Bullshit.

Wealthy white boys from North America are more likely to be full of shit than other kids:

Having derived and established the comparability of our bullshit scale via measurement invariance procedures, we go on to find that young men are more likely to bullshit than young women, and that bullshitting is somewhat more prevalent amongst those from more advantaged socioeconomic backgrounds. Compared to other countries, young people in North America are found to be bigger bullshitters than young people in England, Australia and New Zealand, while those in Ireland and Scotland are the least likely to exaggerate their mathematical knowledge and abilities. Strong evidence also emerges that bullshitters also display overconfidence in their academic prowess and problem-solving skills, while also reporting higher levels of perseverance when faced with challenges and providing more socially desirable responses than more truthful groups.

Here’s the study: Bullshitters. Who Are They and What Do We Know about Their Lives?

Freedom vs Function

Great piece by Brent Simmons (the guy who originally wrote MarsEdit, the app that I’m writing this entry in) about the freedom to make your computer your own and how that freedom is slowing eroding away.

With every tightened screw we have less power than we had. And doing the things — unsanctioned, unplanned-for, often unwieldy and even unwise — that computers are so wonderful for becomes ever-harder.

G4

Just this week I built up an old Mac G4 with OS 9.2 on it with my son and recalled how much I loved Mac OS 9 and the flexibility to make it look and do all sorts of crazy stuff (Drag Thing!) That’s not so much the case with OS X and Marzipan threatens to make OS X even less flexible under the hood. The only real freedom and flexibility the end user has (besides changing the wallpaper, etc.) is at the command line. If that ever goes away then Linux starts to look very attractive from a desktop perspective.

Ed Boyden on Minding your Brain

I listened to this absolutely fascinating podcast yesterday. Tyler Cowen is a great interviewer and he and Boyden cover such a huge range of neuroscience topics: from mental illness to optogenetics to ketamine to meditation to blowing up bits of your brain using a material like the use in diapers so that the bits are large enough to study under a microscope. Really, really great discussion. Definitely worth your time, give it a listen.

BOYDEN:I think one of the things we have to figure out is how can you detect consciousness, and how can you create consciousness? Alan Turing proposed the Turing test, where you would converse with something and you could try to decide whether it was conscious. But with Siri and Alexa and all this stuff in homes and on phones nowadays, I think everybody would agree that’s probably not enough. You need to know something about the internal state as well, but we don’t have a firm grasp on that yet.

I also loved this exchange:

COWEN: Is there a puppet master in the theater, or is it a kind of nominalist reality, where all there are are the different desires? And maybe the film involves a kind of illusion that someone’s in control, but that’s just another actor in the play?

BOYDEN: Here’s another way of looking at it, which is there’s so many things that we’re consciously aware of, but the vast majority of the things that the brain is doing, we’re probably unconsciously aware of.

For example, here we are in my office, and there’s all sorts of stuff around. Your brain has been processing a lot of it. If I point at that blue highlighter over there, you probably saw it earlier but were not paying conscious attention to it. But now that I point at it, you are consciously aware of it.

I actually think that something that we have to understand is, how are all these unconscious processes — this roiling sea of stuff that we have no access to — how are those processes contributing to the emergence of consciousness?

That’s one reason why I’m very excited to study the process of consciousness, if you will. What are the processes in the brain that lead to it that happen beforehand and that might help us understand, in a causal way, what gives rise to consciousness? But again, this is just an idea right now.

Spotify or Apple Music?

I’ve been using Spotify since July, 2011 (when it first became available in the US). It is my go-to streaming service. We’ve had the family plan for years. I use it to work on collaborative playlists with the other musicians with whom I play. I use it when I am learning new songs–being able to hear multiple versions/other artist’s versions of a song is super helpful.

But primarily I use Spotify to discover new music. Spotify’s discovery features are without equal. I’ve become aware of and a fan of more new musicians on Spotify than all the radio or record stores in the world could have ever turned me on to.

From Spotify’s weekly Discover playlist which has an uncanny knack for presenting me with artists I’ve never heard of (though occasionally, too, it is way off base) to its “related” functions that allow you to do really deep dives into obscure genres, Spotify does an amazing job at preventing stagnation in your listening habits.

