Friday Notes (Mar 12, 2021)

Over time I seem to be creating day of the week categories for posts. It started with TV Tuesday, back in August 2012. (Which I unfortunately made a Tag rather then a Category — something I’d like to change one of these days.) The very next month I created Wednesday Wow (as a Category), which languished for years but I’ve used more often lately.

I’m not exactly sure when I created Sci-Fi Saturday. The first post was in July 2011 (the month I began this blog), but the Category came later. I applied it retroactively (many SF posts were on Saturdays; go figure). Mystery Monday is a recent addition started in December 2019.

And now I’m starting Friday Notes.

Which (a) I should have started long ago, but (b) probably won’t use all that often. It’s mostly based on the notion of the “Friday News Dumps” that political and some corporate press offices use for stuff they don’t want noticed. The idea is that people are focused on the weekend so there’s a greater chance of the news release being ignored.

CJ Cregg (The West Wing) is where I learned about “Friday News Dumps”

Being ignored isn’t the goal here (my blog is already pretty widely ignored). It’s more a way to post a potpourri of shorter half-baked ideas — notes I’ve had sitting around but which don’t seem willing to take root in my mind and grow into anything worthy of a blog post.

I’ve been using the Brain Bubbles series for those (for instance, this and this), but my intention was always that Brain Bubbles should be short one-thought posts (like this, this, or this).

There’s an old saying that: “Experience is a comb life gives you after you’ve lost all your hair.” I’ve found that to be often true. There are more points in life than I can number that I wish I could go back and redo knowing what I know now.

One thing this blog has taught me is that long-term projects evolve as one does them. To one extent or another, one simply has to accept the past for what it is and continue to move forward. (That said, I’m not at all above going back and making some changes, but the more past there is the more effort it takes to change.)

Anyway, as a positive step towards reducing my pile of notes,…

§ §

I’m not sure what triggered the thought, something I read about how someone was quite usefully using a piece of software for something other than it was designed for.

It reminded me of how, way back in the day, people used the Lotus 1-2-3 software — an early (1983!) and powerful spreadsheet software — for all sorts of very non-spreadsheet stuff. For instance, many used it as a word processor to write memos.

The thing is, it worked just fine.

It’s an interesting lesson in the unintended uses of a design as well as in the ingenuity of people using a design.

It also struck me as a metaphorical instance of Turing equivalence, which is the notion that any computer with certain abilities is — memory and time constraints aside — capable of doing what any other computer can do.

It applies to computer hardware and to computer programming languages. It’s actually latter that’s most discussed. Any language with certain characteristics is said to be Turing Complete, and any Turing Complete language can do anything any other Turing Complete language can do (memory and time constraints aside).

The comparison may be only metaphorical with regard to Lotus 1-2-3 or software applications in general, but it is interesting how a tool with enough power can do things its designers never foresaw.

§ §

I was reading about recent advances in lasers, and the article pointed out that some new types of lasers no longer work using Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation, but are still called lasers.

It’s an example of semantic shift. For example, we still say that ships sail, and we still refer to dialing a phone. Concept words become embedded in language through use even though what they signify may no longer be strictly true.

As another example, many use “OMG” without any reference to a personal deity. I recall reading about a survey that determined some people didn’t even know what it stood for — it just meant “Wow! Surprise! Shock!”

As an aside, an important memory from my youth was from somewhere in the late 1960s or early 1970s when lasers were a new big deal. (The first laser was created in 1960.)

I went to some local technology fair where one exhibit was a laser, and you could stick your hand into the beam.

No big deal in these days of common and cheap laser pointers (I have one myself somewhere), but at the time there was a sense of lasers being death rays and steel cutters.

So sticking my hand in the beam was amazing to me.

§ §

This is, again, perhaps metaphorical more than physical, but I’ve been struck by the notion of the superposition of thoughts.

The canonical example would be the love/hate feelings people can have. We often speak of “being of two minds” — of having mixed feelings.

I’ve talked about how two-dimensional thinking can escape the sense of a “tug of war” between ideas, but the idea of mental superposition gives the notion a mechanism.

