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Contents Bulletin Scripting in shell and Perl Network troubleshooting History Humor

Information Overload

How Digital Devices Deprive Brain of Needed Downtime

In Greek mythology, Sisyphus, an evil king,
was condemned to Hades to forever roll a big rock to the top of a mountain,
and then the rock always rolled back down again.
Similar version of Hell is suffered every day by people
managed by micromanagers and control freaks.

News Books Recommended Links Obsession with Computers and Internet Drinking from a firehose Surviving a Bad Performance Review Mental overload Email Overload
IT Staff Health Issues Health insurance Sleep Deprivation Obsessive-compulsive disorder Burnout Slackerism Coping with the toxic stress in IT environment Learned helplessness
Signs that you might be dismissed soon Toxic managers Micromanagers and Control Freaks Stoisim Over 50 and unemployed Humor Random Findings Etc

"Cram them full of non-combustible data, chock them so damned full of 'facts' they feel stuffed, but absolutely brilliant with information. Then they'll feel they're thinking, they'll get a sense of motion without moving." –

Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451, 1951

"It is not only information that they need-in the age of Fact, information often dominates their attention and overwhelms their capacities to assimilate it….What they need , and what they feel they need , is a quality of mind that will help them to use information and to develop reason in order to achieve lucid summations of what is going on in the world and of what may be happening within themselves."

C. Wright Mills, The Sociological Imagination, 1959

Internat now means information overload. It has several dimentions:

Compination of information overload with the prolonged exposure to stress is especially toxic

Prolonged exposure to stress (Working for a corporate psychopath) increase the level of overload and contribute to the level of stress you experience.

Prolonged exposure to information overload produces so called information fatigue syndrome. Symptoms include paralysis of analytical capacity, increased anxiety, greater self-doubt, and a tendency to blame others. Long exposure produces symptoms similar to post-traumatic stress syndrome and in milder form is intrinsically connected with demoralization and burnout. Here the most helpful page is probably Softpanorama Humor Archive. Unique Collection of Open Source Related Humor. Humor is one of the most affecting methods of fighting stress and overload. It helps a person to remain positive in difficult situations more effectively that most drugs.

When people are faced with more information than they can process, they become unable to make decisions or take action. There are two important aspects of this problem:

Often information overload is typical for high-tech startups. "Technology has changed, but human nature hasn't. Whether it's the Gold Rush of 1849 or the Web Rush of l999, people are people. More often than not, they're miserable, nasty, selfish creatures, driven by vanity and greed, doing whatever they can to get ahead, even if it means stepping on the person next to them, crushing the weak, and destroying themselves in the process." Actually this is not true. The IT industry is a unique environment; we are truly given a more choice as to where our priorities lie than in many other jobs. But there is no free lunch. You want a cool job? Don't expect to work for a huge company and get paid the big bucks. You want to make good money? Don't expect to be able to leave the office in the middle of the day just to sit in the park and drink coffee. You want to make great money? Don't expect to work 40 or even 50 hours a week...

Actually startups aren't about the paradise, nor are they viable for those who crave security. They are about risk, not just financial but also emotional and intellectual. Some think that the rewards for success are worth it, some not... It's true that some startups hire, than harass and inflict burnout on programmers and sys-admins. Life in the fast lane can be brutal - long hours, almost no employer-employee loyalty, greed and moral cowardice, back-stabbing, pressure, etc. If you don't want to do what your boss want, a startup can probably find immigrant that will do it for less money. That is the Silicon Valley Way (TM).

Many visitors to this page are probably system administrators. And it's sad to say but sysadmins are often the janitors of e-business. To clean up the messes from the ugly packages superfast growth and unrealistic schedules they often work long, late hours. It's a thankless job (although not the only one and not the most miserable one...) Anyway the reality is that sysadmins/programmers in startups and small companies that are struggling to survive. Sometimes are also put under substantial stress... I'm surprised most of them aren't more neurotic from sleep deprivation.

At the same time many sysadmins in established companies working with "Gold" coverage from Sun or HP can surf the WEB for 80% of the day... And if you can rarely showed up before 11 a.m., sometimes it is just a survival skill to stay past midnight once in a while... In large companies most sysadmin roles aren't always firefighting, and not so much stress, but there is little of no traning and unless you engage is self-stude you dequlify and the routine tends to wear on a capable person pretty quickly.

Sometimes it is really look like a cleaning job with slightly better pay (not by much if you calculate the total number of hours worked per year and the fact that many sysadmin has no real replacement and are always "on call"). You clean it today, but in a month everything return to the same state. Sometimes it make sense to play an idiot in large company in best traditions of Peter Principle. Officially recognized low-performers often can spend 90% of their time addressing only 10% of problems that high-performer needs to address. The most valued employees in large companies are often on the verge of burn-out because they are too overloaded and have way too many pressures, conflicts and demands combined with too few rewards, acknowledgments and successes.

For IS top guns it might make sense to stop for a moment to dig infodirt and ask themselves a simple question "Does working with the fancy hardware and software (let's assume for a moment that Unix can be fancy first five years or so ;-) worth 60 hours a week or even 40 hours of cleaning infodirt?". Independent of your answer thinking about this may help to adjust your priorities :-).

Pseudo-Attention Deficit Disorder

Some programmers are perversely wired. It is not uncommon for them to be sitting in a meeting and using a hand-held device to exchange instant messages surreptitiously - with someone in the same meeting. In such cases we can talk about Pseudo-attention deficit disorder. Some signs:

Dr. Nikolai Bezroukov


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[Nov 28, 2017] The Attention Deficit Society What Technology Is Doing to Our Brains

Notable quotes:
"... When I grew up, there was the concept of "substitute gratification" ranging over thumbsucking, substance use, casual TV watching, and other compulsive behaviors, all of which emerge in response to frustration and are magically absent when a better gratification is available, whether intellectual stimulation of otherwise. ..."
May 07, 2011 | Economist's View

cm:

There is undoubtedly a habit-forming component where the lever pressing becomes compulsive at some point. But I have found myself as well as heard the same from peers, that especially in a workplace setting there is a large boredom-killing aspect.

As engineers, we do get opportunity to work on interesting or at least intellectually challenging and satisfying things. When you are on something like this, there is no urge to text, check updates, etc. But as soon as you get stuck on some issue and frustration sets in, or you are made to partake in office bureaucracy and other unpleasantries, boredom kicks in.

When I grew up, there was the concept of "substitute gratification" ranging over thumbsucking, substance use, casual TV watching, and other compulsive behaviors, all of which emerge in response to frustration and are magically absent when a better gratification is available, whether intellectual stimulation of otherwise.

[Nov 28, 2017] The Attention Deficit Society What Technology Is Doing to Our Brains

May 07, 2011 | Economist's View

cm:

There is undoubtedly a habit-forming component where the lever pressing becomes compulsive at some point. But I have found myself as well as heard the same from peers, that especially in a workplace setting there is a large boredom-killing aspect.

As engineers, we do get opportunity to work on interesting or at least intellectually challenging and satisfying things. When you are on something like this, there is no urge to text, check updates, etc. But as soon as you get stuck on some issue and frustration sets in, or you are made to partake in office bureaucracy and other unpleasantries, boredom kicks in.

When I grew up, there was the concept of "substitute gratification" ranging over thumbsucking, substance use, casual TV watching, and other compulsive behaviors, all of which emerge in response to frustration and are magically absent when a better gratification is available, whether intellectual stimulation of otherwise.

[Oct 16, 2017] 3 Reasons Why We Are Addicted To Smartphones

Oct 16, 2017 | www.msn.com

So, what draws people to these phones? Surely, it is not just the groundbreaking design or the connection with a community. As a minister, psychotherapist and scholar studying our relationship with hand-held devices, I believe there is much more going on.

In fact, I'd argue, as I do in my book "Growing Down: Theology and Human Nature in the Virtual Age," the phones tap into our basic yearnings as humans.

Here are my three reasons why we love our phones.

1. Part of an extended self

Our sense of self is shaped while we are still in the womb. The development of the self, however, accelerates after birth . A newborn, first and foremost, attaches herself to the primary caregiver and later to things – acquiring what has been called an "extended self."

The leading 20th-century American psychologist William James was among the first to argue for an extended self. In his "Principles of Psychology," James defined the self as "the sum total of all that a man can call his, not only his body and his psychic powers, but his clothes and his house, his wife and children." Losing any of this extended self, which could include money or another prized object, as he explained, could lead to a sense of great loss. In early childhood, for example, babies and toddlers cry if they suddenly lose their pacifier or favorite soft toy, objects that become part of their extended selves.

Phones, I argue, play a similar role. It is not uncommon for me to feel a sudden onset of anxiety should I drop my phone or am unable to find it. In my experience, many individuals feel the same way. It is also reflected in how often many of us check our devices.

Psychologist Larry Rosen and his colleagues at California State University found that 51 percent of individuals born in the 1980s and 1990s experienced moderate to high levels of anxiety when they were kept from checking in with their devices for more than 15 minutes . Interestingly, the percentage drops slightly – to 42 percent – for those born between 1965 and 1979.

This is primarily because they came into being during a time where hand-held technologies were only beginning to make their entry. For this group, phones became part of their extended self only as late teens or as young adults.

[Sep 17, 2017] Colleagues Addicted to Tech

Notable quotes:
"... dwelling on the negative can backfire. ..."
"... It's fine to acknowledge a misstep. But spin the answer to focus on why this new situation is such an ideal match of your abilities to the employer's needs. ..."
Apr 20, 2015 | NYTimes.com

Discussing Bad Work Situations

I have been in my present position for over 25 years. Five years ago, I was assigned a new boss, who has a reputation in my industry for harassing people in positions such as mine until they quit. I have managed to survive, but it's clear that it's time for me to move along. How should I answer the inevitable interview question: Why would I want to leave after so long? I've heard that speaking badly of a boss is an interview no-no, but it really is the only reason I'm looking to find something new. BROOKLYN

I am unemployed and interviewing for a new job. I have read that when answering interview questions, it's best to keep everything you say about previous work experiences or managers positive.

But what if you've made one or two bad choices in the past: taking jobs because you needed them, figuring you could make it work - then realizing the culture was a bad fit, or you had an arrogant, narcissistic boss?

Nearly everyone has had a bad work situation or boss. I find it refreshing when I read stories about successful people who mention that they were fired at some point, or didn't get along with a past manager. So why is it verboten to discuss this in an interview? How can the subject be addressed without sounding like a complainer, or a bad employee? CHICAGO

As these queries illustrate, the temptation to discuss a negative work situation can be strong among job applicants. But in both of these situations, and in general, criticizing a current or past employer is a risky move. You don't have to paint a fictitiously rosy picture of the past, but dwelling on the negative can backfire. Really, you don't want to get into a detailed explanation of why you have or might quit at all. Instead, you want to talk about why you're such a perfect fit for the gig you're applying for.

So, for instance, a question about leaving a long-held job could be answered by suggesting that the new position offers a chance to contribute more and learn new skills by working with a stronger team. This principle applies in responding to curiosity about jobs that you held for only a short time.

It's fine to acknowledge a misstep. But spin the answer to focus on why this new situation is such an ideal match of your abilities to the employer's needs.

The truth is, even if you're completely right about the past, a prospective employer doesn't really want to hear about the workplace injustices you've suffered, or the failings of your previous employer. A manager may even become concerned that you will one day add his or her name to the list of people who treated you badly. Save your cathartic outpourings for your spouse, your therapist, or, perhaps, the future adoring profile writer canonizing your indisputable success.

Send your workplace conundrums to workologist@nytimes.com, including your name and contact information (even if you want it withheld for publication). The Workologist is a guy with well-intentioned opinions, not a professional career adviser. Letters may be edited.

[Sep 17, 2017] Smartphone is a curse not only a technical miracle

Notable quotes:
"... To my generation computer games seem crazy but incredible amounts of money are spent developing each new game. Man's ingenuity has been turned against himself as mental addiction takes its place next to chemical addiction. ..."
"... You need to use AdBlock and NoScript (or the equivalent for whatever OS and browser you're using.) I don't see ads hardly anywhere. The main reason for using these tools is not only to get rid of ads, it's to enhance the security of your computer. ..."
Sep 04, 2017 | turcopolier.typepad.com
wisedupearly , 04 September 2017 at 03:39 PM
Death of education by smartphones is a recent meme worrying educators. The ads, news bites, and apps are crafted specifically to attract attention. They are the end result of marrying Madison Avenue with Silicon Valley and only the most effective/annoying/distracting survive to become the template for the next generation.

To my generation computer games seem crazy but incredible amounts of money are spent developing each new game. Man's ingenuity has been turned against himself as mental addiction takes its place next to chemical addiction.

Richardstevenhack , 04 September 2017 at 07:38 PM
"If I look up a news article on the Web, swarms of ads descend to interrupt, and we spend precious time trying to delete them and move on as even as more continue to appear. The volume of ads are so asphyxiating these days that it isn't worth the effort to get rid of them, and so I turn them off., annoyed and exasperated."

You need to use AdBlock and NoScript (or the equivalent for whatever OS and browser you're using.) I don't see ads hardly anywhere. The main reason for using these tools is not only to get rid of ads, it's to enhance the security of your computer.

[Sep 17, 2017] Sic Semper Tyrannis How We Die by Richard Sale

Notable quotes:
"... Today, we learn in snatches or in brief bites. We don't settle down to learn comprehensively. We can't concentrate. Our life is one of incessant interruptions. If I look up a news article on the Web, swarms of ads descend to interrupt, and we spend precious time trying to delete them and move on as even as more continue to appear. The volume of ads are so asphyxiating these days that it isn't worth the effort to get rid of them, and so I turn them off., annoyed and exasperated. ..."
"... News items are intruders. Their origin is external to our thought. If outside events are always being dumped on our brains, it is hard to take the time to grade them in terms of our general knowledge. We do we really know? It takes a lot of reflection to answer that. Only by looking at our own knowledge from all sides, do we get a grasp of the insights that come from experience rather than the knowledge that come from foreign impressions. Schopenhauer once said that real thinking means "comparing truth with truth." To me that means deciding which truth had more meaning and priority in my own mental life? ..."
"... The ability to focus on a subject for a long time without fatigue was one of Napoleon's mottos. Who today can do that? What benefit to we get from blotting out distractions and learning to reason carefully for a long time without getting tired? It becomes harder for us to do everyday. Topics flock to our brains. The Middle East, President Trump, North Korea. Are these things really interesting? If we buckle down and concentrate on them, what will be the reward? To me, the rewards are always meager. There is a lot of competition when it comes to current affairs. If we fall behind, we suffer a pang of regret – some neighbor knows more about current affairs than I do. But so what? I want to ponder things that are unique to my own temper and mental capacity. I don't want to become a replica of my neighbor. There are few worse fates than that. I want to ponder things that are appropriate to my nature and experience. I want to encourage thoughts that have truth and life in them that occur naturally, not from without. ..."
"... Let's face it. Today we are all the junkies of daily news. "The Daily Fix" phrase is perhaps the most appropriate. ..."
"... One of the main villains of modern life is opinion. Popular opinion has replaced thought and reflection. Opinions are the product of ignorant hearsay. All of us see or view something and, without considering what it means, we rush to bray our reactions to anyone who can hear it. But is our reaction valid? Insightful? Useful? Enlightening? Opinions are unstable; they become outmoded, lacking in pertinence or validity and over time, are discarded. An opinion is the prisoner of the moment, a prisoner of the thoughtless and automatic the commonplace. For every thousand people cry a thing up only a pitiable few cry it down and their voices are drowned out. ..."
"... New York Times' ..."
"... You need to use AdBlock and NoScript (or the equivalent for whatever OS and browser you're using.) I don't see ads hardly anywhere. The main reason for using these tools is not only to get rid of ads, it's to enhance the security of your computer. ..."
"... Most people (68%) have an IQ that is within 1 standard deviation of average. These people are mediocre; functional, but mediocre. Of the remaining 32% we have 16% on the far left side of the bell curve. These people are truly stupid. That leaves only 16% (16 out of every hundred people you meet) that have some spark of intelligence above mediocrity. Of those, only 2% are truly bright. ..."
"... This, I think, is the root of the problems you discuss. Most people simply do not have the ability to do more than absorb and rote repeat the shallow informational garbage that is tossed at them. Their stunted intellectual capacities don't permit them to gain satisfaction from deep meditations. Rather, they prefer the gross pleasures of food, drink, slapstick and gossip. ..."
"... I think much of what is "modern life" is soul stifling. There are many ways to sidestep or repudiate the crassness and incivility of the world today, but for me, it has been to exit the metropolitan life. Going to my farm, where there is no cell service, no big highways and people still ride their horses down the roadways - I feel a palpable release and relief just driving into the area. ..."
"... The key to things, as has been taught throughout time, is to do things in moderation - and the internet and smartphones are no exception. However, the addictive appeal of instant everything is apparent to us here commenting, and is to be understood and moderated. In that vein, I want to thank the Colonel for giving us the opportunity to enjoy this little nook of cyberspace - thank you! ..."
Sep 17, 2017 | turcopolier.typepad.com

Triviality

Today, we learn in snatches or in brief bites. We don't settle down to learn comprehensively. We can't concentrate. Our life is one of incessant interruptions. If I look up a news article on the Web, swarms of ads descend to interrupt, and we spend precious time trying to delete them and move on as even as more continue to appear. The volume of ads are so asphyxiating these days that it isn't worth the effort to get rid of them, and so I turn them off., annoyed and exasperated.

The chief point is that we cannot sit and think and read or reflect in peace any more. Everything calls to us, tempts us, distracts us, befuddles and annoys us. Our brains are not what they once were, not because of age, but because our culture works differently on them and hinders their further development.

News items are intruders. Their origin is external to our thought. If outside events are always being dumped on our brains, it is hard to take the time to grade them in terms of our general knowledge. We do we really know? It takes a lot of reflection to answer that. Only by looking at our own knowledge from all sides, do we get a grasp of the insights that come from experience rather than the knowledge that come from foreign impressions. Schopenhauer once said that real thinking means "comparing truth with truth." To me that means deciding which truth had more meaning and priority in my own mental life?

The ability to focus on a subject for a long time without fatigue was one of Napoleon's mottos. Who today can do that? What benefit to we get from blotting out distractions and learning to reason carefully for a long time without getting tired? It becomes harder for us to do everyday. Topics flock to our brains. The Middle East, President Trump, North Korea. Are these things really interesting? If we buckle down and concentrate on them, what will be the reward? To me, the rewards are always meager. There is a lot of competition when it comes to current affairs. If we fall behind, we suffer a pang of regret – some neighbor knows more about current affairs than I do. But so what? I want to ponder things that are unique to my own temper and mental capacity. I don't want to become a replica of my neighbor. There are few worse fates than that. I want to ponder things that are appropriate to my nature and experience. I want to encourage thoughts that have truth and life in them that occur naturally, not from without.

I do not understand why so many people strive so hard to be up to date. They are always in a race to try and announce headlines before their neighbors. They rarely study or master the stories the headlines advertize. They evade the labor of memorizing. All they can recapitulate are the headlines. If you ask about the stories, they hesitate then falter out, "I only saw the headlines." I am sometimes eager to have them summarize what they've read, but there is no there, there as Gertrude Stein said about Oakland, CA.

Let's face it. Today we are all the junkies of daily news. "The Daily Fix" phrase is perhaps the most appropriate. It is really shameful if you think about it, but no one does, or if you protest about the meaningless deluge of daily news, you are labeled over-sensitive or nit-picking. Most of us awake to news headlines. There is a hurricane, an accident that kills sailors, a helicopter crashes, a new threat of annihilation from an Asian punk regime.

But do we learn anything from these? We are like those toy birds that dip their beaks into a dish of water. They look as if they're drinking, but they don't. They are not built to absorb anything. Their dipping looks like activity, but it is all counterfeit. Unfortunately the breathless topics of today are not of permanent interest nor do they enrich the mind. They are transitory, destined not to last. They keep us floating on the surface of life, preventing us from diving deep and discovering something new and valuable and priceless.

We see lists of notable books on the Civil War, the downfall of the Soviet Union, the Fall of the Bastille. We see new books on the French Revolution or the fall of Paris in 1870. We see histories of the Balkans or the Ottoman Empire. We see books about the nature of power, religious or corporate or military. Do we read them, study them?

As we get older, our minds get more introspective. We want to seize the enduring truths that reside in our nature or our close friends. Such things sharpen the mind; help expand the range of our inner insight. Worthless Opinions

One of the main villains of modern life is opinion. Popular opinion has replaced thought and reflection. Opinions are the product of ignorant hearsay. All of us see or view something and, without considering what it means, we rush to bray our reactions to anyone who can hear it. But is our reaction valid? Insightful? Useful? Enlightening? Opinions are unstable; they become outmoded, lacking in pertinence or validity and over time, are discarded. An opinion is the prisoner of the moment, a prisoner of the thoughtless and automatic the commonplace. For every thousand people cry a thing up only a pitiable few cry it down and their voices are drowned out.

We suffer from an increasingly lack of sound judgment.

... ... ...

Isolation

Isolation plays a large part in retarding study. The pleasure of learning is a noble pleasure, and like all good things, sharing what we learn with others increases its value. We are social creatures, and it is part of our nature to share the excellent. But most of the time we lack people to share the joy of our discoveries with. We are victims of the addicts of the mental lightweights who confine their reading to New York Times' bestsellers, people who lack the means to judge the merit of what they're reading, who lack the talent to articulate its virtues. They lack the standards of taste and the critical spirit required to evaluate them correctly.

Isolation has killed a lot of thinkers. I remember How Hume's book on Reelections on Human Nature fell absolutely flat after it was published yet, over time, became a classic. But popularity can kill as well. We think of how Mozart's amazing genius wowed and fascinated his audiences and followers and yet his fame resulted in him buried in an unmarked grave for the poor. Crowds are dismayingly fickle. Their interest lacks stamina.

Apparently it is the task of modern culture is to herd all of us on well traveled roads, never taking the road less traveled. Few of us explore and the few who do are not met with enthusiasm or praise or appreciation but by polite indifference mainly because your knowledge is not current or popular.

Popularity is a trap. It retains a viselike grip on the ignorant. It is sinister because it is addictive. If something is popular and makes money, then it must be successful, and if successful, it must be superior. No one asks the fans of the popular why they admire as they do. Because they assume that everyone else thinks just as they do and everyone else suffers from the same mediocre qualities of taste and narrowness of mind.

It is a hard truth that people of more talented intellectual capacity seek out people with similar temperaments and natures. That is the key to all friendship. With the right people, they come alive. They speak freely and honestly, relating facts that stimulate their listeners who then come forward with their own treasured items of memory and knowledge that stimulate and reinforce the conversation. Both sides leave the discussion strengthed and invigorated. Both are eager to hear more, learn more. Both return feeling less isolated from the ephemeral l thing tat matter so much in the world.

Divas

The purpose is to learn and share our knowledge for its own sake not because we want to not to become the center of attention. A neighbor's kid came to visit his parents. He was obsessed with learning about Rubik Cube. One the night of his arrival, there was a dinner in progress, but no sooner had the guests entered in the hallway, than this kid was putting on an exhibition, wresting with his cube, blocking the entering hallway, of course earning automatic applause from his audience. A short time later, he then went down to Miami to attend an international competition, and after all his self display his scores were mediocre, resting stolidity in the middle of the pack. I wondered if his interest was merely a desire to attract cheap applause, or whether he was serious student determined to become an expert, putting in those long hours of concentrated focus to improve his skill. Of course, my hopes were mislaid. He moved onto so something else where he would be the center of attention and hog the spotlight.

How We Die

Am reading an excellent book, How We Die ? The author, Sherwin Nuland, is a doctor, a surgeon, who is a well educated and deeply cultured man. He writes with eloquence. His prose is not for the squeamish. He retails very grisly details about how we lose our lives. Each chapter documents the chief causes of death in America, heart disease, Alzheimer's, accidents, suicides, "Murder and Serenity", etc.

One death he documents was that of James McCarty who died of a heart attack. He was a successful construction executive who led a "suicidal" life. He smoked, ate rich food, consumed a lot of red meat, and grew flabby and overweight and never exercised. He arrived at the emergency room at 8 p.m., on a hot and humid Sept. evening. He complained of "a constrictive pressure behind the breastbone" that radiated up into his throat and down his left arm. The pressure had begun after his usual heavy dinner. His face was ashen and sweaty. His heartbeat was irregular but improved after initial treatment.

At 11:00 p.m., Nuland arrived. McCarty wasn't pleased to see him. McCarty greeted him with a thin, forced smile. Nuland was 22 years of age at the time and this was one of his first cases. As Nuland sat down, McCarty suddenly threw his head back and "bellowed a wordless roar that came out of his throat from somewhere deep in his stricken heart." He hit his balled fists with surprising force up against his chest as his face became swollen and purple.

Nuland explains how he opened up the chest cavity to massage the man's heart. The heart felt like "an uncoordinated squirming, a jellylike bagful of hyperactive worms." The heart was wriggling under his fingers, and he began a series of firm, syncopated compressions.

Then Nuland writes "Suddenly a something stupefying in its horror took place." (Excellent sentence.) McCarty "threw back his head once more, and staring at the ceiling with his glassy, unseeing gaze of open, dead eyes, roared at the distant heavens a hoarse, rasping whoop that sounded as if the hounds of hell were barking." (Pat described this as McCarty's "last hurrah." McCarty, of course, was already dead when this happened.

The book is written in this effective pictorial style. It spares the reader nothing.

Of course, we all die from lack of oxygen. We cease breathing and our esophagus muscles can constrict and make us bark as we die or there can be seen great heaving as our lungs fail. The myths that our nails or hair grow after our death are simply myths. After we die, nothing grows. The lively energetic spirit that was one our deepest being had fled, leafing a pathetic shell behind that is not pleasant to look at. The eyes, at first unfocused and glassy, soon become covered ay a gray film that has no expression at all. The body beings to shrink. We have become mere luggage. What will survive of us has already been done. There is nothing else to look forward to.

I learned enough of New Testament Greek to read St. Paul's letters, which were outstandingly articulate in every way. But when I came to the Resurrection, I became skeptical. It was a lovely wish – to be restored to your parents, your wife, and your friends. But St. Paul's belief had its antecedents Zoroaster, the great Persian religious leader, was said to have been torn to pieces by his followers, but rose after three days. I don't like coincides. Of course, Jesus appeared to his followers but there was little to record of him after that. Was he resurrected a second time? There is little information.

... ... ...

Posted at 01:01 PM in Richard Sale Permalink

Murali , 04 September 2017 at 01:33 PM

You are spot on. The biggest problem we face is our own self and the delusion in search of non-existing knowledge out side of us. As you say if we sit comfortably and contemplate our own experiences both good and bad, there will be a greater awakening to the world outside of us. But as we search for knowledge outside of us be it internet or other mediums we are bombarded with irrivelent information such as the pop us ads etc. I have to plead guilty of the later but sometimes I do practice the former!
dilbert dogbert -> Murali... , 04 September 2017 at 10:27 PM
In my early years I marched along the trail knowing that in the mist dimly seen was "The Wall". Now at 81 "The Wall" is clear, spotlighted in bright sunlight.
Linda , 04 September 2017 at 02:42 PM
I am overwhelmed by this gift of your constant thinking. I agree with you about not wanting to live if my wits are gone, but I fear that it will be impossible for me to tell what that moment might be. I am I guess still afraid of death even though I strive to overcome this feeling. We would all like to die peacefully in our sleep one night but I think this rarely happens.
wisedupearly , 04 September 2017 at 03:39 PM
Death of education by smartphones is a recent meme worrying educators. The ads, news bites, and apps are crafted specifically to attract attention. They are the end result of marrying Madison Avenue with Silicon Valley and only the most effective/annoying/distracting survive to become the template for the next generation. To my generation computer games seem crazy but incredible amounts of money are spent developing each new game. Man's ingenuity has been turned against himself as mental addiction takes its place next to chemical addiction.
Richardstevenhack , 04 September 2017 at 07:38 PM
"If I look up a news article on the Web, swarms of ads descend to interrupt, and we spend precious time trying to delete them and move on as even as more continue to appear. The volume of ads are so asphyxiating these days that it isn't worth the effort to get rid of them, and so I turn them off., annoyed and exasperated."

You need to use AdBlock and NoScript (or the equivalent for whatever OS and browser you're using.) I don't see ads hardly anywhere. The main reason for using these tools is not only to get rid of ads, it's to enhance the security of your computer.

readerOfTeaLeaves , 04 September 2017 at 10:59 PM
Having watched my father pass away in recent months, after several years confined to a wheelchair and in the care of gifted, compassionate immigrants, I sincerely appreciate this post.

In those last weeks, the most help that I could offer was to play him any opera, musical, jazz, or orchestral piece that he requested -- all via a quick search on my iTunes account. In the last hours, when he could no longer speak, Indian Chakra music (also via iTunes) helped his breathing and was a balm beyond what words could ever express.

What he taught me is that it is not how we die -- in his case, stoic, uncomplaining, loved, and treasured -- but how we live, that matters.

His life, like so many of his generation, was shaped by several years spent in the US Army between 1943 - 45, much of it in the South Pacific, then Japan. The catastrophic destruction that he witnessed, which he did not share with me until he was well into his 80s, shaped the way that he lived his life, and sharpened his priorities, his beliefs, his politics, his ethics, and his capacity for friendship. Also, his capacity for making a decision, then sticking to it.

He once told me that after watching 'so many bodies stacked up like cordwood' in the cleanup of Yokohoma after it had been firebombed, he promised himself that he would never, ever remain in any job if he was miserable after 72 hours. He kept that promise to himself, and helped countless others also try to find meaningful work, be productive, and laugh through job losses, down cycles, and lawsuits.

In other words, his military experiences in WWII seemed to liberate him in a sense to live his life as fully as he possibly could, and he always felt grateful to have had a solid education, a superb local library, and -- much later -- The Internet to help him reconnect with friends strewn across the country.

