Multiple letters read, 2020 retrospective

T’was the night after new years eve, and the only sound through the house was the clickityclack of a keyboard typing out the annual “what I’ve read this year” post. As usual, the printed and digital matter I’ve read, in a sub-category chronology, from January 2020 onwards.

Printed

Sofia Åkerman: Zebraflickan. Autobiographical about Sofia who’s been suffering from eating disorders & depression, and her experience of Swedish psychiatric care. Harsch descriptions of suicide attempts and what’s going on in your head as you try hide the extent of your illness – puking in hidden containers and whatnot.

Wille Sundqvist & Bengt Gustafsson: Träsvarvning enligt skärmetoden. The book to get if you’re into turning wood. I’m still not sure what the main difference is between scrubbing and cutting – it seems to be difference of degree rather than principle – but the book has a lot of info on how to think when turning.

Hilary Mantel: The Mirror and the light. The last book in the Wolf Hall trilogy, and the language is just as vibrant and gripping as the previous books. Tells the bookend of Thomas Cromwells’ life, and I even though I know that parts of the story are fabricated — all of the internal monologue for a start — it paints a believable portrait.

Maria Ganci: Familjebaserad behandling. A brief introduction to family based theraphy targeting families where the kid has an eating disorder. Practical, but a bit lacking in inspiration beyond “talk to the therapist.”

Johanna Bäckström Lerneby: Familjen. A report on the Ali Khan family in Angered – big traditional family or criminal clan, take your pick. Fascinating read, especially since the story is evolving in real-time – with the Khan lawyer just today being written about because some DA’s want him disbarred.

Allie Brosh: Solutions and other problems. A thick follow–up on the brilliant Hyperbole and a half and a result of six years of introspection, the cartoons get a more prominent role and carry a bit more of the load than previously. It’s a melancholy and sad book, but since it doesn’t rule out the possibility of random happiness there’s a small ray of hope for us all.

Madeline Miller: Kirke. A book chronicling the life of Kirke, daughter of Perse and Helios, in a story parallell to the one in the Illiad. Entertaining enough read, and Millers take on Odysseus is far from the hagiography we’re used to.

Johan Croneman: Jag är olycklig här. An autobiographical account of a famous-in-Sweden cultural critic. Alcoholism, despair and brushes with death, told in spread-long chapters, interspersed with poetry.

Epub / PDF / etc

Stephen Hawking: Brief answers to the big questions. Even though this is the dumbed down version of his thoughts, some of it still flew well over my head. The topics of the essays have been covered before – both by him as well as others – but since he was such a part of the zeitgeist it’s a worthwhile read.

Albert Camus: The stranger. Hit home more than I’d like – the arbitrary nature of human values and judgements resonates with me, and Meursaults bafflement at how others react and how he thinks they ought to is gut-wrenching.

James S. A. Corey: Leviathan Wakes | Calibans War | Abbadons Gate | Cobola Burn | Nemesis Games | Babylons Ashes | Persepolis Rising | Tiamats Wrath. Having binged the Expanse TV-series I figured I’d get out ahead of the show and read the books. Well enough written and each book only takes two days to read – And since I’m a sucker for space opera this was up my alley. The class struggles and realpolitik make for an interesting narrative, reminding me of C. J. Cherryh and Downbelow station.

China Miéville: The city and the city. Came highly recommended by Petter, and it’s an interesting enough read about two cities superimposed on top of each other, where living in one city requires you to unsee the other one, on punishment of Breach. It’s a novel idea, but it’s not really necessary for the story and serves only as a magical backdrop. Scifi-Noir stuff, but fun to read.

Chester Brown: Paying for it. I hadn’t read Brown in a long time and had forgotten how brutally honest he is. This graphic novel chronicles how he became a john – only having sex he’s paying for. He’s an extreme libertarian, and although I’m certain that he gives an honest account of his thinking, the pages come over as a tract and his detractors as made of straw more often than not. Interesting for the raw exhibitionism more than for the arguments made, although the topic is important and unresolved.

Matthew Hongoltz-Hetling: A libertarian walks into a bear. In New Hampshire there’s an attempt of libertarians to take over a city to launch-pin a libertarian revolution. Written mostly for laughs it’s light on political analysis and heavy on human foibles and roaming bears. It’s unclear what the writer want to accomplish, but it’s entertaining enough.

