January 13th, 2010

cold and bronchoconstriction

http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/01/13/why-do-so-many-winter-olympians-have-asthma/

This is really interesting, because that's the kind of asthma we all have. And on top of that, I've never sweated the way most people do, and after I overheated a couple of times when I was much younger, I more or less stopped sweating entirely and it took years for that to change. I ultimately took D.'s advice to exercise at a low rate of intensity in moderate temperatures and increase duration and intensity steadily to tolerance. Which in retrospect, sort of a duh thing, but it was nice that it worked so well.

But finding out there might be a genetic thing that tied that, the "asthma", and the dry mouth and eyes together? That's kind of a revelation.

NPR on e-reading

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=122026529

h/t SBTB, again.

I found this analysis alternately confusing:

Quote begins here: "Over the last couple of years, I've really noticed if I sit down with a book, after a few paragraphs, I'll say, 'You know, where's the links? Where's the e-mail? Where's all the stuff going on?' " says writer Nicholas Carr. "And it's kind of sad." Quote ends here.

Well, yeah, that would be kinda sad. I've been reading online for (quick math, oh, goddess, not _really_) for over twenty years. I don't suffer from this problem. I suspect I never will. I do remember, however, that when I was writing rules for an AI package and then switched back to more ordinary C programming, I had to remind myself to actually write main(). Because I forgot, once, and couldn't figure out why the program didn't actually run. Duh. So I guess I sympathize, without understanding.

Ignoring the try-to-write-a-novel-thru-twitter-crap (because why would we pay any more attention to people with that kind of attention span, anyway -- and that's not a slam on twitter, that's a slam against people that think a twitter novel is worth pursuing), next up is this gem:

Quote begins here. Grossman, who is also a novelist, says the real challenge for writers is electronic-book readers like the Kindle. He says the increasingly popular devices force people to read books in a different way.

"They scroll and scroll and scroll. You don't have this business of handling pages and turning them and savoring them." Quote ends here.

I just got done with an e-mail exchange with a good friend of mine who objects to the kindle because it does not actually scroll and she wishes it would because the amount of text on the screen is smaller than the amount on a page so she is constantly turning pages. She is accustomed to looking at a page for a while before having to turn it; the constant e-page turning is distracting to her. I responded saying that e-ink displays and scrolling aren't a great combination and won't be until several major breakthroughs are made and, further, I wouldn't like the scrolling at all. I then spent days thinking about the idea of spending minutes at a time before turning a page. Wow. Okay, back to Grossman.

I _think_ Grossman is trying to cue that lame-o but books smell and feel nice argument, which people who read 2+ books a week on average do not find typically compelling, but is a bizarrely attractive argument for the 2 dozen books a year reader. And there are a lot more 2 dozen books a year readers than there are the triple digits a year readers, even tho us triple digiters buy more books. And not just per person -- overall.

Grossman then mulls over the implications of e-readers rewarding narrative thrust. All I have to say to Grossman is, Fuck you, and go read Forster's _Aspects of the Novel_. If you don't have narrative thrust, you don't have much. A (weak) case can be made that this is not true for non-fiction, but the evidence in the piece is that Grossman is talking exclusively about novels.

But the one that prompted this post was a quote by someone else:

Quote begins here: "The real question is," wonders Carr, "is that segment of the population going to just dwindle and be on the periphery of the culture rather than at the center, which is where printed books have stood for centuries now?" Quote ends here.

As near as I can tell, Carr thinks that the population of people who read and write what he refers to as traditional books (and let me just note that boy, you could have a ball redefining that one to make all kinds of arguments) have been at the center of culture for centuries now, and is expressing some concern that they might be about to be marginalized.

Buddy, if you are worried that e-readers are what will marginalize readers and writers, I have _bad_ news for you.