The Speed of Dark
The Speed of Dark by Elizabeth Moon
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

In this near future, science has figured out how to intervene with children to prevent autism. Lou and his friends, have to navigate the difficult choices when a cure becomes potentially available. It explores experimentation, work policies, social pressures, and what it means to be different.

This book hit my emotions a little too hard. Similar to when I read
Parallel Play
, I strongly identified with the experience of the character. Pretty sure I do not have an Autism Spectrum Disorder. But, Lou’s dilemma and struggle to figure out how neurotypicals operate is something I constantly do. About halfway through I had to press to finish because I realized the sooner I did and wrote this review, the sooner I could release it and go back to my denial.

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Lots of people claim the reason cats present dead animals to their humans is because they are trying to teach the human to hunt. (Mental Floss, IFLScience, LiveScience) At one point I probably agreed with this. This conclusion rests on cats treating their human as a kitten.

I wonder if there is something else at work.

We also think cats were domesticated about the time humans took up farming. Mice invaded our storage facilities. Cats were useful for hunting down these rodents, so we fed and bred the nice ones. This selection of nice / tame behavior traits also bred juvenile characteristics the same as we see in dogs and experimentally the Russian foxes.

What if the presentation of dead animals is a mutated behavioral pattern? My idea is the cats present these carcasses to tell the human:

See, I am fulfilling my part of our bargain. I killed the pest for you. Reward me.

We humans have just forgotten why it is we domesticated cats in the first place. Cats just have no reason to change the behavior. Out squeamishness is not enough to quash the behavior.

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Fake clickbait like The Onion is good. ALWAYS click on The Onion. I don’t care if you dislike their fake news stories. I enjoy them. :)

The algorithms choose which stories we see. If you dislike what you see, then you need to change what you click. My Facebook feed? It is chock full of science, soccer, TED talks, baby photos, wedding photos, and of late Star Wars. I rather like my feed, but it took discipline not to send messages about my interest in fear mongering, gossip, and hate. Tough, I know. But the results were so worth it. I’m no longer thinking of declaring bankruptcy on Facebook.

As Twitter and other social media succumb to algorithms to display stories, apparently I am going to have to use the same discipline avoiding clickbait elsewhere. I wonder about the mental discipline required to achieve and maintain the Internet experience I desire. Hopefully in achieving it I develop good habits I can maintain.

Anyway, Sally Kohn discusses how to get the social media we want by being smart on what we click.


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Marty and Jennifer have arrived from 1985. Where’s my flying car and hoverboard?

(The joke here is today is the only day Today is the Day Marty McFly Went to the Future actually shows what was in the movie. And, nothing predicted in that future came to pass.)

Last Chance!

The overuse of “This is your last chance” annoys me.

Last means there are no other chances beyond it. If I do not act now, then I have to accept the penalty for the rest of eternity that I could have taken the offer but failed to do so.

However, when someone is trying to sell me something, last no longer means final. It just means we will give you a 72 hour reprieve before we start the next promotion cycle hounding you to buy this thing you have no interest in buying which is why you have not for the past 3-8 years.

The cheapness of email compared to print or television makes these messages prolific. So much so, I wonder about the lack of care put into them.

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Several people I know talk about having sleep issues. One of the highly cited things of late is that the blue light from our electronic devices messes with our brains to reset the Circadian rhythm making us fall asleep later. Even I use f.lux to change the light of my computer to a warmer tone just after dark.

From ‘Paleo’ sleep? Sorry, pre-modern people don’t get more Zzzzs than we do:

It’s tempting to believe that people these days aren’t getting enough sleep, living as we do in our well-lit houses with TVs blaring, cell phones buzzing, and a well-used coffee maker in every kitchen. But new evidence reported in the Cell Press journal Current Biology on October 15 shows that three ancient groups of hunter-gatherers–living in different parts of the world without any of those trappings of modern life–don’t get any more sleep than we do.

The most interesting thing is temperature appears to be the key to their sleep. As the temperature falls, people went to sleep and slept through the coldest part. When it started to warm up again is when they woke. A warm room temperature makes it difficult for me to sleep.

I think maybe we will see programmable thermostats offer an option to achieve bedroom temperatures that mimic the above temperatures so people can achieve their Paleo Sleep.

The Goodreads Reading Challenge needs a leaderboard. For example, Fitbit displays your rank amongst your friends based on how many steps each has taken that week. This encourages competitiveness amongst friends to take more steps. (Or cheat with Unfitbits style hacks.) Knowing that I am a thousand steps behind a friend is motivation to find ways to take some additional steps to pass them.

Looking through the 2015 reading challenge stats page, it looks like I am around 6th of the 25 friends doing it. A couple people are within 5 books ahead of me, so I might be able to catch them. Back when I hit a dry spell this data might have been motivation to spend a bit more time reading and a bit less time watching TV.

Of course, on Fitbit I am in 11th place with the top five doing at least double my number. Nor is the steps a metric I really care to track. I’m only very interested in the heart rate. With Goodreads, to me the number of books is a bad metric as I’d prefer a number of pages.

One friend has 299 books read, which is uncatchable by my 52 books. Of course, it looks like 90% of this friend’s books are children’s books averaging 20 pages. Our page counts are much closer. Take out the books for the friend’s kid and we are at about the same number of pages.


I first encountered the Fibonacci number series around 10 or 11 taking a class at the university offered to kids to make them excited about learning. In addition to math, I took rocket building, speed reading, and others. About this time I hated school, but I really enjoyed these because those teaching it always approached the material likeArthur Benjamin in this video: Look at this amazing thing!

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In economics, a sunk cost is any past cost that has already been paid and cannot be recovered. For example, a business may have invested a million dollars into new hardware. This money is now gone and cannot be recovered, so it shouldn’t figure into the business’s decision making process.

… from How the Sunk Cost Fallacy Makes You Act Stupid.

The article goes on to describe common situations where we fall for it. The solution of making a pro and con list did not really impress me. Really, the solutions are:

  • Be willing to cut losses and run. The Cull and Surrender post is about being willing to cut out things not worth the time.
  • Actively expose mistakes to find. Embarrassment about being wrong or having made a mistake keeps us on the path of that bad place. On Being Wrong.
  • Act like the present is all there is. Past experience contributes to making a decision. But the present case should be handled as a new, independent situation and not a continuation.

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The Bastard of Istanbul
The Bastard of Istanbul by Elif Shafak
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was a book I noticed was on a banned book list and ended up being one of two I started during ALA’s Banned Books Week. The author, Elif Şafak, was sued by a Turkey prosecutor for “insulting Turkishness” by writing about Armenian genocide as part of the fall of the Ottoman Empire in this novel. She probably expected this reaction as one minor character faced a prison sentence for having drawn a government official as a penguin.

Turkey bridging Europe and Asia has elements of both in its culture. Şafak demonstrates this contradiction through her tale by contrasting American and Muslim cultural views.

In approaching the climax I hoped for a surprise that it would turn out as something else. But, no, it completely deflated me as low as the hardest of books I have ever read.

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