Keiko Furukura: Convenience store woman. Keiko Furukura is a 30-something woman with no socially acceptable ambitions or priorities. Her family and few friends despair over her inability to get a better job than that in a convenience store, and her disinterest in starting a family is a source of worry for everyone but her. A lovingly told short novel.

Sally Rooney: Conversations with Friends. Two young adults and a married hetro couple get involved and there are complications and drama. Not the most interesting story or characters, but the dialogue is well written.

Ramez Naan: Nexus. Sean Carrol had Naan on his podcast so I picked up the book. In a near future where a drug – Nexus – gives you the ability of connecting wirelessly with other people, exchanging thoughts, senses, creating a hivemind, there’s a battle between governments stemming the flood of post–/transhumans and activist scientists and others who’d like to either release it to the world or use it for nefarious ends. A techno-thriller worth reading for the collection of arguments, if not for the literary qualities.

Audio

Iain M. Banks: State of the Art. Short story collection, including at least one canonical Culture novelette set in the 70’s which seems to have the authors alter-ego pouring bile on the shortcomings of humanity. A great cannibalistic dinner offering cloned-dictator.

Iain M. Banks: Excession. This might be the forth or fifth time I’ve read/listened to this one, but it’s the first time I recall that I’m bothered by the female characters in the book – even though they have agency they come off as too one-dimensional. The introduction of the Affront and the machinations of the minds are great fun though.

Iain M. Banks: Inversion. Fun medieval court intrigue – but my main occupation was to try to spot details which gave away the Culture origin of the two characters.

Iain M. Banks: Look to Windward. The internal dialogue between Quilan and his admiral hitchhiker, and the banter of Ziller & Kabe, is enjoyable and the emotional tone fits the characters – one of the more intimate stories apart from Use of Weapons.

Iain M. Banks: Matter. Ferbin and Holse – master and servant – remind me of Wooster and Jeeves (PG Wodehouse characters) as they try to escape regicide and get help from Ferbins self-exiled sister Anaplian. The involved backstory is mostly confusing – unless the bickering politicking is all there is – but the the shell worlds and the the way the primitive societies have adapted to them is view them is a fun read.

Iain M. Banks: Surface Detail. Rape & revenge story, and an unrelated tying together of the Zakalwe storyline. A bubbly and joyful “only slightly psychopatic” ship mind – Falling Outside The Normal Moral Constraints – provides comic relief and is probably the most interesting part. The hells read more sadistic than necessary, but since they are supposed to be the ultimate evil I guess they’d have to be.

Iain M. Banks: The Hydrogen Sonata. Well crafted story and some fun scenes, but the Gzilt backstory is mostly confusing – I can’t see why the Book of Truth would matter all that much. It seems more of a screen on to which Banks could project contemporary human politicking. Some of the sillyness – how many dicks can you craft onto your body? – is a bit detracting, but it’s still Culture and as such still worth a read.

Michael Chrichton: The Andromeda Strain. Well paced techno thriller, striking a nerve in these here Corona times. The exposition isn’t too annoying, and there’s a matter-of-fact tension which is nice. The ending feels deus-ex-deadline though.

MateuszMultiple letters read, 2020 retrospective

Watching movies #2

Continuing with the “lets post old stuff instead of new stuff” here’s a post I started in 2018 when I had ambitions on doing short movies.

I first read Catch 22 when I was studying in Karlstad, and remember laughing a lot. Watching the movie movie (adapted by Buck Henry) was less amusing – the absurdist and dark moments were few and too much humour was attempted through gags and goofiness. Watching pre-CGI movies is inspiring though, all the effects are done on camera or through mattes, and it gives a different sense of solidity to it. An explosion isn’t as in-your-face and overdone (or the actors might get blown up for real) and the planes dissolving into the horizon through a heat haze is an artifact of a really long lens. Is this what sentimentality feels like?

Three Days of the Condor (Lorenzo Semple Jr.) is a CIA within the CIA story – compared to modern spook stories (Tinker, tailor, soldier spy) the pacing is much different, and except a jarring Stockholm syndrome love scene the movie is placid, in contrast to the murders and drama depicted.

The decline of Western Civilization part I (Penelope Spheeris) is a raw look at the 1980 LA punk scene. Interviews with punks, bands and hangers-on are mixed with both good and awful performances – more than half the movie are performances, which serves as a time capsule for the music but drags the documentary down.

