In-Between Video Treat

I have a couple of things I want to write about, but I can’t seem to find the time. In the meantime, please enjoy this video of strange programming language quirks. I couldn’t help to giggle throughout the whole thing:

https://www.destroyallsoftware.com/talks/wat

(I can’t find an option to embed, so you’ll have to click the link. Sorry.)

What Does Like-Minded Mean?

I saw the term “link-minded” today on the website for an upcoming conference. The exact words were:

Our aim is to attract as many like-minded thinkers as possible.

And I wondered: What does that even mean?

Don’t get me wrong. I think I know what it means, but I’m still confused as how this works together with aiming for diversity. Where does the good like-minded end and the bad like-minded begin?

But let me explain:

  • Good like-minded: Aiming for the same goal, being able to communicate without difficulty, sharing the same interests.
  • Bad like-minded: Not able to think out of the box, very similar backgrounds, no disagreements, no challenges.

The bad like-minded is like a club that only accepts members after making sure that they won’t disturb the peace of the club, won’t question long-held beliefs and will hopefully just blend in without anyone noticing.

The good like-minded is like a community with a shared interest which is always happy to accept new members, search for new ways to look at things and will not shy away from anyone questioning them (as long as it is done in a socially acceptable way).

I’m pretty sure that what was meant on the website was the good like-minded, the one where a common goal is key and like-minded means “people who are smart and love to argue and discuss stuff and are not afraid to speak their mind, because we sure as hell aren’t”.

But the fact that it started me wondering (and partly worrying) also means that it’s a fine line between looking for allies in the battle for knowledge and a better world and trying to avoid those that might challenge you and make you feel uncomfortable.

How Well Did You Sleep Last Night?

P1010928A couple of months ago I got a wakemate to track my sleep. Actually, I had told my husband about it and he asked me to order one for him. When it finally arrived he didn’t really bother to set it up, so I started to use it instead and now it’s mine.

Here’s what it does:

1. It tracks my sleep and uses the data to analyze my sleep patterns.

2. It wakes me up at the best time within a 20 minute time frame.

As you can see, the wakemate has been used a lot. I usually wear it on weekdays when I have to get up early, but also occasionally on weekends and when I’m on vacation because I’m curious how my sleep patterns change.

What it does is that it tracks my movements during the night and somehow figures out how deep my sleep is based on that. I was sceptical at first, but it seems like Actigraphy, for that is what it’s called, is a standard method to measure sleep patterns.

I’ve also noticed that whenever I remember something about last night’s sleep I can usually trace it back in the data from the wakemate. So if it takes me longer than usual to fall asleep or if I wake up in the middle of the night, I found that this is reflected in that night’s sleep graph. I still can’t tell whether I really had a deep sleep phase when the wakemate says I did, but since the data I can check is usually correct, I’m pretty confident that the data the wristband collects and how it is analyzed isn’t complete nonsense.

As for the waking part, how it works is that you choose the time that you need to wake up the latest and the wakemate tries to find the best moment to wake you up in the twenty minutes leading up to that time without disturbing your sleep pattern. If it can’t find the best moment it will just wake you up at the latest possible moment. The theory is that you will feel better and more awake when you haven’t been woken in the middle of a deep sleep phase.

While this seems to work well, it unfortunately doesn’t work so great for me. The problem is that I’m a big lover of the snooze button and it’s not so much that I am too tired to get up, most mornings I’m just too lazy. So I ignore the wakemate alarm and just wait for my regular alarm to go off. And then I hit the snooze button three to seven times and then I get up. But that’s not the wakemate’s fault. I have noticed that sometimes I’m half awake and the moment my brain starts to work in consistent thoughts the wakemate alarm goes on. Which is another indicator that the movement measuring seems to work fine.

Vollbildaufzeichnung 11.01.2012 193629.bmpYou can track your patterns on the website of the wakemate. You need some kind of mobile device (Android, Blackberry or iOS) which connects to the wakemate via Bluetooth. This device will also transmit the data to the wakemate server and also provides the alarm clock feature –  basically: There’s an app for that. You can then check your nightly graph, compare graphs, add tags and look at some statistics.

Basically I know now that on average:

  • It takes me 8 minutes to fall asleep.
  • I wake up 2 times a night.
  • I sleep for 6 1/4 hours a night.

The last one isn’t quite true, since I usually sleep for at least another 30 minutes after the first wakemate alarm has gone off. Also, I don’t always wear it on days when I don’t have to get up in the morning, which are probably the nights I sleep a lot longer to make up for my lack of sleep during the week.

There are other devices similar to the wakemate, wristbands, but also headbands. I like the wakemate, because it’s relatively hassle-free (I also haven’t tried any other devices, so I can’t really compare). The only complaint I have is that the band has already widened with time and I’m not sure whether that affects its measuring precision. Scott Hanselman tried the Zeo headband and wrote about it here.

 I don’t claim that the science is soundproof and totally accurate, but from what I can tell it works surprisingly well and is quite a fun way to check up on what’s really happening when you sleep.

(It’s also fun to walk into the office in the morning and with a loud voice claim that “Last night I got a sleep score of 85! Woo-hoo!”)

