When Did Your Time Begin?

My earliest substantial memory takes me back to when I was four.  Once, back in the 1990s, I return to the neighborhood where I lived for that memory, to my then personal big bang origin of memory time.  I stood out on the sidewalk in front of the house where I once lived and felt I was nearest to the beginning of time and space I’d ever get.  But I was wrong.  I have so far to go to find the beginning of my time.  Damn, what a rush.  Sometimes life is so intense I feel reality is a hurricane in my head, and I’ve been in real hurricanes, as well as mental ones brought on by fevers or chemicals, so I know what it’s like to have my neurons shaken up. 

At this moment, I’m jamming to my current favorite song (Howl by Florence + The Machine), drinking a beer and I’m thinking about The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner, which I’ve been listening to for over a week.  I really dig that title – because Faulkner artistically succeeds at describing a hurricane in his head. 

The novel is set in 1910 and 1928, time well before my earliest memories, but now Faulkner’s story adds to my personal memory-map of time.  In recent years books by Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Wharton, and Dreiser fill in my awareness of America during the years of 1890-1930.  They only add to the intensity in my head.

At age four I remember discovering television and began mapping memories of America back to the 1930s.  I grew up loving black and white movies.  It wasn’t until my twenties that I got into silent movies and jazz and extended my American memories into the 1910s and 1920s.  Oh sure, I was forced to take history in school, but it never seemed as real as pop culture and art.

Reading The Sound and The Fury is like hearing a first person account of 1910, from inside Faulkner’s head, with the audio book letting me feel like I’m listening to his thoughts.  My sense of time goes back to the Big Bang, but not in a personal way.  The only time I tap into the tapestry of personal memory is when I read the words from people of the past.  My furthest reach by this kind of time travel is the early days of The Bible.  It’s very weird to be out strolling in the evening and hearing words that are thousands of years old, from ancient men living in tribal desert cultures, that existed before English or even the concept of history.

Are my real memories any better than say, those I got from watching Dead End, and experiencing a make-believe neighborhood near the river in a slum of 1930s New York City?  Or all my memories of the 1940s I got from reading Jack Kerouac?  Or the memories I find in photographs of my father’s family from Miami in the 1920s?  Tonight I caught a portion of an old Laurel and Hardy flick that used LA traffic scenes from the early 1930s.  I love that bit of realism.  I absorbed it into my own memories.

Black and white movies feel just like old memories in my head.  I can extend my sense of personal memory back as far as the photograph and film, but it’s hard to go further.  The words of the Bible do feel like hearing old people, but they don’t feel like real memories.  I love looking at art because it extends my memories back hundreds of years, but beautiful paintings only give a surreal sense of memory.  I once saw a photograph from the 1830s, and I thought that photo brought my memory as close to Jane Austen as I would ever get.

Even when I see photographs of myself which are earlier than my memories I feel they are part of my own memory.  Here I am from 1953.  I wish I could remember this day.  I wish I could remember everything.  Do you ever feel people in photos are looking back at you too?  If I stare at this photo long enough it starts looking 3D.  My grandmother here, was born in 1881, my mother 1916.  They grew up in Enid, Mississippi, next-door neighbors to Faulkner’s imaginary Mississippi.  That might be why The Sound and The Fury is so goddamn vivid, I’ve heard the voices of his characters all my life.  They sounded just like my cousins, aunts and uncles.

If there is a heaven I want it to be in the kingdom of my memories, so I can come back and explore their endless realm.  What if this life is our heaven?  Somewhere, or when, I’ll find my beginning of my time.


JWH – 7/29/9

New to Me, Old to You?

I discovered popular music as a kiddo while riding around in my Daddy’s 1955 Pontiac, playing with the AM radio push-buttons.  This was around 1958, and I was seven.  For some reason my parents didn’t have a radio in the house, nor did they own a record player and records.  Music wasn’t important in their life, but they seemed to love the music on TV, on the variety shows, where my Dad dug Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra and my mother would tell us kids to shut up so she could listen to Nat King Cole or Perry Como.  Those crooners were so damn old, even then.

