Total Attention Meltdown

June 1st, 2009

Preface: I just finished reading this article on attention and found it to be fairly good, despite the usual “but maybe we are all just charting a bold new way of organizing the human brain” ending.

After the completion of my first year of law school, I had two weeks before things really started up again in earnest. I began this two weeks by reading two books in two days. This, rather obviously, made me feel like I had my attention span all neat and tidied up. I had goals that I wanted to accomplish over the summer, and I was going to set them up and knock them down. This was followed by two and a half weeks of seemingly barely being able to pay attention to anything at all. I didn’t post here, despite having subjects that I wanted to write about. I didn’t write out any of the ideas for fiction that I had been carefully putting away in the ideas.txt file on my hard drive, unwilling to tackle them in the full flush of a school semester. I made a to do list, and I did the things that I absolutely had to do because someone was waiting a few hours down the line expecting me to have them done. This was, I was sure, no way to live life.

Over the course of a year of getting back into school, I had carefully weeded the many distractions from my life. I still got distracted while studying. I still surfed the internet more than I wanted, but when I had to, I could focus much more than I had while working at an ISP. When you are on a phone with a person helping them get Outlook going, there is a certain amount of poddling around the internet as a whole that is understandably acceptable. You have configured Outlook so many times in the past that you may divide your attention, even with the loss of attention quality that this entails. When reading a court case, the same does not hold true. You must be thinking about it, or the words will get you nowhere. I had refilled my RSS feed with many of the things that I had carefully removed over the year. I had played a few flash games. It was relaxing, but it needed to end. Then I came across the article above. Of course, I didn’t read it at the time. I was recommended in a friend’s Facebook message, but I bookmarked it. When I got around to reading it, it was as part of a general reorganization in the hopes of increasing my general willpower and attention span back to school levels. Things can be more relaxing, but I’d rather that they were relaxing on my terms, as opposed by being led around by the nose across the greater internet.

Merlin Mann had some relatively sage advice in the article, as he often does. That sounds like a backhanded compliment, and it really is, but Merlin says one of the best things about attention that anyone ever says. If you spend too much time thinking how you can improve it, or be more efficient, or more lifehack oriented, you will wast too much time thinking about getting things done and not getting them done. First to go from the RSS feed was Sorry Lifehacker. But your useful information ratio is about one in fifty, and the value of that stuff is not so good. You are exactly what Merlin was talking about. Hell this whole post is, in some respect, what Merlin was talking about.

So the new goal is of course to do things until they are done, or something else must be done at that time. This resolution will almost certainly not last beyond my first rem cycle tonight, but hopefully by destroying some of the faster links to distraction that I had on the computer, there will be less of it tomorrow. Another big one I hope to get better at: not pretending that doing a bunch of smaller tasks that don’t really amount to anything will “build momentum.” That never really seems to work. The slow cognitive rebuild begins once again for another ‘net denizen.

To all my friends who are thinking that I owe them an email. I know. That is one of tomorrow’s buckle down tasks.

Quick Link

March 21st, 2007

Just a quick little thing here.

Boing Boing had a link for a cartoon from the new This American Life TV show. It’s by Chris Ware, and it’s fantastic.

Absurd Things

October 15th, 2006

First off, I think this is basically asking to have your car keyed. I know people get attached to these things, but really…

And here is animated spam. I have actually gotten that spam. Watching the film suffused me with a warm hate for spam all over again. It also made me laugh. There’s more of the animated good stuff at The Brothers McLeod.


October 13th, 2006

Chris Onstad wants to make sure that everyone is careful today.

This computer is just amazing. I am sure I would write more stuff if I had a computer like that.

This American Life gives me=more podcasts, to prevent me from getting stuff done. Awwww… Ira, you’re so considerate.


October 6th, 2006

It begins. It also reminds me to edit the story that I’ve been meaning to put up on the sight. It’s somewhat related, though it relies on the concept of the ansible, an old war horse in the field of sci-fi concepts, and as such I don’t think I’ll try to sell it.

Suprise! It’s hard to be depressed, when you’re high as balls on Special K. That explains a few people I knew in college.

And then this is just kinda cool. I don’t know why I think so, but there’s something compelling about the picture.

I was surprised to see a comment the other day that wasn’t blog spam. I know. After I got over that, I went and had a look at RocketSeason. This in particular caught my eye. Back in high school there was an assistant teacher who had a huge collection of Betty Boop pictures. There are few people on this earth I have found more creepy.

Link Dump

September 18th, 2006

Old link from Boing Boing in which the entertainment industry calls people who use encryption are pedophiles. Man… I work at an ISP, and by that standard everyone I work with has short eyes. But that’s actually really canny. There’s a history of pedophilia being used to tar things. Think about that. If you hear about pedophiles in the media, the reporter always goes out of their way to underline that they find the activity loathsome. It’s so stigmatized that just reporting on it makes you have to deny that you are one. Painting encryption as the domain of sex offenders may be the entertainment industry’s only way of stopping this otherwise totally sane and sensible thing to do with your data.

Oh and speaking of data, this other Boing Boing post underlines how they want you to give up the right to own it.

The Valve had this little bit about why people like me are posting pointless chunks of our personal lives online.

