Prior Quotes of the Week

Fourth Quarter, 1999

(Titles that are linked may be ordered online.)

Quote of the Week #161 & 162 (1999.12.26)
Counting Out Time

Length of the (tropical) year in 2000 A.D.: 365 days, 5 hours, 48 minutes, 45 seconds

Time that the year has slowed since 1 A.D.: 10 seconds

Average decrease in the year due to a gradual slowing of the earth's rotation: 1/2 second per century

Lunar month: 29 days, 12 hours, 44 minutes, 2.9 seconds

The earliest known date: 4236 B.C., the founding of the Egyptian calendar

Ancient Egyptian year: 365 1/4 days

Early Chinese year: 354 days (lunar year) with days added at intervals to keep the Chinese lunar calendar aligned with the seasons

Eary Greek year: 354 days, with days added

Jewish year: 354 days, with days added

Early Roman year: 304 days, amended in 700 B.C. to 355 days

The year according to Julius Ceasar (the Julian calendar): 365 1/4 days

Date Ceasar changed Roman year to Julian calendar: January 1, 46 B.C.

Amount of time the old Roman calendar was misaligned with the solar year as designated by Ceasar: 80 days

Total length of 46 B.C., known as the "Year of Confusion," after adding 80 days: 445 days

The year as amended by Pop Gregory XIII (the Gregorian calendar): 365 days, 5 hours, 48 minutes, 20 seconds

Date Pope Gregory reformed the calendar: 1582

Length of time the Julian calendar overestimates the solar year per year, as determined by Pope Gregory: 11 minutes, 14 seconds

Number of days Pope Gregory removed to correct the calendar's drift: 10

Dates Gregory eliminated by papal bull to realign his calendar with the solar year: October 5 - 14, 1582

Dates most Catholic countries accepted the Gregorian calendar: partial acceptance in 1700, full acceptance in 1775

Date Great Britian (and the American colonies) accepted the Gregorian calendar: 1752

Length of time eliminated by the British Parliament to realign the old calendar (Julian) with the Gregorian calendar: 11 days

Dates Parliament eliminated: September 3 - 13, 1752

Date Japan accepted the Gregorian calendar: 1873

Date Russia accepted the Gregorian calendar: 1917 (and again in 1940)

Date China accepted the Gregorian calendar: 1949

Date the Eastern Orthodox Church last voted to reject the Gregorian calendar and retain the Julian calendar: 1971

Length of time the Gregorian calendar has become misaligned over the 414 years since Gregory's reform in 1582: 2 hours, 59 minutes, 112 seconds

Year in which Gregorian calendar will be one day ahead of the true solar year: A.D. 4909

Year that the Atomic Time replaced Earth Time as the world's official time standard: 1972

The year as measured in oscillations of atomic cesium: 290,091,200,500,000,000

The year 2000 A.D. will be . . .

1997 according to Christ's actual birth circa 4 B.C.

2753 according to the old Roman calendar

2749 according to the ancient Babylonian calendar

6236 according to the first Egyptian calendar

5760 according to the Jewish calendar

1420 according to the Moslem calendar

1378 according to the Persian calendar

1716 according to the Coptic calendar

2544 according to the Buddist calendar

5119 in the current Maya great cycle

208 according to the calenda of the French Revolution

the year of the DRAGON according to the Chinese calendar


David Ewing Duncan, Calendar: Humanity's Epic Struggle to Determine a True and Accurate Year, An Avon Book, 1998.

The simplest of devices, a model of the informational economy, it fits completely on a single page. You can take the magic square and palm it, hide the device in one hand. Even a small hand. The perpetual calendar exists because the year has only fourteen possibilities. January 1 can fall on each day of the week, and once around again for leap years. The rest of the cycle—days when everything must happen—falls automatically, redundantly, according to compact pattern. 1983 starts on a Saturday. So do 1938, 1898, and 1842. The years of Sudetenland, of J'accuse, of von Mayer's first thermodynamics paper duplicate the same dates as that year when a lost woman of thirty moves accross town. How does it work? A lookup table list the years, keying them into a long, repeating series of fourteen templates for the only possibilities going. The perfect reference tool: infinite sequence reduced to formula.

