Tuesday, October 28, 2008

I'm going on break.

I'm sure there are libraries of research on the effect of breaks/downtime/recess/chillaxing. If so, these results should be far better understood by the general public. If not, there should be way more research going on.

I believe, most Americans could benefit from more breaks. Most first world countries have mandatory vacation that is far better than the US's. Several of them are pushing towards a 35 or even 30 hour work week. But I'm not just talking about a break from work. We Americans (whatever that means... see previous post) need to practice shutting our minds off. Not distracting ourselves with TV or taking our mind off work by cleaning house, but simply unplugging for a few minutes/days.

Without these necessary breaks, our productivity slows as our stress rises. Our minds get caught in one idea; we get no fresh perspective on our problem. We just burrow through the problem like a mole; creativity dies. With breaks you don't have to think out of the box... with breaks, there is no box.

In the average US factory, and in our own lives, there is too much emphasis put on "productivity." We must realize that if we are to be truly productive there is an optimal amount of rest and breaks (resting certainly has diminishing returns).

It's not just the completion of tasks that suffers from lack of breaks, but also the ability the shift paradigms that is lost. A great example is the aftermath of 9/11. Those Americans that still believe the "War on Terror" can be won... need a break. The effects of not taking a break were very apparent about two years ago, when public approval of Congress was at an all time low. While the hoi polloi were beginning to gain composure from the terrorist attacks of 9/11/02... congress had been working tirelessly on what happened, how did it happen, how to prevent it from happening again, what else could happen, how can that be stopped... ad inifitum. They were digging through the dirt of the problem so hard, and so long, they needed to take a break (and still do)... and realize that terrorism can't be beaten by force. I appreciate their diligent work, but the point is, they need to take a bath.

I blogged on a similar topic here with a more personal bent. The cool kids may remember it.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Being an American

A girl mentioned to me tonight that television advertising sometimes made her feel embarrassed to be American. I spent part of my drive home tonight thinking about the idea of being embarrassed or prideful of being an American. Regardless of what it means to be "an American," it seems as though it's something we're born into. This leads me to one of two conclusions.

1. Being "American" is something assigned at birth, much like a name. It can be used to predict the average outcome of a group, but has little implication on the individual (the difference between confidence intervals and prediction intervals). In this case being embarrassed or prideful of being an "American" has zero value as it is strictly a matter of nomenclature.

2. Being "American" defines a set of characteristics present in people, and well there are just more of those type people here in the U. S. of A., and we're breeding more. In this case, being "an American" is like has a genetic component, and is unavoidable. Now being being embarrassed or prideful is simply silly. It's like being proud to be white, or embarrassed to have glasses. Also in this case it's still clear that being "an American" doesn't say much about the outcome of the individual. It's simply the way an individual was born and should have hold no value.

Now all that being said. I don't like the average American, but I feel no emotion in calling myself "an American" (and let's not forget that I don't like people in general, so not liking American's only makes sense).

Closing with an aside: I'd be far more concerned about calling myself a follower of a political party, or religiously affiliated. Those are titles that you choose, and willingly align yourself with the tenets of a group. It does seem though, that Catholicism largely shifted to a nomenclative or heritable entity; the rest of Christianity seems on the way.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

TJ. The brain supreme.

Thomas Jefferson was one rad mother f*

Ever since the I visited Washington DC as a senior in high school. I've been somewhat enamored by TJ's quotes, polymathic pursuits, and his dashing good looks (I saw once he was voted one of the three most attractive signers of the Declaration of Independence). He also did something that I dream of doing (key word, dream)

Two things you might not know about TJ:
-He tried to abolish slavery in the Declaration of Independence
-During his presidency he advocated a base 10 system of measure (like the metric system)

I'm not the only one with a man crush on Tommy. Once JFK, was dining with 49 Nobel Prize winners and said, ""I think this is the most extraordinary collection of talent and of human knowledge that has ever been gathered together at the White House – with the possible exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone."

The quotations inside the Jefferson Memorial include:
"Establish a law for educating the common people. This it is the business of the state and on a general plan."

"No man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship or ministry or shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief, but all men shall be free to profess and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of religion. I know but one code of morality for men whether acting singly or collectively."

Oh how we've changed.