Yet again annoyed by computer programs that don’t do what I want. This time, and since it was created, Apple Podcasts.

It might be amusing how many sites stop working when cookies are denied if they didn’t stop working. (Also, noticed some sites are polite enough to offer the option to decline cookies, while others, like the WordPress default GDPR banner, simply announce cookies exist.)

Hard to say if I’m more annoyed that some drivers seem to be unaware that they cause gridlock when they enter an intersection they can’t leave, or that GMail intentionally ignores dots in e-mail addresses.

No Phones on the Field

I have been using my iPhone as a stopwatch, and sometimes for background music, during soccer practice for a while now. Not anymore. Last Thursday one of my players brought his phone on to the field as well and it rapidly became a distraction. I’ll be switching to the more analog way of keeping time.

Soccer requires intense concentration for at least two 45-minute periods. These kids already have trouble concentrating for more than 10 seconds on anything. Let’s not make it worse.

Skipping the Skip-nows

My children and I have been indulging in Screen-Free Week. We have read books, played games, and talked together. A week earlier they were binge-watching something or other in separate rooms on separate devices.

Screen-Free Week

Some days I regret being in this field–my life is defined by screens–but it has given me what one friend calls an Advanced Lifestyle. It helps to remember that there were reasons I chose a field where I could work from anywhere. Being a parent was one of them.

More important than being screen-free is spending time connecting with other people and in being, in some small way, the master of your fate. Taste life rather than submit to gavage. You are more than a consumer.

My Platform, were I a candidate for the School Board

Once again, it is that time of year here in New York where residents of the school districts vote for board candidates and approve the budget. Most of the time the school board appears powerless, confined to implementing decisions made in Albany and Washington, D. C. But let’s assume for a minute that it isn’t, which is possible, and that I’m a candidate, which is not.

  • A late start, an early end. The school does not need to be a factory.
  • Stand up and move. 15 minute breaks in each hour of instruction. Provide the option to stand, and to move about the room, in the remaining 45 minutes: replace the desks-with-fixed-seats with adjustable desks, or remove desks entirely.
  • Play.
  • A good lunch. See the examples of France and Japan.
  • Turn off the background music on the buses.
  • Buses, not Busses.

Isolation, anxiety, addiction, and escapism. Oh my!

It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.

Upton Sinclair (1934)

After Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez announced she was quitting Facebook, Cal Newport noticed that the news media seem to think that she did so in protest against Facebook’s advertising-based shenanigans with Cambridge Analytica, Donald Trump, and their ilk—despite her explicitly emphasizing the health risks:

I think we’ll all be better served once the national press recognizes this reality, and turns more of its attention from the spectacle of Mark Zuckerberg testifying about data privacy and AI-driven content review, and toward the more nuanced and more human issues encapsulated by the surprising story of a 29-year-old social media rockstar who finds it necessary to escape the very techno-world that made her.

I agree entirely. But the media are a bit narcissistic, and tend not to care about much other than themselves—besides, they depend on advertising. I expect they’re too busy reinforcing our intentional mass attention deficit disorder to spend any time thinking meaningfully about ethical behavior.

That is, violations of privacy are a safe topic, unlike aggregating eyeballs to drive traffic and create sticky revenue streams.

Translation

My daughter told me I should get some face lotion for my dry skin. I thought she would ask why I was crying, but the dry salt of my tears hid among the rough flakes of skin. I can feel them yet there, crusted on my swollen face.

This is how a sixteen year-old says I love you: Use lotion, Dad.

LinkedIn has a nifty feature that shows the commuting distance to a given workplace. It also asks, “How do you prefer to commute to work?” Well, since I would prefer to walk, I selected that option, so now I can see that a 43 minute drive would be a 7 hour, 46 minute walk.

BBC Radio Essays

I would lie awake late at night listening to the BBC World Service on my shortwave radio, sometimes guided by a printed program guide, but more often than not taking things as they come, which is one does with broadcast media. One of the more interesting tidbits, to my inquisitive teenage ears, was a regular essay. Turns out The Essay, or its kin, still exists, is broadcast on BBC Radio 3, and can be streamed online.

I listened to the series on paying attention —you may have noticed that attention is a particular bugbear of mine—last year around this time, and spent some time yesterday in forests.

Today, I think I’ll visit ancient Wales.

Impulses

ACTION REQUIRED, the e-mail demands, NOW. Give money. Sale! One day only! You might like this video. Sign our petition now or terrible things will happen! How was your test? Sign our petition now to stop terrible things from happening! What kind of furry animal are you? Fill out this spreadsheet with data from another database, then copy data from spreadsheet column A to spreadsheet column ZZ. What’s for dinner? ACTION REQUIRED.

But can you act when all of these demands force themselves upon your attention and you’re twitching this way and that attempting to satisfy every competing request?

We’ve been trained to act on our impulses immediately, and to expect instant gratification: Send an instant message to your daughter at school asking about whatever springs to mind or sharing something interesting; pop off an unread e-mail to your Congressperson objecting to the latest idiocy; watch a movie now in the comfort of your car; order pizza delivered.

Whereas earlier we couldn’t, and had to learn patience; now we can, and the discipline of patience is but a fleeting memory. As is our memory: Can you hold a thought in your head longer than it takes to tweet at someone?

Can you respect your time and another’s?

Can you think before you act?

I shop therefore I am