The cleverest child in every neighborhood, at fourteen, discovers this table secreted in the quartos of her parents' bookshelf. Appalled, unbelieving at first, she warms to the idea of a compressible eternity. Soon, she uses it to consolidate a shaman's control over the block's information-poor. Hiding the device behind cupped palms, she calls out her priviledged, inside track to a spellbound audience in the back alley. "You, Pete, were born on a Wednesday. It will be Wednesday again in 19. . . . Here's something: ten years back, it was Sunday today." It will be years before she knows that these facts, in demand, clean and elucidating, mean nothing. For her clincher, she claims: "Today was exactly the same as it was one hundred and eighty years ago." Two years, twenty years ago, on this day, that child was me.

Richard Powers, The Gold Bug Variations, pp. 265, A HarperPerennial Book, 1991.

Quote of the Week #160 (1999.12.19)
The Successful System is the System Unseen

When things work, the forces that make them work are invisible. The universe at large is a notorious example of this. It took a towering genius to recognize the laws of motion and universal gravitation that now seem almost boringly obvious to us. Newton's genius was precisely the genius of seeing that which is so evident as to be unseeable. Every advance in science makes manifest a working that is cloaked by its very success.

The dancer's admonition is Never let them see you sweat. When it comes to the laws of the universe, this admonition becomes Never let them see you at all: make them deduce your existence. And indeed the laws of the universe are never directly observable, so we have no other way of discovering them except by deduction.

What works in the living community is similarly cloaked by its success. The basic laws of ecology have the beauty and simplicity of a fairy tale, but their existence only began to be suspected a century ago.

Daniel Quinn, Beyond Civilization: Humanity's Next Great Adventure, pp. 11, Harmony Books, 1999.

Quote of the Week #159 (1999.12.13)
Everyday Emergence

Difficulty at the Beginning

I sleep folded, as if I had no bones;
my hands so bent and flattened in sharp
downward curve to my chest that I wake
up numb. My knees lifted, ankles crossed,
feet curled, as if I was made of strips
of paper, or green bamboo. My shoulders
curve inward so far I walk with a slump,
the knobby human knuckles of my spine
grind and shift as if they remember
the black fluid body they once were and the
brief, ventilated life of dark and fragrant
pleasure. I can imagine the quick movements
from flower to flower through the air as fine
as hair and no sleep until death. Each
morning still, it is as if I emerge from
some gray spun cocoon formed from strands
of my own being, and fight my way through
that same fine air; knowing, flexing, merely
waiting for my wings to dry.

Karen Holden , Book of Changes: Poems, pp. 5, A North Atlantic Book, 1998.

Quote of the Week #158 (1999.12.05)
Pass and Catch

"Bob Jackson, on that spectacular winning touchdown catch, it looked to me you ran a flag pattern and then broke to the inside so that your quarterback, Joe Marco, had to throw back against the flow. Would you call that a broken pattern, or . . ."

Jackson pauses before answering, and for a moment his eyes drift away. But then he smiles self-effacingly and says, "That's right, Ron. I guess you'd have to call it that."

"Thank you very much, Bob Jackson. Now I think we have Joe Marco over here. Joe . . ."

And so the nationwide television audience has heard the story of the winning catch, the inside story, from the man who made it. Who could argue with such authority? But something else had happened out on the field that afternoon, something that Jackson would not even consider discussing.

He had felt it in the huddle when the winning play was called—a subtle but powerful shift in his consciousness. All the tension and frustration of the long afternoon fell away from him. He knew the whole game hung on this one play, but that knowledge seemed distant and insignificant. When he came out of the huddle, he was aware that everything had changed. It was as if all the spectators had disappeared, The giant stadium had somehow become a small, intimate place. The sound of the crowd was also gone. There was only silence and a sense of infinite calm.

