TOTD

Some “thoughts of the day“, from Colter Reed:

  1. Anything can be made worse by overthinking it.
  2. When you’re not sure what to do next, pick whatever will help you build some momentum back up.
  3. Give yourself permission to have bad days. The person next to you, too.

Tolkien songs

I liked the version of “Far over the misty mountains cold” from the first Hobbit movie.

The poem with words is from the novel, and there is one version from the older 1977 movie — but there is a “better” version in the recent Hobbit movie (first featured in the trailer of the first movie).

I have heard this song from the soundtrack a few times.

However, while once searching for it, I stumbled across another version of this song.

This was how I discovered Clamavis de Profundis, a group that likes to sing these choral arrangements together (!)

As their video description on Youtube shows, this is a (surely fun!) family affair:

My brother composed and arranged the song. My family and I sang it. One of my brothers drew the beginning cover art.

Following a positive reception to this cover, they’ve recorded other songs from Tolkien’s works, which I realized when I stumbled across “The song of Durin”.

Their version of this, the music they have set these words to, is very well done, and “fits very well”.

This isn’t originally from “The Hobbit” (it’s something Gimli recites within “The lord of the rings”), but thematically fits better with the former.

(They have in turn inspired yet other covers)

Given the amount of lyrical verse in Tolkien’s works, there is surely more to come here 🙂

Writing on paper

Prompted by this article in the Atlantic on how people in general can’t read cursive.

Given a current generation of students in which so few can read or write cursive, one cannot assume it will ever again serve as an effective form of communication. I asked my students about the implications of what they had told me, focusing first on their experience as students. No, most of these history students admitted, they could not read manuscripts. If they were assigned a research paper, they sought subjects that relied only on published sources. One student reshaped his senior honors thesis for this purpose; another reported that she did not pursue her interest in Virginia Woolf for an assignment that would have involved reading Woolf’s handwritten letters. In the future, cursive will have to be taught to scholars the way Elizabethan secretary hand or paleography is today.

Dunno, I feel some form of cursive writing is just a natural human thing to do.

I was all for “maximum personal cyborg-ness” at an earlier stage of life, but I now feel the urge to be away from the screen and keyboard for some time, and pen-and-paper is a good fit for that, and … cursive writing is just a good way of using pen and paper.

As long as you are physically embodied, you’re going to feel some satisfaction in “doing things with your hands” (i.e. other than typing or pointing).

To quote the last paragraph from the article above:

I regarded the handwritten note as a kind of superpower. I wrote hundreds of them and kept a pile of note cards in the upper-left-hand drawer of my desk. They provided a way to reach out and say: I am noticing you. This message of thanks or congratulations or sympathy comes not from some staff person or some machine but directly from me. I touched it and hope it touches you. Now I wonder how many recipients of these messages could not read them.

Making marks on a writing medium in a quick, flowing way, using a writing instrument … is a form of communication, or even a form of expression, that you can do quite well if you try a little bit.

And if you are writing on paper, you aren’t going to be “printing”, are you? That’s be way too painful after a while — it’s only natural to not want to lift the pen up and down more than necessary (which is really all the “cursive” is!)

Finally, there’s a strong therapeutic benefit to writing with pen-and-paper, which (in my experience) has helped a lot, and it’s quite likely to help you out too.

On kids’ activities (as a parent)

Some wisdom from HackerNews:

Kids want to be doing what other kids today are doing. Hearing “I loved this as a kid” from a parent can doom something right from the start. Kids want their own experiences, especially as they get older. The technologies you have fond memories of were contemporary at the time you enjoyed them. Your kids also want contemporary experiences.

But most importantly, kids are unique, and often different from their parents. They might not like the same things we did as kids, even if we could exactly recreate them.

Useful to keep this in mind!

C++: “the good parts”

Herb Sutter has an interesting proposal

The new “basic Hello-World with a single method call” would look something like:

```
main: () -> int = {
  hello("World\n");
}

hello: (msg: _) =
  std::cout << "Hello " << msg;
```

I guess the “pressure from Rust” is a good thing here (not to mention the Cambrian explosion with Zig, Vala, Kit etc).

