Helsinki Bus Station Theory

“…the secret to a creatively fulfilling career lies in understanding the operations of Helsinki’s main bus station…There are two dozen platforms, Minkkinen explains, from each of which several different bus lines depart. Thereafter, for a kilometre or more, all the lines leaving from any one platform take the same route out of the city, making identical stops. “Each bus stop represents one year in the life of a photographer,” Minkkinen says. You pick a career direction…Three stops later, you’ve got a nascent body of work…[but because it is nascent it will be similar to someone else’s body of work, and you’ll be tempted to go back to the main station and set out in a new direction. Three years later, it happens again.]…’This goes on all your creative life: always showing new work, always being compared to others.’ What’s the answer? ‘It’s simple. Stay on the bus. Stay on the fucking bus.'”

—Oliver Burkeman, “This column will change your life: Helsinki Bus Station Theory.” The Guardian. September 23, 2013.

Stephen Jay Gould

“But, as we consider the totality of similarly broad and fundamental aspects of life, we cannot defend division by two as a natural principle of objective order. Indeed, the ‘stuff’ of the universe often strikes our senses as complex and shaded continua, admittedly with faster and slower moments, and bigger and smaller steps, along the way. Nature does not dictate dualities, trinities, quarterings, or any ‘objective’ basis for human taxonomies; most of our chosen schemes, and our designated numbers of categories, record human choices from a cornucopia of possibilities offered by natural variation from place to place, and permitted by the flexibility of our mental capacities. How many seasons (if we wish to divide by seasons at all) does a year contain? How many stages shall we recognize in a human life?”

—Stephen Jay Gould, “The Hedgehog, the Fox, and the Magister’s Pox: Mending the Gap between Science and the Humanities.” New York: Harmony, 2003, p. 82, quoted in s.v. Stephen Jay Gould, Wikiquote.

Problems of Post Hoc Analysis

“Misuse of statistical testing often involves post hoc analyses of data already collected, making it seem as though statistically significant results provide evidence against the null hypothesis, when in fact they may have a high probability of being false positives…. A study from the late-1980s gives a striking example of how such post hoc analysis can be misleading. The International Study of Infarct Survival was a large-scale, international, randomized trial that examined the potential benefit of aspirin for patients who had had a heart attack. After data collection and analysis were complete, the publishing journal asked the researchers to do additional analysis to see if certain subgroups of patients benefited more or less from aspirin. Richard Peto, one of the researchers, refused to do so because of the risk of finding invalid but seemingly significant associations. In the end, Peto relented and performed the analysis, but with a twist: he also included a post hoc analysis that divided the patients into the twelve astrological signs, and found that Geminis and Libras did not benefit from aspirin, while Capricorns benefited the most (Peto, 2011). This obviously spurious relationship illustrates the dangers of analyzing data with hypotheses and subgroups that were not prespecified (p.97).”

—Mayo, quoting
National Academies of Science “Consensus Study” Reproducibility and Replicability in Science 2019 in “National Academies of Science: Please Correct Your Definitions of P-values.” Statsblogs. September 30, 2019.

6 Rules for a Perfect Grilled Cheese, Every Time

“So make your late-night, five-minute grilled cheese as many times as you’d like. We’re not stopping you. But in the light of day, when you’ve got ten minutes, a jar of mayo, and the desire to treat yourself to a little something extra, this recipe’s here for you.”

-Emma Wartzman, “6 Rules for a Perfect Grilled Cheese, Every Time.” Bon Appetit. September 24, 2019

tl;dr:

  1. Be patient
  2. Use mayo
  3. Spread the mayo to the edges
  4. Use a melting cheese: American, Mozzarella, Cheddar, Gruyère, Fontina, Provolone, Taleggio, or Raclette
  5. Use bread with a tight crumb, i.e., lots and lots of tiny holes like in sandwich bread
  6. Carefully consider your fillings, i.e., nothing watery or that you wouldn’t eat raw

If you like this kind of thing, you might also consider the perfect omelette.

The Best Lead Grade For Every Application

For thousands of years, people have used graphite to exercise creativity and bring ideas to life. Graphite is the key component of modern day pencil lead—in fact, lead is a misnomer as it’s actually made up of a mixture of graphite and clay. The formulation of this mixture determines its lead grade. The higher the proportion of graphite content relative to clay the lead has, the softer and darker the lead will be, and vice versa.

Lead grade is an important consideration for both the artist and writer. The hardness of a lead affects its strength, smoothness, smudge resistance, and pigmentation. Writers can fine tune the darkness of their lines by moving a step up or down in lead hardness, while an artist can employ the full range of lead grades to achieve different effects.

-Miriam. “The Best Lead Grade For Every Application.” JetPens.com. August 27, 2019.

Probably more than you want to know on the topic of selecting a pencil.

Reading Harry Potter as a Sacred Text

“What if we take this seriously? What gifts is it going to give us if we love something, and we love it with rigor, and we love it with commitment?”

Reading Harry Potter as a Sacred Text

Strikes me as an important question for many things in our lives that we trivialize because they aren’t “important” enough. What happens when we choose to love something, whether it deserves it or not, and how does it change it/them/us in the process?

The only caveat is to try to love wisely. It’s impossible to know where love will lead us, but if the chances are good a love will lead us down a bad path, perhaps it would be better to choose a different one.

Essays/Articles That Opened Your Mind

“Potential to alter/broaden the reader’s perspective, however slight. More than anything, I want stuff that’ll provoke thinking. Maybe you read something you’re still mulling over long after? That’s what I’m on the lookout for. Good examples of this are Jess Zimmerman’s Toast piece on emotional labor, Adichie’s TED Talk on the danger of a single story, and Scalzi’s blog on the lowest difficulty setting.”

—EXStickland, “Essays/Articles That Opened Your Mind, ” Metafilter. October 1, 2019.

Natural Selection

“For Darwin, natural selection is a drawn-out, complex process involving multiple interconnected causes. Natural selection requires variation in a population of organisms. For the process to work, at least some of that variation must be heritable and passed on to organisms’ descendants in some way. That variation is acted upon by the struggle for existence, a process that in effect ‘selects’ variations conducive to the survival and reproduction of their bearers.”

—Peter Gildenhuys,
Natural Selection.” Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. September 25, 2019.

Newly updated.