There are also a bunch of external tools the the Spotify API makes available for discover: Discover Quickly, Smarter Playlists and Organize your Music are all good tools for finding new music.

What this means is that I’m regularly listening to artists who I would have never listened to otherwise. The problem is that Spotify (and, frankly all of the other streaming services) pay these artists squat. That streaming royalties are too low is a given.

But now that Apple seems willing to pay artists more than Spotify, the question is whether or not an unfairly low royalty payment is better than no royalty payment at all? Meaning, if I didn’t discover the artist on Spotify I would never have listened to them at all. I mean, 1% of $1.00 is better than 0% of $10, right?

At issue is the Copyright Royalty Board’s 2018 decision to raise the rate paid to songwriters by 44% over the next five years. Spotify, along with three other streaming services — Amazon, Google and SiriusXM/Pandora — is appealing that decision to the board, a move that has no direct precedent. The four companies have been shellacked with criticism by artists for their action…

Apple, which would also benefit if the rate increase is nullified, is not part of the appeal…

As a sign of how badly the PR war is going, many songwriters are canceling Spotify subscriptions and doing so publicly on social media, where they make sure to note their subscription fees will now be going to Apple Music.

From: Apple Is the Real Winner in Spotify’s Battle Against Songwriters’ Rate Hike

I understand why musicians would want to publicly cancel their Spotify accounts. They are trapped working in an industry that is and always has been horrifically unfair to musicians.

But that said, I’ve been dreading the day that Apple takes off its gloves and reaches into its bottomless pockets in its war with Spotify. I love a lot of Apple’s stuff but, man, Apple Music absolutely sucks. Its interface is shit. Its discovery features are abysmal. I want Spotify to stay around, viable and –importantly–to keep finding new music for me to listen to.

As a musician I’m torn here: go with the company that helps listeners find new music but doesn’t pay those musicians well or go with Apple who pays more but in the end probably pays a smaller universe of musicians because they push the same limited pool of performers to everyone.

For now, I’m sticking with Spotify but will keep exporting my playlists to Apple Music for when Apple drives them out of business.

Streaming Revenue (or, beware Charts w/o Context)

On the heels of some recent coverage about how Streaming Revenue is up I thought it might be useful to put some context around the hockey stick charts that some of these news outlets insist on displaying.

For sure, the music industry sure looks to be on the up and up!

*Overall Revenue Chart from 2016-18*

And streaming is really contributing a lot to the $9.8bil!

*Streaming Revenue Chart*

But in context of an industry that was bringing in $15bil 20 years ago this graph provides some good context:

*Historic Revenue Chart*

How not to overthink iOS shortcuts for Day One Journals

I like to keep notes about the gigs I play with my various bands. Sometimes I log very detailed entries about changes we need to make to our gear or sound settings for the next gig, other times it’s just a few quick words so I can remember who came out to see us or what riff I need to work on in a given song for the next gig.

Naturally I use Day One to record this information. Last year I started using an iOS Shortcut that I wrote that prompts me for the type of information I want to record about each gig. The shortcut presented me with a list of questions and then combined all of my responses to those questions into a nicely-formatted Day One journal entry.

day one prompts for gig journal entry

The problem is that I am not a great Shortcuts writer. I’m lazy so I didn’t add any flow control statements to try to save my responses to the prompt questions as I went along. Meaning, after answering 3 or 4 questions and typing them on my iPhone (which is needless to say tedious) I would occasionally forget about my lame programming skills and try to pause the Shortcut while I go over to facebook or somewhere and download a photo from the gig to add to the entry. Nine times out of 10 I would hit “Done” in the Shortcuts app to do this and in the process I would lose all of the responses I had already typed. Frustrating.

This morning I did just that. Again. I hit Done in Shortcuts while answering the gig prompts in order to go get a photo from facebook and lost all of the details I’d already written last night’s gig. Let me be clear this isn’t Shortcuts fault or Day One’s.

day one journal template

Then I realized I’m totally overthinking this whole need to be prompted bit by Shortcuts and instead trashed my old shortcut and just wrote up this little gem which works just fine and doesn’t have the risk of me screwing it up and losing text. Moral of the story: don’t overthink it! Maybe instead of using Shortcuts to prompt you for a long list of questions, just create a template entry in Shortcuts instead.

