3 weeks ago

august 2018 new music playlist playlist

September 4, 2018
4-star stuff in red. And there's a lot of it! So a good month but not much that really blew my mind.
A FB exchange from Aug 12 that stuck with me:
"i'm listening to a radio production of Isaac Asimov's Foundation series, and i'm getting kind of tired of it. the whole premise is that some "psycho-historian" predicted the fall of his own empire and invented some crazy 1000-year plan of 120dimensional chess that would "limit the duration of the time of barbarism that followed". because if you're smart enough you can set into motion a thousand-years-long conspiracy. and if you are not in a gigantic empire then you're in barbarism apparently.

am I going to feel this way whenever I read a sci-fi classic?"
In theory, I like the metaphor of a billiard ball, that the course of a few atoms were unpredictable but get 'em into a billiard ball and it was pretty easy, and that's how psychohistory works. I guess it doesn't hold water but I can't exactly explain why not. (Maybe because the real world isn't the metaphorical equivalent of a nice flat billiards table :-D )
Asimov was writing in a world that had statistical mechanics (which he'd have encountered in his chemistry training) but not so much chaos theory.
I thought Matt's point was concise and quite probably correct. See also: the law of unintended consequences...

September 3, 2018

Google's Chrome browser turned 10 the other day.

This Gizmodo piece mentions that, and about how it's kind of weirdly hard to switch, even when other browsers have caught up on most fronts, and it so clearly puts you in a part of Google's fiefdom.

Some of it's just UI laziness. I've been using Safari more often, trying to push just a bit beyond the monoculture, and because it's said to be easier on the laptop battery, but even the way it does UI tabs feels off. And Chrome's developer tools are even tougher to give up; I don't know if they are better or I'm just extremely used to them.

I remember when IE3 + 4 came out, how much better they felt than Netscape of the time, but it's hard to say exactly why. And Chrome still feels a bit like that now, there's a tough to poinpoint "roundness" in its UI.

Still, the popularity of the browser combined with how "chromebooks" and not tablets have supplanted netbooks or whatever came before for low-cost computing, especially in schools, is a troubling monoculture even without Google's sense of tracking you for the sake of its advertisers.
"Could we, without relentlessly criticizing, let people have their pumpkin spice, and avacado toast, and their fandoms, and their D&D, and their too-early-Halloween-decorations, and whatever little harmless things in which they've manage to find a tiny shriveled flower of joy?"

September 2, 2018

"You know life is what you make of it / So beautiful, or so what..."
--Paul Simon

my summer, one second everyday 1sed

September 1, 2018
My summer: bands, bridges, birds, beaches, buds (I like that it begins and ends with flowers)
Watched "The Disaster Artist" last night. Woke up thinking I wanted to see a prequel to "The Room" but animated, and cast with the Muppet Babies.

on the congnitive biases of economists essay

August 31, 2018
The Atlantic's Ben Yagoda writes on The Cognitive Biases Tricking Your Brain:
Most of them have focused on money. When asked whether they would prefer to have, say, $150 today or $180 in one month, people tend to choose the $150. Giving up a 20 percent return on investment is a bad move--which is easy to recognize when the question is thrust away from the present. Asked whether they would take $150 a year from now or $180 in 13 months, people are overwhelmingly willing to wait an extra month for the extra $30.
I wonder if there's a name for the cognitive bias fallacy among psychology researchers that their contrived scenarios are showing deep, true things about human psychology? Or that normal humans assume psychology researchers will, you know, be around in a month to give them $180?

I mean duh - if the researcher is still around in 13 months, they'll probably be there in 18, but the folk wisdom of "a bird in the hand" distorts this problem beyond usefulness.

Or this one:
One of the biases [economist Richard Thaler is] most linked with is the endowment effect, which leads us to place an irrationally high value on our possessions. In an experiment [...] half the participants were given a mug and then asked how much they would sell it for. The average answer was $5.78. The rest of the group said they would spend, on average, $2.21 for the same mug. This flew in the face of classic economic theory, which says that at a given time and among a certain population, an item has a market value that does not depend on whether one owns it or not.
I mean really. Is that a problem with people, or with classical economics? You got a mug, you know it works, what it can do, you might not know what it will actually take in the real market to find a replacement if need be. Or you're a buyer - who knows what the hell might be wrong with the mug for sale?

Even in philosophy - so many of these setups seem so artificial because they presume perfect knowledge - like the trolley problem, "would you push a person in front of a trolley if doing so would divert the trolley and save 5 people?" It's supposed to point out something about personal culpability vs things being "the universe's fault", but what if the push just let 6 people die instead of 5? Yeesh.

Or the thing about how compassion is broke - that people might be willing to give generously if shown a picture of a hungry refugee girl, but less so if the picture is of her and her sibling, and even less so if shown a whole classroom full of kids in need. Some people say this shows how human compassion is kind of broken because it doesn't follow math, and while that's a great point in terms of making policy decisions, it's hardly surprising - people feel empowered like they can help one person, to give resources that they might otherwise use for themselves, but scale it up and it feels like too much of a burden (and swimming against the tide of 'how things are' in the case of the whole classroom) or if it's the same amount of charity, that the same amount to more people would get too diluted to seem as meaningful.

The human mind has many biases, and some of that leads us to suboptimal behaviours - but it's actually a pretty well-tuned machine for rough guesses in an uncertain world of social interactions and other people with hidden agendas. Yeah, some of those tunings don't work as well in a world of 7 billion folks and modern communications, but still.
"*battlefield turns into a giant orgy*

Cupid: sorry sorry, these are the only type of arrows I have"
How they made the full-size, driveable Lego Technic automobile

speak it! speak it! project

August 30, 2018
Customizable PT Reps Vocalizer - I made something I might find useful. It turns out most browsers have a voice synthesizer built-in, and also despite years as a youth counting measures of rests (shout out to my Orchestra homies) I hate keeping track of reps in the PT exercises I should be doing. So I decided to make a tool. More about that on my devblog

August 29, 2018

New Haruki Murakami short story "The Wind Cave" in The New Yorker.