Fatigue, creativity, and absinthe

Welcome to Week 1 of 2020. Happy new year! Here are some of the things I loved reading this week. The science stuff is below the fold. I’m excited that miRNA seems to be turning up everywhere. I am also a little glad that the holidays are over. They may be fun, but they exhaust me.

Why We Have Our Best Ideas in the Shower: The Science of Creativity

The Inspiration Paradox: Your Best Creative Time Is Not When You Think

Why We’re More Creative When We’re Tired, And 9 Other Surprising Thing

I have noticed that when I’m very tired, I find it easier to single-task on writing. Of course, that’s partially due to the lack of distractions late at night, but I think that there’s something else at work. Maybe I’m less tolerant of distractions? Maybe it’s the deadline pressure of wanting to go to bed? Or maybe it’s just easier to be creative. According to Cindi May, “… being at your best may be over-rated, at least for people seeking innovative ideas or creative solutions.  To be sure, if your task requires strong focus and careful concentration – like balancing spreadsheets or reading a textbook – you are better off scheduling that task for your peak time of day. However, if you need to open your mind to alternative approaches and consider diverse options, it may be wise to do so when your filter is not so functional. You just may be able to see what you’ve been missing.”


The bear, he is so tired. Happy new year.

Age-associated microRNA expression in human peripheral blood is associated with all-cause mortality and age-related traits. 

Could miRNA be an alternative to Horvath’s clock? It’s easier to measure. I ran across another paper that suggested that miR-22-3p is associated with cellular senescence by downregulating SIRT1 (among other effects). So a bunch of cells shedding miR-22 as they become senescent might have a signature in blood. And people do have more miR-22 in their blood as they age. “We fitted a linear model to predict ‘microRNA age’ that incorporated expression levels of 80 microRNAs. MicroRNA age correlated modestly with predicted age from DNA methylation (r = 0.3) and mRNA expression (r = 0.2), suggesting that microRNA age may complement mRNA and epigenetic age prediction models.”


A autobiographical synopsis of Morgan Ames’ “The Charisma Machine”

I had not heard the one laptop per child OLPC story. The idea was a machine that could teach kids to learn to code. But that’s a vision born during the RISE of computers, not during the application of computers. Now a computer is less a machine for computation and more of a musical instrument. Teaching every student to make a piano is silly; teach them to play the piano. If they want. Other students want other things.


Julia Galef: Why you think you’re right — even if you’re wrong | TED Talk

If you want your people to build a boat, teach them to yearn for the open ocean. We don’t necessarily need more instruction, mostly we need curiosity and commitment to reality. We need the “scout mindset” and to feel proud when we notice we might have been wrong.


Absinthe | How to Drink – YouTube

I love the videography of this channel.


Steve Cutts – The Turning Point – YouTube

Stop buying. I’m cutting back in 2020. “Tell me that it’s good / If we do something / Believe in something / I don’t think I should / If it ain’t nothing / If it ain’t nothing good.”


“You should be kind.” I love this comic.


My Semester With the Snowflakes – GEN

Tear down the stereotypes: conservatives are not all close-minded and mean; liberals are not all lazy and entitled.


U.S. Military Just Revealed Something Eye-Opening About Caffeine

I stumbled into this regimen almost by accident. 100 mg on waking, about 100 mg over the morning.


An Undercover Journey Into the Heart of Madness

I remember reading about this study where a doctor recruited several fake psychiatric patients and had them report fake hallucinations. They were all diagnosed with schizophrenia and admitted to the 1950(s) mental hospital system. No matter how normal they acted, they were still subject to institutionalization. The study may have been… less than perfectly conducted. But valuable, I think, in raising the issue.



Henry Cavill is a stunning whirlwind of death. He’s not just witcher, he’s the witchest.


The one video game my kids played all year long | Ars Technica

Stardew Valley is fun and relaxing. I played it for a bit a few years ago but didn’t get very far. It’s almost intimidating how open-ended it is for such a cute game. I think there’s a co-op mode, now. Maybe I’ll try to pick it up again.


What I learned from studying billions of words of online fan fiction – MIT Technology Review

Writing makes writers better. Writing fanfiction counts. I think it’s great that there’s a community out there for new writers and a good shared world to play in. It’s also cool that there’s so much data for analysis.


The Cowboy Economist #01: How to tell if someone is a socialist! – YouTube

The Cowboy Economist, Volume 1. Funny and informative. A Texas economics professor explains how money works. It’s great.