Category Archives: useful

QOTD: 7 June 2007

“I don’t believe in total freedom for the artist. Left on his own, free to do anything he likes, the artist ends up doing nothing at all. If there’s one thing that’s dangerous for an artist, it’s precisely this question of total freedom, waiting for inspiration and all the rest of it.”

—Federico Fellini

[via Signal vs. Noise]

Simulated Ignorance

According to this, the word “irony” comes from the Greek word eir?neia, which referred to the Socratic argument technique of feigning ignorance to get your opponent to say something you can poke holes in.
American Heritage gives the etymology as

French ironie, from Old French, from Latin ?r?n?a, from Greek eir?neia, feigned ignorance, from eir?n, dissembler, probably from eirein, to say.

I like the idea of simulated ignorance, and I think it’s kind of amazing that it is linked with both the ideas of dissembling and speech.

While I’m attracted to these things, I am also not a fundamentally ironic person. I think if you try to live on feigned igorance alone, you sort of starve. Eventually, you have to try to know something.

First Ikea Stoughton trip

Swedish cloning technology far surpasses ours
So, we finally went to Massachusetts’ first Ikea Saturday, a couple of months after it opened, braving it even though we figured it would be a madhouse on a Saturday afternoon. I guess the light snow scared enough people off, because it really wasn’t as crowded as I expected.

We bought a bunch of Billy bookcases for the dining room, some lights for under the kitchen cabinets, some new curtains and pillows for the bedroom, and some other odds and ends. And with some creative rope work, it all fit in the Civic (to the surprise of both me and the Ikea workers out on a smoke break in the loading area). I did note for future reference, though, that if we do need to take something big home from there someday, they do have Zipcars of the large variety parked there, as well as a shuttle from the Quincy T stop.

I tried to put my finger on what I like about the place, given that I’m pretty good at curbing my enthusiasm for most stores even if I tend to like their stuff (because they are stores, and it is stuff, and it’s just not my thing). It’s really that I tend to come out with more good ideas than actual stuff, I actually think about how I can organize my space better, and I already have enough bags of unburned tea lights to know not to get tempted to buy a lot of stuff there just because it’s cheap.


Of the many words I love, “quiddity” as been very close to the top of the list since I discovered it. I forget the context, but I feel like it was a summer or two ago, it came up (I have no idea how or why) when I was visiting the parents. My mom was looking it up, but I tried to guess what it meant from my smidgie of Latin: I guessed “what-ness” or “thingitude”. I was close:

quid di ty (kwi(d’i(-te-) pronunciation
n., pl. -ties.

  1. The real nature of a thing; the essence.
  2. A hairsplitting distinction; a quibble.

Or even better, from WordNet,

The noun quiddity has 2 meanings:

  1. Meaning #1: an evasion of the point of an argument by raising irrelevant distinctions or objections
    Synonym: quibble
  2. Meaning #2: the essence that makes something the kind of thing it is and makes it different from any other

On the Latin theme, I may start writing error messages in Latin after reading this.


Speaking of growing blog empires, Gawker media’s growing empire includes several new blogs, none of which are of much interest to me, except for the excellent Lifehacker. I find the header graphic creepy (what’s up with the weird hat? Is she supposed to be my life flight attendant or something?), and the ads irksome. But every day since I subscribed has tips that are total gems. Like a fast Wikipedia lookup tool, how to change your legal name, how to run your first 5k, how to get your preschooler to bed, etc.