This is not to suggest the mind is quantum. For one thing, sound waves can be superposed, so the basic idea is classical. But I’ve long been taken with a phrase from a Greg Egan novel (this one, I think) that our minds are highly complex standing waves inside our skulls.

I do wonder if the size and form factor matter. I definitely lean structuralist when it comes to consciousness.

§ §

I’ve been feeling very run down for months, due, I’ve thought, to age, the social-political bullshit, and winter. I’ve heard people talking about taking vitamin D supplements for years and finally decided to give that a try.

It’s only been a couple weeks (of 3000 IU per day), but there seems a definite effect. I no longer feel compelled to take multiple naps during the day (and yet to still sleep through the night).

My mood has been better, too, if for no other reason than I’m not sleeping away a big fraction of the day. There were too many days where I felt like I’d accomplished nothing but napping. A lost and ugly feeling.

The weather is getting nicer, the days longer, and I’ve been able to start talking walks again, so that has probably also contributed, but if you’re feeling run down, and don’t get outside much, you might want to consider trying vitamin D.

§ §

I didn’t mention it in the intro because I’ve only done one post so far, but I did recently also start a Sunday Sermons category. I am hoping to return to that, but my posting efforts have been largely directed at the QM101 series.

The thing is, I’m close to filling up the week! The only day left is Thursdays. (Thirsty Thursdays maybe?)

Stay noteworthy, my friends! Go forth and spread beauty and light.

About Wyrd Smythe

The canonical fool on the hill watching the sunset and the rotation of the planet and thinking what he imagines are large thoughts. View all posts by Wyrd Smythe

22 responses to “Friday Notes (Mar 12, 2021)

  • Wyrd Smythe

    I really loved The West Wing. Politics as we fantasize it could be. Plus Aaron Sorkin, who I really do like. The master of the “walk and talk”!

  • SelfAwarePatterns

    I didn’t worry about it before the pandemic, since I went on daily walks outside every day. But shortly after it began, I made sure to take in vitamin D. I also take a general supplement, which has the all the standard daily allowances in it, but added another vitamin D tablet just for good measure. I keep the dosages small though. The megadoses make me nervous, although they probably help if you were deficient before.

    I also take small doses of iron. Probably not a problem if you’re eating red meat somewhat regularly, but I haven’t been.

    I’m really starting to look forward to moving around in the world again. (Although work is making noises about pulling us back in starting in June. Not looking forward to that.)

    • Wyrd Smythe

      It will be interesting to see how many businesses try to return to business as usual. One would think it would depend on how successful they perceived this forced working at home experiment was along with the perceived cost savings. But there is the old-fashioned view of butts in seats and local access.

      It reminds me of something I was thinking about just today. I was putting more scratch paper in my clipboard — paper from years of printing code listings. Which I used to do a lot back in the day because screens weren’t that great and somehow on paper I’d always immediately spot the bug I’d been chasing for hours on the screen. Often, to my chagrin, while leafing through the pages on my way back to my desk from the printer. Instant obsolescence.

      So I have boxes full of reams of printouts — a lifetime supply of scratch paper. What I was reminded of is how that changed over time. Screens and screen fonts got better — paper-like — and probably I got better at reading the screen. Over time, I found less and less need to print my code.

      The point being one learns and gets used to new modes of working, especially as technology improves to support it. I really did think the forced experiment would be a sea change, but maybe it’ll take a while yet before upper management is fully on board.

      Iron. That hadn’t occurred to me! I don’t eat a lot of beef, but I do eat a lot of pork in various forms. And a fair bit of chicken.

      And once again you send me out for research… and it looks like I should be okay. This page puts chicken very high, 1.16 mg/100 gr. Beef, it says, has 0.99 mg/100 gr, and pork is just below with 0.87 mg/100 gr. (I’m assuming “gr” is grams, not grains.) Ham is a little lower, 0.83 mg/100 g, and “Frankfurt sausage (hot dogs, I assume) are a bit higher, 1.09 mg/100 gr.