As he took his lonely stand to the right of the rest of the team, Jackson was aware only of Pitts, the opposing cornerback, waiting for him on the other side of the line, and his friend Joe Marco, calling signals over to his left. It wasn't that he heard the signals. Marco's words came to him, rather, as a physical connection, joining him in some strange way with Pitts, his opponent. As the snap count, Jackson found himself running effortlessly out toward the flag at the side boundary of the goal line, with Pitts matching him stride for stride. He seemed to move in slow motion, a part of some larger movement that included Pitts and Marco as well. He had absolutely no desire to elude his opponent. That Pitts was there with him, in the ideal position to defend against the pass, seemed a necessary aspect of the larger perfection. And though Marco was fifteen or twenty yards behind them now, his every movement was necessary to theirs. Jackson knew exactly what Marco was doing. Somehow, without turning his head around to look, he could "see" the quarterback rolling out to the right behind his interference and starting to fake a pass.

All of this took only a few seconds, but for Jackson it could as well have been an eternity. Now, as he approached the flag, he felt himself drawn in a tight arc to the left. He did nothing to turn himself. His logical mind, in fact, would have forbidden him to move back against the flow of the play. But he did turn hard to the left, just as a comet swerves around the sun, and this turn itself seemed to draw the ball from Marco to him. It was exactly as if a series of invisible levers and pulleys connected them in such a way that he could not turn sharply leftward without drawing the ball to him. In the same manner, the ball could not be thrown to him without his swerving to the left. The invisible machinery was intricately interconnected. And it also required that Pitts turn in a slightly wider arc so that he couldn't possibly interfere with the pass.

Turning, Jackson stretched out his arms and drew the ball, softly gleaming in the late afternoon sunlight, to his belly, just a split second before the onrushing safety man cold knock it away. Tenderly, he took it down with him to the earth, enfolding it there with his body and arms. Only then did the sound of the crowd come back to his consciousness. It came gradually, in distant waves, from another world.

All of this happened, but it will never be reported on television or on radio or in the newspapers. The next day, at the showing of the game film, some of the players and coaches will joke about how Marco and Jackson "got lucky again." And they will need the concept of luck to explain an event which, in terms of the the reality they allow themselves, stands beyond explanation. For it will be clear in the films that Marco started the forward motion of his passing arm before Jackson began his unplanned turn. The moment of oneness, this superb example of telepathy or precognition or, at the least, high intuition, will be dismissed as luck. Jackson himself has almost entirely forgotten what really happened. Just as the move vivid dream is likely to fade away if there's no one to tell it to, events that can't be explained to a sympathetic listener begin to lose their reality even as they occur.

Over the long haul, the listener shapes reality even more than the teller. . . .

George Leonard , The Ultimate Athlete, pp. 31 - 33. North Atlantic Books, 1974.

Quote of the Week #157 (1999.11.28)
Something for (almost) Nothing

Why is it that people have such a strong commitment to centralized approaches? There are undoubtaedly many reasons. For one thing, many phenomena in the world are, in fact, organized by a central designer. These phenomena act to reinforce the centralized mindset. When people see neat rows of corn in a field, they assume (correctly) that the corn was planted by a farmer. When people watch a ballet, they assume (correctly) that the movements of the dancers were planned by a choreographer. When people see a watch, they assume (correctly) that it was designed by a watchmaker.

Moreover, most people participate in social systems (such as families and school classrooms) where power and authority are very centralized (often excessively so, for my tastes). These hierarchical systems serve as strong models. Many people are probably unaware that other types of organization are even possible. . .

But the centralization spiral is now starting to unwind. As organizations and scientific models grow moe complex, there is a greater need for decentralized ideas. And new decentralized tools (such as StarLogo) are emerging that enable people to actually implement and explore such ideas. Thus the stage is set to move beyond the centralized mindset.

. . . As decentralized ideas infiltrate the culture—through new technologies, new organizational structures, new scientific ideas—people will undoubtably begin to think in new ways. People will become familiar with new models and new metaphors of decentralization. They will begin to see the world through new eyes. They will gradually recraft and expand their ways of thinking about causality. . . .

