Searching for contentment
My heart is with
the people of Ukraine
An increasing sense of both anger and apprehension
In 2014, Joe Duggan wrote to a variety of climate scientists to ask them how he felt about climate change. Five years later, he asked them again. This is the answer he received in 2020 from Australian Emiratus Professor Will Steffen, one of the world's most preeminent climate scientists, who passed away late January 2023:
As the climate system continues to spiral towards a potentially uncontrollable state, I am struck with an increasing sense of both anger and apprehension. I'm angry because the lack of effective action on climate change, despite the wealth not of only scientific information but also of solutions to reduce emissions, has now created a climate emergency. The students are right. Their future is now being threatening by the greed of the wealthy fossil fuel elite, the lies of the Murdoch press, and the weakness of our political leaders. These people have no right to destroy my daughter's future and that of her generation.
I'm apprehensive because the more we learn about climate change, the riskier it looks. Even at a 1 degree C rise in global temperature, extreme weather events are becoming more violent and dangerous than models have predicted. Over the last 5 years, our knowledge of tipping points in the Earth System has advanced rapidly, with many already showing signs of instability. Worse yet, they can interact like a row of dominoes to set off a tipping cascade, driving the Earth to hotter and more unstable conditions. That is my worst fear—that we may reach a 'point of no return' where we commit our children to a future of hell on Earth.
16 February 2020
ITHYF5⩘ , posted by Joe Duggan, Is This How You Feel?, 2020.
See also: Will Steffen, 'courageous' climate scientist, dies in Canberra aged 75⩘ by Graham Readfearn, The Guardian, Jan 30, 2023.
Rolf Dobelli, The Art of Thinking Clearly
Translated by Nicky Griffin; narrated by Eric Conger
Swiss author Dobelli discusses 98 cognitive errors we are all susceptible to make, providing illuminating examples of each, at times sobering, at others quite humorous.
The failure to think clearly, or what experts call a "cognitive error," is a systematic deviation from logic—from optimal, rational, reasonable thought and behavior. By "systematic," I mean that these are not just occasional errors in judgment but rather routine mistakes, barriers to logic we stumble over time and again, repeating patterns through generations and through the centuries.
One example is the Social Proof error, which is caused by individuals feeling they are behaving correctly when they act the same as other people, a mistake I think has been vastly multiplied by social media.
If 50 million people say something foolish, it's still foolish.
– W. Somerset Maugham
(For a glimpse of this, see: Jordan Klepper Crashes Trump's First 2024 Campaign "Rally"⩘ , The Daily Show, Feb 1, 2023.)
I wasn't always convinced by Dobelli's examples. I think he sometimes oversimplifies, glossing over nuance. Other times, I think he's a bit too certain of his own opinion. (Of course, I could be making cognitive errors in my evaluation.) Still, I think listening to the book was worthwhile, though there's no way I'm ever going to remember these 98 cognitive traps!
There is one takeaway conclusion I came to that I will remember: it's worth it to always maintain a healthy dose of skepticism as we're interacting with the world as well as about our initial interpretation of those interactions.
One of my favorite humorous stories is from the chapter discussing the Chauffeur Knowledge error, our tendency to overvalue knowledge from people who have learned to put on a good show (like news anchors):
After receiving the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1918, Max Planck went on tour across Germany. Wherever he was invited, he delivered the same lecture on new quantum mechanics. Over time, his chauffeur grew to know it by heart: "It has to be boring giving the same speech each time, Professor Planck. How about I do it for you in Munich? You can sit in the front row and wear my chauffeur's cap. That'd give us both a bit of variety." Planck liked the idea, so that evening the driver held a long lecture on quantum mechanics in front of a distinguished audience. Later, a physics professor stood up with a question. The driver recoiled: "Never would I have thought that someone from such an advanced city as Munich would ask such a simple question! My chauffeur will answer it."
In my opinion, one of the most frightening cognitive errors discussed is the Sleeper Effect, especially given today's political environment in the U.S.:
If [propaganda] strikes a chord with someone, this influence will only increase over time. Why? Psychologist Carl Hovland … named this phenomenon the sleeper effect. To date, the best explanation is that, in our memories, the source of the argument fades faster than the argument. In other words, your brain quickly forgets where the information came from…. Meanwhile, the message itself … fades only slowly or even endures. Therefore, any knowledge that stems from an untrustworthy source gains credibility over time. The discrediting force melts away faster than the message does.
In the United States, elections increasingly revolve around nasty advertisements, in which candidates seek to tarnish one another's record or reputation. However, by law, each political ad must disclose its sponsor at the end so that it is clearly distinguishable as an electioneering message. However, countless studies show that the sleeper effect does its job here, too, especially among undecided voters. The messenger fades from memory; the ugly accusations persevere.
Harper, 2013; audiobook: HarperAudio, 2013; IndieBound⩘
See also: The Ultimate Guide to your most common Thinking errors - Part I⩘ and Part II⩘ , Escaping Ordinary, Jan 2023.
