Echo Chamber Test

“[D]oes a community’s belief system actively undermine the trustworthiness of any outsiders who don’t subscribe to its central dogmas? Then it’s probably an echo chamber…

…An echo chamber doesn’t destroy their members’ interest in the truth; it merely manipulates whom they trust and changes whom they accept as trustworthy sources and institutions.

And, in many ways, echo-chamber members are following reasonable and rational procedures of enquiry. They’re engaging in critical reasoning. They’re questioning, they’re evaluating sources for themselves, they’re assessing different pathways to information. They are critically examining those who claim expertise and trustworthiness, using what they already know about the world. It’s simply that their basis for evaluation – their background beliefs about whom to trust – are radically different. They are not irrational, but systematically misinformed about where to place their trust.”

—C Thi Nguyen, “Why it’s as hard to escape an echo chamber as it is to flee a cult.” Aeon. April 9, 2018.

The central idea isn’t that we all need “epistemological reboots”, although it’s often not a bad idea. The central idea is of intellectual humility, such as the possibility that you could be wrong. Philosophical skepticism, like that of Descartes, is taking it to the logical extreme, that not only can you be wrong, you might be wrong about everything. For example, everything we believe is real could be a Matrix-style simulation. We cannot exclude that possibility, even if it isn’t terribly useful in our day to day existence.

Facebook’s Surveillance Machine

“Should we all just leave Facebook? That may sound attractive but it is not a viable solution. In many countries, Facebook and its products simply are the internet. Some employers and landlords demand to see Facebook profiles, and there are increasingly vast swaths of public and civic life — from volunteer groups to political campaigns to marches and protests — that are accessible or organized only via Facebook.”

—Zeynep Tufekci, “Facebook’s Surveillance Machine.” The New York Times. March 19, 2018.

It’s a Catch-22. You have to be willing to tell Facebook, as well as the employers and landlords that demand access to your social media accounts should you choose to have them, to fuck off in order to get “vast swaths of public and civic life” off of the Facebook platform. Regulation isn’t going to solve the problem of Facebook and the feudal Internet. Thinking that regulation can solve every problem is one of the central contradictions of U.S. liberal political thought. But then, U.S. conservatives have similar notions of deregulation. You can’t have small government and a global war on Communism, terrorism and drugs.

Sometimes there is no reform that will square the circle, and you have to make a choice. It’s perfectly reasonable to choose not to use Facebook. It takes two to four weeks to shake off the desire to check it, and then, most likely, you’ll spend more time with those closest to you rather than cultivating all the weak ties out beyond your Dunbar number of acquaintances that Facebook facilitates. Not everyone can do it, but many people could (and should).

5k Math

Over the last several years, I’ve taken my weight before a 5K race and logged the time. After 12 measurements, it looks like I can get a good, conservative prediction of my time from my weight: weight x 7.5 = seconds to complete 5k. To put it another way, for every 8 pounds lost, there is a corresponding decrease of ~1 minute of time to run the 5k. Once a sub-10% body fat weight is achieved, it may be possible to bring down the 7.5 number to ~7, but prior to that I think the best way to get faster is to lose weight.

Postcard Friday

“…I resolved to send a postcard every Friday. I called it Postcard Friday…

Just as formal poetry shapes what the poet can say, the space on the back of the card constrains how I write. There’s room for four or five good sentences, maybe six if I write small…

…Since the back of a postcard is open to all, I figure my mail carrier may read it, as could anyone along its way, and once it reaches its destination, I can only assume the intended recipient won’t be the only one to read it. Other family members might; if it’s out on the coffee table, house guests too. This creates another problem writing a postcard: how to write something personal enough so the postcard isn’t fluff but not so personal as to be embarrassing when read by prying eyes.

My postcard writing has evolved from asking a series of questions to what I now think of as the snapshot postcard—a paragraph about the local barbershop, a few sentences about tasting aquavit at a Norwegian distillery, a story about sitting on the beach over the weekend. The snapshot shares a bit of life with the “wish you were here” implied. These snapshots are, of course, a fiction. They are constructed representations of life, not unlike a Facebook status update.”

Peter Wayne Moe, “Why I Write Postcards.” January 19, 2018.

Postcard Friday sounds like an idea worth trying.

Pay Yourself First

“Pay yourself first” has been financial wisdom for saving money for so long it is trite and cliché. But, it’s just as true for how we spend our time. If you are trying to start a new daily or weekly habit, start the day or week off by doing it. The feeling of accomplishment of completing some small piece of whatever you’d like to get done for yourself first, creates positive energy and momentum that carries over to everything you do. 

Just like with money, keep the time investment small enough that you still have time to do everything you need to do, but keep it large and consistent enough that, over the long haul, you get significant results.

Words & Phrases, 2016

Every time I come across an interesting word or phrase, I add it to a yearly list. I tried making a poem using this one last year.