I’m also trying to immerse myself more in the movie-making lingo, gobbling up books and blogs and podcasts. It seems that North Americans get self-promotion at the teet, so it’s no wonder that the most vocal and easy-to-find publications are from the States. The often fake joviality and peppy demeanour rubs me the wrong way though and distracts from the content – whoever taught people to smile when talking into a microphone has much to answer for.

Noam Kroll has some good essays and listicles on his site which ring true. 126 lessons on independent film directing is one such list, and it’s worthwhile to revisit and think on some of the points when you’re stuck somewhere. The takeaway is “always keep working” which is pretty much in line with what I’ve seen of my peers who’ve gone on to become successful. I like his “work with what you have” approach, and I need to be reminded of it now that I’ve spent too much time and money on lenses for my Nikon: Until I’ve shot two more shorts I’m prohibiting myself from buying any more camera gear – just yesterday I caught myself just before clicking “order” on a discounted MF macro, so “shopping as procrastination” is a trap for me.

MateuszWatching movies #2

So full of hate

Having had a stressful week, I tried to relax tonight with the solo campaign of Titanfall 2 and a couple of drams and got a wee bit past the intro of the game before I gave up on the enterprise because my keyboard was acting up and I got stuck in a loop of reading forums, downloading updates and hunting buttons in settings.

I became so upset about playing a game on my Win10 station that I couldn’t continue playing but rather wrote this screed while drinking whisky and listening to angry music. Why the flying fuck can’t I get the keyboard to work as it ought? I press a key and the predicteably corresponding action doesn’t happen because maybe my fucking keyboard needs some fucking drivers which I can’t find any way of updating so that it behaves with a minimun of keyboard decorum?

I won’t pretend that this isn’t a I-hate-Windows rant, because that’s what it is. But let’s prepend this by saying that my hatred is justly spread across all platforms, distributed in equal amount based on how well they succeed on being user friendly vs. how user friendly they say they are. So GNU/Linux apps don’t get my hackles up as they’re often a messy piece of unfriendly software to begin with, so I know going in that I’m gonna spend a couple of hours reading -man pages and forums.

Here’s my point: I’ve been using computers since the Mac Plus. I remember when friends made fun of me because the Mac wasn’t a real computer because you didn’t have to load mouse drivers off of floppies before you could use the mouse. I remember that the Macintosh GUI was the assumed abstraction of what the computer was doing, rather than a CLI.

I know this is arbitrary, but the thing is that Apple made sure that they were consistent in their arbitrariness, and to some extent more or less tried to stay true to it, while MS (and GNU/Linux, BSD, etc) have the philosophy of the GUI metaphor tacked on (“to help the idiots” as it seems) and it just doesn’t work the way I think it ought. (Of course, OSX is far removed from the origins of Macintosh System. The reason I know my way around it is because it’s similar enough to what I’m used to)

I know that each computer system has its own idiosyncrasies, that nothing is as straightforward as it says it is, and that we (computer folk) have devolved into trench warfare fan-groups who don’t care about a productive way forward, only that the other team looks a bigger fool than we when it comes down to which platform we enjoy working on (or dislike the least, as it were).

Back in the day I remember reading the introduction to AppleTalk which began with a chapter understandable to teenage me. There was a genuine attempt at presenting a reason for why stuff was organized the way it was, and why there was a hierarchy of organization: These are the rules because of these reasons. There might be reasons why you as a developer might want to do this differently, and yours might be a more efficient way of doing it, but we’re not going to allow it because it’ll break too much stuff for everyone else.

Here’s the thing: Using MS Windows isn’t beyond anyones ken, it works for the most part; If you are of the mentality that “shit happens, computers are computas brah!” then yeah, I feel you, my beef isn’t with you. My beef is with all the shits at all the fucking support forums, Reddit, and every-fucking-other-forum who insist that “well you should have downloaded this particular driver to get this particular update option, and then disable that utility and check this box in that property setting” and treat such suggestions as those of a sane person. This approach isn’t a reasonable solution to anything but learning by rote. And learning by rote is for fucking idiots or for people stuck in a maze constructed by a vengeful Greek God!

