March 15, 2013
Recently I quoted this bit of Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality at Sharon:
"The import of an act lies not in what that act resembles on the surface, Mr. Potter, but in the states of mind which make that act more or less probable."

Harry blinked. He'd just had the dichotomy between the representativeness heuristic and the Bayesian definition of evidence explained to him by a wizard.
I find it interesting because it's a counterargument to my usual modus operandi of taking everything at face value, because I'd rather not risk making a judgement that was false (and thus have my inner precocious child deal with the tragedy of being R-O-N-G WRONG)

I also like Harry Potter's reaction (in the fanfiction, he has been raised by Oxford Professor types and has a deep and abiding love for the scientific method and the culture that goes with it) to seeing McGonagall turn into a cat for the first time:
"You turned into a cat! A SMALL cat! You violated Conservation of Energy! That's not just an arbitrary rule, it's implied by the form of the quantum Hamiltonian! Rejecting it destroys unitarity and then you get FTL signalling! And cats are COMPLICATED! A human mind can't just visualise a whole cat's anatomy and, and all the cat biochemistry, and what about the neurology? How can you go on thinking using a cat-sized brain?"
Good stuff.
Am bummed about the Boston Phoenix. Even though I hardly ever read it. I don't know if that makes me part of the problem. Some of the Samsung Galaxy features sound great, and they're trying new app-features in a way Apple hasn't in a while. Still (with the exception of "Air View" that could be a replacement for the "more information on hover" that most touch devices lack) the other Touchless Features (pause a video by looking away? Wave a hand to change music?) make me thinking of this prescient bit from Douglas Adams in Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy:
A loud clatter of gunk music flooded through the Heart of Gold cabin as Zaphod searched the sub-etha radio wavebands for news of himself. The machine was rather difficult to operate. For years radios had been operated by means of pressing buttons and turning dials; then as the technology became more sophisticated the controls were made touch-sensitive - you merely had to brush the panels with your fingers; now all you had to do was wave your hand in the general direction of the components and hope. It saved a lot of muscular expenditure of course, but meant that you had to sit infuriatingly still if you wanted to keep listening to the same programme.

I just noticed 'Portland' is trending on Twitter. I'm switching to Somerville, MA.

Me: Knock knock.
You: Who's there?
Me: God.
You: God who?
Me: And that's why you're going to hell.

The secret of life is enjoying the passage of time.