Seven and a Half Lessons about the Brain by Lisa Feldman Barrett is a charming, short book about how our brains work and our misconceptions about them 📚

Currently reading: Seven and a Half Lessons about the Brain by Lisa Feldman Barrett 📚

Qawa imperial stout with coffee and chocolate from Bandit Brewery. A good beer for a frozen night

If you’re interested in how algorithms are affecting us, Hello world by Hannah Fry is a great read. Rather than explain how algorithms work, Fry describes their opportunities and risks in different parts of society, such as health, justice, and art 📚

A fascinating, weird, and unsettling conversation about the differences between the right and left hemispheres of the brain on the Making Sense podcast

A great, long article on the use and development of COVID models. Plenty of lessons for modelling in general, especially when human behaviour is involved, which is relevant for transit planning

Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir is a very imaginative and entertaining mix of sci-fi and horror 📚

Lucy wants to know when it will warm up from -15°C 🥶

Star Trek: Picard is a flawed show that did a great thing — it gave TNG a proper ending

I agree with Matt Gurney’s take:

So Picard, really, is something I’d be judging on two entirely different levels: as a part of an existing Star Trek legacy, but also as a new addition to it. It’s a new show, and must be judged on its own merits, but it’s also a direct continuation of TNG, and must be judged on that basis, as well.

Despite some fair criticism, I enjoyed Tenet. Had to watch it twice to make sense of it though.

Blueprint by Nicholas Christakis is an interesting book about universal feature of our societies (the social suite) and how they are based on genetics, emergent properties, and complex network effects. The book has lots of interesting examples and makes clear connections between human societies and attributes of other animals.📚

Perhaps nothing @help can do about this, but figured worth asking. Bookmarks aren’t extracting article titles for Quanta Magazine

Making waffles

🥶🏃‍♂️

An interesting experiment: a favourite David’s Tea infused into a favourite Beau’s beer. I like it!

Trying a new coffee. A nice change from my usual dark roast.

The addition of table support to Agenda is very welcome.

Currently reading: Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir 📚

Delightful when text aligns across lines, yet also frustrating when the alignment is so slightly off

Choosing a podcast player 🤔🎧

There’s been a fair bit of discussion over on Micro.blog about podcast players recently. I’ve switched among Overcast, Castro, and Apple Podcasts players over the years and, mostly to help myself think it through (again), here are my thoughts.

For me, there are three main criteria: audio quality, episode management, and OS integration. Though, I completely understand that others may have different criteria.

Like most podcast listeners, I listen at high speed, usually around 1.5x, which can distort the audio. Apple Podcasts player is definitely the worst for this criterion. For me, Overcast’s smart speed and voice boost features give it the edge over Castro, in terms of audio quality at increased speeds.

Castro is definitely the player of choice if you subscribe to more podcasts than you can listen to. The queue management features in Castro are very good. You can replicate some of this with Overcast, but that isn’t one of the app’s main features. Apple Podcasts player doesn’t offer much in this regard. Despite listing this as a criterion, I’ve actually elevated to subscription, rather than episode, triage. I carefully curate my list of podcasts and don’t add new ones very often. Given this, Overcast’s approach is more than sufficient for me.

OS integration is a bit unfair, as Apple has given themselves some nice features that independent app developers aren’t able to use. Nonetheless, Apple does a good job of intermixing podcasts and music into their Siri-powered widgets in iOS and the HomePods. With my reinforced interest in less screen time and use of home screen widgets, Apple Podcasts wins out here. This may change once Overcast releases a widget.

As just one example of the integration, here’s what happens when I plug headphones into my iPhone: a selection of music playlists and podcasts appears. I use this feature a lot.

Screenshot of the iOS audio widget

After all that, I’m using Apple Podcasts for now, mostly to take advantage of the OS integrations while I’m experimenting with a widget-based iPhone. I’m quite certain this is short term and that I’ll return to Overcast soon. In addition to the better audio quality, Overcast also has some nice refinements, like per subscription speed settings (I like to play music podcasts at 1x) and skip-forward amounts (Quirks and Quarks, for example, always has a two-minute preamble that I skip). These small refinements are typically what distinguishes the stock Apple apps from good indie apps.

I’m glad there are so many solid apps for podcast listening. Whatever your preferences, there’s sure to be one for you.

Season 3 of Star Trek: Discovery was entertaining. Despite some awkward plots that were perhaps necessary to get to the right ending, they really did well with character moments. My only disappointment was the diminishment of Saru in the last few episodes. The sudden conflict he felt about choosing between Kaminar and the Federation seemed really out of character to me. Despite that, I like where they ended and look forward to S4 🖖

I absolutely agree that Facebook has been a major contributor to the mayhem we see in politics these days. I also have significant concerns with how they harvest and use data. All that said, I was able to quickly solve a problem by posting a question to my neighbourhood’s Facebook group. While I have great hopes for the IndieWeb, it is really hard to compete with that kind of reach and ease of use.

Transforming boxes of components into a gaming PC 📦🕹

Like any 12-year old, my son is pretty keen on gaming. As an all Apple house, his options were a bit constrained. So, we decided to build a PC from components.

I’d last built a PC about 30 years ago, when I wasn’t much older than him. I remember thinking it was cool to be using a machine I’d built myself, plus as a parent it seemed like a good educational experience. I have to admit to being a bit nervous about the whole thing, as there was certainly a scenario in which we spent an entire weekend unsuccessfully trying to get a bunch of malfunctioning components to work.

After much deliberation and analysis, we ordered our parts from Newegg and everything arrived within a couple of weeks.

Following along with this great step-by-step video, we assembled the components.

Given my initial anxiety, I was very relieved when we saw this screen. The BIOS booted up and showed that the RAM, SSD, and other components were all properly connected.

With that done, we then got to what ended up being the complicated part. Evidently part of the point of a gaming PC is to have lots of fans and lights. None of this was true when I was a kid and there were a daunting number of wires required to power the lights and fans. Sorting this out actually took a fair bit of time. But, eventually success!

Then our last challenge, which I likely should have anticipated much sooner. We didn’t bother ordering a DVD drive, since everything is online these days. But, our Windows installation showed up as a DVD and we couldn’t create any Windows install media on our Apple devices. Fortunately, we checked in with a slightly older kid down the street and he provided us with a USB drive with the right software. With that challenge solved, we finished the project!

Not counting choosing the components online, the whole project took about 5 hours from opening the boxes to booting into Windows for the first time. I’d definitely recommend it to anyone that’s tempted and technically inclined. My son is quite excited to be using a computer that he built from parts.

A nice tribute to Neil Peart in Rolling Stone Magazine 🥁

I appreciate Sam Harris’ call for competence and compassion in his most recent podcast episode