My parents would get especially excited if music clips of Benny Goodman or Glenn Miller played in an old movie.  They’d tell my sister and I how that was their music.  Big bands, with trumpets and clarinets, it seemed as ancient as Egypt.  Music that felt new was the rock and roll music I found on the AM radio in the car.  That music made my Dad turn red and shout, “Turn off that goddamn noise.”

I’m listening to Quicksilver Messenger Service, a San Francisco rock band from the late 1960s.  Quicksilver still feels out of the womb new to me.  Even though it’s forty years later, a much greater span of time than from Benny Goodman of the late 1930s to the late 1950s, Quicksilver didn’t get old to me.  Why?  Would kids hearing my music today feel it had been dug up by archeologists?

Is my music new to me, but old to you?

Listening to current pop music makes me feel old.  It’s all made by teenagers, or over-the-hill burnouts in their twenties, but then the rock and roll of the 1950s was made by teenagers too.  Time is doing a number on my head.  Time is more than relative.  I can feel young and old, both at the same time, just by listening to music.

JWH – 6/16/9

How to Introduce Physics to Your Friends?

My friends know I’m a bookworm and often greet me with, “What are you reading?”  This past week I’ve been causally replying, “A book on physics.”   To which all my friends give me a strange look that asks, “Why the f#@* would you want to do that?”  Last night, when Janis asked, and gave me the same facial response, I felt compelled to try and explain myself, but I came up short.  How do you quickly sum up the beauty of physics in a few sentences?

Later, while driving home, I wondered if there were any books to give my friends that would introduce them to physics.  Is there any physics book that the average person would be willing to try?  I flipped through some popular titles and textbooks on my bookshelves and immediately knew they wouldn’t do.  I went to the bookstore and looked at intro books like Physics for Dummies, Physics Demystified and Head First Physics.  The answer was still a big “No Way!”

Is there a way to introduce physics in a short blog essay?  Physics is a very big subject, beginning with the smallest objects in reality and ranging up to the very largest.  This made me think of the videos Powers of Ten by Charles and Ray Eames and Cosmic Voyage, the Imax movie narrated by Morgan Freeman.  If my friends could watch those videos on a big screen television and study them I think it would be a fantastic start.  They are easy to understand but have a huge sense of wonder impact.  However, I’m not sure if the crude versions found on the Internet will be that inspiring.  I did find a DVD copy Cosmic Voyage at Amazon for $8.99.

Thinking about these impressive films got me to wondering if it might be possible to introduce physics by showing DVDs that illustrate the most exciting aspects of physics.  Are any physics documentaries good enough that if I lent them to my friends they’d come back and ask if I had any more great DVDs like that one?  I’ll order Cosmic Voyage and give it a try.

How Big is the Universe?

I do believe understanding the Powers of Ten is a key starting place.  I have the original Powers of Ten book by Charles and Ray Eames and studying it really helps to grasp the scope of the world of physics.  It’s very important to teach people the size of the universe, from the very smallest to the largest and get a feel for scientific notation.  Recently The National Geographic Channel showed the documentary, “Journey to the Edge of the Universe.”  This beautiful film uses state of the art computer animation to survey the macroverse from Earth to the edge of the Universe.

The value of the visuals is diminished by not knowing the numbers behind glorious images, so that’s why I think a good understanding of the Powers of Ten video should come first.


Physicists now think in terms of trillions of years.  Right now, I can’t think of any documentaries to teach about time.  I love all those analogies about the history of the universe and life on Earth, comparing time since the Big Bang to one year, and then explaining that human civilization is just the last couple of seconds of that year.  I need to track down a great documentary on time.


Classical physics is about motion.  Knowing about distance and time prepares us for studying movement.  Again I can’t think of any standout documentaries.  DVD courses like “The Great Ideas of Classical Physics” from The Teaching Company come to mind, but I don’t think I’ll get my friends to sit through its 24 lectures.

