Sunday, February 19, 2012

Link blasts

I don't know if anyone likes these posts, but at the very least, it's a good list of things I found interesting once and might want to find again.

A lot of people are up in arms about academic publishing recently, and for good reason. It's a huge scam. Publishers like Elsevier (the current scapegoat, the McDonalds of the academic publishing industry) create journals. Scientists send papers in to these journals (often at a cost to the scientist). The journal sends each article out to other scientists to peer-review. Then the reviewers decide which ones go in the journal, and then the journal charges people $20/article to read them, or sells subscriptions to university libraries for thousands of dollars. Notice that, in this whole description, the journal is doing nothing useful that the internet cannot do, but it's raking in obscene amounts of money from underfunded universities and poor students. Here's a bit more about it. Note to self: look into the state of this in 6 months or so, when I start actually researching.

Diversity is not about color anymore. Urban/rural is a bigger divide than white/brown/black. I have more in common with a Bangalore software engineer than a Western Washington farmer. Haves/Have-nots is an even bigger divide.

"Unplug your machines on Sunday" is a useful solution to the "information overload" problem, but it's not the whole answer. To me it feels like meditating for half an hour a day: a great start, but if you're not living mindfully the other 23.5 hours, it's only a start. Also, this article does a good job of laying out at least 5 of the main issues that we tend to unfairly lump together into "technology overload." Multitasking, Fear of Missing Out, Disconnection from the real world, Information Overload, and "The Shallows".

Connecting with people, one silly and pre-rehearsed sentence at a time. "That's a nice dog." Brings a surprisingly nice jolt! He attributes it to oxytocin; whether it is or not, it's a pretty nice feeling, and good on him for this effort.

Erasing memories. Don't say "Eternal Sunshine." I think that if this ever works on people, the effects will be so complicated. We imagine "okay, I'll just forget when that bully hit me last week", but that's like saying "I'll just have Google forget that 'person' and 'human' are synonyms."

Who is Sam Harris, and how have I just heard of him twice with a week?
First: Fireplaces are actually really bad for you. And we're not good at taking our folk beliefs and figuring out which are accurate and which are not.
Second: This makes Brazilian Jiu-jitsu sound really appealing to learn. Also, it is neat that the question "what is the best method of fighting?" has an answer: a mix of western boxing, Thai boxing, Greco-Roman wrestling, and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, depending on how far you are from your opponent.

Think I saw this a while ago but forgot about it: Toxoplasma gondii messes with us in lots of subtle ways. Same way that certain parasites make bugs climb grass so that birds can eat them more easily. Cool!

One man's experiences with various nootropics. (These are safe, legal drugs.)

UMD seminar about the future of Human-Computer Interaction. "The future of HCI" is a wide topic; looks like they break it down into crowdsourcing, input, personal informatics, and "cyborg". Interested to see what they pick to read, especially as those seem to me to be four of the most interesting parts of HCI.

"You don't want that thing; you want the experience of getting what you want"

This thought has been running through my head a lot recently. (Anyone know the actual quote?)

Think about the first time you had vodka. It probably tasted like hell because it was cheap, but then it made you feel nice afterwards. Pretty soon, that became a default: every weekend you could have some cheap vodka at a college party, so it lost some mystique. The experience of wanting something and getting it became lessened. Perhaps you then desired tastier vodka, so when you upgraded to Smirnoff it felt like a luxury again. Maybe you then got a job and started making money, so you could buy Smirnoff whenever you wanted. But then you didn't get the experience of wanting something and getting it; you just got the experience of getting something. Lost its appeal again. Maybe you moved up to fancier vodka. Maybe you buy Grey Goose, even though I bet you money you don't actually like the taste better!

Creating desires so you can fulfill them. Weird, right? Well, and not very productive either. I'm wondering what happens when you hit consumptive singularity, or whatever: when your whole life is just an exceedingly elaborate series of fulfilling desires. (and I'm not just talking stupid hedonism: these desires could include a loving family, career success, whatever.) Probably feels great. Hmm.

I think if I continued this post, I'd just hit Buddhism 101. Whoops. The original and useful point I'm trying to make is this: occasionally examine your life, and notice where you're just desiring the experience of wanting something and getting it.

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Albums where the last song is the best

1. Sgt. Pepper's (A Day in the Life)
2. The Bends (Street Spirit (fade out))
3. Speaking in Tongues (This Must Be The Place (Naive Melody))
4. John Henry by They Might Be Giants (The End of the Tour)
5. Z by My Morning Jacket (Dondante)
6. Bitter Tea by the Fiery Furnaces (Benton Harbor Blues, well, kind of)
EDIT: 7. Daisies of the Galaxy by Eels (Mr. E's Beautiful Blues)

What else?

ps. like how I didn't list who made Speaking in Tongues, because of course you already know it, just as well as you know Sgt. Pepper's and The Bends?

Friday, February 03, 2012

Scarcity makes people worse

I am thinking that almost all instances of people being awesome occur in situations of plenty, and almost all instances of people being crummy occur in situations of scarcity. Scarcity activates the circuit that says "I gotta get mine before it's all gone". Money, food, status, time; next time someone's getting testy or worse, look for what is scarce. See if you can alleviate it. Also, learn from that instance and see how you can avoid this being scarce in the future.