      Chorizo (which I do love but rarely have) beats them all, 1.59 mg/100 gr, and lamb is even better, 1.59 mg/100 gr. Above that are beef and chicken liver, but I can’t stand liver. (Except pate!)

      The thing about most of the meat I do eat is that, other than the chicken, it’s all pretty heavily processed. A lot of salt.

      I’ve taken a multiple every day for as long as I can remember. Back in my hippie days we were really into vitamins. Used to buy those “systems” where individual vitamins came in a pack and one took a lot of pills every day. Used to play “Who can swallow the biggest handful.”

      You’re generally safe with the water-soluble B and C. One just pees out any excess. You probably remember Linus Pauling and his mega-dose vitamin C as the way to perfect health. (Another case of a true genius going off the tracks.) One needs to be careful with A and E and probably D, although the supplement I’m taking doesn’t have any warnings. I’ll be easing off the stronger dosage to the recommended dosage over time. I’ve known people who have been prescribed large doses by their doctor, so I haven’t been too worried about it.

      What the heck, once more into the research. This page does suggest that more than 4000 IU can be bad. I took 4000 the first day to start things off, but have been taking 3000 UI since and next week I’ll drop to 2000 and then to the suggested dosage on the bottle of 1000 UI.

      • SelfAwarePatterns

        Where I work, I think we’re definitely dealing with the butts in seats sentiment. It certainly isn’t based on any kind of productivity measurement. This was one of our most productive years, particularly in the early months when we had to quickly do a lot of development to enable remote services.

        Pre-pandemic, I was actually a skeptic of work-from-home scenarios. I hadn’t had good experiences with past efforts. But Zoom, Teams and ubiquitous high speed internet have been game changers. Really, it was already obvious since most of our vendor engagement was already remote. It was only a cultural thing that kept us local before.

        There are people who frequently don’t respond on Teams. But it wasn’t like those people were responsive in the office. Actually in the office you just couldn’t find many of them. Everyone always assumed they were in meetings or something. Now it’s easier to see that they’re just slacking.

        But the old way had its illusions. And I think the leadership just wants the building to be full of people again.

        I’ve never been much of a printer. If I had a stubborn bug, I was more likely to either use a debugger, or put in trace statements to try to isolate it. But I remember a lady who worked in the next cube over years ago who printed everything she wrote on the old green bar paper. She had several stacks for every program she was working on or had worked on recently.

        I’m surprised chicken has that much iron. But the canned chicken and turkey that I’ve been eating lists none on the can. Neither do the protein bars I eat. Which was what made me start taking it as a supplement.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        “And I think the leadership just wants the building to be full of people again.”

        Which, I suppose, in some cases might have some value if how the place looks and feels is a concern. I’d expect that more in corporate settings with visiting “dignitaries” or major vendors that need to be impressed by the beehive-ness of it all.

        In your case, as you suggest, its probably just old-fashioned thinking. It sounds from your description that working from home was a win all around.

        “If I had a stubborn bug, I was more likely to either use a debugger, or put in trace statements to try to isolate it.”

        Certainly the way I work these days (and for decades), but back in the day those weren’t always common tools. One could insert lots of print statements to try to track things, but that was a pain and not always helpful.

        The thing that blew me away was how easy it was to “see” the code on paper but not on the screen. Remember I do go back to the pre-Windows, pre-GUI days of dot matrix screens. I’d use the highest resolution the system allowed, but there was pretty much just one font. It was many years before I even had syntax highlighting available. (Not sure I could live without it now!)

        I was surprised by the chicken, too. The picture showed a fresh chicken, so maybe the processing removes the iron? (Is that even possible? Maybe it’s just not listed?)

        My Centrum Silver for Old Farts doesn’t list iron at all, but I haven’t heard much about people generally lacking in iron. Did you start taking it because you were told your iron was low? I seem to recall hearing that people who cooked with cast iron could risk getting too much. I’ve also heard it being a problem with Inuits who eat a lot of polar bear liver. It is one of those nutrients that one can get too much of.