If only the series The Mechanical Universe were easily available.  If you follow the link you can register and watch small Windows Media coded versions online for free, but it costs $450 for a set of 52 thirty minute episodes on 12 DVDs.  Again, not something my friends are likely to pursue.  The great thing about The Mechanical Universe, the 1985 PBS television series, is its an introductory course to physics from California Institute of Technology.  What made the show really stand out was the mathematical animation by Jim Blinn – if only all math courses included such animation.  It’s sad that the tiny free Internet versions also have tiny impact.


You’d think I wouldn’t have to promote the teaching of electromagnetism because our society depends so much this technology that was first discovered in the 18th and 19th century and turned into tech magic in the 20th.  But how many people know that magnets are used to generate electricity?  Or that electricity can be used to turn a piece of iron into a magnet?  I think when Arthur C. Clarke said his famous phrase, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic,” he was referring to far future technology, but for the average person, all modern technology is magical.  Does the public even understand the relationship between quantum physics and televisions?

Weak and Strong Forces

Exploring the world of the very tiny means understanding the building blocks of nature.  It also brings us closer to understanding how something came out of nothing.  And isn’t it strange that the only science that fundamentalist terrorists pursue is the one that leads to atomic bombs?  Again, I can’t think of a good film to illustrate this area of physics, although quantum physics is often covered in documentaries.  I’m hoping the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) will generate tons of news and documentaries in the coming years so maybe my physics pooh-poohing friends will even remember its name.


Probably most people have seen documentaries about gravity.  All kids are taught about Galileo and Newton, but I doubt people know that NASA is planning a series of gravity probes like LISA and Big Bang Observer.  These deep space instruments will study colliding stars, ripples in space-time, and echoes of the early universe.  There is no way to explain the magnitude of this research.  The only analogy I can think of is if Christians built a time machine and went back to the Garden of Eden to interview God.  The more science studies the Big Bang the closer we come to understanding the Genesis of our physical reality.  How can my friends think this is boring?

How Limited is Your View of Reality?

An earlier draft of this essay pursued the idea that people who ignored physics chose to have a small view of reality.  I referenced my earlier blog post, “What Shape is the Universe?” where I was going to chide my friends for living in a small dinky universe of only a few magnitudes of dimension.  I can’t help think that many of the failings of our societies on Earth are due to only reacting to nearby reality without trying to see the big picture.  Would Israelis and Palestinians be killing each other if they all understood how big reality is and how small their feud?  Shouldn’t the whole Arab-Jew conflict resolve when they see their religions disappear in the light of science?  Israel and Gaza are probably less than two electrons in comparative size if we relate the size of our world to the Universe.

On the other hand, if humans are the crown of creation, the pinnacle of 13.7 billion years of evolution, then we are big things indeed.  But if we kill each other like viruses are we really all that evolved or intelligent?  As long as our guiding knowledge comes from speculation about reality derived three thousand years ago by nomadic people closer to cave men than to us, is there any wonder why science is ignored?  Most of my friends are well educated, with very few even concerned with religion, but people who base their knowledge on the humanities and literature are still stuck in the past.  Most of our social customs and beliefs developed during the Middle Ages.  Science is the only systematic pursuit of knowledge that consistently succeeds in explaining reality, but it’s a relatively recent development and hasn’t fully integrated into human behavior and thought.

We build our society on the handmaiden of science, technology, but we ignore the wisdom of science.  I’m intrigued by the idea of The Third Culture proposed by John Brockman.  Brockman gets his idea from C. P. Snow who wrote a book called The Two Cultures, comparing literary intellectuals and scientists, and suggests that a third culture would form when the two merged.

This makes me think of flipping through a university catalog of courses.  You can divide them into science base courses and all others, usually what we might call the humanities, or practical courses like business and law.  What Brockman seems to be saying, until the humanities and the rest of university courses are based on science, even with areas like the study of English literature, we won’t begin to see the true value of science pervade society.  Now the idea that science might infuse with all areas of knowledge could be a science fictional dream, but it is something I hope for, because until then the average person will think physics is boring.

