Prior Quotes of the Week
Fourth Quarter, 1999
(Titles that are linked may be ordered online.)
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
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
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
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,
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:
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
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 cycledays
when everything must happenfalls 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.
Civilization: Humanity's Next Great Adventure, pp. 11, Harmony Books,
Quote of the Week #159 (1999.12.13)
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
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.
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 calleda
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. . . .
Leonard , The
Ultimate Athlete, pp. 31 - 33. North Atlantic Books, 1974.
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 culturethrough new technologies,
new organizational structures, new scientific ideaspeople 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.
Resnick , Turtles,
Termites, and Traffic Jams: Explorations in Massively Parallel Microworlds,
pp. 129 - 132. A Bradford Book, The MIT Press1997.
of the Week #157 (1999.11.21)
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 identitiesas 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.
J. Mitchell, e-topia;
"urban life, Jimbut 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 needlearning, work, trade,
social order, emotional growth, recreation, rest, and spiritualityare
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.
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 customerthat is, nothing
is produced upstream until someone downstream requests itis the opposite
of "batch-and-queue" thinking, which mass-produces large inventories
in advance based on forecast demand. Yet so ingrained is batch-and-queueand
so deeply embedded is the habit of organizing by functional departments with
specialized tasksthat 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.
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
James Gleick, Faster:
The Acceleration of Just About Everything, pp. 254 - 255, Pantheon
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
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
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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