Rian van der Merwe

Product manager • Designer • Speaker

We’re not getting snow, but it’s been awfully gloomy in Portland lately.

🎵 It’s always fun digging through Stereophile’s annual list of Records to Die For.

📖 Is Sunscreen the New Margarine?

This story has been making the rounds, but it still strikes me as a remarkable thing that deserves way more attention than just an “oh, ok” response:

Yet vitamin D supplementation has failed spectacularly in clinical trials. Five years ago, researchers were already warning that it showed zero benefit, and the evidence has only grown stronger. In November, one of the largest and most rigorous trials of the vitamin ever conducted—in which 25,871 participants received high doses for five years—found no impact on cancer, heart disease, or stroke.

If you dig into the reasons for why this happened, it’s a classic cause/effect error:

These rebels argue that what made the people with high vitamin D levels so healthy was not the vitamin itself. That was just a marker. Their vitamin D levels were high because they were getting plenty of exposure to the thing that was really responsible for their good health—that big orange ball shining down from above.

This Wired article makes some sense out of the Gillette ad controversy:

Though the backlash to it clearly shows that the cultural divisions in America persist, its very existence is proof that the old definitions of masculinity are changing.

📖 Instagram caught selling ads to follower-buying services it banned

Things keep getting worse at Instagram:

Instagram continues to sell ad space to services that charge clients for fake followers or that automatically follow/unfollow other people to get them to follow the client back. This is despite Instagram reiterating a ban on these businesses in November and threatening the accounts of people who employ them.

@macgenie recently wrote about her decision to quit Facebook and Instagram. I quit Facebook a while ago but haven’t quite been able to extract myself from Instagram. Stuff like this is rapidly increasing my timeline for figuring that out.

Last night we played Vindication for the first time. It is such an interesting game, with a very unique setup and story. You start off as a wretched human being. Immoral, corrupt, and thrown overboard by your shipmates, you wash up on an island and try to slowly redeem yourself. The person with the most “honor” at the end wins the game. It has some elements of area control and worker placement mechanics, but with enough of a twist to keep it interesting. And the artwork is gorgeous. Highly recommended.

🎵 An exhaustive list of love songs that reflect relationship reality

It feels like most love songs are written by and for 20-year olds who have never experienced anything approaching a long-term commitment to anyone. I don’t mean that in a negative way, it’s just the way it is. But a person’s views of life and love and relationships change a lot when they’ve been in a committed relationship for more than a few years.

So I’ve been thinking about love songs that bring a bit of reality to the whole thing. I’m not talking about break-up songs. I’m talking about songs that reflect sticking with someone through good and bad, and not always enjoying it, but realizing that the hard work is absolutely 100% worth it. So far I’ve found… <checks clipboard>… two songs like that.

The first is Mutemath’s Happy to Oblige:

We may ride upon a sea of highs and lows But by your side, I’m happy to oblige

The other is Jars of Clay’s Love in Hard Times:

It’s when I think to reach across those battle lines Still love in the hard times

I really connect with these songs. They’re beautiful and real and a reflection of a relationship that has “seen some stuff.” I feel like there has to be more though. What are some other songs like this that come to mind for you?

🎵 The self is a fragile construction of the mind

As a vinyl collector I read Why We Collect And What Your Collection Says About You with interest. This part jumped out at me:

Cultural historian, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi has also argued that we collect and hold onto things because they keep us grounded in the present and help us remember the past. Your collection and the items you curate could even go some way to informing your own sense of identity and how you see yourself. These items that he terms “continuity of self” help construct memory and personality. “Without external props, even our personal identity fades and goes out of focus. The self is a fragile construction of the mind”.

One of the interesting things my wife and I discovered over the years in our discussions about music, is that there is a fundamental difference in how we view the purpose of the music we listen to. I listen to music to reflect the mood I’m in. My wife listens to music based on the mood she wants to be in. There are exceptions, but that’s been our experience for the most part. So when I’m feeling down or overwhelmed, I turn on music that reflects that. For my wife, she would instead prefer to put on “happy music”.

I mention this because I think it’s another dimension to this need I feel for collecting vinyl. I see that shelf of vinyl as an anchor and a reflection of who I was and who I have become. It’s so much more than the music it contains. But at the same time I totally understand why some people think that collecting vinyl is a crazy thing to do. If you are not big on nostalgia — if, like my wife, you listen to music as a forward-looking activity, not a reflective activity — collecting things from your past would seem pretty silly.

But as they say, to each their own. I guess the only rule is this: use music in whatever way helps you. And don’t try to force other people to view it the same way.

🎵 An Enigma

I recently purchased the vinyl reissues of Enigma I, II, and III. Those three albums were deeply influential to me in my high school and early college years. It’s so wild to listen to them now with fresh ears, on vinyl, in my 40s.

Time is a strange thing, and getting older is a bitch, but the music of my younger years will always bring anchoring and comfort beyond measure.

🔗 Controlling children’s behavior with screen time leads to more screen time, study reveals

Some very interesting findings here:

Researchers investigated the impact of parenting practices on the amount of time young children spend in front of screens. They found a majority of parents use screen time to control behavior, especially on weekends. This results in children spending an average of 20 minutes more a day on weekends in front of a screen. Researchers say this is likely because using it as a reward or punishment heightens a child’s attraction to the activity.