JWH 1/11/9

For Connoisseurs of 4th Dimensional Travel

The Little Book by Selden Edwards is a new classic time travel novel for those who love contemplating traveling in the 4th dimension.  It’s right up there with my all-time favorite time travel adventures:

Now don’t jump over to Google and start reading reviews of The Little Book – too many reviewers have given way too much away, and I’ll work hard not to do that here.  This is a first novel for Selden Edwards and it took him thirty years to write.  I highly recommend buying the audio book edition narrated by Jeff Woodman to get the full affect of this dazzling yarn.  Listening will keep you from reading too fast and rushing through the story, and Woodman gives excellent voice and feelings to the characters.

The Little Book is about travel to Vienna in 1897, and if you are up on your history you might guess what famous historical personages make guest appearances.  After reading this novel I hunger to to read about Vienna and many of its famous citizens, and even research some of the books and people that I assume are products of Edwards imagination, but feel so real in the story.  I want to believe that Arnauld Esterhazy, the prep school history teacher, was at least based on someone real.

Like The Time Traveler’s Wife, The Little Book is a love story, about a man, Wheeler from 1988 who falls for a 1897 lady, Weezie.  Unlike the Niffenegger book, Edwards style is less serious, if not zany, which leads to the major weakness of the novel.  The story is meant to be deadly serious and realistic, but sometimes the sparkling prose comes across too light, making it seem more like a fable or tall tale, giving the feeling that Edwards is highly amused as he manipulates us readers.

If I had written this book I would have had all the main characters narrate their stories in the first person, switching between each in a round robin style that conveyed the cyclic nature of time travel.

But I am nitpicking here.  Selden Edwards writes in a unique voice that is entertaining and full of fascinating details.  He constructs his characters so they go through numerous changes that surprised me the reader.  I especially loved the cross generational communications because Edwards really does make us feel that each generation has a different voice and mindset.  Jumping back to 1897 Vienna goes to explain how Freud changed our awareness of the inner landscape of our minds.  Characters before Freud need to be mentally different.

The Little Book is a little book and goes much too quickly.  I don’t like getting trapped in long books, but this one could have been two, three or even four times the length and I think I’d still hate for it to end.  Edwards stays close to the core plot and characters, whereas he could have meandered though 1897 more, and when you come to the end, you might be like me and wished the story was longer, giving all the details between 1897 and 1988.

I love geometric plots, and this one is supposed to be a Möbius strip, but in the end, Edwards cuts the loop leaving the plot linear.  I would have jumbled scenes so the narrator juggled the plot, like Niffenegger played with her storyline.  Edwards focuses on building literary characters rather than designing literary plots, but I think time travel seems to beg for twisty elements.

I don’t think The Little Book is a great novel, but it’s very entertaining, and adds to the evolution of time travel stories.  I’m pretty sure if you loved Time and Again or The Time Traveler’s Wife, you will probably love The Little Book.  Time travel novels tend to be short, so I’m wondering when someone will write the Lord of the Rings epic size time travel fantasy.  I know romantic novelists like Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series are epic in size, but I haven’t read it.  It appears less about time travel and more historical romance to me.  Not my cup of tea, although most good time travel stories involve romances.

There are plenty of science fiction series built around time travel, but they are mostly adventures.  The books in my list above play with time philosophically.   Books that explore changing the paths of events are less interesting now than books that use time travel to change the development of characters.  Few stories about time travel reflects the true inner impact that I think time traveling would have on a person.  I think Heinlein and Niffenegger went the furthest with this, but I expect new writers to go further.


Roping A Wayward Mind

In the excellent essay, “The Myth of Multitasking,” Christine Rosen opens up with this 1740s quote from a Lord Chesterfield to his son that I can’t stop thinking about:

There is time enough for everything in the course of the day, if you do but one thing at once, but there is not time enough in the year, if you will do two things at a time.

