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Showing posts from January, 2011

Turning Point 1975

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When I was 15 I lived in Western Kansas . It was a fascinating place, and I think of it often. During the Paleolithic period, this region was covered by an ocean. Standing on the flat plain, I can imagine a mile of salt water overhead, only now the ocean is a soaring sky.  That vast, uncluttered space awakened my mind. My little town had a fine library and good public schools. The town was bounded on every side by farms. Farming requires an enormous mental effort, to be successful. After working on a farm, I will always respect the abilities of farmers.  During a hot, silent summer, I walked to a grocery store and gas station and bought a paper-back book, Klingsor's Last Summer, by Herman Hesse. The story is about a painter named Klingsor who spends his summer painting in Italy, then dies unexpectedly in the fall. In Italy, Klingsor goes on a picnic with friends: My friends, let’s not start becoming sensible so late in life. What it all meant is: this day will never come a

Our Golden Age

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Knowledge for the sake of knowledge had little attraction for the Athenians. They were realists. Knowledge was to be desired because it had value for living; it led men away from error to right action. Edith Hamilton, The Greek Way We tend to think of knowledge as good in itself, but knowledge is useful only when we can exploit it to help us reach our goals. Marvin Minsky, The Society of Mind We are fortunate to live in these time s . No matter where we live, each of us can read high-quality information about almost any subject. Not just internet searches, but substantial books. Through eBooks you can carry every book you ever read around with you, for instant reference or—more likely—just the good feeling that it's there if you want it. Many of us have great affection for physical library spaces, their church-like atmosphere with its incense aroma of paper, ink and glue. They are so pleasant, it's hard to recognize their limitations. Physical books take up space,

Winter in San Francisco / Farewell to an Artist

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We never get snow. In December the city government trucked-in snow and built an artificial slope in front of City Hall. This image includes scraps of our public objects: the electronic-looking Intercontinental Hotel, set between the Mansard-style roof of the Asian Museum and a monumental three-headed sculpture by  Zhang Huan . Max embraced this olympic challenge. His Mommy looks remarkably like Jacqueline Kennedy here, fit for battle with her sunglasses and ten-gallon purse.   At the bottom, Max plots his next run. We ran into old friends and watched little people explore their temporary, inflatable theme park. The park in front of City Hall looks completely different now than it did in the late 1980s when I walked across it several times a week for my job. At that time, hundreds of homeless people lived in tents there, and the grass was beaten down to dirt. It was not a place you wanted to take small children.  Our Mayor, Gavin Newsome strolled among us. He's a handso