Today, he would be called 'resilient'. Many of the traits that helped him be successful in a long career were sharpened in the US Army, and he felt that 'kids today' would have enormous benefits from some kind of national service. That generation knew how to pull together. Whether today's kids can figure it out remains to be seen.

EvanHP , 04 September 2017 at 11:57 PM
I'm in my 40's. I had a heart attack (MI) 3 years ago and a stroke 2 weeks ago. The MI felt like 1000-lbs of compressed air was shot into my lungs. When I had the stroke I was typing a report at my desk around 7 pm. My wife was still at work. My right arm went completely numb and the right side of my face felt partially numb. I was rushed to the ER at a local hospital outside Boston.

No major long-term effects. In both cases (MI and stroke) I was a bit freaked out because I was conscious and knew that what was happening was grave. In both cases my overwhelming thought (fear) was that I was about to enter eternity and I wondered if I had lead a good enough life to avoid eternal isolation from God. During the stroke they were ready to use a very aggressive treatment called TPA, which, the ER doctor told me, could result in bleeding in the brain and fatality. I was frightened of death for the first time in my life. Because it was real. I asked my wife if we might need to call a priest. She said I would be ok. The decision to not go forward with TPA was made by a brother and sister-in-law (one a Harvard Med cardiologist and the other a professor of medicine) who talked with the ER doctor by phone as this was going down (I'm sure a first for him).

Anyway, crazy stuff. I will be changing my lifestyle in many ways-- body, mind, and spirt. I'm practicing my faith more diligently and plan to go to confession at least once per month and say the rosary daily. A view these events as a wake up call for my health and a severe mercy for my eternal soul.

Bill H , 05 September 2017 at 01:27 AM
I was undergoing some sort of medical test and the technician noticed I was reading a book, one of the Patrick O'Brian series which includes Master and Commander which was such a good movie. I told him I was reading the series for what I thought was the sixth time and he was stunned. He could not believe that anyone would read a book twice, let alone a series of twenty books six times. I think Richard Sale understands why I'm reading it yet again.
Eric Newhill , 05 September 2017 at 05:35 AM
Nice article, Richard.

I volunteer at a hospice home in my community. It's a nice place and people in the community can spend their final days there, for free, well taken care of, with their families and friends, in a clean, peaceful, respectful environment. The goal of the home is provide as much dignity in death as possible. I've seem a lot of people go through the dying process and have been there at the final moment for some of them.

You'd be surprised at how many residents pass their last week and day and even moment with some banal game show blaring away on the television. You might be surprised at how few conversations there are about spiritual matters, how few reflections on what was learned during life, how few conversations regarding great adventures, joys, loves, sorrows.

For most, death comes painlessly. There is a sigh and, perhaps, a brief rattle and then the resident is gone. Quite uneventful. Quite mundane.

Most people (68%) have an IQ that is within 1 standard deviation of average. These people are mediocre; functional, but mediocre. Of the remaining 32% we have 16% on the far left side of the bell curve. These people are truly stupid. That leaves only 16% (16 out of every hundred people you meet) that have some spark of intelligence above mediocrity. Of those, only 2% are truly bright.

This, I think, is the root of the problems you discuss. Most people simply do not have the ability to do more than absorb and rote repeat the shallow informational garbage that is tossed at them. Their stunted intellectual capacities don't permit them to gain satisfaction from deep meditations. Rather, they prefer the gross pleasures of food, drink, slapstick and gossip.

David E. Solomon -> Eric Newhill... , 05 September 2017 at 09:25 AM
Sorry Eric but I don't buy your assumptions at all. I think if you were to look carefully and without bias, you will find that the mediocrity you have perceived is almost entirely the result of a very poor national (at least in the USA) public education system.
gaikokumaniakku , 05 September 2017 at 08:54 AM
"Are these things really interesting? If we buckle down and concentrate on them, what will be the reward? To me, the rewards are always meager. There is a lot of competition when it comes to current affairs. If we fall behind, we suffer a pang of regret – some neighbor knows more about current affairs than I do. But so what? I want to ponder things that are unique to my own temper and mental capacity."

Dear sir, thank you for your essay. You are very right in your principles. One should meditate and think deeply. One should not be distracted by passing fads and foolish fancies. I am a foolish fellow. I fritter my time away on distractions. I know that I should say "no" to exciting projects and focus on just one useful enterprise, but in general I fail.

One thing that I do focus on is putting together aggregated news of police misconduct, government corruption, and conspiracy theories. Up through 2016, I thought it was just another foolish habit. I had perhaps two dozen readers every day - I got no money for keeping them abreast of the headlines.

And then, in 2016, John Podesta was accused of human trafficking. If the allegations - known as Pizzagate - are even close to true, then the entire USA government will be shaken when the truth comes out. I reported on Pizzagate when it was news, just like I report on every other report of government misconduct. And instead of two dozen visitors, I got thousands. For just one day, or just one month, there were thousands of people who wanted to read the allegations, and I played a very small role in delivering the truth that had been exposed by much braver and abler men. I hope the corruption will be exposed, and then everyone will wake up, and my blogging efforts will be obsolete. I would very much like to feel that I can ignore the news in good conscience.

Oilman2 , 05 September 2017 at 10:50 AM
I think much of what is "modern life" is soul stifling. There are many ways to sidestep or repudiate the crassness and incivility of the world today, but for me, it has been to exit the metropolitan life. Going to my farm, where there is no cell service, no big highways and people still ride their horses down the roadways - I feel a palpable release and relief just driving into the area.

My recommendation is simply to limit your drinking. Nobody gets drunk every day except alcoholics, who have a sickness. My sense of things on the internet and in smartfone-land is similar - it's like a drunk who needs to drink. If you have a little, it is fine, although you don't always need it. If you have a lot, then you are like a drunk - because knowing things does not mean you can affect them, and worrying over things you cannot affect is a recipe for many ills.

The craziness of the world will recede in the future - so much of what is considered 'normal' now is not so, when viewed from the lens of history. Things go in cycles, and the current world is the most technologically complex one in known history - and thus it has more innate vulnerabilities than any other previous human existence. Simplification will come, and is likely on its way in our children's or grandchildren's times here on Earth.

Concurrently, my focus has been on building the farm so that my children and possibly their own, have a place to go that is not the city, that is simpler, that is closer to the Earth and provides them with things impalpable. This has and is a great source of happiness in this life for me.

I haven't subscribed to the Judeo-Christian faith since I was originally indoctrinated in my early teens via catechism. I never grokked a God that delivers binary choice - this world would be anathema to that type of being. I believe reliving the wheel of life a far more likely and positive possibility for souls. Polishing ones soul in repeated attempts has an appeal much greater than burning in hell eternally or playing a harp among identically blissful angels - the binaries offered by many religions are not reflective of what humanity is, IMHO. I guess in the next years I will discover what the truth of things is, and take comfort in my offspring moving through time beyond my own.

The key to things, as has been taught throughout time, is to do things in moderation - and the internet and smartphones are no exception. However, the addictive appeal of instant everything is apparent to us here commenting, and is to be understood and moderated. In that vein, I want to thank the Colonel for giving us the opportunity to enjoy this little nook of cyberspace - thank you!

And for this essay - thank you. I surely needed to be written, as it is something we all should acknowledge. Death is something natural, normal and inevitable. Easing the burden of loss to your loved ones is an important responsibility as we pass through the veil.

[Sep 17, 2017] Inside the rehab saving young men from their internet addiction by Joanna Walters

Jun 16, 2017 | www.theguardian.com

At a cabin in the Washington state woods, the reSTART center helps residents withdraw from technology that has consumed their lives in Redmond, Washington.

By the time Marshall Carpenter's father broke down the barricaded door of his son's apartment and physically ripped him away from his electronic devices, the 25-year-old was in a bad way. He could not bear to live a life that didn't involve hours upon hours of uninterrupted screen time.

"I was playing video games 14 or 15 hours a day, I had Netflix on a loop in the background, and any time there was the tiniest break in any of that, I would be playing a game on my phone or sending lonely texts to ex-girlfriends," Carpenter says.

We are sitting in a small, plain apartment in a nondescript condo complex in Redmond, Washington, on the outskirts of Seattle. Marshall shares the apartment with other men in their 20s, all of whom have recently emerged from a unique internet addiction rehab program called reSTART Life.

"I was basically living on Dr Pepper, which is packed with caffeine and sugar. I would get weak from not eating but I would only notice it when I got so shaky I stopped being able to think and play well," he adds. By then, he'd already had to drop out of university in Michigan and had lost his sports scholarship.

His new friends Charlie and Peter nod sagely. Charlie Bracke, 28, was suicidal and had lost his job when he realized his online gaming was totally out of control. He can't remember a time in his life before he was not playing video games of some kind: he reckons he began when he was about four and was addicted by the age of nine.

Marshall and Charlie at reSTART, an internet addiction center.

Marshall and Charlie at reSTART, with Charlie's dog, Minerva. Photograph: Rafael Soldi for the Guardian

For Peter, 31, who preferred to withhold his last name, the low came when he had been homeless for six months and was living in his car.

"I would stay in church parking lots and put sunshades up on the windows and spend all day in my car on my tablet device," he says.

He was addicted to internet porn, masturbating six to 10 times a day, to the point where he was bleeding but would continue.

When he wasn't doing that, he was so immersed in the fantasy battle game World of Warcraft that in his mind, he was no longer a person sitting at a screen, but an avatar: the bold dwarvish hero Tarokalas, "shooting guns and assassinating the enemy" as he ran through a Tolkien-esque virtual realm.

And when he wasn't doing that, he would read online news reports obsessively and exercise his political opinions and a hair-trigger temper in the comment section of The Economist, projecting himself pseudonymously as a swaggering blogger-cum-troll.

"I was a virgin until I was 29. Then I had sex with a lap dancer at a strip club. That's something I never thought I would do," he says.

After completing the initial $25,000, 45-day residential stage at the main "campus" a few miles away, clients move into the cheaper, off-site secondary phase. Here they get to share a normal apartment, on the condition that they continue with psychotherapy, attend Alcoholics Anonymous-style 12-step meetings, search for work and avoid the internet for a minimum of six months.

Marshall, Charlie and Peter successfully completed the second phase and have graduated from the reSTART program, but they have chosen to stay in the same apartment complex and rent with other recovering gamers as they continue to reboot their lives.

Mostly they carry only flip phones and have to go to the library when they want to check email.

"I'm taking my life in six-month chunks at this stage. So far I haven't relapsed into gaming and I'm feeling optimistic," says Bracke.

An addiction overwhelmingly afflicting men

A climbing wall at the main ReStart campus, deep in the woods.

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A climbing wall at the main reSTART campus, deep in the woods. Photograph: Rafael Soldi for the Guardian

Nine miles east, down a dirt track off a country road that winds through forests, six young men are sitting in a wooden cabin amid a cluster of moss-draped trees – the reSTART campus.

Spring sunshine is flooding through the windows and the only sounds are birds singing and the men cracking their knuckles as they stare at the floor.

They have recently arrived at rehab.

Hilarie Cash, a psychotherapist and the chief clinical officer at reSTART, asks the guys to begin a communication exercise.

Philip, 22, steps into the middle of the group. He's been here for three weeks and is on a year's medical leave from Duke University after getting hooked on Dota 2, the sequel to the fantasy battle game Defense of the Ancients. He asks Adam, who only arrived four days ago and is fidgeting awkwardly, to stand up and face him. (The real names of those currently in the residential program have been withheld.)

Kevin, who has been here for four weeks, coaches them through an exercise known in counseling circles as the "listening cycle", designed to facilitate emotional conversations in relationships.

It's a basic introduction for the new guy.

Fears grow for children addicted to online games

Read more

Philip, who was underweight when he arrived, says to Adam, who is overweight: "I'm worried that you're not eating healthily. I noticed you've been skipping dinner."

Adam is meant to repeat back to Philip what he heard him say the problem is. He mumbles, barely audible, and can't seem to remember what he's just been told.

He's unable to focus, and the air is thick with reluctance and embarrassment.

Stephen, another newbie, is gazing at the ceiling, yawning, sighing, then looking mildly irritated.

Alex, 20, comes to the rescue. He arrived at rehab in January but has popped back to visit the group and explains: "It's so hard at the beginning. Day one here, I was a wreck, and the first two weeks I was backsliding."

His games of choice were The Legend of Zelda, a solo action adventure series, where "instead of being the depressed piece of shit I was in real life" he could exist as a swashbuckling hero.

Adapting to a tech-free world structured around rural communal living and social skills was a nightmare, he says. "I wouldn't join in at first and I got called out for it by the others."

[Sep 17, 2017] Lessons from Sheryl Sandberg -- Stop Working More Than 40 Hours a Week

The problem is that you can't learn IT well working 40 hours a week. This is too complex specilaty and it does rtequre long hours. So only people who can put long hours can survive in IT.
Notable quotes:
"... There's been a flurry of recent coverage praising Sheryl Sandberg , the chief operating officer of Facebook, for leaving the office every day at 5:30 p.m. to be with her kids. Apparently she's been doing this for years, but only recently "came out of the closet," as it were. ..."
"... They discovered that the "sweet spot" is 40 hours a week – and that, while adding another 20 hours provides a minor increase in productivity, that increase only lasts for three to four weeks, and then turns negative. ..."
"... Anyone who's spent time in a corporate environment knows that what was true of factory workers a hundred years ago is true of office workers today. People who put in a solid 40 hours a week get more done than those who regularly work 60 or more hours. ..."
"... However, the facts don't bear this out. In six of the top 10 most competitive countries in the world (Sweden, Finland, Germany, Netherlands, Denmark, and the United Kingdom), it's illegal to demand more than a 48-hour work week . You simply don't see the 50-, 60-, and 70-hour work weeks that have become de rigeur in some parts of the U.S. business world. ..."
"... In other words, nobody should be apologizing for leaving at work at a reasonable hour like 5:30 p.m. In fact, people should be apologizing if they're working too long each week–because it's probably making the team less effective overall. ..."
Apr 28, 2012 | Inc.com

You may think you're getting more accomplished by working longer hours. You're probably wrong.

There's been a flurry of recent coverage praising Sheryl Sandberg, the chief operating officer of Facebook, for leaving the office every day at 5:30 p.m. to be with her kids. Apparently she's been doing this for years, but only recently "came out of the closet," as it were.

What's insane is that Sandberg felt the need to hide the fact, since there's a century of research establishing the undeniable fact that working more than 40 hours per week actually decreases productivity.

In the early 1900s, Ford Motor ran dozens of tests to discover the optimum work hours for worker productivity. They discovered that the "sweet spot" is 40 hours a week – and that, while adding another 20 hours provides a minor increase in productivity, that increase only lasts for three to four weeks, and then turns negative.

Anyone who's spent time in a corporate environment knows that what was true of factory workers a hundred years ago is true of office workers today. People who put in a solid 40 hours a week get more done than those who regularly work 60 or more hours.

The workaholics (and their profoundly misguided management) may think they're accomplishing more than the less fanatical worker, but in every case that I've personally observed, the long hours result in work that must be scrapped or redone.

Accounting for Burnout What's more, people who consistently work long work weeks get burned out and inevitably start having personal problems that get in the way of getting things done.

I remember a guy in one company I worked for who used the number of divorces in his group as a measure of its productivity. Believe it or not, his top management reportedly considered this a valid metric. What's ironic (but not surprising) is that the group itself accomplished next to nothing.

In fact, now that I think about it, that's probably why he had to trot out such an absurd (and, let's face it, evil) metric.

Proponents of long work weeks often point to the even longer average work weeks in countries like Thailand, Korea, and Pakistan–with the implication that the longer work weeks are creating a competitive advantage.

Europe's Ban on 50-Hour Weeks.

However, the facts don't bear this out. In six of the top 10 most competitive countries in the world (Sweden, Finland, Germany, Netherlands, Denmark, and the United Kingdom), it's illegal to demand more than a 48-hour work week. You simply don't see the 50-, 60-, and 70-hour work weeks that have become de rigeur in some parts of the U.S. business world.

If U.S. managers were smart, they'd end this "if you don't come in on Saturday, don't bother coming to work on Sunday" idiocy. If you want employees (salaried or hourly) to get the most done–in the shortest amount of time and on a consistent basis–40 hours a week is just about right.

In other words, nobody should be apologizing for leaving at work at a reasonable hour like 5:30 p.m. In fact, people should be apologizing if they're working too long each week–because it's probably making the team less effective overall.

[Sep 17, 2017] If You Get Rich, You Wont Quit Working For Long

Dec 26, 2016 | news.slashdot.org
(bbc.com) 406 Posted by msmash on Monday December 12, 2016 @11:45AM from the understanding-people dept. An anonymous reader writes: You'd think striking it suddenly rich would be the ultimate ticket to freedom. Without money worries, the world would be your oyster. Perhaps you'd champion a worthy cause, or indulge a sporting passion, but work? Surely not. However, remaining gainfully employed after sudden wealth is more common than you'd think . After all, there are numerous high-profile billionaires who haven't called it quits despite possessing the luxury to retire, including some of the world's top chief executives, such as Amazon's Jeff Bezos and Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg. But it turns out, the suddenly rich who aren't running companies are also loathe to quit, even though they have plenty of money. That could be, in part, because the link between salary and job satisfaction is very weak. According to a meta-analysis by University of Florida business school professor Timothy Judge and other researchers, there's less than a 2% overlap between the two factors. In the long run, we derive job satisfaction from non-monetary sources, which include positive peer relationships, the ability to work on meaningful projects and even leadership opportunities.

[Sep 17, 2017] The ethic of hard work , Obama, Trump and Hillary by Gaius Publius

Notable quotes:
"... If anything, the whole plagiarism scandal reflects somewhat poorly on Michelle Obama. One reason Obama's words were able to play so well at the RNC was that in the lifted passages, Obama was speaking using the conservative language of "bootstrapping." Obama's sentence, that "the only limit" to one's achievements is the height of one's goal and the "willingness to work" toward it, is the Republican story about America. It's the story of personal responsibility, in which the U.S. is overflowing with opportunity, and anyone who fails to succeed in such a land of abundance must simply not be trying hard enough. ..."
"... People on the left are supposed to know that it is a cruel lie to tell people that all they need to do is work hard. There are plenty of people with dreams who work very hard indeed but get nothing, because the American economy is fundamentally skewed and unfair. This rhetoric, about "hard work" being the only thing needed for the pursuit of prosperity, is an insult to every tomato-picker and hotel cleaner in the country. It's a fact that those who work the hardest in this country, those come home from work exhausted and who break their backs to feed their families, are almost always rewarded the least. Far from embarrassing Melania Trump and the GOP, then, it should be deeply humiliating for Democrats that their rhetoric is so bloodless and hollow that it can easily be spoken word-for-word in front of a gang of crazed racists. Instead of asking "why is Melania Trump using Michelle Obama's words?" we might think to ask "why is Michelle Obama using the right-wing rhetoric of self-reliance?" ..."
"... This is, of course, the myth of "meritocracy" that Thomas Frank has exposed with scalpel-like precision in his latest book Listen, Liberal . It's clear that the Democratic Party, at its core, believes with Michelle (and Barack) Obama the comfortable and self-serving lie that no individual has anyone to blame but herself if she fails to achieve high goals. She should just have reached higher; she should just have worked harder. ..."
"... It's not only a lie, it's a "cruel lie," as Nimni says. So why is she, Michelle Obama, telling it? Clearly it serves her interests, her husband's interests, her party's interests, to tell the "rich person's lie," that his or her achievement came from his or her own efforts. To call most people's success a product of luck (right color, right gender, right country, right neighborhood, right schools, right set of un-birth-damaged brain cells) or worse, inheritance (right parents), identifies the fundamental unfairness of our supposed "meritocratic" system of allocating wealth and undercuts the "goodness," if you look at it writ large, of predatory capitalism. By that measure, neither the very wealthy themselves (Charles Koch, Jamie Dimon) nor those who serve them (Barack Obama et al ) are "good" in any moral sense. ..."
"... U.S. cultural norms, as the piece describes accurately, glorify and misrepresent "work" especially of the "hard" kind. Hmm I wonder where that notion came from and why it gained such a foothold in the prevailing groupthink? ..."
"... The present regime of "teach to the test" here in America almost completely short circuits the teaching of critical thinking skills. With stressed parents increasingly abdicating their responsibilities towards the upbringing of their offspring in favour of the State, is it any wonder that the narrow interests of the State, such as the Iron Law of Institutions, are supplanting enlightenment in the minds of the young? We now must begin to consider the divergence of the interests of the Society from the interests of the State. With the balance of power swinging heavily in favour of the State these recent decades, I am not sanguine about the near term future of our culture. ..."
"... As is so often the case in American culture, the "hard work" meme emerges from the slave system. Slaves had to be bullied and terrorized in order to extract "hard work" from them, given that they had zero rewards of any tangible sort for it. So "hard work" required constant vigilance and frequent punishments while slaves rationally attempted to do the least amount of work that enabled them to escape the many types of tortures they were regularly threatened with. ..."
"... Then after "emancipation," plantation owners complained that they could not get any of those lazy, shiftless Negroes to perform "hard work" for them, given that the newly freed men and women were much more interested in getting ahead for themselves than continuing to pick cotton or harvest rice for starvation wages. ..."
"... I don't think you are over-simplifying, Clive–in Hong Kong, too, my experience has been that most people I deal with in the work world take a great deal of intrinsic pride in doing a job efficiently and well, for its own sake, not because it will necessarily make you more money. ..."
"... What I'm starting to sniff in the zeitgeist today is that Trump's kids are totally changing what people think of the father. People are making the semi-rational assumption that anyone who can raise such good kids must be very different in private than he is on the campaign trail. ..."
"... the genesis of the "plagiarism" attacks. The mud slinging has started early in this campaign. However, if Trumps' family can exude some sense of charm and class, the entire mud slinging strategy can be 'stood on its' head.' ..."
"... Me, I'm terrified of Hillary Clinton and the devastation that her ascension to the Presidency might bring to this nation and to the world. She is not only a liar, a blatantly self-dealing criminal, but more devastating yet, a sociopath of the first water, willing to walk across the bodies to advance her personal and class agenda. ..."
"... Her time as President would go a long way toward cementing the Unitary Executive in place (i.e., a functional Dictator, as understood in the Roman Republican meaning of the term, a Tribune, in which a chief magistrate of the State like the President under our Constitution, whose writ as an authoritarian ruler ran so long as there was a national emergency. I serve as the clerk for government documents in a university law library, and I can tell you that the number of House Documents announcing a "National Emergency" or the continuation of a previously announced "National Emergency" is very alarming. These "emergencies" are the camel's nose under the tent in my estimation for the slow accretion of Dictatorial powers (again, in the Roman Republican sense of the term "dictator") toward the Caesar-like role of Unitary Executive. These "National Emergencies" functionally invest power into the hands of the President and those forces military, legal, and regulatory under the control of the Executive by which the President can wage military, legal/diplomatic, and economic warfare against those who refuse to bend the knee to US-dominated global hegemony. ..."
"... Hillary is practically salivating to grasp the rod of power embodied in the Unitary Executive. Warfare will follow her tenure in office like a dire shadow, and due to her belief in the right of and necessity of the US to enforce a global hegemony, she is inevitably moving toward a deadly clash with other nuclear powers unwilling to submit to the yoke of globalized, stateless, culturally-anodyne finance capitalism. Good times await. ..."
"... "Our well-nigh useless Legislative branch has largely surrendered its Constitutional responsibilities to the Executive through such trash as Authorizations of Military Force rather than engaging in the mandated procedure of the Declaration of War found in the Constitution to authorize extended use of military (and legal and economic) force." ..."
"... That allows individuals to claim they had no responsibility for the war, something Pence and Clinton cannot claim because of their votes. But on what other things do you see Obama as being a strong "unitary executive." I thought it was generally viewed that Congress had thwarted his (almost) every wish. ..."
"... And how about that patriot act renewal, US out of iraq/afganistan? Vicky nuland and the ukraine? I guess the problem is that you get your information as it is generally viewed, but you fail to indicate who it is that generally views things that way, however, it should help you understand why trump will win because hillary is generally viewed as corrupt. ..."
"... I'm intrigued by author's concluding idea. "It involves another attempt to take over the Republican Party, this time by the Clinton-led Democratic leadership. " ..."
"... And if the words were lies coming out of Obama's mouth, what are they coming out of Trump's mouth? ..."
"... "Far from embarrassing Melania Trump and the GOP, then, it should be deeply humiliating for Democrats that their rhetoric is so bloodless and hollow that it can easily be spoken word-for-word in front of a gang of crazed racists. Instead of asking "why is Melania Trump using Michelle Obama's words?" we might think to ask "why is Michelle Obama using the right-wing rhetoric of self-reliance?" ..."
"... A lot of this is related to the Democrats and what Bill made "successful" with his presidency. The lack of a truly left party that works for average citizens has created this environment when a character like Trump can gain such support. This article illustrates but another example of meritocratic nonsense being regurgitated by the party. ..."
"... A thought-provoking and unexpected take, Gaius Publius. I was struck by one item left off your list of lucky attributes: beauty. Both Michelle Obama and Melania Trump are undeniably beautiful women -– tall, slim, with the elegantly symmetrical features prized in every culture. Sadly in beauty-obsessed America the doors opened for women who look this lovely are shut hard against women who are fat, or old, or ugly. ..."
"... I had pretty much the exact same thought as your second "blackbird" when the video of Melania Trump plagiarizing Michele Obama's speech and all my liberal friends were yuking it up. All I could think was "If the same speech could plausibly come out of either of their mouths without alienating the audience, we have much worse problems than her Mrs. Trump's copycating." The fact that this seemed to bother hardly anyone else made it worse. So much of these elections just get reduced down to rooting for your team at a sporting event. This works well to keep people from having to deal with a lot of unpleasant questions and conclusions. ..."
"... Read Roosevelt's speech, Trump certainly did, for some real fear mongering and look at the coalition he has taken over the Republican party to form. FDR 1932. ..."
"... > "another attempt to take over the Republican Party" Which shouldn't be that hard, since both the Democrat and Republican parties are neoliberal. As always, the real enemy is the left. ..."
"... I'm surprised Gaius failed to address this portion of Michelle's speech which he quoted: "tell the truth; keep your promises; treat others with dignity and respect." Since when has Obama told the truth, or kept his promises, or treated anyone except Jamie Dimon and Lloyd Blanfein with respect? ..."
"... Put aside whether "Michelle Obama" or some speechwriting merc came up with the banal verbiage redolent of Sunday school and Horatio Alger. What gives the snippet its special Trumpian turn into hyper-unreality, an ever-expanding balloon of hot boast and hyperbolic deceit, is the way it transcends garden-variety plagiarism by laying claim to the very virtues that the appropriation itself falsifies. ..."
"... That's chutzpah! The stunning effrontery supersizes an overall meta-ness that's less indicative of middle-class morality and meritocracy than the predatory opportunism of the exploitative rich, what C. Wright Mills might have recognized as the "higher immorality." Here we have a colossally vain billionaire atop an empire of glitz and privilege kayfabing his way to a party nomination as the indignant voice of the brutalized working class he's dedicated his life to disparaging as envious losers. The mind reels between giddiness and nausea. ..."
"... You can't forever distract it away with Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous and color counter-revolutions against exploitative freeloaders (the non-rich and famous ones, that is). It takes an philosophy of human worth apart from vanities over this or that temporarily adaptive skill or happy accident. ..."
"... I think Oren Nimni basically gets it right: When you cut through the tautologies and the bromides that many parents deliver to their children, what you have is the message, "don't expect government to be there for you; those days are over" (which, actually, sounds like Bubba Bill's pitch–"the day's of big government are over"). ..."
"... If you work hard enough and have enough ambition you will succeed is not a lie to those born on 3rd base, it was true for them. The Obama's the Trumps. They are really just guilty of not understanding the plight of those who were born at bat against a major league pitcher. ..."
www.nakedcapitalism.com

naked capitalism

Gaius Publius Two Ways of Looking at a Plagiarism

Oren Nimni: Obama's statement "is an insult to every tomato-picker and hotel cleaner in the country"

The fact that Michelle Obama's statement is blatantly false (and that a woman of color in the United States said it) is revealing. Current Affairs writer Oren Nimni on that (emphasis in original):

If anything, the whole plagiarism scandal reflects somewhat poorly on Michelle Obama. One reason Obama's words were able to play so well at the RNC was that in the lifted passages, Obama was speaking using the conservative language of "bootstrapping." Obama's sentence, that "the only limit" to one's achievements is the height of one's goal and the "willingness to work" toward it, is the Republican story about America. It's the story of personal responsibility, in which the U.S. is overflowing with opportunity, and anyone who fails to succeed in such a land of abundance must simply not be trying hard enough.

People on the left are supposed to know that it is a cruel lie to tell people that all they need to do is work hard. There are plenty of people with dreams who work very hard indeed but get nothing, because the American economy is fundamentally skewed and unfair. This rhetoric, about "hard work" being the only thing needed for the pursuit of prosperity, is an insult to every tomato-picker and hotel cleaner in the country. It's a fact that those who work the hardest in this country, those come home from work exhausted and who break their backs to feed their families, are almost always rewarded the least.

Far from embarrassing Melania Trump and the GOP, then, it should be deeply humiliating for Democrats that their rhetoric is so bloodless and hollow that it can easily be spoken word-for-word in front of a gang of crazed racists. Instead of asking "why is Melania Trump using Michelle Obama's words?" we might think to ask "why is Michelle Obama using the right-wing rhetoric of self-reliance?"

This is, of course, the myth of "meritocracy" that Thomas Frank has exposed with scalpel-like precision in his latest book Listen, Liberal . It's clear that the Democratic Party, at its core, believes with Michelle (and Barack) Obama the comfortable and self-serving lie that no individual has anyone to blame but herself if she fails to achieve high goals. She should just have reached higher; she should just have worked harder.