      • SelfAwarePatterns

        I go back pre-Windows myself. My earliest programming was on an Atari 400 with a 6502 8-bit processor. I think what got me used to working without a printer was that I didn’t have access to any decent ones for the first few years. So staring at the 40X25 screen was it. By the time I got to college, I was too impatient to wait for the printouts. (I might well have solved some problems faster if I had printed the code out.)

        I use the same Centrum Silver for Old Farts. I have a history of anemia, so iron is something I’m conscious of. Probably not worth worrying about if it’s never been an issue for you.

        But similar to everything else, I searched out a low dose version. When it comes to vitamins, my attitude is enough is enough and too much is too much, unless the doctors says different. (And even then, be careful the doctor is actually thinking it through.) Our homeostatic mechanisms do flush out many overdoses, but that’s assuming they’re always working top notch, and keeping track of which vitamins that’s not true for is too much effort.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        Ha, yeah, I remember how, once I started coding at work and had access to printers things got a lot easier (and I killed a lot of trees, but as I mentioned it resulted in a lifetime supply of scratch paper)!

        I think, given most modern diets, a multi-vitamin per day is probably not only harmless but a good thing. I know it is in my case. I eat way too much processed food (because it’s so easy and I don’t like cooking).

      • SelfAwarePatterns

        I’m the same way. Nutritionists say supplements can’t replace real food, but I’m not sure that means they’re useless. I’d like to eat fresh fruit and vegetables all the time, but yeah, I’m just not into cooking either.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        The thing about processed food is the salt (which I’d most like to reduce) and various other aspects of processing. I’m something of a fan of Michael Pollan and his, “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” ethic although it’s more of a goal than a practice. (I’m good with the first part, actively working on the second. The third is a ways off ’cause I really don’t like most veggies.)

        I do have a long history of whole grains and “craft” breads, and lately I’ve been having a banana per day for the potassium. (And the radiation! 😀 ) I do like fruit, but it’s hard to buy for a single person unless one shops frequently, and with COVID I don’t.

        In my favor, I’ve never used tobacco, my hard drinking days are long behind me, and I try to walk a few miles per day. Compared to some of my peers I’m in okay condition (a few have already died), but compared to others I have a long way to go.

      • SelfAwarePatterns

        When it comes to fruit, my compromise has been fruit juices. Right now I have a little bit of grape juice every night. It’s not as good as eating actual grapes, but it’s better than nothing.

        I’m the same. I don’t smoke or drink, and while I don’t eat particularly healthy, I also don’t eat a lot of fried stuff, pork rinds, cheese fries, or other stuff that’s pretty bad for you. There’s something to be said for the 80/20 rule. By not smoking or drinking, we’ll get most of the life extension. The few extra years all the rest brings probably isn’t worth all the sacrifice during those years. Although I might feel different when the time comes to pay the piper.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        Fresh grape juice? A lot of juices have sugar added. Wait… you don’t mean wine, do you? 😉

        It’s always amused me that my Diet Mountain Dew has, as its first five ingredients, “Carbonated Water, Concentrated Orange Juice, Citric Acid, Natural Flavor, Citrus Pectin,…” Why that’s practically a healthy beverage! Almost like orange juice! 😀

        I go through one two-liter bottle per day, and keep them at room temp and pour them over a lot of ice (made from mountain spring water from Michigan), so they’re very diluted. I can’t stand coffee, so that’s where I get a little caffeine (although less that people think) and I actually like the stuff. Mostly it keeps me hydrated.

        Ah, yeah, fried foods. I don’t eat a lot of those either. Onion rings are a weakness when I do go out for a craft burger, and if not onion rings, definitely fries of some kind. But, especially with COVID, that’s pretty rare. Tortilla chips with fresh salsa and some bean dip is probably where I get most of the fried, and I don’t do that too often.

