Tag Archives: News

Give yourself a break from multi-tasking

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Just try it. Give this podcast from Headspace about the healthy use of technology 15 minutes of your time. Pause to reflect on the way you use technology, and the extent to which switching between one window and another, between email and document, text message and Facebook, music and video, might be knocking up toxic cerebral froth.

You’ll know from my anti-multi-tasking rants that I don’t have a lot of time for the idea that ‘multi-tasking’ is a good thing. Although this podcast doesn’t use the term ‘multi-tasking’, it does refer to the documented negative effects of overstimulating your brain by constant task-switching on digital technology. It’s an important message, because it’s not just kids that try to do ten things at once with technology, it’s all of us who have the means. We need, I believe, to stop buying into the idea that we have endless processing power. I might just sign up to Headspace and give myself a break.

A darker shade of chocolate: Green and Black’s and Ben Goldacre

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If like me you’re a bit overwhelmed by the ubiquity of Green & Black’s chocolate, you might be interested to see this broadside from its founder Craig Sams against Bad Science good-guy Ben Goldacre. Read about it on Ben’s website here. Green and Black’s was one of the first things to disappear from my shopping basket once I stopped shopping at the big supermarkets (see earlier post). I’m even more pleased about that now I’ve read Mr Sams’  rant.

All hail the Anti-PowerPoint Party

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Friends & readers of this blog will know how much I detest PowerPoint, or rather the mis-use of it. I can’t say that I thought it was only a matter of time before a political party with a mission to ban PowerPoint would be formed, but via Metafilter, I’ve learned that it has, in the form of the Anti PowerPoint Party of Switzerland.

They claim – rightly in my view – that the use of  PowerPoint costs the economy billions.  If you could calculate human misery, you could add even more figures to that sum. I only have to see the screen and the laptop and I lose the will to live. I can tell just by the way someone holds their computer how bad their presentation will be.

This time, Slovenia: A geography lesson for Telegraph readers

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‘Working class pupils ‘perform better in Slovenia than in UK‘ is the headline of  an astonishingly crass article in today’s Telegraph.  I can’t be bothered to regurgitate all the reasons it’s stupid, since I already had to do this last year when the Daily Mail’s headline news was that Slovenian live longer than women in the UK (see my rant A geography lesson for Mail-readers).  If Telegraph readers knew what a great country Slovenia was, they’d probably be sending their kids to school there.

Another group hit by library closures: the U3A

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Education: The Age of Uncertainty is an impassioned but factual article in today’s Independent about the effect that library closures are having on the elderly, and in particular on members of the University of the Third Age (U3A).

Ian Searle writes:

The mass closure of public libraries is hitting older people and retired people who want to learn and keep their minds active. The sort of learning that goes on in the University of the Third Age (U3A) – the learning that retired people do because they want to do it, not because they need it for their careers – will be worst hit.

It’s a convincing argument, and I hope that the 250,000 members of U3A lobby government to make it strongly, but the specificity of the statement above  bothers me: it blurs the effect that the closures will have on everyone else. As I pointed out in a recent entry, my local library at least was full of young people.  Learning and the opportunity to gain access to what libraries have to offer – including a quiet and warm place to think – are important at any age, whether you ‘need it for your career’ or not.  The concept of a career in itself is fast becoming an anachronism, as people have to adapt to a very unpredictable and insecure job market.

Argos? What about the library?

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I’d no sooner pressed send on the previous post about the wonder of libraries, than I happened to see a ‘heartwarming’ story in  today’s Evening Standard about a 7-year old  girl who came home to find £500 worth of brand new books from Argos waiting for her.

I put ‘heartwarming’ in quotes, because while it’s very nice for anyone to get £500 worth of something out of the blue, this  story rather sickens me. Where is there any mention of libraries?  How does such an act benefit the wider community over the long term? That’s what they’re there for: books are expensive, and to spend £500 on them when you’re a child is overkill. You’re not going to like all of them, you might only read most of them once, and if they’re popular books, there’s no reason to buy them new. Giving one child a mass of books looks good on paper, but it’s not half as fantastic as the library services that are already there. And thanks to the way that libraries serve their communities, the chances are Aurelia’s mum could have taken out a load of books in Polish as well – she certainly could in Tooting.

This single benevolent act by Argos benefits one child for a very short time, and in a very limited way (though the benefit to Argos is probably much greater and longer lasting). The Evening Standard story completely disguises the wonderful services that local libraries provide their communities and have done for years. Why would they do that? Why would they continue to propagate a fiction that if you don’t have books at home, then there’s nothing for it except to wait for your local chain store to air-lift a box of them into your living room, when there are magnificent libraries everywhere, at least for the moment?

In praise of the book…and the pencil

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I think I could become a fan of Google’s new Think Quarterly. My favourite bit so far is from Guy Laurence,  CEO of Vodafone UK, telling a  cautionary joke about the value of simplicity:

I like simplicity in life. I heard this urban myth a long time ago and it 
stayed with me. When NASA first 
started sending astronauts into space, they quickly discovered that ballpoint pens wouldn’t work in zero gravity. To combat the problem, NASA scientists spent a decade and $12 billion developing a pen that writes in zero gravity, upside down, underwater, on any surface and at temperatures ranging from below freezing to 300°C. The Russians used a pencil. [read full article here]