Podcasts updated for 2019

Back in 2016, I did a post on the podcasts to which I was listening. About six months ago, I lost everything due to my cloud-based podcasting app becoming unreachable.

It is weird to me how talking styles for radio news shows I listened to 15 years ago are unlistenable today. It makes me think maybe I should give another try to something I’ve been avoiding.

So here is my list at the moment categorized into genres:

Trusting a black box

Steven Johnson wrote in Everything Bad Is Good For You about how in video games we have to figure out the rules of the built world. We are not just exploring a virtual space but build a mental map of cause and effect.

The humor of memes about video games having prepared one when finding something random that looks like a glitch in the real world reflects this mental map concept.

Anything built without our controlling the rules works this way. Say I have a car that estimates the range. It says I have 11 miles before it runs out of gas and the fans are on full, so I see the miles dropping faster than they should. I come to doubt really have 11 miles and the gas station I can get $.40 off is 7 miles away. I might get there and I might not. So, I put a gallon in it. The range doesn’t budge.

Do I still have 11 miles? Surely I have more, but how do I know that I do? Can I trust it?

Opaque rules impair causation. See, the whole point of the tool is to allow me to predict when to take action. More gasoline SHOULD cause more actual range which should cause the gauge to show more range. Filling up the tank soon after did show the max range like it should. This event eroded my trust, which makes me worry about whether I can trust the gauge even when it does show there is plenty of gas.

P.S. the gas gauge did not move either.

Facebook Feature Request: External content datestamp

When people post a link, a Facebook bot looks at the content and finds the content of the <title> tag and creates a summary. My modest proposal is that it also locates the post datestamp to include here.

Every Facebook post has the name of the poster with when they posted it. It might be “Just now” to minutes or hours then if more than a day, the date. Then if more than a year, how many.

If Mark posts an article from 2 years ago right now, then it can appear fresh and new. Facebook also scrubs URLs so that if that indicated the publication date, one must click through to know that it is old. And, we all know in general people re-share things without doing such due diligence. This could be part of why missing persons posts get shared years after the person was found as people have no idea that the article is 1-10 years old without clicking through.

Comparing numbers

When presenting two values, I prefer to use the same scalar. I think this came from my Chemistry teacher, who is my idol. That had to do with how many decimals for calculations.

An article about the state budget made the point that cutting a sales tax on tampons would remove $9 million of a $26.9 billion budget. I would prefer to write it as $9 million and $26,900 million. (Maybe $0.009 billion and $26.9 billion.)

The idea is to present the numbers in such a way that the reader doesn’t have to do mental gymnastics. Though the difference between a million and a billion is not that intuitive. An NYT piece illustrates it as:

  • a thousand seconds is 17 minutes
  • a million seconds is 12 days
  • a billion seconds is almost 32 years