I wished my kindergarten teacher had started every day of class with that lesson because it’s obvious that I have never accomplished anything significant in my fifty-six years because I’ve always been trying to do two things at once.  I’m a jack of all trades, master of none kind of guy, and it annoys the hell out of me.

This morning’s activities will well illustrate my need for focus and the pitfalls of multitasking.  After my shower I started ripping CDs with my second computer, rolled out my exercise mat and started doing my yoga-like back exercises while daydreaming the opening scene of a novel I’d like to write, while another part of my mind kept reminding me to work on the short story I had been fleshing out in my imagination yesterday while exercising, and thoughts of three or four blog ideas buzzed like bees around these main ideas hoping to get more bio-CPU cycles themselves, while I was also trying to remember who I wanted to see today, where I wanted to go, and what I wanted to do with my Saturday.

If I followed Lord Chesterfield’s advice I would have had a single-minded Zen-like focus on my exercises and my back would be much better for it. (I just jumped over to put a new CD into the burner and ran to the kitchen to feed our cats.)

After my exercises I got up and checked my email and stats on this blog page and followed a link to a web site that mentions John Scalzi’s comments on fame, followed the link to Scalzi’s site and then found a link to Wil Weaton’s site where he discusses fame and then I found a link to Stephen Fry’s site, also about fame, but a very long well thought out essay.  This gave me an idea to write a blog post about how it’s more rewarding to read a famous person’s blog than to actual meet them for a few minutes.

(Next CD to rip, which requires getting up and using the computer on the opposite side of the room.)  Before I could start writing that blog, while doing a previous CD change, I got the idea I wanted to reinstall my Roku SoundBridge, so I could play MP3s on my computer through my stereo in living room, and got up and went looking for it.  While tearing through two closets trying to remember where I put the Roku, I got ideas for several projects dealing with organization.  I have boxes and boxes of wires for stereos, computers, televisions, DVD players, etc. that I really must organize one day.  I was slightly distracted by the tight squeeze of clothes hanging in the closet, making it hard to get to all the boxes and remembering my promise to my wife to throw some worn clothes out, when I finally found the Roku.

(Next CD)  I was surprised by how easy it was to put the Roku back into service but I discovered something interesting.  The Roku was listing the music from both my computers, iTunes on the main machine, Windows Media on two machines, and FireFly media server on the second machine.  This revelation inspired me to write a blog about the most efficient way to serve up MP3 files in a home network.  (Next CD)  I wondered if I booted up the laptop if it would see that machine too.  (A pause to go pet a sick cat and think about a blog about the pet healthcare crisis.)

As you can see my mind is very far from Kwai Chang Caine’s focused mind in the old Kung Fu TV series.  (I’ll stop the annoying interruptions about the CD changes and other diversions while writing, but you get the idea about how I’m constantly trying to multitask.)  If I was a Kung Fu master, I wouldn’t own a wall of CDs and be trying to convert them to my computer library because I wouldn’t be into owning things.

If I was a real writer, with a focused mind, I would get up each morning, work on my novel and not think about about a dozen blog ideas, or another dozen short story ideas, or even worry about organizing a CD collection, or care about my clothes closet or boxes of wires.  I never finished a novel because, like Lord Chesterfield says, I’m trying to do more than one thing and there’s not enough time in a lifetime to do all that.

On the other paw, I am pretty good at multitasking if I’m willing to accept that I do so many things in a half-ass way.  I have four clunky websites (not counting several I manage at work).  I read about fifty books a year, and see a hundred movies on DVD and at the theater, and watch several hundred TV shows and documentaries.  I have a big collection of computers, books, magazines, CDs, gadgets, and other crap that I maintain and help do my part to keep the economy going.  I read a zillion web pages every year, and my Karma level is excellent on Slashdot.