Living in the Rockies
I usually prefer to take snow photos on mornings after a snowstorm when the skies are blue and the scene is lit by brilliant sun. But when I was out clearing the dry, powdery snow from our driveway this morning in crisp 1° F weather with a light snow falling, I was awed by the silence and the soft atmosphere created by the low clouds hovering just at the hilltops, almost hiding the rising sun and promising more snow to come. I'm so grateful that we are having a cold, snowy winter this year, something we can't count on anymore.
The sun still managed to impart a soft glow to the east-facing side of the Ponderodas.
After several snowy, cold, overcast days, with temps dipping below zero at night and hovering in the single digits during the day, the sun is shining in all its glory this morning, lighting up an incredibly beautiful landscape. A welcome visual feast.
Google Android Pixel 6a
FAIL. While it is for the most part an okay device, if I were one of the engineers who created the piece-of-shit Adaptive Brightness feature, I would be so embarrassed.
I've been fighting with the AUI (Artificial Un-Intelligence) that controls Adaptive Brightness for months, but it continuously growls menacingly from the depths of its dingy lair, "I don't care what your preferences are, I want a dismally dim screen!"
I even added a home screen shortcut directly to the Display settings because I so often need to set it brighter, usually increasing it by threefold or more, for example, from the 19% level, which can look a bit like the image above, to 60% or more.
I also tried resetting adaptive brightness in the Device Health Services app, something recommended in online troubleshooting posts, but to no avail.
Like I said, I'd be really embarrassed if I were one of the engineers who created this "feature"; it ruins an otherwise okay device, making me wish I had never purchased it and causing me to dislike it more and more strongly with each passing dimly lit experience. I wonder if Google will ever get its act together to make devices that aren't plagued with fundamental flaws like this.
And then these:
- Influencers were paid by Google to promote a Pixel phone they never used⩘ by Ron Amadeo, Ars Technica, Nov 29, 2022. Too bad Google didn't instead put that money into making the devices better.
- The Pixel 7 is the latest smartphone with spontaneously shattering cameras⩘ by Ron Amadeo, Ars Technica, Dec 6, 2023.
After years of using Android devices, the UI is imprinted in my muscle memory, and I have one particularly favorite app that isn't available on iOS, but I guess it's time to start planning to switch the next time I need a new device.
Mahogany keyboard tray
A unique shape to fit a special use case.
Pandemic perspective: Please help keep us all safer
"I've tried to take to heart the lesson I keep writing about—that the pandemic is a collective problem that cannot be solved if people (or governments) act in their own self-interest. I've tried to consider how my actions cascade to affect those with less privilege, immune or otherwise. Instead of asking 'What's my risk?,' I've tried to ask 'What's my contribution to everyone's risk?'" – Ed Yong, The Atlantic⩘
A very good source of ongoing analysis: Your Local Epidemiologist⩘ , written by Katelyn Jetelina, recipient of the 2022 National Academies Award for Excellence in Scientific Communication⩘
Love nature. As a kid, I just wanted to be out playing in the woods that surrounded our small town home. When younger, I lived a few places around the world and visited several others … then found a place in the foothills of the Rockies and my heart was home. Hiked and camped a lot in the mountains until my knees wore out. Since then, have enjoyed walking nearer to home where there is still much natural beauty to appreciate. I snap photos and post the better ones on this site to preserve the opportunity to revisit some of these exquisite experiences.
Love reading. As a kid, I carried armloads of books home each week from the library. Now tend to carry around a virtual stack of audiobooks. I deeply appreciate authors, narrators, and translators. Since 1999, I've been posting reviews on this site, in the more recent years focused on just those books I appreciate the most. I listen to or read a lot of genres, fiction and nonfiction, though my mind has held a lifelong special place for SciFi and speculative fiction.
Love woodworking. A passionate amateur, I revere wood. My main focus has been shoji lamps in the shape of polyhedra. I love the light that glows through washi and deeply appreciate the folks who make these papers. I'm entranced by the dance of polyhedra patterns, and keep notes on my website about the experience of making some of the lamps. I've also made a fair bit of our furniture, and have even done some woodworking to fix up our old home.
Love our beautiful, fragile planet. I'm deeply concerned about climate.
Awed by space and astronomy. Photos of a spiral galaxies melt my heart and also inspire me to wonder whether I'm originally from another planet in another galaxy. See also: Our home in this wondrous universe⩘
Value privacy. I think online privacy should be the default state. Because it's not, I try to protect at least some of my privacy online, especially against greedy corporations. I deeply appreciate the work that folks like Cory Doctorow and organizations like the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF)⩘ are doing on our behalf.
I installed DuckDuckGo App Tracking Protection⩘ on my phone and ended up deleting several apps after seeing how much tracking data they were attempting to collect. By the way, the worst company, by orders of magnitude, was Wyze, which ironically sells security cams. From my previous dealings with them, I already knew they were a shit company, but this blew my mind: they attempt to send hundreds of tracking data packets per hour via two tracking companies: Braze and Segment.io.
Keystones: Respect, compassion, empathy, acceptance. We're all in this together.