Sunday, March 30, 2014

A map of philosophers




Recently, I was listening to the (legally free) audiobook of Plato's "The Republic". The Republic is composed of several books and even though the first one is of outstanding quality, I kind of got bored by books 2 and 3 so I switched to Carl Sagan's book "The Demon-Haunted World". All of these undoubtedly deserve a full article of their own, but that'll be for later and as a reminder for myself, I'll mention that it's a shame that Sagan's book has not been translated into French language and published in France.

While listening to Carl Sagan's audiobook, there was a mention of Sir Francis Bacon who was, according to Wikipedia, considered by Voltaire and Diderot to be the father of modern science, or rather the scientific method.

So I downloaded the (also legally free) audiobook of Bacon's essays. And one thing leading to another I went back to the great map that you can see at the beginning of this article. This map was created by Simonraper and is based on Wikipedia's content. Philosophers represented with a larger circle are philosophers whose Wikipedia article is reachable from the most numerous other philosophers' Wikipedia articles. So the size of each circle is arguably a representation of the philosopher's influence. But the more modern thinkers are likely to see their influence increase in the near future either because they're still alive and they're still producing intellectual content, or because their production is so young that not many other thinkers have had the time and opportunity to analyze and build up on.

This map is also a source of inspiration for my future readings (or rather my listening sessions thanks to Librivox) but the size of it is definitely intimidating.

If you want to see the full map, check it out over there: http://drunks-and-lampposts.com/2012/06/13/graphing-the-history-of-philosophy/

PS: there's no clear mention about the choices of color. I suspect it is related to the field of philosophy in which the philosophers specialized or earned their recognition.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Fitness Day 5

So let's call last Thursday (March 20th) "Day 1" of my fitness program, since I had a 90 minutes trial mentioned in a recent blog article. Today (Monday) is therefore "day 5" or "D5".

On D2, I felt very good. I had sore muscles, though. Especially biceps and pecs. But I felt more energy than other days. Was this just a psychological effect? Or was this a hormonal effect triggered by D1's trial? I know that after being hurt, our brain releases endorphin, the pleasure hormone, in order to cope with the pain. So it could be that!

On D3 and D4 I still had sore muscles. As I build muscles, the soreness should be less persistent and go away in 1 day maximum. At least, that was my experience when I used to go running every couple of days, 10 years ago.

Today is D5 and I officially subscribed and did my training session. In terms of exercises, I did almost the same as last time except I skipped the abs, spent 15 minutes cycling and 25 minutes on the cardio. I can already notice some improved performance on the bench press and the squats (which I've also done at home during the past days).

Tomorrow is gonna hurt but I feel good. I still have my big belly, but this is just the beginning.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

USA: how about you start using standard units?




Standards exist for a reason: making it easy for people to understand each other.

Not all standards are created equal. Some standards are very square, easy to understand and they make sense. Other standards may have some minor qualities but are overall cumbersome and they're just a legacy from a distant age of obscurantism. Granted: I'm being emotional about this!

To put it in plainer words: there's a smart system and a not-so-smart system. That's why international experts have been gathering to discuss the issue and have decided that the smart system should prevail while the not-so-smart system should die.

The metric system is smart. Everything works based on magnitudes that can be divided by 10, which happens to be the base we use for mathematics.
1 cm = 10 mm
1 m = 100 cm
1 km = 1000 m

I am currently interested in everything there is to know about woodworking. And of course the most plentiful resources are in English language. But Americans are sticking to a not-so-smart system and that's a massive pain in the neck to have to convert because of the laziness of peope using the not-so-smart system.
1 inch = 16 sixteenths of an inch
1 foot = 12 inches
1 yard = 3 feet
1 mile = 1760 yards

Really, USA? Really? You know you can do better than that! In reality, the USA have decided to switch to the smart system since the 1970's. But the USA have been sitting on their hands since then.


Practical case

So I want to know the ideal height of a workbench for me, considering my height. I measure 1.73m which easily converts to 173cm if I want to use a finer unit. I googled for information and found this:
On most benches, the working surface is somewhere between 33" and 36" high. If you're average height (between 5'9" and 6'0"), that's usually a comfortable height. But even a change of 1" up or down can make a big difference in how easy it is to work at the bench

So OK... Am I the average height? The average height is given here in a combination of 2 units: feet and inches. Because a single unit would be too simple. So I need to first convert my height into inches. Then I need to convert inches into feet... but only take the integer value for the number of feet while converting the rest back into inches.

COME - ON!

So then I find myself a bit short of the average height (but I knew that already), so maybe I'll just scale things proportionally to me. But if I want to do that, I need to calculate a ratio, and that means going back to a scale using a single unit (inches only or normal metric units only). And I need of course to convert the standard workbench height into the normal metric unit.


Conclusion

This article certainly sounds somewhat whiny but here are important facts:

 - The USA decided that they should adopt the metric system almost 40 years ago. 60% of the USA's population wasn't born when that decision was taken. To which you may add roughly 10% in order to account for immigrants (and not counting twice the young immigrants who are under 40 years old).