It's not only a lie, it's a "cruel lie," as Nimni says. So why is she, Michelle Obama, telling it? Clearly it serves her interests, her husband's interests, her party's interests, to tell the "rich person's lie," that his or her achievement came from his or her own efforts. To call most people's success a product of luck (right color, right gender, right country, right neighborhood, right schools, right set of un-birth-damaged brain cells) or worse, inheritance (right parents), identifies the fundamental unfairness of our supposed "meritocratic" system of allocating wealth and undercuts the "goodness," if you look at it writ large, of predatory capitalism. By that measure, neither the very wealthy themselves (Charles Koch, Jamie Dimon) nor those who serve them (Barack Obama et al ) are "good" in any moral sense.

(The idea of the supposed "goodness" of the successful capitalist, by the way, his supposed "greater morality," goes all the way back to the 18th Century attempt of the wealthy to counter the 17th Century bleakness of Protestant predestination. How could people, especially the very rich, know whether they are among the "elect" or the damned? God gives them wealth as a sign of his plans for them, just as God gives them morally deficient poverty-wage workers to take advantage of.)

Clive , July 22, 2016 at 4:27 am

There's also a flip side to the main point drawn out in the above article ("if you work hard you'll be successful and rewarded") which, dare I say, is rarely mentioned and even an anathema in U.S. culture (not, mind you, that I think British culture isn't going the same way so I am not trying to throw stones in this glass house).

Which is: quite often, you are rewarded if you don't "work hard" and even if you work somewhat "hard" the rewards you receive are out of all proportion to the effort you have to make. But no-one (or few people) are willing to admit, if they are in that position, that - to put it crudely - they are really doing bugger all but raking it in.

I, for example, do very little. What I do do certainly isn't "hard work". Now, I have expended a certain amount of mental effort on understanding the system - the dynamic - in play at my employer. And how to successfully exploit that to gain the maximum amount of financial reward for the least amount of effort. But I would hardly call that "work", and certainly it is not of "hard" variety.

U.S. cultural norms, as the piece describes accurately, glorify and misrepresent "work" especially of the "hard" kind. Hmm I wonder where that notion came from and why it gained such a foothold in the prevailing groupthink?

In Japanese culture, to introduce another nuance, the concept of "hard work" is still present as a thing to be looked up to but it is more tinged with an air of "doing your best" or "doing your upmost" rather than "hard" (i.e. demanding) work and lacks the "you're going to get the payoff if you do" quid pro quo. The reward, in Japanese culture, comes from knowing you've done the best you can which is more a personal satisfaction than a financial compensator. But I am glossing over some complexity here so do not view what I've just said in this paragraph as anything other than a simplification.

ambrit , July 22, 2016 at 5:02 am

May I suggest that the "simplification" you mention is an essential part of any group control strategy. Simplified thinking may work wonders in efficiency studies or some sorts of high energy physics, but in the realm of social relations, simplicity masks diversity and complexity to the detriment of any version of "truth." I was lucky in having skeptical parents and some excellent minds among my High School teachers. The present regime of "teach to the test" here in America almost completely short circuits the teaching of critical thinking skills. With stressed parents increasingly abdicating their responsibilities towards the upbringing of their offspring in favour of the State, is it any wonder that the narrow interests of the State, such as the Iron Law of Institutions, are supplanting enlightenment in the minds of the young? We now must begin to consider the divergence of the interests of the Society from the interests of the State. With the balance of power swinging heavily in favour of the State these recent decades, I am not sanguine about the near term future of our culture.

timotheus , July 22, 2016 at 7:43 am

As is so often the case in American culture, the "hard work" meme emerges from the slave system. Slaves had to be bullied and terrorized in order to extract "hard work" from them, given that they had zero rewards of any tangible sort for it. So "hard work" required constant vigilance and frequent punishments while slaves rationally attempted to do the least amount of work that enabled them to escape the many types of tortures they were regularly threatened with.

Then after "emancipation," plantation owners complained that they could not get any of those lazy, shiftless Negroes to perform "hard work" for them, given that the newly freed men and women were much more interested in getting ahead for themselves than continuing to pick cotton or harvest rice for starvation wages. Ever since, we have lived with the embittered voice of the slaveowner infuriated at the loss of all that labor power he once had at his disposal for free. Thus the mythology that "hard work" is all you need to perform to get ahead and the implicit wink-wink-we-know-who-won't-do-that racism that goes along with it.

MsExPat , July 22, 2016 at 10:27 am

I don't think you are over-simplifying, Clive–in Hong Kong, too, my experience has been that most people I deal with in the work world take a great deal of intrinsic pride in doing a job efficiently and well, for its own sake, not because it will necessarily make you more money. (Although often that is the result– over-performing and exceeding expectations is a great way of ensuring repeat customers and a thriving business.)

Coming from the US, where every corporate smile and "Have a Nice Day" is being recorded for performance review, I find this a most refreshing cultural trait, one that I have tried my best to assimilate.

Uahsenaa , July 22, 2016 at 11:14 am

I would add to what Clive said that in Japan the ganbare ethos is also underlined by a certain expectation that your wider social group will back you up, or at least make certain your life doesn't fall off a cliff. This doesn't always work in practice, and there are obvious examples of social groups that the Japanese polity like to pretend simply doesn't exist, but it is a cultural expectation. You even see it among homeless camps in Japan, which constitute a very clear in group.

In the US, a great of anxiety stems from the realization that you could do your best in all circumstances and still have your life fall apart, since that social backstop just isn't there, especially not in the world of meritocracy, in which you're expected to basically give up your pre-existing social networks in order to even participate.

Portia , July 22, 2016 at 1:09 pm

I remember one job where my Boss warned me: "Nice guys finish last here."

Nice of him, eh?

Figure out the culture of your workplace, and if you can stomach it, do what you have to do to succeed. This is what the Obamas and the Clintons have done. And geez, they can stomach a lot. But I do know people who have "worked hard" and been successful in their own businesses, and musicians are a prime example of having to really do the work to get the work. It's who you want to be recognized by, in my way of thinking.

ewmayer , July 22, 2016 at 4:37 am

I often think the better saying would be "Whom the gods would destroy, they first make outrageously successful."

With outrageous – as in wildly-disproportionate-to-effort-and-actual-talent – success comes a sense of infallibility, inevitability, hubris. A self-centered personality-cult delusion – ergo a form of madness – which often ends in a spectacular undoing. Alas, not nearly often enough, when it comes to the DC cabal of hubristic upward-failing sociopaths.

GOP convention finished with a bang tonight, and thankfully the dire pre-convention worries about the streets of Cleveland flowing with rivers of blood proved unfounded – I'd studiously avoided the previous evenings, aside from a few brief nauseating while-channel-flipping glimpses – but happened to catch Trump himself tonight. While I disliked Trump's police-centric take on American security at home, I thought he really effectively hammered the issues of economic inequality – including a mention of soaring unemployment rates in the latino and black communities (I wish he would have said more in that vein, but he did at least say something) and governmental corruption at the highest levels, as well as Hillary's multiple foreign-policy debacles; the whole "what has 15 years of blowing shit up in the middle east done for us?" issue. Also made a very pronounced point of embracing Sanders' "top issue" of bad so-called-free-trade deals, while emphasizing the degree to which things were rigged against Bernie. And closed with a nifty turning of Hillary's pet slogan against her [I paraphrase, too tired to dig the exact quote out]: "she demands a three-word loyalty oath 'I`m with her' well I'm here to tell you tonight that I'm with you ."

And the speeches by his kids (Donald Jr last night, Ivanka tonight) were both good, and I think likely surprising – in a positive way – to many people. The image of the whole family onstage post-speech will likely resonate with the traditional Republican base – clean-cut successful-looking guys and attractive ladies of a leggy-blond (but not Barbie-esque/ditzy) type I expect even folks of a conservative Mormon bent will have found something to like in that image. Scott Adams comments on the kids :

What I'm starting to sniff in the zeitgeist today is that Trump's kids are totally changing what people think of the father. People are making the semi-rational assumption that anyone who can raise such good kids must be very different in private than he is on the campaign trail.

Would be interested to hear the takes of other NC readers who watched the nomination acceptance speech.

ambrit , July 22, 2016 at 5:20 am

Re "..a minority of one.." At least you go in for nuance and reflection. My take on H Clinton and her claque is that they all perceive the Candidate as a 'majority of one.'
Your comment about the wife of Trump reminds me of the old saying by Caesar that : " Caesars' wife must be above suspicion." Thus, the genesis of the "plagiarism" attacks. The mud slinging has started early in this campaign. However, if Trumps' family can exude some sense of charm and class, the entire mud slinging strategy can be 'stood on its' head.'

JerseyJeffersonian , July 22, 2016 at 9:28 am

Me, I'm terrified of Hillary Clinton and the devastation that her ascension to the Presidency might bring to this nation and to the world. She is not only a liar, a blatantly self-dealing criminal, but more devastating yet, a sociopath of the first water, willing to walk across the bodies to advance her personal and class agenda.

Her time as President would go a long way toward cementing the Unitary Executive in place (i.e., a functional Dictator, as understood in the Roman Republican meaning of the term, a Tribune, in which a chief magistrate of the State like the President under our Constitution, whose writ as an authoritarian ruler ran so long as there was a national emergency. I serve as the clerk for government documents in a university law library, and I can tell you that the number of House Documents announcing a "National Emergency" or the continuation of a previously announced "National Emergency" is very alarming. These "emergencies" are the camel's nose under the tent in my estimation for the slow accretion of Dictatorial powers (again, in the Roman Republican sense of the term "dictator") toward the Caesar-like role of Unitary Executive. These "National Emergencies" functionally invest power into the hands of the President and those forces military, legal, and regulatory under the control of the Executive by which the President can wage military, legal/diplomatic, and economic warfare against those who refuse to bend the knee to US-dominated global hegemony.

Our well-nigh useless Legislative branch has largely surrendered its Constitutional responsibilities to the Executive through such trash as Authorizations of Military Force rather than engaging in the mandated procedure of the Declaration of War found in the Constitution to authorize extended use of military (and legal and economic) force. This gives the Executive carte blanche to engage in unending wars (beginning to sound familiar?) with all that that implies concerning the dominance of the MIC in the formulation of national policies.

Hillary is practically salivating to grasp the rod of power embodied in the Unitary Executive. Warfare will follow her tenure in office like a dire shadow, and due to her belief in the right of and necessity of the US to enforce a global hegemony, she is inevitably moving toward a deadly clash with other nuclear powers unwilling to submit to the yoke of globalized, stateless, culturally-anodyne finance capitalism. Good times await.

And that is only the beginning, as the plans she has for the US citizenry are scarcely less dire, what with the inevitability of the Grand Bargain in service of Finance Capitalism looming dead ahead.

Clinton delenda est.

Russ Zimmerman , July 22, 2016 at 10:15 am

"Our well-nigh useless Legislative branch has largely surrendered its Constitutional responsibilities to the Executive through such trash as Authorizations of Military Force rather than engaging in the mandated procedure of the Declaration of War found in the Constitution to authorize extended use of military (and legal and economic) force."

That allows individuals to claim they had no responsibility for the war, something Pence and Clinton cannot claim because of their votes. But on what other things do you see Obama as being a strong "unitary executive." I thought it was generally viewed that Congress had thwarted his (almost) every wish.

flora , July 22, 2016 at 10:54 am

This seems pretty strong. https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/feb/05/obama-kill-list-doj-memo

tegnost , July 22, 2016 at 11:16 am

Indeed, the republicans twisted barack's arm behind his back and forced him to allow insurance company lobbyists to write the "Affordable Care Act". Since you have tsa pre check I'll guess that your cadillac plan is still operational, or if not that that all the people who pay for insurance they can't use are subsidising you, and your own health care costs have been ameliorated. They also forced him to nominate merrick garland. They forced him to foam the runway for the banks and forced him to let all the bankster crimes go unpunished. My view is that obama, like hillary, is a republican because for both of them the policies they worked to advance are republican policies. TPP, ISDS, ACA, Edward Snowden, Chelsea Manning I could go on and on. I agree with the author that dems like obama and hillary are interested in serving the top sliver of the population that has the lions share of the wealth. It's not right/left anymore, it's top/bottom .

And how about that patriot act renewal, US out of iraq/afganistan? Vicky nuland and the ukraine? I guess the problem is that you get your information as it is generally viewed, but you fail to indicate who it is that generally views things that way, however, it should help you understand why trump will win because hillary is generally viewed as corrupt.

flora , July 22, 2016 at 5:59 am

I think both Obama and Trump were reciting a standard variation of the American Dream™. Horatio Alger stories are part of the US mythos. Bill Clinton used a variation in 1992. Most US pols use the "up from nothing by dint of hard work and good morals" line. The flap is that O and T used the exact same words instead of noting that the sentiment itself is boilerplate?

I'm intrigued by author's concluding idea. "It involves another attempt to take over the Republican Party, this time by the Clinton-led Democratic leadership. "

Roger Smith , July 22, 2016 at 7:16 am

" And if the words were lies coming out of Obama's mouth, what are they coming out of Trump's mouth? "

They are still lies, but they are lies in keeping with the ideology that dominates the party of which Trump is the nominee. Nimni summarized this well:

"Far from embarrassing Melania Trump and the GOP, then, it should be deeply humiliating for Democrats that their rhetoric is so bloodless and hollow that it can easily be spoken word-for-word in front of a gang of crazed racists. Instead of asking "why is Melania Trump using Michelle Obama's words?" we might think to ask "why is Michelle Obama using the right-wing rhetoric of self-reliance?"

A lot of this is related to the Democrats and what Bill made "successful" with his presidency. The lack of a truly left party that works for average citizens has created this environment when a character like Trump can gain such support. This article illustrates but another example of meritocratic nonsense being regurgitated by the party.

jrs , July 22, 2016 at 11:04 am

I think she initially claimed she wrote it didn't she? But yea it's clearly silly coming out of her mouth. Although being a model may be hard work (it could very well be frankly), she hasn't worked hard for years by now, and didn't get into such a privileged position by hard work (in whose definition exactly does marrying money count as hard work?).

So while in Michelle Obama's mouth the words are a lie, at least they might be a lie that's kind of true for her, in Misses Trumps mouth it's beyond silly. I have no idea if Mr Inherited Wealth and Misses Married Money do raise their kids that way or not. Wow the rich are crazy!!!

Hana M , July 22, 2016 at 6:16 am

A thought-provoking and unexpected take, Gaius Publius. I was struck by one item left off your list of lucky attributes: beauty. Both Michelle Obama and Melania Trump are undeniably beautiful women -– tall, slim, with the elegantly symmetrical features prized in every culture. Sadly in beauty-obsessed America the doors opened for women who look this lovely are shut hard against women who are fat, or old, or ugly.

MsExPat , July 22, 2016 at 10:17 am

+ Good point. Jane Sanders was repeatedly ridiculed for her appearance by pro-Hillary twitter bots during Bernie's campaign , and I doubt that would have happened had she been young, fashionable and svelte.

Hana M , July 22, 2016 at 11:32 am

There is a strong correlation between height and compensation. "When it comes to height, every inch counts–in fact, in the workplace, each inch above average may be worth $789 more per year, according to a study in the Journal of Applied Psychology (Vol. 89, No. 3).

The findings suggest that someone who is 6 feet tall earns, on average, nearly $166,000 more during a 30-year career than someone who is 5 feet 5 inches–even when controlling for gender, age and weight."
http://www.apa.org/monitor/julaug04/standing.aspx

Hana M , July 22, 2016 at 12:07 pm

That apparently is not true. One study of lawyers "found that those rated attractive on the basis of their graduation photographs went on to earn higher salaries than their less well-favoured colleagues. Moreover, lawyers in private practice tended to be better looking than those working in government departments." Even among economists, beauty pays and "attractive candidates were more successful in elections for office in the American Economic Association." http://www.economist.com/node/10311266

Roquentin , July 22, 2016 at 7:56 am

I had pretty much the exact same thought as your second "blackbird" when the video of Melania Trump plagiarizing Michele Obama's speech and all my liberal friends were yuking it up. All I could think was "If the same speech could plausibly come out of either of their mouths without alienating the audience, we have much worse problems than her Mrs. Trump's copycating." The fact that this seemed to bother hardly anyone else made it worse. So much of these elections just get reduced down to rooting for your team at a sporting event. This works well to keep people from having to deal with a lot of unpleasant questions and conclusions.

Or worse still, they've become so used to neoliberal platitudes like "pulling yourself up by your bootstraps" that it's become "common sense" or the don't even recognize it as such.

A forgotten man , July 22, 2016 at 9:05 am

In case you missed it, T's entire speech was about the "forgotten man," those that work hard and still cannot make a living wage. The height of their dreams count for nothing. The system is rigged. Read Roosevelt's speech, Trump certainly did, for some real fear mongering and look at the coalition he has taken over the Republican party to form. FDR 1932.

Lambert Strether , July 22, 2016 at 11:41 am

> "another attempt to take over the Republican Party" Which shouldn't be that hard, since both the Democrat and Republican parties are neoliberal. As always, the real enemy is the left.

Jess , July 22, 2016 at 12:50 pm

I'm surprised Gaius failed to address this portion of Michelle's speech which he quoted: "tell the truth; keep your promises; treat others with dignity and respect."

Since when has Obama told the truth, or kept his promises, or treated anyone except Jamie Dimon and Lloyd Blanfein with respect?

dingusansich , July 22, 2016 at 1:07 pm

you work hard for what you want in life, that your word is your bond and you do what you say and keep your promise

Put aside whether "Michelle Obama" or some speechwriting merc came up with the banal verbiage redolent of Sunday school and Horatio Alger. What gives the snippet its special Trumpian turn into hyper-unreality, an ever-expanding balloon of hot boast and hyperbolic deceit, is the way it transcends garden-variety plagiarism by laying claim to the very virtues that the appropriation itself falsifies.

That's chutzpah! The stunning effrontery supersizes an overall meta-ness that's less indicative of middle-class morality and meritocracy than the predatory opportunism of the exploitative rich, what C. Wright Mills might have recognized as the "higher immorality." Here we have a colossally vain billionaire atop an empire of glitz and privilege kayfabing his way to a party nomination as the indignant voice of the brutalized working class he's dedicated his life to disparaging as envious losers. The mind reels between giddiness and nausea.

What then exists outside the genteel social Darwinism of meritocratic ideology and further descent into a society of the spectacle, the Reaganite sitcom devolved into the Trump unreality show? To the gnomic, sidelong mysticism of Stevens let's add the frontal transvaluation of a sardonic Shaw:

What am I, Governors both? I ask you, what am I? I'm one of the undeserving poor: that's what I am. Think of what that means to a man. It means that he's up agen middle class morality all the time. If there's anything going, and I put in for a bit of it, it's always the same story: 'You're undeserving; so you can't have it.' But my needs is as great as the most deserving widow's that ever got money out of six different charities in one week for the death of the same husband. I don't need less than a deserving man: I need more. I don't eat less hearty than him; and I drink a lot more. I want a bit of amusement, cause I'm a thinking man. I want cheerfulness and a song and a band when I feel low. Well, they charge me just the same for everything as they charge the deserving. What is middle class morality? Just an excuse for never giving me anything.

Governors both, Democrats and Republicans, the meritocrats and the masters. What must be taken in is that the unskilled, the uneducated, the out of step, the unlucky, all need the means to live. If that's taken from them by the self-described deserving on the Acela and the higher immoralists in their towers and Gulfstreams, a democracy will begin to wobble like a spinning coin on the verge. You can't educate that away. You can't forever distract it away with Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous and color counter-revolutions against exploitative freeloaders (the non-rich and famous ones, that is). It takes an philosophy of human worth apart from vanities over this or that temporarily adaptive skill or happy accident.

When the market is be all and end all, an expression of natural law and supernatural giver of meaning, it's hard to see how even a managed, minimal democracy can prevail except as grotesque, corrupt parody, a mood traced in the shadow a decipherable cause. Or did I read something like that somewhere, like in a poem?

George S , July 22, 2016 at 1:25 pm

I don't recall Ms. Obama's speech. Based on the excerpts I heard during the recent news cycle (from both speeches) were pathetic. I think Oren Nimni basically gets it right: When you cut through the tautologies and the bromides that many parents deliver to their children, what you have is the message, "don't expect government to be there for you; those days are over" (which, actually, sounds like Bubba Bill's pitch–"the day's of big government are over").

... ... ...

Tim , July 22, 2016 at 2:47 pm

If you work hard enough and have enough ambition you will succeed is not a lie to those born on 3rd base, it was true for them. The Obama's the Trumps. They are really just guilty of not understanding the plight of those who were born at bat against a major league pitcher.

... ... ...

[Sep 17, 2017] My Success at Work Made Me a Failure at Home

Notable quotes:
"... By the time we had three young children, I was rarely home. ..."
"... After Cisco bought IronPort, I went to work for Cisco for a few years, then quit and took about 18 months off. During that time, my relationship with my family completely changed. I was packing lunches, driving carpools, making dinners; I began doing my part. With the help of my wife and other role-model dads, I essentially got re-programmed. In 2011, I joined Andreessen Horowitz as a partner. But my new role at home has continued to work for us even though I'm working full-time again. ..."
"... Scott Weiss is a general partner at Andreessen Horowitz. You can follow him on Twitter @W_ScottWeiss. This piece originally appeared on Medium . ..."
Sep 30, 2015 | Observer

My brightest years running a startup were the darkest ones for my family.

My wife and I were college sweethearts. We delayed having children first by choice, then by necessity, as we put ourselves through business school. But nearly six years into our marriage, we agreed it was time. My wife and I both worked at startups and were committed to our careers; we expected that we would both pursue our careers and raise our first child at the same time. To facilitate that, we found an amazing, energetic, full-time nanny. In fact, my wife went back to work just two weeks after our first child was born, because the startup she was with was approaching an IPO, and our new nanny supported us through that period. When my wife became pregnant with our second child, I was a managing partner at Idealab, a startup studio, where a large part of my job involved shutting down companies that had been hurt by the dot-com bust. I planned to take some time off and stay at home while my wife went back to work six months after the birth, but by the time our second child was born, 22 months later, a lot had changed. Disenchanted with my work and eager to build something of my own, I had decided to start a company. As we brought our daughter home from the hospital, I had already launched into fundraising for what would be IronPort, an email-security startup.

It was just my co-founder and me in the beginning, and while we had an ambitious vision - to protect enterprises against all Internet-related threats - we didn't yet have the resources to scale it. So initially, we did everything by ourselves. The life one signs up for at an early-stage tech startup involves getting in early, killing yourself to make something great, and getting a meaningful product out before you run out of money. This was true even after we started hiring people. I didn't code, but as the CEO, I felt it necessary to be physically present with the engineering team. Sometimes, I would get everyone lunch or dinner. When we started pulling consistent coding weekends, we brought in the entire management team to serve the engineers: We brought them food, washed their cars, got oil changes, took in their dry cleaning, and arranged for childcare for their kids in the office.

Thanks to all the effort, IronPort ultimately grew to be very large and successful over its seven years as an independent company, before being acquired by Cisco. It was an incredible, once-in-a-lifetime professional experience. But those brightest years at work were without a doubt the darkest years at home. We had added baby number three just 18 months after the second one, which had forced us to make a decision about how to parent going forward. We did the math - and some soul-searching - and figured it would take two or more nannies and other staffers to allow us to keep pursuing work at our current pace. So, after years of working full-time in a startup with our first child, and continuing to work as its senior VP of business development after its IPO, my Harvard MBA wife, who had had an amazing career in her own right, "decided" to become a full-time mom and take care of our kids.

By the time we had three young children, I was rarely home. And when I was there, well, let's just say I wasn't particularly helpful or cheery. My perspective at the time was: I'm killing myself at work, so when I get home, I just want to kick back with a cocktail and watch some TV. All I do is talk to people all day long, and so at home, I'd really prefer just quietly relaxing. Then, as IronPort grew, I was constantly on the road with customers, press, analysts, and of course, employees. We ultimately got most of our revenue from outside of the U.S., and we all felt it to be very important to support our disparate offices from Europe to Asia to South America. There were several times when I was gone more than half of the days in a given month. Even when I was home, I was usually in this brutal state of sleep deprivation and recovery from adjusting to yet another time zone and couldn't be relied on to help with childcare.

My wife's experience was totally different. She was now home speaking in monosyllabic words to kids all day and was starving for adult conversation by the time I got in the door. And that part about sitting on my ass in front of the TV with a cocktail? This ran counter to all of her efforts to teach the kids about pitching in together as a family. The message of everyone helping to cook, clean, and be responsible for the household fell completely flat when daddy wouldn't so much as take out the trash or change a light bulb. Nope, I was far too important for that and suggested she should hire someone to keep the house clean or even cook, if that was "stressing her out."

Ugh. I was completely missing the point. I was setting such a great example at work, but such a terrible one at home, where I often acted like a self-important asshole. Something had to change.

After Cisco bought IronPort, I went to work for Cisco for a few years, then quit and took about 18 months off. During that time, my relationship with my family completely changed. I was packing lunches, driving carpools, making dinners; I began doing my part. With the help of my wife and other role-model dads, I essentially got re-programmed. In 2011, I joined Andreessen Horowitz as a partner. But my new role at home has continued to work for us even though I'm working full-time again.

My wife and I have now been married for 22 years. Reflecting on the years we've spent as parents, here are the most critical things I needed to change:

Disconnect to Connect

During the IronPort days, when my children were young, I thought what I was doing at work was far more important and urgent than what was going on at home. I was often accused of being physically present without being mentally present. (If you find yourself sneaking into the bathroom to complete emails, then you're certainly not in the moment.) My wife dropped a bunch of hints, but I was undeterred. When I left IronPort, I realized that committing to my family required disconnecting from work (e.g. turning off the computer and phone), and completely focusing all of my attention on the details of the home. Cooking a great meal. Helping with a science project. Discussing the future with my partner.

Planning and Priorities

My wife and I have a weekly date night. My son and I are in a fantasy football league together. I cook with my daughters. Most times these have become immovable appointments on my calendar. When my calendar reflects that I can't do a meeting on Wednesday and Friday mornings before 9 a.m., because I cook breakfast and drive a carpool, then it's amazing how meetings just don't get scheduled. (If it's at all possible, living physically close to the office is also a huge help to juggling the priorities. It means that I can cut out for a family dinner and then go back to the office or have a late meeting afterwards.)

Communicate

When I was traveling at IronPort, I would sometimes go for days without communicating at all. When friends would ask my wife, "Hey, where's Scott this week?" she would sincerely have to answer, "I have no idea, you'll have to email him yourself." I was that sucked in. Now that I am completely tuned in to the weekly family schedule, we plan and calendar family meals (perhaps the single most important thing we do), pickups and drop-offs, and make adjustments on the fly. For example: Did some time suddenly free up so I can catch the last 30 minutes of the kids' basketball game? Can I pick something up on the way home? And so on. My norm is to check in between meetings, but if I'm the "parent on duty" - i.e., if my wife is out of town - then I will start a meeting with, "You'll have to excuse me, but I'm the only parent in town so I need to keep my phone handy in case of an issue." Communication was by far my biggest area for improvement. Now, multiple, daily phone and text check-ins are the norm. Communication is important in a broader sense, too. I believe that families - and that includes everyone - need to discuss each parent's life-changing decisions, such as joining a startup or becoming a CEO, together. And they should reserve the right to change the contract as their life together evolves.

Participate

It's just not possible to be a real partner if you aren't deeply involved in all aspects of the family; you can't just ask your partner to delegate certain tasks to you. Or maybe you can, but then it needs to be a mutual, shared decision - one that honors your partner's choices and dreams, too. But I personally believe that even the busiest CEOs should drive a carpool, pack a lunch, help with homework, make a breakfast or dinner, and consistently attend school events. And note, my wife didn't need another person to "manage" in the household; she needed me to "own" some of our family life activities myself. Being involved every week is the only way to stay connected at home, and it cannot be outsourced. It might even make you a better CEO since you're more sensitive to the needs of others.


There's a debate that rages in the corridors of VCs, startups, and other intense entrepreneurial centers, which is: Can you have it all? Aren't the best CEOs and founders so ambitious, so driven, that they must sacrifice everything to make it work? We have seen couples struggle with this on a personal level, and there is almost always an imbalance that leads to deep sacrifices on one front or the other.

What historically has been somewhat unique to Silicon Valley is the age and experience level of CEOs; that role is often achieved a decade earlier than in traditional industries. I've observed that CEOs in their 20s may be fully equipped and knowledgeable enough to handle leading a company, but when their family life begins to expand and demand for their attention increases, they are at a loss as to why things aren't just falling into place. The changes that I've described ideally should be made before you get to that point.

It's easy for me to share this advice now - after I sold my company. The reality is that it took certain sacrifices, in terms of my family life, to make IronPort a success. Still, I'm hopeful. I'm hopeful that the new generation, having grown up with more permeable boundaries between work and home, and being used to new technologies to keep them even more connected in ways we couldn't be before, refuses to accept a world in which one can't have it all.

Scott Weiss is a general partner at Andreessen Horowitz. You can follow him on Twitter @W_ScottWeiss. This piece originally appeared on Medium.

[Sep 17, 2017] High achiever disease

Notable quotes:
"... This question originally appeared on Quora : What is the mindset of high achievers? ..."
"... Nicolas Cole is an artist, writer, creative marketing strategist and self development coach. He's also a Quora contributor. You can follow Quora on Twitter , Facebook , and Google+ . ..."
Oct 22, 2015 | Observer

This question originally appeared on Quora: What is the mindset of high achievers?

I'm a very high achiever. I know this. I am obsessive, I am overly ambitious, and I am definitely out of balance at times (something I'm working on), but that's just how I operate. The rules I live by are strict but that's because they have to be. As a result, a I'm criticized a lot by people who aren't "high achievers." But that comes with the territory. And as a result, I achieve what I set out to achieve.

Here is my mindset.

1) My Time Is Gold

Time is the only thing I have. Time is what creates my writing. Time is what makes me money. Time is what allows me to eat, sleep, read, learn. Time is my most precious resource.

