Travel

Travel. I don’t really like it.

Hermitage
Hermitage – Winter Palace – I’ve been here «© A.Savin, Wikimedia Commons»

Sorry!

I feel like this is a very controversial stance. Or maybe just not a very cool one. At least in my spheres, I hear a lot about travel. How much fun it is, how it makes you a better human being, how it makes you more open to the world, how you haven’t really experienced life until you’ve been to every country. (Maybe exaggerating for effect, a little.)

I’m really glad the people who like it, like it. Good for them. But I want to stay home.

Home…

Home is safe, home is full of routine, safety, consistency, known factors. I know a lot of those are basically dirty words. But the routine of getting the same thing for breakfast? Lets my brain spend the energy it would have spent on that thinking about how Jenna would respond to a statue in her park getting up and challenging her to a duel.

Travel is full of tiny decisions all day long eating away at your brain power and exhausting. Which is fine if you are getting your brain power worth of enjoying spectacular views, or eating amazing new food, or talking with different people, or visiting museums or theme parks. Whatever is the thing that makes you go, oh this is awesome!

Those things just don’t appeal to me. I love the views where I am, and I try to partake in them often. I enjoy surfing through photos of breathtaking locations online. I know it isn’t the same (yet) as being there in person, but I do enjoy that. I try new food, I will go out with a friend to a new place and try new things, I know that is on my agenda and do it. Not all the time, but I do. (My favorite coffee shop changed menus and I’ve been trying a new item each week, I’ll pick one thing and settle on it for 90% of the time after I’ve tried it all.) I talk to people online, it’s manageable! And museums have amazing collections online, with much smaller lines, and just as much detail.

My kind of travel

I do try very hard to expand my world and travel through books, articles, podcasts, and even videos. Exploring what is out there, exploring the inner world, exploring the magical, fantastical, the future.

I read. I listen to a lot of audiobooks. I listen to a lot of podcasts. I can do that while walking along the beautiful local sites. And still come home and sleep safely in my own bed.

It doesn’t make me a bad person. Plenty of other things, sure, but not this. It is also important, I think, to remember that the ability to travel is not something everyone can do. (And don’t talk to me about the magic of working around the world, there are a whole bunch of assumptions that go into that too.) So travel isn’t a magical thing that is the perfect solution for all problems and all human interactions.

I happen to be a person who doesn’t do well with travel. I’m glad that others have the opportunities and take advantage of it. I would also be one of the first people to push someone who has never traveled and has the opportunity to go to another city, state, country, continent GO! Try! Experience. And if you don’t like it? I’ll go out to eat at the new restaurant down the street and we can see how that goes instead.

Messy Roundup

My thoughts are a bit mess this week so it is leading to a bit of a messy roundup.

Have you read blahblahblah

I told you messy. I both love and despise all of the lists about what you should read and what you have to read and what you are a horrible person if you don’t read and what you aren’t a real writer if you don’t read and whatever. They always say more about the people compiling them than anything else.

SF Signal’s How Well-Read found a new shiny toy at Worlds Without End  which lets you compare and compile lists without end in the SFF realms. There of course was the one that NPR put together that was turned into a fancy flowchart and an even fancier interactive thing.

I love that they can introduce you to new books. I love that they give you a chance to see if you are being broad in your scope. I hate the often prescriptive nature of the lists.  It feels like it is always the same books over and over and over. And the over and over nature of it feels a little like if you don’t like this thing you’re not a real fan. There is also a bit of the whole idea of a true fan that I will explore at some other point in time, but for now. Bullshit. The bullshittiest of bullshit.

messy so messy
Free Will horse from Faisal Akram because when I searched for Free Will this was the best thing that I got…

I have no choice but to write this

Illusion of Free Will I feel a little surprised that this is a new idea apparently? Is this really a new idea? I assume there is something fundamentally different about this than other stuff I’ve read.

There is an idea in some communities (I am really sure there is a Mysterious Universe episode that talks about this but I’m having a hard time finding it so I may be wrong?) that the gap in time is basically where …consciousness lives. Or where the soul lives.

But that our brains sort of back engineer things is very common. Some biases work this way. You make decisions (people are so weird during the full moon!) and then you seek out evidence to support that and dismiss what doesn’t.

*This doesn’t give you the right to be an asshole. Not having free will doesn’t mean you should go out and shoot someone and say you couldn’t help it. You’re just an asshole. Stop being an asshole.

Mesmerizing

This is a round up of things that will make you stare for hours watching how the insides of things work. So engineering gifs basically.

 

Writing Advice, Evolution, and Cheese

A round up of weird stuff this week. I highly recommend all of them but the writing advice is amazing. The cheese is so tasty.

