Friday, December 06, 2019

Friday Links!

It's been a struggle this week, but my elbow has about 90% of movement back (not strength, but I don't need strength for keyboarding), so I should be back to normal on Monday.

How amazing is this? Aerial radar turns up a Viking ship in a farmer’s field.

I always thought this made sense: give money to the people who will actually spend it. What would happen if we randomly gave $1,000 to poor families? Now we know.

From Matt Teets, and it's a terrific listen: The Punchline | Radiolab (John Scott in the NHL All-Star Game).

From Mark H., and somehow it's always the Russians: Migrating Russian eagles run up huge data roaming charges.

From Wally, and it's eye-opening (sorry): The Great American Eye-Exam Scam. This is delicious: The Case of the Felonious Bread. A fascinating companion piece: A Conversation With the Team That Made Bread With Ancient Egyptian Yeast. This is disturbing: John Barnett on Why He Won’t Fly on a Boeing 787 Dreamliner. And then it all went terribly wrong: Crane Operator Fails At Doing His Job So Terribly That It's Actually Glorious. Seems reasonable: I ditched Google for DuckDuckGo. Here's why you should too. An excellent read: What Japan’s love of nostalgia says about its economy.

From C. Lee, and it's a disgrace: Ford workers break their silence on faulty transmissions: 'Everybody knew'. An interesting read: Japan youth sinks in reading skills on global aptitude index.

Thursday, December 05, 2019

A Savvy Use of Alliteration

Could this possibly be about a Hanukkah-observant hamster? I would like to live in such a world.

To find out, all I needed to do was open the book.

I didn't, of course. I just couldn't kill Schrödinger's hamster.

"Party Cloudy" Means Cloudy In Varying Densities

A local meteorologist said that we've had 18 minutes of sunshine in the last week.

Unlike many weather-related claims, this one is 99.82% accurate. It's only off by 18 minutes. 

Wednesday, December 04, 2019

More Pictures As My Arm Stubbornly Remains Attached

It really is beautiful at times:

It's even more beautiful when it melts.

Gloria made these before Thanksgiving for Eli 18.3. Next level:

That's right: cinnamon roll bacon turkeys, with candy noses.

A true Minnesota fan:

He looks like a character out of a lumberjack adaptation of A Midsummer Night's Dream.

Tuesday, December 03, 2019

The Holidays Have Officially Begun

Hi, Evan!

When "Partly" Just Never Occurs To You

Resolute In Winter, A Small Horse

Monday, December 02, 2019

Breaking News

Macy's has men's slippers on sale for Cyber Monday. Please stagger your arrival times accordingly.

I Still Have Two Arms

The procedure went fine, but my keyboarding time is still pretty low, so there will be a couple of picture days this week.

If you're wondering how PRP therapy works, here's a quick overview. A surprisingly large amount of blood is withdrawn from your arm, then its spun down until the platelets are concentrated. A local anesthetic (via injection) will be applied to your injured area, then the platelets will be injected into the injury site.

The cool part is that you can watch it on the ultrasound, so I was able to see both the damaged parts of the tendon and the needle as it headed for the area. Super cool.

From start to finish, it only took slightly more than an hour. 

Also, there was no pain during the procedure, other than a tiny bit of pain when they injected the local anesthetic.

That blissful period without pain lasted about thirty minutes after the completion of the procedure. Then it began to spike, and fairly quickly. It felt like I had a big heart in my arm, and it had a steady beat.

I did wind up taking two Vicodin over the course of the rest of the day (my doctor demanded it), but I didn't take any after that. Extra Strength Tylenol worked well enough, along with a little gritting of teeth.

Six days after the procedure, my arm definitely still hurts, but my range of motion is getting noticeably better each day.

I start doing a set of rehab exercises after two weeks, then an additional set at four. Full effect takes up to twelve weeks. In the meantime, I'm supposed to use it as normally as possible, excluding lifting anything that weighs more than a few pounds.