When deciding where to invest my time, I am extremely greedy. I have to be. I give my close, close friends the time they deserve because I value our relationship. Casual friends and acquaintances I give extra time I have to, when I can. Anyone else, I weigh the investment versus the return and go from there. It might not be "normal" but it's required to reach the levels of success I know I want for myself.

2) I Set Goals and I Reach Them

When I set a goal, I put a date to it. I tell myself when I'm going to have it done by. If I don't have it done by then, I better have a good reason for not doing it. If I don't have a good reason, I set another date and push myself harder to reach it. I do the same thing even if I had a good reason in the first place.

The difference between those who "achieve" and those who don't is the follow through. It's the ability to set a goal and walk through the finish line.

3) I See Every Decision As Crucial

Every decision I make has an effect. What time I go to bed, how much time I spend reading or writing, how much time I spend with my friends, etc. Everything I do, every choice I make, I ask myself whether or not it is moving me closer towards my goal. Will this burger make me feel sick and will I waste an hour feeling groggy later? Yes? Ok, I don't eat it. Will me going out late tonight keep me from waking up early to write? Ok, I don't go out. Every single decision has to, in some way, be contributing to my growth. Am I perfect? Am I 100% consistent? No. But I'd say I'm somewhere around 80-90%. And that percentage over a long period of time is insanely, profoundly, immeasurably valuable.

4) I Learn Something From Everyone

Every single person I meet, I try to learn something from. Whether it's a CEO of a major company or a random person next to me on the train, I believe we all cross paths for a reason and there is a lesson everywhere you turn. By seeing life this way you are always open to the process. Every moment is an opportunity to grow. And the more moments you string together, the faster you learn, the more you grow, and better you become at everything you do.

5) I Invest In Skills, Not In Rewards

I can play classical piano. I can beatbox. I can write stories. I can sing. I can produce music. I can rap. I can write songs. I can take pretty good pictures. I can lift weights with top athletes. I can cook. I can do a lot of things. I don't say this to brag, I say this to point out the fact that I am not a prodigy, I am not a genius, I am NOT ANY MORE GIFTED THAN YOU. The only difference is that instead of spending my Friday nights going to clubs and getting drunk, my Saturday nights hanging out at bars, my Sundays at brunch sipping mimosas, instead of being super social and mr. on-the-town, I work. I work really hard. And to me it's not even work, it's fun. I'd rather learn a new skill than get drunk. I'd rather socialize with people who I can learn from rather than having the same repetitive conversations with inebriated acquaintances. And it's sad how this mentality is seen as "above" other people. That's just part of the gig. People don't like it when you get good at stuff. People want you to be lazy like them. Fuck that.

6) I Surround Myself With Likeminded People

There are people out there who live life like me. There are people who want to learn more than they want to get rich. There are people who want to build something of their own more than they want to climb their way up the corporate ladder. There are people out there like you, you just have to find them. And once you do find them, become friends and help each other. Once a week I meet up with a few entrepreneurs I know and we exchange ideas, set new goals, and hold each other accountable. Once a week I also meet up with an artist group from my college and we help each other stay grounded, meditate, and share our art. These sorts of groups of peers are beyond valuable. They will help you remember what you're working toward.

7) I Read, A Lot

I read #ABookAWeek, minimum. On my website, I share which book I read last week and allow people to sign up for my weekly newsletter: www.nicolascole.com/blog.

I know you can learn without reading. I know that experience is immensely valuable. But if you're not reading you're not learning fast enough, and that's just the truth of it. When someone asks me what I'm reading, I say, "What genre?" I alternate between self development How-To books, timeless fiction literature, books on spirituality and meditation, books on creative process, nonfiction memoirs, and books on marketing and advertising.

Pick up a book. Now.

8) I Know The Value Of A Mentor

I write about mentorship a lot because I believe it is the single most effective way to learn, period.

When I find a mentor, I give them everything. I throw everything I think I know out the window and I allow myself to be completely open to what they have to teach. I work harder than they expect me to work. I ask a million questions. I spend as much time around them as possible because I know how rare and valuable a mentor can be.

Since I was 15 years old, I've had some sort of mentor in my life. To show you how crucial mentors are, here's what happened:

15-18: Gaming Mentor. I sought out and played with one of the best World of Warcraft players I could find. As a result, we became best friends and I went on to become one of the highest ranked World of Warcraft players in North America.

19-22: Lifting Mentor: I became friends with a powerlifter at my gym. He took me under his wing and taught me everything. We became great friends (still friends today) and he helped me gain 40 lbs of muscle and lift more weight than I ever thought was possible for a once-skinny-kid like me.

23-Present: My current mentor is also my boss -- a successful entrepreneur and marketing master. He hasn't just taught me about business, he's taught me how to be my own man. He's taught me how to carry myself, how to dress, how to handle clients, how to pitch clients, how to explain my creative ideas, how to stand up for what I believe in, and how to be willing to pursue ideas that other people would call "impossible."

9) I Care About What I Create

This might be the most important differentiating factor in being a high achiever: I care. I care a lot. I care what I create, I care about the difference I make, I care about helping people, I can about helping others learn. I care, and as a result, I take things personally. I care if someone doesn't like what I make. I care about what people think. I do. It doesn't deter me from what I want to do, but I do care. And because I care, I put my everything into what it is I do.

People that don't care, go nowhere. And do you know why most people don't care? Because it's hard. It leaves you vulnerable. It is a chink in the armor where people can point and aim and say, "Hah, you care." Especially as a man, we're told not to care. And a lot of people don't care out of fear that what they DO care about will make them look naive. What if other people don't care about what you care about? How weird will you look then?

If you want to achieve, if you want to become successful-use whatever words you want-if you want to reach something that is slightly out of your grasp, you have to care. You have to care a lot. You have to allow yourself to feel all those emotions: excitement, fear, ambition, vulnerability. And you have to use what you feel to propel you to create, create, create.

You have to care.

Related Links:

Has anyone achieved anything by reading self-improvement articles/books?
How can 20-year-olds enhance their intelligence?
What are some real-life bad habits that programming gives people?

Nicolas Cole is an artist, writer, creative marketing strategist and self development coach. He's also a Quora contributor. You can follow Quora on Twitter , Facebook , and Google+ .

[Sep 16, 2017] How One Writer Is Battling Tech-Induced Attention Disorder

Sep 16, 2017 | tech.slashdot.org

(wired.com)

Posted by BeauHD on Tuesday September 05, 2017

New submitter mirandakatz writes: Katie Hafner has spent the last 23 days in rehab. Not for alcoholism or gambling, but for a self-inflicted case of episodic partial attention thanks to her iPhone . On Backchannel, Hafner writes about the detrimental effect the constant stream of pings has had on her, and how her life has come to resemble a computer screen. "I sense a constant agitation when I'm doing something," she says, "as if there is something else out there, beckoning -- demanding -- my attention. And nothing needs to be deferred."

"I blame electronics for my affliction," writes Hafner, who says the devices in her life "teem with squirrels." "If I pick up my iPhone to send a text, damned if I don't get knocked off task within a couple of seconds by an alert about Trump's latest tweet. And my guess is that if you have allowed your mind to be as tyrannized by the demands of your devices as I have, you too suffer to some degree from this condition." Hafner goes on to describe her symptoms of "episodic partial attention" and provide potential fixes for it: "There are the obvious fixes. Address the electronics first: Silence the phone as well as all alerts on your computer, and you automatically banish two squirrels. But how do you shut down the micro-distractions that dangle everywhere in your physical world, their bushy gray tails twitching seductively? My therapy, of my own devising, consists of serial mono-tasking with a big dose of mindful intent, or intentional mindfulness -- which is really just good, old-fashioned paying attention. At first, I took the tiniest of steps.

I celebrated the buttoning of a blouse without stopping to apply the hand cream I spotted on the dresser as if I had gotten into Harvard. Each task I took on -- however mundane -- I had to first announce, quietly, to myself. I made myself vow that I would work on that task and only that task until it was finished. Like a stroke patient relearning how to move an arm, I told myself not that I was making the entire bed (too overwhelming), but that I had a series of steps to perform: first the top sheet, then the blankets, then the comforter, then the pillows. Emptying the dishwasher became my Waterloo. Putting dishes away takes time, and it's tedious. Perhaps the greatest challenge lies in the fact that the job requires repeated kitchen crossings. There are squirrels everywhere, none more treacherous than the siren song that is my iPhone."

[Sep 16, 2017] Happy Music Boosts Brains Creativity, Study Says

Sep 16, 2017 | science.slashdot.org

(newscientist.com) 102 Posted by BeauHD on Thursday September 07, 2017 @09:00AM from the creative-juices dept. An anonymous reader quotes a report from New Scientist: Need inspiration? Happy background music can help get the creative juices flowing. Simone Ritter, at Radboud University in the Netherlands, and Sam Ferguson, at the University of Technology in Sydney, Australia, have been studying the effect of silence and different types of music on how we think. They put 155 volunteers into five groups. Four of these were each given a type of music to listen to while undergoing a series of tests, while the fifth group did the tests in silence. The tests were designed to gage two types of thinking: divergent thinking, which describes the process of generating new ideas, and convergent thinking, which is how we find the best solutions for a problem. Ritter and Ferguson found that people were more creative when listening to music they thought was positive , coming up with more unique ideas than the people who worked in silence. However, happy music -- in this instance, Antonio Vivaldi's Spring -- only boosted divergent thinking. No type of music helped convergent thinking, suggesting that it's better to solve problems in silence. The study was published in the journal PLoS One .

[Apr 06, 2017] Alienation in neoliberal healthcare system

Notable quotes:
"... The spike in reported burnout is directly attributable to loss of control over work, increased performance measurement (quality, cost, patient experience), the increasing complexity of medical care, the implementation of electronic health records (EHRs), and profound inefficiencies in the practice environment, all of which have altered work flows and patient interactions. ..."
"... The rest of the items seem more plausible. However absent from the post is consideration of why physicians lost control over work, have been subject to performance measurement (often without good evidence that it improves performance, and particularly patients' outcomes), and have been forced to use often badly designed, poorly implemented EHRs ..."
"... In fact, we began the project that led to the establishment of Health Care Renewal because of our general perception that physician angst was worsening (in the first few years of the 21st century), and that no one was seriously addressing its causes. Our first crude qualitative research(8) suggested hypotheses that physicians' angst was due to perceived threats to their core values, and that these threats arose from the issues this blog discusses: concentration and abuse of power, leadership that is ill-informed , uncaring about or hostile to the values of health care professionals, incompetent, deceptive or dishonest, self-interested , conflicted , or outright corrupt , and governance that lacks accountability , and transparency . ..."
"... We have found hundreds of cases and anecdotes supporting this viewpoint. ..."
"... However, the biggest cause of physicians' loss of control over work may be the rising power of large health care organizations, in particular the large hospital systems that now increasingly employ physicians, turning them into corporate physicians . ..."
"... We have also frequently posted about what we have called generic management , the manager's coup d'etat , and mission-hostile management. Managerialism wraps these concepts up into a single package. The idea is that all organizations, including health care organizations, ought to be run people with generic management training and background, not necessarily by people with specific backgrounds or training in the organizations' areas of operation. Thus, for example, hospitals ought to be run by MBAs, not doctors, nurses, or public health experts. Furthermore, all organizations ought to be run according to the same basic principles of business management. These principles in turn ought to be based on current neoliberal dogma , with the prime directive that short-term revenue is the primary goal. ..."
Apr 06, 2017 | www.nakedcapitalism.com

Here is what the blog post said about the causes of burnout:

The spike in reported burnout is directly attributable to loss of control over work, increased performance measurement (quality, cost, patient experience), the increasing complexity of medical care, the implementation of electronic health records (EHRs), and profound inefficiencies in the practice environment, all of which have altered work flows and patient interactions.

We dealt with the curious citation of inefficiencies as a cause of burnout above.

The rest of the items seem more plausible. However absent from the post is consideration of why physicians lost control over work, have been subject to performance measurement (often without good evidence that it improves performance, and particularly patients' outcomes), and have been forced to use often badly designed, poorly implemented EHRs . Particularly absent was any consideration of whether the nature or actions of large organizations, such as those led by the authors of the blog post, could have had anything to do with physician burnout.

Contrast this discussion with how we on Health Care Renewal have discussed burnout in the past. In 2012, we noted the first report on burnout by Shanefelt et al(2). At that time we observed that the already voluminous literature on burnout often did not attend to the external forces and influences on physicians that are likely to be producing burnout. Instead, burnout etc has been addressed as if it were lack of resilience, or even some sort of psychiatric disease of physicians.

In fact, we began the project that led to the establishment of Health Care Renewal because of our general perception that physician angst was worsening (in the first few years of the 21st century), and that no one was seriously addressing its causes. Our first crude qualitative research(8) suggested hypotheses that physicians' angst was due to perceived threats to their core values, and that these threats arose from the issues this blog discusses: concentration and abuse of power, leadership that is ill-informed , uncaring about or hostile to the values of health care professionals, incompetent, deceptive or dishonest, self-interested , conflicted , or outright corrupt , and governance that lacks accountability , and transparency .

We have found hundreds of cases and anecdotes supporting this viewpoint.

... ... ...

Finally, the Health Affairs post mention of "loss of control over work" deserves special attention. It could represent a catch-all of more "system factors" as noted above. However, the biggest cause of physicians' loss of control over work may be the rising power of large health care organizations, in particular the large hospital systems that now increasingly employ physicians, turning them into corporate physicians .

In the US, home of the most commercialized health care system among developed countries, physicians increasingly practice as employees of large organizations, usually hospitals and hospital systems, sometimes for-profit corporations. The leaders of such systems meanwhile are now often generic managers , people trained as managers without specific training or experience in medicine or health care, and " managerialists " who apply generic management theory and dogma to medicine and health care just as it might be applied to building widgets or selling soap.

We have also frequently posted about what we have called generic management , the manager's coup d'etat , and mission-hostile management. Managerialism wraps these concepts up into a single package. The idea is that all organizations, including health care organizations, ought to be run people with generic management training and background, not necessarily by people with specific backgrounds or training in the organizations' areas of operation. Thus, for example, hospitals ought to be run by MBAs, not doctors, nurses, or public health experts. Furthermore, all organizations ought to be run according to the same basic principles of business management. These principles in turn ought to be based on current neoliberal dogma , with the prime directive that short-term revenue is the primary goal.

... ... ...

Summary

I am glad that physician burnout is getting less anechoic. However, in my humble opinion, the last thing physicians at risk of or suffering burnout need is a top down diktat from CEOs of large health care organizations. The CEOs who wrote the Health Affairs post not have any personal responsibility for any physicians' burnout. However, the transformation of medical practice by the influence of large health care organizations run by the authors' fellow CEOs, particularly huge hospital systems, often resulting in physicians practicing as hired employees of such corporations likely is a major cause of burnout. If the leaders of such large organizations really want to reduce burnout, they should first listen to their own physicians. But this might lead them to realize that reducing burnout might require them to divest themselves of considerable authority, power, and hence remuneration. True health care reform in this sphere will require the breakup of concentrations of power, and the transformation of leadership to make it well-informed, supportive of and willing to be accountable for the health care mission, honest and unconflicted.

Physicians need to join up with other health care professionals and concerned member of the public to push for such reform, which may seem radical in our current era. Such reform may be made more difficult because it clearly would threaten the financial status of some people who have gotten very rich from the status quo, and can use their wealth and power to resist reform.

[Jan 30, 2017] How to Manage Your Tasks with Todo.txt

Mar 24, 2014 | computers.tutsplus.com

There's far too many to-do list apps to pick the perfect one. They're each so similar, yet different, and they'd all take time to setup and learn to use. You already have too much to do, so why take the time to learn how to use a new to-do list app just to keep up with everything you have to do?

The simplest way to keep track of your tasks is to write them down on a piece of paper. You can list them in the way that makes sense to you, with any extra info you want, and only have to carry the paper around to keep track of what you need to do. It's simple, cheap, and just makes sense.

But perhaps you'd rather keep a digital to-do list, so it'll be on all your devices and you won't have to worry about accidentally throwing it away. You just need a solution that's as simple as plain paper and ink.

Enter Todo.txt . It's a system for keeping track of your to-dos in a plain text file, and is the closest digital equivalent to keeping track of your tasks on paper. In this tutorial, I'll show you how to use Todo.txt to replace those paper lists and still ensure everything gets done.

What Is Todo.txt?

Todo.txt is a framework of guidelines through which a simple text file can become a feature-rich to-do list. Instead of just writing your tasks in a list at random, its simple rules will help you avoid creating a mess of tasks, and will make that plain text file into something much more useful and interesting. That might sound confusing, but it's actually simple. Here's how it works:

The first rule in Todo.txt is that each to-do item is its own line in your text file. New to-do item, new line. So let's give that a try. Open your favorite text editor (or just use Notepad on a PC or TextEdit on a Mac), and type in some tasks you need to get done, each on its own line, like so:

1 2 3 Do the dishes because they're starting to pile up and it really looks bad. Do a load of laundry, preferably a light load. Vacuum the house, making sure to get into all the little corners.

There's my first three tasks, each of which are rather long. You can include as much info as you want into each task. Just make sure each task is on its own line.

Now, just save that file as todo.txt , and place it inside your Documents folder or somewhere else you can access it easy. Better yet, place it in your Dropbox folder so you can easily sync it later.

And just like that, you've started to use Todo.txt! Sure it doesn't seem all that impressive just yet: a plain text file with your to-do items in it. Now we're ready to start using some of the text formatting conventions Todo.txt supports, and use some of the tools that support Todo.txt. That's when you'll see how useful this whole idea can be.

How to Speak the Lingo

We now have a text file called todo.txt that's stored in our Documents folder. Inside it we have a few to-do items. Let's take a look at that file again (this time, in the interests of brevity, I've shortened my todo items a bit):

1 2 3 Do the dishes. Do a load of laundry. Vacuum the house.

Ok, not bad so far, but we really aren't using the Todo.txt framework to the full. While Todo.txt is supposed to be simple, it isn't featureless. Todo.txt is designed to help you prioritize your to-do items, as well as organize them into projects and contexts . This is largely following the spirit of David Allen's famous productivity methodology known as "Getting Things Done" , or more often abbreviated to "GTD"-but you can use these tools to organize your tasks however you'd like. If you don't like GTD, you can still use Todo.txt to keep track of your tasks, and use these extra features to help you keep them organized.

Now, let's look at how projects, contexts, and priorities would apply to our sample list, and how to actually mark tasks as complete. I'll keep using my simple to-do list that, honestly, isn't tasks you'll likely need to put down on a to-do list, but you can use the same ideas shown here to keep track of any of your tasks.

Projects

In my list, all three items are related to cleaning the house. So we can group them all into a project called "cleaning". Just add a "+" sign followed by the project name to your tasks, like so:

1 2 3 Do the dishes. +cleaning Do a load of laundry. +cleaning Vacuum the house. +cleaning

That's nice, but everything on my list falls into the same project, so it seems a little redundant. I could break everything out further, especially the "Do a load of laundry" task that includes putting the load in the washer, then the dryer, and finally folding the clothes. Todo.txt allows items to be in more then one project; just add another + project to the end of the task to add it to another project. Let's take advantage of this and split the "Do a load of laundry" to-do item into multiple items, and then put them in their own "laundry" project.

1 2 3 4 5 6 Do the dishes. +cleaning Put a load of laundry into the washer. +laundry +cleaning Put the load into the dryer. +laundry +cleaning Fold the load of laundry. +laundry +cleaning Put away the folded clothes. +laundry +cleaning Vacuum the house. +cleaning

Great. Now our to-do list is split into multiple projects, and our "laundry" project tasks are categorized under the "cleaning" project as well.

Context

Context refers to a place or situation where you have certain things to do. In the case of our sample list, the context for all of them is pretty obvious: at home. In a case like that, I don't think adding a context is really all that useful, since it's an implied part of the project itself. Let's add some more items so we can better understand context.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Do the dishes. +cleaning Put a load of laundry into the washer. +laundry +cleaning Put the load into the dryer. +laundry +cleaning Fold the load of laundry. +laundry +cleaning Put away the folded clothes. +laundry +cleaning Vacuum the house. +cleaning Buy eggs. Buy juice. Buy a new pair of jeans.

I added three new to-do items, all of which have to do with buying things. The first two are food items, things I'll need to buy at the grocery store. The last one is an article of clothing, something I'll probably buy at the mall. All of these items could be put into a "shopping" project. But the location I'll buy them at is different. This is where contexts come in. Designate a context in Todo.txt with an "@" sign followed by the name of your context. Here's what our new list, including contexts, looks like:

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Do the dishes. +cleaning Put a load of laundry into the washer. +laundry +cleaning Put the load into the dryer. +laundry +cleaning Fold the load of laundry. +laundry +cleaning Put away the folded clothes. +laundry +cleaning Vacuum the house. +cleaning Buy eggs. +shopping @grocery Buy juice. +shopping @grocery Buy a new pair of jeans. +shopping @mall

And there we go. Now the to-do items in our "shopping" project have been given a context. When we're at the grocery store we can focus on the items we need to buy there, and the same goes for when we're at the shopping mall.

Priority

The last feature we need to look at is priority. To do that, we'll add a few work-related tasks to the list, then assign a priority to them and some of our existing tasks. Just add a letter surrounded by parenthesis to the beginning of your tasks to give them a priority.

01 02 03 04 05 06 07 08 09 10 11 (A) Do the dishes. +cleaning (B) Put a load of laundry into the washer. +laundry +cleaning Put the load into the dryer. +laundry +cleaning Fold the load of laundry. +laundry +cleaning Put away the folded clothes. +laundry +cleaning Vacuum the house. +cleaning Buy eggs. +shopping @grocery Buy juice. +shopping @grocery (A) Buy a new pair of jeans. +shopping @mall Email Matt about my new article idea. +work (A) Finish rough draft of next article. +work

Priorities are designated by an uppercase letter, A-Z, which is enclosed in parentheses, and then followed by a space. They always appear at the beginning of the to-do item, and are in alphabetical order-that is, a task with a priority of (A) is more important than a (B) task, and so on. You'll see why this is when we get into some of the tools you can use to manipulate your Todo.txt file.

Marking Items Complete

One final word on formatting your Todo.txt file: marking a task as complete.You could delete the item once you're done with it, but that isn't the preferred way in Todo.txt. Instead, put a lowercase "x" at the start of the to-do item, like so:

01 02 03 04 05 06 07 08 09 10 11 (A) Do the dishes. +cleaning (B) Put a load of laundry into the washer. +laundry +cleaning Put the load into the dryer. +laundry +cleaning Fold the load of laundry. +laundry +cleaning Put away the folded clothes. +laundry +cleaning Vacuum the house. +cleaning Buy eggs. +shopping @grocery Buy juice. +shopping @grocery x (A) Buy a new pair of jeans. +shopping @mall Email Matt about my new article idea. +work (A) Finish rough draft of next article. +work

If you'll notice, there's now a small "x" at the beginning of the line containing the item "Buy a new pair of jeans." This signifies that the jeans have been bought and the item has been completed, effectively "crossed off" my list. That way, you'll see what you've completed, along with the stuff that still needs done.

You now know how to assign to-do items both projects and contexts, as well as how to prioritize various items inside your plain text to-do list. All of this helps make our to-do list more useful to us than it was before, giving structure and organization to an otherwise basic, unordered list. You can use each of these features, or none of them-it's your choice. Todo.txt at its basics is whatever you'd like it to be. It's a blank slate for your tasks, and some rules that keep everything organized.

And you could stop here. That's enough to keep up with your tasks the way you want, in a plain text file. You could easily find all of your projects or contexts with a Command-F or Control-F search, and stay on top of what needs done with nothing else.

But because we're following conventions outlined by Todo.txt, we can make use of some other interesting tools which give even more power to our humble little text file.

Desktop App Options

Being an open source project, Todo.txt also works in a variety of specialized apps outside of your plain text editor. You'll find apps for almost any platform that work with Todo.txt, but one of the best is a free app: Todour .

Todour is available for both Mac and Windows, and gives a simple graphical interface to our Todo.txt file. And I mean simple . Take a look:

See what I mean? You should notice right away though that your items have been correctly prioritized automatically. You won't see much fancy stuff here in Todour, but it has all the essentials. You can add and remove items, mark them as done or undone, and all of that is nicely supported within your plain text file. Check the little box there to mark an item complete, and a lowercase "x" appears at the start of that line in your text file. Nifty, isn't it?

The reason I really recommend Todour over using just a text editor is that it includes a search filter. This lets you take full advantage of projects and contexts and can dynamically hide everything else in your to-do list. Just search for a project or context, and only those tasks will appear. Search for a project and a context, and you'll see only the tasks that have both.

Overall Todour, like Todo.txt itself doesn't have many flashy features. But it has the essentials and it gets them right.

Mobile Access

Todo.txt was born from the command line, in a traditional computer world. But that doesn't mean you can't use Todo.txt on mobile devices. In fact, there are Todo.txt apps for iOS and Android for $2 each. They have all the same features and functionality that we've already discussed including projects, contexts, and priorities. The interface is clean and minimal, and focused on just letting you quickly keep up with your Todo.txt tasks.

There isn't too much to say about the mobile apps, other than that they work just like you'd expect. Like Todo.txt itself, these mobile apps are simple and straightforward. You can add tasks, filter them by project and category, and edit or complete them on the go-and keep everything in sync with your computer via Dropbox.

There's still one more tool to cover in the Todo.txt arsenal, and it's the most potent one-but also the most geeky: the command line interface.

[Nov 23, 2016] Quit Social Media. Your Career May Depend on It

Nov 23, 2016 | tech.slashdot.org
(nytimes.com) 184 Posted by msmash on Monday November 21, 2016 @12:20PM from the dilemma dept.

The New York Times ran a strong opinion piece that talks about one critical reason why everyone should quit social media: your career is dependent on it. The other argues that by spending time on social media and sharing our thoughts, we are demeaning the value of our work, our ideas . (Editor's note: the link could be paywalled; alternate source .)

Select excerpts from the story follows:

In a capitalist economy, the market rewards things that are rare and valuable. Social media use is decidedly not rare or valuable. Any 16-year-old with a smartphone can invent a hashtag or repost a viral article. The idea that if you engage in enough of this low-value activity, it will somehow add up to something of high value in your career is the same dubious alchemy that forms the core of most snake oil and flimflam in business.

Professional success is hard, but it's not complicated. The foundation to achievement and fulfillment, almost without exception, requires that you hone a useful craft and then apply it to things that people care about. [...] Interesting opportunities and useful connections are not as scarce as social media proponents claim. In my own professional life, for example, as I improved my standing as an academic and a writer, I began receiving more interesting opportunities than I could handle. As you become more valuable to the marketplace, good things will find you.

To be clear, I'm not arguing that new opportunities and connections are unimportant. I'm instead arguing that you don't need social media's help to attract them. My second objection concerns the idea that social media is harmless. Consider that the ability to concentrate without distraction on hard tasks is becoming increasingly valuable in an increasingly complicated economy. Social media weakens this skill because it's engineered to be addictive. The more you use social media in the way it's designed to be used -- persistently throughout your waking hours -- the more your brain learns to crave a quick hit of stimulus at the slightest hint of boredom.

Once this Pavlovian connection is solidified, it becomes hard to give difficult tasks the unbroken concentration they require, and your brain simply won't tolerate such a long period without a fix. Indeed, part of my own rejection of social media comes from this fear that these services will diminish my ability to concentrate -- the skill on which I make my living.

A dedication to cultivating your social media brand is a fundamentally passive approach to professional advancement. It diverts your time and attention away from producing work that matters and toward convincing the world that you matter. The latter activity is seductive, especially for many members of my generation who were raised on this message, but it can be disastrously counterproductive.

Tim Harford - Article - Multi-tasking how to survive in the 21st century

Modern life now forces us to do a multitude of things at once - but can we? Should we?

Forget invisibility or flight: the superpower we all want is the ability to do several things at once. Unlike other superpowers, however, being able to multitask is now widely regarded as a basic requirement for employability. Some of us sport computers with multiple screens, to allow tweeting while trading pork bellies and frozen orange juice. Others make do with reading a Kindle while poking at a smartphone and glancing at a television in the corner with its two rows of scrolling subtitles. We think nothing of sending an email to a colleague to suggest a quick coffee break, because we can feel confident that the email will be read within minutes.

All this is simply the way the modern world works. Multitasking is like being able to read or add up, so fundamental that it is taken for granted. Doing one thing at a time is for losers - recall Lyndon Johnson's often bowdlerised dismissal of Gerald Ford: "He can't fart and chew gum at the same time."

The rise of multitasking is fuelled by technology, of course, and by social change as well. Husbands and wives no longer specialise as breadwinners and homemakers; each must now do both. Work and play blur. Your friends can reach you on your work email account at 10 o'clock in the morning, while your boss can reach you on your mobile phone at 10 o'clock at night. You can do your weekly shop sitting at your desk and you can handle a work query in the queue at the supermarket.

This is good news in many ways - how wonderful to be able to get things done in what would once have been wasted time! How delightful the variety of it all is! No longer must we live in a monotonous, Taylorist world where we must painstakingly focus on repetitive tasks until we lose our minds.

And yet we are starting to realise that the blessings of a multitasking life are mixed. We feel overwhelmed by the sheer number of things we might plausibly be doing at any one time, and by the feeling that we are on call at any moment.

And we fret about the unearthly appetite of our children to do everything at once, flipping through homework while chatting on WhatsApp, listening to music and watching Game of Thrones. (According to a recent study by Sabrina Pabilonia of the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, for over half the time that high-school students spend doing homework, they are also listening to music, watching TV or otherwise multitasking. That trend is on the increase.) Can they really handle all these inputs at once? They seem to think so, despite various studies suggesting otherwise.

