Wednesday, July 20, 2011


A good strategy for leading someone on is to feign disinterest.  The best strategy for seducing someone is to be genuinely uninterested in their advances.

Monday, June 27, 2011


Just because you are a nerd that does not mean you have to look like a total loser.  The two are not synonymous.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Haruki Murakami on Life

"Everything passes. Nobody gets anything for keeps. And that's how we've got to live." --Haruki Murakami

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Computing Life and Death

Imagine, for the moment, a set of networked, self-correcting computers, programmed to pursue a deliberately vague, long-term goal: say, "Make as many significant calculations as you can, and try to make more than any other computer in the lab," with "significant" left deliberately multivalent, open-ended.  Then imagine that each of these computers has a stick of explosives by its C.P.U., with a slow-acting and temperamental seventy-year fuse, and that each knows it.  And add that the corrosive acid that detonates the fuse also gradually slows down each computer's functioning -- so that it's much better off, more likely to make more significant calculations, by interfacing with another computer before its own connections have worn down.  The computers would, at every moment, have to make fiendishly difficult decisions about whether a particular calculation was worth investing in, given the larger life-limited task of making truly significant calculations.  They would have to calculate the benefits and losses, for instance, of intense exchange early on against the knowledge of their approaching annihilation, and against the demands of all the other tasks that needed doing.  Some would retreat and do nothing but solitary calculations; some would network furiously; some would ask if it was worth trying to win TV quiz shows when the aim was to win the most-significant-calculations contest.

Quote by Adam Gopnik, from the New Yorker article "Get Smart," a book review.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Some Inspirational Quotes About Death

If you have read all of my previous blog posts, which I'm sure you have, you will have noticed that I like to collect inspirational quotes.  You may also have noticed that I've taken a lot of breaks from blogging.  This was not, as you might expect, because my blog has become so famous that I barely have to post any more.  No.  I have been spending my time building a collection of inspirational quotes about death.  This research is preparation for the children's book I'm writing for my niece, who apparently doesn't want to go to kindergarten next fall because she thinks that if she goes, it means she will eventually grow up and die.  I have made it my challenge to figure out how to convince her that she needs to go to school anyway.  It is certainly a challenge to write something a 5-year-old can grasp concerning the positive aspects of death, and therefore of school.  She made me a very informative and well-illustrated book about bugs, however, so I feel it's only a fair trade.

Please feel free to inform me of it if I have missed any good quotes about death.

Death Quotes

"May you live all the days of your life."
Jonathan Swift

"I've told my children that when I die, to release balloons in the sky to celebrate that I graduated. For me, death is a graduation."
Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

"Some people are so afraid to die that they never begin to live."
Henry Van Dyke

"'Tis very certain the desire of life prolongs it."
Lord Byron

"To himself everyone is immortal; he may know that he is going to die, but he can never know that he is dead."
Samuel Butler

"Be open to your dreams, people. Embrace that distant shore. Because our mortal journey is over all too soon."
David Assael, Northern Exposure, It Happened in Juneau, 1992

"I am going to concentrate on what's important in life. I'm going to strive everyday to be a kind and generous and loving person. I'm going to keep death right here, so that anytime I even think about getting angry at you or anybody else, I'll see death and I'll remember."
Diane Frolov and Andrew Schneider, Northern Exposure, Do The Right Thing, 1992

"I hope the leaving is joyful; and I hope never to return."
Frida Kahlo (1907 - 1954)

"Life does not cease to be funny when people die any more than it ceases to be serious when people laugh."
George Bernard Shaw (1856 - 1950)

"There is no cure for birth and death save to enjoy the interval."
George Santayana (1863 - 1952), Soliloquies in England, 1922, "War Shrines"

"No one knows whether death, which people fear to be the greatest evil, may not be the greatest good."
Plato (BC 427-BC 347) Greek philosopher.

"Our dead are never dead to us, until we have forgotten them."
George Eliot (1819-1880) British writer.

"Death is the wish of some, the relief of many, and the end of all."
Lucius Annaeus Seneca (4 BC-65) Roman philosopher and playwright.

"After your death you will be what you were before your birth."
Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860) German philosopher.

"There is no cure for birth and death save to enjoy the interval. The dark background which death supplies brings out the tender colors of life in all their purity."
George Santayana (1863-1952) American philosopher and poet.

"It matters not how a man dies, but how he lives. The act of dying is not of importance, it lasts so short a time."
Samuel Johnson (1709-1784) British author.

"A person doesn't die when he should but when he can."
Gabriel García Márquez (1928-?) Colombian writer.

"Nothing can happen more beautiful than death."
Walt Whitman (1819-1892) American poet.

"Whoever has lived long enough to find out what life is, knows how deep a debt of gratitude we owe to Adam, the first great benefactor of our race. He brought death into the world."
Mark Twain (1835-1910) U.S. humorist, writer, and lecturer.

"To fear death is to misunderstand life."
Unknown Source

"Every man wishes to live long, but no man wishes to be old."
Jonathan Swift

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Karaoke: What to Do if You Can't Avoid it

Let's face it: given the sound of your voice under pressure, it would be best for you to turn down all who offer to take you out for karaoke.  However, sometimes there are invites that cannot be refused if a nerd wants to keep her hard-earned friends.  Here are some guidelines for surviving a night of extroverted entertainment.
 My friends
What to Wear 

Whatever the social occasion might be, I can be relied upon to strike the wrong note with what I'm wearing.  Take, for example, the time in fourth grade when I wore a pink dress on picture day.  That was the year everyone else decided they were too cool to dress up for pictures, and I felt like a total dork all day at school.  Things haven't improved much since then.  That is why you should not listen to my sartorial advice.  Consider yourself warned.

