Ran Prieur http://ranprieur.com/#9a417fe513f58988c3b5b1e84cfc57397194a79b 2021-09-17T17:10:53Z Ran Prieur http://ranprieur.com/ ranprieur@gmail.com September 17. http://ranprieur.com/#dc7f8c4fd9923315991b07cfdfe82054b9d3e1da 2021-09-17T17:10:53Z September 17. Bunch o' links: Marginalia is a new search engine "that aggressively favors text-heavy websites, and punishes those that have too many modern web design features."

Why is walking so good for the brain?

When we take a walk outside, the fractal rhythms of our heart synchronize with the fractal rhythms of our lungs and our fractal gait. Researchers have also shown that our wandering bodies make our minds wander too. On a walk, our brain waves slow down. The underlying spontaneous fluctuations bubble up more easily, creating experiences of spontaneous thoughts and associations that seem to come from nowhere. We often call them "moments of inspiration."

A proposal for a Lunar Crater Radio Telescope on the far side of the moon, which would be insulated from Earth noise, and also detect long wavelengths that are filtered by Earth's atmosphere. Of course, this could be a solution to Fermi's Paradox: the aliens are only using wavelengths that primitive civilizations like ours can't hear. Or, they could be using something we haven't even imagined. Terence McKenna said, listening for radio waves from other planets is like looking for Italian food on other planets.

A big thread on Ask Old People about video games. It's almost completely positive. Personally I still feel a little bit guilty about gaming. On the one hand, game worlds are not real, and they're rewarding in a way that's probably harmful in navigating the more-real world. On the other hand, we don't know where humans are going, and given that video games are at the cutting edge of interactive world-building, they could be an essential step in our story.

Lots of laughs in this Ask Reddit thread: What is your favorite article from The Onion?

Finally, sports. Morgan Weaver is my favorite soccer player, and not just because she went to college in my hometown, but because there's nobody else like her. She's both tall and fast, both unpredictable and clutch, and plays with a joy that's rare in any sport. Here she is scoring the late winner against Lyon, the European powerhouse, squeaking the ball through the narrowest angle.

September 15. http://ranprieur.com/#b95369648747dec8e8ab153241ca3cd64d42a6db 2021-09-15T15:50:21Z September 15. I just got back from a trip. I wouldn't say that I hate traveling; but I hate being busy, and I hate spending money, and I hope one day to take a journey where I do neither of those things.

On the flight home we had some heavy turbulence, and I noticed that they no longer call it turbulence. Apparently the new airline policy is to call it "rough air".

I see why they did it. If English is your second language, or if it's your first language and you're dumb, "turbulence" is a difficult word. If you want passengers to return to their seats, "rough air" is easier to understand. But if a passenger wants to understand why the air is bumpy, "turbulence" points to the explanation.

This is part of a general cultural trend of black-boxification. It's the same reason that computer programs with viewable code, have changed to "apps" with airtight user interfaces. It's the same reason that bicycle bottom brackets have changed from user-serviceable spindles and bearings, to factory-sealed cartridges. These changes make the whole system less robust, because if things go wrong, fewer people know how to fix them.

Related: Norm McDonald has died. One of the principles in the book Finite and Infinite Games is that finite players play within the rules, while infinite players play with the rules. That's why other comedians laugh harder at Norm McDonald than ordinary people do. In his best bits, like the Moth Joke, or the Bob Saget roast, at first you're like, what is this weird thing he's doing? And then you're like, oh wow, he's showing us the machinery behind comedy.

September 7. http://ranprieur.com/#98331b36b1e03e2c6f3200abecff42b09562af1d 2021-09-07T19:30:39Z September 7. Heading into a busy time, so I might not post again for more than a week. Today, a quick thought on nostalgia. I like the Ask Old People subreddit because it has good discussions, and I don't like the Gen X subreddit because it's mostly image posts of 70's and 80's pop culture.

And it occurs to me: nostalgia is a new thing. The farther back you go, the slower the pace of change, and the more likely that the culture of your youth would still be dominant when you got old.

Now, I'm glad the Brady Bunch is not in its 53rd season. My point is, a rapid pace of change makes a culture weaker, because most of the stuff that people are really into, is not around any more. On top of that, most of the stuff that people are really into now was never practical in the first place.

It's good that technology has given us the freedom to care about things that are useless. I'm grateful to be living at just the right time to play Starsector. But a robust society needs a lot more overlap between what people love to do, and what they have to do keep the whole thing going.

Imagine if all the attention that is now put into superhero movies, was instead put into woodworking, or agroforestry. Or if all the headspace we now fill with commercial jingles, was used for birdsongs. Taking a step back, a common theme of my fiction and nonfiction is this: I believe, if you put all possible human societies on a scale from 1 to 100, where 1 is worst and 100 is best, we're not even out of the single digits.

September 3. http://ranprieur.com/#4de2feae365d2bfce0202b870b3887edb566d054 2021-09-03T15:50:08Z September 3. I've said this many times and I'll keep saying it: the prophet of our time is neither Orwell nor Huxley, but Kafka. Three quick links on Kafkaesque tech, starting with how i experience web today. Just keep clicking and you'll get it.

The Rise Of User-Hostile Software, defined as "software that doesn't really care about the needs of the user but rather about the needs of the developer."

And Minimum Viable Technology, a thoughtful post about how technology keeps grinding along and making things more complicated, long after it has improved quality of life.

My favorite personal example is user interfaces for ovens. In the old days there were just two dials, one for OFF BAKE BROIL, and one for the temperature. You could tell what the temp was at any moment just by twisting the dial and feeling the thermostat click. Every change since then has increased complexity and decreased ease of use.

Related: Redditors who remember life pre-internet. What the heck did you occupy your time with?

September 1. http://ranprieur.com/#32c1282b7ef67817831d03182d24938cfb60615b 2021-09-01T13:30:36Z September 1. Continuing from Monday, one more societal failure incorrectly framed as a personal failure, is obesity. A month ago I linked to this scientific article, A Contamination Theory of the Obesity Epidemic, which argues that some contaminant, either PFAS or lithium, is throwing off our lipostat, our sense of how much to eat. Via the weird collapse subreddit, here's another article, Bear Nation, arguing that the culprit is linoleic acid, which puts us in a state of torpor like hibernating bears.

I don't know which is right, but what they have in common is a rejection of the two most popular ways of framing obesity: 1) That the culprit is some broad class of food, like carbs or fat or calorie-dense meals. 2) That the solution to obesity is for every individual to keep track of calories in and calories out.

Until very recently, no one had to do that. Whatever food you think is bad, you can find populations in the past who ate worse than us, and did not have a problem with obesity. We think our bodies are stupid, and will inevitably get fat unless our heads intervene, but this has only been the case since around 1980. Something, we don't know what it is yet, is messing with our fine-tuned intuitive sense how much to eat.

I have a personal stake in this, and it's not that I struggle with weight, but that I'm tired of my intellect having to constantly overrule my feelings, in order to not crash and burn in life. Some days I feel like my will is dragging around a ball and chain.

We think it's our nature to be lazy, and we'll just sit around doing nothing unless we're forced to work for money. But look at all the things humans have done through history and prehistory, never mind the unforced activity of wild animals. It's the nature of life to be highly motivated, and something, we don't know what it is yet, is making more and more of us want to stay in bed all day.