The ability to play chess is the sign of a gentleman. The ability to play chess well is the sign of a wasted life.

— Paul Morphy (?)

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Socks possess the mysterious power, like cats, of vanishing; unlike cats, they don’t get hungry and come back.

— Gwern Branwen, on Socks

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Robot Cars, Meet Snowfall

I would love to know what the actual blocker to immediate global rollout [of robot cars] is.

Matt Webb

In a word, snow.

I can’t help but feel it telling that all of the self-driving car trials take place in sunny places like LA and Phoenix. Snow, as I see it, creates two large obstacles for self-driving cars: the snow can physically obscure the road, and the snow (and ice) will differentially change the road surface friction.

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Walking to church, listening to church bells 🔔, add a special delight to this Sunday morning!

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The Mortal Engines Series, a Book Review

I recently completed the four books of the Mortal Engines series (Mortal Engines, Predator’s Gold, Infernal Devices, and A Darkling Plain). I was drawn in by the premise — that whole cities have gone mobile, something like giant tanks, and have taken to eating each other — but it was the depth of the love stories that drew me to finish it.

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Joseph Conrad on Sailors

I recently re-read The Heart of Darkness, by Joseph Conrad (the last time was in high school, for English class). I was pleasantly surprised by how short it was (~90 pages) and delighted by the prose: so much of the “modern” texts I read are either soulless corporate speak, that say very little, particularly about the things that actually matter, or flowery advertising speak, that serves more to misdirect and hide, or bland and flat, by writers who are exposed to very little soulful writing (or is this a description of my fears of own writing??). It’s hard to tease apart how much is a result of being written in over a century ago in 1899, how much is the writer displaying his craft, and how much of the structure is borrowed from Conrad’s native Polish.

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They Shall Not Grow Old, As We Grow Old

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.

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