Matthew Yglesias laments that he likes a band that Pitchfork doesn’t. I feel for you Matt. Maybe not on that band, but for a review site Pitchfork often feels like they’re too worried with being trend setters, or getting caught out liking something dorky. That might harm their indie cred, but it would tell me that they actually cared about the music, or having fun with the stuff. Still, there are times when the reviewer seems to know that music can be about fun more than art or that you don’t have to take yourself seriously all the time. Sometimes they even let on that personal taste or situation might effect you’re like or dislike of an album, not its inherent value as some sort of object of art.

And finally, me wanty, but $30 is a bit high for a t-shirt to me.

P.S. Jewish Priates!

I want to sail the seas in search of booty like my ancestors.

Semi Random Links

September 16th, 2006

I appears that my uncle has put out a new album. I’ll have to check that out. I’ll be honest, he’s not always to my taste. But I sing “Without My Woman” in the shower all the time. When his stuff does work for me, it’s really fun.

And also, college Republicans at the U of Mich are crazy. I must be reading the wrong blogs though, because I didn’t see any of them link this story to the Dick Cheney Hunting mishap. For shame.

iTunes 7 still can’t get the album art for “Come on Feel the Illinoise!” Come on iTunes, I can see it in the damn music store. Don’t punish me because my brother gave me the album as a gift. Not since transparency worked its way into Xorg have I worked this hard to get a pointless feature to work.

Many thanks to Luscious B for pointing out the broken links.

I have a bottle of Drambuie in the back of the liquor cab somewhere. This means I think I shall be trying a lovely sounding drink call The Jabberwocky soon.

Alex over at Martini Republic edits a speech of Bush’s and makes it better Alex, it’s not too late to quit the day job. You’ve written the speed Bush’s staff is too chicken(hawk [sorry, had to]) to put down on paper.

Crap and Babble

September 1st, 2006

So Gizmodo posted this. I’m not interested in the gadget personally, but the title made me wonder. Do other people hurt themselves while brewing tea a lot? Is it really that hard?

Naguib Mahfouz died. As usual I am late the game on both noting it and reading him. It has gotten to the point that authors dying makes me feel guilty. I start to realize how many good books I haven’t given time to.

Maybe if I hadn’t brewed all of that tea myself I would have had time to read him already. But loose leaf tea is just so much more delicious.

And much earlier in the week The Valve talked about short stories. The idea that the short story is dead, much like the novel, comes up a fair amount. I think at least one of the reasons for this is the fact that short story markets can segregate very easily. It’s possible to have a collection of just… oh… we’ll say detective fiction set in the 40s. Reading that is bound to make you feel like the genre, and maybe the form, is tapped. But that is because you didn’t read everything that was available. Now, the short story is a tough one, you don’t have a long form to play with. Novels let you mess with things in ways that short stories often can’t. There are things you can do in the short story of course, but if you bend the form too far you run the risk that the reader won’t acclimate to the trick or twist. On top of that there seems to be a heavy tilt toward personal memoir styles these days. I’ve bitched before that I feel like I read a lot of stories about climactic moments in childhood. But I have to believe that the other stories are out there and I’m just not seeing the others.

There is a collection linked in the Valve article with a lot of authors I respect, but I don’t know how many of them I’d end up seeing in places I read.


August 28th, 2006

While living with Mark of Applecidercheesefudge I tried many an infused vodka. Of those my favorite may have been lime/basil/mint. This meatacular idea for a beef infused vodka is one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen. I may have to run out and buy vodka and more Hebrew Nationals tomorrow. It’s even Kosher!

Via Metafilter

Authors: Rarely Sexy

August 26th, 2006

While floating around the net the other day I noticed that the alma mater had started listing faculty and alumni blogs. That lead to finding that Ruth Curry, who I had a class or two with has a blog. This post put a smile on my face. It reminded me of a story Neil Gaiman tells from time to time. In the story he’s getting a photo taken for a book cover and the photographer asks him how he’d like to look. I believe he says, “surprisingly fuckable for an author,” in the story.

And then there is this sendup of Deadwoo dthat I got via Boing Boing.

Very nice. You could probably do a speed Deadwood and cut an episode down to five or ten minutes. I love it anyway. Hell I love it because it uses language the way it does.

Please Mr. Postman

August 24th, 2006

Today marked a new phase for me at the coffee shop I go to. When the postman came in, the barista/owner was out back. The postman then asked me about several pieces of mail that were for the coffee shop, or a couple of other nearby shops. I answered him and then went about my day. Here’s the odd part. He called me by name. I don’t know who this postal carrier is. He comes in once a day around the same time I’m there. I’m not even there every day. I didn’t think I could be any more of a ‘regular’ there. Yet it seems there was another layer to the onion.

I find myself wondering what I’m going to post here a lot. Pretty much any time I am writing for the blog, I should really be writing fiction. That’s not to say I don’t waste plenty of time in other ways. How many times a day do I have to see if anything has happened with the Redwings?

In that theme, here are couple of blog posts by more successful people thinking about the same thing. One of the best things about the net is that it lets you get a handle on just how few original ideas there are. Someone has always blogged/drawn/sang before you got there. It’s just a matter of how well you do it.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 License.