I used Macintosh since 6.0.4. It wasn’t a simple system to learn by a long-shot, but it was sort of consistent. If this doesn’t work, check settings. If that doesn’t work, you might reset PRAM. If that doesn’t work, you’re out of luck until the next update. Once I started using ResEdit and playing with MacsBug I knew I was on my own and wasn’t annoyed with anyone but myself when I crashed the computer.

So Mac OS was more limiting than a more ‘allowing’ system, which might seem like a bad thing, which in the short term it is, but if you think further than your stupid idiot nose you realize that once you open up for developers to circumvent your layers of abstraction, every fucking developer will do so because well now we can have drivers for fucking RGB keyboards with their own shortcuts and I’m stuck here with an expensive fucking keyboard which lags and there’s no simple way for me to troubleshoot it because the Logitech forums are assfucked to shit, and Google doesn’t have enough hands for each SEO dick relevant to the issue and I’m stuck!

I’d much rather be tenfold limited in my selection of OS & peripherals customization than having to deal with this absolute abhorrent clusterfuck presented as progress. When I want to be on a bleeding edge of customization I use a *nix distro. Those can be a horrible pain in the butt and the support forums are full of holier-than-thou well why not just read the -man pages you moran people on Stackoverflow or whatever, but at least they don’t carry the same pretense of being simple to understand and “user friendly.” I can deal with annoying fanboys. What I can’t deal with is Logitech, Microsoft, Adobe, whoeverthefuck, which presents a glossy surface and pays lip service to “user friendliness” while punting me sideways as soon as something throws up an error – ooh, must not be us, please check these n things in your system first.

Do you realize how many really small applications or system additions recommend that you reformat your drive and reinstall your system if you’re having trouble? That should not a realistic recommendation for anyone but the bleeding edge folks – unless of course the OS ecology isn’t as stable as the marketers would like you to believe. But then that would make liars out of them, wouldn’t it?

At this point, I’d actually rather have the Fallout 4 computer network for intermittent email, and use analogue systems for everything else. Seriously, let’s redo this whole “digitization” thing. One more time from the top – erasing Jobs, Gates and Stallman, let’s rethink how all these “computers” are supposed to work, why don’t we?

MateuszSo full of hate

Reading some, thinking less

I’m going through some old drafts and whatever seems worth posting I’ll just edit for clarity and post – I’m deleting the too rambly stuff. The post below if from 2017 as far as I can tell…

David Greabers essay On the Phenomenon of Bullshit Jobs is a good read, and now he has a book out on the same topic. Going back to the anti-globalisation movement of twenty years hence, one strand of the movement was the anti-commercialisation of public space in the form of advertising, and coming from that I still find advertising to be one of the most wasteful activities a professional creative could engage in. It’s a zero-sum game (you’re competing for consumer resources) and the amount of brain-time it takes from those creating it and us being exposed to it is staggering. Much of Internet today is ad-driven, as are traditional media, but if you view the cost of advertising as a regressive tax on consumers, we’re still the ones paying for it. (of course, on a global scale that tax is shifted onto western markets, so might be construed as being strategically progressive – it would be intersting to see those numbers)

I’m going through all the open tabs on my phone and dumping some relevant articles here for myself and posterity. Let’s see if the Article 13 passes within the EU and if I’ll get a bill for linking them. The Cracked Labs article in particular is extensive and worth a read if you want to get a sense the scale of pervasive surveillance online. If GDPR did nothing else, it gave a sense of how much of traffic is one form of tracking or other.

As Internet has become ubiquituous in my life, I’m becoming more and more resentful of it. I’m not sure it it’s just cause I missed the gravy train and am not one of the people pushing cyber-blockchain-mccuffins for millions of moneys, or if I’m just bitter that the net isn’t the online playground I remember from aeons yore – nostalgia is a powerful drug, and I miss having my own shacks and corners online, and I miss the feeling that if I wanted to I could probbaly read up on how all of it works in a couple of days.

The Gibsonian view of cyberspace as an all-encompassing anarchic network of free agents has become reality, except that most of those agents are acting on behalf of old/new money and what room there is for actualisation of human potential has cameras and microphones mounted on the wall.

Canadian researchers have even successfully calculated emotional states such as confidence, nervousness, sadness, and tiredness by analyzing typing patterns on a computer keyboard.

Cracked Labs: Wolfie Cristl: Corporate Surveillance in Everyday Life

What Ganon does is pick suppliers he’ll never know to ship products he’ll never touch. All his effort goes into creating ads to capture prospective customers, and then optimizing a digital environment that encourages them to buy whatever piece of crap he’s put in front of them.