The gut attraction to decentralized phenomena can be seen in the wild popularity of "the wave" at sporting arenas. The way is formed by spectators themselves, as they stand up and sit down at appropriate times. Everyone participates. . . . There is no conductor or choreographer for the wave. No one is in charge. The wave is a rare opportunity for people to create and participate in a self-organizing phenomena. And they are clearly excited by it. The wave was first seen at sporting arenas just a decade ago, but it is now a mainstay at all types of athletic competition, from high-school through professional.

Part of the attraction of the wave is that you get a lot for a little. Each individual does nothing more than stand up and sit down (at the apprpriate times), but together the actions produce a giant wave. Many StarLogo users had the same sort of feeling about StarLogo programs. One user said that he felt like he was "cheating." ". . . with a few short procedures, a lot happens. . . . Everything happens automatically" . . . the decentralized approach seemed almost magical, getting something for (almost) nothing.

Mitchel Resnick , Turtles, Termites, and Traffic Jams: Explorations in Massively Parallel Microworlds, pp. 129 - 132. A Bradford Book, The MIT Press1997.

Quote of the Week #157 (1999.11.21)
Virtual Boundaries

Paradoxically, though, this globalizing effect is accompanied by the creation of new, less visible boundaries. . . . If you live to a good age, you have maybe half a million waking hours. If your world of interaction is at a village scale, each member of it gets, on average, a couple of thousand hours of your time. At an automobile scale, it is down to two hours each. At a global computer network scale, it is reduced to less than ten seconds. Clearly, then, attention becomes a scarce resource, and intervening attention management mechanisms are essential if we are not to be overwelmed by the sheer scale at which electronically mediated global society is beginning to operate.

Mailing lists, newsgroups, personalized news services, information filters of various kinds, software agents, and other arrangements for sustaining and managing online relationships play this crucial role. Reasonably enough, they typically provide efficient means for linking up like-minded people rather than for confronting differences. Advertisers, political activists, and others with messages to get out welcome them, of course, because they effectively segment audiences and markets. Thus they tend to reinforce sociocultural boundaries and categorical identities—as professionals in specialist scholarly areas, members of religious sects, sharers of sexual identities, promoters of political causes, sufferers from specific diseases, cocker spaniel owners . . . or whatever.

It is far to facile, then, simply to equate communication with community (despite the fact that the terms have the same Latin root) and to conceive of cyberspace as some sort of vast village green in the sky. The effects of online interaction are various, complicated, and sometimes socially and culturally contradictory. While they are breaking down some established categories and boundaries, online meeting places can simultaneously strengthen others, and even create new ones. And they are clearly creating a condition under which individuals position themselves less as members of discrete, well-bounded civic formations and more as intersection points of multiple, spatially diffuse, categorical communities.

William J. Mitchell, e-topia; "urban life, Jim—but not as we know it", pp. 89 - 90. An MIT Press Book, 1999.

Quote of the Week #156 (1999.11.14)
The Anomaly of the Industrial Age

Weath creation is the driver of all human civilizations; it propels everything else. All civilizations are built and rest on the wealth and wealth-creation paradigm and system of the period. The wealth-creation system is based on the current worldview, and the worldview is based on the latest science of the day. Built on this foundation are all of the social institutions of the period: work, family, spirituality, justice, government, education, commerce. These social institutions must be compatible with the wealth-creation paradigm and system of the era. As the wealth-creation system and paradigm change so too must all of the institutions.

. . . If (a serf) were transported to the year 2020 he would see the civilization of mass-privatization communities as very fitting with his values. Decentralized wealth creation replaces our entire bureaucracy-centered society with a family-centered society. It is a society where individual's need—learning, work, trade, social order, emotional growth, recreation, rest, and spirituality—are met, controlled, and facilitated locally through the family. It is a return to a more natural system of organization similiar to that of the Agricultural Age and the Hunter-Gatherer Age. For all human history, the family has been the institution through which we meet our needs. Only recently have we evolved to a system where each family member goes off to a different bereaucracy each day to have his or her unique needs met.