        There’s a line in a Jimmy Buffet song, “She said, ‘I treat my body like a temple; you treat yours like a tent!'” Guilty as charged, so that I’m in any shape at this point I figure is all gravy. Given my younger lifestyle, I really didn’t expect to see 30, let alone 40, extra let alone 50, and 60 kinda blew me away. (And, to be honest, given the state of the world and my relationship with it, on some level I won’t be all that sad to leave and find out what, if anything, comes next. Some days I even find myself wondering why the hell I stick around. It’s a good thing I have so many interests!)

      • SelfAwarePatterns

        It’s pure grape juice. No sugar added. It’s pasteurized to prevent it from fermenting into wine. It actually tastes like a very sweet wine. I also sometimes drink apple juice, but I don’t like it as much.

        I also drink V8 fusion drinks, which are supposed to be a mixture of fruit and vegetable juices. But I’m a lot less sure of the health of these drinks.

        My caffeine comes from a mix of coffee and Diet Dr. Pepper.

        One of the things I’m looking forward to doing once the vaccine has kicked in is getting a good hamburger somewhere. I did take-out a few times over the last year, but was always nervous about it.

        My attitude toward getting older is it’s better than the alternative, particularly since I’m not expecting anything afterward. I’d have to be suffering pretty bad to voluntarily check out. It’s just too final.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        I do like apple juice. I like apples, but they sometimes give me a stomach ache. I used to buy grapes a lot, but their quality seemed to go downhill, and washing the sulfur dioxide off was kind of a pain. I used to pluck them off the stems, toss them in a colander and rinse, but that’s a lot of work for a snack. (Yes, I am terribly lazy.)

        V8 is pretty good, but the regular version is high in sodium. There is a low sodium version I believe. I used to like Snappy Tom (also high in salt), but I usually mixed it with vodka.

        Some restaurants have been serving for quite some time here. One has to wear masks until seated, and occupancy is only 50% or less. But it’s nice to go out for a burger once in a while.

        The thing about getting older is that stuff just gets worse, so it’s not like there’s so much to hold on to or look forward to. And, as I say, I feel such little connection with the world. I’ve always lived on the far flats of the bell curve, and it’s gotten pretty old being the island that no man is. Still, there’s always something interesting to do (like learning the math of quantum mechanics) and I’ve never been a quitter, so, as you say, shit would have to get very very bad to voluntarily check out. I do have a faith that something might come next, so I’m not saying I’d welcome death, but I don’t fear it. (I do hope it’s like Terry Pratchett’s DEATH or maybe Death from Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series. She’s a major babe!)

      • SelfAwarePatterns

        I’m pretty lazy myself on food prep. If it takes more than a few minutes of microwaving, I’m unlikely to do it.

        The restaurants have been open down here too. But I haven’t been willing to go to them. I went to one retirement lunch last year, and learned that people can’t maintain social distancing, and it’s where my possible mild case of COVID would have come from. I haven’t been to one since.

        It will definitely be nice to get out for that burger!

      • Wyrd Smythe

        I’ll sometimes cook up some angel hair pasta, because it only takes four minutes, but otherwise it’s the microwave or the toaster oven. Sometimes both: toast a bun; nuke a hot dog; add shredded cheese and B-B-Q sauce. (Had pasta just last night for the movie. Nuked some chicken for it, toss the noodles with butter and Mrs. Dash Garlic and Herb, add the chicken and eat with Parmesan cheese. Very tasty!)

        Parties are a tough one, and I can see wanting to avoid those. My little circle hasn’t done a party since this all started (usually we did one or two a year), although some of us get together on occasion. I feel more comfortable when it’s just my friend, Bentley’s mom, and I. Masks for us unless seated and the wait staff is all masked. Many places test their staff regularly. As you mentioned before, Minnesota, at least here in the Twin Cities that carried the state for Biden, has been taking it pretty seriously.

      • SelfAwarePatterns

        I’ve been doing things like mixing Rice-a-Roni microwave cups with microwaved chicken and sauce in various combinations. Although after a year, I’m pretty burnt out on just about every one of those combos.