The Atlantic: Alexis Madrigal: The Strange Brands in Your Instagram Feed
MateuszReading some, thinking less

There be assholes in these woods

One persons asshole is anothers fountain of truth, so let’s not put too much effort into denouncing people doing shitty stuff – hate the game, not the player – even though some stuff might not just be stuff stuff, but stuff which indicates a genuine commitment to being a shit person. And other times it’s just a sign of the times – times which ought to get with the new times, but nonetheless people taking advantage of situations knowing they probaby shouldn’t

By even the least charitable interpretation, no laws were broken. Legally speaking, he seems to be in the clear. Even West has said: this wasn’t them being abusive, it was a man abusing his power. But the fact that it was legal doesn’t mean that harm wasn’t done. It doesn’t mean that people weren’t taken advantage of, had their trust abused by someone they respected or — in many cases — idolized and who leveraged their trust against them. 

Dr. Nerdlove: On Finding Out Your Heroes are Monsters (Or: Detoxifying A Culture)

Goddammit Warren.

He then utters his infamous words. The interlocutors go on to kibitz about Huey Long and barbecue. Then Atwater, apparently satisfied that he’d absolved the Southern Republican Party of racism once and for all, follows up with a prediction based on a study he claims demonstrates that Strom Thurmond won 38 percent of South Carolina’s middle-class black vote in his 1978 Senate campaign (run by Atwater).

The Nation, Rick Perlstein: Lee Atwater’s Infamous 1981 Interview on the Southern Strategy

Marclay “had the spark,” as he put it, but he was daunted: how many clips would be required to fill up twenty-four hours? In most film sequences, the camera lingers on a clock for a few seconds. “I didn’t have the courage to get started, because I knew it would be an endless struggle,” he said. But now, in London, he decided to see if he could build the defining monument of the remix age.

New Yorker, Daniel Zalewski: The Hours – How Christian Marclay created the ultimate digital mosaic.

At its core are lurid claims that an elite cabal of child-trafficking paedophiles, comprising, among others, Hollywood A-listers, leading philanthropists, Jewish financiers and Democrat politicians, covertly rule the world. Only President Trump can bring them to justice with his secret plan that will deliver what QAnon’s disciples refer to as “The Storm” or “The Great Awakening”.

The Guardian, Jamie Doward: ‘Quite frankly terrifying’: How the QAnon conspiracy theory is taking root in the UK

The idea that “at first they ignore you, then they laugh at you…” etc goes both ways, and pretty soon the conspiracies might be even less amusing. I remember laughing nervously when an aquaintance at work was talking about chemtrails a while back – I couldn’t believe that what I’d previously only seen as ironic memes actually popped up in real life.

MateuszThere be assholes in these woods

Me and my brother, ambitions and beer

Halfway between Stockholm and Göteborg lies Linköping. According to Tomasz it’s the fifth largest city in Sweden, which you wouldn’t think driving into it. I’d met up with him for a weekend of getting together – we don’t see each other as often as I’d like – and I like the adult feeling of checking in to a hotel, driving myself somewhere, etc. The sucky part of adulting is that you end up paying for the hotel, the petrol, the food and the beer. Which became a recurring conversation we had, what’s a sum of money we’d call “being rich” and how can we go about reaching it.

These days most people with an apartment are milionaires here in Sweden. They don’t have the money mind, but they can borrow against their house and so drive themselves further into dept hoping that the housing balloon won’t pop while they’re tethered to it. But we were talking of becoming rich for reals – i.e. having proper money in the bank – and doing it legaly. (no smuggling, murder or robbery).

Scalping is one way forward. Not illegal per se but the hallmark of a douchbag. It’s not that I necessarity want to add value to whatever process I’m using to get rich – but there feels like there’s a difference between “buy low sell hi” and “corner the market of whatever the kids want for Christmas.”

I make no illusions regarding my ability to spot an upcoming trend and investing in time. Just because something feels like an original idea to me doesn’t mean that others haven’t tried it out – only that I haven’t. An example of many people feeling clever might be the rush for limited edition Lidl sneakers which were available only for a day or so. You were only allowed to buy three pairs and according to Göteborgsposten people were behaving poorly in order to secure theirs. I don’t believe that everyone is intending to wear the shoes, but rather sell them on – as maybe evidenced by the many listings on auction site Tradera. Some of the prices were rather optimistic – the store price was 149kr and the “buy-now” price was set to more than ten times the amount.

