Time Travel: A History (review)

Maria Popova describes James Gleick’s new book Time Travel: A History, “a dizzying tour of science, philosophy, and their interaction with literature.” A few snippets from her lengthy review:

“Why do we need time travel, when we already travel through space so far and fast? For history. For mystery. For nostalgia. For hope. To examine our potential and explore our memories. To counter regret for the life we lived, the only life, one dimension, beginning to end.”

“Things have been, says the legal mind, and so we are here. The creative mind says we are here because things have yet to be.”

“The mind is what we experience most immediately and what does the experiencing.”

“If we have only the one universe — if the universe is all there is — then time murders possibility. It erases the lives we might have had.”

One of my favorite topics by one of my favorite writers.

UPDATE: From a good piece in The Guardian: “Howard and his editors also manage a number of celebrity Beatle-fan coups, like the day when, to their astonishment, they spotted a 14-year-old Sigourney Weaver looming lankily over her fellow teenyboppers in footage of a 1964 show.”

Apple Music changing the way I think about music

Not sure I can explain this but let’s give it a shot. Raise your hand if you’re old enough to remember “collecting websites.” This was back in the early days of the web and long before Google made it easy to find your way back to a favorite site. Bookmarks were an important part of your web browser. It wasn’t uncommon to have dozens (hundreds?) of bookmarks. So many you needed a folder structure to keep them all organized. I don’t know many who still maintain such lists. Modern browsers do a pretty good job of keeping up with your favorites sites based on your surfing habits.

I’m seeing a similar evolution in my music listening habits. I still have some playlists I created in iTunes. These are lists of songs I purchased and downloaded. Or, more recently, just downloaded from Apple Music. But I’m finding it increasingly cumbersome to navigate these lists when compared to the way Apple Music connects me to music. Where my playlists are static (the same songs), Apple Music playlists are updated with fresh songs. I don’t know if this is true of all playlists or just some. But the result is a fresher, more dynamic experience. In some ways this feels like listening to a good radio station where the music rotation is the best blend of favorites and new stuff like the favorites. I told you… difficult to explain.

There are some classics I’ll always want to keep close (Mad Dogs and Englishmen, Harvest, Tapestry, etc) but I’m feeling less need to organize and manage “my” (i.e. downloaded) songs. If I’m in the mood for some funk or a Janis Joplin song Apple Music will deliver the good far better than my collection. My downloaded library is finite where Apple Music is infinite but increasingly aware of what I like (or might like).

Missouri Death Row Audio

In the late ’90s I created a website called MissouriDeathRow.com. A Missourinet reporter had served as a witness (while covering) of every execution going back to 1989. There was no death row website because a) the web was still pretty new at the time and b) the Missouri Department of Corrections went to some lengths to avoid the term “death row,” even though prisoners sentenced to — and awaiting — execution were housed together.

At each execution, a packet of information was handed out to reporters and a stack of those were gathering dust in the Missourinet newsroom. News Director Bob Priddy and I began putting that information online and it quickly became the de facto site for information about capital punishment in Missouri. I maintained the site until I retired in 2012.

The site included a page with some of the history of capital punishment, including audio recorded by Missourinet reporters. As of this writing, much of that audio is no longer available on the site. The site was moved a few times, different servers, different platforms… files get misplaced or lost. My buddy Phil Atkinson did his best to find some of those and I’ve archived them here.

Missouri hasn’t executed anyone in a couple of years but they had quite run at one point. The audio includes post-execution news conferences, interviews with victims’ families, opponents and proponents, and the condemned.

You are where your attention is

Excerpts from an article in New York Magazine by Andrew Sullivan:

“Then the apps descended, like the rain, to inundate what was left of our free time. It was ubiquitous now, this virtual living, this never-stopping, this always-updating. […] The engagement never ends. Not long ago, surfing the web, however addictive, was a stationary activity. At your desk at work, or at home on your laptop, you disappeared down a rabbit hole of links and resurfaced minutes (or hours) later to reencounter the world. But the smartphone then went and made the rabbit hole portable, inviting us to get lost in it anywhere, at any time, whatever else we might be doing. Information soon penetrated every waking moment of our lives.”

“A small but detailed 2015 study of young adults found that participants were using their phones five hours a day, at 85 separate times.”

“You are where your attention is. If you’re watching a football game with your son while also texting a friend, you’re not fully with your child — and he knows it. Truly being with another person means being experientially with them, picking up countless tiny signals from the eyes and voice and body language and context, and reacting, often unconsciously, to every nuance. These are our deepest social skills, which have been honed through the aeons. They are what make us distinctively human.”

Nest Cam Outdoor

My first impressions of this camera are very positive. Very easy to install and set up. Plug it in, connect to your wifi network and you’re done. The camera mount is magnetic so you can swivel the cylindrical camera to change the viewing angle. Good image, day and night and camera has a mic and speaker so we can communicate with any visitors.


There’s a Nest Aware option ($10/mo) that captures and stores video but that’s not something we need. But nice to have if we lived in a neighborhood with high crime or nosy neighbors. The camera is motion sensitive and can alert you when you have a visitor. I’m still getting familiar with the software but can monitor with iPhone app or from a browser on my laptop.

For you glass-half-empty types: Yes, a bad guy could rip this off the wall or cut the power cord or spray-paint the lens or just go in the back door. But for $200, this is a simple, effective security camera.

UPDATE: Brief clip of night video from Nest Cam

‘There’s Nothing Better Than a Scared, Rich Candidate’

“Put the right images on the screen and the right words in the script, and all the candidate has to do is read the lines. Politicians aren’t leaders—they’re interchangeable products to be packaged and sold.”

“The Republican pollster John McLaughlin, who told then–House Majority Leader Eric Cantor he was leading his 2014 primary by 34 points shortly before he lost, had a track record of giving clients bad information. McLaughlin still gets hired today.”

“The vast majority of presidential elections […] can be forecast based on the state of the nation’s economy and the approval rating of the sitting president.”

Molly Ball, The Atlantic