Celebrity Death Bump

Me with a Vulcan at the Las Vegas Star Trek Experience
Star Trek Experience Re-opening in May

When a formerly popular musician dies, I suddenly see a bunch of people posting in social media about them. They come back into the consciousness. And, many people are suddenly listening to the music again. Today it was Eddie Money. But, I’ve seen this trend for most.

I bet it means more sales and listens on streaming services. (For movie stars streaming their movies or sale. For authors more book sales.) In which case, it is good for the owner of the music as they make money off them. I guess the estate benefits from this renewed attention.

Which is crazy to me. I wonder if any of these deaths were tied to financial insolvency? And could have been prevented by getting the same amount of attention while still alive?

It seems sad that we only remember many of these people at their death. Why don’t we remember them in their life?

Terminology

This guy won the Internet for a while.

“I love learning the words that their generation comes up with — both the unique ones as well as the ones where they take an existing word and give it a completely different meaning.”

One of my favorite web sites is Urban Dictionary because people apply new meanings to words and phrases faster than official dictionaries track.

I first became cognizant of this in my teens. My mother had acquired a document from her school principal describing the symbols and words used by children indoctrinated into Satanic cults. To me, they mostly seemed benign things I associated with my friends into heavy metal music. And, of course, Dungeons & Dragons which I played at the time. Teenagers seek ways of communicating where parents are clueless.

Later, my second employer subscribed to various IT industry magazines. As I often stayed after close on Friday afternoon, he would engage me about things he read. I ended up getting free subscriptions to be able to better converse. The more I read, the more I understood jargon in IT mainly coopted existing terms for new things.

I also learned about how these new terms were poorly defined and understood at first. Only as they became super popular and everyone talked about them did their meaning get solidified into something real.

Finally, there is something unsettling at how African Americans continually are the bleeding edge of culture in the US. The music, clothing, and even terminology is sometimes adopted up by the overall culture. At the same time it is reviled as dangerous and feared for how those expressing it are doomed to go to Hell.

Hot cars and books

Totally flubbed the reading strategy.

  1. I have a Kindle Paperwhite for reading in the dark. It is for when lights are out, so I can read for a bit.
  2. I have a book or two in the car for reading when I go to lunch alone.
  3. October to March, it can be a hardback because the car doesn’t get warm enough to warp the cover. April to September, I read paperbacks. (Maybe a handful of times the car got hot enough to melt the glue, but that was in South Georgia when not parking in a shaded area.)

I love The Expanse series. I just got Tiamat’s Wrath in hardback a couple weeks ago. I should be done with it by now, but I keep not having it with me in the car trying to protect the cover. Leaving it in the right place is such an effective strategy.

So, I now have it in the house. I can get some reading in while the baby naps.

R.I.P. Stephen Hawking

Teeshirt reads: Obey gravity. It's the law!
Obey gravity. It’s the law!

When I was twelve, my father recommended I read a book. It is the only book one I can think of that he has ever made to me. But, I have to say, it was probably the best recommendation anyone has ever made to me. See, when I was a kid, I loved space technology and astronomy. I could recite fact after fact about NASA missions, the planets, and the stars. Anything I could learn about them was appreciated.

A Brief History of Time by Hawking opened up to me cosmology, physics, and quantum mechanics. Reading about these topics stretched my brain and put me in my happy place. I save up the books about this stuff for when I feel at my lowest because diving into them will correct my mood. A difficult week at work? Definitely, time to remove thinking about that stuff by thinking about the multiverse, chaos, and quantum entanglement. Perspective is everything.

Dr. Hawking also represented something I think science desperately needed: celebrity. His popularity and brand recognition showed that academic papers are not the only way to talk about science to the masses. He paved the way for Bill Nye, Neil deGrasse Tyson, and Brian Greene. Scientists are writing great books on their areas and the masses are gobbling them up because there is interest. It makes me happy that a society we think of as having gotten intellectually lazy has a hidden interest in science.

It makes me sad that he is gone because he provided me so much more than I could ever adequately explain.

Actions > Words

Sitting at a restaurant reading while I eat is a normal thing for me. People know me as that guy. They make assumptions like that I only read paper or Kindle then ask when I show up using the other.

