Category — link fodder
Oooo, if you haven't messed with Google Ngram, you shooooould! Instant pretty graphs of the occurrence of any words and phrases in tons of books over time? YES PLEASE!
Here, for example, you can see that the phrase "in the beginning" was used a lot in 1800 and has been in steady decline ever since, while "in the end" has been on the rise during the same time-period; and the phrase "in the middle" has remained steady and qualitatively in-between the other two.
Have you ever seen anything so squee-worthy?? I'm not sure I have. I may need to sit down a minute, actually. Whoo…
(YES, okay, I heard about the Ngram corpus lookup feature of Google Books and immediately headed over and devised a goofy philosophically-meta search for it. Because that is me, and data that speaks to me gets me hot.)
December 11, 2012 1 Comment
Remember the “Symphony of Science” videos of yore? There’s a whole album of the author’s work (Josh D. Boswell is his name) available now, and the best part is, it’s pay-what-you-want! Proceeds go towards making more awesome pro-science stuff, so crack the wallet as far as you’re comfortable doing and go get the good stuff!
September 4, 2011 Comments Off
1. Cool Tools is an amazing blog and everybody should read it, even though it’s usually about tape and shovels and stuff* more so than writing; however
2. HOLY CRAP BETWEEN THREE BUTTERY CRACKERS, that’s a gobsmackingly useful PDF. I think I will print it on Tyvek and sew it into all my clothes.
*my house, and my Amazon wishlist, are FULL of their recommendations. I bought this tape because they said to and it is the OLYMPIAN TAPE OF THE MFING GODS. Listen to these people. About everything, apparently. :)
July 30, 2011 Comments Off
The new year is looking good! I've stumbled across all kinds of awesomeness already.
In charity-work, the web seems to finally be catching up: Besides Crowdrise, which I'm already a fan of for its refreshing attitude and small-charity-friendly format, there's now also Swipegood, which does the awesome automatic of rounding up your credit card purchases to the nearest dollar and donating that — your spare change, basically — to a charity! Good list of charities too. They need to support more credit cards, and Crowdrise needs to get PayPal hooked up asap; but still, both great ideas that I'm really happy to see out there. Kickstarter, too, if you didn't know about it already, is a fun and meaningful way to blow a few bucks.
On top of which, one of my favorite new(-ish) scifi writers, Ken Liu, has been trucking along creating a nigh-embarrassing amount of wonderful storiness, of which "Saving Face" is the latest to drop my jaw with its awesomeness. I'm writing again too, myself, but don't hold your breath for me to get as good as him any time soon. ;)
Now, if only I could get a week off to recover from the holidays…!
January 3, 2011 Comments Off
So Yahoo Finance, of all places, has this really in-depth (well, compared to other recent ones) article about napping, specifically how it's catching on in our sleep-deprived work-your-butt-off society. It even mentions polyphasic sleep without being completely wrong about it! Check it out:
A strict dozing regimen, such as the kind employed by sailboat racers, military pilots, and astronauts, can replace nocturnal sleep altogether for a limited time. Leonardo da Vinci experimented with erratic sleep schedules, but it wasn't until the early 1980s that Italian researcher Claudio Stampi invented "polyphasic ultrashort sleep," which breaks up the day into several equal sections, each of which ends with a brief nap. As long as these mini "days" are kept intact, one can then whittle the naps down to as little as two hours of sleep per 24 hours—at least according to research published in Stampi's 1992 book, Why We Nap.
Such daring sleep habits are not for everybody. "Going ultrashort is like running a marathon or climbing Mount Everest," writes Dr. Mednick in her book, Take a Nap! Change Your Life. "You need careful training and a generous period of recovery." However, the simple "productivity nap" does hold an undeniable appeal for time-crunched workers. Most sleep experts welcome the consequent uptick in nap-friendliness at work, though some are leery of its unintended consequences. "It can get out of hand: If you start encouraging the workforce to sleep in the afternoon, you're encouraging them to have late nights," says Horne. "Our society is getting more used to napping in the workplace, but it is still seen as something that could get you fired."