As historians 300 to 1,000 years into the future look back over all of human history they will likely see the Industrial Age as a period of abnormality, unlike anything before or after. . .

Barry C. Carter, Infinite Weath: A New World of Collaboration and Abundance in the Knowledge Era, A Butterworth-Heinemann Book, 1999.

Quote of the Week #155 (1999.11.07)
The Interdependency of Concept and Metaphor

Primary metaphors are like atoms that can be put together to form molecules. A great many of these complex molecular metaphors are stable - conventionalized, entrenched, fixed for long periods of time. They form a huge part of our conceptual system and affect how we think and what we care about almost every waking moment. Beyond that, they structure our dreams and form the bases of new metaphorical combinations, both poetic and ordinary. . . .

It is important to bear in mind that conceptual metaphors go beyond the conceptual; they have consequences for material culture. For example, the metaphor A Purposeful Life Is A Journey defines the meaning of an extremely important cultural document, the Curriculum Vitae (from the Latin, "the course of life"). The CV indicates where we have been on the journey and whether we are on schedule. We are supposed to be impressed with people who have come very far very fast and less impressed with people who are "behind schedule." People who have not "found a direction in life" are seen as being in need of help. We are supposed to feel bad for people who have "missed the boat," who have waited too long to start on the journey. And we are supposed to envy those who have gotten much farther than we have much faster.

If you have any doubt that you think metaphorically or that a culture's metaphors affect your life, take a good look at the details of this metaphor and at how your life and the lives of those around you are affected by it every day. As you do so, recall that there are cultures around the world in which this metaphor does not exist; in those cultures people just live their lives, and the very idea of being without direction or missing the boat, of being held back or getting bogged down in life, would make no sense.

George Lakoff and Mark Johnson, Philosophy in the Flesh: The Embodied Mind and Its challenge to Western Thought, pp.60, 63, A Basic Book, 1999.

Quote of the Week #154 (1999.10.31)
The Age of the Navigator

Deconstruction implies choice. Choice, beyond a certain point, implies bewilderment. Hence the rise of the navigator. Navigators may be software programs (such as Quicken), databases (Auto Trader), evaluators (Consumer Reports, J.D. Power), or search engines (Yahoo!). They can also be people: in a deconstructed financial universe, many affluent families will rely on financial advisors to help them make complex choices. Many readers will still want their daily news filtered and prioritized by a human editorial team that they respect and trust. Navigation may look like a small business, but it is likely to be the fulcrum around which competitive advantage hinges. The rise of navigators as independent businesses is destined to be one of the most dramatic aspects of deconstruction. It is also destined . . . to drive fundamental power shifts among the other players.

Philip Evans and Thomas S. Wurster, Blown to Bits: How the New Economics of Information Transforms Strategy, pp.64 - 65, Harvard Business School Press, 1999.

Quote of the Week #153 (1999.10.17)
Getting Lean to Get Muda Gone

Editor's Note: Muda is Japanese for "waste," "futility," or "purposelessness."

The nearly universal antidote to such wasteful practices as what Womack and Jones call "lean thinking," a method that has four interlinked elements: the continuous flow of value, as defined by the customer, at the pull of the customer, in search of perfection (which is in the end the elimination of muda). All four elements are essential to lean thinking: For example, "if an organization adopts lean techniques but only to make unwanted goods flow faster, muda is still the result." The parts of the definition also functionally reinforce one another. "Getting value to flow faster always exposes hidden muda in the value stream. And the harder you pull, the more impediments to flow are revealed so they can be removed. Dedicated product teams in direct dialogue with customers always find ways to specify value more accurately[,] and often learn of ways to enhance flow and pull as well."