Last week a guy sat next to me and kept me from reading due to his need to talk. He was bragging about being a slow reader. That he only reads dense academic history with more endnotes than text. And switched to talking about the Olympic skating needing a 100m event. He never read while I was there and interrupted me when I tried to return to reading.

All the while I was thinking the reason he cannot as much as he wants is he is easily distracted.

Goodreads Page Stats

The better metric for tracking how much I have read, in my opinion, is the number of pages. The number of books is okay, but the reality is reading a 50-page novella is not nearly the same commitment as a 1,500-page tome. (I might prefer a statistic for words when looking at my daughter’s reading counts.)

Unfortunately, Goodreads used to include the stats page in the challenges, but they removed the link to it. It is still there. (For now.) You can build the link to it by:

  1. Go to your profile. In the top right corner is your user photo in a circle. Click it.
  2. Click the Profile link.
  3. Replace the URL up through show/ with “https://www.goodreads.com/review/stats/”.
  4. Add “#pages” to the end.
  5. You should have a URL that looks like: https://www.goodreads.com/review/stats/999-name#pages

The page has buttons for books, pages, and publication year.

  1. Books: The number of books read broken down by year.
  2. Pages: The number of pages read broken down by year.
  3. Publication Year: A graph with year published in the vertical axis and year read in the horizontal axis.

Read Old Books

C.S. Lewis:

It is a good rule, after reading a new book, never to allow yourself another new one till you have read an old one in between. If that is too much for you, you should at least read one old one to every three new ones… People were no cleverer then than they are now; they made as many mistakes as we. But not the same mistakes. They will not flatter us in the errors we are already committing; and their own errors, being now open and palpable, will not endanger us.

This quote amused me because it certainly feels like we are making the same mistakes. I suspect our lack of reading about the past (new or old books) leads to Dunning-Kreuger style hubris where we commit the same mistakes.

Resolution Progress 2017: First Half

(Original ; First Quarter ; Half ; Three-Quarters ; Final)

For the first half, I should have progressed about 50%. So, let’s see where I am.

Review: The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion

The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion
The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion by Jonathan Haidt
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Back in 2012, I took the Moral Foundations Questionnaire test. So almost five years later, I finally got around to reading the book that explains it. Since it is now Facebook integrated, I kind of want ALL my friends to take it.

The framework presented here makes sense to me. I was fascinated by Drew Westen‘s
The Political Brain: The Role of Emotion in Deciding the Fate of the Nation
talking about fear being the key to reaching conservative voters. I could see that in the 2012 and 2016 elections. But, in the 2016 one, it felt like there was something missing. This book explains that pretty well for me. First, there are several values: Care, Liberty, Fairness, Loyalty, Authority, and Sanctity. People who favor certain ones tend to skew into certain parties.

Also, the cycle tends to be we feel something, then judge it based on the feeling, and then create reasons to explain away the judgement. We mistake the reasoning as the basis for values and morality when it is much more subservient to the feelings. I would love to see where Behavioral Economics could go with Moral Foundations Theory.

Applied to politics, I finally understand why people so often vote for policies that will hurt them. They are keyed to emotional reactions to values triggered through how candidates express themselves. Being such a fan of behavioral economics, my impression of humans as purely rational was discarded long ago. MFT fits my observations of others and even myself better than anything else I have seen.

We also are highly social and dependent on the group dynamic. And yet, what policies are chosen to by governments can fray the social capital they have. Immigration and ethnic diversity can trigger a push back leading to more racism.

The book does not really have answers. The questions will drive some of my reading for the next decade in search of them.

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Review: Blue Collar Conservatives: Recommitting to an America That Works

Blue Collar Conservatives: Recommitting to an America That Works
Blue Collar Conservatives: Recommitting to an America That Works by Rick Santorum
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Santorum believes the family is the core unit of society not the individual. That has interesting implications such as what does that mean where there are so many divorces, single parents, and “failures to launch”? Making policy decisions based on that are also interesting.

I can definitely see evidence that supports Santorum’s story that Trump based his campaign on ideas from this book. Certainly he sought the votes of those in the rust belt, jobs for everyone, gut the government, repeal Obamacare, eliminate regulations, vouchers, and lower taxes. Something about feels hollow though.

The examples have that right homey feel politicians are so good at relaying. I found myself frustrated with the prescriptions, but I agree with the problems.

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