“On Cyberspace”

Warning: From 1995 (25 years ago!)

Today the term “cyberspace” sounds silly (perhaps “internet culture” comes closest) but here’s a 10-min clip of Neil Postman talking about it.

My first observation is his prescient (and today, contrarian) comments:

  • people becoming “information junkies
  • globally connected world leading to a “reversion to tribalism” instead of bringing people together
  • people retreating away from public forums, and a reduced ability to solve problems together
  • “… am I using the technology, or is it using me?” (!)

My second observation is the format of this interview itself!

How rare it is now, to see a discussion like this, question-and-answer, uninterrupted every five minutes by an advertisement, without dramatic inflection.

Where could this even happen? Who would today’s equivalent of Charlayne Hunter Gault be? It certainly wouldn’t happen on TV! (The closest things come to this today are in “long-form podcasts”, like Joe Rogan or Lex Fridman)

Notebook requirements

Here’s what I want from a paper notebook:

  • Tomoe River Paper (with an exception for Midori MD)
  • Grid (i.e. not plain pages, not lined pages)
  • Page numbers (a new addition)
  • Size (A5 or A6 or B5)

P.S. I can imagine using journals as notebooks (and the year doesn’t matter, I’m using an old Hobonichi for this right now!) because they do have some sort of indirection.

P.P.S. I’ve probably mentioned this before but WordPress doesn’t make it easy to reference and update past entries, so until I switch to an Obsidian or Logseq workflow, mentioning it is sufficient.

Space, science, progress, hope

We were eating in a cafe that had a 50s-60s theme and had this front page of the LA Times from 1961 on the day Alan Shepard became the first American in space.

I didn’t do a good job of taking the picture, it’s at this weird angle (but here’s what an image search turned up).

What I found more interesting though was that article on the bottom-right.

This expresses sentiments that seem almost shocking today.

I don’t want to live in a world where science advances so rapidly that the man in the street doesn’t know what’s going on.

Think about that! It seems so quaint today, six decades on, when we take it for granted that people really have no clue about how things work.

And that’s not the only aspect that stood out:

But to me the most significant thing of this particular shot … is the fact that it takes men’s minds and eyes away from troubles and comparatively trivial problems, such as Laos and Cuba, and points out in the sky to what they are capable of doing.

Again, think about that! Dismissing domestic concerns as “comparatively trivial” would be pretty controversial today.

If it was possible to feel this sort of hope then, it must be possible to feel it again!

On a Soundtrack coincidence and some books

I happens to be listening to the Braveheart soundtrack recently, a few days ago, and I can say I haven’t heard it anywhere else, in the last two decades.

Today while we were in Lahaina, near the outlets, I wanted into this book shop (friends of the Maui library), and guess what was playing in the background? Yep, the Braveheart soundtrack.

Needless to say, I ended up spending a fair bit of time there, and found some funny, very interesting books too.

There are really two kinds of browsing experiences (broadly speaking): one where things are very well-presented, and you visually scan your surroundings and decide what to look into, and the other where there is very little organization or presentation, and you need to dig deep to see what even exists.

This was the second kind of place — which means it’s tedious — but with the tradeoff that you end up finding some truly weird, remarkable, quirky books.

Now this is on a trip where I can’t carry back too much so I only bought two of these, but this was a very rewarding browsing experience (set to good music too).

System of the Sun

This is not running a very localized observation (I’ve noticed this both where I stay in the south bay area, and also during our recent short trip to Hawaii), but still: among the bright objects seen in the sky at night, are Venus, Jupiter, Saturn.

At one level, we can marvel at this “real” experience of the existence of planets and stars, something which was natural from the beginning of humanity until recently, and which is only made harder to look at given that we are either staring into our phones or screens of some other form.

More than this, though, is the fact that in looking at these three planets we are seeing the solar system “for real”: these planets mark the ecliptic, which roughly marks the plane of the solar system.

Looking at them, you can feel connected to this system of planets astroids (and comets and everything else in it), that orbits this particular favorite star of ours.

“Digits of Pi”

Saw a recent post on how “digits of Pi add up to 666” and decided to investigate.

These days I’m finding Mathematica super-useful for stuff like this, so:

That does NOT add up.

But this does:

Okay, this is stretching things a bit. It certainly sounds fun to say “the first 144 digits of Pi add up to 666” and then go on to show how 144 is a cool number (which it is, so is 1440).

But it’s less fun to say “the first 144 digits of Pi except for the first one add up to 666″, which is the truth here.