Best Writing Advice

SF Signal Rounds up writing advice

The advice ranges wildly though my favorite?

“It’s okay to write in your underoos.”

Evolution, Reality, and Game Theory

Worth a read about perceptions and the accuracy and reality. Reality is kind of bullshit. Which I already knew but this is a good read. (long and interesting)

Motivational Quotes

Supporting your hopes and dreams. Though I do kind of want an “It’s ok to write in your underoos.” motivational poster now. That’s pretty serious motivation.

From Rolf Beeler a raw milk Vacherin Fribourgeois

Ancient Alpine Cheese

Through chemical analysis of pottery they discovered that alpine cheese has been around since at least Iron Age. Mm mountainey thousands of years old cheese.

Spring Roundup

Spring is here and so I’ve done a spring roundup. Well they are vaguely tied to spring in my head. Emotional intensity, sensory experience, creativity, and of course SMBHs. (What don’t you think of Super Massive Black Holes when you think of spring?)

Reading YA and introverts and emotions

Jocelyn at 52 Letters has a great post about seeing yourself in characters, about emotional reactions, and about the way we expect our characters to be. I highly recommend it.

I’m not sure I have all my thoughts wrangled together on this yet so I may end up looping back to it.

Senses

Computer Generated Logos not entirely a creative AI but similar I think. (There is also an Atlas of Potential Nations, which generates country names and flags.)

Listen – Table Top Audio is a cool audio tool for listening to audio with a specific ambience. Designed for tabletop gaming, but works incredibly well for writing too. (I’ve actually been loving Thunderspace an app for the iphone for rainstorm sounds as well.)

Taste and Smell? – The future of gardening? I really try to keep myself aware of the range of the future. I know I have talked excitedly about the future of ponytail holders. (Because yes, I am the dullest person ever…shut up.) There seems to be a tendency to focus on some of the big things with technology, but it pervades everything, including gardening. I know there are the fancy indoor gardens (which I’m not convinced I could keep alive) but these little pods seem like another step along the path to the future in another way.

Creativity, the brain, and practice

Creativity and the 10,000 hours thing

So in reading this I’m not entirely sure I understand it. I want to say I disagree but I don’t feel like that’s the right phrase, if this is what the science shows then …who am I to disagree. But it sort of doesn’t seem like what he’s saying is entirely backed up.

the techniques of deliberate practice are most applicable to “highly developed fields” such as chess, sports, and musical performance

But is snowboarding a much more highly developed field than civil engineers? Are musicians not creative?

Supermassives

Supermassive Black Holes are spinning the same way

This was a cool story about the possible reasons that supermassive black holes (SMBHs) at the center of the galaxies appear to all spin the same direction. Early fluctuations of the universe seem entirely reasonable for this, but hopefully this can also give us more insight in the long term into the early universe.

Apple Watch Edition

Was the Apple Watch Edition a really thoughtful and deliberate example of anchoring?

So my (entirely lay) understanding of Anchoring is basically the first thing sets your perspective of the next thing. A tool used in negotiations very frequently.

Wikipedia says “ For example, the initial price offered for a used car sets the standard for the rest of the negotiations, so that prices lower than the initial price seem more reasonable even if they are still higher than what the car is really worth.”

So when Apple first came out with the Apple Watch there was a super expensive fancy version meant for super fancy people. ($10-15K) I know some people said this was in line with expensive watches. But for those of us who don’t regularly buy expensive watches it is a wow price point. Especially when there are other versions that do basically the same thing with a much lower price point.

Apple just came out with cheaper versions, and apparently (according to 9to5Mac) they’ve been hiding the information about the Edition version. (When I went out to find the link to the Apple page I searched Apple Watch Edition and the ad at the top was NOT the Edition page, though the first link was, which is also interesting.)

So did Apple’s marketing people specifically design this campaign this way? Anchor the price with the Apple Watch Edition versions over $10K and then bring it down and shift their campaign to say, hey, we are for everyone. And now people will look at it and go, oh well it’s WAY less than $10K I can totally afford that. Things like sales and mark-downs all play heavily on Anchoring.

I know this seems not-writing related but I think it is. The way our brains work, and how we understand them is critical. It is also a part of how the world around us is changing and projecting that into the sci-fi of the future. Sci-fi isn’t just about new watches, it is also about how we talk about, think about, and market those things. Consider a world where marketing classes are all taught by people like Dan Ariely. (I took his Coursera class a couple years ago and I don’t think it is out there anymore but it was fantastic and really educational, I highly recommend his book as well.) What does that look like? How does that shape what we do, what we buy, how we save, how we invest, what we decide to do? Do we go to Mars in that world? Do we shoot for something bigger? What are the other changes in a world that shifts that way? What other possibilities are there for it?