OK, so it does make a claim ("for a limited time") that's unsupported by evidence; and it uses the word "erratic" incorrectly to describe polyphasic sleep (though it may be accurate when it comes to da Vinci specifically; though if that's the intent it should be clearer). But still, it has merits I think; overall I'm pretty geeked. A), it's great material to show your boss if you're trying to get a nap-friendly setup going at work. B), yay finally, a not-half-bad mainstream description of how occasionally people who are not (at least not entirely) batshit do in fact sleep polyphasically; and C), some of the advice in the article about napping at work (polyphasic or not) is pretty good, if not — to me at least — kind of obvious. Then again, I've been napping at work for yeeeears, and I'm a bit beyond questions like "do I need headphones", heh; and I'm sure I'm not exactly their target audience. ;)
September 6, 2010 2 Comments
Mm, another Lifehacker article by a tech-startup-consultant-rockstar who's going to teach us all to be clean, slick and productive through the magic of a daytime nap. *yawn* (No, I'm not tired. ;) Anyway, dutifully I read the article, amusedly I chuckled at the first comment being about polyphasic sleep (which is either too weird a topic for LH to really cover, or lacks the prerequisite of being presented by a sufficiently slick techstar) — and verily I note for you, who are probably curious but also probably know more about napping than this guy, the short version:
- You don't have to actually fall asleep to nap – it's enough to drift off to a half-sleep state
- Even if it normally takes you 30+ minutes to fall asleep, you can benefit from 20 minute power naps
- First, learn what you're aiming for, for example by using something like pzizz. Then, practice reproducing that feeling – plan for a few months before you get good at it
- Don't over-sleep when power-napping, it will only make you feel groggy
…And all of those are good points, I suppose, even though they all come down, as far as I can tell, to "have some discipline and really try it".
Which does–I freely admit–work!
March 31, 2010 5 Comments
Waugh, there've been some awesome polyphasic links flying around lately!
I'm going to make more of an effort to catch some and stick them here; this post will be linked to from the Polyphasic Information Portal, so that we can expand it later.
First, an awesome discussion sprang up on the Google Polyphasic Group (which I moderate, but generally don't participate in), when an anonymous "reader" popped in to try and defend Dr. Wozniak's "Myths and Facts About Polyphasic Sleep" article against the charges (by myself and others) that it's, well, B.S. I answered the "reader", but it's the other commenters and their excellent answers to hir criticisms that I thought was really great. Spectacular reading if you're interested in the for/against polyphasic debate.
Then there's the fact that I'm not sure I've pluggged PolyphasicSleep.info recently — it's a wiki project to provide information about polyphasic sleep — it was smaller last time I looked at it, but people have been putting a lot of work in, and it's really getting comprehensive now. If you have a question, or want to send someone somewhere (besides here ;) for general information, I highly recommend it!
Recently, someone also dropped me a note about TryPolyphasic.com, too — and having poked around at it, I'll admit I'm impressed! Besides blogs of adapting polyphasers (which admittedly is not of interest to everyone), they have an awesome nap alarm that's as easy as pressing the "Start Nap Now" button — great idea! — and if that weren't enough cool, there's even a map showing where all the registered polyphasers live, geographically. Very creative uses of the Web for polyphasers, there; I plan to check back to see what else they think of.
There, now as I find more, I'll keep adding them — if you know of a polyphasic site that's more than just a personal blog, that offers information or services to either polyphasers or people looking for more information on the topic, then by all means let me know (firstname.lastname@example.org is the best way, probably).
And thank you to all the people doing the work out there! Running websites can be a thankless (and moneyless) job, but I'll appreciate that you do it if you appreciate that I do it, okay? ;)
February 27, 2010 Comments Off
You can’t steal from the Buddha, they say.
Why not? Because if you try to take something from an Enlightened One, he or she will surrender it — not as a victim, but from a position of inarguable power. Without the ability to take anything, or do anything, against the Buddha’s will, the thief is powerless.
I wonder if the same possibility, of surrendering the point while retaining the power, exists in an argument?
For example: I frequently find myself fighting with people who want to insist that the U.S.A. is a “Christian Nation”. As is often the case, laws designed to protect the minority — in this case, the non-religious, or those who wish to practice a non-Christian religion without feeling like it makes them freaks in their own society — upset and anger the majority, who see those protections as restricting their (the majority’s) ability to create the society that’s best for them. (It’s not uncommon, I think, for a majority to feel that they have the right to do this. However, it is counter to the whole idea of human rights, so I think we have to admit that it’s not okay.) It would obviously be best for Christians if their literature could be taught in all the schools, their rules posted in all the public buildings, and their proscriptions (for instance, against homosexuality) enforced by the government. And there are obvious reasons why those things wouldn’t be good for the country as a whole. Whether or not America was “originally” a “Christian nation”, it certainly isn’t anymore.
But still, it’s hard not to argue, when faced with such a claim.
I’ve made many of the typical arguments, such as:
- The Constitution is an openly secular document, with the first ten words of the Bill of Rights being “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion…”. (The Bill of Rights also applies to the States, not just the Federal Congress.)
- Thomas Jefferson, the man who wrote the Declaration of Independence that began America’s birth as a new nation, was not a Christian. He was a Deist, as was Thomas Paine and for a time, Benjamin Franklin. Deists did not grant the divinity of Christ, or other supernatural claims made by Christianity; they were rationalists. Other Framers were Unitarian Universalists and unorthodox “liberal” Christians. In any case the majority were far from orthodox Protestants as is often claimed.
