Things I learned this week #18

I took a four day week last week, so managed to spend this week with all the energy that only a 3-day weekend can give you. That said, I've found myself incredibly busy this week. This is the first evening (Thursday) where I've managed to find some time to myself without something pressing. Lockdown continues, Brexit talks and COVID vaccine are competing for media attention, but also I bought two (2!) new types of coffee beans this week sooooo.

  • This fitness advice: Now that it's winter (and also a lockdown), I have to make my yearly switch from cycling to running as my primary form of cardio exercise. I've been looking into training advice to make sure that I don't ruin my body in the long term, and I came across the following rules-of-thum: if you run, aim for less than 20 miles a week, run 3-4 times a week, and stay below 8mph (~13km/hr). (source)
  • This cat fact: Cats purr for a number of reasons, not just when they're happy and content. Some people have made the argument that the kitty vibrations can help heal them, or strengthen their bones. This is perhaps why cats typically seem to be fine with jumping (but never falling, ever) off of high things. They also purr to comfort themselves if they're feeling stressed, which is 10/10 adorable. I can relate strongly to the second of these two purposes, I grew up with an incredibly loud purring cat waaaay before the ASMR trend came to light. (source)
  • This Tweet: "You eat sausages your whole life but you refuse vaccine because you don't know what's in it." It's not really a thing I learned but I love the drama. (@julianpopov)
  • This early herbal pioneer: Elizabeth Blackwell lived in Scotland during the early 18th century. In 1737 she published A Curious Herbal: Containing Five Hundred Cuts of the Most Useful Plants Which Are Now Used in the Practice of Pyysick - perhaps not the most catchy title. But it contained 500-some full-colour paintings of local plants used in medicine, at a time before we had even begun to categorise plants thoroughly. Blackwell produced each of these drawings while taking care of her young child, while her husband was locked up for money he owed his debtors. The images are striking and classically beautiful, but also gave information for each plant's medical use (source)
  • This bardic AI: Deep-speare is an AI trained to write sonnets, a la actual Shakespeare. The researchers fed a deep-learning algorithm nearly 3,000 sonnets and then asked it to write its own. Unsurprisingly, the algorithm was able to spot (and reproduce) the structural patterns in a sonnet (14 lines, the rhyming patterns), but it was also able to pick up on the syntactic and language itself: posing problems, comparisons to nature, the rhythm of writing. Take the following example of a quatrain (four-line section): shall i behold him in his cloudy state; for just but tempteth me to stop and pray; a cry: if it will drag me, find no way; from pardon to him, who will stand and wait. It's oddly poetic but maybe a little abstract. This all came before the more recent GPT-3, which has produced consistent, intelligible, long-form writing in the past few months. (source)

What I've had on Rotation

  • Something New Something to Feel Good About by Will Joseph Cook (Pop, 2020). Spotify decided to pass this album to me last week and it's cute. It's very cute. (links)
  • Something Old: Backbone by Roam (Pop Punk, 2016). I remember this album coming out and playing it (responsibly) loud on the speakers in my car as I was driving around. It's got great teenage summer energy. (links)

Cool Articles

  • Here comes the COVID-19 Baby Bust. COVID-19's had a couple of effects on family life, with a lot of couples making big decisions about marriage/divorce and children/no-children. This piece takes a look at the likely dip in birth of (American) babies, and how we might expect to see that self-correct over the next couple of years.
  • Real Talk: Behind the Music with 99pi Composer Seal Real & Her New Album. If you don't listen to the 99 Percent Invisible podcast, you should. If you do, then you probably know how beautiful the soundtrack is, and how well it fits the story and pacing of the piece. This piece shines a light on Sean Real, 99PI's composer, and their process of creating, and recently releasing, music.