Best Books of 2011

This year I read a lot. According to Goodreads I made a total of 73 books, missing my goal of 75 just by two books. I guess this has mostly to do with the fact that I work somewhere else than where I live and that includes a lot of time spent alone, riding trains and the fact that I finally got a Kindle in February which makes carrying books around much easier.

Somehow there were no real highlights, except one book really close to the end of the year which broke my heart in all kinds of ways but is unfortunately not (yet?) translated to English.

10. Fuzzy Nation by John Scalzi

This book got into the Top Ten list mostly on cuteness. Apart from that it is a pretty standard science fiction story with some additional extraterrestial lawyer stuff. And then it’s cute. because there are Fuzzies. And Fuzzies excel at cute.

In some ways the book is very much written like a movie, which you could hold against the author, but I don’t. It makes for a pretty straightforward and enjoyable read and in fact it made me want to watch the (non-existing) movie. Also, Wil Wheaton is a damn good audio book narrator.

9. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

Someone from the Sword and Laser book club said that this book is nothing more than a giant WoW quest. Erm, maybe, but that’s what makes it so much fun!

It’s a science fiction story about a massive easter egg hunt within the virtual world of OASIS and it is stuffed with 80s references. So there you go, what’s not to love?

8. Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Shteyngart

I didn’t know what to expect from this book and it’s still a bit hard to describe. A science fiction anti romance maybe? Yes, it’s a love story, but often it doesn’t feel like one, because nearly everyone seems so removed from any kind of honest feelings.

The really fascinating thing though was that the future world described in this book seems very far and very close at the same time. At first look it’s just a strange, strange world, but once you look closer and compare it to where we have come to in the last couple of years, it doesn’t seem so impossible that this is where we’re actually headed. And if that’s not scary, I don’t know what is.

7. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

If you don’t know what this book is about then you’re probably not into YA dystopia books and then you probably won’t read this book anyway, regardless of how good people tell you how it is.

If you don’t believe the hype, make an exception. It’s a really good book. I was also surprised at how much I like the trailer for the movie. In fact I seem to tear up a little every time I watch it, which I hope is a good sign for the movie.

6. Room by Emmy Donoghue

A very strange and horrifying book about a nearly unbelievable crime told from the point of view of five year old Jack. Jack lives with Ma in Room. In Room there is Table and Bed and Wardrobe and it’s all Jack knows about the world.

Room is a great book and I can’t really say a lot more without giving away some of the plot. Suffice to say that I could hardly put it down.

5. The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

Apart from the fact that Patrick Rothfuss is a fan of Joss Whedon and seems like a generally cool guy, The Name of the Wind  is also a pretty great fantasy book.

It tells the story of Kvothe, also known as the Kingkiller, who tells the story of his life to a nightly visitor. All in all you have your basic fantasy story, but it’s so amazingly tight and well written, that it really stands out from the crowd.

4. Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde

I’m even more of a Jasper Fforde fan now that I’ve seen and heard him talk in person, and I’ve come to appreciate Shades of Grey more over the year. It’s one of those books that are so easy to read that you don’t grasp how good they really are until later.

And Jasper Fforde strikes again with an imaginative tale about a world somewhen in the future where society is based on color perception, there are flesh eating trees and self-cleaning roads and much more. Wait… WHAT? A society based on color perception? Exactly. Like I said. Just read it and appreciate the wild ride this book takes you on.

3. The Fry Chronicles by Stephen Fry

2011 was the year I discovered QI and now I firmly believe that Stephen Fry might be one of the best things the world currently has to offer.

I read The Fry Chronicles as an audio book narrated by the author (i.e. Mr. Fry) himself which is cool on more levels than is probably healthy. He tells the story of his life from his childhood (briefly) to his mid-twenties and although this seems like a pretty short span to cover, the story isn’t boring for one second and Stephen Fry gets only more likable with each page (or minute, whatever).

2. Dask and Lily’s Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn & David Levithan

I don’t know why exactly I love this book as much as I did. Oh, wait, I do. It has riddles and scavenger hunts and loads of books. And New York City. And Christmas.

It reminded me of books like Markus Zusak’s I am the Messenger or Nicole Krauss’s The History of Love, in that it is just a very simple book which is also incredibly sweet and emotional and just makes you feel warm and fuzzy inside.

1. Die Herrenausstatterin by Mariana Leky

This is just… I don’t even know how to… The book was recommended to me by Isa and I would possibly never have picked it up if it hadn’t been highly recommended.

It’s the story of Katja whose husband has left her and died and now suddenly there’s a man in her bathroom who is invisible to everyone but her and who won’t leave. And there’s also the fireman who suddenly turns up in her life. It’s an incredibly sad book, but it’s also amazingly funny and wonderful and I’ll stop before this turns into a long list of enthusiastic adjectives. Just know that I bawled my eyes out and kicked my pillow because this is how great it is.

(Sadly I don’t know of any English translation, existing or planned.)

 

So there you go. Anything you’d like to add. If not I’ll see you for the special awards next week.

Favorite Tweets December 2011

And then we’re off to the new year…

Have a lovely 2012 everyone and keep the good tweets coming. Please.