- Most of the “Pilgrims” came here for trade, not religious freedom. The framers of our government included religious freedom in the country’s formation because they wished to avoid messes like the Inquisition, a Christian-led abomination which was still killing people at that time (they didn’t stop until 1817; the Roman Inquisition wasn’t considered fully “over” until 1860). The Inquisition is likely the reason that our laws explicitly forbid the government from forcing (or even encouraging) anyone to worship anything.
- If we really want to give special treatment to America’s “original” religion, then wouldn’t that be to the polytheistic nature-based religion of the Native Americans?
- “Under God” was inserted in the Pledge of Allegiance in 1954 (during the McCarthy era), and the words “In God We Trust” were added to U.S. paper currency in 1956. Hardly formative.
…But the other day I realized that perhaps I should abandon that tactic. For one thing, it’s fighting, and while intellectual argument has its place, most of the time what these arguments involve isn’t intellectual discourse; it’s getting angry and losing sight of patience and compassion. Not really my path anymore.
A more effective way to deal with the “it’s a Christian Nation” arguments might be to yield and overcome, by granting Christians the ownership of America and its history that they seem so eager to possess. We’ll all just concede, Buddha-style. This is a nation founded by Christians, okay.
If this is a Christian Nation, then the following are all Christian actions:
- Two hundred years of genocidal war, segregation, oppression and treaty violations against the Native American population;
- Two hundred and fifty years of slavery, including systemic kidnapping, torture, murder, and rape, plus a bloody war against our own people to defend the practice. (Ahem, “A 1705 Virginia law stated slavery would apply to those peoples from nations that were not Christian.“)
- Deaths, rapes, mutilations, and suffering caused by deployment of U.S. troops in many hundreds of foreign wars — see this list;
- Clear-cutting of millions of acres of old-growth forest, plus countless other acts of environmental pillaging and massively poor stewardship of the Earth, including being the biggest-polluting country in the world for many decades;
- [Insert Your Own -- drop a comment if you come up with a good one!]
…And I bet there’s a good lesson here. When someone tries to take something — like credit for being “the official U.S. religion” — maybe the best thing to do is let them have it, and then deal with the consequences of that ownership.
Are Christians really ready to “own” the history of the U.S., and its consequences? Are they also willing to face the fact that “their” history of violent mistreatment, war, torture and destruction in America is anything but a deviation from the various Churchs’ pre-Colonial activities too? Because let’s face it, if the argument that slavery and genocide in the U.S. were a Christian invention has anything going for it, it’s the fact that it’s not at all historically surprising.
As a non-Christian (or “reformed Christian”, I guess), I’m willing to let the Church own America’s history, especially if it might produce some apologies and changes in behavior. Then again, we are talking about the same organization that has a history of blatantly denying, then capitulating on and disowning, its mistakes. And if what modern Christians are seeking with their “Christian nation” arguments is a way to take credit for our nation’s good points, without taking the blame for its failures, well, there are problems with that. Somebody needs to own up to America’s bloody and misguided past. Normally I’m in favor of that being all of us, all current Americans, but if the Christian community is volunteering, well… ;)
So. Rather than argue, perhaps, at least in private conversation, this is an example of a case where it works better to cede the point, and then let the “winner” stumble under the weight of the goods he now has to carry.
(My brain is having positively Golgothan* spasms trying to come up with a “So Jesus and Buddha walk into a bar” joke that encapsulates the point of this entry! Perhaps it’s best for us all that I can’t do it.)
*I’m so sorry. I had to.
Awesome Creative-Commons image by WickedSunshine.com
July 29, 2009 1 Comment
There’s a lot of argument over whether people being attacked — especially women confronted with sexual assault — should fight their attackers.
Courtesy of The Straight Dope, here’s some data (emphasis mine):
- A recent ten-year study of attacks on women (733 rapes, 1,278 sexual assaults, and 12,235 general assaults) found that on the one hand, resisting an attempted rape lowered the odds of the perp completing the act by nearly two-thirds. But on the other, it slightly increased the odds of injury and doubled the chance of serious injury.
- A study of 3,206 assaults against women between 1992 and 1995 showed that women who fought back early in the attack were half as likely to be injured, and 75 percent of women queried reported that fighting back helped. An earlier study using data from the 70s found that women who resisted had less likelihood of being raped and 86 percent sustained no serious injury as a result — which, I suppose, means 14 percent did sustain serious injury.
- Another ten-year study of victim response in 27,595 crimes (assault, sexual assault, robbery, larceny, and burglary) showed across the board that resisting resulted in less injury than not resisting. Similarly, studies have found that resisting reduces the likelihood of an attempted crime succeeding. For example, the chance of a would-be robber pulling it off drops somewhere between 20 and 48 percent.