Value that flows continuously at the pull of the customer—that is, nothing is produced upstream until someone downstream requests it—is the opposite of "batch-and-queue" thinking, which mass-produces large inventories in advance based on forecast demand. Yet so ingrained is batch-and-queue—and so deeply embedded is the habit of organizing by functional departments with specialized tasks—that Womack and Jones caution: "[P]lease be warned that [lean thinking] requires a complete rearrangement of your mental furniture." Their basic conclusion, from scores of practical case studies, is that specialized, large-scale, high-speed, highly efficient production departments and equipment are the key to inefficency and uncompetitiveness, and that maximizing the utilization of productive capacity, the pride of nearly all MBAs, is nearly always a mistake.

Paul Hawken, Amory Lovins, and L. Hunter Lovins, Natural Capitalism: Creating the Next Industrial Revolution, pp.127, Little, Brown, and Company, 1999.

Quoted material taken from Lean Thinking: Banish Waste and Create Wealth in Your Corporation, by J.P. Womack and D. T. Jones, Simon & Shuster, 1996.

Quote of the Week #152 (1999.10.10)
Seperating Idea from Inspiration

Would it be overreaching to say, "There is no practicle obstacle whatever now to the creation of an efficient index to all human knowledge, ideas and achievements, to the creation, that is, of a complete planetary memory for all mankind"? Those are H.G. Well's words, written in 1937. "And not simply an index," he continued. "The direct reproduction of the thing itself can be summoned to any properly prepared spot."

"This in itself is a fact of tremendous significance," Wells wrote.

It forshadows a real intellectual unification of our race. The whole human memory can be, and probably in a short time will be, made accessible to every individual. And what is also of very great importance in this uncertain world where destruction becomes continually more frequent and unpredictable, is this, that . . . it need not be concentrated in any one single place. It need not be vulnerable as a human head or a human heart is vulnerable. It can be reproduced exactly and fully, in Peru, China, Iceland, Central Africa, or whereever else. . . . It can have at once, the concentration of a craniate animal and the difused vitality of an amoeba.

Wells was not imagining the internetworking of computers, of course. The new information-storing technology that inspired him was microfilm. He had no idea how fast it would go obsolete.

James Gleick, Faster: The Acceleration of Just About Everything, pp. 254 - 255, Pantheon Books, 1999.

Quote of the Week #151 (1999.10.03)
Honoring the nature and character of your materials

Realization is Realization in Form, which means a nature. You realize that something has a certain nature. A school has a nature, and in making a school the consultation and approval of nature are absolutely necessary. In such a consultation you can discover the Order of water, the Order of wind, the Order of light, the Order of certain materials. If you think of brick, and you're consulting the Orders, you consider the nature of brick. You say to brick, "What do you want, brick?" Brick says to you, "I like an arch." If you say to brick, "Arches are expensive, and I can use a concrete lintel over an opening. What do you think of that, brick?" brick says, "I like an arch."

It is important that you honor the material you use. You don't bandy it about as though to say, "Well, we have a lot of material, we can do it one way, we can do it another way." It's not true. You must honor and glorify the brick instead of short-changing it and giving it an inferior job to do in which it loses its character, as, for example, when you use it as infill material, which I have done and you have done. Using brick so makes it feel as though it is a servant, and brick is a beautiful material. It has done beautiful work in many places and still does. Brick is a completely live material in areas that occupy three quarters of the world, where it is the only logical material to use. Concrete is a highly sophisticated material, not so available as you think.

You can have the same conversation with concrete, with paper or papier-mâchè, or with plastic,or marble, or any material. The beauty of what you create comes if you honor the material for what it really is. Never use it in a subsidiary way so as to make the material wait for the next person to come along and honor its character.

John Lobell , Between Silence and Light: Spirit in the Architecture of Louis I. Kahn, pp. 40, Shambala Press, 1979. (Currently out of print.)

Taken from the syntopical collection "Architecture is Philosophy in Action," published by Atheneaum International, 1991.

Other Prior Quotes:

Third Quarter, 1999

Second Quarter, 1999

First Quarter, 1999

Fourth Quarter, 1998

Third Quarter, 1998

Second Quarter, 1998

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