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Good storytellers Fri, May 31, 2019
A good storyteller is able to take a less-than-interesting topic, and make it engrossing and enjoyable.  Such is the case with podcasts like 99% Invisible, Freakonomics, and Hidden Brain.  Malcolm Gladwell is on this list as well, and even though I've read all his books, I'm still a little unsure about his podcast Revisionist History.  But by far my favorite new storyteller is a person whose books I've read and who recently started a new podcast:  Michael Lewis, Against the Rules.  This is the guy who made left tackles interesting, and his podcast is such a perfect example of taking an ordinary, or even boring, topic like referees and making it interesting. #entertainment

3025 Fri, May 31, 2019
I like staying up late, especially now that I have a kid, because the house is quiet, I don't have to accomplish anything, and nobody is expecting anything from me.

Your main thing Fri, May 31, 2019
One thing I wanted to add to the topic of removing old monuments of people we no longer revere, is the idea that we tend to boil historic people down to their one or two defining traits.  Person A was the first person to do X; Person B was the leader of thing Y.  History doesn't tend to remember things like Person A went to X elementary school or Person B dated some girl in his teens.  In other words, people are remembered generally for their main thing, not all that superfluous stuff that neither adds nor subtracts from their main thing. 

One of the arguments people use against the removal of these monuments is, "Yeah but good people also do some bad things; should we remove their monuments too?"  They usually mention George Washington or Thomas Jefferson, who owned slaves and/or did other unsavory things.  My point is that these guys are known for their main thing, which is the founding of a country and the writing of a document.  The main thing Robert E. Lee is known for is being the commander of the Confederate army, i.e. the traitorous group of southern states that attempted to secede so they wouldn't have to obey the laws of the north.  Regardless of the lesser-known things these men did, they're remembered for their most significant achievements.  So no, we shouldn't remove monuments for people who did a good main thing but also maybe did an objectionable other thing.  Also we shouldn't judge the actions of history by the views of the present. #politics

3023 Wed, May 29, 2019
I severely underestimated how much time and effort it would take to convince a baby human to go to sleep.

Human animals Tue, May 28, 2019
An episode of the Freakonomics podcast called The Invisible Paw asked what makes humans different from other animals.  One scientist said,
The answer is: absolutely nothing. One by one, the supposed attributes that we had thought were unique to humans have been shown to be present in other species. Crows use tools. Elephants can recognize themselves in a mirror. Whales form social networks of the same size and complexity as we do. Penguins mourn their dead. Gibbons are monogamous. Bonobos are polyamorous. Ducks rape. Chimpanzees deploy slaves. Velvet spiders commit suicide. Dolphins have language. And the quicker we get over the Judeo-Christian notion that we are somehow qualitatively different from the rest of the biome, the quicker we will learn to live healthier lives for ourselves and for the planet."

On dragons Tue, May 14, 2019
A few points about the dragons in Game of Thrones: 
  1. I have a hard time believing they could possibly fly.  Airplanes fly because they have gigantic wings and are propelled by powerful engines.  Birds and bugs fly by flapping their wings to lift their lightweight bodies.  Birds have hollow bones, and feathers weigh almost nothing.  Dragons on the other hand are big, bulky creatures with scales and completely aerodynamically useless tails.  The wing size required to lift a body that big would most likely make them too big to flap.
  2. Fire doesn't automatically make things explode.  When the dragons are flying around and fireblasting the ground and buildings, wooden and brick structures are shown exploding into bits.  In reality, it would be like spraying something with a hose.  Maybe a firehose, but still not a method of destroying solid things.
  3. Ok, dragons fly.  Ok, dragons breathe fire.  But where is this fire coming from, and how is it produced?  Is it like a propane tank, or is the fire created as needed by mixing chemicals like an epoxy gun?  Either way, surely there's a limit to how much fire can be created in a specific amount of time.  Destroying an entire city is a bit out of the question, because the dragon would need to refill or recharge.
Or, you know, it's magic. #entertainment

Party City helium shortage Mon, May 13, 2019
This is the one of the weirdest articles I've ever read:  Party City closing 45 stores as helium shortage hurts sales.  It starts off with "the retail chain will close 45 of its 870 stores this year".  Standard economic ups and downs.  But no, this is happening because of a global helium shortage.  The company is "missing its revenue 'in large part due to helium supply pressures'".  That's an unintentional joke if I ever saw one. 
Helium may be the second most plentiful element in the universe, but it's also one of the lightest and doesn't form molecules easily with heavier atoms," Bylund wrote. "Hence, the helium we use ends up floating into space, never to be seen again. There is no economically efficient way to manufacture the gas, so the bulk of the worldwide helium supply is a byproduct of natural gas extraction.
There's a little science lesson for you, and it seems pretty legit.  And the kicker came at the end, which is why "the response really requires someone in another industry to do something first".  Later in the article we learn about "the government-run U.S. Federal Helium Reserve in Amarillo, Texas".  The h-what?  That's a real thing? 

I've never learned so many useless facts about something I care so little about. #business

Good at math Wed, May 01, 2019
I've been pretty good at math my whole life.  As an adult I found all my old school records, and even the standardized tests from first grade said I was in the 99th percentile for math (and in the 70s for reading comprehension; still an issue to this day). 

The thing is though, math never felt easy for me.  I put just as much work and struggle and frustration into it as all my classmates, but it seemed to work out for me better than for them.  I don't know why that is. 

I do think a certain amount of it is innate, and I did nothing to deserve or earn that.  But by saying an ability is simply a product of birth, it negates the time and effort and confusion and failure I've invested in it. 

But at the same time, claiming an achievement came from time and effort also negates the lack of success experienced by people who did the same things as me. 

A recent TED Radio Hour episode was about math, and I particularly related to the part by mathematician Dan Finkel who said that math is all about being ok with being stuck.  That essentially describes my entire job and all the education that led up to it.  I don't particularly like the feeling of being stuck; I don't seek it out and relish it when I find it.  I tolerate it.  And then I make some progress.  And that's apparently why I'm good at math.  #math