        I probably would have been more comfortable venturing out if most people down here did take it seriously. Unfortunately, I think it hurt the economy, because a substantial minority of the population does take it seriously and, like me, have minimized their engagement with local businesses. I can’t blame those businesses for not enforcing the mask mandates after the many public meltdowns that happened in the early months, but I’m also not giving them my business until I’m vaccinated.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        Oh sure, Rice-a-Roni is good! I’ve been using the Uncle Ben’s 90 seconds rice things the same way. I do find that I go through phases of different preparations. In fact, especially with summer coming, I’m due to switch back to my “burrito bowls” — an idea I got from cafeteria at work years ago.

        Heat some pulled pork (not the kind with B-B-Q sauce mixed in!) or chicken along with some black beans and some form of rice (I tend to use the Uncle Ben’s Spanish Rice). Mix that up on the bottom of a broad bowl (I have some large diameter shallow salad bowls). On top of that, a layer of shredded lettuce, then a layer of shredded cheddar cheese, and top off with a layer of fresh salsa (the kind you get in the dairy case).

        The hot meat, rice, beans layer contrasts with the cold lettuce, cheese, salsa layer to really good effect. I used to try to make a burrito, but I could never get the wrapping right. Then I tried just putting the tortilla in the bottom of the bowl. Finally I hit on the idea of pizza pie cutting a couple tortillas into eighths or sixths (or even just quarters), heating them up a little, and then shoveling the bowl contents onto them like giant soft tortilla chips. A bit like people do fajitas. Really yummy!

        “Unfortunately, I think it hurt the economy,”

        I’ve seen too many great places close, some of them forever. It’s the little interesting places that get hit the hardest. The big chains can better weather the weather.

        One reason my friend and I have made a point of going out is explicitly to support local businesses we like. (Sadly, a few favorites closed their doors and never re-opened them so we never got a chance to try to help out. There was this one little place that made really interesting burgers — I mean really interesting — but they closed permanently and now it’s a Somali joint, so those burgers are never coming back. Really bummed about that.)

        Which reminds me that I really need to start ordering from my local Chinese place. They make great sesame chicken and deliver, but somewhere along the line I got out of the habit.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        Got a Rice-a-Roni story for you. I don’t know if you’ve ever made the original stuff where you sauté the rice and pasta in butter, but that step is crucial to having it come out right. First the browning, then add the water.

        Years ago my buddy and I camped with some other guys who thought Rice-a-Roni kinda sucked. Found out why when we saw them make it. They just dumped the rice, pasta, butter, and water in a pan and cooked it up. And, yeah, that was pretty wretched. It’s what you get for being lazy and not reading the instructions.

        My buddy and I showed them the error of their ways. 🙂

        For rough camping with just what we brought in, we had our meals down to an art. Mostly it was fish we’d caught as the meat, but we also brought in a few steaks and brats for variety. But every meal had meat, a vegetable, and usually some kind of potato dish. And good beer. Over the years we got so good that all the dishes were done at the same time, so we could sit down to a nice tasty hot meal. Very nice after a long day of fishing.

        BTW: I mentioned black beans wrt my burrito bowls. A local Mexican restaurant taught me that chicken and black beans are an especially yummy combination. They go really well together.

      • SelfAwarePatterns

        Those are some good ideas, although a few are more effort than I’m willing to exert. The nice thing about the Rice-a-Roni microwave packs is you just open them, add water, sometimes add the provided seasoning pack, nuke for 3 minutes, and you’re in business. (I may be even lazier than you are.)

      • Wyrd Smythe

        😀 Sounds like!

        Assuming one has the ingredients, the burrito bowl is maybe a five-minute task. Certainly under ten, even if I have to do the rice (90 seconds in the microwave). The meat, beans, rice are nuked, and the shredded lettuce and cheese come from packages. (The lettuce always makes me feel like I’m eating a little better.)

        That said, yeah, a hot dog is about a three-minute deal, too. Ten minutes or so is about my limit.

      • SelfAwarePatterns

        I might have to try the burrito bowl. Five minutes does sounds more plausible to me. 😉

      • Wyrd Smythe

        Even just black beans, rice, and chicken, makes a tasty meal!

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