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February 23, 2018

February made me shiver… A few of the readings from this week are focused on reading itself, or about getting our attention back. That’s a topic I’m really interested in, and if I could I’d ask everyone in my life about how they approach the problem of over-stimulation and shallow, widespread attention. Meditation and mindful practices have benefited me a lot this year so far, but I still feel like I pass a lot of the day like a leaf on water, carried along from stimulus to stimulus. This blog has been a fruitful reading exercise for me. Enjoy!

  1. Conscious consumerism is a lie. Here’s a better way to help save the world. This was really challenging and worth reading. It encouraged me to take my feelings and turn them into action for good. “On its face, conscious consumerism is a morally righteous, bold movement. But it’s actually taking away our power as citizens. It drains our bank accounts and our political will, diverts our attention away from the true powerbrokers, and focuses our energy instead on petty corporate scandals and fights over the moral superiority of vegans.”
  2. I Have Forgotten How to Read. This one stuck with me all week! “Even Eric Schmidt, the erstwhile chief executive of Google, was anxious about the mental landscape he was helping to cultivate. He once told Charlie Rose: “I worry that the level of interrupt, the sort of overwhelming rapidity of information … is in fact affecting cognition. It is affecting deeper thinking. I still believe that sitting down and reading a book is the best way to really learn something. And I worry that we’re losing that.”

    And this tidbit is fascinating: “Great researchers such as Maryanne Wolf and Alison Gopnik remind us that the human brain was never designed to read. Rather, elements of the visual cortex – which evolved for other purposes – were hijacked in order to pull off the trick. The deep reading that a novel demands doesn’t come easy and it was never "natural.” Our default state is, if anything, one of distractedness. The gaze shifts, the attention flits; we scour the environment for clues.” I’d love to think more about this, because I’ve heard all the time that humans were wired for story – but maybe not necessarily reading? We know that story-telling has been an oral and community endeavor for longer than it hasn’t…interesting.

  3. Why We Forget Most of the Books We Read, the Atlantic. “The lesson from his binge-watching study is that if you want to remember the things you watch and read, space them out. I used to get irritated in school when an English-class syllabus would have us read only three chapters a week, but there was a good reason for that. Memories get reinforced the more you recall them, Horvath says. If you read a book all in one stretch—on an airplane, say—you’re just holding the story in your working memory that whole time. “You’re never actually reaccessing it,” he says.” It’s also telling that the folks that “binge-watch” something are less likely to have enjoyed it, compared to someone who’s spaced it out over the week.
  4. How to Break Up With Your Phone, NYT. I disagree on the usefulness of the tip to “use technology to protect yourself from technology,” because you’re basically inviting monitoring and tracking software into your phone…which…see #5. But this article otherwise has some really helpful tips on the subject I’m apparently obsessed with! 
  5. The House That Spied on Me. Engrossing and creepy, this person buys a bunch of smart-home devices, runs them all at once, and allows her colleague to see what kind of information can be hacked from the devices. “All of the anxiety you currently feel about being tracked online is going to move into your living room. Talking to the human who actually got to see and analyze my smart home’s activity made me realize just how deeply uncomfortable it is to have that data pooled somewhere.”

Bonus features:

  • Americans Are Terrible At Using Vacation Time, HBR (video).
  • Well-Being Index, 2017. “The stark difference in our country’s well-being today versus just a year ago underscores the need to understand, assess and nurture the health of our populations comprehensively and continuously. Regardless of your role in the community – be it an employer, civic leader,  private citizen or any combination thereof –investing in the well-being of others is critical, now more than ever.”
  • 25 Best Icebreaker Questions for Team-Building at Work. We have a new person joining our team next week, and I might float the idea of trying one or two of these!

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