Archive for May, 2020

A lovely evening in May

Monday, May 11th, 2020

a box of chocolates
a glass of wine
we’re watching Upload
and everything’s fine

Mind reading

Sunday, May 10th, 2020

We usually don’t really know for sure what other people think of us. After all, we don’t have the power of mind reading.

In my life there have been people whom I was quite sure did not like me. Only later did I find out that they were quite fond of me.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, I can think of people who were consistently pleasant to me. Eventually, I learned that it was just an act, and that they didn’t really like me at all.

I suspect you have had similar experiences. We just can’t know what is going on in the head of another person.

I wonder how much life would change if there were a way to know, with certainty, what other people really thought of us. Maybe this could be achieved by some sort of future glasses with built-in A.I.

Would that lead to something positive? Or would we all just end up killing each other?

Eye contact

Saturday, May 9th, 2020

A weird thing about Skype, Zoom, and similar video chat tools is that they don’t support eye contact for a call with more than two people. So there is a fundamental difference between talking one-on-one and any other remote conversation.

In real life, we use our eye gaze, face, body, hands and other nonverbal cues to let everyone know to whom we are directing our attention. We are very good at this. Sometimes we can send very complex nonverbal messages about how we are directing our attention, in different ways, to multiple people at once.

But in video chat we have none of those powers at our disposal. We are just looking into a camera lens, no matter who we are talking to.

I suspect that one of the next big innovations in video chat will be a good way to solve this problem. Given that we are, for now, pretty much all stuck working remotely, it seems like a very worthwhile problem to work on.

The more you pay, the more it’s worth

Friday, May 8th, 2020

There is an old song by Don McLean called “The More You Pay (The More It’s Worth).” For many years I have pondered the wisdom of that phrase.

We do indeed tend to value those things that come with greater effort, and to ignore whatever is right in front of us. This seems to be an intrinsic quality of human nature.

I suspect that those people who are able to overcome this very human defect are happier. They look around and see the riches near at hand, and they smile with delight.

Meanwhile, other folks just keep running like crazy fools, chasing after rainbows. Good luck with that.

The delicate line

Thursday, May 7th, 2020

the delicate line
that divides joy and sorrow
can be hard to see

Extended reality house

Wednesday, May 6th, 2020

Two trends are converging: True extended reality (XR) wearables are getting closer to being a reality, and people are becoming less interested in traveling.

Wouldn’t it be interesting to combine these two trends and start designing houses meant to be experienced while wearing XR wearables? In reality, the ceiling might be quite low, and the walls bland looking. But while you are wearing your XR specs, you have beautiful tall vaulted ceilings with a nice skylight, and wonderful wallpaper.

I can think of at least two interesting superpowers this would give you. First, you can redesign your home at a moment’s notice. Second, you can travel to another city, check into a similarly designed Airbnb, and be right back in your own home.

You might come up with other superpowers I have not mentioned.

Optimal emotional variance

Tuesday, May 5th, 2020

There are people who are always on an even keel. They don’t get too excited or happy, and they don’t get too sad or depressed. It’s just a constant and very reliable flatline.

There are other people who swing from enormous highs to enormous lows. One moment they’re on top of the world, the next they may be ok nged into the depth of despair.

The first group never really experiences the joyous thrill of being truly alive. The second is able to experience true ecstasy, but has a rough time of it when they go through those low patches.

I wonder whether there is a perfect middle place, poised at some precise location between these extremes. To lead a happy life, what would be the ideal degree of emotional variance?

Recently at a bank

Monday, May 4th, 2020

This past week, somebody I know drove to a bank, put on a mask that hid her face, and walked up to a teller window. She then passed a note to the teller containing a list of instructions for the teller to follow.

Until recently, this would have been a description of a crime scene. Nowadays it is called being considerate.

May the fourth be with you!


Sunday, May 3rd, 2020

For any given fictional universe, it’s fun to imagine characters we think should be in that universe, but aren’t. I have a particular fondness for adding imaginary characters to the fictional universe of J.R.R. Tolkien.

Hodgepodge is a character who lives in a little hut, about a day’s journey from the Shire. A small and wizened gnome of indeterminate gender, Hodgepodge is your go-to provisioner if you are planning to venture forth to battle Evil.

After you tell of your intended quest, Hodgepodge will pick up a small cloth sack, and proceed to place within it what seem to be random items. A hatpin perhaps, or a length of golden thread, or three mustard seeds.

You never know how or when these items will will prove useful, but they inevitably will. At some point along your journey you will find that each item solves a problem that you never anticipated facing.

Hodgepodge asks no reward but the simple pleasure of hearing the tale of your successful quest upon your return to the Shire. Later that evening the little gnome will dutifully transcribe your tale into a large and well worn hand-bound volume.

Those words will live forever, as your tale is retold for generations to come. In this way you will achieve immortality.

Weekends, virtual and otherwise

Saturday, May 2nd, 2020

Weekends become somewhat odd during the pandemic. We aren’t going out on Friday and Saturday evenings, so any entertainment becomes virtual.

There is no actual commute to and from an office on weekdays, so that differentiator is gone for now. Any delineation between weekend and weekday becomes primarily a matter of willed definition.

Which means that the concept of a “weekend” has an opportunity to become more flexible. A weekend can now be whatever we want it to be.

If I can get all my work done in three days during this stay-at-home time, then who is to say that my weekend cannot be four days long? And what if I could finish all of my work for the week in a single day?

Should I then take a six day weekend? Is that even a thing?

In the end, I suppose, our own minds provide the limit on the length of the weekend. At least it is for those of us lucky enough to find gainful employment during the outbreak.

I, for one, would not want to sit around for a six day weekend, just kicking back and watching movies. Two days or maybe three are quite enough for me. Give me a good project to work on, and I am a happy man.

But I still plan to take weekends off. :-)