Monthly Archives: October 2009


There are roughly three New Yorks. There is, first, the New York of the man or woman who was born here, who takes the city for granted and accepts its size and turbulence as natural and inevitable. Second, there is the New York of the commuter—the city that is devoured by locusts each day and spat out each night. Third, there is the New York of the person who was born somewhere else and came to New York in quest of something. Of these three trembling cities the greatest is the last—the city of final destination, the city that is a goal. It is this third city that accounts for New York’s high-strung disposition, its poetical deportment, its dedication to the arts, and its incomparable achievements. Commuters give the city its tidal restlessness; natives give it solidity and continuity; but the settlers give it passion. And whether it is a farmer arriving from Italy to set up a small grocery store in a slum, or a young girl arriving from a small town in Mississippi to escape the indignity of being observed by her neighbors, or a boy arriving from the Corn Belt with a manuscript in his suitcase and a pain in his heart, it makes no difference: each embraces New York with the intense excitement of first love, each absorbs New York with the fresh eyes of an adventurer, each generates heat and light to dwarf the Consolidated Edison Company.

Here is New York, E. B. White, 1949



No one is self sufficing, but all of us have many wants… All things are produced more plenifully and easily, and of a better quality, when one man does on thing which is natural to him and does it at the right time, and leaves other things.

Plato, The Republic, approx. 2000 years prior to Adam Smith


Our world is filled with things that are neither mysterious and ghostly nor simply constructed out of the building blocks of physics. Do you believe in voices? How about haircuts? Are there such things? What are they? What, in the language of a physicist, is a hole—not an exotic black hole, but just a hole in a piece of cheese, for instance? Is it a physical thing?… These things are not physical objects with mass, or a chemical composition, but they are not purely abstract objects either—objects like the number π, which is immutable and cannot be located in space and time. These things have birthplaces and histories. They can change, and things can happen to them.

Daniel Dennett, from the Introduction to The Mind’s I


Table of Contents

1) Avoid mistakes
2) Do not make the opening moves automatically and without reflection
3) Do not memorise variations, try to understand them
4) Do not believe all that you are told. Examine, verify, use your reason
5) In war, topography dictates operations
6) Do no abandon the centre to your adversary
7) Do not give up open lines, seize them and hold them
8) Do not create weak points in your game for your enemy to seize
9) Do not lose time
10) Unless you analyse the position, you will achieve nothing
11) Do not leave any piece where it has no range of actionor is out of touch with your other pieces
12) Do not play too quickly
13) It is not a move, even the best move, that must seek, but a realisable plan
14) Do not despise the small details; it is often in them that the idea of the position will be found
15) Do not think too soon about what you opponent can do; first get clear what you want to do
16) Do not lose confidence in your judgment
17) Never lose sight of your general idea, however thick the fight
18) Do not modify your plan
19) Do not be content with attacking an existing weakness; always seek to create others
20) Do not get careless when, after general exchanges, the end game is reached
21) Haste, the great enemy
22) Do not relax in the hour of victory
23) Do not entangle yourself in a maze of calculations
24) Never omit to blockae an enemy pass Pawn
25) Do not leave your pieces in bad positions
26) Quiz
27) Solutions to Quiz

How Not to Play Chess by Eugene A. Znosko-Borovsky.  Published by Dover 1949




Chris Ware cover, Forbidden Planet

The most interesting thing about statistics

Suppose you want to poll people in a country where 1 million people will vote, and then do the same in a country where 1 billion people will vote. How many more people do you have to poll in the second country to get the same polling accuracy as you do in the first?

The counterintuitive answer: you need to poll the same number in each country to get the same accuracy. Polling error is a function of sample size but independent of the size of the whole (voting) population.


The intuition behind this is that there is some “true” underlying probability you are trying to sample that is independent of population size. So suppose you are trying to figure out the odds that humans on average have boy versus girl babies. You take a random sample of 1,000 people to estimate it. Does it matter that the sample is out of a population on earth of 1 billion people on earth versus 6 billion people earth? The earth’s population is just an instantiation of the true underlying probability you are trying to determine, hence irrelevant.

Philosophy is a long nightmare…

Philosophical errors are not mistakes of judgement, they are not hypotheses that are false or theories that are wrong, but theories instead based on a certain kind of wrongness, a kind that, once revealed, casts into almost total irrelevance any thought based upon them. But this means, in effect, that by contrast with the history of science, where what came before was a stage in the discovery of what we now know, as the present itself is a stage in what will come to be known, the whole history of philosophy will be treated by the new philosopher as so much illusion and, hence, not part of a cognitive development.

The present is like waking from a dream, and the dream is not part of waking experience but an aberration from it, belonging to an irrelevant realm of experience, a symptom of cognitive disorder rather than a piece of cognition in its own right. And this explains why the original philosopher feels that history begins with him. Begins and ends with him, it might be better to say, for, having shown the way, he has in effect shown all there is to show: The way leads to an end so conspicuous that it is almost pedantic actually to enter on the path.

So, internally speaking, philosophy does not have a real history. It is given all at once and, if right, it need never be undergone again.  Or, more dramatically yet, the history of philosophy is a long nightmare from which philosophy longs to waken, and from which it seems at any given point to the working philosopher that he has awakened—even if, from the cruel vantage point of his successors, it will instead seem as if he had been but part of the nightmare.

-Connections to the World, Arthur C. Danto.


Metaphorical use of language differs in significant ways from literal use but is no less comprehensible, no more recondite, no less practical, and no more independent of truth or falsity that is literal use. Far from being a mere matter of ornament, it participates fully in the progress of knowledge: in replacing some stale “natural” kinds with novel and illuminating categories, in contriving facts, in revising theory, and in bringing us new worlds.

“Metaphor as Moonlighting” – Of Mind and Other Matters, Nelson Goodman

I’m back

I decided to resume this tumblr for quotes, pictures etc.  You kind find my “business-y” site over here at