Weekly Head Voices #177: Streakers.

A piece of the Lourensriver, captured for you during a particularly challenging post-Sunday-lunch run.

This edition of the WHV looks back at the two weeks from Monday August 26 to Sunday September 8, 2019.

On friendship, 25 years later.

The birthday mentioned previously, along with the portentous visit of a good friend from afar, led to at least two small celebrations (that I know of) with a bunch of us that have been friends for more than 25 years now.

In the bigger scheme of things, it’s not that long, but what I would like to mention here is how much such friendships can grow into the most honest of human connections.

It is as if with the passing years, one is able to shed all of the unnecessary baggage one tends to carry around as a beginner human.

What is left, is pure human warmth, unconditional support and, perhaps most significantly, the effortless loss of self.

You fade away, quite happily so, when one of your friends gets up in the light to tell a story.

For a while at least, one’s only representative in the conversation is one’s undivided recognition of and attention to the other.

This is certainly not reserved for 25+ year friendships, although this pre-requisite seems to facilitate the process to the point of effortlessness.

Nested Headings of Miscellany (NHoM-NHoM).

org-pdf-tools for constructing unifying notes.

Recently, I had to work through a stack of regulatory documents in PDF format.

The challenge was that the documents described different aspects of a single, complicated procedure, but were severely lacking in overview-engendering outlines or, even better, diagrams.

I did what I mostly do when faced with any research-related complexity: BUST OUT SOME MORE OF THAT EMACS!

I found the Emacs package org-pdftools, which I then PRd to work on my newer Orgmode (github makes this sort of collaboration so easy!) and then integrated into my workflow.

org-pdftools enables one to link to specific annotated extracts, created on-demand inside Emacs, from one’s orgmode notes.

I used this to synthesise an overview document explaining the whole process, linking to different parts of multiple PDFs explaining each aspect in more detail.

Being able to jump effortlessly from a central overview document to specific positions in reference PDFs is a huge boon to the research process.


One friend of work pointed me at an online source of affordable Altras.

I have secretly been pining for a pair of these shoes.

I was planning to use them for the longer runs when I can feel that my feet need a little more support than my sandals are able to provide.

However, my feet have really gotten used to the wide open spaces of sandals, or even better, of going barefoot.

Altras are zero-drop shoes, with ginormous toe boxes. Their motto is “Embrace the Space”.

It seems like I have found some shoes with the right motto…

Friend #1’s recommendation had shoes that were semi-affordable, contrary to my expectation.

When I pointed friend #2 from work at friend #1’s recommendation, he pointed me at an even more affordable source.

I could have continued with this iterative process, but I was unable to delay this purchase any longer.

My new pair of Altra Escalante 1.0s arrived the next day.

(Yes, I know, 1.5 and 2.0 are available. However, the stellar reviews of 1.0 have not changed, and did I say “affordable”?!)

On Friday I broke them in, and on Sunday I made a slightly longer than normal run (see in-progress photo above) to see how they did.

Anyways, in spite of the rest of me taking quite a beating on the second run, I can happily report that the shoes did a marvellous job of balancing support on the one hand and foot-freedom on the other.

Life optimisation tip #73: Streak more.

As I was scrolling aimlessly through my facebook feed during my last session before the Great Social Media Fast of September 2019 (see next section), I quite ironically ran into a truly interesting post by a Swedish visualization colleague (SVC).

In this post, he talked about his hobby and progress as a run streaker.

It turns out that there are runners with the excellent additional hobby of streaking, which in this context refers to the act of running every single day of their lives, and trying to do these daily runs for the longest continuous streak possible.

The streakers know of each other, almost like Highlander, and are in a friendly competition, very much unlike Highlander.

SVC now has a single uninterrupted streak, spanning multiple years, of daily running behind him. He has friends in his city who have also been streaking for multiple years now.

I find this fantastic, both specifically as a running and fitness feat, and more generally as a brilliant human optimisation trick.

The longer your streak, the harder it’s going to become to break that streak. Add in the friendly competition element, and you have become an accomplishment machine.

I see great potential here in the context of compounding more consistently, and for longer.

What else could we streak folks?

The Great Social Media Fast of 2019.

Twitter, Facebook, Reddit and friends… hot durnit.

Because I recently re-acquired the habit of checking reddit and twitter multiple times during the day, I again examined the mechanisms driving this undesirable behaviour.

The insidiousness, at least for me, lies in the fact that TwiFRaF (twitter, facebook, reddit and friends) always has something looking like new information on tap, where with tap, I mean firehose.

At any given moment during the day, when brain desires new input, or is just tired and would like to take a break, TwiFRaF firehoses are ready to spew something that appears to be new information but is only a very convincing analogue.

Brain thinks it’s getting what it wanted, plus a tiny and uninspired spurt of discovery-dopamine here and there, which helps to keep up the illusion.

Any chance of real curiousity taking its natural course is cancelled.

Instead of pondering a question, and then going out on a slow and deliberate search for information and later enlightenment, the firehose is opened, because it’s easier.

Furthermore, brain is unnecessarily exhausted trawling through a mix of mostly generic rubbish with, granted, an interesting nugget every blue moon.

Hot durnit.

Fortunately, I like experiments, and Cold Turkey is my middle name!

So, on Saturday I decided to cut out TwiFRaF completely.

Initially I thought it would be an experiment until the end of September, but now I’m thinking that streaking might be an even better option.

We’ll see.