The Future Now

The world is a strange, wonderful, disturbing, and incredibly malleable place. Some random links I’ve run across about the future now. Some things that have a lot of potential, but potential can be for good or evil.

Bust Art Heist Bust

Cosmo Wenman, an artist who actually has done guerrilla 3D reproductions of classical art using high-quality digital photos, told Ars that he was immediately suspicious about the Nefertiti scan. Most likely, he said, the artists had been given a version of the Neues Museum’s own 3D scans, possibly by a museum worker or a third party who did the scans for the museum.

The ability to replicate incredible art, print it, interact with it, and have copies of it.

Self focusing glasses

The company initially hopes its technology can be useful for people with presbyopia, which is a very common inability to focus close up as people reach their 40s and older. Typically, this is solved by wearing glasses with progressive lenses, which have different degrees of focusing power in different areas.

We live in the future now.

Wolves and howls

Howling UK wolf
Howls from different parts of the world (a UK wolf from Wikipedia).

This is a story worth listening to. The howls are amazingly different. The Eastern European one they played didn’t sound anything like what I think of as a wolf howl. The Iberian was very different. They all are beautiful. I can absolutely see how you’d be able to identify them.

(I also love that Dr. Holly Root-Gutteridge was watching a horror movie when she went, hey, that’s an american wolf and it all went from there.)

Drugs and Morals

There seems to be a notion that our morals and ethics and what we believe is an innate part of who we are. Except it is incredibly changeable. From making the people more fair with lemons to using magnets to change your moral judgements. (These are both VERY simplistic explanations so please go read the details and remember nuance and further study is incredibly important.)

It can also be changed with (or by) drugs, and might be already altered by the ones you are already taking. There is so much potential for the future, but what do we do with it.

Oxytocin: Some new studies have seen sex-specific effects: oxytocin can promote self-interest in men but increase altruistic behavior in women.

Kate Rauner writes about robotics

Yup, sign me up for letting an AI drive me to a grocery store. (Well I can walk to mine, but yes, I would be absolutely on board with it.) I fully expect lots of flaws. But I think about people who can’t get around on their own now and giving them the freedom and ability to live on their own is a huge thing.

Scientists developing robots to lead people in high-rises to safety in case of a fire discovered people would follow the robot even when it made obviously dangerous and ridiculous errors. We seem all too ready to shift our brains into neutral and follow orders.

Memory Roundup

I’ve been thinking a lot about memory and the brain, again. I feel like I always loop back to stories about memory, the brain, and perception. They are the thing that interests me. That captures my imagination. I thought I would give a memory roundup of some of the things that have been rattling around in my brain the loudest and some of the very interesting stories I’ve re-dug up this week. (Many of them are older, but from what I can tell still relevant.)

Long Term

Long Term Memory Priorities

Because P. Sherman 42 Wallaby Way…

Spaced Repetition

It isn’t just about remembering something or repeating it often. It needs to be repeated in the right kinds of ways, as well as retrieved which is a huge part of things, if I say something to you a thousand times you won’t be nearly as likely to remember it as if I made you say it.

or Spaced Retrieval (which personally makes it easier to remember what we are talking about because words mean things…)

This technique is also called spaced retrieval, because you are retrieving the information from your memory over spaced intervals.

Memory and Forgetting

Memory is such a tricky thing, but it isn’t just what we remember that is important, what we forget can change our view of the world.

So, there we have it; it’s not just about how much information we can cram into our memories at once, it also about how much we can keep out.

Next time you find yourself having a hard time remembering a phone number or image, just blame your distracted brain.

Myth of the Neurotic Creative

It is entirely reasonable to be creative and be not be neurotic. And creativity is so much more than just making art.

One can be creative in any field. There are a lot of uncreative artists and a lot of creative accountants.

Perception vs Reality

Perception is strange. I’ve had a couple things come up this week that make me doubt my memory and my perception of the world, which quite frankly hangs by the thinnest of threads anyway. It helps to remind myself that others have gap filled, confusing, incoherent memories too. Just some people might have a better ability to smooth those gaps and cobble together a cohesive story out of it.

Memory itself is not like a video-recording, with a moment-by-moment sensory image. In fact, it’s more like a puzzle: we piece together our memories, based on both what we actually remember and what seems most likely given our knowledge of the world. Just as we make educated guesses in perception, our minds’ best educated guesses help “fill in the gaps” of memory, reconstructing the most plausible picture of what happened in our past.

Heuristic bonus