Reverse Snowdrift IRL


Yesterday I was watching TV and stumbled upon a documentary about Ivory Coast where the roads are really bad, and at one point they told the story about a man, Abou, who had a leg paralyzed because of a car accident and couldn’t bear the though of begging, so he chose to fill potholes on the road :

(English autotranslated closed captions available)

The full documentary is available on DailyMotion, but without English closed captions.

The documentary is part of a series called Les Routes de l’impossible(~The Roads of the impossible?):

The synopsis is the following:

This documentary series follows people across the planet who take great risks to earn a living by driving a vehicle (car, truck, boat, etc.) and have no other choice than to cross roads. dangerous, forgotten or poorly maintained.

There is this other example (human-made English CC available) in Congo where a diversion/detour is created but the villagers who created it ask for payment in exchange for usage of the road.

I don’t know what to do about that, but I thought this could interest people here, as it can provide SnowDrift with an alternative (maybe more compelling?) analogy.

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Nice, inspiring, thanks for sharing

picky semantic consciousness-raising: don’t call these “accidents” call them “crashes”.

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No, you’re right to point that out to me ; I hadn’t notice it yet.

In French, we don’t have a word for “crash”. When talking about planes, we sometimes use the English word crash in « crash d’avion » but the Wikipedia page is called « accident aérien », just like for cars we say « accident de voiture » or « accident de la route ». What would look closer to “crash” in French would be « carton (11) », but it’s less formal.

It’s funny how, depending on the topic, languages are more or less precise and intelligent.

I had noticed that about the way English and French differ in describing chronotypes. When English says “night owl” and ”lark” (a nature), French says « couche tard » (~awake late) et « lève tôt » (~up early) as if it were something one could control….

As Camus wrote in 1944 :

To name things wrongly is to add to the misfortune of the world.

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Tangents on tangents, but: I think we can control this, and we do it primarily with lighting. It turns out that light is the primary way that our bodies set circadian rhythms. I am pretty confident that the vast majority of “night owl” / couche tard behavior is due to electric lighting. Take away electric lighting, just turn off all the lights when the sky is dark, and most people will only stay up a short time and go to sleep.

I had such a shift during a 4-day power outage with the best sleep of my life, I went on to explore these things. I found that the best effect is dim red lighting in the time before bed. I have not only dim room lighting and redshift / night-light software effects, I also bought “dental protective glasses” which are the cheap way to get glasses that block blue and green light (versus overpriced blue-blocking glasses with fancy marketing), and I bought them in bulk and give them to friends and acquaintances as little gifts. And I aim to follow a no-screens rule in the period before sleep and during the night.

Back to this, maybe “collision”? That’s the same word in English and French.

Yep, tangents on tangents, sorry. Well, who knows, someone might stumble upon this and contribute to Snowdrift (#whimsicalSEO).

Yes, we can control our sleep/wake cycle to some extent (we generally have to), using software like Redshift or f.lux, a weighed blanket, magnesium taurate, exercise in the morning, and all the other Zeitbergs… anything that relieves stress may somewhat help sleep faster.

But there still are real biological differences that remain and will make very comfortable or very uncomfortable with one sleep cycle or another.

The differences in chronotypes go something like this:


(could not find the original graph I had seen years ago, so I made a quick one in GIMP, on the y-axis it might be cortisol/melatonin instead of body temperature)

That is the reason why most biological night owls tend to control their circadian cycle by using uppers in the morning (caffeine, nicotine…) and downers in the evening (alcohol such as red wine).

As ASAPScience explains in this video, there is this hypothesis that having people awake at different times contributes to the survival of groups of humans.

And some people have written extensively on the subject, such as:

I remember meeting a baker once who told me it was horrible for him to work as a waiter late at night, and the mere discovery that there existed people who enjoyed waking up at 3a.m. really shocked me.

I was going to write:

We don’t use the word “collision” in that context. We don’t use it much actually, except if we have to explain what the Large Hadron Collider is.

but I queried the term in the news section of a search engine to make sure, and it seems we do use it to talk about car crashes :rofl:

Thanks for teaching me about my native language :+1: ^^

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To tie this back: the circadian rhythm stuff is connected to collective-action and the snowdrift and so on! Indeed, having different people with a mix of patterns is part of the diverse mix of roles needed to maintain things (filling potholes is one of many tasks to maintain the road). Also, the shifts to support everyone’s health involve collective-action. Obviously there’s the science (medical research), there’s cultural shifts (e.g. away from bright-white lights at night, including in public spaces; also noise pollution issues), and there’s tech projects like lighting and controls etc.

One of my first pre-snowdrift software-freedom concerns was when f.lux was made for iOS but Apple blocked anyone from using it for years. Users had to jailbreak devices to get it (and it was the top popular app for jailbroken devices). Thus, millions of people suffered years of less-healthy device use because of Apple’s proprietary software power. I was complaining about this and using it as a case-in-point before I even got into GNU/Linux or Snowdrift etc.

Also, Piotr Wozniak’s whole SuperMemo Guru site seems really intriguing. I marked it to read through more soon. I saw no licensing info there. It’s not FLO is it? Would be great if so. Any insights on that? We need this sort of thing to be published under FLO terms! There’s the tie-in again. Incidentally, I’m working on just such a project, but it’s slow-going, more on that some day.

FWIW, my understanding (from Matthew Walker among other experts) of the science is that uppers in the morning interfere with natural wake cycles. People need to wait about 90 minutes after waking before having caffeine. And the evening-downers actually interfere with healthy sleep, they reduce deep sleep. So, this pattern is just an unhealthy cycle. So, I still think that a huge portion of such “night owls” are probably people who would have more functional patterns if they improved their sleep hygiene.

The other tie-in to Snowdrift is that when we’re working to build a community of volunteers to make a difference through this project and related things, we need to optimize all this stuff. When we are not following healthy habits, we are more prone to burn-out and distraction, and then we don’t get the snow cleared efficiently!

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I don’t think so.

Coping mechanism always appear more hurtful than useful in the long run, but there is a reason they are used in the first place and generally it’s to to cope with some form stress. Those coping mechanism tend to disappear when stress disappears. Vietnam soldiers stopped using heroin cold turkey when the got back home, as Johann Hari points out at 5:01 of his TED talk “Everything you think you know about addiction is wrong”.

Pieter Hintjens, the creator of a messaging library called ZeroMQ has an interesting take on the cause of volunteer burnout. His book called “Social Architecture” is still accessible via I didn’t see it in the list of references to research.

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