Read iOS HRV data (captured during breathing session) via shortcuts

I first started using Heart Rate Variability (HRV) to track my recovery from a concussion that I sustained while out mountain biking. HRV is a possibly useful metric to track overall health, stress levels, etc. I have a few years worth of (not entirely consistent) HRV data as a result of using Marco Altini’s fantastic HRV4Training app. If you’re not hip to HRV, here’s a little explainer from Marco’s website:

HRV, in particular rMSSD or a transformation of rMSSD such as HRV4Training’s Recovery Points, are simply a way to capture parasympathetic activity, or in other words, level of physiological stress. As we apply stress to trigger certain adaptations, measuring our body’s response to such stressors, as well as to all other forms of stress we are affected from (e.g. simply life happening, work stress, family, etc.), is very helpful as it can provide objective feedback and help us making meaningful adjustments, the simpler adjustments is probably just being a little more honest with ourselves, and slowing down from time to time, especially when our body is already too stressed.

The difficulty for me has been taking consistent measurements. For HRV data to be useful it ought to be collected at the same time and under similar circumstances each day. For most people, that’s first thing in the morning as they are laying in bed. Unfortunately our domestic situation is such that I do not have the luxury of laying in bed once I am awakened. Additionally there are some added stressors first thing in the AM that make replicating circumstances from one day to the next very difficult. So using HRV has always been hit or miss for me. Stepping way back and looking at long term trends I can always see my HRV going down when I play too many gigs in a given month (and am out late too frequently), but aside from that, there are so many day to day stressors in my life that it is difficult to tease out whether or not the impacts to my HRV are due to workouts or just daily stressors. I’ve had an Apple Watch (v2?) for while now and was hoping that having a measurement device strapped to my wrist might help me get HRV measurements with more consistency — and in turn make better inferences from the data. Unfortunately, Apple doesn’t make getting at the HRV data easy. Marco has written up a great explainer on how to get accurate and useful HRV measurements out of an Apple Watch

Recently, researchers at the University of Zaragoza in Spain, published a paper showing that RR intervals extracted from the Apple Watch while using the Breathe app, are indeed very accurate (Hernando et al., “Validation of the Apple Watch for Heart Rate Variability Measurements during Relax and Mental Stress in Healthy Subjects”). This is great news as it shows that the basic unit of information (RR intervals) can be trusted.

In other words, if you use the Breathe app on the Watch it will record HRV data for the breathing session which captures good beat-to-beat variability data. You can see from the screenshots that the Apple Watch takes a few HRV snapshots throughout each day. The measurements I’m interested in tracking are the first one from each day as I will try to do an Apple Watch breath session each morning (hopefully before the watch takes its first snapshot HRV reading). Enter iOS Shortcuts. If you’re not hip to iOS shortcuts and you own an iPhone, you should be. If you are hip to iOS shortcuts, I’ve written a proof of concept shortcut that:

  • looks to see when you’ve done the breathing app on your watch today
  • grabs the associated HRV reading from the breathing session
  • writes the value of the HRV to a Day One Journal entry

There are a bunch of directions to go with this but basically I just wanted to prove out the case that:

  • it is possible to query the HealthKit database for all of the breathing sessions (Mindful Minute sessions = 1 min)
  • get the time that the breathing session occurred
  • extract the HRV value that is captured in healthkit for that time period

Get the shortcut from iCloud here.
You need to click this link from your iPhone and need to have Day One installed but if you’re this far along you can likely modify the Day One entry to your text file of choice. The shortcut seems to generally work. While it will never have the functionality of HRV4Training it will be curious to see if deriving the HRV value from my watch makes me record the data any more frequently. Also, this is the first shortcut I’ve written and shared so I’m not sure if I create new versions if I need to post a new link or not. If you’re into this kind of thing and use it/modify it, etc. please drop me a note!

2019-03-15 14.17.53

Safety Dance comes on when I’m out riding and all of a sudden some part of my brain is looking at Casio watches in the Service Merchandise catalog.

Old School Mac

Desktop

Spent a lot of time yesterday waiting for sql inserts to load and thought, hmm let me change my desktop background image. From there it was all down hill. Rabbit hole after rabbit hole, looking for vintage Mac icons. I even resucitated DragThing, forgot what a great application it is. Anyway, back to work.