So unless I stumble upon a really lucrative deal, or want to earn money by doing penny auctions for stock inventory, I need to come up with something else.

Occasionally when I’m on town this image pops into my head, of streams and rivers and trickles of richness moving through the air. Like a gold-rush fever dream I imagine that one ought to be able to just dip the pan into one of those streams and siphon off a percentage. Mind, I can’t tell you the shape of the flow, or what it is made of – I just know that it’s in reach but out of sight.

One avenue to riches which is well travelled in both directions – the direction towards being the hopeful one, the destitute return journey the other – is investment and speculation in stocks and other markets. I have nothing but contempt for the phenomena of day/swing trading, and being able to short stuff is of no value to the world, but it’s a legal way of trying to make money.

Might the stock market be worthwhile as a limited attempt at making money? I don’t have the time nor temper nor budget for daytrading, but in addition to doing some fundamental analysis and going long on some stocks (that’s fancy talk of buying stocks in companies and then keeping the stocks for the long haul) I’ll set aside a small amount and try my hand at swing trading – the goofy cousin of daytrading. When you’re into swing trading you’re doing something called “technical analysis” as opposed to fundamental ditto; you’re trying to discern patterns in how stocks fluctuate in value, and make money of your predictions.

Thing is, it basically reads like numerology. The author of the “for dummies” book on the subject lists patterns such as “head and shoulders” and “cup and handle” and then finds patterns where his models seem to predict something. But those stocks and patterns are picked after the fact. Just like in a gold rush where the real money is in selling shovels, I imagine that the real money swingtrading is made i writing books and consulting – not the actual trading.

There are some academic studies which find that some swing trading techniques can work some of the time in some markets – now I just have to read up a bit more on the subject, as well as fundamental analysis, and then dip a toe in the stream and see if it glimmers once I pull it out or if a gator will bite it off.

MateuszMe and my brother, ambitions and beer

Reading & understanding

I usually don’t comment on the quoted articles & writings I put up here – most of the time they’re just links that otherwise would fall down the memory hole that is my “save for later” email, so a short quote I think suffices for me to remember why I thought it worth saving to begin with.

Nevertheless, sometimes the selection is a bit too cryptic – I want to be be able to recall my train of thoughts a year later, so perhaps I ought to write some of my thoughts down? Let’s try that, why don’t we?

This is the first part of a six-part (II, III, IV, V, VI) series I expect to roll out taking a historian’s look at the Siege of Gondor in Peter Jackson’s Return of the King.  We’re going to discuss how historically plausible the sequence of events is and, in the process, talk a fair bit about how pre-gunpowder siege warfare works.

Bret Devereaux: The Siege of Gondor, Part I: Professionals Talk Logistics

I found Brets blog via the distruntled people over att r/freefolk who linked his analysis of the preposterous logistics of the loot train battle which is a hilarious take on the Game of Thrones episode. The Siege of Gondor article – the first of six – is some 20’000 characters long and it’s a great read.

The proposed terrorist content filters will go further than Article 13 in the sense that they require services to remove reported content within one hour. In addition, services will have to prevent this content from reappearing on their platforms.

Torrentfreak: EU Members Approve Upload Filters for “Terrorist Content”

Ten years ago there were demonstrations all over against online surveillance – in Sweden it was FRA – but alongside emerging Pirate Parties there was a social movement concerned with online integrity. Today the social movement is focused on BLM and to some extent the environment, so a proposed “terrorist content” law merits barely a ripple in the news.

The more we ask the big, shifty questions about power and privilege and truth, the more our foundation must be rock solid. Editors must insist on fact checking budgets for their authors, and authors must keep insisting for them such that we can all pay fact checkers fairly.

Emma Copley Eisenberg: Fact Checking Is the Core of Nonfiction Writing. Why Do So Many Publishers Refuse to Do It?

Having read this about the state of American non-fiction fact checking, I’m curious to how it works here in Sweden. There are occasional flairups in the media about an author being caught in a supposed lie, but most often those are memoirs, not reporting books. Also, the piece tickled my research-&journo bone, which has shrivelled up but occasionally gives me phantom itch.

