Semi-Random Musings

The whole blogging thing doesn’t really work for me; the majority of the time, anything I want to write about is either not substantial enough or—much more likely!—not thought-through enough to make the effort worthwhile. So I’m going to give this a try: posting stuff that’s (possibly) longer than a tweet but (probably) shorter than an essay.

Who says you can’t improve on the classics (or in this case, should that be Classics)? This update on Plato’s Allegory of the Cave is 100% spot-on for the current day and age.

I think I might have to start watching Legion, from which this was taken.

(Via Kottke)

I’ve only read the first page of Chuck Klosterman’s But What If We’re Wrong? and can already relate quite strongly:

I’ve spent most of my life being wrong.
Not about everything. Just about most things.

At this point, my wrongness doesn’t even surprise me. I almost anticipate it. Whenever people tell me I’m wrong about something, I might disagree with them in conversation, but—in my mind—I assume their accusation is justified, even when I’m relatively certain they’re wrong, too.

I don’t always agree with Malcolm Gladwell (but he’s far smarter and more successful than I am, so your call on whether or not that statement is worth anything), but I am 100% aligned with his post on corporate crisis communication. Sadly, I think the WTA is going to remain the outlier here. There are very few organizations that will prioritize moral and ethical behavior over profit.

TIL 🤔🤯:

“Earth’s Moon is about 1/400th the diameter of the Sun, but it is also 1/400th as far from us, making the Sun and the Moon the same size on the sky—a coincidence not shared by any other planet-moon combination in the solar system, allowing for uniquely photogenic total solar eclipses.” Neil DeGrasse Tyson

This is some bullshit right here. I’m very, very skeptical of the claim that iCloud Private Relay hampers T-Mobile’s “ability to efficiently manage telecommunication networks”… what it does impact is their ability to harvest and sell their customers’ data to brokers and advertisers.

Update (4:54pm): I may have jumped the gun… kind of glad to be (at least partially) wrong about this one. I still think carriers trying to block OS-level features—even if it’s only in Europe for now—is an arsehole move.

I watched a couple of movies today: Atomic Blonde and Jason Bourne. Both were fine as rainy afternoon entertainment, but I got kinda bored by the length of the fight and/or car chase scenes. I realize that those scenes are the point of the movie and without them, they’d both be about 15 minutes long, but still.

We Should Replace Facebook With Personal Websites. Yes. Yes we should.

But for people who came of age in the early 2000s, sharing our lives online is second nature, and largely came without consequences. There was no indication that something we’d been conditioned to do would be quickly weaponized against us.

Maybe there wasn’t an indication back in the early- to mid-00s (and maybe I’m a bit cynical) but assuming any data that you hand over to anyone is going to be used with ill intent is really the only logical approach… and there have been many, many indications since then that any data you provide will be weaponized against you, so why do people still do it?

I unsubscribed from the Marginal Revolution RSS feed today. I’ve been meaning to do a bit of a cull of my feeds for a while now, but the post titled Are Princeton and Yale imprisoning their students? made it an easy call. First up, it’s a textbook examples of Betteridge’s law of headlines; of course those universities aren’t imprisoning their students.

Yes, the restrictions Princeton and Yale are imposing are hypocritical and (in all likelihood) useless, but to equate those measures with imprisonment, even rhetorically, is incredibly counter-productive. Rather than calling attention to how silly those particular rules are, all articles like this do is give ammunition to the fringe types that scream about any actions that are taken to contain a pandemic that they don’t believe is real.

I thought economists were at least supposed to try (or at least look like they’re trying) to be rational and objective?

I am neither strongly pro- nor strongly anti-crypto, but I am extremely skeptical about the motivations of the people that are most active in the space; there’s a strong Ayn Rand-ian lean to a lot of the rhetoric around crypto, which I personally find pretty disgusting. I’m guessing (hoping!) that I’m not alone there, and have my fingers crossed that those people aren’t dissuading others with better intentions from using the underlying tech to actually effect worthwhile change. Ben Werdmüller summarizes it pretty well:

If we get to a point where the only people doing innovation on the internet are the people whose values we dislike, we’re in trouble.

