as if it were just an arbitrary way to measure time

In ancient Egyptian religion, the year is 360 days long — a number that can be factored very nicely. In between years there are 5 or 6 days, each the festival of a particular god, which are a bit chaotic but also holy and celebratory. And then, the new year is like hitting the reset button on a cycle. Everything starts fresh, the slate is wiped clean.

Though in Egypt this happened in summer with the flooding of the Nile and now we celebrate (very approximately) the winter solstice, we still have a weaker version of this idea. Christmas/Hannukah kicks off a sort of in-between-time where school’s out and a lot of people take vacations, have parties, gather with family etc. and then January 1 is supposed to be a kind of reboot, where some people try to live more healthily and so on.

We really needed this for 2020. Close all the programs, install updates, and reboot without any of that old crud in RAM.

But we still have COVID-19, and we still have Trump for the first 3 weeks. January 6 was a stark demonstration of that.

What a weird day. With my health insurance deductible resetting, I paid a $664 copay (after a $200 coupon) for a month’s worth of one of my meds. The Georgia election results were sufficiently counted to declare victory for both Democrats and break Mitch McTurtle’s stranglehold over the Senate. And then of course… the riot, or coup attempt, or terrorist action or whatever it should be called. (Not “protest” though; I will at least make that argument.)

I could say a few things about that event, but I would rather not dwell on it personally. It could have been much more tragic and shocking and had much worse repercussions. It also could have been mitigated much better than it was, and it should have been avoided completely.

The other event of that fateful day was more personal. I took our sweet old dog Gretta to the vet, because she’s been limping and avoiding putting weight on her front left leg, although not actually showing signs of pain when the leg was handled. She even seemed to want us to massage it. The vet thought at first what we did — that it was arthritis or some other kind of soft tissue injury — but an x-ray showed severe bone damage due to cancer. She has to have the leg amputated, and the soonest that can be done is in two weeks. After that, she’s likely to go on some kind of chemo treatment because osteosarcoma is aggressive. Even though nothing showed up on a chest x-ray or in bloodwork, it’s likely there are cancer cells throughout her system. From everything I’ve heard, dogs adapt really well to having a limb amputated and her quality of life should be much better afterward. I hope so, and that whatever time she has remaining with us is free of pain and suffering.

After a little rethinking about what to include in the new album, I believe I have just one more track to go. Finding the motivation to record it has been a little challenging given those events, though.

Patch: The Card Game, announced a little before the holidays, is designed to be played with a modular synth. Each card gives you instructions on either how the patch should be constructed initially (“Abstraction”), or modified (“Progression” and “Disruption”). It’s meant to be a creative nudge, getting you to think of new ways to patch and arrive at places you wouldn’t normally.

I wasn’t sure it was for me, but after watching a couple of videos of experienced musicians playing it, I thought the results were pretty neat. You do have to find a balance between your own judgement/autonomy and just following what the cards (and dice/coins/etc.) say.

Well, my first experiments with it this morning were mixed. The start was promising, followed by the patch immediately getting clobbered by Disruption cards. Sometimes it will just not survive “choose a module and unpatch it” or “for every connection, flip a coin and unpatch if heads.” Maybe I need to build up more complex patches first, or would be better off exploring alternate ways to play — there are a few suggestions for variants on the website, and it is pretty open-ended. Or just stop with the cards as soon as I hear something that inspires me, which might be pretty close to immediately.

This deck was developed by James Cigler with art by Nathan Moody, both of whom have been helpful and inspiring, so I’m happy to have supported them even if I don’t personally wind up getting a lot out of the deck.

I’m about halfway through reading Thinking, Fast and Slow. I put it on my wishlist a few years ago and my sister-in-law gave it to me for Christmas. The general idea is that people can be thought of us having two cognitive systems. The first one evaluates situations continuously and rapidly, alerts us to sudden change or danger, makes snap judgements, is associated with emotion, and operates at a low energy level. The second requires more effort (literally burning more calories), is slower but more rational, and is associated with self-control. The two feed each others’ calculations, but overall we are “designed” to be energy-efficient aka lazy, and tend to go with the intuitive answer, resisting more strenuous thought.

This is the basis behind a lot of cognitive biases and errors we have. We tend to make judgements with available information even if it’s inadequate or irrelevant. If a question is hard, we answer the wrong, related question instead. We search for, or invent, associations and narratives rather than crediting luck and statistical factors. Even statisticians are bad at this, and expert opinions based on individual evaluations are usually worse than a simple statistical algorithm. And we want to believe our first instinct, often even if we know that there’s a visual or cognitive illusion at work.

In other words… people can be rational but mostly aren’t. Not really a surprise I suppose, but in the author’s career he’s found many shocking examples of just how egregious this gets.

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