For two decades now, I have been interested in sleep research due to my professional involvement in memory and learning. This e-book attempts to produce a synthesis of what is known about sleep with a view to practical applications, esp. in people who need top-quality sleep for their learning or creative achievements.

Piotr Wozniak: Good sleep, good learning, good life.

I remember reading a feature on Piotr a bunch of years ago, focusing on his Supermemo spaced-repetition software. Browsing through his wiki-book on sleeping gives the similar impression of rigoruous self-experimentation with a cohort of 1. Of course, there’s hyperbole spread throughout and he mixes details with grand sweeping statements – he’d be well served by an editor – but it’s fascinating to read things which you can apply yourself. Suddenly you get a key to a previously unknown space in your brain.

Print magazines are no longer about information; the ones that are have become a commodity easily replicated online. Today’s print magazines are lifestyle products. The question is not “What does my audience want to read?” but “What does my audience want to buy?”

Steve Daniels: How to start a print magazine

Holy hell, the above quote is one of a handful of shimmering nuggets in the short article. Since I’ve been working on getting my own magazine off the ground for the better part of two years, there are some really good insights here that I’ll take with me. And hopefully finally publish the goddamn first four issues.

MateuszReading & understanding

Being reasonable isn’t the same as being right

If I notice that someone needs help, I need to help them or I feel bad about it. This has lead me to find strategies to not notice stuff around me – if this monkey is both blind and deaf it doesn’t have to speak. For example: I’m out and about and see some small children running downhill, unconcerned about the gravel further down. Now, there’s a good chance that nothing unfortunate will happen – they won’t fall down and scrape their faces – but since it’s a non-zero chance that something will happen, I make sure not to be the adult nearest them. Because if I am, and they fall, I will have to do something. But if the matter is taken in hand by someone else, my only moral obligation is to do a cursory evaluation of the person lending a hand (to see if they’re helping matters).

This reasoning – and the behaviour which follows it – is more or less automatic, and I think it’s basically sound. But somehow I haven’t been able to present it in a way which doesn’t make me sound like an amoral automatone. My shrink has suggested that the tendency to systematize my behaviour might be a poorly veiled attempt at shielding myself from emotional engagement and exposure. Which sounds like a reasonable assumption on how the system came to be, even though it doesn’t invalidate the basic assumptions: If something bad is happening you have to help if you can.

Problem is, if you don’t wan’t to help but you don’t want to deal with the guilty conscience that follows inaction, a moral solution is to not learn of the bad things happening. So as we grow older, we grow tired of feeling bad and our eyes and ears reflexively ignore what’s around us; A moral noise-cancellation.

MateuszBeing reasonable isn’t the same as being right

I lift heavy one day

Was it ten years ago that I startet excercising? Around my 30th birthday I gave up smoking (for the first time) and began following the C25K jogging program. After a couple of months I could run five kilometres without dying completely, but some years later my knees were giving me jib and I started in on strength training based on my doctors recommendation – reading up on Starting Strength and joining Göteborgs Kraftsportsklubb where I pushed some plates around next to some very strong people.

Fast forwards another couple of years and I’ve given up on powerlifting as well as jogging – it got boring once I plateaued and couldn’t motivate myself to shift the training around, and my knees where as annoying as ever. Biking became the only excercise I did, and once we got a car even that was relegated to short excursions, where before I used any excuse to bike for an hour.

Last summer I had an ambition to use my 10 week vacation to get into powerlifting again. I’d just set a personal best deadlift of 150kg, and had a long term goal of at some point pulling 200kg. For some reason the summer turned out to consist mostly of beer though, and I didn’t visit the gym once in that whole time, so spent fall 2019 trying to catch up to where I’d been.

Spring 2020 has been a mixed bag – mostly because of real life and sickness in the immediate family which has taken time and a mental toll – but the last two months or so I’m back on track, hitting the gym at least three times a week with some running and/or squash in between. So far I’m free of injuries, and am seeing some progress – although I’m not following a powerlifting program this time around, but a hypertrophic upper/lower split setup from Styrkelabbet. If I keep this up I might shift the training more towards a deadlift focus in fall – but let’s see if I can keep this up.