…As to the “but you’re more likely to be injured!” argument that one can draw from these…yeah, you’ve gone from being a victim in an attack or rape, to being a party to a brawl. Parties to brawls often get injured as a result. But which would you rather be?
There’s another question this raises, for me anyway: Is it more ethical not to fight back? I have several friends and family members who are Quakers and the die-hard-pacifist types of Buddhist, so it’s a valid question. My thoughts:
- It makes sense to seek harmony with the Universe, and “yield to overcome” is awesome advice, because in harmony and nonaggression you are seeking to have the fewest possible opp0nents, which is the best way to have the fewest possible losses! But that doesn’t mean that if someone makes you their opponent, you don’t treat them as such.
- The point of kungfu as I study it is to cause as little harm as possible to be done, to everyone. Your training is there to (for example) make it possible to break someone’s arm and run away, rather than having them rape or kill you. My Sifu, a Shaolin Monk and one of the gentlest, kindest and most peaceful people I’ve ever met, says that he has never had to use his training to attack anyone, that defending has always been enough. But he doesn’t go so far as to say that he wouldn’t attack someone, to prevent greater injury to himself or someone else (and I feel truly, truly badly for anybody that he *did* have to attack…OUCH). Also, I believe him when he says that defense is often enough — if you’re attacking someone and they block you with a well-delivered, probably painful, move and return to a ready stance, that’s probably gonna talk you out of what you were thinking of doing, a good chunk of the time.
- I would gladly have taken a beating rather than suffer the NotRape that I’ve experienced. And so, I think, would everyone, if they knew the options. Rape and its cousins are some of the worst things people can do to each other.
- Lastly, the perpetrator pays for a crime in psychological suffering and karma, and often their punishment–even if it’s only “in their mind”–is worse than the victim’s, in the long run. It’s no mercy to a person to let them go through with hurting someone else; and it is a mercy to prevent them, to at least give them another chance not to screw their life up that way. (Apologies for the excessive use of the grammatically-incorrect “their” as a substitute for “him/her”…I’m just feeling lazy and neuter-gender. ;)
More below, on protecting oneself, preventing assaults and kungfu.
June 20, 2009 7 Comments
From this piece by the awesomely clear-headed Lawrence Lessig:
“…I read this piece by Kevin Kelly, “The New Socialism.”
Words have meaning. We don’t get to choose their meaning. If you call something “X” people will hear the equation. They won’t read the fine-print which says (“By X, I mean really not-X).
When masses of people who own the means of production work toward a common goal and share their products in common, when they contribute labor without wages and enjoy the fruits free of charge, it’s not unreasonable to call that socialism.
That statement is flatly wrong. It is completely unreasonable to call that “socialism” — at least when the behavior described is purely voluntary. It’s like saying “Because Stalin set up a competition between different collective farms, it’s not unreasonable to call that free market capitalism.” Both statements are wrong because they point to a feature that is common, and ignore the feature that is distinctive. At the core of socialism is coercion (justified or not is a separate question). At the core of the behavior Kelly celebrates is freedom.
Kelly’s argument is like so many today that has implicitly embraced the view that free market, libertarian sorts believe that the only thing in the world is competition, or people working to non-common goals. It is the idea that we are free only if we are antagonistic, and that free market theorists have been working to create a world where individuals struggle against, not with. A world that aspires to dog-eat-dog as its central value.”
…Professor Lessig, if you didn’t know, is a lawyer and law professor and incredibly intelligent guy who writes numerous books about the future of copyright, public domain, and media and the Internet. The Change Congress movement, in which he’s heavily involved, is probably one of the better plans to get Congress to pop its mouth off the corporate teat (and it’s working, see?). I don’t agree with 100% of everything he’s ever said, but the man is a top-notch thinker on several topics that aren’t well represented by reason and logic, and more people ought to be listening to him, darnit.
Also, less people who have no freaking idea what they’re talking about should be using the word “socialism”, please. The blatant mis-uses of that word, specifically, are getting really old!
…But my favorite sentiment here, I think, is simply that words have meaning, and we don’t get to choose what it is. I totally agree with that: Unless you’re writing an analytic work and carefully defining everything as you go along (and therefore writing something that’s really only valuable to people who want to read analytically), you simply can’t toss words like “God”, “democracy”, “religion”, “freedom” and “theft” around and then expect to be given a freebie when you’re obviously wrong by the accepted definition.
Or as a brilliant teacher I once had used to say, “Define your terms,” because if you don’t, you’re defining them as ‘as commonly used‘ — by your readers, in their culture and setting. Either way, you accept responsibility for how your words are construed. That’s the price of having a voice.
May 29, 2009 2 Comments