise in the plain. That is the city of Ersilia still, and they are nothing.
They rebuild Ersilia elsewhere. They weave a similar pattern of strings which they would like to be more complex and at the same time more regular than the other. Then they abandon it and take themselves and their houses still farther away.
Thus, when traveling in the territory of Ersilia, you come upon the ruins of abandoned cities, without the walls which do not last, without the bones of the dead which the wind rolls away: spiderwebs of intricate relationships seeking a form.

Can your mind manage all the Greasemonkey you installed?

After meeting BookBurro’s creator and listening a great talk about microformats (and how greasemonkey extensions can assemble them to create useful services for you) past week, I’m thinking a lot about GreaseMonkey. For example, I have more than 4 extensions that modify google.com and I have no more idea if what I see is the original content sent by google or if it is modified/created by one of the 4 extensions. I see that Lucas Gonze had a similar problem: he was commenting on ReBLG icons being adopted by all the bloggers in few days but in reality it was an extension installed by him (and forgetted) doing the insertion in the HTML pages he was seeing. [Lucas is the creator of the great WebJay.org] For this reason he suggests to add a greasemonkey icon near every modification made via extensions. I’m not sure it is the best solution since I will end up easily having hundreds of GM icons in the pages, anyway it is something we need to think about.
And I just want to note, since every day it is easier for anyone to write “code”, that this quotation becomes more and more true:
  The moral is obvious. You cannot trust code that you did not totally create yourself.
      — Ken Thompson, Turing Award Lecture [Thompson, 1984]

Introduction to Mathematical Philosophy

I began reading “Introduction to Mathematical Philosophy” by Bertrand Russell (First page)
Mathematics is a study which, when we start from its most familiar portions, may be pursued in either of two opposite directions. The more familiar direction is constructive, towards gradually increasing complexity: from integers to fractions, real numbers, complex numbers, from addition and multiplication to differentiation and integration, and on to higher mathematics. The other direction, which is less familiar, proceeds, by analysing, to greater and greater abstractness and logical simplicity; instead of asking what can be defined and deduced from what is assumed to begin with, we ask instead what more general ideas and principles can be
found, in terms of which what was our starting-point can be defined or deduced. It is the fact of pursuing this opposite direction that characterises mathematical philosophy as opposed to ordinary mathematics. But it should be understood that the distinction is one, not in the subject matter, but in the state of mind of the investigator. … The distinction between mathematics and
mathematical philosophy is one which depends upon the interest inspiring the research, and upon the stage which the research has reached; not upon the propositions with which the research is concerned.

I began reading this book already at least 5 times, I’m beginning again. Russell seems a genious (at least to me, but I guess I don’t really have ways to judge him so I’m more trusting the generalish opinion about him here).

The web is more a social creation than a technical one.

The web is more a social creation than a technical one. I designed it for a social effect — to help people work together — and not as a technical toy. The ultimate goal of the Web is to support and improve our weblike existence in the world. We clump into families, associations, and companies. We develop trust across the miles and distrust around the corner.
    —Tim Berners-Lee, Weaving The Web
(found at XFN: Introduction and Examples)

There IS an alternative!

SpreadFirefox team has chosen a key phrase I terribly like: “There is an alternative“. Actually, my preferred one is TIAAA (There Is Always An Alternative) as opposed to TINA (There Is No Alternative), often used by Thatcher and neoliberists in general to argue how capitalism is the only possible choice and you should be mad in trying to think and build something different. However this post is not about slogans but about the 2 full pages ad promoting Firefox in The New York Times (image). On the left page, the Firefox logo is built with all the names of the people who have contributed (PDF). Cool!


“Our aim is to recognise each other and for each one of us to learn to see and
honour in the other what he is–the counterpart and complement of the other.”
–Hermann Hesse