And so a backlash against multitasking has begun - a kind of Luddite self-help campaign. The poster child for uni-tasking was launched on the crowdfunding website Kickstarter in December 2014. For $499 - substantially more than a multifunctional laptop - "The Hemingwrite" computer promised a nice keyboard, a small e-ink screen and an automatic cloud back-up. You couldn't email on the Hemingwrite. You couldn't fool around on YouTube, and you couldn't read the news. All you could do was type. The Hemingwrite campaign raised over a third of a million dollars.

The Hemingwrite (now rebranded the Freewrite) represents an increasingly popular response to the multitasking problem: abstinence. Programs such as Freedom and Self-Control are now available to disable your browser for a preset period of time. The popular blogging platform WordPress offers "distraction-free writing". The Villa Stéphanie, a hotel in Baden-Baden, offers what has been branded the "ultimate luxury": a small silver switch beside the hotel bed that will activate a wireless blocker and keep the internet and all its temptations away.

The battle lines have been drawn. On one side: the culture of the modern workplace, which demands that most of us should be open to interruption at any time. On the other, the uni-tasking refuseniks who insist that multitaskers are deluding themselves, and that focus is essential. Who is right?

The 'cognitive cost'

There is ample evidence in favour of the proposition that we should focus on one thing at a time. Consider a study led by David Strayer, a psychologist at the University of Utah. In 2006, Strayer and his colleagues used a high-fidelity driving simulator to compare the performance of drivers who were chatting on a mobile phone to drivers who had drunk enough alcohol to be at the legal blood-alcohol limit in the US. Chatting drivers didn't adopt the aggressive, risk-taking style of drunk drivers but they were unsafe in other ways. They took much longer to respond to events outside the car, and they failed to notice a lot of the visual cues around them. Strayer's infamous conclusion: driving while using a mobile phone is as dangerous as driving while drunk.

Less famous was Strayer's finding that it made no difference whether the driver was using a handheld or hands-free phone. The problem with talking while driving is not a shortage of hands. It is a shortage of mental bandwidth.

Yet this discovery has made little impression either on public opinion or on the law. In the United Kingdom, for example, it is an offence to use a hand-held phone while driving but perfectly legal if the phone is used hands-free. We're happy to acknowledge that we only have two hands but refuse to admit that we only have one brain.

Another study by Strayer, David Sanbonmatsu and others, suggested that we are also poor judges of our ability to multitask. The subjects who reported doing a lot of multitasking were also the ones who performed poorly on tests of multitasking ability. They systematically overrated their ability to multitask and they displayed poor impulse control. In other words, wanting to multitask is a good sign that you should not be multitasking.

We may not immediately realise how multitasking is hampering us. The first time I took to Twitter to comment on a public event was during a televised prime-ministerial debate in 2010. The sense of buzz was fun; I could watch the candidates argue and the twitterati respond, compose my own 140-character profundities and see them being shared. I felt fully engaged with everything that was happening. Yet at the end of the debate I realised, to my surprise, that I couldn't remember anything that Brown, Cameron and Clegg had said.

A study conducted at UCLA in 2006 suggests that my experience is not unusual. Three psychologists, Karin Foerde, Barbara Knowlton and Russell Poldrack, recruited students to look at a series of flashcards with symbols on them, and then to make predictions based on patterns they had recognised. Some of these prediction tasks were done in a multitasking environment, where the students also had to listen to low- and high-pitched tones and count the high-pitched ones. You might think that making predictions while also counting beeps was too much for the students to handle. It wasn't. They were equally competent at spotting patterns with or without the note-counting task.

But here's the catch: when the researchers then followed up by asking more abstract questions about the patterns, the cognitive cost of the multitasking became clear. The students struggled to answer questions about the predictions they'd made in the multitasking environment. They had successfully juggled both tasks in the moment - but they hadn't learnt anything that they could apply in a different context.

That's an unnerving discovery. When we are sending email in the middle of a tedious meeting, we may nevertheless feel that we're taking in what is being said. A student may be confident that neither Snapchat nor the live football is preventing them taking in their revision notes. But the UCLA findings suggest that this feeling of understanding may be an illusion and that, later, we'll find ourselves unable to remember much, or to apply our knowledge flexibly. So, multitasking can make us forgetful - one more way in which multitaskers are a little bit like drunks.

Early multitaskers

All this is unnerving, given that the modern world makes multitasking almost inescapable. But perhaps we shouldn't worry too much. Long before multitasking became ubiquitous, it had a long and distinguished history.

In 1958, a young psychologist named Bernice Eiduson embarked on an long-term research project - so long-term, in fact, that Eiduson died before it was completed. Eiduson studied the working methods of 40 scientists, all men. She interviewed them periodically over two decades and put them through various psychological tests. Some of these scientists found their careers fizzling out, while others went on to great success. Four won Nobel Prizes and two others were widely regarded as serious Nobel contenders. Several more were invited to join the National Academy of Sciences.

After Eiduson died, some of her colleagues published an analysis of her work. These colleagues, Robert Root-Bernstein, Maurine Bernstein and Helen Garnier, wanted to understand what determined whether a scientist would have a long productive career, a combination of genius and longevity.

There was no clue in the interviews or the psychological tests. But looking at the early publication record of these scientists - their first 100 published research papers - researchers discovered a pattern: the top scientists were constantly changing the focus of their research.

Over the course of these first 100 papers, the most productive scientists covered five different research areas and moved from one of these topics to another an average of 43 times. They would publish, and change the subject, publish again, and change the subject again. Since most scientific research takes an extended period of time, the subjects must have overlapped. The secret to a long and highly productive scientific career? It's multitasking.

Charles Darwin thrived on spinning multiple plates. He began his first notebook on "transmutation of species" two decades before The Origin of Species was published. His A Biographical Sketch of an Infant was based on notes made after his son William was born; William was 37 when he published. Darwin spent nearly 20 years working on climbing and insectivorous plants. And Darwin published a learned book on earthworms in 1881, just before his death. He had been working on it for 44 years. When two psychologists, Howard Gruber and Sara Davis, studied Darwin and other celebrated artists and scientists they concluded that such overlapping interests were common.

Another team of psychologists, led by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, interviewed almost 100 exceptionally creative people from jazz pianist Oscar Peterson to science writer Stephen Jay Gould to double Nobel laureate, the physicist John Bardeen. Csikszentmihalyi is famous for developing the idea of "flow", the blissful state of being so absorbed in a challenge that one loses track of time and sets all distractions to one side. Yet every one of Csikszentmihalyi's interviewees made a practice of keeping several projects bubbling away simultaneously.

Just internet addiction?

If the word "multitasking" can apply to both Darwin and a teenager with a serious Instagram habit, there is probably some benefit in defining our terms. There are at least four different things we might mean when we talk about multitasking. One is genuine multitasking: patting your head while rubbing your stomach; playing the piano and singing; farting while chewing gum. Genuine multitasking is possible, but at least one of the tasks needs to be so practised as to be done without thinking.

Then there's the challenge of creating a presentation for your boss while also fielding phone calls for your boss and keeping an eye on email in case your boss wants you. This isn't multitasking in the same sense. A better term is task switching, as our attention flits between the presentation, the telephone and the inbox. A great deal of what we call multitasking is in fact rapid task switching.

Task switching is often confused with a third, quite different activity - the guilty pleasure of disappearing down an unending click-hole of celebrity gossip and social media updates. There is a difference between the person who reads half a page of a journal article, then stops to write some notes about a possible future project, then goes back to the article - and someone who reads half a page of a journal article before clicking on bikini pictures for the rest of the morning. "What we're often calling multitasking is in fact internet addiction," says Shelley Carson, a psychologist and author of Your Creative Brain. "It's a compulsive act, not an act of multitasking."

A final kind of multitasking isn't a way of getting things done but simply the condition of having a lot of things to do. The car needs to be taken in for a service. Your tooth is hurting. The nanny can't pick up the kids from school today. There's a big sales meeting to prepare for tomorrow, and your tax return is due next week. There are so many things that have to be done, so many responsibilities to attend to. Having a lot of things to do is not the same as doing them all at once. It's just life. And it is not necessarily a stumbling block to getting things done - as Bernice Eiduson discovered as she tracked scientists on their way to their Nobel Prizes.

The fight for focus

These four practices - multitasking, task switching, getting distracted and managing multiple projects - all fit under the label "multitasking". This is not just because of a simple linguistic confusion. The versatile networked devices we use tend to blur the distinction, serving us as we move from task to task while also offering an unlimited buffet of distractions. But the different kinds of multitasking are linked in other ways too. In particular, the highly productive practice of having multiple projects invites the less-than-productive habit of rapid task switching.

To see why, consider a story that psychologists like to tell about a restaurant near Berlin University in the 1920s. (It is retold in Willpower, a book by Roy Baumeister and John Tierney.) The story has it that when a large group of academics descended upon the restaurant, the waiter stood and calmly nodded as each new item was added to their complicated order. He wrote nothing down, but when he returned with the food his memory had been flawless. The academics left, still talking about the prodigious feat; but when one of them hurried back to retrieve something he'd left behind, the waiter had no recollection of him. How could the waiter have suddenly become so absent-minded? "Very simple," he said. "When the order has been completed, I forget it."

One member of the Berlin school was a young experimental psychologist named Bluma Zeigarnik. Intrigued, she demonstrated that people have a better recollection of uncompleted tasks. This is called the "Zeigarnik effect": when we leave things unfinished, we can't quite let go of them mentally. Our subconscious keeps reminding us that the task needs attention.

The Zeigarnik effect may explain the connection between facing multiple responsibilities and indulging in rapid task switching. We flit from task to task to task because we can't forget about all of the things that we haven't yet finished. We flit from task to task to task because we're trying to get the nagging voices in our head to shut up.

Of course, there is much to be said for "focus". But there is much to be said for copperplate handwriting, too, and for having a butler. The world has moved on. There's something appealing about the Hemingwrite and the hotel room that will make the internet go away, but also something futile.

It is probably not true that Facebook is all that stands between you and literary greatness. And in most office environments, the Hemingwrite is not the tool that will win you promotion. You are not Ernest Hemingway, and you do not get to simply ignore emails from your colleagues.

If focus is going to have a chance, it's going to have to fight an asymmetric war. Focus can only survive if it can reach an accommodation with the demands of a multitasking world.

Loops and lists

The word "multitasking" wasn't applied to humans until the 1990s, but it has been used to describe computers for half a century. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, it was first used in print in 1966, when the magazine Datamation described a computer capable of appearing to perform several operations at the same time.

Just as with humans, computers typically create the illusion of multitasking by switching tasks rapidly. Computers perform the switching more quickly, of course, and they don't take 20 minutes to get back on track after an interruption.

Nor does a computer fret about what is not being done. While rotating a polygon and sending text to the printer, it feels no guilt that the mouse has been left unchecked for the past 16 milliseconds. The mouse's time will come. Being a computer means never having to worry about the Zeigarnik effect.

Is there a lesson in this for distractible sacks of flesh like you and me? How can we keep a sense of control despite the incessant guilt of all the things we haven't finished?

"Whenever you say to someone, 'I'll get back to you about that', you just opened a loop in your brain," says David Allen. Allen is the author of a cult productivity book called Getting Things Done. "That loop will keep spinning until you put a placeholder in a system you can trust."

Modern life is always inviting us to open more of those loops. It isn't necessarily that we have more work to do, but that we have more kinds of work that we ought to be doing at any given moment. Tasks now bleed into each other unforgivingly. Whatever we're doing, we can't escape the sense that perhaps we should be doing something else. It's these overlapping possibilities that take the mental toll.

The principle behind Getting Things Done is simple: close the open loops. The details can become rather involved but the method is straightforward. For every single commitment you've made to yourself or to someone else, write down the very next thing you plan to do. Review your lists of next actions frequently enough to give you confidence that you won't miss anything.

This method has a cult following, and practical experience suggests that many people find it enormously helpful - including me (see below). Only recently, however, did the psychologists E J Masicampo and Roy Baumeister find some academic evidence to explain why people find relief by using David Allen's system. Masicampo and Baumeister found that you don't need to complete a task to banish the Zeigarnik effect. Making a specific plan will do just as well. Write down your next action and you quiet that nagging voice at the back of your head. You are outsourcing your anxiety to a piece of paper.

A creative edge?

It is probably a wise idea to leave rapid task switching to the computers. Yet even frenetic flipping between Facebook, email and a document can have some benefits alongside the costs.

The psychologist Shelley Carson and her student Justin Moore recently recruited experimental subjects for a test of rapid task switching. Each subject was given a pair of tasks to do: crack a set of anagrams and read an article from an academic journal. These tasks were presented on a computer screen, and for half of the subjects they were presented sequentially - first solve the anagrams, then read the article. For the other half of the experimental group, the computer switched every two-and-a-half minutes between the anagrams and the journal article, forcing the subjects to change mental gears many times.

Unsurprisingly, task switching slowed the subjects down and scrambled their thinking. They solved fewer anagrams and performed poorly on a test of reading comprehension when forced to refocus every 150 seconds.

But the multitasking treatment did have a benefit. Subjects who had been task switching became more creative. To be specific, their scores on tests of "divergent" thinking improved. Such tests ask subjects to pour out multiple answers to odd questions. They might be asked to think of as many uses as possible for a rolling pin or to list all the consequences they could summon to mind of a world where everyone has three arms. Involuntary multitaskers produced a greater volume and variety of answers, and their answers were more original too.

"It seems that switching back and forth between tasks primed people for creativity," says Carson, who is an adjunct professor at Harvard. The results of her work with Moore have not yet been published, and one might reasonably object that such tasks are trivial measures of creativity. Carson responds that scores on these laboratory tests of divergent thinking are correlated with substantial creative achievements such as publishing a novel, producing a professional stage show or creating an award-winning piece of visual art. For those who insist that great work can only be achieved through superhuman focus, think long and hard on this discovery.

Carson and colleagues have found an association between significant creative achievement and a trait psychologists term "low latent inhibition". Latent inhibition is the filter that all mammals have that allows them to tune out apparently irrelevant stimuli. It would be crippling to listen to every conversation in the open-plan office and the hum of the air conditioning, while counting the number of people who walk past the office window. Latent inhibition is what saves us from having to do so. These subconscious filters let us walk through the world without being overwhelmed by all the different stimuli it hurls at us.

And yet people whose filters are a little bit porous have a big creative edge. Think on that, uni-taskers: while you busily try to focus on one thing at a time, the people who struggle to filter out the buzz of the world are being reviewed in The New Yorker.

"You're letting more information into your cognitive workspace, and that information can be consciously or unconsciously combined," says Carson. Two other psychologists, Holly White and Priti Shah, found a similar pattern for people suffering from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

It would be wrong to romanticise potentially disabling conditions such as ADHD. All these studies were conducted on university students, people who had already demonstrated an ability to function well. But their conditions weren't necessarily trivial - to participate in the White/Shah experiment, students had to have a clinical diagnosis of ADHD, meaning that their condition was troubling enough to prompt them to seek professional help.

It's surprising to discover that being forced to switch tasks can make us more creative. It may be still more surprising to realise that in an age where we live under the threat of constant distraction, people who are particularly prone to being distracted are flourishing creatively.

Perhaps we shouldn't be entirely surprised. It's easier to think outside the box if the box is full of holes. And it's also easier to think outside the box if you spend a lot of time clambering between different boxes. "The act of switching back and forth can grease the wheels of thought," says John Kounios, a professor of psychology at Drexel University.

Kounios, who is co-author of The Eureka Factor, suggests that there are at least two other potentially creative mechanisms at play when we switch between tasks. One is that the new task can help us forget bad ideas. When solving a creative problem, it's easy to become stuck because we think of an incorrect solution but simply can't stop returning to it. Doing something totally new induces "fixation forgetting", leaving us free to find the right answer.

Another is "opportunistic assimilation". This is when the new task prompts us to think of a solution to the old one. The original Eureka moment is an example.

As the story has it, Archimedes was struggling with the task of determining whether a golden wreath truly was made of pure gold without damaging the ornate treasure. The solution was to determine whether the wreath had the same volume as a pure gold ingot with the same mass; this, in turn, could be done by submerging both the wreath and the ingot to see whether they displaced the same volume of water.

This insight, we are told, occurred to Archimedes while he was having a bath and watching the water level rise and fall as he lifted himself in and out. And if solving such a problem while having a bath isn't multitasking, then what is?

Tim Harford is an FT columnist. His latest book is 'The Undercover Economist Strikes Back'. Twitter: @TimHarford

Six ways to be a master of multitasking

1. Be mindful

"The ideal situation is to be able to multitask when multitasking is appropriate, and focus when focusing is important," says psychologist Shelley Carson. Tom Chatfield, author of Live This Book, suggests making two lists, one for activities best done with internet access and one for activities best done offline. Connecting and disconnecting from the internet should be deliberate acts.

2. Write it down

The essence of David Allen's Getting Things Done is to turn every vague guilty thought into a specific action, to write down all of the actions and to review them regularly. The point, says Allen, is to feel relaxed about what you're doing - and about what you've decided not to do right now - confident that nothing will fall through the cracks.

3. Tame your smartphone

The smartphone is a great servant and a harsh master. Disable needless notifications - most people don't need to know about incoming tweets and emails. Set up a filing system within your email so that when a message arrives that requires a proper keyboard to answer - ie 50 words or more - you can move that email out of your inbox and place it in a folder where it will be waiting for you when you fire up your computer.

4. Focus in short sprints

The "Pomodoro Technique" - named after a kitchen timer - alternates focusing for 25 minutes and breaking for five minutes, across two-hour sessions. Productivity guru Merlin Mann suggests an "email dash", where you scan email and deal with urgent matters for a few minutes each hour. Such ideas let you focus intensely while also switching between projects several times a day.

5. Procrastinate to win

If you have several interesting projects on the go, you can procrastinate over one by working on another. (It worked for Charles Darwin.) A change is as good as a rest, they say - and as psychologist John Kounios explains, such task switching can also unlock new ideas.

6. Cross-fertilise

"Creative ideas come to people who are interdisciplinary, working across different organisational units or across many projects," says author and research psychologist Keith Sawyer. (Appropriately, Sawyer is also a jazz pianist, a former management consultant and a sometime game designer for Atari.) Good ideas often come when your mind makes unexpected connections between different fields.

Tim Harford's To-Do Lists

David Allen's Getting Things Done system - or GTD - has reached the status of a religion among some productivity geeks. At its heart, it's just a fancy to-do list, but it's more powerful than a regular list because it's comprehensive, specific and designed to prompt you when you need prompting. Here's how I make the idea work for me.

Write everything down. I use Google Calendar for appointments and an electronic to-do list called Remember the Milk, plus an ad hoc daily list on paper. The details don't matter. The principle is never to carry a mental commitment around in your head.

Make the list comprehensive. Mine currently has 151 items on it. (No, I don't memorise the number. I just counted.)

Keep the list fresh. The system works its anxiety-reducing magic best if you trust your calendar and to-do list to remind you when you need reminding. I spend about 20 minutes once a week reviewing the list to note incoming deadlines and make sure the list is neither missing important commitments nor cluttered with stale projects. Review is vital - the more you trust your list, the more you use it. The more you use it, the more you trust it.

List by context as well as topic. It's natural to list tasks by topic or project - everything associated with renovating the spare room, for instance, or next year's annual away-day. I also list them by context (this is easy on an electronic list). Things I can do when on a plane; things I can only do when at the shops; things I need to talk about when I next see my boss.

Be specific about the next action. If you're just writing down vague reminders, the to-do list will continue to provoke anxiety. Before you write down an ill-formed task, take the 15 seconds required to think about exactly what that task is.

Written for and first published at ft.com.

[Jul 24, 2015] How Walking in Nature Changes the Brain

Jul 24, 2015 | The New York Times

A walk in the park may soothe the mind and, in the process, change the workings of our brains in ways that improve our mental health, according to an interesting new study of the physical effects on the brain of visiting nature.

Most of us today live in cities and spend far less time outside in green, natural spaces than people did several generations ago.

City dwellers also have a higher risk for anxiety, depression and other mental illnesses than people living outside urban centers, studies show.

These developments seem to be linked to some extent, according to a growing body of research. Various studies have found that urban dwellers with little access to green spaces have a higher incidence of psychological problems than people living near parks and that city dwellers who visit natural environments have lower levels of stress hormones immediately afterward than people who have not recently been outside.

But just how a visit to a park or other green space might alter mood has been unclear. Does experiencing nature actually change our brains in some way that affects our emotional health?

That possibility intrigued Gregory Bratman, a graduate student at the Emmett Interdisciplinary Program in Environment and Resources at Stanford University, who has been studying the psychological effects of urban living. In an earlier study published last month, he and his colleagues found that volunteers who walked briefly through a lush, green portion of the Stanford campus were more attentive and happier afterward than volunteers who strolled for the same amount of time near heavy traffic.

But that study did not examine the neurological mechanisms that might underlie the effects of being outside in nature.

So for the new study, which was published last week in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Mr. Bratman and his collaborators decided to closely scrutinize what effect a walk might have on a person's tendency to brood.

Brooding, which is known among cognitive scientists as morbid rumination, is a mental state familiar to most of us, in which we can't seem to stop chewing over the ways in which things are wrong with ourselves and our lives. This broken-record fretting is not healthy or helpful. It can be a precursor to depression and is disproportionately common among city dwellers compared with people living outside urban areas, studies show.

Perhaps most interesting for the purposes of Mr. Bratman and his colleagues, however, such rumination also is strongly associated with increased activity in a portion of the brain known as the subgenual prefrontal cortex.

If the researchers could track activity in that part of the brain before and after people visited nature, Mr. Bratman realized, they would have a better idea about whether and to what extent nature changes people's minds.

Mr. Bratman and his colleagues first gathered 38 healthy, adult city dwellers and asked them to complete a questionnaire to determine their normal level of morbid rumination.

The researchers also checked for brain activity in each volunteer's subgenual prefrontal cortex, using scans that track blood flow through the brain. Greater blood flow to parts of the brain usually signals more activity in those areas.

Then the scientists randomly assigned half of the volunteers to walk for 90 minutes through a leafy, quiet, parklike portion of the Stanford campus or next to a loud, hectic, multi-lane highway in Palo Alto. The volunteers were not allowed to have companions or listen to music. They were allowed to walk at their own pace.

Immediately after completing their walks, the volunteers returned to the lab and repeated both the questionnaire and the brain scan.

As might have been expected, walking along the highway had not soothed people's minds. Blood flow to their subgenual prefrontal cortex was still high and their broodiness scores were unchanged.

But the volunteers who had strolled along the quiet, tree-lined paths showed slight but meaningful improvements in their mental health, according to their scores on the questionnaire. They were not dwelling on the negative aspects of their lives as much as they had been before the walk.

They also had less blood flow to the subgenual prefrontal cortex. That portion of their brains were quieter.

These results "strongly suggest that getting out into natural environments" could be an easy and almost immediate way to improve moods for city dwellers, Mr. Bratman said.

But of course many questions remain, he said, including how much time in nature is sufficient or ideal for our mental health, as well as what aspects of the natural world are most soothing. Is it the greenery, quiet, sunniness, loamy smells, all of those, or something else that lifts our moods? Do we need to be walking or otherwise physically active outside to gain the fullest psychological benefits? Should we be alone or could companionship amplify mood enhancements?

"There's a tremendous amount of study that still needs to be done," Mr. Bratman said.

But in the meantime, he pointed out, there is little downside to strolling through the nearest park, and some chance that you might beneficially muffle, at least for awhile, your subgenual prefrontal cortex.

[May 28, 2015] 5 reasons why you shouldn't work too hard

The Washington Post

Forget Russian figure skater Julia Lipnitskaia spinning in a blur with her leg impossibly held straight up against her ear. The sight of skier Bode Miller collapsing with emotion at the end of a race dedicated to his brother while NBC cameras lingered uncomfortably on the long shot. Or even jubilant Noelle Pikus-Pace climbing into the stands to race into her family's arms after her silver medal finish in the Skeleton.

The image that stands out most in my mind during the broadcast of the 2014 Winter Olympics? The Cadillac commercial with a boxy, middle-aged white guy in a fancy house striding purposefully from his luxurious swimming pool to his $75,000 luxury Cadillac ELR parked out front while extolling the virtues of hard work, American style.

"Why do we work so hard? For stuff?" actor Neal McDonough asks in the commercial that has been playing without cease. "Other countries work. They stroll home. They stop by a café. They take the entire month of August off. "Off," he says again, to reinforce the point.

"Why aren't you like that? Why aren't WE like that?"

The first time the commercial aired during the Opening Ceremonies in Sochi, the slight pause after those two questions made me hopeful. I sat up to listen closely.

Was he about to say – we should be more like that? Because Americans work among the most hours of any advanced country in the world, save South Korea and Japan, where they've had to invent a word for dying at your desk. (Karoshi. Death from Overwork.) We also work among the most extreme hours, at 50 or more per week. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the average American works about one month more a year than in 1976.

Was he going to say that we Americans are caught up in what economist Juliet Schor calls a vicious cycle of "work-and-spend" – caught on a time-sucking treadmill of more spending, more stuff, more debt, stagnant wages, higher costs and more work to pay for it all?

Would he talk about how we Americans, alone among the advanced economies, whose athletes are competing between the incessant commercials with such athleticism and grace, have no national vacation policy. (So sacrosanct is time off in some countries that the Court of Justice of the European Union ruled in 2012 that workers who get sick on vacation are entitled to take more time off "to enable the worker to rest and enjoy a period of relaxation and leisure.").

American leisure? Don't let the averages fool you, he could say. While it looks like leisure time has gone up, time diaries show that leisure and sleep time have gone up steeply since 1985 for those with less than a high school degree. Why? They're becoming unemployed or underemployed. And leisure and sleep time for the college educated, the ones working those crazy extreme hours, has fallen steeply.

Americans don't have two "nurture days" per child until age 8, as Denmark does. No year-long paid parental leaves for mothers and fathers, as in Iceland. Nor a national three-month sabbatical policy, which Belgium has.

Instead of taking the entire month of August off, the most employers voluntarily grant us American workers tends to be two weeks. One in four workers gets no paid vacation or holidays at all, one study found. And, in a telling annual report called the "Vacation Deprivation" study, travel company Expedia figures that Americans didn't even USE 577 million of those measly vacation days at all last year.

Center for Economic and Policy Research, May 2013 Center for Economic and Policy Research, May 2013

So as I watched the Cadillac commercial, hanging onto that rich white guy's pause, I was hoping he'd make a pitch to bring some sanity to American workaholic culture. It wouldn't have been a first for the auto industry. Henry Ford outraged his fellow industrialists when he cut his workers' hours to 40 a week. (Standards in some industries at the time were for 12-hour workdays, 7 days a week.) Ford did so because his internal research showed 40 hours was as far as you could push manual laborers in a week before they got stupid and began making costly mistakes. He also wanted his workers to have the leisure time to buy and use his cars.

The rich guy takes a breath and smirks. We work so much "Because we're crazy, driven hard-working believers, that's why." Bill Gates. The Wright Brothers. Were they crazy? He asks. We went to the moon and, you know what we got? Bored, he says.

"You work hard. You create your own luck. And you've gotta believe anything is possible." Fair enough. "As for all the stuff?" he says as he knowingly unplugs his luxury electric car, "that's the upside of only taking TWO weeks off in August, n'est ce pas?"

[Apr 19, 2015] Can High Intelligence Be a Burden Rather Than a Boon?

Apr 18, 2015 | science.slashdot.org

timothy on Saturday April 18, 2015 @11:22AM

HughPickens.com writes David Robson has an interesting article at BBC on the relationship between high intelligence and happiness. "We tend to think of geniuses as being plagued by existential angst, frustration, and loneliness," writes Robson. Think of Virginia Woolf, Alan Turing, or Lisa Simpson – lone stars, isolated even as they burn their brightest." As Ernest Hemingway wrote: "Happiness in intelligent people is the rarest thing I know."

The first steps to studying the question were taken in 1926 when psychologist Lewis Terman decided to identify and study a group of gifted children. Terman selected 1,500 pupils with an IQ of 140 or more – 80 of whom had IQs above 170. Together, they became known as the "Termites", and the highs and lows of their lives are still being studied to this day. "As you might expect, many of the Termites did achieve wealth and fame – most notably Jess Oppenheimer, the writer of the classic 1950s sitcom I Love Lucy. Indeed, by the time his series aired on CBS, the Termites' average salary was twice that of the average white-collar job. But not all the group met Terman's expectations – there were many who pursued more "humble" professions such as police officers, seafarers, and typists.

For this reason, Terman concluded that "intellect and achievement are far from perfectly correlated". Nor did their smarts endow personal happiness. Over the course of their lives, levels of divorce, alcoholism and suicide were about the same as the national average."

According to Robson, one possibility is that knowledge of your talents becomes something of a ball and chain. During the 1990s, the surviving Termites were asked to look back at the events in their 80-year lifespan. Rather than basking in their successes, many reported that they had been plagued by the sense that they had somehow failed to live up to their youthful expectations (PDF).

Bo'Bob'O (95398) on Saturday April 18, 2015 @11:41AM (#49500291)

The third factor (Score:5, Insightful)

I surely wouldn't qualify as one of the 'termites' in the study, but there still things in my life I take to quickly. There is a third metric that I am in my coming to respect even more: motivation and inspiration.

There is a big difference between having the ability to do something, having the need to do something, and having a want and drive to do something. That last one seems to get people much further then being at the very top in intelligence. It also provides a framework of interaction and social connection between peers, if it is truly a passion.

So maybe it takes being the best and brightest to be first chair violinist in a prestigious symphony, but being brilliant alone won't get you there. Meanwhile hundreds of others have a long and successful career they make out of their perseverance.

radtea (464814) on Saturday April 18, 2015 @11:57AM (#49500359)

Re:The third factor (Score:5, Interesting)

You've likely encountered this quote, but it bears repeating:

Nothing in the world can take the place of Persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan 'Press On' has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race. -- Calvin Coolidge, 30th president of US (1872 - 1933)

E-Rock (84950) on Saturday April 18, 2015 @01:39PM (#49500767) Homepage

Re:Persistence is not omnipotent. (Score:5, Insightful)

Persistence doesn't mean trying the same thing over and over until it works. Persistence is trying to achieve your goals over and over again until you're successful.