  • Pointless cacophony 
  • Buddha of subterranean impulses 
  • Métro, boulot, dodo — commute, work, sleep 
  • rossignol, French cryptographers whose name became French slang for a device that picks locks. 
  • cynegetic tendencies
  • Viktor Tausk’s Influence Machine 
  • ghetto for grinds
  • panjandrum, someone claiming clout
  • werewolves wearing shoulder straps 
  • Rhetorica ad Herennium 
  • bête noir 
  • sanctum sanctorum 
  • stochastic,  random
  • omotenashi, humble customer service
  • Scrotum-faced carnival barker 
  • akoisexual identity, feelings of love disappear when reciprocated.
  • facies hermeticae, hidden faces
  • factual Laocoön – priest that warned of Trojan horse and was killed
  • fourfold vision
  • chupacabra – fictional goat sucker
  • mind-forged manacles
  • Rube Goldberg machine – unnecessarily complicated 
  • An American without an opinion
  • Temples of tears 
  • Overton window 
  • gems from the matrix 
  • Raspberry jam delta v 
  • Cattywampus, not centered 
  • Gish Gallop – spewing bullshit faster than it can be refuted 
  • aware karada, learning through physically doing
  • Albert Luke’s magical bracelet 
  • Kraken Mare, sea of hydrocarbons
  • 52 hertz whale
  • Lojban – unambiguous logical language 
  • inconsistently applied crypto-Saxonist jargon
  • sciolism – superficial show of learning
  • bube meyseh, old wives’ tale
  • shtarker, muscleman
  • seykhl, sense
  • meshuge, crazy
  • money based caste system
  • Disdyakis tricontahedron – 120 sided dice
  • between 40 and Ω
  • Aleatory uncertainty, unknowable 
  • bafflegab
  • illusion of hindsight
  • Auftragstaktik, goal but no how
  • WYSIATI— What You See Is All There Is
  • stumblebum
  • “kto, kogo?” That literally means “who, whom” and it was Lenin’s shorthand for “Who does what to whom?”
  • Forgotten arm, boxing term, “It’s the hit you didn’t see coming.”
  • Rucksack revolution, Kerouac 
  • Flâneur – loafer 
  • Carne por la machina, meat for the machine
  • Buona morte, good death
  • glossolalia, speaking unknown language 
  • half-humps
  • overwatch
  • smells like hobo feet
  • Candango – a man without qualities, vagabond 
  • Dark monarchy 
  • Load of chancers in my lobby
  • Kodokushi, lonely death
  • solastalgia, comfort/pain, place loved is changing for worse 
  • Fuzziness – protocol of throwing a process at a program to check for error 
  • selfies, not selves
  • the hardest man on the cobbles
  • queasy quadroonerie of essentialism
  • mollycoddled
  • Generation Snowflake 
  • hornean, voodoo priest
  • shared paranoias
  • closed ideology echo chamber
  • Hare brained, the rule here is, we do whatever the fuck we want
  • Charvaka, rejected any idea of God and the existence of any soul or afterlife.
  • Semden – Tibetan for sentient being
  • Kunga Dhondup – nickname for money
  • Weltschmerz – physical reality can never satisfy the demands of the mind
  • lojong – mind training 
  • carceral state
  • Antikythera Mechanism
  • desiderata
  • boojum
  • Kemmerich gradient 
  • Gruen Transfer
  • Pomgolians 
  • Kugelblitz, ball lightening 
  • Orbers’ Paradox: if there are infinite stars, why isn’t the night sky as bright as the sun? 
  • Ophiuchus: 13th sign of the zodiac 
  • Radio Rental, insane
  • Pratfall Effect, competent people more likable after failure 
  • schadenfreude: pleasure from misfortune of others. 
  • Hortus Delicarium, first encyclopedia by a woman
  • neltiliztli: Aztec for rootedness, truth and goodness
  • Sicario: Jewish killers who hunted the Romans who invaded their homeland. In Mexico, it means hitman. 
  • cucuy: Mexician boogeyman
  • aphakia: missing lens of the eye
  • kakistocracy: government by the worst people
  • Jára da Cimrman: underdog hero of Czechs.
  • Mean World Syndrome
  • El zorrilo no huele a si mismo. The skunk does not smell himself.
  • I may be cheap, but I ain’t easy.
  • Thomassons: architectural relics maintain despite being useless
  • rathskeller
  • kompromat, the fabrication and planting of compromising or illegal material
  • Hottel memo: The FBI’s most viewed file details the account of an Air Force officer recovering three flying saucers in New Mexico in 1950.
  • reinigungskrise, cleaning crisis
  • quantitative illusion
  • authoritarian deliberation
  • hektemorage, serfdom
  • pachinko
  • hygge, coziness of the soul
  • Alban Arthuan, old name for winter solstices