I'll keep you posted. I'm sure plenty of you have various busted bits, so this might be useful.

Friday, November 29, 2019

I Have No Words

Pushing the Boundaries of Innovation

I saw a little boy punch his juice box into the trash. Next level.

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Holiday Links (Long Reads)

Long reads only (plus one personal link). Happy holidays!

This is fascinating: The Strange Life and Mysterious Death of a Virtuoso Coder.

A great piece: Masterpiece Theater: A Dutch Gallerist made Thousands of Forgeries and Passed Them Off as Work of Real Artists. When He Was Caught, a New Con Began.

A terrific read: The Wild Ones: People said that women had no place in the Grand Canyon and would likely die trying to run the Colorado River. In 1938, two female scientists set out to prove them wrong.

Amazing: Masterpiece Theater: A Dutch Gallerist made thousands of forgeries and passed them off as the work of real artists. When he was caught, a new con began..

Here's a remarkable article about the son of a friend of mine: A professional golfer had to relearn how to walk, talk and remember. What happened next is remarkable.

This is very interesting: Don’t Blame the Internet for New Slang.

This beautifully written and painful to read: This is How You Lose Your Mind.

This is wonderful: The Mister Rogers No One Saw.

This is incredibly disturbing: How the U.S. betrayed the Marshall Islands, kindling the next nuclear disaster.

This is a brilliant piece of investigation: Pony Dobbins has been accused of sexually assaulting...  Yeah, I changed the first letter in the first and last name, but you can figure it out. A meticulous, multi-part series.

This is from Wally, it's a long read, and it's stunning: Cryptoqueen: How this woman scammed the world, then vanished

Chris Meadowcraft sent this in (not a long read, but excellent): Why 536 was ‘the worst year to be alive’.

This is quite amazing (not a long read); Ayahuasca alters brain waves to produce waking dream-like state, study finds.

Okay, this isn't a long read, but man, it's fantastic: First Measurements of a Blue Whale’s Heart Rate Is a Glimpse Into the Biology of Extremes.

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Hiding The Marshmallow

We're discussing this today: Can Brain Science Help Us Break Bad Habits?

Summary: Studies suggest that relying on will power is hopeless. Instead, we must find strategies that don’t require us to be strong.

I'm going to use a few excerpts to get us started, but the entire article is very thought-provoking. Also, one of these excerpts references the marshmallow experiment, and if you're not familiar with it, go here for a summary.

Wood’s research originally focused not on habits but on persistence. For “one-off, occasional behaviors,” like getting a flu shot, conscious decisions were all that was required. For behaviors involving repetition, though, habits were crucial. 

In Mischel’s marshmallow experiment, only a quarter of the subjects were able to resist eating the marshmallow for fifteen minutes. This implies that a large majority of us lack the self-control required to succeed in life. But a less discussed part of the study suggests a way of circumventing our frailty. The researchers compared the results of two situations: in one, children could see the marshmallow in front of them; in the other, they knew that it was there but couldn’t see it. On average, the children lasted only six minutes when presented with visible temptation but could manage ten minutes if the treat was hidden. For Wood, this outcome shows that self-control is “not so much an inherent disposition but instead a reflection of the situation we are in.” 

Even people who score high on self-control questionnaires may owe their apparent virtue to situational factors rather than to sheer fortitude. A study of such people in Germany found that they reported resisting temptation surprisingly rarely. “They were living their lives in a way that hid the marshmallow almost all the time,” Wood writes. This observation leads to the crux of her book’s thesis: the path to breaking bad habits lies not in resolve but in restructuring our environment in ways that sustain good behaviors. 

The central force for eliminating bad habits, according to Wood, is “friction”: if we can make bad habits more inconvenient, then inertia can carry us in the direction of virtue, without ever requiring us to be strong. 

