Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Open Tabs

It occurred to me that my method of passing along links is somewhat haphazard: if something looks like it will really appeal to someone I know, I email them. Otherwise, it depends entirely on who happens to be on IM at the time. But I frequently leave interesting links open in my browser tabs because I know they'll be interesting to people. I'm going to try to start posting them here instead of my current method.

In Our Time, the most recent podcast I've added to my list. The most recent program, on the "unintended consequences of mathematics" is fascinating.

An object lesson in the value of persistence and practice. If you click on any of these links, click on this one. I was absolutely blown away.

A discussion of the use of quantum computation in plants. Sounds cool, haven't finished reading yet.

"Ten Simple Rules for Choosing Between Industry and Academia" -- just what it says. I wish I'd read that a long time ago.

Forbidden rice pudding with blueberries. Damn that looks tasty. I've been wanting to make this for weeks and not yet gotten around to it.

Machinarium, an addictive little point-and-click game starring a heroic robot. Hand-drawn backgrounds and graphics, well-done background music, not-too-difficult puzzles, and Chaplin-esque robot "acting". Great stuff.


  1. On "the value of persistence":

    I've always felt like I intuitively grasp this concept, but I don't find it particularly inspiring. Sure, there are any number of things I could be really good at with sufficient practice. But... that's exactly the problem; there are *lots* of things I'd kind of like to be good at, such that I don't want to devote a significant portion of many years of my lifespan to any one of them. I'm interested in too many things to commit to investing the time it takes to go from mediocre to awesome at one thing through sheer persistence.

    Of course, whenever someone *does* find something they want that badly and has the discipline to succeed, rock on.

  2. The thing about persistence is that discipline alone doesn't really do the trick: it's very hard to keep up the momentum. I think a lot of it is luck in terms of early successes and encouragement. If you click through to the forum pages that guy was posting on, you'll see that he got a lot of positive encouragement (if only in the form "keep trying!"). With a waiting audience it looks like he got into a feedback loop where he felt obligated to keep posting, and got rewarded for posting.

    Motivation is important too, maybe more important than discipline: When I turned thirty last year, I thought for a long time about the skillset I'd acquired versus the skillset I wanted to have. One thing I really regretted was not having kept up with my writing. After having a couple short plays of mine produced in high school and a couple short stories passed around to general peer approval, I then produced nothing for ten years. That disappointment has proven to be a useful thing: in ten years I don't want to feel like I wasted the potential creative output of my thirties.

    But then, I have a somewhat negative reaction to the idea of needing discipline. I kind of think of discipline as "a thing that sucks": the will to not do want I want to do, in favor of doing something I want to have done. Useful, but unpleasant. I wonder whether having a more positive notion of the concept of discipline helps one actually have it.