Some highlights:

An alternative syntax would be a cleanly demarcated “bubble of new code” that would let us do things that we can never do in today’s syntax without breaking the world, such as to:

  • double down on modern C++ (e.g., make C++20 modules and C++23 import std; the default);
  • remove unsafe parts that are already superseded (e.g., no unsafe union or pointer arithmetic, use std::variant and std::span instead as we already teach);
  • have type and memory safety by default (e.g., make the C++ Core Guidelines safety profiles the default and required);

An alternative syntax would be a cleanly demarcated “bubble of new code” that would let us do things that we can never do in today’s syntax without breaking the world, such as to:

Definitely something to watch and see where it goes 🙂

Of analog “anti-nets” and slip-boxes

Came across this series of “emails” or “letters” about someone embarking on an analog thinking system.

An Antinet is for those who wish to read more effectively, take valuable notes from readings, and transform them into potent long-term material that significantly impacts your field.

Noble goal, one I would’ve mirrored in zealotry few years ago. Now though, I’m apt to wish them well. “How to Take Smart Notes” by Sönke Ahrens has become the over-recommended guide in these quarters, and “Zettelkasten” the correspondingly over-used word.

The author’s description of over-doing reliance on an app must ring true to many today:

I had set out to use Obsidian to map out all the concepts from the books I was reading. My goal was to organize them into a cohesive whole that would become greater than the sum of its parts. I hoped to use the concepts to produce a book or a newsletter on marketing, copywriting, and cryptocurrency. Yet I ended up with a rat’s nest of 1,272 linked files, and a nifty diagram presenting me with a bubble graph of the mess!

Still, there’s something to like about it. One should write things down.

I’d recommend adopting the general idea, but change it slightly, and advocate a hybrid approach instead.

Avoiding technology for the sake of avoiding it is just as pointless, IMO. Yes, use pen and paper —because your ability to use it would atrophy otherwise — but don’t shy away from the “right tools for you”.

If you’re looking for a piece of software that will prove a good companion here, I’d modify the suggestion slightly, to Devonthink instead of Zotero. It does everything and more, allowing for multiple individual stores, and an iOS app.

Either way, writing and thinking is definitely a good alternative to passively scrolling the feed … avoid that at all costs! 🙂

TIL (thanks to Ed West)

Alexander Kerensky, the leader of the Provisional Government in 1917, was born in 1881 and lived until 1970, having escaped Russia following the Bolshevik takeover. He died in New York where he held a chair in War, Peace and Revolution Studies and would see anti-Vietnam protests outside his office.

Obsolescence

My Powerbeats headphones broke apart today.

I wanted to get a replacement, but I found it isn’t made any more.

I looked for the closest equivalent and didn’t find one 1.

I found this comparison recent products, and while they are better in many ways (active noise cancellation, spatial audio, etc) they all have a lower battery life (the Powerbeats had a battery life of 15 hours!)

I will end up getting one of the new ones, but not without some grumbling.2


  1. The Beats Flex counts if you neglect the over-the-ears-ness and focus on the connecting-wire-ness of the Powerbeats ↩︎

  2. I remembered a talk I had heard many years ago, during a phase of watching everything by Neil Postman I could find, where he had described how, wanting to buy a new car, he had been unable to find one where he could simply roll the windows up and down (i.e. without “power windows”). I’d like to believe my case is different, but I’m aware I’m probably sounding like a grumpy old fella right now. ↩︎

Golden Sections

I was inspired by this short Randall Carlson episode to re-construct the diagram in Wolfram Mathematica.

It is a geometric construction of “the golden mean”, and then viewing it as a ratio, as the basis for a triangle, and as the basis for a pair of circles.

Here is a screenshot of that intermediate step:

For extra fun, there is a comparison of this ratio with a few interesting real-world … objects.

Here is a screenshot of that part:

But the real takeaway is how fluid it is to tinker with all this.

As I grow older, I really appreciate the “amateur joy” of all this 🙂

Here is the notebook published to the cloud, free to access publicly.