Going through a bunch of “read later” tabs I’ve had open for a while, I finally started reading the exrx.net texts on training, and the no-bro information is a great resource:

It is plausible that overall progress may be greater on a generally lower volume training regimen by keeping training more consistent over many years through greater long term program adherence and lower incidents of layoffs due to overuse injury. Any small increases that might be gained with continuous high volume training are potentially lost, soon after the first incidence of an overuse injury, if not the attrition due to burnout.

ExRx.net: Most common weight training mistakes

I would like to find an app (or printed training diary) which allows for randomized volumes & intensities – trying to keep the body confused and avoid the Repeated Bout Effect. Althought it might be bro science, it seems a good idea to vary the volume/intervals/tempo for exercises, as well as including variations on the themes every once in a while. (Not doing silly crossfit wearing-oneself-out stuff, but measured changes building on previous skills). Even if I try to change the volume & intensities up a bit, as long as I’m not following a program I know I’m liable to cheat – picking exercises which I like rather than those I ought to force myself to improve in.

And as for my goal of deadlifting 200kg – I’m the first to acknowledge that it’s a completely arbitrary number to aspire towards. I might as well have lift 50kg 100 times in ten minutes or do 10 x 2 x bodyweight pullups. But deadlifts have two things going for them:

  1. You can’t really cheat to get gains
  2. It’s the exercise which allows for the absolute heaviest weights

So let’s see where I am next spring. Hopefully I’m able to run 10k non-stop without dying as well as be above 150kg deadlift again, closing in on that 200kg goal.

MateuszI lift heavy one day

How we image the world

Take efficiency, for example: It is common for new technologies in games to increase efficiency, which is almost always presented as unambiguously good. But while increased efficiency tends to either increase production or require less work, the practical downside is rarely modelled in games: the former increases the consumption of resources, the latter depresses wages. 

Vice – Gabriel Soares: ‘Civilization’ and Strategy Games’ Progress Delusion

I want to see progress. I want change. I want state-of-the-art in software engineering to improve, not just stand still. I don’t want to reinvent the same stuff over and over, less performant and more bloated each time. I want something to believe in, a worthy end goal, a future better than what we have today, and I want a community of engineers who share that vision.

Nikina Tonsky: Software Disenchantment

Write a chapter of a book by hand – you know that’s not what will get published. Start designing a poster with a sharpie, instead of the latest high-tech illustrating program. Create a working prototype for your first product that you’d never ship to anyone else. When you know that you don’t have to make the greatest thing ever right from the start, it’s easier to start. And then it’s easier to continue.

deprocrastination.co: 3 tricks to start working despite not feeling like it

Next, you might ask yourself how the other side perceives your demands. What is standing in the way of them agreeing with you? Do they know your underlying interests? Do you know what your own underlying interests are? If you can figure out their interests as well as your own, you will be much more likely to find a solution that benefits both sides.

Jace Grebski: The Art of Bargaining, Positional vs Interest-Based Negotiation

Now, in addition to the perennial challenge, we face an immediate crisis. In the past week, COVID-19 has started to behave a lot like the once-in-a-century pathogen we’ve been worried about. I hope it’s not that bad, but we should assume that it will be until we know otherwise.

Bill Gates: How to respond to COVID-19

Morale is down. We are making plenty of money, but the office is teeming with salespeople: well-groomed social animals with good posture and dress shoes, men who chuckle and smooth their hair back when they can’t connect to our VPN.

Anna Wiener: Uncanny Valley

For more than a decade now, people have been spending fortunes building platforms and algorithms that rely on ever-increasing user ‘engagement’, often without really knowing what that is. As it turns out, conflict is the most engaging kind of engagement.

Hacker News: The Internet of Beefs

Kristin hopes she has designed the perfect environment. Most FTD patients aren’t so fortunate, if you can call it that, to wind down their lives on a personalized estate with a staff dedicated to keeping them safe and calm. Their families don’t always have a choice in how involved they want to be. Still, all the money in the world can’t answer the question of who, really, is living in that house.

Wired.com – Sandra Upson: What happened to Lee?

Rest assured that we only collected metadata on these people, and no actual conversations were recorded or meetings transcribed. All I know is whether someone was a member of an organization or not. Surely this is but a small encroachment on the freedom of the Crown’s subjects. I have been asked, on the basis of this poor information, to present some names for our field agents in the Colonies to work with.

Kieranhealy.org: Using Metadata to find Paul Revere
MateuszHow we image the world