Task Switching

Now over at 43 Folders, Merlin Mann offers his opinion in a podcast also called The Myth of Multitasking.  Mann’s take is multitasking is impossible for humans, that people aren’t parallel processing machines like supercomputers, and the best we can do is be very good at task switching.  Furthermore, it’s his belief that some people are good at task switching and others are not.  The implication being that some people can easily bookmark their place when they switch tasks.  Mann also believes once you discover you can’t multitask, you will lose the anxiety over getting so much done and focus on getting the job at hand accomplished.

My theory is the human brain is a fantastic bio-computer that parallel processes on vast scales, but the conscious mind is just one thread that runs on top of everything else that can’t really multitask, but like Mann suggests, can task switch.  Whether this is a good feature of Human 4.0 is yet to be proved.  Maybe multitasking will be a prominent feature of Homo Superior 1.0, but for now we have to decide what’s the optimal operating expectations for who we are now.

Attention Span

Should I trade all that fun chaotic juggling to be just a guy focused on writing a novel?  Is it even possible for me to be Mr. Zen Lit Man?  This brings up the second lighthouse beacon of an article I read this week,  “Is Google Making Us Stupid?” by Nicholas Carr in The Atlantic Monthly, that only fuels the fire of my desire to seek a simpler focused life.  Mr. Carr confesses that Google and the Internet living has reduced his ability to read long works.

If we could multitask, the length of any working process could be infinite, but if we can only task switch, then the critical factor is the time segment devoted to each task.  What Mr. Carr is suggesting is the Internet is making us used to living with short task segments and we’re losing our ability to process longer tasks.  This is an interesting idea, but I have to ask:  Did people have the knack for focusing on longer tasks before the Internet?

Long before Google, magazines and newspapers were featuring shorter articles with lots of side-bars, and short attention getting blips of information.  Television, with sitcoms and more and more commercials started dividing up our attentions starting back in the 1950s.  The car radio has long had buttons to quickly switch between shows for those weak of attention.  Imagine what the television clicker has done to our minds?

I too have found that I can no longer read hours at a time on a single book or long essay.  I had a different theory as to the cause of this, and assumed I had been corrupted by audio books which allows me to listen to other people read long books.  I justified my laziness by pointing out that those people are much better readers than I am, and that I learn so much more when I can concentrate on their readings.

So now I have two theories to test.  There might be many reasons why I can no longer read books hours at a stretch.  One that comes to mind is comfort.  I get back and neck strains, and my eyes weary quickly.  Large print helps, but to be honest, I genuinely prefer audio books.  After reading Carr’s article I will strongly consider my continual effort to multitask or task switch as a cause of attention deficit.  I will admit that when I read too long on anything I get antsy for new input.  The Internet might support my addiction for keeping multiple threads of thought going.

Conversely, if I’m going to be a real writer, as opposed to a blogger, I’d need to focus on one piece of writing at a time, and keep focused on that piece, draft after draft until it’s perfect and I could sell it.  In other words, I’d be forced to do ONE thing for weeks at a time.  I don’t know if I could handle that.  Task switching might be natural, and the ability to focus on a single task may be a special talent.  My friend Mike who is also a programmer says when he programs he feels like he’s in a deep well and all distractions are far away.  I truly envy him for that gift.

I can’t take a crap without reading a magazine while thinking through a handful of ideas about what I’ll do when I pull up my pants.  What if I got up this morning and just worked on writing that short story I’ve been meaning to finish for years.  The one I come back to the most often?  And what if when I needed to consume or evacuate I’d continue to think on that one story.  It certainly would help if I lived in a studio apartment with little beyond a bed, desk, writing equipment and four white walls.  No wonder Pride and Prejudice was so great, there just wasn’t that many distractions back in Jane Austen’s time.

I guess the real question is whether or not I could do the focused thing just one hour a day?  It’s an obvious compromise of where to start.  However, I think real writers probably sacrifice a giant pile of fun diversions to get a quality book finished.  Maybe I just don’t have that kind of mental makeup.  If I found a magic lantern and the Genie granted my wish to concentrate, would I be happy trading in a year’s worth of active diversions to produce one science fiction novel?  That scares me.  It sounds boring and lonely.