Before you decide what to wear, first do some research on the type of venue you will be forced to attend.  If you suspect that the establishment has pretensions to seriousness, you are safest in nice jeans and a black shirt.  If it is a tiki bar or other themed joint, you are in luck.  You can almost do no wrong.  Getting into the theme will grant you bonus points without you even having to open your mouth.  If you aren't into themed garb, wear your jeans and black shirt with a token themed accessory, so when the cute girl teases you about not being sporting, you can point out your fiesta-colored belt or your tiki torch lapel pin to prove her wrong.  She will appreciate that. 

Selecting a Song
If you think you will get drunk enough to sing, have a list of songs on hand that you think you could pull off.  That is, you know the lyrics to these songs reasonably well and they are not totally out of your range.  No one wants to see you reading the song book all night like a big nerd.  Stay away from anything too slow or depressing.  Most songs by the Cure are a bad choice, except for their two happy ones.  This point was demonstrated by a lovely girl with greasy, uncombed hair wearing slubby jeans and a sweatshirt the Saturday I went out with my friends.  It turns out that most Cure songs have a 36-bar intro that's difficult to surmount even if you're a perky blonde.  It's okay to do a song that's creepy if you make it funny, or if you are an attractive female.  However, be aware that karaoke brings out the creep factor in a lot of songs that previously seemed sweet and benign.  If you don't believe me, try singing "Every Breath You Take" in front of a crowd and see their expressions change as the audience slowly realizes that it's about being a stalker.  They will have plenty of time to read the lyrics because the song is so slow.  Instead try the much funnier "The More You Ignore Me, the Close I Get."  Morrissey is a much more entertaining obsessive-compulsive type, and is therefore suitable for nerds to parody.

Avoiding Singing Altogether
Of course, it would be preferable to just sit out the singing altogether.  Pay attention to the types of people who are singing already.  If they actually have good voices and/or take themselves seriously, you should definitely sit this night out.  I have compiled a list of tasks that you might perform to entertain your fellow karaokers without having to actually go onstage:

- Write out song slips for everyone else with the funniest or most inappropriate song possible for them to sing.  This can keep you very busy, and you will appear to be doing some real research in the song book.  Also, this is a way to communicate non-verbally, as it will be too damn loud in there to make decent quips.  Your friends can take your facetious advice as a joke or merely keep the slips as a memento.
- Do back-up dancing for your friends while they sing.  Even funnier, do back-up dancing for complete strangers while they sing.  People will think that you are really extroverted and entertaining, while really you are just avoiding the microphone.  Or, they will just think you're drunk.  Still, that's better than them realizing how terrible a singer you are.
- Buy people drinks.  They will like you.  Plus, you will seem pretty cool buying drinks for people and not even bothering them with chitchat afterward.  But hey, you have things to do.  Downside: this is not the budget option for avoiding your singing duties.
- Take photos of people.  They don't have to turn out.  As a matter of fact, they probably won't, considering the dimly lit interior of the average karaoke establishment.  That doesn't matter.  Taking pictures just screams, "I'm having fun!"
- Wrap your head in a lei.  It worked for this guy.  His girlfriend looks super impressed.

- Take up smoking.  Don't spend this evening attempting to take up harder drugs, however.  The bathroom will be too crowded to be a refuge.  Smoking, while not recommended by the surgeon general, is still legal and gives you an excuse to go outside.  If, like me, you don't smoke, simply get up with your cell phone obtrusively in hand and walk out of the bar.  Once outside, spend some time poking at it like you're sending a text message, even if you haven't received one in ages.  This could be a good time to re-establish some texting relationships you've let slide.
- Sing along to what others sing.  But be cautious when using this technique, as it doesn't fly in every venue.  Singing along without a microphone is like making a pass at your date: you want to make sure he's either really receptive to it or really drunk before you start up.

Do you have any karaoke avoidance techniques of your own?  Please share them in the comments!

Friday, May 6, 2011

Monday, April 18, 2011

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Swift on Laziness

"I never knew a man come to greatness or eminence who lay abed late in the morning."

Jonathan Swift

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Intelligence and Survival

"It has yet to be proven that intelligence has any survival value."

Arthur C. Clark


"A divorce is like an amputation: you survive it, but there's less of you."

Margaret Atwood

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Hot Chicks

If she's hot, she's probably only talking to you because she's nice, or because she is the cashier and it is her job.  Don't let that distract you from the task of being nice in return.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Flirting Tip

If you think someone's cute, smile at them.  Don't scowl or start quoting Tolkien.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Escape without Intelligence

"To assume the behavior of ordinary people in advance, you only have to assume that they will always try to escape a disagreeable situation with the smallest possible expenditure of intelligence." 

Friedrich Nietzsche

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Intelligence Spawns Stupidity

"Man has made use of his intelligence, he invented stupidity."
Remy de Gourmont

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Monday, January 17, 2011

Being Older

"For years I wanted to be older, and now I am."

~ Margaret Atwood

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Where the Mind Goes

"Put yourself in a different room, that's what the mind is for."

Margaret Atwood

Tuesday, January 11, 2011


"What sane person could live in this world and not be crazy?"

~Ursula K. LeGuin

Saturday, January 1, 2011


"If you can do a half-assed job of anything, you're a one-eyed man in a kingdom of the blind."
Kurt Vonnegut


"However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results."

Sir Winston Churchill