The moon was the minute hand, the seasons the hour hand

Solitude did increase my perception. But here's the tricky thing—when I applied my increased perception to myself, I lost my identity. With no audience, no one to perform for, I was just there. There was no need to define myself; I became irrelevant. The moon was the minute hand, the seasons the hour hand. I didn't even have a name. I never felt lonely. To put it romantically: I was completely free.’ — Christopher Knight, hermit of 27 years.


Icy water

I also find that somehow, the way I'm built, the hardest part of my job is simply to shift from one task to the next. The new task is like icy water you have to dive into. The old task is a warm bath. It's especially hard when I know the new task is going to be really difficult, as half of them are. I always have to brace myself.’ — And many other pearls of wisdom in Lifehacker's interview with Ira Glass.



I’m trying to find these rare moments where you feel completely illuminated. Facts never illuminate you. The phone directory of Manhattan doesn’t illuminate you, although it has factually correct entries, millions of them. But these rare moments of illumination that you find when you read a great poem, you instantly know. You instantly feel this spark of illumination. You are almost stepping outside of yourself and you see something sublime. And it can be something very average, some small thing that everybody overlooks.’ — Werner Herzog


Word still a pain in the ass

I'm going to ignore the stupidity of telling me the name of the file and then saying the problem might (but only might) be related to the name of the file.

I know I'm biased with all the time I've spent using LaTeX, but there's not a single thing in Word that works nicely for me. Things like this just take the cake.

That students don't remember to send PDF is the big problem here. But really, given the fact that I can't even open a report in Word that was written in Word, and it's 2014, and there are so many other things that people do wrong in this program, can you blame me for telling students that Word is a waste of time and getting them to use LaTeX instead?


Open Finder window from Terminal directory; a better way

In Mac OS X's Terminal app, it's quite common (for me at least) to be working away in a directory and want to then view that folder in the Finder; whether to browse around or attach a file or what have you.

This is easily done with ‘open .’, which takes the current directory (.) and opens it using Mac OS X's default application for that filetype (in this case, Finder for a folder).

However, after doing this a few times you end up with multiple windows open in the Finder, and it's all rather cluttered.

I attempt to only have three Finder windows open at any one time: two view-by-columns browsing windows, and one view-as-list Downloads folder (it's a bit of a dumping ground). So when I want to view the current directory from Terminal, it'd be better if I could just change the current view of one of my windows to where I'd like to go.

AppleScript is your friend for any such task, and while I could do more to make this fancy (like switch away from the Downloads folder if necessary, etc.) here's a shell script (I call it fin) to do exactly that:


osascript -e "tell application \"Finder\" to activate" \
  -e "tell application \"Finder\" to set the folder of the front window to POSIX file \"`pwd`\" " > /dev/null

Save this as a text file in ~/bin/ (which might need to be added to your path by default; no longer sure), then hit chmod +x fin (assuming you call it fin like me) and your new command fin is ready to go.



‘Sleep problems: predictor or outcome of media use among emerging adults at university?’

An interesting article just published in the Journal of Sleep Research tracked around 1000 university students for three years to establish the relationship between sleep problems and ‘media’ use (including TV and social media).

The abstract reveals the surprising results:
[S]leep problems predicted longer time spent watching television and on social networking websites, but not vice versa. Contrary to our hypotheses, sleep duration was not associated with media use. Our findings indicate no negative effects of media use on sleep among emerging adults, but instead suggest that emerging adults appear to seek out media as a means of coping with their sleep problems.
This rings true to me, as much as we like to blame external factors for the ailment of youth. In my late teens and early twenties, it was very common for me to completely invert my sleep cycle after a two-week university break; it was usually compulsive book-reading or (later) nightlife that kept me awake until 4, then 5, then 6, etc., into the morning.

A big regret from that phase in my life was that I wasted so much time reading books that I'd either read before or that just weren't very good books. As fun as it might be to read something like The Wheel of Time (and I gave it up entirely in the early 2000s before the series was complete), I can't but help wonder what difference it would have made had I read real literature instead.


Three years of shadow yoga

Earlier this year I had the opportunity to attend two back-to-back yoga workshops by Emma Balnaves and Shandor Remete. I started writing up my thoughts from the two workshops at the time and (as is often the case) didn't manage to finish off writing about the experience.

But rather than try to describe the workshops themselves, which is something of an impossible task, I want to talk more generally about my shadow yoga journey.

A couple of years ago, I wrote
I have an addictive personality, and there's no doubt I've latched onto Shadow yoga as my latest obsession. [...] For the moment I feel stronger and more flexible than I've ever been, and yet there's still so many aspects of our classes in which it seems like I'm completely hopeless.
Many things have changed since then, but I'm still passionate about yoga. Should one call oneself a yogi? According to Shandor, of course not. That title is restricted to one who has attained the fruits of yoga. People like me are only pretending to be yogis until that time comes.

I still feel stronger and more flexible than ever—indeed, the levels of strength and flexibility I had attained when I wrote the above I have far surpassed. This is one of the reasons that yoga has sustained my interest these last years. While my progress has gone through periods of slower growth, and during particularly busy or holiday times I may have even regressed, in general my yoga abilities have never stopped improving.

It's a very slow and gradual change. After months of getting nowhere with a pose such eka pada koundinyasana, one day both legs lift from the ground and balance is achieved for a brief moment. Week by week, the wrists strengthen, the shoulders relax, the breathing slows, and the pose becomes not a challenge but a reference point. I may now be further from that reference point than when I practised that pose weekly, but I know it is inside of me.

But why are we learning these sometimes strange postures? Do I really become a better person if I can put my legs behind my head? Shandor is very clear on this aspect of yoga: asanas are a tool for working with the body, and with time and practise one learns the utility of each. As more advanced asanas are learnt, their beginner's counterparts can be left by the wayside—until such time, due to injury or mishap, that you may need to go back to basics for a while. But you need only use the asanas that you need.

The consequences of this are obvious. If we spent all our time working with asanas, we eventually run out of time to do any more yoga. Shandor and Emma both emphasised the fact that with sufficient application, asana work can be performed quickly and efficiently. It is detrimental repeating poses when doing them well just once would be more beneficial. It's easy to cheat in a yoga class, and progress stagnates. No-one is responsible for this but you.

Time to stop cheating.