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In the Sky With Diamonds

This is stone-cold genius. Making diamonds out of carbon dioxide from the air, solar and wind power, and rainwater:

UK millionaire Dale Vince says lab-grown gems will be ‘world’s first zero-impact’ diamonds

“Making diamonds from nothing more than the sky, from the air we breathe – is a magical, evocative idea – it’s modern alchemy,” said Vince. “We don’t need to mine the earth to have diamonds, we can mine the sky.”

Sky Diamonds’ is a great name for the company, but I feel he’s missing an obvious Beatles tie-in.

Wheeling the Reinvention

Dave Winer has ideas:

ideas for rethinking blogs and feeds. I found, as others have, that I need another kind of document to include in my personal CMS other than a story that’s part of the blog. Everything about blogs are set up to be written, then lightly edited, and never touched again. It’s temporal writing. But there are other things that I want to develop over time, keep coming back to, revising. A few years back I started to hold those docs.

He’s talking about what I like to call ‘web pages,’ surely? You don’t need any fancy CMS for those, as Dave of all people should know. And if you want to use such a thing, well, even WordPress has its Posts/Pages distinction.

Colliding Names

A few years ago I wrote about how I was notified about the wrong band called (The) Nails. In that case the names were different, though only by the subtle presence or absence of the definite article. Things have got even more confusing recently.

I have an app on my phone called Music Harbor (sic). The idea is, you give it access to your music library, and it notifies you of forthcoming releases by artists you already have tracks by. It sometimes throws up some oddities, like people I’ve never heard of just because they’re ‘featured‘ on something I have. But mostly it’s pretty good. It’s how I know that Bruce Springsteen has a new album coming out in a few days, for example.

A few years back I heard a track called ‘Bass Down Low,’ by someone called Dev. I liked it, both musically and lyrically. I mean, it’s not profound, but ‘I like my beats fast and my bass down low’ is a sentiment I can get behind.

So there was a new track by Dev out today. However, the guy rapping on ‘El Erb‘, is not, I feel sure, Dev, the female singer & rapper of ‘Bass Down Low.’

It’s also a scunner of a name to search for, what with it being an abbreviation for developer, the TV show, and Google completely owning the .dev top-level domain.

Multiple people with the same name: it’s a problem. It’s why actors have Equity names, I guess.

Still, there should be no problem with the early nineties Scottish indiepoppers Bis, right? Who’d have thought they’d be back with a new single, this long after ‘The Secret Vampire EP’?

No-one, it turns out. This Bis is someone else (and his single ‘Streets‘ is also nothing to do with The Streets).1 It’s also hard to search for, not least because it’s an abbreviation for several different organisations. I even used to work for a company called BIS.

I don’t think the English language is running out of names, but if you’re planning on using a short one as your professional persona or brand, you probably want to check out whether or not someone has already used it in your field. Though it’s not always that easy, as I’ve noted.

There’s even a music magazine called Clash, which has nothing to do with The Clash.

Still, ‘Sugar sugar kandy pop/Push it down and pull it up,’ as I’m sure we can all agree.

  1. Shit, and I’ve just found out he was murdered last year. 

Covid Track

This is one of our local parks. Look at that desire-line track, fading into the distance (click or tap on the picture to see it bigger).

A footpath worn in grass across a park.
A path made by many people, avoiding each other

The paved footpath is off to the right. That track — a simple, direct route, that avoids the footpath — wasn’t there a year ago. The novel coronavirus changes the landscape.

When the Going Gets WEIRD

In the New York Times Daniel C Dennett reviews a book by Joseph Henrich called The Weirdest People in the World: How the West Became Psychologically Peculiar and Particularly Prosperous. Sounds like an interesting book, and the review itself is engaging. I just wanted to note a few points.

First, we have the acronym WEIRD, which stands for “Western, educated, industrialized, rich, democratic.” Apparently being WEIRD makes us weird, in psychological terms. Non-WEIRD and WEIRD people have differences that can be observed, measured.

I was intrigued by this quote:

To point to just one striking example: Normal, meaning non-WEIRD, people use left and right hemispheres of their brains about equally for facial recognition, but we WEIRD people have co-opted left-hemisphere regions for language tasks, and are significantly worse at recognizing faces than the normal population. Until recently few researchers imagined that growing up in a particular culture could have such an effect on functional neuroanatomy.

I wonder if this can apply on an individual scale: are people whose focus has been language less able to recognise faces? Answering just from within my own head, I’d say maybe? I’ve been what my Dad used to call a compulsive reader all my life, as well as being at least somewhat interested in writing, and I’m very poor at facial recognition. Bordering on prosopagnosia, I sometimes think (though far from anything like the poor woman in this story, who can’t even recognise herself in a mirror).

If my experience suggests that, I have counter examples right in my own family. My beloved and our daughter are both linguists, and both border (to my mind) on being super recognisers1, which is the complete opposite of me.

None of which tells us anything useful, except maybe that the ability to recognise faces, like many things, exists on a scale.

More interestingly, Dennett introduces (to me, at least) the delightful term ‘Occam’s Broom’:

A good statistician (which I am not) should scrutinize the many uses of statistics made by Henrich and his team. They are probably all sound but he would want them examined rigorously by the experts. That’s science. Experts who don’t have the technical tools — historians and anthropologists especially — have an important role to play as well; they should scour the book for any instances of Occam’s broom (with which one sweeps inconvenient facts under the rug).

Occam had a famous razor; why wouldn’t he have a broom as well?

  1. There’s a professional body of super recognisers. Who’d have thought? 

Orlando by Virginia Woolf (Books 2020, 22)

This is a book about history, biography, gender — and writing.

It’s presented as a biography of the titular character, who starts as the son of a noble family. It’s written for, and partly based an the life of, Woolf’s friend Vita Sackville-West.

Famously, Orlando’s gender (or biological sex) changes partway through the novel. She spends the latter part of it as a woman. She also lives for four or five hundred years — and presumably is living still. She’s barely got started by the end of the book.1

The interesting thing about the time difference is that he/she doesn’t experience the passage of hundreds of years, as far as we are shown. It’s like time passes at a different rate for her. She reaches the age of around 30, but the world has moved on through ages around her.

I enjoyed this greatly, and as I said a while back, it sparked some ideas and made me think of associations with Iain Banks. Which can’t be bad.

  1. Indeed she/he turns up in Alan Moore’s League of Extraordinary Gentlemen series, switching back and forth seemingly at random.