What I learned this week, March 23, 2012

I love the idea of local folks still doing this sort of thing. I remember when I was a little kid I’d visit the newspaper office in the tiny town out in the wheat fields where my family was from. He set the paper in linotype and I loved watching the lead letter slugs being made. I remember being amazed at how hot the slugs were when he could pick them up (his hands were so callused).

Your Brain on Fiction

A really interesting article from the New York Times on how reading fiction can improve our minds.

Brain scans are revealing what happens in our heads when we read a detailed description, an evocative metaphor or an emotional exchange between characters. Stories, this research is showing, stimulate the brain and even change how we act in life.

I found these passages particularly provocative:

The brain, it seems, does not make much of a distinction between reading about an experience and encountering it in real life; in each case, the same neurological regions are stimulated.

Keith Oatley, an emeritus professor of cognitive psychology at the University of Toronto (and a published novelist), has proposed that reading produces a vivid simulation of reality, one that “runs on minds of readers just as computer simulations run on computers.” Fiction — with its redolent details, imaginative metaphors and attentive descriptions of people and their actions — offers an especially rich replica. Indeed, in one respect novels go beyond simulating reality to give readers an experience unavailable off the page: the opportunity to enter fully into other people’s thoughts and feelings.

The novel, of course, is an unequaled medium for the exploration of human social and emotional life. And there is evidence that just as the brain responds to depictions of smells and textures and movements as if they were the real thing, so it treats the interactions among fictional characters as something like real-life social encounters.

I have always wondered if reading is a waste of time.

Apparently not.

I don’t know if I agree with the guy’s riding style – and it’s really just a long commercial for a brand of bike tire – but man, what a cool video!


It’s the battery, stupid: The looming 4G smartphone crisis

As more power, faster processor, fancier features are added to smartphones, the battery life becomes less and less. This is the one problem that will limit the post-laptop technological revolution. If your battery doesn’t work, your phone (or tablet) is useless.

The trouble with batteries, as everyone who makes phones will tell you, is that they don’t follow Moore’s Law. Batteries are an ancient technology that depend on chemistry that scientists have already pretty much optimized.

Very interesting article. I wonder if we will see a bifurcation in the phone market, with folks carrying both an old-technology phone for voice and text only (I only have to charge my crappy work Blackberry in my car during my commute) and another smart phone or tablet or in-between form factor (and leave this turned off most of the time) for all the other goodies.

The only way to play guitar


“But we make the best buggy-whips in the world!”

Another dinosaur. We subscribe to the newspaper on the weekends so that I can access its digital content.

19 Signs That America Has Become A Crazy Control Freak Nation Where Almost Everything Is Illegal

#1 One California town is actually considering making it illegal to smoke in your own backyard.

#2 In Louisiana, a church was recently ordered to stop giving out water because it did not have a permit to do so.

#3 In the United States it is illegal to operate a train that does not have an “F” painted on the front. Apparently without that “F” we all might not know where the front of the train is.

#4 In many U.S. states is it now illegal to collect rain that falls from the sky on to your own property.

#5 In America today it is illegal to milk your cow and sell the milk to your neighbor. If you do this, there is a good chance that federal agents will raid your home at the crack of dawn.

#6 In Washington D.C. it is illegal not to recycle cat litter.

#7 It is illegal to give a tour of the monuments in Washington D.C. without a license.

#8 In the United States it is illegal to sell natural cures for cancer – even if they work.

#9 In the state of Massachusetts it is illegal to deface a milk carton.

#10 In the state of Alabama, bear wrestling is completely illegal.

#11 In Fairbanks, Alaska it is illegal to give alcoholic beverages to a moose.

#12 In Lake Elmo, Minnesota it is illegal to sell pumpkins or Christmas trees that are grown outside city limits.

#13 There is a federal law that makes it illegal to be “annoying” on the Internet.

#14 If you register with a false name on MySpace or Facebook you could potentially “spend five years in federal prison“.

#15 In Hazelwood, Missouri it is illegal for little girls to sell girl scout cookies in the front yards of their own homes.

#16 All over the United States lemonade stands run by children are being shut down because they do not have the proper permits.

#17 In Florida, it is illegal to bring a plastic butter knife to school.

#18 In San Juan Capistrano, California it is illegal to hold a home Bible study without a “conditional use permit“.

#19 In the city of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania it is illegal to make even a single dollar from a blog unless you buy a $300 business license.