So you might bang your head on the wall a few times, realize that won't work and then try different things until you break it down.

NixieBunny (859050) on Saturday April 18, 2015 @12:08PM (#49500403) Homepage

Re:The third factor (Score:4, Interesting)

Happiness has a lot to do with attitude. I find that being generally happy is easy if you use your abilities to put yourself into situations that make you happy. I used to work for a place that got to be more and more like Dilbert.

Instead of drowning in it, I broke loose and made a new life, using my brains to create interesting, fun things. I found part-time work in the sciences, and have extra time to make wacky inventions and volunteer with kids, teaching them how to do similar things.

I am careful to take on projects only if they are likely to make me happier. The latest was building the red telephone for this [rollingstone.com]...

Bengie (1121981) on Saturday April 18, 2015 @05:37PM (#49501635)

Re:The third factor (Score:2)

If you have no peers, you can get lonely and no amount of attitude can completely help a human who is lonely.

lkcl (517947) <lkcl@lkcl.net> on Saturday April 18, 2015 @11:42AM (#49500295) Homepage

Read "Outliers" (Score:5, Informative)

this is nothing new: i believe the same study was the basis of the famous book "Outliers", which is a fascinating study of what makes people successful. if i recall correctly, it's completely the opposite of what people expect: your genes *do* matter. your attitude *does* matter. your circumstances *do* matter. working hard *does* matter. and luck matters as well. but it's all of these things - luck, genetics, circumstances *and* hard work - that make for the ultimate success story. bill gates is one of the stories described. he had luck and opportunity - by being born at just the right time when personal computing was beginning - and circumstances - by going to one of the very very few schools in the USA that actually had a computer available (for me, that opportunity was when i was 8: i went to one of the very very few secondary schools in the UK that had a computer: a Pet 3032).

so, yeah - it's not a very popular view, particularly in the USA, as it goes against the whole "anyone can make it big" concept. but, put simply, the statistics show that it's a combination of a whole *range* of factors, all of which contribute, that make up success. just "being intelligent" simply is not enough.

drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Saturday April 18, 2015 @02:27PM (#49500967) Homepage Journal

Re:Read "Outliers" (Score:4, Insightful)

bill gates is one of the stories described. he had luck and opportunity - by being born at just the right time when personal computing was beginning - and circumstances - by going to one of the very very few schools in the USA that actually had a computer available

Yes, and by having rich parents. That is the single most reliable predictor of economic success. As such, it is anything but surprising that Gates was successful.

PeterM from Berkeley (15510) <petermardahl@NoSPam.yahoo.com> on Saturday April 18, 2015 @11:44AM (#49500299) Journal

Scientific American begs to differ (Score:3)

Some ten or fifteen years ago, Scientific American published an article about the positive correlation of "general intelligence" with virtually every measure of success in life.

Like earning enough money to be comfortable, having the emotional intelligence to have a successful marriage, etc.

They showed that "general intelligence" which is correlated with but not directly measured by things like SAT scores, was basically a ticket to (or highly correlated with) a good life, and even good health.

And the article was mighty persuasive.

--PeterM

the_skywise (189793) on Saturday April 18, 2015 @12:03PM (#49500387)

The problem isn't intelligence - per se (Score:5, Insightful)

(See? I used per se, so I'm... oh never mind...)

Intelligence and being highly observant are great skills both in society and from an evolutionary/survivalist standpoint.

But in a society I've found it brings up two downsides:

Guilt, because your intelligence allows you to avoid pain or achieve a higher level of comfort in society. You weren't "superman" you just made rational choices based upon your understanding of how the system works and now your friends and family are suffering because they didn't and you want to help them which requires more energy and effort or you can't which means your intelligence has limits and all you can do is watch them suffer.

Stress and anxiety. Once you figure out that you can problem solve and improve your quality of life it's natural, like any athlete, to grow and push your boundaries. But intellectual pursuits aren't as cut and dried as physical ones - It's easy to know that you can only bench press 200lbs and that's what you need to work on - Less so when you're trying to solve problems like familial and social discord but nobody will listen or trying to improve your company's fortunes by making proper investment choices. More to the point, I'm an engineer and there's nothing more frustrating trying to solve a problem you've encountered with your design that YOU pushed for, can't figure out why it's not working, might not work AT ALL and the boss is breathing down your neck (oh and the company is on the line). There's plenty of days I've driven by a building crew and daydreamed about just running the earth mover or driving a dump truck.

In an Agrarian society - in a pre-industrialized world these issues just didn't come about for intellectualism - Partially because it wasn't as much of a survival skill. (And that's probably why steampunk is so romanticized today)

reboot246 (623534) on Saturday April 18, 2015 @07:29PM (#49502135) Homepage

This may be why (Score:5, Interesting)

The danger when you have the intelligence to do anything you want to do in life is doing nothing. You hesitate to focus narrowly on one field of study because that means you'll have less time for all the others.

I won't say what my IQ is, but it's up there. My grades, especially in science courses, were practically perfect. People were expecting me to go into all kinds of careers, including medicine, chemistry, physics, computer science, etc.. But, I'm interested in everything! Always have been. I chose a career that didn't need much thought so I could keep up with what was happening in science and technology. It's worked. How many 62 year olds do you know who build their own computers? Or just bought two new microscopes? Or diagnose their own problems before going to the doctor?

I know a lot of successful people. Most of them have very little time for fishing, hunting, camping, going to ball games, watching television, listening to music, playing with the children & grandchildren, or working in the garden. I have all the time in the world to enjoy life. Isn't that what it's all about?

Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 18, 2015 @01:12PM (#49500661)

Re:*Grabs a bowl of popcorn* (Score:5, Interesting)

I do not know if I qualify as a genius, but I would like to think I am above average in intelligence. I topped my undergraduate class in engineering, scored near perfect score in my GRE (2380/2400, back when it actually included an analytical section with puzzles), and was a graduate student in quantum computing at a top school.

I subsequently dropped out because I realized two things:

  1. Most of my classmates were really good at the subject (e.g., people who won International Math and Physics Olympiads). They started their PhDs at a really young age, and were almost bored by the coursework. Homework that I would spend a Saturday doing were completed while still in class by these bored teenagers.
  2. Most of them really loved the subject (i.e., people who loved doing physics at the expense of all else, such as dating, money, or having a social life). Or the subject was so easy that they had the time to pursue other things.

I realized I neither loved physics unconditionally nor was I good enough at it to warrant the pursuit of a PhD, not to mention the subsequent post doc and so on. All this happened at the same time that I fell in love with my now-wife, started a company, and subsequently got into management consulting to make money instead.

I do not mean to phrase this as a tautology (i.e., doing a PhD is mutually exclusive from making money or having a social life), but in my experience, the biggest sacrifice was watching classmates who were relatively mediocre (in my opinion) get "business" degrees and do exceedingly well in life in terms of money and relationships.

Most of my cohort completed their PhDs and now have very successful academic careers. I still love math, theoretical physics, and computer science. I keep myself apprised of most of the publications in the field, and occasionally, write a paper or two myself, and I certainly miss the challenge of advanced math and physics. I still envy my peers, and I am sure some of them envy me.

But now being in an unhappy relationship, being a parent, having the burdens of a pointless life (the hardest thing I do is a spreadsheet that just helps some fool company make millions of dollars), I question my past choices. So much possibility lay ahead of me, and I gave it all up for what? For a few bucks, beers, and a few lays?

I'm probably considered successful by the measure of the quintessential American dream -- by ~30, I was a rising star at a top management consulting firm, had over 7 figures to my name, owned a large home in one of the best neighborhoods in Boston, and had a beautiful wife and son. I drove expensive cars, wore bespoke suits and expensive watches, spent time mountaineering in the Alps and the Himalayas, and traveled the world. But still, I always felt that I had missed something. That I will never come ahead of time. That no matter how successful I become in life, I will probably never have a theorem named after me or spend my days basking in the beauty of math.

No amount of sex or expensive liquor or material goods can equate the joys of just proving a theorem. I will forever have this knowledge, that I could have been more, and chose less. My life now reminds me of a Pink Floyd lyrics -- "Did you exchange a walk-on part in a war for a lead role in a cage?".

justthinkit (954982) <floyd@just-think-it.com> on Saturday April 18, 2015 @07:51PM (#49502227) Homepage Journal

Here is what you are missing (Score:3)

Here is what you are missing -- helping others.

Most of the activities of my life have been trivially easy for decades. Helping others remains challenging.

If you really are "so smart", you are able to see what a disaster this world is today. Well, get busy changing it. You will be up against the most powerful, greedy, selfish & moneyed people on the face of the Earth. Challenge enough for me. What about you?

Spugglefink (1041680) on Saturday April 18, 2015 @05:35PM (#49501619)

Re:The biggest problem: the "long view" (Score:5, Interesting)

I can relate to that. People who live more in the moment are happier, because the long view always involves decline, death, and dying. I'm petting and really enjoying my dog, and somewhere I'm thinking how I might have another eight years before I have a 120 pound problem who is pissing and shitting huge logs everywhere, who is going to be a royal bitch to dig a hole for one day. I'm having sex with my wife, and somewhere I'm thinking how much it's going to suck looking at her when she's 80. The big picture long view always seems to have a down side, and it's depressing.

I can relate to the expectations thing too. Everybody looks up to you, and a lot of them are jealous of you, and it makes it that much harder to choose an ordinary life. I'm a truck driver, and I like my profession fine, but I constantly feel a need to apologize for not owning the trucking company or being a professor or something; for not aiming higher in general. I've found a lot of people don't like me, because they don't think they're good enough for me for some reason, and yet I feel the same toward them. I'd love to just be normal, and not have to think so much about everything. Too much knowledge can be crippling, instead of helpful. It's hard to invest in a business idea, knowing every conceivable way it might fail, and what all the odds are.

My mother was even more intelligent than I am, and she died young, of alcoholism. She was a miserable woman.

Intelligence is overrated. One side effect for me is that I can never enjoy the opiate of a nice handy sky daddy to make me feel less infinitesimal in the scheme of things. We evolved to see sky daddies in everything, and I have the same need in my brain as any other human, but there's nothing to plug into it. I haven't found the religion yet that wasn't just totally inconsistent and goofy.

captjc (453680) on Saturday April 18, 2015 @10:06PM (#49502711)

Re:The biggest problem: the "long view" (Score:3)

That has nothing to do with intelligence and everything to do with outlook and perspective. Lets just say, I'm a pretty smart guy and the best piece of advice that I was ever given was to focus on the now. It is easy to foresee problems and possible scenarios and it is good to take measures to prevent the obvious. However, the sooner you realize that shit happens that you will never be able to plan for or there are simply various inevitable outcomes that will be sad and painful that you simply will not want to deal with, the sooner you will realize that there is just no point in worrying about them.

It has almost become a catchphrase for me, "Cross that bridge when you get to it." Focus on what can be dealt with now. Try to keep yourself in the best possible situation that you can and don't worry about what is around the corner until it is within sight to actually deal with it. Friends will come and go, loved ones will leave you, cars and tools will fail you when you need them the most, at some point your job will end, and eventually you will die. These are simple truths of life but if you spend even a second worrying about any of them before there is anything you can do about them, it is purely wasted energy that could be put to use tackling the problems that you do have.

I'm not saying it is easy to change the way you look at the world. It can take some work if not serious effort and it is easy to let yourself fall into ruts of depression and self-loathing. I know, I was there. That is nothing but perverse mental masturbation that does nothing but waste your energy and destroy what little happiness you can achieve. If you can learn to refocus yourself to only what you can affect, the happier and more productive you will become.

Why is everyone so busy?

Posted by wa8dzp

[Note: This item comes from friend Judi Clark. DLH]

Why is everyone so busy?
Time poverty is a problem partly of perception and partly of distribution
Dec 20 2014
<http://www.economist.com/news/christmas-specials/21636612-time-poverty-problem-partly-perception-and-partly-distribution-why>

THE predictions sounded like promises: in the future, working hours would be short and vacations long. "Our grandchildren", reckoned John Maynard Keynes in 1930, would work around "three hours a day"-and probably only by choice. Economic progress and technological advances had already shrunk working hours considerably by his day, and there was no reason to believe this trend would not continue. Whizzy cars and ever more time-saving tools and appliances guaranteed more speed and less drudgery in all parts of life. Social psychologists began to fret: whatever would people do with all their free time?

This has not turned out to be one of the world's more pressing problems. Everybody, everywhere seems to be busy. In the corporate world, a "perennial time-scarcity problem" afflicts executives all over the globe, and the matter has only grown more acute in recent years, say analysts at McKinsey, a consultancy firm. These feelings are especially profound among working parents. As for all those time-saving gizmos, many people grumble that these bits of wizardry chew up far too much of their days, whether they are mouldering in traffic, navigating robotic voice-messaging systems or scything away at e-mail-sometimes all at once.

Tick, tock

Why do people feel so rushed? Part of this is a perception problem. On average, people in rich countries have more leisure time than they used to. This is particularly true in Europe, but even in America leisure time has been inching up since 1965, when formal national time-use surveys began. American men toil for pay nearly 12 hours less per week, on average, than they did 40 years ago-a fall that includes all work-related activities, such as commuting and water-cooler breaks. Women's paid work has risen a lot over this period, but their time in unpaid work, like cooking and cleaning, has fallen even more dramatically, thanks in part to dishwashers, washing machines, microwaves and other modern conveniences, and also to the fact that men shift themselves a little more around the house than they used to.

The problem, then, is less how much time people have than how they see it. Ever since a clock was first used to synchronise labour in the 18th century, time has been understood in relation to money. Once hours are financially quantified, people worry more about wasting, saving or using them profitably. When economies grow and incomes rise, everyone's time becomes more valuable. And the more valuable something becomes, the scarcer it seems.

Individualistic cultures, which emphasise achievement over affiliation, help cultivate this time-is-money mindset. This creates an urgency to make every moment count, notes Harry Triandis, a social psychologist at the University of Illinois. Larger, wealthy cities, with their higher wage rates and soaring costs of living, raise the value of people's time further still. New Yorkers are thriftier with their minutes-and more harried-than residents of Nairobi. London's pedestrians are swifter than those in Lima. The tempo of life in rich countries is faster than that of poor countries. A fast pace leaves most people feeling rushed. "Our sense of time", observed William James in his 1890 masterwork, "The Principles of Psychology", "seems subject to the law of contrast."

When people see their time in terms of money, they often grow stingy with the former to maximise the latter. Workers who are paid by the hour volunteer less of their time and tend to feel more antsy when they are not working. In an experiment carried out by Sanford DeVoe and Julian House at the University of Toronto, two different groups of people were asked to listen to the same passage of music-the first 86 seconds of "The Flower Duet" from the opera "Lakmé". Before the song, one group was asked to gauge their hourly wage. The participants who made this calculation ended up feeling less happy and more impatient while the music was playing. "They wanted to get to the end of the experiment to do something that was more profitable," Mr DeVoe explains.

The relationship between time, money and anxiety is something Gary S. Becker noticed in America's post-war boom years. Though economic progress and higher wages had raised everyone's standard of living, the hours of "free" time Americans had been promised had come to nought. "If anything, time is used more carefully today than a century ago," he noted in 1965. He found that when people are paid more to work, they tend to work longer hours, because working becomes a more profitable use of time. So the rising value of work time puts pressure on all time. Leisure time starts to seem more stressful, as people feel compelled to use it wisely or not at all.

The harried leisure class

That economic prosperity would create feelings of time poverty looked a little odd in the 1960s, given all those new time-saving blenders and lawnmowers. But there is a distinct correlation between privilege and pressure. In part, this is a conundrum of wealth: though people may be earning more money to spend, they are not simultaneously earning more time to spend it in. This makes time-that frustratingly finite, unrenewable resource-feel more precious.

[snip]

[Jun 15, 2013] Messages Galore, but No Time to Think By PHYLLIS KORKKI

"In the name of simplicity, I even try to avoid instant messaging. But I also can't help worrying that I am missing out. "
June 15, 2013 | NYT

I'M old enough to remember a simpler time in the office, when talking - whether in person or on the phone - was the main way to communicate. I once had a job where I filled out those pink "While You Were Out" slips for employees who had stepped away from their desks.

Then, in the 1990s, came e-mail, and things were never the same. Besides delivering a serious blow to the sellers of those pieces of paper, e-mail made communicating with people incredibly - and, at first, delightfully - easy.

Now, a few decades later, people constantly complain that their e-mail in-boxes are unmanageable. And many more technologies have joined the workplace party. We can now use cellphones, texts, instant messaging, text messaging, social media, corporate intranets and cloud applications to communicate at work.

Something may have been lost as we adopted these new communication tools: the ability to concentrate.

"Nobody can think anymore because they're constantly interrupted," said Leslie Perlow, a Harvard Business School professor and author of "Sleeping With Your Smartphone." "Technology has enabled this expectation that we always be on." Workers fear the repercussions that could result if they are unavailable, she said.

The intermingling of work and personal life adds to the onslaught, as people communicate about personal topics during the workday, and about work topics when they are at home.

According to a 2011 article in The Ergonomics Open Journal, electronic communication tools can demand constant switching, which contributes to a feeling of "discontinuity" in the workplace. On the other hand, people sometimes deliberately introduce interruptions into their day as a way to reduce boredom and to socialize, the article said.

We're only beginning to understand the workplace impact of new communication tools. The use of such technology in the office is "less rational than we would like to think," said Steve Whittaker a professor of human-computer interaction at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Sometimes, "it's one person who's an evangelist," he said. "They will start using a particular thing, and they will bring other people along with them."

More tech-oriented types might favor the latest new communication "toy," while others, like me, are less enthusiastic. In the name of simplicity, I even try to avoid instant messaging. But I also can't help worrying that I am missing out.

Plenty of workplace advice focuses on how we, as individuals, can manage our technology, but in many cases, this is a collective, team-level issue, Professor Perlow said.

As Professor Whittaker put it, "We haven't stabilized our regular practices," and these may need to be negotiated among workers.

It's important to distinguish between collaborative and one-on-one communication, he said. Cloud-based systems are meant for sharing and editing documents, and they can enable people in different cities to work together in real time. Internal social media pages can be useful for seeking and sharing knowledge.

But when one person wants to communicate with another privately, e-mail remains the go-to method, Professor Whittaker said. That's why it is nearly universal, despite a general yearning for something better.

To lessen the disruptive nature of e-mail and other messages, teams need to discuss how to alter their work process to allow blocks of time where they can disconnect entirely, Professor Perlow said. "I don't think you can do it without leadership support," she added.

MAYBE more managers, consulting with their teams, need to set up clear guidelines for communication. When is it best to use the cloud? When is it best to use e-mail, or instant messaging? And when is it acceptable, even preferable, to turn off all technology? Not that managers need to be dictators, but a little clarity can lead to much more productivity.

Making it a priority to learn how to use the latest tools more effectively is a good idea, too. For example, how do those filters that help prioritize messages really work?

And let's never forget the value of face-to-face, or voice-to-voice, communication. An actual unrehearsed conversation - requiring sustained attention and spontaneous reactions - may be old-fashioned, but it just might turn up something new.

[May 22, 2013] Present Shock And The Loss Of History And Context

Zero Hedge

Submitted by Charles Hugh-Smith of OfTwoMinds blog,

In his new book, Douglas Rushkoff examines the telescoping of time and context wrought by ubiquitous digital technologies.

One of the few observers who is able to articulate a coherent critical account of American culture is Douglas Rushkoff. His new must-read book is Present Shock: When Everything Happens Now (print edition) and (Kindle edition).

I have long found inspiration and insight in Rushkoff's work, especially his keen understanding of the pathologies of consumerism. In my 2009 book Survival+, I wrote:

Rushkoff's reply to an interview question on the consequences of ubiquitous marketing reveals how media/marketing has created an unquestioned politics of experience in which one's identity and sense of self is constructed almost entirely by what one buys:

"Children are being adultified because our economy is depending on them to make purchasing decisions. So they're essentially the victims of a marketing and capitalist machine gone awry. You know, we need to expand, expand, expand. There is no such thing as enough in our current economic model and kids are bearing the brunt of that.... So they're isolated, they're alone, they're desperate. It's a sad and lonely feeling....The net effect of all of this marketing, all of this disorienting marketing, all of the shock media, all of this programming designed to untether us from a sense of self, is a loss of autonomy. You know, we no longer are the active source of our own experience or our own choices. Instead, we succumb to the notion that life is a series of product purchases that have been laid out and whose qualities and parameters have been pre-established."

In my view, this is a brilliant analysis of the rot at the heart of the American project.

In his new book, Rushkoff examines the telescoping of time and context wrought by ubiquitous digital technologies. We're always accessible, always connected and every channel is always on; this overload affects not just our ability to process information but our culture and the way media and marketing are designed and delivered.

The title consciously plays off the influential 1970 book by Alvin Toffler, Future Shock, which posited that our innate ability to process change was limited even as the rate of change in our post-industrial world increased. That rate of change would soon overwhelm our capacity to process new inputs and adapt to them.

In Rushkoff's view, we've reached that future: the speed of change and the demands of the present are disorienting us in profound ways.

We all know what stress feels like: it often causes our view to narrow to the present stressor, and we lose perspective and the ability to "make sense" of anything beyond managing the immediate situation.

Rushkoff identifies five symptoms of present shock:

  1. Narrative collapse - the loss of linear stories and their replacement with both crass reality programming and post-narrative shows like The Simpsons.
  2. Digiphrenia – digitally provoked mental chaos as technology lets us be in more than one place at any one moment. As Rushkoff notes in this chapter: Our boss isn't the guy in the corner office, but the PDA in our pocket. Our taskmaster is depersonalized and internalized.
  3. Overwinding – trying to squish huge timescales into much smaller ones, for example, packing a year's worth of retail sales expectations into a single Black Friday event.
  4. Fractalnoia – making sense of our world entirely in the present tense, by drawing connections between things with weak causal relationships, for example Big Data, which excels at identifying correlations but is utterly incapable of identifying cause amidst the correlations.
  5. Apocalypto – the intolerance for presentism leads us to fantasize a grand finale, the cultural equivalent of a "market-clearing event."

As Janet Maslin of the New York Times wrote in her review: "How do we shield ourselves from distraction, or gravitate to what really matters?"

Studies have shown that our innate ability to remember people and identify their relationships with others is limited to around 100 people--the size of a village or combat company. We undoubtedly have similar innate limitations on how many channels of input we can absorb.

Clay Shirky (author of Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations) calls this filter failure, his term for what used to be called information overload. Our filters become overloaded and we lose the ability to "make sense" of what's going on around us.

As the phenomenologists discovered in the 20th century, our basic coping mechanism is to separate the world (and inputs) into three basic categories: the focal point, the foreground and the deep background. Being unable to sort out which input belongs in the three spaces leads to disorientation and poor decisions.

The parallels between filter failure and stress are not coincidental, as we handle filter failure and present shock the same way we handle stress: we limit inputs and make a concerted effort to reorient our awareness and context, what some call "be still and know."

Another troubling parallel to present shock is addiction. People now respond to texts, emails, alerts and phone calls like rats in the proverbial cage with the lever that releases another tab of cocaine: they over-stimulate themselves to death but are incapable of restraining their impulse for more.

The "obvious" solution is to turn off inputs as a way of restoring our ability to live in a present without novelty and distraction. This is akin to withdrawal from a powerful opiate, and so we should not be surprised that there are now treatment facilities for kids who need to detox from digital inputs.

Rushkoff is especially attuned to the distortions in our experience of time created by digital media-communication present shock: "Time in the digital era is no longer linear but disembodied and associative. The past is not something behind us on the timeline but dispersed through the sea of information."

In effect, change no longer flows linearly like time anymore, it flows in all directions at once.

History and meaningful context are both fatally disrupted by this non-linear flow of time and narrative. Is it any wonder that we now read about young well-educated people who do not understand the meaning of "policy"? To understand policy requires a grasp of the histories and narratives that led to the policy, and the linear, causally-linked way that policy is designed to solve or ameliorate a specific problem or challenge.

If the causal chains of history and narrative are disrupted, then how can anyone fashion a meaningful context for actions and narratives, and effectively frame problems and solutions? If everything is equally valid in a non-linear flood of data, then what roles can authenticity, experience and knowledge play in making sense of our world?

These are knotty, complex issues, and you will find much to constructively ponder in Present Shock.

[May 19, 2013] Faced With Overload, a Need to Find Focus by Tony Schwartz

NYTimes.com

For more than a decade, the most significant ritual in my work life has been to take on the most important task of the day as my first activity, for 90 minutes, without interruption, followed by a renewal break. I do so because mornings are when I have the highest energy and the fewest distractions.

... Far and away the biggest work challenges most of us now face are cognitive overload and difficulty focusing on one thing at a time.

Whenever I singularly devote the first 90 minutes of my day to the most challenging or important task – they're often one and the same - I get a ton accomplished.

Following a deliberate break – even just a few minutes - I feel refreshed and ready to face the rest of the day. When I don't start that way, my day is never quite as good, and I sometimes head home at night wondering what I actually did while I was so busy working.

Performing at a sustainably high level in a world of relentlessly rising complexity requires that we manage not just our time but also our energy – not just how many hours we work, but when we work, on what and how we feel along the way.

Fail to take control of your days - deliberately, consciously and purposefully - and you'll be swept along on a river of urgent but mostly unimportant demands.

It's all too easy to rationalize that we're powerless victims in the face of expectation from others, but doing that is itself a poor use of energy. Far better to focus on what we can influence, even if there are times when it's at the margins.

Small moves, it turns out, can make a significant difference.

When it comes to doing the most important thing first each morning, for example, it's best to make that choice, along with your other top priorities, the night before.

Plainly, there are going to be times that something gets in your way and it's beyond your control. If you can reschedule for later, even 30 minutes, or 45, do that. If you can't, so be it. Tomorrow is another day.

If you're a night owl and you have more energy later in the day, consider scheduling your most important work then. But weigh the risk carefully, because as your day wears on, the number of pulls on your attention will almost surely have increased.

Either way, it's better to work highly focused for short periods of time, with breaks in between, than to be partially focused for long periods of time. Think of it as a sprint, rather than a marathon. You can push yourself to your limits for short periods of time, so long as you have a clear stopping point. And after a rest, you can sprint again.

How you're feeling at any given time profoundly influences how effectively you're capable of working, but most of us pay too little attention to these inner signals.

Fatigue is the most basic drag on productivity, but negative emotions like frustration, irritability and anxiety are equally pernicious. A simple but powerful way to check in with yourself is to intermittently rate the quantity and quality of your energy - say at midmorning, and midafternoon - on a scale from 1 to 10.

If you're a 5 or below on either one, the best thing you can do is take a break.

Even just breathing deeply for as little as one minute – in to a count of three, out to a count of six – can quiet your mind, calm your emotions and clear your bloodstream of the stress hormone cortisol.

Learn to manage your energy more skillfully, and you'll get more done, in less time, at a higher level of focus. You'll feel better - and better about yourself - at the end of the day.

About the Author

Tony Schwartz is the chief executive of the Energy Project and the author, most recently, of "Be Excellent at Anything: The Four Keys to Transforming the Way We Work and Live." Twitter: @tonyschwartz

Anne-Marie Hislop, Chicago

The key is figuring our when we are most productive and focused. Although a morning person, I need early time for my rituals - exercise, shower, coffee, and NYT online (along with pop-ins at other sites). Then, by time I get to work around 8AM I will have my most focused, productive hours.

I also find that standing while I work on my computer, which I do more and more when I can (don't have a way to type extensively while standing) energizes me and helps me focus.

John Lamont, Pennsylvania

Frankly I think the core premise of the article, how to get more "done", needs to be questioned, especially in the context to which it speaks, the corporate environment. We would be far better served if Mr. Schwarz's audience spent that 1st 30 minutes of their day sitting back and thinking about what they do, who it's really for, what are the consequences of what they and their company do, and is it morally and ecologically ethical.

In the grand scheme of things I don't doubt mankind is now better off than it was 2,000 or even 500 years ago, but in our relentless drive to produce, consume and sell we have developed, and continue to develop technologies and complex global social interactions that have a good chance of setting us back to the stone age.

Let's not be in such a hurry getting wherever we think we're going and spend a bit more time pondering about where it is we actually want to be and who we want to be when we get there.

When Android Ate My Best Friends by Carla Schroder

Everyone has a cell phone these days. Out here in my little corner of the world, in a county that competes with the neighboring county for the poorest in the state, everyone can somehow afford smartphones with generous data plans. I have no idea what people's eye colors are anymore, or if they even have eyes, because all I see are the tops of their heads as they are bent over their tiny screens. This stuff is not cheap-- I don't know anyone whose monthly bite is under a hundred dollars. Which is why I have a cheapo TracFone, because I refuse to pay that much. Plus I like hoarding minutes, so I turn it off. I don't have to be in constant contact with my eleventeen bestest friends at all times.

Michelle, Ma Bell

American telecoms are special beasts. Back in the olden days we had a single giant regulated monopoly, AT&T. Technological progress was non-existent, and stuck at a level barely above Alexander Graham Bell's original prototype. We could not own our telephones, but had to lease them from the phone company, which made those old phones some of the most valuable hardware in existence because we kept paying for them year after year after year. We could not add extensions, or attach any other equipment. The one upside was rock-solid service, which set American telephone service apart from most other countries, where unreliability was the norm.

Then Ma Bell was broken up and we got competition, sort of. We never got a choice of carriers for local service, but long distance became competitive. Though again only sort-of, because in-state calls cost more than cross-country calls, and other oddities. Now with mobile phones everywhere a lot of people don't even bother with land lines, and they'e all happy at getting free long distance, even though it's not really free and they're paying a lot more. But even though mobile service costs more, it includes more, like worse call quality and no-service areas. I estimate that 40% of all cell traffic is "What? Are you there? Hello? What?"

