I spent the last hour or so playing with Wednesday’s XKCD comic, click and drag. As the title suggests, the reader is invited to click and drag around the frame, revealing a vast world of tremendous detail.
First, I thought “wow, that’s a cute gimmick”. But as I scrolled more and more, I wondered: just how big is ithis? I want to see the end! Panning furiously to the right, I discovered rolling hills and mountains, trees, a massive radio tower, oceans, all part of this world.
The process of clicking and dragging through the panes is a beautiful analogy for exploration and wonder. Like the real world, this digital world is large, waiting to be explored, so large you don’t even know how large it is. But exploring isn’t easy (clicking and dragging gets _tiring_), and concentrating too much on the big picture (or how big the picture is) makes you lose sight of the beauty of the journey.
The image is actually a composite of 2048x2048 pngs, served and stitched together by JS dynamically. The entire ‘image’ is 165,888 x 79,872 pixels. I can only wonder how long Randall Munroe spent drawing it.
And for the impatient, here’s a zoomable version: http://xkcd-map.rent-a-geek.de. But keep in mind that the very point of this comic is to explore the world piece by piece.
I slept at 05:00, for about 2.5 hours, waking at 07:30. Adrenaline induced insomnia kept me up after the rest of the suite fell asleep (despite not returning last), and at time of writing everyone remains sleeping.
I lost my phone last night during a cliche moonlit walk along Myrtle beach last night. A beach is possibly the worst place to lose a phone: a vast, featureless expanse of small, phone-shaped dunes, conveniently placed next to an ocean, which not only moves with the tide (nullifying most attempts at relative position determination), but also muffles all sounds (vibrations and ringtones alike). Despite knowing precisely where I had left it (to within ~10 sq ft), we weren’t able to find it. I took some photos referencing the buildings in the skyline in the hopes that I could triangulate my position tomorrow and have better luck in the sun.
So I ventured out onto the sand for an early morning jog in the hopes of finding it. I recalled my photos, tried my best to reposition myself, and set to searching. Thirty minutes, no success. Somewhere, my phone is out there, lost in the self-similarities of the sand. Yet I’m not too worried. Why?
Two answers: one technological and one philosophical.
The cloud. Losing my phone is only a minor inconvenience because all my data is loosely (completely?) decoupled. Contacts + mail through gmail. Notes in evernote / gmail drafts. Most of the stuff I do is in the browser anyway. Even my phone number is decoupled via Google voice: I can still send/receive texts (the first thing I did was send a “Please return if you find me” text from a friend’s phone) and check missed calls. The most I lose is some low-quality camera phone photos.
Affective style. Somehow, between Yale and TJ, I’ve learned to be very low-stress and low-worry. I’ve never been one to excessively worry, but recently I’ve really seen the benefits of positive outlook. I pointed out to SW, as I called off the search last night, that this would be a good reason to look into buying a new phone anyway. I immediately focused on the benefits of not having a phone (liberation from information guilt!) and ways to mitigate the drawbacks (google voice!).
The philosophical, psychological, and other-ological bases for happiness is described in Jonathan Haidt’s book, The Happiness Hypothesis which SB has lent to me for the duration of Myrtle. The book’s opening challenges one of my core beliefs: the ability of willpower, reason, and conscious action to actualize self-improvement and marshal the mind and body. Haidt’s argument (so far) is that while we may certainly think conscious thought can allow us control, it is much more like the “rider on an elephant”, with the elephant representing the implicit, unconscious, and automatic processes. The rider, small and powerless, can only train the elephant and never control it directly.
Haidt also brings up the role of genetics in happiness. “Affective style” refers to your typical level of happiness, determined by the interplay between the approach system and withdrawal system. “Cortical lefties”, who exhibit higher activity of a certain kind of brainwave in the left side are predisposed to feel happier. “The difference between cortical righties and lefties can be seen een in infants: Ten-month-old babies showing more activity on the right side are more likely to cry when separated briefly from their mothers” (33).