I’m not saying that we all have to play nice and hold hands around the campfire, just that there needs to be a bit more balance in the equation.

If you’re a Tolkien fan and have 15 minutes to spare, this is definitely worth a watch. I had no idea that he had started writing a sequel to The Lord of the Rings.

Like the video’s narrator—and as much as I’d have loved to have found out what happened after the end of the LotR—I think I’m happy that he didn’t pursue the idea any further… it might not have been a Star Wars-level mangling of the franchise, but it would probably not have ended well.

Having said that, the core of the story does show that Tolkien seemed to have a pretty clear view of human nature… I’ll leave it as an exercise for the watcher to draw the parallels between the outline of the story and some of the things going on in the world today.

100 ways to slightly improve your life without really trying. Lots of these I’m cool with:

  1. On the fence about a purchase? Wait 72 hours before you buy it.
  2. Sharpen your knives.
  3. Look closely.
  4. Stretch in the morning. And maybe in the evening.
  5. Don’t have Twitter on your phone.
  6. Always have dessert.
  7. Don’t save things for “best”. Wear them – _enjoy_ them.
  8. Always book an extra day off after a holiday.
  9. Nap.
  10. If in doubt, add cheese.

(#42 should really be “don’t have any social media apps on your phone”.)

Some, I want to try doing more often…

  1. Eat meat once a week, max. Ideally less.
  2. Drop your shoulders.
  3. Listen to the albums you loved as a teenager.

…but I’m calling bullshit on this one:

  1. Don’t be weird about how to stack the dishwasher.

You can pry my OCD dishwasher tendencies from my cold, dead fingers.

And finally, as much as I love the idea, I’m not sure that this one is accurate (at least here in the US, maybe in the UK):

  1. Consider going down to four days a week. It’s likely a disproportionate amount of your fifth day’s work is taxed anyway, so you’ll lose way less than a fifth of your take-home pay.

(Via Kottke)

They really didn’t bury the lede on this one: Mammals can breathe through anus in emergencies.

Update: I (or the 13-year-old in me) posted this having read just the headline, but after reading the article, I feel a little queasy about the experimental methodology. The idea of asphyxiating a living creature to see whether it can breathe through its butt doesn’t sit right with me. I can understand the scientific value of the research, but still… 🤢. I’m not going to delete this note, but am going to leave it here as a reminder to myself to be a bit more mindful about what I post in the future.

A new WIRED? I will be watching to see how this plays out. I’ve read WIRED since I was at university and have been a subscriber pretty much since I moved to the US and used to love the magazine’s “techno-utopian” lean, but have come to take a different view of the world over the past few years. I like the idea of rejecting a binary view of good/bad or optimism/pessimism, but am skeptical about any media outlet’s ability to provide any kind of balance about anything anymore.

The 1904 Olympic marathon was wild; the runner that was originally thought to have won turned out to have ridden most of the course in a car, and the eventual winner was given strychnine (!!!), egg whites and brandy on the course by his trainers and (unsurprisingly!) had to be carried across the line:

He began hallucinating, believing that the finish line was still 20 miles away. In the last mile he begged for something to eat. Then he begged to lie down. He was given more brandy but refused tea. He swallowed two more egg whites. He walked up the first of the last two hills, and then jogged down on the incline. Swinging into the stadium, he tried to run but was reduced to a graceless shuffle. His trainers carried him over the line, holding him aloft while his feet moved back and forth, and he was declared the winner.

And then there was the dude who lost all of his stuff gambling, hitchhiked from New Orleans to St. Louis to get to the race, then ran “attired in a white, long-sleeved shirt, long, dark pants, a beret and a pair of street shoes”.

Out of control.