She drove my computer, pulling the information she had into various spreadsheets. She translated my muttered, vague ideas into charts. “This is called data mining.” She said the last words in English.

“Which of us is the canary?” I said.

China Mieville, The City & The City
Before long, Stalin sent Termen to America, with instructions to ransack the patent offices there for useful inventions. America is a practical country, and the Americans seized on a practical question: can these theremins make us any money?
RCA and Victor decided to test the market by building a few hundred theremins for sale to the public. They took a familiar marketing angle. By freeing people from having to learn an arbitrary and difficult set of hand positions, the spiel went, the theremin made it possible for anyone to create music! You simply waved your hands and pulled music from the ether.
They envisioned a theremin in every home, and even had a design for a combination theremin and radio receiver that let you play along to your favorites in a kind of capacitative karaoke. Given that the instrument is one of the hardest to play, handwaving was an appropriate sales pitch for the theremin.
But let’s imagine the theremin had lived up to its billing. I’m fascinated by this vision of a country of latent musicians, frustrated by outdated and expensive musical instruments, waiting for their creativity to be unlocked.
It’s a dream we seem to have every time there’s a big new technology shift. Blogging will make us a nation of writers! Digital video and YouTube will make everyone a filmmaker!

Mark Bittman: Sustainable diet resolutions

Mark Bittman wrote this text, “Sustainable diet resolutions”, at the beginning of 2014 and the text offers some great solutions, but more importantly ways of thinking about how and what you eat.

What follows are some of the easiest food-related resolutions you will ever make, from cooking big pots of grains and beans once a week, to buying frozen produce, to pickling things à la “Portlandia.” Committing to just a few of these, or even one, will get you moving in the right direction toward eating more plants and fewer animal products and processed foods. My suggestions are incremental, but the ease with which you can incorporate them into your normal shopping, cooking and eating routines is exactly what makes them sustainable and powerful.

Peter Gray: “The Play Deficit”

Peter Gray, a psychologist from Boston College, writes about the importance of letting children play freely in "The Play Deficit", in Aeon Magazine. This is a really good text to contemplate once in a while if you have children.

When I was a child in the 1950s, my friends and I had two educations. We had school (which was not the big deal it is today), and we also had what I call a hunter-gather education. We played in mixed-age neighbourhood groups almost every day after school, often until dark. We played all weekend and all summer long. We had time to explore in all sorts of ways, and also time to become bored and figure out how to overcome boredom, time to get into trouble and find our way out of it, time to daydream, time to immerse ourselves in hobbies, and time to read comics and whatever else we wanted to read rather than the books assigned to us. What I learnt in my hunter-gatherer education has been far more valuable to my adult life than what I learnt in school, and I think others in my age group would say the same if they took time to think about it.

Umair Haque: How to Have a Year That Counts

This came as a surprise at the beginning of 2014: from Umair Haque, "How to Have a Year That Counts" - “four resolutions that will help you create something that matters even more: a year that counts”.

Don’t give up on your dreams. If you want your year to count, don’t start with your goals. Don’t start with your plans. Don’t start with your objectives. Start with your dreams.

Don’t be afraid to suffer. There are two reasons for human action, and economists, with their superficial talk of “incentives,” don’t understand either. Fear and love. What are you afraid of? Rejection, poverty, disgrace? Whatever you call it, here is what it is: suffering. But you must never be afraid to suffer.

Seek the mystery inside the truth, not the truth inside the mystery. We’re taught to be obedient rationalists—super-nerd-brains running computer programs that optimize the lives other people tell us we should want—instead of, you know, human spirits capable of creating the lives we could live.

Let you happen. We, we are told, must “make it happen”; if we wish our lives to be precisely so. But that is the social philosophy of a child. Is it true that we must press the lever, if we wish to obtain the rewards we seek? Sure. If we’re lab rats—or smiling, thoughtless automatons. If, instead, we are here to live lives that matter, resonant with purpose, luminous with celebration, here is what is truer: we must let ourselves be, in every instant, who we were meant to become.

The text runs into scary coaching / management vibe, but some advice, no. 2 in particular, is very good.

5. The future of revolution. I have argued that, in our time, 1989 has supplanted 1789 as the default model of revolution: rather than progressive radicalisation, violence and the guillotine, we look for peaceful mass protest followed by negotiated transition. That model has taken a battering of late, not only in Ukraine but also in the violent fall that followed the Arab spring. If this fragile deal holds, however, and the fury on the streets can be contained, Europe might again show that we can occasionally learn from history.
The peculiar reality of a technology company that operates at the size and scale of Microsoft—and Google, and Apple—isn’t merely that it must continue to grow its sales and user base but that it must also continually expand its spheres of influence; its technology must touch and mediate everything. Every part of our lives or our businesses that’s left untouched is a space that another company can invade. Apple used music; Google used search; Facebook used your friends. The sprawling web of interconnected products that has resulted now thoroughly dominates our experience of consumer technology: if you own a Google Chromebook, your life will be much easier if you use Android and Chromecast and Google Drive, and much more painful if you try to use Windows Phone, Apple TV, and Dropbox. As I noted in October, “what people are choosing is less an iPhone 5s over a Moto X than an entire digital ecosystem that surrounds and permeates their life, and which will affect every other piece of technology that they buy.” People are deciding, in other words, how they want to live through technology.
I love that Japanese cities, unlike the depressingly over-preserved, over-protected and over-priced European ones I was brought up in, are constantly changing, constantly being made fresh. It’s great to live in a city that looks like it comes from the present rather than the past.