I am the Houdini of spilling on myself. Week 1 2021

Random Anecdote

I was making coffee and pouring water into the coffee maker, and somehow the water sluiced across the top of the Mr. Coffee and right into my left sleeve. For a second I thought I had just made it vanish. “Poof! Not in the coffeemaker, not on the floor, nothing up my sleeve… oh, wait, yes. It is up your sleeve, there, Gandalf.” I then poured water out of my hoodie onto the floor, and had to towel it up.

This made me realize that I have this implicit idea that it must be really cool to be a comedian. Making people laugh and making people think seem like good things. Spreading a little joy is a great way to make a living. And – best of all – comedians get to tell themselves jokes and make themselves laugh. Who knows their sense of humor better than them, right? Well, no. Making yourself laugh is actually really rare, and comedians are mostly a pretty unhappy bunch, so let’s maybe not imagine them standing around talking in funny voices to themselves for their own amusement.

Exercise ideas

I’ve been taking long walks – like the one where I saw this heron. I like a good walk, but I’m finding that 90 min is a bit long, but that’s how I’m getting my 10,000 daily steps. So maybe I need to explore other options.

I saw a blue heron last week while I was out for a walk. They look strangely prehistoric.

 I want to start doing exercises other than running/walking. I would like it if strength training counted toward my beeminder fitness goal. Beeminder is great: it keeps me accountable. If I don’t walk an average of 10,000 steps per day, it will charge me money. This means I do a good walk almost every day. But I want to do body weight resistance exercise and strength training. As it stands, these things won’t count to satisfy the Beeminder. But what if I use Calories instead?

   Here’s how that could work. I could set a goal for 3000 calories. In general (using data from December), when I have burned 3000 calories I have also walked 10,000 steps (see graph). I imagine that the fitbit calculates calories from height, weight, steps, and heart rate data. So setting the goal in terms of calories means that I will either have to walk as usual or I will need to do other things to keep my heart rate up (like pushups, sit-ups, etc). 

Fitbit data showing steps vs. calories. Steps vs. active minutes looks very similar. Maybe it’s better to set goals for one of those instead.

Random reading log

It has been a strange week for reading. I’ve been listening to the Cortex podcast quite a bit and YouTube. The comic artists I follow have been doing great work through the holidays. Let’s start off with two academic papers on binaural beats.

  • Lane, James D, Stefan J Kasian, Justine E Owens, and Gail R Marsh. “Binaural Auditory Beats Affect Vigilance Performance and Mood.” Physiology & Behavior 63, no. 2 (January 1, 1998): 249–52. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0031-9384(97)00436-8 .
  • Reedijk, Susan A., Anne Bolders, and Bernhard Hommel. “The Impact of Binaural Beats on Creativity.” Frontiers in Human Neuroscience 7 (2013). https://doi.org/10.3389/fnhum.2013.00786 .

I’ve used binaural beats with Brain.fm when I need to concentrate. They seem to work? It’s subtle. I wanted to read up on some of the peer-reviewed literature on the subject.

Cortex Podcast #12: The Rule of Two – YouTube 

One: have redundant backup. Two: companies don’t care how hard you work, they care about what you produce… but how much is enough, and how can companies avoid being toxic with that principle?

Episode 647: Hard Work Is Irrelevant : Planet Money : NPR 

Referenced by the above, the Netflix Manager person was happy to tell people “Getting fired is a good thing! You get to move on to greater things!” But that’s bullshit. Careers are not self-actualization projects, they are how we provide ourselves with food, shelter and medicine. Also, it’s bullshit because getting fired is awful, no matter how amicable the process or how good for our future prospects. And this HR person knows it. Because when it was HER against the wall, it was too painful to even talk about.

I have this bad habit, as I start to get into tasks, I divert to reddit or youtube almost by muscle memory. It’s bizarre. I am not alone, according to this meme I googled. AAAAnd, there went 30 min googling a meme. 


    This was super dark, but damn, it was satisfying at the end. 

Marine ecosystems of the Azores: Portugal | Tours | New Scientist 

    This is cool – New Scientist has science vacations where you tour some part of the world with a scientist guide. This one is a marine biologist taking you on a tour of the coast of Portugal. They have whale tours and more. 

AxiDraw MiniKit 2 

    This is a mini-plotter that will draw with a standard pen onto something. I’d like it to print data, graphs, etc. directly into a lab notebook. But it’s a lot of trouble just to save a little bit of effort. I could use print-and-stick labels, but those make my notebook all thick and ungainly. 

Cortex #15: Tempest in a Teapot – YouTube 

Grey and Myke talk about advertising. I did not realize that podcasting rates were so much higher. Youtube pays ~$1-5 per 1000 views. Podcasts can get $10+ per 1000 downloads. That’s really something. So, a creator might do pretty well by making content with strong audio (interviews, read articles aloud, etc.), then posting to Youtube AND to Anchor.fm (from which it gets posted to all the other podcast places). Youtube would be a loss leader to get people to sign up to the podcast. Link that from a website (and host there, too, as backup). Post weekly, shoot for 100,000 downloads, make $50k per year. Maybe Jack Conte is right and Content Creator is a viable career for more people.

How to make a microphone from a microphone? – YouTube 

This is very pretty micro-machining. I’m not sure how useful it is to have a shock mount for a cheap microphone. It is probably not going to improve its performance much. But brass shows well, and it looks cool perched on the cell phone. 

The Illusion You Need To See – YouTube 

    This was really good. The Ames room, the trapezoid illusion, all are great. But the philosophy epilogue was important. We think we see reality, but there are infinite realities that are consistent with the things we see. Humans are limited. 

This Country Has Something Everyone Else Wants – YouTube 

    This is very CGP-Grey-style, but really works.

American Exceptionalism but as a Religion | Mormons – YouTube 

If you ever wanted to spend an hour learning about Mormonism, this is a good video to do it. It’s pretty even-handed. Definitely points out the historical issues with the religion, but is not a hit piece or anything.

The War on Christmas: A Measured Response [watchnebula.com]

This is a great video on how silly the “war on Christmas” idea is. The saddest thing was internet conspiracy mogul Alex Jones wandering around screaming “merry Christmas” at random people in Austin, TX. It’s supposed to be an actual wish – that people be merry, not a curse or a loyalty pledge. He screams it with the angry energy of someone screaming “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore.”

Who does this work for? I don’t like the answer to that question.

Here, let’s read a comic and avoid looking at that whole shitpile.

Sarah Andersen, this is exactly right.

Hank and Katherine Visit a Pimp’s Weird Mansion – YouTube 

This was about the Kessler mansion in Indianapolis. Is it architecturally significant? Only as a cautionary tale.

2 Hours Of Squid To Relax/Study/Work To | Lofi Hip Hop | Monterey Bay Aquarium Krill Waves 

This is great study/work music I listened to this morning. It was published by the aquarium and features video of actual squid in a tank. How strange and wonderful. 

Cortex #17: Dialing Down – YouTube 

    CGP Grey and Myke talk about turning off media, especially social media. They want to focus on writing about interesting topics; disconnect from the inputs that will spoil that in any way. 

Liz Climo on Snake Smiles

I don’t know how I missed this until Jan. 3, but I did. It’s great. 

Tom Gauld on Snowmen and Novelists

Sometimes we plan too much before we execute. 

People are making art, and it’s wonderful, but how are they living? Why make it so hard?

This comic about the Relatable Raven who is Struggling to Survive makes me want to support more comic artists. I support a bunch of people on Patreon, but I am but one man. Sometimes I think of doing something more commercial on YouTube – going after the views to send more dough to other peoples’ Patreons.