October 15th, 2010 |
I’m watching the third season of The West Wing and just saw the episode “Isaac and Ishmael.” I think every American should watch it.
Why? Because it’s a response to the 9/11 attacks, aired less than a month after it happened, and is just as relevant today. It’s about the real threats of terrorism mixed with the real threat of being falsely accused and suspected because of your race or religion.
Americans love to hate certain groups of people. We can’t seem to escape it in any part of our (admittedly short) history. We’ve done it to Jews, Catholics, Muslims… and Africans, Chinese, and Japanese. And many more, of course. (Though to be fair it’s not only Americans — it’s a human trait… a tribal trait we share with animals.)
Currently we fear and hate Muslims and Gays. This is inexcusable.
When rednecks call Obama a “Muslim,” they’re doing it because they don’t think a Muslim should be allowed to be president. It’s less offensive than suggesting we can’t have a black president (that was only wrong a few decades ago). The irony is, of course, that he’s a Christian.
But imagine if someone said a person couldn’t be president because he’s a Christian. Oh, right, it’s Christians who are the persecutors here, so they wouldn’t say that. But what about Jews? Can we have a Jewish president? Or a Buddhist president? Or what about a gay one?
We’re supposed to be a pluralist and tolerant society. We believe in freedom for all. But until Obama, we never had a black president. We’ve never had a woman president. And we’ve never had a Muslim or Buddhist or Hindu or Atheist president.
It’s time we stopped fearing and hating people because they are a different color or religion or sexual orientation than us.
The cycle needs to end, and it’s up to each of us to stop it.
July 2nd, 2010 |
Email, Technology, Thoughts
I’ve been addicted to email for a long time. Only in the last few years have I made a conscious effort to break the addiction and do scheduled email processing — and I only did it out of necessity. Constant email checking is a huge waste of time. It is far more efficient to process in batches, but it doesn’t give the same constant rush.
Tony Schwartz talks about this in his article “Breaking the Email Addiction“:
Out of 1200 respondents, some 60 percent said they spend less than two waking hours a day completely disconnected from email. Twenty percent spend less than a half hour disconnected. Email has become our intravenous feeding tube. [...]
It isn’t overload we’re battling anymore, it’s addiction — to action, and information, and connection, but above all to instant gratification.
In the late 1960s, the psychologist Walter Mischel began conducting his famous “marshmallow” experiment. He placed a marshmallow in front of a succession of four-year-olds. Mischel told them they were free to eat the marshmallow simply by ringing a bell after he’d left the room. However, if they were able to wait untill he returned, he told them they could have two marshmallows.
Seventy percent of the children gave up in less than a minute. Only thirty percent were able to wait 15 minutes.
Mischel termed marshmallows a “hot stimulus” — meaning highly seductive — not unlike the ping of an email, or a text.
We’re pulled to anything that provides instant gratification, even when we know we’d get a bigger reward for delaying. We’re also quick to respond to any excuse to stop working on something that is difficult and requires high concentration.
What Mischel discovered is that the low delayers quickly burned down their limited reservoir of will and discipline by staring directly (and longingly) at the marshmallow.
The high delayers found something else entirely to focus on. They never looked at the marshmallow.
Mischel came to call this skill “strategic allocation of attention.” It’s a capacity many of us have lost when it comes to the Pavlovian pull of email.
I don’t want to be in constant respond mode. I want to focus and concentrate on what’s actually important, not be in bondage to the tyranny of the now.
April 4th, 2009 |
Remarkable coincidences are rare. But they do happen.
I ran into this one the other day. Puzzle expert Cory Calhoun noticed that this text from Shakespeare:
To be or not to be: that is the question, whether tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune
can be rearranged (anagramed) into:
In one of the Bard’s best-thought-of tragedies, our insistent hero, Hamlet, queries on two fronts about how life turns rotten.
Sometimes remarkable coincidences are, in fact, just remarkable coincidences.
March 25th, 2009 |
Life, Productivity, Thoughts
I have onset insomnia. I lie awake at night for a couple hours thinking about all the things I’m going to do or what I did that day. I think about new ideas. I think about new businesses I could start, projects I should do, essays I should write. It’s ridiculous, but I’ve done it ever since I can remember.
I was browsing Tim Ferris’s blog and found out he has the same thing. Here is what he does about it:
I have — as do most males in my family — what is called “onset insomnia.” I don’t have trouble staying asleep, but I have a difficult time falling asleep, sometime laying awake in bed for 1-2 hours.
