24 September 2011

Lies, brain surgery, sports, chess and the infinitely complex human mind

According to the New York Times, cyclists beat their personal best times when they thought they were racing against themselves ... competing on a little map with a dot for them and a dot showing their prior best time, they outran themselves even though they were deceived! The "personal best" dot was actually 1% faster than they had ever gone before and they still beat it!

So, ignorance is blissfully better times on the race track.

According to RadioLab, an amazing ultra-runner (100 mile+ races!) is one of the best in the world after she had a portion of her temporal lobe removed. She's bad at tracking time or understand at maps now (which is crazy for someone running incredibly long races ... she still wins even after getting lost for 2 hours in one race) but now she doesn't have epileptic seizures anymore. (My older brother had a similar surgery which unfortunately was less successful though he jokes that he still has the removed section "in case he really needs to give someone a piece of his mind!"). 

We humans are darn impressive machines capable of unknown and possibly unbounded feats both restrained by our brains but only so capable because of our brains. What a paradoxically beautiful thing that what sometimes limits us also makes us infinitely complex and boundless.

Another RadioLab on chess notes that there are more potential chess moves in a 40 move game than there are atoms in the universe (checkers is a different story).
Atoms estimated in the known universe = 1×10^80 atoms (that's eighty zeros after a "1")
Number of games possible in a 'typical' chess game (40 moves, thirty choices/move) is about 10E120
And a 40 move chess game is impossibly small compared with the iterations and possibilities of our minds re: choices over a lifetime more or less the specific (yet changing) makeup of neurons. So as nearly infinite as the universe is (which itself is nearly incomprehensible) our capacity for wonder and thought are as much more complex than so many games of chess. Therefore:

Atoms in the universe < different games of chess in 40 move game < ... < human imagination and capacity.

PS - this is what happens when I drink coffee on the weekend. Next action for the day: Former Ca. Sen. (and California Superintendent candidate) Gloria Romero at a talk Megan's part of organizing for improving education in Richmond ... we got those huge muffins from Costco, so you know it's a classy event!

11 September 2011

Sunday at Frog's Leap Winery (sketched)


Co-worker recommended Frog's Leap - beautiful spot. Went to Brix next for a drink on the patio looking into the Mayacamas (e.g., toward my mom's place).

09 September 2011

Themeless links and pics of the day

There's no rhyme or reason here, but have at you:

Traveling and need to work out without equipment? Crossfit people came up with a good plan.

Random hacker / phreaker gives an insider perspective of the practicalities of prison life.

Redditor make an incredible list of top websites by category.

Ask Metafilter's impression of what it's like to be in your 30's.

For someone so cynical, Krugman really gives me faith in humanity.



21 May 2011

Weight lifting - my 1st try since high school, thoughts on programs

I haven't lifted free weights at the gym since high school (and I wasn't great at it then). I have been going to the gym to lose weight (in addition to tracking my calories on Livestrong.com/myplate) but I've been sticking to cardio that doesn't bother my knee injury (essentially Elliptical machines). After reading more about weight loss and weight lifting at Reddit.com/r/fitness, livestrong.com, and StartingStrength.com I've seen a few common recommendations for starting with weight training.
  1. Form is super important - it doesn't matter if you're lifting a lot if you're doing it wrong. Focus on form over pounds. More repetitions with correct form but less weight is better for beginners. Have an experienced lifter show you how if you can. If none is available, watch several videos showing proper form, start with super low or no weight and try to get the form right. Film yourself and analyze it after if you don't have a live critic.
  2. Don't go back for the same lifts the next day - you need a day of rest, sometimes more.
  3. Warm up - usually this is lower weight and lower reps to practice form and get your body ready for the full weight.
  4. Rest 1-5 minutes between sets. 1 minute rest is better than 5 minutes.
  5. Stretch after. Dynamic stretches or "mobility" training may be better than static stretches.t
  6. There are a few commonly recommended starting weight lifting exercises with the barbell from Starting Strength (or StrongLifts5x5): squats, bench press, barbell row, overhead press, and deadlift. Obviously there are hundreds more and yet more variations, but you've got to start somewhere and this seems to be a consensus group of lifts to begin with. The form for these is hard to get right, so here are some videos:
Squat -


Bench Press -


Deadlift -


Barbell Row


Overhead Press -

23 March 2011

Smart Cover for iPad 1 (The Russians Used a Pencil)

Just ordered the magnets (and a load of other magnets because magnets are way too much fun for me. Also, TIL magnet strength measurement system (nXX, i.e., n35 <>
  • Pushpins with the pin cut off, replaced with a round magnet.
  • Marbles with magnets.
  • Faux flowers with 1" stems with round magnets at the base of the stem
  • Dry erase marker eraser with magnets
  • Your brilliant ideas? I've got an extra 30 magnets so ...

  • russianpencil

    11 January 2011

    Cursing, cats & dogs, godless comedian,

    (A) Students can say fuck in Arizona ... legally!
    [State law does make it illegal to "abuse" a teacher. And he said that, in some circumstances, pure words may rise to that level.

    But Bales said that, in this case, the student's words "were not inherently likely to provoke a violent reaction by the teacher." Absent that, the justice said, there is no crime.


    (B) Ricky Gervais: Why I’m an Atheist - a deeply Nietzscheian (made up word alert) conclusion:
    You won’t burn in hell. But be nice anyway.

    (C) No one can ever know about this, the love that dare not speak its name.

    (D) The longest bridge ... in case you were wondering: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/china/8248197/China-builds-worlds-longest-bridge.html

    (E) Public Employees work for less than private employees (considering pay AND benefits) ... but only by a little.

    (F) "Don't for get to brush your teeth ... or you'll die."
    Actually what my mom said while cleaning my teeth (she's a dental hygienist, not a creepy mom who brushes my teeth for me more than a decade after I moved out).