Icosian Reflections

…a tendency to systematize and a keen sense

that we live in a broken world.

IN  WHICH Ross Rheingans-Yoo—a sometime economist, trader, artist, expat, poet, EA, and programmer—writes on things of int­erest.

Eating (Food)

Earlier today, I realized that I was confused about something. (And then mentally told myself: "I realize that I am confused.", so I didn't immediately forget about it, and focus on something unimportant, like the uncountability of the Cantor Set.) My train of thought went something like:

Man, I can't wait to get lunch.

It's a shame that I can't just eat at Annenberg [freshman dining hall]. But at least the food is better in Eliot [my upperclassman house].

Actually, when I get home, what if I just take a nap instead? I'm not exceptionally hungry, and dining hall food is only mediocre at best.

But food is important! More important to you than any other hedonic pleasure, if your blog posts are to be believed...

So why don't you buy better food?

I realize that I am confused.

A fuller explanation requires a little background. I spent a significant amount of time this summer exploring ways to make my life more efficient. Polyphasic sleep was one of


[China] Regressing


This is the last post on my first try at polyphasia. For convenience, I've listed all four of my previous polyphasic posts here:

After missing two naps in a single day, I realized that this polyphasic thing wasn't going to work in China.

1. We didn't have breaks at the right times in the day.
2. I was incurring approximately 100% overhead on walking back to my dorm to nap.
3. The utility of my time was extremely phase-sensitive, which is to say that having extra hours during the night didn't help anywhere near as much as extra hours during the day.

So I stopped. Re-transitioning to monophasic wasn't precisely effortless, but it was still pretty easy (after all, I've


Eating Animals II

I'll reiterate that I'm not trying to evangelize for vegetarianism. While I don't eat meat, I have no problem with my friends who do. I suppose that, intellectually, I would prefer that people don't (though, that would probably hold true no matter which side of the fence I myself came down on), but it's not a strong enough preference for me to spend social capital, time, or any other resources spreading my vegetarianism, even to the people close to me. I simply don't care enough.

Aside: If you've ever asked me why I think industrially-produced meat is gross, and I grossed you out, it's not because I'm trying to convert you. I was only telling the truth. I won't campaign against the meatpacking industry, but I certainly won't spend any effort to protect them.

Yesterday I wrote about the events that led me to choose vegetarianism, and some of the beliefs that underlie my continuing choice.


Eating Animals I

Three years ago, I attended my fourth year of the Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth summer program. That year, my chosen course was Ethics (section B), and the instructor was Dr. Mark Ralkowski (which my have been a significant part of why I signed up for the course). The year was 2010, I was sixteen, and I'd been entrusted with the sacred laurels of the Poetry Goddess, organizer of weekly poetry-night readings open to all campers (and staff).

That year, Mark tried out a unit that he had developed for his college students (at U. New Mexico in those days...) on the ethics of agriculture. We read Jonathan Safran Foer's Eating Animals, talked about eating animals, and stopped eating animals. (Every one of us except one boy nicknamed 'Steaknife', whose real name I can't remember for the life of me.)

Our reasons, as I recall, were mixed. Some of us cared about animal suffering, some about the environment, and some were just grossed out by the meat-packing industry. ('Meat-packing',


[Polyphasic Sleep] Errata, Food, Reductionism


It's become apparent to me in the past few days that, when I wrote last week's post on the theory of sleep, I didn't know what I was talking about. Or rather, I had an incomplete picture of the subject at hand, and oversimplified a system that was more complicated than I was giving it credit for.

A little more digging has revealed that there is, in fact, evidence that SWS may be important for consolidating declarative memory, which breaks down into episodic memory (events) and semantic memory (facts). By contrast, REM consolidates procedural memory and spatial memory (both of which are more or less exactly what they sound like). Previously, I had dismissed it as "useless". Oops.

Of course, that's not the whole story, either: non-REM sleep is split into periods of "light sleep" and periods of SWS. Altogether, an 8-hour monophasic sleep cycle includes something like 1-2 hours of REM, 1-2 hours of SWS, and 4-5 hours of NREM2 light-sleep. The goal of

1 / 1