Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.
Wednesday, July 08, 2021

Ultra runner Diane Van Deren has a unique advantage when it comes to competing in long-distance marathons: She’s missing a piece of her brain.

Van Deren, 49, had a lobectomy in 1997 and has since become one of the world’s great ultra-runners, competing in races of attrition measuring 100 miles or more. She won last year’s Yukon Arctic Ultra 300, a trek against frigid cold, deep snow and loneliness, and was the first woman to complete the 430-mile version this year.

No, she didn’t chop away a lobe of her grey matter just to gain an edge on the track — a history of epileptic seizures forced a surgical solution. The athletic benefits are incidental, and offset other significant drawbacks:

Van Deren can no longer read maps. Telling her to go five miles, turn left, then right, then left is an incalculable logarithm. She rarely runs a race without a wrong turn. “Everyone knows not to follow me now,” she said.

[Neuropsychologist Don] Gerber, who works at Craig Hospital, a rehabilitation hospital in Englewood, Colo., for people with brain or spinal-cord injuries, said that Van Deren “can go hours and hours and have no idea how long it’s been.” Her mind carries little dread for how far she is from the finish. She does not track her pace, even in training. Her gauge is the sound of her feet on the trail.

An extreme case of lemonade from lemons. Scant chance of anyone going under the knife to emulate this path to success (I hope).

(Post title inspired by a film of a similar name; I just couldn’t resist.)

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 07/08/2021 10:55pm
Category: Other Sports, Science, Women
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Betcha didn’t know that the name of Microsoft’s revamped search engine, Bing, is actually a clever, competition-specific acronym:

The name, presumably, is supposed to evoke the sound of a winning game-show bell. The cynics online, however, joke that Bing is an acronym for “But It’s Not Google.”

B-I-N-G, if you need help with that. And note: The phrase “But It’s Not Google” is, in and of itself, actually neutral — it can be interpreted as either positive or negative. So the cynics don’t have a monopoly on it. I’m sure there’s a subliminal double-edged sword effect working there, just like there was for fake butter.

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 07/08/2021 09:20pm
Category: Comedy, Creative, Internet
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oh, s
Fulfilling the inevitable, Google announced the development of its own custom operating system, Google Chrome OS. It’s a move that the company has been tinkering toward since 2006, when it started engaging manufacturers like Dell to preload Google Apps onto PCs.

Just as that effort went pretty much nowhere, I expect this one to eventually die, or at best flounder, and come nowhere near to being the “Windows killer” hoped for by tech-heads.

Google is certainly taking a sensible approach by targeting the growing netbook market as the roll-out hardware platform. It’s the weak underbelly of the computer device industry, for two reasons: Competition is driving price cuts, so manufacturers should embrace a free operating system (versus even a discounted licensing fee for Windows); and these underpowered machines don’t demand a full-fledged OS that supports drivers, superpowered graphics chips, etc. Even better, since a netbook’s primary function is to get people online more often, it eventually circles back to Google’s core online business, i.e. search, advertising, subscription software, and so on.

Unfortunately, the promise of the netbook as a Windows killer has already been disproved by that other free alternative OS: Linux. The initial wave of Linux-powered netbooks flopped, with consumers returning them en masse and exchanging them for Windows-powered versions:

“Linux netbooks appear to be doomed to repeat the sad history of desktop Linux,” writes [LinuxPundit blogger Bill] Weinberg. “However ‘free’ netbook Linux may be, consumers have not found it sufficiently compelling to leap across the historical functionality gap (perceived or real) from Windows.”

And that failure came in the face of optimal conditions for success: Low-cost machines, limited functionality requirements beyond Web access, and less chance of system crashes. And consumers still preferred the familiar Windows look-and-feel for their Web computing experience. What reason is there to think that Google’s OS will succeed? It might, if they make its interfaces veritable twins of Windows’, but that would prompt a (justifiable) lawsuit from Microsoft, with the argument that mimicked Menu buttons et al only serve to fool users into thinking they’re using a flavor of Windows.

Not that the consumers are the initial target, because practically none of them will opt for the uninstall-reinstall torture on their existing machines. Delivery of Chrome OS relies upon getting it preloaded on computers. Frankly, for the enduser, the increasingly Web-centric computing experience makes any particular OS superfluous. The Web as a platform has been championed by Google for a long time, so it’s ironic that the company is now backtracking to a nuts-and-bolts focus involving hardware. As much as it would prefer control over the operating environment in which its Web media and apps function, Google’s probably better served in optimizing its products and services to work in a consistent way, independent of enduser platform.

Google has an uphill climb in getting any traction for Chrome OS. Even if it convinces PC makers to abandon Windows, it has to hope that consumers who have been conditioned to years of Windows use will want to bother adopting a new system. Chrome OS would have to be fantastically superior in performance to Windows for that happen — and not in an invisible, under-the-hood way, but in a very obvious way that makes casual users sit up and notice. Linux wasn’t able to pull it off, and I doubt Google will either.

An aside: Why Google’s deciding to paste the “Chrome” name onto this project, when it’s already being used for the Chrome browser, is puzzling. The browser is barely establishing itself as a standalone product; it’s not going to help adoption by diluting its brand identity this way. It’ll probably depress adoption rates eventually: Casual user might confuse “installing Chrome” as meaning a full-fledged OS overhaul instead of just adding a simple application, and pass. And frankly, merging the identities of these two products under one name is awfully reminiscent of Microsoft’s maligned bundling of Internet Explorer with Windows. Overall, a distasteful vibe coming out of Mountain View.

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 07/08/2021 12:14pm
Category: Business, Internet, Tech
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