Sunday, October 27, 2013

Bad memes

Networking. All-nighter. If you're saying these words, you're probably doing something wrong.

People have been meeting each other for ages, making friends, and getting jobs from people they know. But when we start talking about "networking", this common practice becomes something that instills fear. (which in turn makes it harder.)

Similarly, you shouldn't "pull an all-nighter" for pretty much any reason. But it's become a thing among students (and maybe others in high-pressure jobs), so people do it, and talk about doing it. Even the fact that the word exists legitimizes it. If you talk about how you didn't "pull an all-nighter", maybe you're saying "well, I slept 4 hours", which, due to the anchoring effect of "all nighter", feels legitimate even though it's terrible. And you're still contributing to the existence of the concept "all-nighter". It's like "don't think of an elephant" - for better or worse, you start thinking of elephants.

For a harmless example, look at "planking." It's kind of funny. But now that some people started "planking", it's a thing, and for better or worse you might find yourself planking sometime.

But imagine if instead of "planking", we talked about "pebbling", where "pebbling" means "throwing pebbles at someone you don't like." This is going to have mildly negative consequences. Some kids will pebble some people. Adults will overreact and ban pebbling or something. It'll be a whole flap just because a word exists.

So, I guess, all this garbage about what goofy words the OED is adding actually matters. Be careful what words you use? Stop talking about all-nighters? (Linguists, I bet you've known this for ages. Maybe I'm just rediscovering the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, or the idea that memes are powerful?)

Saturday, October 12, 2013

A mild case of Holiday YOLO

From The Scotsman newspaper today: "This emerging group of middle-aged thrill-seekers is increasingly driven by the phenomenon of "holiday YOLO" (you only live once)..."

So I spent three days with my wonderful friends Daniel and Killian tromping around these hills and castles. I mean, exactly what I had hoped. I'd heard that the Highlands are great and saw some nice pictures of this town called Ullapool, so we stayed there. So good!

We drove in one direction (har) and found a thing to climb. Then we found some castles and islands. In the other direction, we found this gorge. We also found Sigur Ros landscapes and haunted hotels. We drank a lot of tea and looked at sheep. We even found a weasel.

they are getting married in a few months and this photo better show up somewhere there

weasel right in the center there

Here is a tip: if you listen to new music while driving through someplace particularly stirring, you'll make great associations. Even if it's Katy Perry. (for the record, I blame Killian.)

Then I went to a conference called UIST in St. Andrews. Also great! Beautiful old ruined town, great place for a conference, stayed at a cool little B&B, saw a lot of cool technology, talked to great people, got some ideas. I will write more about that in my research focused blog.

bagpipers right in the center there

I quite like this place! Wouldn't mind living there for a spell. Everyone we met was so friendly, the scones and whiskey are good, and just like I hoped, there are hills and wind and ruined castles everywhere. More realistically, wouldn't mind biking around it, with or without a motor.

more photos, if you are so inclined

Thursday, October 03, 2013

If meaning in life is self-created,

if there's no "meaning of life" except what we create for ourselves,
could you just decide "the meaning of life is to be really good at Super Mario Bros", dedicate yourself fully to it, and be satisfied?

(I pose this argument as a straw man; it feels like there's something wrong with it. do help me figure out what it is.)