Praying for junk mail

On the bike ride to my internship this morning I thought of all the emails I might have waiting for me after a week off for the holiday. I thought of what a chore it’ll be to go through them, parsing the good from the bad, the junk from the treasure. I’d sift through countless inquiries and calls-to-action and set my priorities for the day. It was a grown-up bike ride.

Suddenly, another thought struck: what if I don’t have any emails? What if I was just getting my hopes up, fantacizing about my importance when really my Inbox is chock empty? What could be worse than that?

“Logging in mhummel.”

Alas, I had one message, dated 11/22, from a blogger who wrote a piece about Newsworks at my gentle intern-inspired prodding.

One message. Maybe I am a little bit important.

A bad thing the internet is good at

The internet is really good at taking the mystery out of everything. Artist Keri Smith sums it up best:

One of the things I’ve been thinking about lately is how the internet is causing me to take many less risks in my life. I find myself doing entirely too much research on too many things, (god knows I love researching). But is it necessary to do it with everything? Every purchase. Every question. Every topic? …

More importantly, what ever happened to just reading the back of a book and taking a chance? What of the learning that arises out of making a mistake and having to live with that? What of the amount of time it takes away from our lives to conduct research on everything? How are we being altered psychologically by the process of trying to ensure that something is perfect? How will we change if we do not ever take any chances? What if we never made any mistakes again?

Two things reminded me of this today.

The first was a post about a new web site that takes the mystery out of your memory and the movies you’ve seen. I can’t tell you in what movie Woody Allen quipped “eternal nothingness is okay if you’re dressed for it,” and I like it that way. Let’s just say it was Hannah and Her Sisters and call it a night.

But no, out comes subzin, a web site that can tell you what movie a given quotation is from, the time it was uttered in said film and even links to the exact moment said utterance occurred, on Netflix. {via daring fireball}

The second happened at work, when I overheard someone mumble to their friend about the music I was playing. I then heard the word “Shazam,” a reference to the mobile app that can tell what’s playing using the iPhone’s built-in microphone. After several seconds the customer declared, “Elvis Costello! I thought so!”

I’m self-aware/pretentious enough to say that this is a gentleman I wouldn’t have been able to sustain a very long conversation with. But what about all the reflective types, wondering about the music, looking it up on Shazam and quietly adding the music on my playlist to one of their Save for Later lists? How many good conversations and new connections am I missing out on because of something called Shazam?

Using the iPhone for Psychology

A new Harvard study / iPhone app has determined that when we let our minds wander, our happiness suffers.

The app is called track your happiness, and it sends quick messages throughout the day asking what you’re doing, what you’re thinking about and how you’re feeling. It also checks up on your exercise routine. Here’s an excerpt from the Science Friday interview with Harvard researcher Matt Killingsworth and Ira Flatow.

FLATOW: And you say that mind-wandering, when people’s minds wander, they’re at their unhappiest state…

Mr. KILLINGSWORTH: Yeah. So there are three main results that we present in the paper. The first one is that people seem to be mind-wandering a lot. About 47 percent of the time, people said they were thinking about something other than what they were doing. So it really seems to be something that’s pervading people’s experience essentially no matter what they’re doing.

Another question I have, and a point I think skewered the results, is if non-iPhone users will also be tracked and compared. As someone who rides public transportation and spends a fair amount of time in coffee shops, it’s obvious that iPhone users would be among the least likely of us to spend time “in the moment.”

{via NPR}

Vitamin Duh

vitamin d visualization from information is beautiful

© David McCandless

I made a promise to myself this Fall to try and avoid seasonal depression. The winter blues aren’t too serious for me, but they do limit my motivation! I get a burst of creativity and productivity as soon as the warm April weather comes around again.

There are lots of explanations for it including shorter days, less exercise and time spent outside and my penchant for mellow music and muted colors during the winter months.

One of my resolutions is to get more vitamin D since the sun won’t be shining as much, and which research has suggested can improve mood. I picked up a supplement from Trader Joe’s — a tiny gel capsule with 1,000 IUs (250% daily value) in it.

I’m not sure if I can accurately attribute a better mood to a little vitamin D, but I suppose it can’t hurt to try. For more about the benefits of the vitamin, how much we need everyday and how we get it, check out this visual essay from information is beautiful.

Bikes are Bisexual

Fleshing out a new design… what do you think?

Which do you like the best?


© bminus