The Hang of Thursdays

I think I understand why Arthur Dent would say “I never could get the hang of Thursdays”. Why I feel the same way.

It has to do with strength and limits.

Work weeks require strength; each person is subjected to stresses, and must hold themselves together for as long as possible.

Weekends are for resting and processing things.

On Monday, the weakest people start to break down.

On Tuesday, moderately weak people start to break down, sometimes because of karma from Monday’s breakdowns, and sometimes from the fact that they can only hold it together for two days.

On Wednesday, average people start to break down, sometimes because of karma from Monday’s and Tuesday’s breakdowns, and sometimes from the fact that they can only hold it together for three days. That’s why Wednesday is Hump Day; a normal person has a fifty fifty shot of making it here without breaking down.

On Thursday, moderately strong people start to break down, sometimes because of karma built up from the week’s existing breakdowns, and sometimes from the fact that they can only hold it together for four days.

By Friday, everyone has hope, and most people have ways to coast. If a person can make it to Friday, that person is usually okay.

The strongest people rarely ever break down because they usually make it to Friday.

So “I never could get the hang of Thursdays” is something you feel if you’re a moderately strong person. You can get past Hump Day. But you might or might not make it to Friday.


I feel like there are two consequences to the truth of Thursdays.

First is that Wednesday night is a great night for processing activities. If you can do a hard workout, or meet with some friends, or have a small group, you’ll blow off some of your week’s stresses and have a better chance of making it through Thursday.

Second is that, if you can’t quite get the hang of Thursdays, then Thursday deserves your special consideration. Save your focus powers for Thursday and hit it with everything you’ve got. You’re very close to being one of those people who can make it through to Friday.


I think I’ve figured out the general case for having good Thursdays, at least for me, at least in this phase of my life.

Thursdays have a gravity of their own. If Thursday is the day the moderately strong break down, then it’s the day of most chaos, and thus, most external need and most unexpected opportunity!

Thursdays thus have a gravity of their own. The probability of being pulled in an unexpected direction by a need or an opportunity is high. So they’re hard days for rigid planning and goals. But if you just go with the flow, you do so little of your intended work, you feel bad.

So the trick is to have plans, treat them lightly, drop them when called, and return aggressively to them when possible, all while maintaining low expectations. And to credit yourself for reactive actions; Ben suddenly wanted to go for coffee at 9:45am. I get points for doing that instead of insisting on a prior plan. And points for jumping right back into work when we’re done.

I think I’m getting the hang of Thursdays.

Chasing The Wind Episode 3 – Legacy

In the third episode of my podcast with Avi, we discuss what it means to have a legacy, how it can inform your daily choices, the legacies of some modern day people, and how legacy has changed as a motivation in scientific work.

Of the thirteen episodes we’ve recorded so far, I think this is my second favorite. I feel like I learned things while recording this.


Download the episode: Chasing The Wind Episode 3 – Accessibility


Podcast home:


Theoretical yield (biology/chemistry)

The Predictive Part of Predictive Processing

[Prerequisite: a working understanding of Bayes’ Theorem, and ideally some time spent playing with other machine learning techniques]

One of my favorite blogs has a review of the book “Surfing Uncertainty”, a somewhat accessible text about Predictive Processing.

Avi’s Glean: Awesome! This is a good model of the brain, and you should read it. It (probably) allows us to attach hard numbers to any layer of cognitive science.

That said, I will be writing blurbs critiquing various sections of the book review, and eventually of the book. My long term intent is to refine the theory for myself.

“As these two streams move through the brain side-by-side, they continually interface with each other. Each level receives the predictions from the level above it and the sense data from the level below it. Then each level uses Bayes’ Theorem to integrate these two sources of probabilistic evidence as best it can. This can end up a couple of different ways.”

Assuming that’s actually the theory and not just Scott’s interpretation, I have an intuition that this piece is where the theory is most wrong, the use of Bayes’ Theorem specifically. I think Bayes’ Theorem is posited here because:

1. It’s accurate.

2. It’s simple.

3. It’s what we understand.

But I don’t think that’s going to be correct because:

1. The brain isn’t necessarily going for what’s accurate. Accurate and effective can be divorced for a variety of reasons.

2. Neural layers are capable of much more nuanced and complex modeling (in your and my intuitions, in commonly held neural models, and specifically in the predictive processing model, this is true).

3. Since we’re in the early days of applied probability, there’s no reason, except as a placeholder, to guess what we know instead of what we don’t.

A Cure for Hiccups

[Epistemic Status: Totally Speculative]

I rarely get hiccups, but the hiccups I get are relatively violent and they last a long time.

Over the last few cases of hiccups, I have developed a cure which works for me. Try at your own risk, N of 1, results may vary, etc, etc. Here’s my method:

Surfing, in the abstract, is controlling something on the leading edge of a wave.

A hiccup is a spasm. A spasm is a wave. I have control of the muscles that form this wave. So in theory, I can surf a hiccup.

When I get a case of the hiccups, I stop what I’m doing and focus as much as I can on breathing. I breathe deep, full breaths, as though I had no hiccups, but I breath them very slowly, and for a minute or so I just pay attention to the feeling of the hiccup spasms.

Once I have a sense of how the spasms feel and where they’re happening, I start to try to focus on the leading edge of each spasm. Instead of feeling the spasm as one discrete shock, I try to separate it into a rise, a crest, and a fall (or for the mathy: instead of feeling the spasm as a step function, I try to feel it as a sigmoid up and a sigmoid down).

Once I feel like I can recognize the leading edge, I try to ride it. I don’t fight to stop it, I don’t let it come uncontrolled. I try to squeeze my throat muscles just a little bit in front of the leading edge of the spasm.

When I get it right, what I feel is a sort of managed spasm. It still comes, but it’s not explosive. I feel as though the wave has less amplitude, but it’s wider.

After a few well managed spasms, the hiccups pretty much go away on their own.

That’s my hiccup cure! Good luck with it.

Chasing The Wind Episode 2 – Organization

My friend Avi and I are (still) making a podcast!

The podcast is about everything. Test audiences have reacted positively.

We crosspost to

The second episode is about organization – the systems we use to organize things in our lives, and how we might make improvements.

Credit goes to Avi for making the podcast with me, setting up the distribution system, and writing most of the descriptions and reference lists.


Download the episode: Chasing The Wind – Episode 2 – Organization