 - Only 3 countries in the world use the USA's system: USA, Liberia, and Myanmar.

So please USA: start using the metric system already!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Fitness




So, I haven't blogged for a while. I still feel held back by the article I'm writing on sexuality. It's really a big one, so I often feel that I'm losing courage when looking at the size of the task.

Anyway, today I'm talking about fitness. On YouTube, I have been watching some videos by Lee Lemon who has a channel about fitness. And since I have some spare time, I decided to get back to sports after 10 years of mostly dodging any kind of physical activity ...though I did a bit of scuba diving and I had the occasional team event like cricket, bowling or whatever.

So I looked for a gym near my place, went there a couple days ago and they proposed me to come for a trial, which was this morning. Aside from getting to know the coach and talking about food, about my objectives (priority: losing fat), etc, here's the list of activities that occupied me for 1 hour and a half:

  • warm-up for 10-15 minutes on an elliptical cardio machine
  • rower: 3 minutes
  • bench press: 20 kg. 4 series of 15 reps (last series: I reduced to 14kg) 
  • dumbbells: 5 kg. 4 series of 15 reps. But I moved up to 6 kg and that became really hard.
  • seated pulls with a lat bar: 4 series of 15 reps
  • squats: 4 series of 15 reps
  • v-bar press down: 4 series of 15 reps
  • plank: 4 series of maintaining for 30 seconds

After I was done with all of this, I observed a few things. First, I was surprised that I did drink almost all the content of my 1.5 liter bottle.

Then regarding muscles, I was surprised at how easy it is to reach your limit. The most shocking exercise was with dumbbells. You have 1 dumbbell of 6 kg in each hand and all you have to do is lift these. The first series went smooth. Then in the second series, after maybe 7 or 8 reps, I couldn't bring my arms to the horizontal. After I just lifted the dumbbells to a 45° angle, it's like I was hitting a wall. Really surprising!

And now, 2 hours after I finished my training session, I can feel that something is going on in my muscles, especially the biceps. And merely lifting my hands from the center of my keyboard to reach for the "delete" key requires an effort.

Hopefully, I'll feel good enough (no pain) to go back to the gym tomorrow or the day after. And I really hope that I can keep it up.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Lottery


Today I bought a lottery ticket.

As a scientifically-minded person, I most often take the point of view of scientists. But on the subject of lottery, I think the scientific community (SC) has lost track of an important point, though it does not invalidate completely what they usually say.

Members of the SC (like Steven Novella) describe lottery as a tax on the poor. In a sense, it is true, considering that the less well-off participate more to lottery than higher classes. Also, the individual cost of each lottery ticket is comparatively higher in percentage when compared to a low salary than when compared to a high salary. So, the criticism is valid.

However, I think something important has been forgotten about lottery. It gives you hope and dreams, plus as a consequence, it also gives you the occasion to discuss with your peers about such dreams and hopes. Certainly, giving hope is not always a good thing, especially if you give people false hope.

But I think national lotteries are rather straightforward and therefore the hope is not false. The chance of taking the big prize home is tiny (1 in 13 millions back in the day). And when considering the total amount of prizes awarded for each rank of winners, players will statistically gain less than what they gamble. That's normal. That's the basics of chance games. And concerning the European lottery "Euromillions", the redistribution rate is 50%. Simple!

I think that these hopes and dreams are what's often dismissed when considering lotteries. This is also the core reason of why people should not buy more than a single ticket. People suck at statistics and they often get the idea that buying 2 tickets increases their chances to win. They're wrong. Lottery is statistically a losing game, so buying 2 tickets will only double their chances to lose. And buying 2 tickets does not increase the hope that you get by buying 1 ticket. The increase in hope and dreams is marginal.


Conclusion

Don't buy more than 1 ticket!

Lottery is statistically a losing game, but you can play for the hope of winning rather than for winning itself.

Tonight's draw has €100,000,000 for the 1st rank winner. Thinking of it, it would certainly help me in some ways, but I'm kind of wary that this has the potential of messing up one's life badly. As a matter of fact, studies have even revealed that you're more likely to become a happy person when losing both of your legs in a car crash than you are to become happy after winning the lottery... which is totally counter-intuitive because our intuition sucks, but that's a different story.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

One issue with blog platforms

This article will be very short, because I have an appointment in a few minutes.

When you own a blog on a platform like blogger, you're limited in tools to identify and/or block the undesired visitors... in short: automated spam software that tries to publish comments in order to advertise for some commercial website selling whatever products.

This is a tiny blog in terms of visits and the majority of my visitors seem to be spam bots and other malicious software. Ideally, I should have my own server and write my blog on a blogging platform that I would customize for my needs. But that's an ideal case and I don't really have the resources to do that at the moment.

Blogger offers some identification of spam comments but it only works partially. It's not as good as the email spam filters. And I'm also kind of scared of having my Google account falling into a bad standing with Google if the majority of visits comes from malicious software. That's why I have phased one of my articles offline in the meantime as it was particularly targeted.

Gotta go to my appointment. I told you this would be a short article!
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