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2010 in review - Arvind Narayanan's journal [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]

2010 in review [Jan. 6th, 2011|04:04 pm]
Arvind Narayanan
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Best movie I watched: Inception. I've written about the dream-state being much more mysterious (and probably more powerful) than most people think, and being more similar to the wake-state than we are comfortable admitting. So in addition to being a load of fun, the movie had a deeper meaning for me.

Runner ups: The Social Network, Inglourious Basterds, Waiting for Superman. Many of my Silicon Valley acquaintances are upset about the portrayal of nerds in The Social Network, but I thought it was spot on.

Best book I read: The Checklist Manifesto. Mind-blowing and life-changing.

Runners-up: The Innovator's Dilemma, The White Tiger.

Best app: Rdio. Subscription music is absolutely the only model that works for me. After Apple bought and killed Lala in May, I didn't have anything for a few months until Rdio came along. Now I'm happy again. Let's see how long this one will last.

Runner-up: F.lux. Everyone needs to use this, especially if you have any problems at all going to bed and getting up on time. The only excuse for not using it is not knowing about it. And now you know about it.
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Comments:
[User Picture]From: drederick
2011-01-10 10:05 am (UTC)
Did you ever write the post that you alluded to in your dream post when you said "There are other similar things that my brain can do in my dream that I have been unable to recreate in waketime despite repeated trying"? If so can you link to it?

About your dream post in general: the commenter who doubted that your brain knew ahead of time that the #s would sum to 100 and that the guy had a gun in his pocket was probably right.
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[User Picture]From: arvindn
2011-01-10 11:20 am (UTC)
I never wrote that post, but I will mention one of the things I had in mind. If you can get hold of the Asimov short story In Marsport Without Hilda, there's a sort of semi-coherent rambling that a couple of the characters produce under the influence of a certain drug. I often experience exactly this type of stream of verbiage when I'm half-awake. It's hard explain it without actually producing such a stream, which I can't when I'm awake; the essential properties are that the stream is an infinitely long sentence that is "locally grammatically consistent," semantically meaningless, and essentially random subject to the grammatical constraint. What I'm getting at here is that our brains come equipped with random number generators, but we're unable to access them when we're conscious, and are consequently notorious for our inability to produce random numbers.

It is possible that the skeptical comments were right. However, I stand by my overall thesis. I am confident that within a decade or two neuroscience will have advanced to the point that it is testable :-)
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[User Picture]From: drederick
2011-01-11 10:19 am (UTC)
>>What I'm getting at here is that our brains come equipped with random number generators, but we're unable to access them when we're conscious, and are consequently notorious for our inability to produce random numbers.<<

Have you ever tried doing improv? The idea is to allow yout brain to just follow the first path that occurs to it (without judging whether it's a good/bad idea), which is probably what happens when we dream. People who are into improv claim that this is a learned skill, which seems like it would at least approximate what you're talking about.
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[User Picture]From: arvindn
2011-01-10 11:22 am (UTC)
I will add that lying half awake and "listening" to my brain produce this stream is an extremely beautiful experience. I have no control over when it happens; when it does, I'm desperate to prolong it but I inevitably wake up within a couple of minutes and it's gone.
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[User Picture]From: normalcyispasse
2011-01-14 03:15 pm (UTC)
Thanks for the list! I requested a couple of those books at the library and am now using F.lux. Still going to hold out on Rdio, however. I tend to mistrust subscription services.
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[User Picture]From: arvindn
2011-01-14 03:28 pm (UTC)
Could you explain what you mean by mistrust? I pay $5 a month for the ability to stream music (which to me is worth considerably more than $5 a month); there is no downloading involved, no DRM, none of that BS. The value you get for your money does not depend on the company's continued existence or any of their future actions, so I don't understand how trust comes into the picture.
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[User Picture]From: normalcyispasse
2011-01-14 03:34 pm (UTC)
Non-renewing subscriptions are generally acceptable to me. However, it seems the subscription model of modern business relies on automatically renewing memberships. To me, signing such an agreement seems tantamount to forking over an indefinite amount of money; I realize that the ability to cancel membership and such generally still lies with the consumer, but there does indeed still seem to be something that rubs me wrong about such a model.

Finite subscriptions I can often do. Auto-renewing subscriptions, less so. Also, I'm relatively loath to pay a fee for a service for something like music when I can't possess/store/transport the tunes, too.

I will say that Spotify sounds rather intriguing. Too bad it's mired in legal hell wrt America.
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[User Picture]From: arvindn
2011-01-14 04:41 pm (UTC)
To each his own, of course, but I have to say I have trouble following your objection. There's a huge difference between scammy businesses that auto-renew and make it hard to cancel, and businesses that auto-renew because that's what's simplest for most customers. Rdio has a big easy "Cancel" button; you can simulate a non-renewing subscription if you like by setting up yearly or 6-monthly reminder in Google calender to cancel in case you've stopped using it.

"Also, I'm relatively loath to pay a fee for a service for something like music when I can't possess/store/transport the tunes, too."

That is a perfectly valid objection. (It doesn't bother me though; I do not believe in storing data locally.)

"I will say that Spotify sounds rather intriguing. Too bad it's mired in legal hell wrt America."

It does indeed. I tried it for a while before they started blocking proxies; it was pretty decent but the UI of the desktop client wasn't great. Rdio on the other hand has an extraordinarily good UI in the web client.
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[User Picture]From: normalcyispasse
2011-01-18 12:41 am (UTC)
I started using F.lux recently. Unless I'm mistaken, however, it has some debilitating bugs with Windows 7. Specifically, it refuses to save my geographical location and occasionally just resets itself to "night mode." Also, heaven forfend if you accidentally start it on the 24-hour demo -- it seems to require a process kill to stop it.

Excellent concept, though. I hope it's debugged.
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[User Picture]From: arvindn
2011-01-18 03:57 am (UTC)
Oh, that is unfortunate. It works great on Ubuntu; I only used it for a day or so on Vista and it seemed to work fine.
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[User Picture]From: normalcyispasse
2011-01-18 03:58 am (UTC)
I'm giving it a second stab after removing and reinstalling it. I definitely like the concept!
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