When We Dialed Telephones

Where was I going with all this? Oh yeah, ubiquity. My grandmother had a single black dial telephone, and it sat on a special table next to a chair in her entry hall. A phone call was a bit of an event-- she couldn't Web surf while half-listening, or watch TV, or go shopping, or put people on hold and juggle multiple calls. She had conversations, one at a time. She couldn't just pick up and call someone when she felt like it because she was on a party line. That is a shared phone line, which meant everyone who shared the line could eavesdrop on your calls. When I grew up the other giant time- and attention-pit-of-suck, television, was not yet everywhere, and a lot of our friends did not have TVs. So when we got together we talked to each other. With eye contact and everything.

Now we're all proud that Android dominates mobile phones, rah rah Linux. Little kids have their own phones, and again I marvel at how much people are willing to pay for their mobile fix. Sure, for some it's a necessity, but in my somewhat humble opinion most of the time it's more akin to an addiction. It's like the rats that push the button that stimulates the pleasure centers of their brains, and then starve to death because they won't push the food button. Humans just plain love to push buttons, and are willing to pay top dollar for the privilege-- vending machines, video poker, serial channel-surfing on the TV, mobile phones; give them buttons to push and they're happy for hours.

Woa, you might be thinking, get off the grumpy train, because mobile phones are useful tools! And you are right. But I'm still going to be grumpy at people who won't turn them off when we're visiting or doing an activity together. You know those people who have to answer the phone no matter what they're doing? Showering, sleeping, birthing babies? They're a thousand times worse with mobile phones. In the olden days it was considered rude to leave the TV on when people came to visit. Unless they came to watch a program, of course. Remember when call waiting was all new and special? And an insult, like whoever you were talking to was hoping someone better than you would interrupt your call. Now the phone is the TV, along with a million other interruptions, distractions, delights, and portability. We can't escape the things.

Thinking. No Really.

One of the things I love about computer nerds is most of them understand the need for long stretches of uninterrupted time to think, and to concentrate deeply on a task. It is impossible to master a new skill or solve a problem when you're skittering randomly from one activity to the next, never engaging more than the bare surface of your consciousness. It's unsatisfying, because you never accomplish anything. Multi-tasking is a myth. It is the very rare human who can perform two or more tasks at once. A "multi-tasker" is someone who juggles multiple chores and does a poor job at all of them. I prefer total immersion: full attention and no distractions.

Magic happens in your brain when you achieve that state of total focus. It's almost a meditative state. Obstacles fall away and your path become wide and clear. It's as though you're forging new neural pathways and amping up your brainpower. Single-tasking has superpowers.

When Television Ate My Best Friend

The more things change, the more they stay the same, so please enjoy Linda Ellerbee's classic When Television Ate My Best Friend:

"At last I knew what had happened to Lucy. The television ate her. It must have been a terrible thing to see. Now my parents were thinking of getting one. I was scared. They didn't understand what television could do."

Beginning Android Programming

Pushing buttons is fun, and building the buttons is a million times more fun. Try Juliet Kemp's excellent introduction to Android programming:

Android Programming for Beginners: Part 1

Android Programming for Beginners: Part 2

[Apr 28, 2012] Lessons from Sheryl Sandberg Stop Working More Than 40 Hours a Week

Inc.com

You may think you're getting more accomplished by working longer hours. You're probably wrong.

There's been a flurry of recent coverage praising Sheryl Sandberg, the chief operating officer of Facebook, for leaving the office every day at 5:30 p.m. to be with her kids. Apparently she's been doing this for years, but only recently "came out of the closet," as it were.

What's insane is that Sandberg felt the need to hide the fact, since there's a century of research establishing the undeniable fact that working more than 40 hours per week actually decreases productivity.

In the early 1900s, Ford Motor ran dozens of tests to discover the optimum work hours for worker productivity. They discovered that the "sweet spot" is 40 hours a week–and that, while adding another 20 hours provides a minor increase in productivity, that increase only lasts for three to four weeks, and then turns negative.

Anyone who's spent time in a corporate environment knows that what was true of factory workers a hundred years ago is true of office workers today. People who put in a solid 40 hours a week get more done than those who regularly work 60 or more hours.

The workaholics (and their profoundly misguided management) may think they're accomplishing more than the less fanatical worker, but in every case that I've personally observed, the long hours result in work that must be scrapped or redone.

Accounting for Burnout What's more, people who consistently work long work weeks get burned out and inevitably start having personal problems that get in the way of getting things done.

I remember a guy in one company I worked for who used the number of divorces in his group as a measure of its productivity. Believe it or not, his top management reportedly considered this a valid metric. What's ironic (but not surprising) is that the group itself accomplished next to nothing.

In fact, now that I think about it, that's probably why he had to trot out such an absurd (and, let's face it, evil) metric.

Proponents of long work weeks often point to the even longer average work weeks in countries like Thailand, Korea, and Pakistan–with the implication that the longer work weeks are creating a competitive advantage.

Europe's Ban on 50-Hour Weeks However, the facts don't bear this out. In six of the top 10 most competitive countries in the world (Sweden, Finland, Germany, Netherlands, Denmark, and the United Kingdom), it's illegal to demand more than a 48-hour work week. You simply don't see the 50-, 60-, and 70-hour work weeks that have become de rigeur in some parts of the U.S. business world.

If U.S. managers were smart, they'd end this "if you don't come in on Saturday, don't bother coming to work on Sunday" idiocy. If you want employees (salaried or hourly) to get the most done–in the shortest amount of time and on a consistent basis–40 hours a week is just about right.

In other words, nobody should be apologizing for leaving at work at a reasonable hour like 5:30 p.m. In fact, people should be apologizing if they're working too long each week–because it's probably making the team less effective overall.

[Apr 07, 2011] Rational Inattention

These models are interesting, but the mathematics underneath them can be challenging (here's a taste):

'Rational Inattention' Guides Overloaded Brains, Helps Economists Understand Market Behavior, by Antonella Tutino, Economic Letter, FRB Dallas: Between Internet news sources, social media and email, people are awash in information, most of it accessible at near-zero cost. Yet, humans possess only a finite capacity to process all of it. The average email user, for example, receives dozens of messages per day. The messages can't all receive equal attention. How carefully does someone read an email from a sibling or friend before crafting a reply? How closely does a person read an email from the boss?

Limitations on the ability to process information force people to make choices regarding the subjects to which they pay more or less attention. Economists have long acknowledged the existence of human cognitive capacities, but only in recent years have models embodying such limits known as "rational inattention" found their way into mainstream macroeconomics.

Rational inattention models have a broad range of applications. They may reconcile relatively unchanged prices and volatile ones and how the two play out in aggregate demand in the U.S. economy. Moreover, such models can capture salient features of the business cycle, providing a rationale for sharp contractions or slower expansions. Finally, rational inattention models have significant implications for monetary policy. Since the focus of these models revolves around formation of peoples' expectations, understanding how individuals perceive the economy is instrumental to policymakers' efforts to achieve output and price stabilization objectives.

Rational Inattention: A Primer

One macroeconomic school of thought-known as rational expectations-assumes that people fully and quickly process all freely available information. By comparison, under rational inattention theory, information is also fully and freely available, but people lack the capability to quickly absorb it all and translate it into decisions. Rational inattention is based on a simple observation: Attention is a scarce resource and, as such, it must be budgeted wisely.[1]

[Dec 29, 2010] The Shallows What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains by Nicholas Carr

Part of the problem is information overload and it should be called by the author as such. The other part is that deluge of Internet information does not mean high quality of information. There is specific "Google effect" when pages are created just to extract advertising fees and promoted using "link farms" to get high Google rating for the topic. And spending time on junk is spending time on junk whether it is electronic or not. It's just easier with computer. Nicklaus Carr easier article in Atlantic Is Google Making Us Stupid- - Magazine - The Atlantic covers the same ground.
Amazon.com

William Timothy Lukeman Death by a thousand distracting cuts, June 8, 2010

In this short but informative, thought-provoking book, Nicholas Carr presents an argument I've long felt to be true on a humanist level, but supports it with considerable scientific research. In fact, he speaks as a longtime computer enthusiast, one who's come to question what he once wholeheartedly embraced ... and even now, he takes care to distinguish between the beneficial & detrimental aspects of the Internet.

The argument in question?

The studies that Carr presents are troubling, to say the least. From what has been gleaned to date, it's clear that the brain retains a certain amount of plasticity throughout life -- that is, it can be reshaped, and the way that we think can be reshaped, for good or for ill. Thus, if the brain is trained to respond to & take pleasure in the faster pace of the digital world, it is reshaped to favor that approach to experiencing the world as a whole. More, it comes to crave that experience, as the body increasingly craves more of anything it's trained to respond to pleasurably & positively. The more you use a drug, the more you need to sustain even the basic rush.

And where does that leave the mind shaped by deep reading? The mind that immerses itself in the universe of a book, rather than simply looking for a few key phrases & paragraphs? The mind that develops through slow, quiet contemplation, mulling over ideas in their entirety, and growing as a result? The mature mind that ponders possibilities & consequences, rather than simply going with the bright, dazzling, digital flow?

Nowhere, it seems.

Carr makes it clear that the digital world, like any other technology that undeniably makes parts of life so much easier, is here to stay. All the more reason, then, to approach it warily, suspiciously, and limit its use whenever possible, since it is so ubiquitous. "Yes, but," many will say, "everything is moving so fast that we've got to adapt to it, keep up with it!" Not unlike the Red Queen commenting that it takes all of one's energy & speed to simply remain in one place while running. But what sort of life is that? How much depth does it really have?

Because some aspects of life -- often the most meaningful & rewarding aspects -- require time & depth. Yet the digital world constantly makes us break it into discrete, interchangeable bits that hurtle us forward so rapidly & inexorably that we simply don't have time to stop & think. And before we know it, we're unwilling & even unable to think. Not in any way that allows true self-awareness in any real context.

Emerson once said (as aptly quoted by Carr), "Things are in the saddle / And ride mankind." The danger is that we'll not only willingly, even eagerly, wear those saddles, but that we'll come to desire them & buckle them on ever more tightly, until we feel naked without them. And we'll gladly pay anything to keep them there, even as we lose the capacity to wonder why we ever put them on in the first place.

Most highly recommended!

Devin (Vancouver) - See all my reviews

This book is a more fully fleshed out attempt to answer the question that Carr first posed a couple of years ago in an article titled "Is Google Making Us Stupid?"

The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains explores the ideas of his Google article in much more detail.

To fully understand what the Internet is doing to our brains, we must first understand our brains. Carr highlights results from a variety of iconic and recent studies that illustrate the plasticity of our thinking organs. We see experiments ranging from the severed sensory nerves of monkeys' hands in the 1960s (and their brains subsequent `rewiring') to London taxi drivers whose posterior hippocampuses (the "part of the brain that plays a key role in storing and manipulating spatial represenations of a person's surroudings") were much larger than normal. In short, we see plenty of evidence that the brain can reorganize itself, and is certainly not fixed in one state for all of its adult life.

The Shallows then explores the history of the written word and its explosion due to Gutenberg's invention, and even further back to the argument between Socrates and Plato concerning the value of the written word. Socrates argued that if we committed all of our thoughts to paper, we would not have to remember anything. How do we know this? From the writings of Plato, of course. The soundwaves of Socrates' voice, as wise as he was, cannot travel through time like written words can.

With the first half detailing the brain's plasticity and our species' history with the accumulation of knowledge, Carr sets up the latter half of the book perfectly, and his ideas might be grossly simplified into something like this:

P1: Experiments of brain plasticity have proven that our brains change over time.
P2: We are using the Internet for an increasing amount of our activities, including work, entertainment and commerce.
P3: The Internet is a medium that encourages distractedness and makes our brains inept at remembering.

C: We are all becoming a lot more dependent upon our digital devices, and in doing so, are increasingly distracted in everything we do, both online and off.

Carr's book is a giant caution sign on the side of the road that we ride into the increasingly digital future. The caution sign might be too far behind us already, as we've blazed ahead and rewired our minds to think like computers - logical, task-switching, and distracted at every second of the day. If people in their 30s and 40s (who may have had the Internet for approximately 25-40% of their life times) are experiencing these changes in their brains, imagine the effect the Internet is having on our youth. The Net Generation is defined to be those who have grown up with the Net for more than half their lives. There are some who have had the Internet in 100% of their life spans. Imagine that, never knowing a world without the Internet. Yes, some children are younger than Google. Imagine explaining to your grandchildren that you grew up in a time that didn't have the Internet, let alone the information organizing superpower known as Google.

Will we look back at this period of transition from print to digital and see it as being as momentous as the shift from an oral culture to a print culture? What would Socrates have thought? Have we become lesser human beings, inextricably tied to the addictive external memories of our computers and mobile phones?

Could it be that George W. Bush infamous "the Internets" quote was just a sign of the stupidness to come? Perhaps Bush was ahead of his time. Perhaps the Flynn effect is about to peak, or already has. Could the greatest learning tool ever created be so useful that we forget how to think as we use it?

This is a great book for anyone who's interested in our society as a whole, how our brains work, the effects of technology, and the process of learning. Highly recommended.

J. Edgar Mihelic "Iconoclast, Juggernaut" (Chicago)My wisdom is getting flatter., December 8, 2010 - See all my reviews

Carr, in his epilogue to this work, warns that we as a species have to be 'attentive to what we stand to lose.' In his view, the brain's adaptation to the newer and newer technologies in effect flattens our minds and deprives the individual human of the depth that once could be called wisdom. I agree with him more because I am an avowed Luddite than for the wonderful argument he lays out.

For example, I am enrolled in a science class at this time. As the semester comes to a close, I have an average approaching 100. The problem is that I have actually learned little of the actual science but I have instead learned to utilize the electronic tools built into the shell; the entire evaluative framework of the class is on-line. I have learned how to find the answers but I do not know the answers. Compare this to a literature class, where you have to maybe read and analyze and memorize things and your own wisdom is grown because you build long-term memories that give crucial context. This may not matter, per se, in the terms of the professions of the future, but they have a real impact when it comes to human-to-human interaction or aesthetic enjoyment.

The ironic thing is that I did not read this book. I instead listened to it on my mp3 player as I worked and from time to time flipped through to look at Amazon or Facebook or Gmail. My own mind has developed according to the standards of the internet -- I am hyperlinks not a straight narrative. I can no longer read one book, but have to be 'reading' many simultaneously. This factor will only increase as time and technology advance as we see ourselves more in terms of machines, and the machines start to see themselves in terms of us.

barvazos

the authors description of our decrease in attention and cognitive capabilities is at times a bit exaggerated.

however, the idea of our mind and thought process physically changing and the descriptions of the evolution of thought are really insightful and coherent.

good book, lot's of stuff to think about.
enjoy

[Aug 25, 2010] Your Brain on Computers - Overuse of Digital Devices May Lead to Brain Fatigue - NYTimes.com

SAN FRANCISCO - It's 1 p.m. on a Thursday and Dianne Bates, 40, juggles three screens. She listens to a few songs on her iPod, then taps out a quick e-mail on her iPhone and turns her attention to the high-definition television.

Break Time vs. Screen Time

Articles in this series examine how a deluge of data can affect the way people think and behave.

Previous Articles in the Series
Multimedia
Interactive Feature
The Unplugged Challenge
Jim Wilson/The New York Times

Loren Frank, a professor of physiology, said downtime lets the brain go over experiences, "solidify them and turn them into permanent long-term memories."

Just another day at the gym.

As Ms. Bates multitasks, she is also churning her legs in fast loops on an elliptical machine in a downtown fitness center. She is in good company. In gyms and elsewhere, people use phones and other electronic devices to get work done - and as a reliable antidote to boredom.

Cellphones, which in the last few years have become full-fledged computers with high-speed Internet connections, let people relieve the tedium of exercising, the grocery store line, stoplights or lulls in the dinner conversation.

The technology makes the tiniest windows of time entertaining, and potentially productive. But scientists point to an unanticipated side effect: when people keep their brains busy with digital input, they are forfeiting downtime that could allow them to better learn and remember information, or come up with new ideas.

Ms. Bates, for example, might be clearer-headed if she went for a run outside, away from her devices, research suggests.

At the University of California, San Francisco, scientists have found that when rats have a new experience, like exploring an unfamiliar area, their brains show new patterns of activity. But only when the rats take a break from their exploration do they process those patterns in a way that seems to create a persistent memory of the experience.

The researchers suspect that the findings also apply to how humans learn.

"Almost certainly, downtime lets the brain go over experiences it's had, solidify them and turn them into permanent long-term memories," said Loren Frank, assistant professor in the department of physiology at the university, where he specializes in learning and memory. He said he believed that when the brain was constantly stimulated, "you prevent this learning process."

At the University of Michigan, a study found that people learned significantly better after a walk in nature than after a walk in a dense urban environment, suggesting that processing a barrage of information leaves people fatigued.

Even though people feel entertained, even relaxed, when they multitask while exercising, or pass a moment at the bus stop by catching a quick video clip, they might be taxing their brains, scientists say.

"People think they're refreshing themselves, but they're fatiguing themselves," said Marc Berman, a University of Michigan neuroscientist.

Regardless, there is now a whole industry of mobile software developers competing to help people scratch the entertainment itch. Flurry, a company that tracks the use of apps, has found that mobile games are typically played for 6.3 minutes, but that many are played for much shorter intervals. One popular game that involves stacking blocks gets played for 2.2 minutes on average.

Today's game makers are trying to fill small bits of free time, said Sebastien de Halleux, a co-founder of PlayFish, a game company owned by the industry giant Electronic Arts.

"Instead of having long relaxing breaks, like taking two hours for lunch, we have a lot of these micro-moments," he said. Game makers like Electronic Arts, he added, "have reinvented the game experience to fit into micro-moments."

Many business people, of course, have good reason to be constantly checking their phones. But this can take a mental toll. Henry Chen, 26, a self-employed auto mechanic in San Francisco, has mixed feelings about his BlackBerry habits.

"I check it a lot, whenever there is downtime," Mr. Chen said. Moments earlier, he was texting with a friend while he stood in line at a bagel shop; he stopped only when the woman behind the counter interrupted him to ask for his order.

Mr. Chen, who recently started his business, doesn't want to miss a potential customer. Yet he says that since he upgraded his phone a year ago to a feature-rich BlackBerry, he can feel stressed out by what he described as internal pressure to constantly stay in contact.

Read All Comments (217) "

[Aug 24, 2010] Information Overload

August 25, 2010 | Sra. Weldon

Do you ever wonder if you spend too much time online or find that multitasking makes homework feel like it takes forever? Do you end up getting less sleep because you're texting, chatting or surfing or because you find that your brain can't seem to shut itself down for the night?

The NY Times has an entire series devoted to such topics called "Your Brain on Computers." In An Ugly Toll of Technology: Impatience and Forgetfulness, a Dr. Kimberly Young is referenced for comparing net addiction to eating disorders. Even adults are at risk for various problems involving our ability to parent and nurture as is highlighted by The Risks of Parenting while Plugged in –there was a comparison between said addiction and alcoholism the way a parent might say to an objecting son/daughter "just one more text" while driving.

In Attached to Computers and Paying a Price, our connection to constant information changes our chemistry with dopamine (which is possibly addictive) squirts in our brains and alters our expectations of daily life in terms of boredom. More dangerous are the risks involved in using devices while driving, yet it's easy to understand how we would reach for them since so many of us are bound to be addicted to them. We read of families missing big business deals, having family fights (and forgetting to pick up kids!) and getting lower grades.

According to the article, "At home, people consume 12 hours of media a day on average, when an hour spent with, say, the Internet and TV simultaneously counts as two hours. That compares with five hours in 1960, say researchers at the University of California, San Diego. Computer users visit an average of 40 Web sites a day, according to research by RescueTime, which offers time-management tools.

As computers have changed, so has the understanding of the human brain. Until 15 years ago, scientists thought the brain stopped developing after childhood. Now they understand that its neural networks continue to develop, influenced by things like learning skills."

If you'd like to test your own ability to focus, the NY Times features this test. If you think you might be addicted and would like to find out more, check out the Net Addiction site.

For what it's worth, I think technology can be helpful for practicing Spanish and staying up to date on yoObsession with Computers and InternetObsession with Computers and Internetth Computers and Internetth Computers and Internetat school. It's even useful for contact between teachers, students and parents (at times). What I take away from the NY Times series is how essential boundaries are in terms of when/where my family and I are plugged in–there have to be concrete limits for us not to get lost and fragmented.

[Nov 25, 2009] Fixed-Schedule Productivity: How I Accomplish a Large Amount of Work in a Small Number of Work Hours

February 15th. 2008 | Study Hacks

My Schedule Should Be Terrible…

I should have an overwhelming, Malox-guzzling, stress-saturated schedule. Here's why: I'm a graduate student in a demanding program. I'm working on several research papers while also attempting to nail down some key ideas for my dissertation. I'm TA'ing and taking courses. I maintain this blog. I'm a staff writer for Flak Magazine. And to keep things interesting, I'm working on background research for a potential new book project.

You would be reasonable to assume that I must get, on average, 7 - 8 minutes of sleep a night. But you would also be wrong. Let me explain…

For Some Reason It's Not…

Here is my actual schedule. I work:

That's it. Unless I'm bored, I have no need to even turn on a computer after 5 during the week or any time on Saturday. I fill these times, instead, doing, well, whatever I want.

How do I balance an ambitious work load with an ambitiously sparse schedule? It's a simple idea I call fixed-schedule productivity.

Fixed-Schedule Productivity

The system work as follows:

  1. Choose a schedule of work hours that you think provides the ideal balance of effort and relaxation.
  2. Do whatever it takes to avoid violating this schedule.

This sounds simple. But think about it for a moment. Satisfying rule 2 is not easy. If you took your current projects, obligations, and work habits, you'd probably fall well short of satisfying your ideal work schedule. Here's a simple truth: to stick to your ideal schedule will require some drastic actions. For example, you may have to:

In the abstract, these all seem like hard things to do. But when you have the focus of a specific goal - "I do not want to work past 5 on week days!" - you'd be surprised by how much easier it becomes deploy these strategies in your daily life.

Let's look at an example…

Case Study: My Schedule

My schedule provides a good case study. To reach my relatively small work hour limit, I have to be careful with how I go about my day. I see enough bleary-eyed insomniacs around here to know how easy it is to slip into a noon to 3 am routine (the infamous "MIT cycle.") Here are some of the techniques I regularly use to remain within the confines of my fixed schedule:

Why This Works

You could fill any arbitrary number of hours with what feels to be productive work. Between e-mail, and "crucial" web surfing, and to-do lists that, in the age of David Allen, grow to lengths that rival the bible, there is always something you could be doing. At some point, however, you have to put a stake in the ground and say: I know I have a never-ending stream of work, but this is when I'm going to face it. If you don't do this, you let the never-ending stream of work push you around like a bully. It will force you into tiring, inefficient schedules. And you'll end up more stressed and no more accomplished.

Fix the schedule you want. Then make everything else fit around your needs. Be flexible. Be efficient. If you can't make it fit: change your work. But in the end, don't compromise. No one really cares about your schedule except for yourself. So make it right.

On the BBC News site, Bill Thompson takes the discussion in an interesting new direction:

The Swiss developmental psychologist Jean Piaget described two processes that he believed lay behind the development of knowledge in children. The first is assimilation, where new knowledge fits into existing conceptual frameworks. More challenging is accommodation, where the framework itself is modified to include the new information.

The current generation of 'search engines' seem to encourage a model of exploration that is disposed towards assimilative learning, finding sources, references and documents which can be slotted into existing frameworks, rather than providing material for deeper contemplation of the sort that could provoke accommodation and the extension, revision or even abandonment of views, opinions or even whole belief systems.

Perhaps the real danger posed by screen-based technologies is not that they are rewiring our brains but that the collection of search engines, news feeds and social tools encourages us to link to, follow and read only that which we can easily assimilate.

Globe and Mail, columnist Margaret Wente becomes the latest writer to fess up to an evaporating ability to read long works of prose:

Google has done wondrous things for my stock of general knowledge. It also seems to have destroyed my attention span. Like a flea with ADD, I jump back and forth from the Drudge Report to gardening sites that list the growing time of Green Zebras …

Thanks to Google, we're all turning into mental fast-food junkies. Google has taught us to be skimmers, grabbing for news and insights on the fly. I skim books now too, even good ones. Once I think I've got the gist, I'll skip to the next chapter or the next book. Forget the background, the history, the logical progression of an argument. Just give me the takeaway.

[Jul 1, 2008] Rough Type Nicholas Carr's Blog

Make information free, and we'll become gluttons of information, as Rob Horning notes in an interesting post today:

As behavioral economists (most vociferously, Dan Ariely) have pointed out, we find the promise of free things hard to resist (even when a little thinking reveals that the free-ness is illusory). So when with very little effort we can accumulate massive amounts of "free" stuff from various places on the internet, we can easily end up with 46 days (and counting) worth of unplayed music on a hard drive. We end up with a permanent 1,000+ unread posts in our RSS reader, and a lingering, unshakable feeling that we'll never catch up, never be truly informed, never feel comfortable with what we've managed to take in, which is always in the process of being undermined by the free information feeds we've set up for ourselves. We end up haunted by the potential of the free stuff we accumulate, and our enjoyment of any of it becomes severely impinged. The leisure and unparalleled bounty of a virtually unlimited access to culture ends up being an endless source of further stress, as we feel compelled to take it all in. Nothing sinks in as we try to rush through it all, and our rushing does nothing to keep us from falling further behind-often when I attempt to tackle the unread posts in my RSS reader, I end up finding new feeds to add, and so on, and I end up further behind than when I started.

Information may be free, but, as Horning explains, it exacts a price in the time required to collect, organize, and consume it. As we binge on the Net, the time available for other intellectual activities - like, say, thinking - shrinks. Eventually, we get bloated, mentally, and a kind of intellectual nausea sets in. But we can't stop because - hey - it's free.

[Jun 23, 2008] Multitasking Considered Detrimental

Posted by kdawson on Monday June 23, @02:20AM
from the but-we-knew-this dept. djvaselaar sends along an article from The New Atlantis that summarizes recent research indicating that multitasking may be detrimental to work and learning.. It begins, "In one of the many letters he wrote to his son in the 1740s, Lord Chesterfield offered the following advice: 'There is time enough for everything in the course of the day, if you do but one thing at once, but there is not time enough in the year, if you will do two things at a time.' To Chesterfield, singular focus was not merely a practical way to structure one's time; it was a mark of intelligence... E-mails pouring in, cell phones ringing, televisions blaring, podcasts streaming--all this may become background noise, like the 'din of a foundry or factory' that [William] James observed workers could scarcely avoid at first, but which eventually became just another part of their daily routine. For the younger generation of multitaskers, the great electronic din is an expected part of everyday life. And given what neuroscience and anecdotal evidence have shown us, this state of constant intentional self-distraction could well be of profound detriment to individual and cultural well-being."

The New Atlantis " The Myth of Multitasking

In one of the many letters he wrote to his son in the 1740s, Lord Chesterfield offered the following advice: "There is time enough for everything in the course of the day, if you do but one thing at once, but there is not time enough in the year, if you will do two things at a time." To Chesterfield, singular focus was not merely a practical way to structure one's time; it was a mark of intelligence. "This steady and undissipated attention to one object, is a sure mark of a superior genius; as hurry, bustle, and agitation, are the never-failing symptoms of a weak and frivolous mind."

In modern times, hurry, bustle, and agitation have become a regular way of life for many people-so much so that we have embraced a word to describe our efforts to respond to the many pressing demands on our time: multitasking. Used for decades to describe the parallel processing abilities of computers, multitasking is now shorthand for the human attempt to do simultaneously as many things as possible, as quickly as possible, preferably marshalling the power of as many technologies as possible.

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, one sensed a kind of exuberance about the possibilities of multitasking. Advertisements for new electronic gadgets-particularly the first generation of handheld digital devices-celebrated the notion of using technology to accomplish several things at once. The word multitasking began appearing in the "skills" sections of résumés, as office workers restyled themselves as high-tech, high-performing team players. "We have always multitasked-inability to walk and chew gum is a time-honored cause for derision-but never so intensely or self-consciously as now," James Gleick wrote in his 1999 book Faster. "We are multitasking connoisseurs-experts in crowding, pressing, packing, and overlapping distinct activities in our all-too-finite moments." An article in the New York Times Magazine in 2001 asked, "Who can remember life before multitasking? These days we all do it." The article offered advice on "How to Multitask" with suggestions about giving your brain's "multitasking hot spot" an appropriate workout.

But more recently, challenges to the ethos of multitasking have begun to emerge. Numerous studies have shown the sometimes-fatal danger of using cell phones and other electronic devices while driving, for example, and several states have now made that particular form of multitasking illegal. In the business world, where concerns about time-management are perennial, warnings about workplace distractions spawned by a multitasking culture are on the rise. In 2005, the BBC reported on a research study, funded by Hewlett-Packard and conducted by the Institute of Psychiatry at the University of London, that found, "Workers distracted by e-mail and phone calls suffer a fall in IQ more than twice that found in marijuana smokers." The psychologist who led the study called this new "infomania" a serious threat to workplace productivity. One of the Harvard Business Review's "Breakthrough Ideas" for 2007 was Linda Stone's notion of "continuous partial attention," which might be understood as a subspecies of multitasking: using mobile computing power and the Internet, we are "constantly scanning for opportunities and staying on top of contacts, events, and activities in an effort to miss nothing."

Dr. Edward Hallowell, a Massachusetts-based psychiatrist who specializes in the treatment of attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder and has written a book with the self-explanatory title CrazyBusy, has been offering therapies to combat extreme multitasking for years; in his book he calls multitasking a "mythical activity in which people believe they can perform two or more tasks simultaneously." In a 2005 article, he described a new condition, "Attention Deficit Trait," which he claims is rampant in the business world. ADT is "purely a response to the hyperkinetic environment in which we live," writes Hallowell, and its hallmark symptoms mimic those of ADD. "Never in history has the human brain been asked to track so many data points," Hallowell argues, and this challenge "can be controlled only by creatively engineering one's environment and one's emotional and physical health." Limiting multitasking is essential. Best-selling business advice author Timothy Ferriss also extols the virtues of "single-tasking" in his book, The 4-Hour Workweek.