There are two approaches that I’ve used with good effect without medications to address this: 1) Determine and set a top priorities to-do list that afternoon for the following day to avoid late-night planning, 2) Do not read non-fiction prior to bed, which encourages projection into the future and preoccupation/planning. Read fiction that engages the imagination and demands present-state attention.
I’m often guilty of reading non-fiction before bed. The worst is if I read something about business or entrepreneurship or new ideas. I’ll end up thinking about it for hours while I stare at the ceiling.
Writing a to-do list the day before is a great idea. I’ve been trying to do that simply because it helps to have a focus as soon as I start my day. But this gives me another reason to do it.
October 15th, 2008 |
“Retail sales plunge 1.2 percent in September”
I didn’t realize a drop of 1.2 percent was now considered a “plunge.” Gosh, what if it drops 3%? Would that be the end of the world?
Maybe next month’s headline will be: “Retail sales skyrocket 1.3 percent in October.”
May 19th, 2008 |
Animals, Health, Politics, Thoughts
I enjoyed reading “The Revolution Will Not Be Pasteurized.” The article is of particular interest to me because my family drinks unpasteurized milk. We have a milk cow that my mom and wife milk twice a day. We run the milk through a filter, cool it quickly, but do not pasteurize it.
There’s a debate about whether it should be legal or not to sell unpasteurized milk. Currently it’s illegal in half of the US states. Many people I know think it’s outrageous for the government to enforce that law. If people want to drink it, why should the government stop them?
Here’s the problem: dairys are dirty. I mean really dirty. The larger the dairy, the dirtier it is. Cows go to the bathroom at the most inconvenient times. They kick over the pail. They step in the pail. The pail or machine or milk jar may not have been sterilized properly. The teats may not have been washed thoroughly. The cow may have ate something diseased or become sick and passes tainted milk.
If the government allowed the sale of unpasteurized milk, more people would get sick. That’s the entire reason we started pasteurizing it. According to Nathanael Johnson, “Between 1919, when only a third of the milk in Massachusetts was pasteurized, and 1939, when almost all of it was, the number of outbreaks of milk-borne disease fell by nearly 90 percent.” The FDA claims that raw milk can be dangerous to health and is not healthier as claimed by raw milk advocates.
Yes, there might be healthy bacteria that are killed with pasteurization. (I’m sure we kill healthy bacteria when we cook meat, too.) Yes, there are some small farmers who are meticulously clean and could keep most of the harmful pathogens out of the milk. But what happens when one of their employees fail? And how could it be guaranteed as safe as pasteurized milk? How many people can get sick before they shut a dairy down?
I can see both perspectives. It makes sense to make selling unpasteurized milk illegal. It also makes sense to allow people to drink what they want, even if it ends up hurting them. Which is why they let they let us drink the raw milk from our own cow, but don’t allow us to sell it.
So, should the government make it legal to sell unpasteurized milk even though there is evidence of increased health risks? Or is the current system necessary to protect public health, even though people want to do it? Or is the government plain wrong, raw milk isn’t dangerous at all, and is actually more healthy than pasteurized milk? (If making that last claim, please cite a reputable scientific study, as I am interested.)
May 5th, 2008 |
Figuring out what really matters to us in life can seem difficult. But here’s an easy way: attend your own funeral.
Walk down the aisle, sit in the pew, and imagine what you want your spouse and family and friends to say and think about you. Write those things down.
Now what are you doing today to accomplish them?
April 30th, 2008 |
Education, Life, Thoughts
Abraham Piper says that “deciding against college is like deciding to not graduate from high school.” Here was my comment:
College can be a waste of time and money. Steve Jobs only had a semester of college. Bill Gates dropped out after two years. And they didn’t do too bad.
If you’re going to be a doctor, engineer, academic or something similar, college is necessary. If you’re going to be an entrepreneur, it’s often not.
Self-education is very easy these days. You can even listen to professors through The Teaching Company that you’d have to go to ivy league schools to hear. Books abound. Knowledge on any topic is a couple clicks away.
I disagree that “deciding against college is like deciding to not graduate from high school.” I think a high school education (or equivalent) is necessary for most decent jobs unless you’re starting your own business or have connections. But college is often overlooked if the person has the experience and skills required. I know lots of stupid people who have attended college, and many smart people who have not. When looking at a resume, I mainly look at what they’ve accomplished, not what school they’ve attended.
Of course I’m a bit biased here, having dropped out of college myself and having no desire to go back.
What do you think?