I am slightly skeptical, given my own transformative experience, but then again I’m only 50 pages into the book. More thoughts to come later.
A few other thoughts:
Losing my phone also means I do not own a single functional internet-capable device (misplaced the chromebook, desktop has damaged ssd). Liberation, or inconvenience?
My morning run also taught me that beach authorities usually till / plow the sand to make it fluffier. Judging by the tracks, which are about 20 cm deep, a phone could easily be buried deep underneath the sand.
No college students are awake at 8 AM on a beach. Exclusively middle-aged / older couples. KE reports that a bus of elementary school students (“super adorable”) have a field trip on the beach. Wonder how the college student dynamic will play out.
The freshly tilled sand is a fantastic place to practice tricking and tumbling. New workout: dive roll along the entire beach? An elderly man gave me a thumbs up after watching me land on my ass after bailing from a front flip. I will coerce JP into teaching me how to front flip.
Yesterday, a dear alumni passed away. Zach Brunt who was studying at Yale University, was found dead, with no official cause of death as of yet. What is wonderful is that though we received the news late last night, tj kids were able to rally up and wear orange and neon colors to remember him by. What’s even better is that class of 2011 participated through out the country as well.
This is for you, Zach. You made a huge impact on so many people’s lives, even if we didn’t know you personally. Just your personality made the day a little brighter. Rest In Peace.
(04:26:26) Haitao Mao: do you just treat them as different files currently? (04:26:29) Haitao Mao: and like (04:26:31) Sherwin: nah (04:26:37) Sherwin: i have a single file (04:26:38) Haitao Mao: ok what do you do (04:26:38) Sherwin: called lists (04:26:40) Haitao Mao: uh huh (04:26:43) Sherwin: and hten i also have (04:26:44) Sherwin: google tasks (04:26:47) Sherwin: which has different lists (04:26:52) Sherwin: i don’t really use the offlinef ile anymore (04:26:56) Sherwin: because i need everything to be in the cloud (04:27:04) Haitao Mao: ok (04:27:04) Sherwin: and i haven’t had time to (04:27:06) Haitao Mao: so you use google tasks (04:27:07) Sherwin: hack together a sync (04:27:09) Sherwin: yea (04:27:09) Haitao Mao: basically (04:27:30) Haitao Mao: kk (04:27:43) Haitao Mao: any features you feel are missing from that? (04:27:47) Sherwin: yea (04:27:47) Sherwin: vim. (04:28:09) Haitao Mao: lol what specifically (04:28:15) Haitao Mao: what is hard (04:28:18) Haitao Mao: with using tasks (04:28:22) Sherwin: like (04:28:22) Sherwin: typing (04:28:24) Sherwin: with a normal keyboard (04:28:25) Sherwin: sucks (04:28:35) Sherwin: basically (04:28:37) Haitao Mao: i seee (04:28:38) Sherwin: this feature (04:28:40) Sherwin: is missing (04:28:43) Sherwin: from basically (04:28:44) Sherwin: all programs (04:28:45) Haitao Mao: the ‘normal keyboard dilemma’
Haitao: _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ Sherwin: e Haitao: no e Sherwin: t Haitao: no t Sherwin: s Haitao: no s Sherwin: a Haitao: no a Sherwin: i Haitao: no i Sherwin: o Haitao: no o Sherwin: u Haitao: _ u _ _ u _ _ u _ Sherwin: wow Sherwin: do i know the word Sherwin: and is it an palindrome Sherwin: palindrome Haitao: u know Haitao: the word Haitao: it is not Haitao: a palindrome … Sherwin: is it a proper noun Haitao: no Sherwin: so it’s Sherwin: a normal word Haitao: not really Sherwin: and you’re not Sherwin: being a dool Haitao: i could be. Sherwin: you’re being a dool. Haitao: :D … Haitao: i gotta Haitao: go Haitao: the word was Haitao: bukbukbuk Haitao: :E