Multitasking might also be taking a toll on the economy. One study by researchers at the University of California at Irvine monitored interruptions among office workers; they found that workers took an average of twenty-five minutes to recover from interruptions such as phone calls or answering e-mail and return to their original task. Discussing multitasking with the New York Times in 2007, Jonathan B. Spira, an analyst at the business research firm Basex, estimated that extreme multitasking-information overload-costs the U.S. economy $650 billion a year in lost productivity.

Changing Our Brains

To better understand the multitasking phenomenon, neurologists and psychologists have studied the workings of the brain. In 1999, Jordan Grafman, chief of cognitive neuroscience at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (part of the National Institutes of Health), used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scans to determine that when people engage in "task-switching"-that is, multitasking behavior-the flow of blood increases to a region of the frontal cortex called Brodmann area 10. (The flow of blood to particular regions of the brain is taken as a proxy indication of activity in those regions.) "This is presumably the last part of the brain to evolve, the most mysterious and exciting part," Grafman told the New York Times in 2001-adding, with a touch of hyperbole, "It's what makes us most human."

It is also what makes multitasking a poor long-term strategy for learning. Other studies, such as those performed by psychologist René Marois of Vanderbilt University, have used fMRI to demonstrate the brain's response to handling multiple tasks. Marois found evidence of a "response selection bottleneck" that occurs when the brain is forced to respond to several stimuli at once. As a result, task-switching leads to time lost as the brain determines which task to perform. Psychologist David Meyer at the University of Michigan believes that rather than a bottleneck in the brain, a process of "adaptive executive control" takes place, which "schedules task processes appropriately to obey instructions about their relative priorities and serial order," as he described to the New Scientist. Unlike many other researchers who study multitasking, Meyer is optimistic that, with training, the brain can learn to task-switch more effectively, and there is some evidence that certain simple tasks are amenable to such practice. But his research has also found that multitasking contributes to the release of stress hormones and adrenaline, which can cause long-term health problems if not controlled, and contributes to the loss of short-term memory.

In one recent study, Russell Poldrack, a psychology professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, found that "multitasking adversely affects how you learn. Even if you learn while multitasking, that learning is less flexible and more specialized, so you cannot retrieve the information as easily." His research demonstrates that people use different areas of the brain for learning and storing new information when they are distracted: brain scans of people who are distracted or multitasking show activity in the striatum, a region of the brain involved in learning new skills; brain scans of people who are not distracted show activity in the hippocampus, a region involved in storing and recalling information. Discussing his research on National Public Radio recently, Poldrack warned, "We have to be aware that there is a cost to the way that our society is changing, that humans are not built to work this way. We're really built to focus. And when we sort of force ourselves to multitask, we're driving ourselves to perhaps be less efficient in the long run even though it sometimes feels like we're being more efficient."

If, as Poldrack concluded, "multitasking changes the way people learn," what might this mean for today's children and teens, raised with an excess of new entertainment and educational technology, and avidly multitasking at a young age? Poldrack calls this the "million-dollar question." Media multitasking-that is, the simultaneous use of several different media, such as television, the Internet, video games, text messages, telephones, and e-mail-is clearly on the rise, as a 2006 report from the Kaiser Family Foundation showed: in 1999, only 16 percent of the time people spent using any of those media was spent on multiple media at once; by 2005, 26 percent of media time was spent multitasking. "I multitask every single second I am online," confessed one study participant. "At this very moment I am watching TV, checking my e-mail every two minutes, reading a newsgroup about who shot JFK, burning some music to a CD, and writing this message."

The Kaiser report noted several factors that increase the likelihood of media multitasking, including "having a computer and being able to see a television from it." Also, "sensation-seeking" personality types are more likely to multitask, as are those living in "a highly TV-oriented household." The picture that emerges of these pubescent multitasking mavens is of a generation of great technical facility and intelligence but of extreme impatience, unsatisfied with slowness and uncomfortable with silence: "I get bored if it's not all going at once, because everything has gaps-waiting for a website to come up, commercials on TV, etc." one participant said. The report concludes on a very peculiar note, perhaps intended to be optimistic: "In this media-heavy world, it is likely that brains that are more adept at media multitasking will be passed along and these changes will be naturally selected," the report states. "After all, information is power, and if one can process more information all at once, perhaps one can be more powerful." This is techno-social Darwinism, nature red in pixel and claw.

Other experts aren't so sure. As neurologist Jordan Grafman told Time magazine: "Kids that are instant messaging while doing homework, playing games online and watching TV, I predict, aren't going to do well in the long run." "I think this generation of kids is guinea pigs," educational psychologist Jane Healy told the San Francisco Chronicle; she worries that they might become adults who engage in "very quick but very shallow thinking." Or, as the novelist Walter Kirn suggests in a deft essay in The Atlantic, we might be headed for an "Attention-Deficit Recession."

Paying Attention

When we talk about multitasking, we are really talking about attention: the art of paying attention, the ability to shift our attention, and, more broadly, to exercise judgment about what objects are worthy of our attention. People who have achieved great things often credit for their success a finely honed skill for paying attention. When asked about his particular genius, Isaac Newton responded that if he had made any discoveries, it was "owing more to patient attention than to any other talent."

William James, the great psychologist, wrote at length about the varieties of human attention. In The Principles of Psychology (1890), he outlined the differences among "sensorial attention," "intellectual attention," "passive attention," and the like, and noted the "gray chaotic indiscriminateness" of the minds of people who were incapable of paying attention. James compared our stream of thought to a river, and his observations presaged the cognitive "bottlenecks" described later by neurologists: "On the whole easy simple flowing predominates in it, the drift of things is with the pull of gravity, and effortless attention is the rule," he wrote. "But at intervals an obstruction, a set-back, a log-jam occurs, stops the current, creates an eddy, and makes things temporarily move the other way."

To James, steady attention was thus the default condition of a mature mind, an ordinary state undone only by perturbation. To readers a century later, that placid portrayal may seem alien-as though depicting a bygone world. Instead, today's multitasking adult may find something more familiar in James's description of the youthful mind: an "extreme mobility of the attention" that "makes the child seem to belong less to himself than to every object which happens to catch his notice." For some people, James noted, this challenge is never overcome; such people only get their work done "in the interstices of their mind-wandering." Like Chesterfield, James believed that the transition from youthful distraction to mature attention was in large part the result of personal mastery and discipline-and so was illustrative of character. "The faculty of voluntarily bringing back a wandering attention, over and over again," he wrote, "is the very root of judgment, character, and will."

Today, our collective will to pay attention seems fairly weak. We require advice books to teach us how to avoid distraction. In the not-too-distant future we may even employ new devices to help us overcome the unintended attention deficits created by today's gadgets. As one New York Times article recently suggested, "Further research could help create clever technology, like sensors or smart software that workers could instruct with their preferences and priorities to serve as a high tech 'time nanny' to ease the modern multitasker's plight." Perhaps we will all accept as a matter of course a computer governor-like the devices placed on engines so that people can't drive cars beyond a certain speed. Our technological governors might prompt us with reminders to set mental limits when we try to do too much, too quickly, all at once.

Then again, perhaps we will simply adjust and come to accept what James called "acquired inattention." E-mails pouring in, cell phones ringing, televisions blaring, podcasts streaming-all this may become background noise, like the "din of a foundry or factory" that James observed workers could scarcely avoid at first, but which eventually became just another part of their daily routine. For the younger generation of multitaskers, the great electronic din is an expected part of everyday life. And given what neuroscience and anecdotal evidence have shown us, this state of constant intentional self-distraction could well be of profound detriment to individual and cultural well-being. When people do their work only in the "interstices of their mind-wandering," with crumbs of attention rationed out among many competing tasks, their culture may gain in information, but it will surely weaken in wisdom.

[Feb 24, 2008] The Mythology of Information Overload by Tonyia J. Tidline

1/1/99 | Library Trends,

This project combines ideas from mythology, folklore, and library and information science in an effort to make sense of an aspect of modern culture that is frequently perceived as troublesome. Discussions of information overload, "data glut," or "information anxiety" are abundant in popular culture but do little to shed light on the origin of this problem. Library and information science work sidesteps the need to verify the existence of information overload, seeking instead to mitigate its effects. The discipline has produced a vast literature that addresses user perceptions, information needs, and information-seeking behavior. Information management, information retrieval, and attendant notions such as relevance have also received much attention. Within both popular culture and library and information science research, information overload is usually described or defined by means of anecdote or by associated symptoms.

However constituted, popular and scholarly attention confirms information overload as a recognized and resonant cultural concept that persists even without solid corroboration. Mythology and folkloristics are used here as analytic tools to suggest that information overload can be viewed as a myth of modern culture. Here myth does not mean something that is not true but an overarching prescriptive belief.

[ Mar 09, 2007] A very good memo on mental overload from Washington College

Trying to sip information from the fire hose is a difficult and challenging task :-). This memo might help.

In today's world, mental overload is a fact of life. Fortunately, by applying some simple techniques from the computer world, you can avoid some of the costly consequences of a too full brain!

SIGNS OF AN OVERLOAD

A too-full computer can:
· give you error messages
· run slower
· take longer to process information
· crash

A too-full brain can cause you to:
· make mistakes
· forget to do something
· let things slip through the cracks
· become sluggish
· loose creativity
· become unproductive
· procrastinate
· become indecisive
· get stressed out
· experience a total mental break down

[ Mar 09, 2007] Mental overload by Katherine Lewis

Does excessive multi-tasking like happens to college students make us stupid? The answer is tentative yes:
Multi-tasking may be too much for the brain to handle Friday, March 09, 2007

BY KATHERINE REYNOLDS LEWIS

NEWHOUSE NEWS SERVICE

We feel so efficient, listening to a teleconference while sorting e-mail and eating lunch at the same time. But experts warn that instead of completing three tasks in the space of one, we're really spending more time to achieve mediocre results.

"Research that's looked at multi-tasking shows that you can't do it well -- no one can," said Kristin Byron, assistant professor of management at Syracuse University. "You're fighting the way your brain works."

The brain acts on just one task at a time. What we perceive as simultaneous multi-tasking is really rapid switching back and forth to keep different tasks going -- even if one is as simple as deciding to lift the sandwich for another bite.

It's like the classic vaudeville act of spinning plates. Your brain can set a task in motion, then another, and then another, before returning to pick up the first task, explained David Strayer, a psychology professor at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City.

"If the demands of any given task aren't too taxing, you can get two, three, four plates going up, but at some point you're going to reach a threshold when they're going to crash."

You may avoid driving while talking on a cell phone because of the physical challenge of holding both phone and steering wheel. But Strayer's research shows hands-free cell phone use is just as dangerous while driving. The risk comes in toggling between the two mental demands.

Moreover, subjects in a recent study scored significantly lower on IQ tests they took while driving. "When your attention is taken away from a task, you are not going to perform it as smartly," Strayer said.

So does multi-tasking make us stupid?

It's not an outlandish conclusion. A 2005 study sponsored by Hewlett-Packard found the average worker lost 10 IQ points when interrupted by ringing telephones and incoming e-mails -- about equal to the cost of missing an entire night of sleep.

"Interruptions are time-consuming, and they are dangerous in the sense that they can lead to errors," said David E. Meyer, a psychology professor at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. "You are trying to feed information through various kinds of processing channels in the brain which have limited capacity and are really only available for one thing at a time."

Whenever we drop one task to perform another, we face "resumption costs" -- the time and energy it takes to orient ourselves when we return to the original task. It's true that interweaving two lengthy tasks can take less total time than performing the tasks separately. But there's a price.

"A lot of tasks we have to do, there are little moments of gaps which you can steal for another task," said Hal Pashler, psychology professor at the University of California in San Diego. "The interesting hidden cost ... is that (we) may be strikingly unable to recollect what happened."

That's because the free moments in each task -- such as waiting for a partner to respond in a conversation -- appear to be used to store or consolidate memories. If we talk on the phone while checking e-mail, it's at the expense of downtime our brains need.

"The conversation plus the e-mail may take less of your life, but the cost is that tomorrow you may not know exactly what you said," Pashler said.

Thus, if you try to take in new material or facts while multi-tasking, you'll have a tougher time learning, said Russell A. Poldrack, psychology professor at the University of California in Los Angeles.

Does all this mean we should never check our Blackberries while waiting in line at the grocery store? Or even sip a cup of coffee while listening to a conference speaker? After all, multi-tasking is woven into the fabric of modern life. More than 85 percent of people multi-task, and 67 percent believe they do it well, according to a survey by Apex Performance, a Charlotte, N.C., training firm.

Fortunately, the experts give us some slack. "You can't say in every situation it would be better to always focus on one task," Poldrack said.

If you're a stock trader who has to respond quickly to a lot of information, it makes sense to monitor multiple televisions and computer screens at once, he said. It may not matter that the next day you're hazy about which news anchor said what.

Certain physical actions, like walking or eating, are so hard-wired that they don't tax our brains much. There's certainly no harm in combining simple, low-stakes tasks, like folding laundry and watching television. And if background music energizes you to finish your work, that may outweigh the cost of your mind shifting between listening and crafting a report, Poldrack said.

Similarly, talking to an adult passenger doesn't hurt your driving the way talking on a cell phone does, Strayer has found. That's because the person in your car is attuned to the driving environment, and will pause the conversation when a tricky maneuver approaches.

To the degree that tasks rely on similar processes, they are more likely to interfere with each other. For instance, talking on the phone and writing an e-mail is hard, because both involve language, Poldrack said.

The answer is to choose carefully when you take on more than one job at once. For high-priority or complex tasks, you might want to shut down your e-mail, turn off the phone and close your office door. Apex Performance founder Louis Czoka even recommends that clients shut their eyes to focus on a teleconference.

[Feb 18, 2007] Crazy hours becoming the new standard

Forbes.com - MSNBC.com

Just how bad have things gotten? That's the subject of Extreme Jobs: The Dangerous Allure of the 70-Hour Workweek, a recent study from the Center for Work-Life Policy. The study found that 1.7 million people consider their jobs and their work hours extreme, thanks to globalization, BlackBerries, corporate expectations and their own Type A personalities.

... .... ....

What Hewlett and Buck Luce found in their survey was that workers were themselves to blame. Many of the people interviewed for the study say they love their jobs and are reluctant to lessen their work load. In Agoglia's case, working for the small business consulting group was exactly what she wished for. Now she only comes into the office on a need basis. "It offers an opportunity for someone like me who needs more breathing room," she says, "but it also fulfills my desire to be challenged in my job."

That kind of fulfillment has its hazards. Sixty-four percent of those surveyed said their work pressures are self-inflicted but say it is taking a real toll on them individually. Nationally, 70 percent, and globally, 81 percent, say their jobs undermine their health in terms of exercise, diet and the impact of stress. Nationally, 46 percent, and globally, 59 percent, say it gets in the way of their relationships and nationally, 50 percent, say it affects their sex life.

Not surprisingly, men and women have a different take on the extreme nature of their jobs. In the global survey, 58 percent of men and 80 percent of women say they didn't want to work these hours for more than one more year. Says Buck Luce: "For women there's a flight risk. But men get burned out and are able to stick with it. There's a tremendous stigma for men who say, 'I can't do this.' That means there aren't going to be women at the top ranks of companies."

[Jan 18, 2007] Kelly Forrister Is there such a thing as obsessive-compulsive productivity

I wasn't surprised to read that 40% of Americans work 50 hours or more per week and rarely disconnect from their work, even on vacation. I hear about it all the time in my seminars where people feel like an 8 hour day is slacking off and working at night after the kids go to bed and in the morning before the office really opens is the only way they can stay on top of things.

Is it that people have too much to do or is it that they just don't have trusted systems (ala GTD) to feel like they can disconnect?

I've heard David Allen mention that we've always had too much to do. I don't think BlackBerry's necessarily create more work, it's just now people have higher expectations about how fast the work needs to get done.

Someone in one of my seminars recently told me she takes her laptop on vacation just to stay on top of her email (people actually hissed when she said this, perhaps from the fear that this will become expected.) The "vacation tax" of coming back to hundreds, if not thousands, of emails is just not worth it to her.

[Jan 17, 2007] BlackBerrys Don't Fit in Bikinis or obsessive-compulsive productivity by Joe Robinson

August 13, 2006 | Los Angeles Times

It's vacation prime time. Millions of wage-earners are on the road, in the air or on the water in search of overdue recreation, relaxation and adventure. But for too many, it will be a futile quest, thanks to a big, fat killjoy stowed away on the trip: OCP, or obsessive-compulsive productivity, a frantic fixation to wring results from every minute of the day, even our play.

Americans have always had an insistent work ethic. But thanks to technology that allows us to get things done 24/7, growing job demands and the elevation of efficiency to an unofficial national religion, many vacationers simply can't turn off their productive machinery. Every minute of the day, even of play, must be productive.

It's a habit that's increasingly counterproductive, evident in soaring job-stress bills (a $300-billion-a-year tab for U.S. business, according to the American Institute of Stress, a nonprofit organization) and longer workweeks. Nearly 40% of Americans work more than 50 hours a week. The all-output, all-the-time mandate of OCP wires us to do holidays like jobs. We cram downtime with to-do lists and a performance-review mentality that dooms trips to disappointment because we couldn't see or do everything we wanted. The trip's experience is an afterthought in a crazed race to polish off sights to the finish line of the holiday.

But trying to make a vacation productive is like trying to get a cat to bark. It's the wrong animal for the outcome, because vacations aren't about output. Instead, they're about the realm of an increasingly rare species - input - that can't be measured by a performance yardstick. The most packed itinerary can't quantify play, fun, wonder, discovery, adventure. How do you tally the spray of an exploding waterfall? The pattern of ripples on a sand dune? How do you produce quiet?

The productivity of U.S. workers has doubled since 1969, according to Boston College economist Juliet Schor. But none of the dividends have come back in additional free time. The added time that greater productivity creates is simply fodder for more productivity increases - and OCP jitters that we must get more done. How much production is enough?

Even on the job, too much time on task can lead to burnout, heart disease, carpal tunnel syndrome, mistakes, costly do-overs and rote performance. A study last year by the University of Massachusetts Medical School found that chronic 12-hour workdays increase your risk of illness or injury by 37%.

Work without time to think, analyze or recharge feeds knee-jerk performance and the hurry-worry of stress. Everything appears urgent when there isn't time to judge what is truly urgent and what isn't.

More than anybody else's, Americans' identity comes through labor. But the reflex to define self-worth by what we get done makes it hard to relax without a heap of guilt because there's always something next on the horizon to handle. Our focus on future results shrinks our experience of living and, ironically, the very thing we need for optimum performance - input.

The consulting firm McKinsey & Co. asked managers where they got their best ideas. It wasn't at the office. Rather, inspiration came when people were at play - on the golf course, running. Research on fatigue in the workplace since the 1920s shows that performance rises after a break in the action, whether a break of a few seconds or 15 minutes.

Studies have also found that job performance improves after a vacation. Income doubled at the H Group, an investment services company in Salem, Ore., after owner Ron Kelemen increased employee time off to 3 1/2 weeks. When Jancoa, a Cincinnati cleaning company, switched to a three-week vacation policy, worker productivity soared enough to cut overtime. Profits jumped 15%.

The true source of productivity isn't nonstop output. It's a refreshed and energized mind, something vacations specialize in.

But for that to happen, we must leave the OCP drill sergeant at home. Vacations require a different skill set - leisure skills. Without them, we lapse into default mode - produce, produce, produce. My retired father was stunned when he visited his former company and found a couple of his fellow retirees back at their desks. They didn't know what else to do.

As kids, we knew how to entertain ourselves. But many of us lost the knack when we learned that play for its own sake didn't produce rewards - status, pats on the back, money, goodies. Once we're in OCP territory, we've forgotten how to do things simply because we enjoy doing them.

Researchers say we had it right as kids. "Quality of life does not depend on what others think of us or what we own," contends psychology professor Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi in "Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience." "The bottom line is, rather, how we feel about ourselves, and about what happens to us. To improve life one must improve the quality of experience."

Famed for his studies on when people are at their happiest, Csikszentmihalyi adds that "when experience is intrinsically rewarding, life is justified in the present."

Things we do for our amusement are particularly good at improving that experience, delivering what's supposed to come out of all that production - self-worth, a sense of competence and, best of all, life satisfaction. Upping levels of performance can't generate happiness, psychologists contend, because production is tied to external approval, which is gone by the next morning's to-do list. But research shows that the more active your leisure lifestyle is, the higher your life satisfaction. Leisure also increases initiative, confidence and a positive mood.

So, if you haven't taken your vacation yet, maybe it's time to dust off the leisure portfolio and resuscitate the childhood practice of play. The packing list should include participation, engagement, spontaneity, a nonjudgmental attitude, the ability to ferret out amusements, take detours, wander without aim, plunge into things you haven't done before, and get out of your head and into direct experience. Along the way you may discover something long forgotten. Recess rules.

Continued

Anxiety and Obsession with Work

What Constitutes an Addiction

Computer addicts tend to lose all sense of time when they are on-line. They are drawn so deeply into the world of bytes and bits that they do not notice entire days passing by.

They forget to eat, sleep, go to school, and even care for their children. They shirk responsibilities, slack off at work, and miss appointments because they are unable to pull themselves away.

The virtual world and the real world are competing for their attention, and the virtual world often wins.

Anxiety Disorders Education Program

The Anxiety Disorders Education Program is a national education campaign developed by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) to increase awareness among the public and health care professionals that anxiety disorders are real medical illnesses that can be effectively diagnosed and treated. More than 19 million Americans suffer from anxiety disorders, which include panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, phobias and generalized anxiety disorder. They suffer from symptoms that are chronic, unremitting and usually grow progressively worse if left untreated. Tormented by panic attacks, irrational thoughts and fears, compulsive behaviors or rituals, flashbacks, nightmares, or countless frightening physical symptoms, people with anxiety disorders are heavy utilizers of emergency rooms and other medical services. Their work, family and social lives are disrupted, and some even become housebound. Many of them have co-occuring disorders such as depression, alcohol or drug abuse, or other mental disorders. Because of widespread lack of understanding and the stigma associated with these disorders, many people with anxiety disorders are not diagnosed and are not receiving treatments that have been proven effective through research.

DG DISPATCH - ECNP Generalized Anxiety Disorder Has Worst Impact On Quality Of Life

Brain Lock Free Yourself from Obsessive-Compulsive Behavior A Four-Step Self-Treatment Method to Change Your Brain Chemistry

A reader from America , July 2, 1999 5 out of 5 stars Excellent! A DYI approach to OCD and related disorders. A friend gave me this book and it is excellent. If you have OCD or even a related disorder it gives you a practical approach to learning to deal with and outsmart your disorder.

Take me, frinstance, while I do not have any checking compulsions, I have suffered from anxiety disorder and occasionally intrusive, disturbing thoughts for a number of years. (Other than that I am your regular guy, you wouldn't know I had a disorder if you saw me). This book gives you a 4-step method of "reframing" OCD in a way that makes it manageable. Ultimately, the authors say, by using their method you can "retrain your brain" and actually alter your brain chemistry in a positive direction and thus reduce the original symptoms to something liveable.

Buy it (or have a friend give it to you...) :-)

Stop Obsessing! How to Overcome Your Obsessions and Compulsions

The Boy Who Couldn't Stop Washing The Experience and Treatment of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

A reader from Santa Fe, NM , July 16, 1998 5 out of 5 stars A good description of the problem and some solutions This book contains well-written descriptions of obsessive-compulsive disorder -- it's informative, clear, and a pleasure to read. And for those of us who either suffer from these disorders or are close to someone who does, it's an eye-opener: you are NOT the only person who's ever had to deal with this problem, and there IS hope for curing it! For all these reasons, I highly recommend the book. Two cautions, however: (1) The book gave a good description of the ways of treating OCD as of the date it was written. Since then, however, there have been many new developments, so, if you're specifically interested in treatments, you'll need to look up some more recent books and articles. (2) "Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder" (OCPD) is a related but different condition, and it's possible that someone who exhibits similar symptoms but doesn't have full-blown OCD suffers from this instead. (My mother has never gone in for compulsive hand-washing, but she's rigid, intolerant, controlling, and a pack rat on a truly monumental scale. That's OCPD.) The treatments for the two conditions differ -- drugs are more helpful for OCD than OCPD, for example. As with any mental condition, it's absolutely necessary to have a thorough professional diagnosis; don't just march into your doctor's office demanding Prozac, or stock up on St. John's Wort at your local herbalist's.

Social Anxiety Disorder

Humor

[Jan 15, 1999 ] Man Crashes Car As 50 Pagers Ring At Once -- pretty funny

KIEV (Reuters) - A Ukraine businessman who bought a pager for each member of his staff as a New Year gift was so alarmed when all 50 of them went off at the same time that he drove his car into a lamp post, a newspaper said Thursday.

The unnamed businessman was returning from the pager shop when the accident happened, the Fakty daily reported. ''With no more than 100 meters to go to the office, the 50 pagers on the back seat suddenly burst out screeching. The businessman's fright was such that he simply let go of the steering wheel and the car ploughed into a lamp post.''

After he had assessed the damage to the car, the businessman turned his attention to the message on the 50 pagers. It read: ''Congratulations on a successful purchase!''

Random Findings

Reducing information overload A comparative study of hypertext systems

How to deal with Information Overload on the Internet The intelligent agent concept

The Clever Project -- IBM project

The tremendous growth in the price-performance of networking and storage has fueled the explosive growth of the web. The amount of information easily accessible from the desktop has dramatically increased by several orders of magnitude in the last few years, and shows no signs of abating. Users of the web are being confronted with the consequent information overload problem. It can be exceedingly difficult to locate resources that are both high-quality and relevant to their information needs. Traditional automated methods for locating information are easily overwhelmed by low-quality and unrelated content. Thus, the second generation of search engines will have to have effective methods for focusing on the most authoritative among these documents. The rich structure implicit in the hyperlinks among Web documents offers a simple, and effective, means to deal with many of these problems. The CLEVER search engine incorporates several algorithms that make use of hyperlink structure for discovering high-quality information on the Web.



Etc

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Bulletin:

Vol 25, No.12 (December, 2013) Rational Fools vs. Efficient Crooks The efficient markets hypothesis : Political Skeptic Bulletin, 2013 : Unemployment Bulletin, 2010 :  Vol 23, No.10 (October, 2011) An observation about corporate security departments : Slightly Skeptical Euromaydan Chronicles, June 2014 : Greenspan legacy bulletin, 2008 : Vol 25, No.10 (October, 2013) Cryptolocker Trojan (Win32/Crilock.A) : Vol 25, No.08 (August, 2013) Cloud providers as intelligence collection hubs : Financial Humor Bulletin, 2010 : Inequality Bulletin, 2009 : Financial Humor Bulletin, 2008 : Copyleft Problems Bulletin, 2004 : Financial Humor Bulletin, 2011 : Energy Bulletin, 2010 : Malware Protection Bulletin, 2010 : Vol 26, No.1 (January, 2013) Object-Oriented Cult : Political Skeptic Bulletin, 2011 : Vol 23, No.11 (November, 2011) Softpanorama classification of sysadmin horror stories : Vol 25, No.05 (May, 2013) Corporate bullshit as a communication method  : Vol 25, No.06 (June, 2013) A Note on the Relationship of Brooks Law and Conway Law

History:

Fifty glorious years (1950-2000): the triumph of the US computer engineering : Donald Knuth : TAoCP and its Influence of Computer Science : Richard Stallman : Linus Torvalds  : Larry Wall  : John K. Ousterhout : CTSS : Multix OS Unix History : Unix shell history : VI editor : History of pipes concept : Solaris : MS DOSProgramming Languages History : PL/1 : Simula 67 : C : History of GCC developmentScripting Languages : Perl history   : OS History : Mail : DNS : SSH : CPU Instruction Sets : SPARC systems 1987-2006 : Norton Commander : Norton Utilities : Norton Ghost : Frontpage history : Malware Defense History : GNU Screen : OSS early history

Classic books:

The Peter Principle : Parkinson Law : 1984 : The Mythical Man-MonthHow to Solve It by George Polya : The Art of Computer Programming : The Elements of Programming Style : The Unix Hater’s Handbook : The Jargon file : The True Believer : Programming Pearls : The Good Soldier Svejk : The Power Elite

Most popular humor pages:

Manifest of the Softpanorama IT Slacker Society : Ten Commandments of the IT Slackers Society : Computer Humor Collection : BSD Logo Story : The Cuckoo's Egg : IT Slang : C++ Humor : ARE YOU A BBS ADDICT? : The Perl Purity Test : Object oriented programmers of all nations : Financial Humor : Financial Humor Bulletin, 2008 : Financial Humor Bulletin, 2010 : The Most Comprehensive Collection of Editor-related Humor : Programming Language Humor : Goldman Sachs related humor : Greenspan humor : C Humor : Scripting Humor : Real Programmers Humor : Web Humor : GPL-related Humor : OFM Humor : Politically Incorrect Humor : IDS Humor : "Linux Sucks" Humor : Russian Musical Humor : Best Russian Programmer Humor : Microsoft plans to buy Catholic Church : Richard Stallman Related Humor : Admin Humor : Perl-related Humor : Linus Torvalds Related humor : PseudoScience Related Humor : Networking Humor : Shell Humor : Financial Humor Bulletin, 2011 : Financial Humor Bulletin, 2012 : Financial Humor Bulletin, 2013 : Java Humor : Software Engineering Humor : Sun Solaris Related Humor : Education Humor : IBM Humor : Assembler-related Humor : VIM Humor : Computer Viruses Humor : Bright tomorrow is rescheduled to a day after tomorrow : Classic Computer Humor

The Last but not Least


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