Where Wood emphasizes situational control as a way of making good habits easy, Duhigg writes about a woman who bites her nails and is advised to find something else to do with her hands that will produce a comparable physical stimulation, such as rapping her knuckles on a desk. The idea is to keep the powerful structure of cue and reward intact but to tweak the content of the routine. 

I never though about it in those terms, but I've been accidentally doing that with my writing. In order to write at a consistent level every day, I have a very strict routine:
get up: 7:35.
leave the house:8:35.
arrive at the Gardens: 8:50.
meditate for 15 minutes.
enter the Gardens: 9:10.
have a muffin and read a few websites (the same ones every day.
Start writing: 9:35.

Also, the only thing I do at the Gardens is sit in the cafeteria and write. I don't walk around the gardens, which are lovely. After I eat breakfast, I don't look at my phone. When I sit down, the only thing I've done in that place for months is write, and it triggers me to start. All the distractions are marshmallows, and I've systematically put them all away. And it's easy, when I set it up that way.

Other ways? Very hard. Trying to fit writing in is very difficult, and it's also very difficult to write in three or four different places each week, like I used to. I could still write, but it took much longer to get started, and I tended to get distracted. That's why this research resonates with me pretty strongly.

On a side note, I started doing the rapping knuckles thing when I have the urge to bite my nails. I'll let you know if it works.

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Content Was Hung By The Chimney With Care

Okay, I'm written out through the end of the week, including a couple of small posts for Friday. I probably won't write anything else until next week unless something goes very wrong with the procedure.

Here We Go

All right, I'll be going in this afternoon to get the injection of platelets into my elbow, which a friend has described as "excruciatingly painful," so I've got that going for me.

Interestingly, the office phoned in a prescription for post-procedure pain. I went and picked it up: a bottle of Vicodin.

Hell, no.

Vicodin is terrible. When I take it, it makes me feel like a constipated, angry bear. Who wants to be a constipated, angry bear?

Not even a bear, obviously.

My friend said to ask for a partial prescription of Valium, which will get me through the first night and following day, at which point I should be able to manage the pain without any help.


Tesla unveiled their truck last week.

I know what you're thinking, but that's not a joke. The vehicle in that image is going into production, and it has bulletproof glass, too (although it failed during the presentation).

I had no idea the citizen militia demographic was large enough to support their own vehicle.

Monday, November 25, 2019

Cross My Heart

I swear to god an actual sadist designed the header and footer functionality in Microsoft Word (2013 edition, anyway). I can write the damn book in the length of time it's taking me just to get page numbers working properly. I don't want to use page numbers on certain pages because they display images, and you'd think that would be easy but hell, no, it's not. Incredible.

Costume Count 2019! (part two)

The best costume I saw on Halloween was a tiny person wearing a chick suit. The suit was brilliant white fluff, like a big circle, and she had a little beak on her face, along with huge chicken feet. She was also a little unsteady in the wind, which made her even more adorable.

She got plenty of candy.

She was also, incredibly, the first trick-or-treater I saw.

Second best: three middle school girls who came as the 70s, 80s, and 90s. Very, very clever.

One thing that stood out this year: costume variety. Out of 69 trick-or-treaters, there were no costumes worn by more than two kids, and that's never happened before. Some of you reported the same variety as well.

Here's my top ten (eleven) list of the most interesting costumes, based on your reports:
Avocado (that's a very funny idea)
BatMum (exactly what it sounds like--a mum dressed as Batman)
Bob Ross (seriously, I want to see every six-year-old dressed like Bob Ross for Halloween)
Crazy Cat Lady (that's next level)
Dark Cheerleader (a quality twist)
Egg Beater Jesus (a classic, go here)
Female Plausible Batman Villain (the description of the year)
Hansel (from Zoolander)
Rainbow Poop Emoji
VSCO Girl (very clever)
Zombie Little Red Riding Hood (I love the classics)

I think the top three has to be Bob Ross, Egg Beater Jesus, and Female Plausible Batman Villain. No way to pick a winner out of that quality group.

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