News & links for early November

Looks like it’s time for another collection of personal news and interesting links, which means I haven’t had time to write about anything else. There are certain topics I’ve been meaning to write about, but I’ve just been too busy. Hope to get to them soon.

A few links:

  • Stan Carey wrote a silly poem about octopuses, inspired indirectly by the word’s plurality of available plurals (octopi, octopodes, octopuses). In the comments, I set it to music.
  • Scientific American bloggers wrote some Halloween specials, of which my favourite was this one from Primate Diaries.
  • Walking through a doorway triggers forgetfulness. I’ve noticed this effect in myself, which makes it more interesting. I’d always attributed it to a displacement effect caused by the inflow of new sensory information you get when you walk into a new space. Another thing that triggers an event boundary, in my experience, is when I click the Start button in Windows and the computer groans for a few seconds. Very easy to forget which program I intended to open. Worth pondering what implications this has for software design.
  • In astronomy, the Mars500 simulated mission has finished, and indicates that it’s possible for humans to go to Mars without going mad. Meanwhile, the next robotic explorer, Curiosity, is all packed up and awaiting its trip to Mars, much as a box under the tree awaits Christmas day.

Halloween fell on a work day this year. I wore my costume as I walked through the door to my workplace, and also wore it on my walk home. Other than that, I did nothing I wouldn’t normally do on a Monday.

Let’s talk about books. I’ve read the selected dialogues of Lucian that I bought in England, but need to read it again with an eye for detail. One thing I learned was that the phrase “Socrates himself” is not original to Python, but seems to be something of a motif even in Ancient Greek. Incidentally, I believe Lucian would have been a better writer if someone had had the foresight to introduce him to Terry Pratchett.

As for books I will read in the near future, I have ordered a copy of the Babel’s Dawn book, about the evolution of speech, and look forward to that. (It’s by the author of the Babel’s Dawn blog, which I’ve been following for some time.)

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