January 12, 2024

In the snow

We took Zoya sledding a couple of days ago. She loved it.

I didn’t grow up with an appreciation for winter. Ever since I was a child, I found it too cold, too uncomfortable, too desolate of a season. I didn’t learn how to skate, or to ski, or snowshoe. When other children went tobogganing, I stayed home.

Zoya took to sledding with gusto. She loved sliding down the hill and playing with the snow. Every time she came down, she dutifully pulled her sled back up and said, again!” We spent an hour outside as the snow fell, gliding down the hill and piling up snow to make rudimentary snowmen.

Unlike me, I hope she embraces winter sports with élan. I hope she loves the outdoors no matter what the season, and that she enjoys being playful and silly whatever the elements may throw her way.

And maybe, just maybe, I’ll learn to love the winter too, having her by my side.

Photo of a child pulling her sled up a small snow-covered hill

A poem

An Autobiography in Five Chapters
Portia Nelson

Chapter 1
I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I fall in. I am lost….I am helpless.
It isn’t my fault.
It takes forever to find a way out.

Chapter 2
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the side walk.
I pretend I don’t see it. I fall in again.
I can’t believe I am in the same place.
But it isn’t my fault.
It still takes a long time to get out.

Chapter 3
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I see it is there.
I fall in….it’s a habit…but my eyes are open.
I know where I am. It is my fault.
I get out immediately.

Chapter 4
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I walk around it.

Chapter 5
I walk down a different street.

I miss the old web: weird, collaborative, and in the best way, boring. Loved Anil’s forecast that the web is going to get weird again:

There’s not going to be some new killer app that displaces Google or Facebook or Twitter with a love-powered alternative. But that’s because there shouldn’t be. There should be lots of different, human-scale alternative experiences on the internet that offer up home-cooked, locally-grown, ethically-sourced, code-to-table alternatives to the factory-farmed junk food of the internet. And they should be weird.

Paul Ford brilliantly (as always) opines on the need for interdisciplinary thought, or the détente between disciplines altogether:

If the current narrative holds—if AI is victorious—well, liberal arts types will be ascendant. Because rather than having to learn abstruse, ancient systems of rules and syntaxes (mathematical notation, C++, Perl) in order to think higher thoughts, we will be engaged with our infinitely patient AI tutors/servants like Greek princelings, prompting them to write code for us, make spreadsheets for us, perform first-order analysis of rigid structures for us, craft Horn clauses for us.

A whole list of mind-blowing facts and ideas, all with links to stories to dive deeper into them. I wanted to put all 81 of these in my learnings” posts, but decided to link to them here instead. A few that really blew my mind:

  • You have two noses, and you can control them separately via your armpits.
  • UPS handles so many packages every year that its workers put their hands on roughly 6 percent of the country’s gross domestic product.
  • During the original run of Seinfeld, the show’s costumers had a hard time sourcing the clothing for Kramer’s wardrobe because his quirky style had become so popular with the general public that they were buying up all of the vintage clothing that made up his look.
  • The Italian government provides gluten-free-food vouchers for people with celiac disease.

I use a lot of exclamation marks in my casual writing (not so much here, I know) so I loved this look at how exclamation marks are used in literature.

The self-checkout line seems like a blessing when the kiosks are empty and I have one or two items to pay for and get out, but more and more they are getting frustrating (crowded, slow) and demonstrate a lack of care by stores to staff a retail outlet in the way customers need:

Retail executives, looking for any available corner to cut in order to juice short-term profitability, took self-checkout’s proliferation as a license to trim store staffing to the bone. Many stores are now messier, their shelves go unstocked for longer, and customers have a harder time finding the products they’re looking for or employees to answer their questions. Retail jobs, which have long been low-paying, precarious, and unpleasant, are now even worse.

I’ve noticed that people in every show I attend these days are giving standing ovations, whatever the merit of the show. It’s becoming almost a requirement, a de rigeur part of attending a show, and I worry it’s losing all its impact and value:

Gardner said she thought the trend towards more standing ovations had come from the US, where audiences tend to be more demonstrative” in their support.

And with ticket prices often high, standing up and cheering at the end can be a way for people to persuade themselves” that they have had a good time, she added.

As a fan of both The Great British Baking Show and many American snacks (like Doritos and Oreos), I can’t help but love this video of Paul Hollywood and Prue Leith picking the best snack in America.

I love almost everything on XKCD, but this one especially made me smile.

graph about love songs from XKCD

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