Dedication to Details

Last night I saw an episode of Nova about making Japanese samurai swords, and Friday night I saw a documentary that included a piece about a Chinese guy making traditional bows and arrows.  In each case, these were complicated skills handed down from the past and required the artisan to devote his life to his work.  Both documentaries pointed out that these acts of devotion to extreme details were being destroyed by modern culture.  Few people in our society dedicate as much of their time to a single-minded objective, but there are some.  Olympic athletes, classical musicians, and other successful people in any discipline.

There is always the chance that multitasking and Googling is common in society because that’s how the brains of most people work.  If I had a brain for single minded focusing I would be a person pursuing something very focused.  We see all those enchanting martial arts fables, like Kung Fu Panda where a slob of a mind can be polished into a diamond-point jewel of focused attention.  Is that really possible?  Maybe such training is possible if we start as children, but I doubt it for middle-aged adults.  Can I and others improve our minds with incremental improvements, especially late in life, well I think there’s plenty of evidence for that.

We know that doing the crossword puzzle or the sudoku will exercise our brain, so I would imagine reading long articles from The New Yorker and The Atlantic will condition our mental focus towards longer attention spans.  I would also assume we could follow Lord Chesterfields’ advice by starting the day by making a short list of things we want to do, and then work on them one at a time.  My closet is still a mess, but if I stuck with it, focused my mind, and only worked on my closet, it would be finished with an hour’s effort.

A New Theory of Multitasking

I think some kinds of multitasking are possible and aren’t bad.  I wouldn’t want to sit and burn CDs until I had finished all 1500 of them.  I think I could safely work on cleaning out my closet, listen to an audio book and burn CDs and be a success if I finished the closet in a reasonable amount of time and did a perfect job.  Actually, this may be a form of true multitasking, because my mind would be focused on the audio book story, and my body would be working to organize the closet and rip CDs.

People can do two things at once physically, but it’s uncommon – like rubbing your abdomen in a circle with your right hand and patting your head with your left.  I can’t sort speaker wire and switch out CDs, so that would be task switching.  But is it task switching or multitasking to listen to a book and do something physical that doesn’t require much mental processing like walking, doing the dishes, sorting wire or swapping out CDs?

The Good Old Days

I think many people would like to return to the good old days of a less hectic life.  They feel that life would be better if they didn’t have so many programming events demanding time slices.  Makes me wonder what my Main() loop looks like.  The belief is we’d be happier with fewer function calls and more time where our CPU usage falls to 0%.  Personally, I’d be philosophically happier if my log files showed more completed jobs, and fulfilled if I routinely shipped some fine 1.0 products.  I have learned that achieving a zero email inbox is very satisfying.  I don’t think we need to become Amish or Tibetan to find happiness.  I do think that learning to tame the mind is a worthy goal and all these mental lessons that are a byproduct of computer usage and Jetsons-fast living is helping us evolve.

I am reminded of some odd advice.  A modern day guru, or maybe it was a comedian, suggested getting up every morning and pistol whipping yourself if you had crippling fears of being mugged.  I wonder if I got up every morning and focused my mind intently on any kind of mental exercise, if I wouldn’t build up some focusing muscles?  If my flitting attention ever settles down to allow me to pursue such an experiment, I’ll let you know the results.



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Short Fiction by Nicola Humphreys

The Real SciBlog

Articles about riveting topics in science

West Hunter

Omnes vulnerant, ultima necat

The Subway Test

Joe Pitkin's stories, queries, and quibbles regarding the human, the inhuman, the humanesque.

SuchFriends Blog

'...and say my glory was I had such friends.' --- WB Yeats

Neither Kings nor Americans

Reading the American tradition from an anarchist perspective


Speculations on the Future: Science, Technology and Society

I can't believe it!

Problems of today, Ideas for tomorrow


Peter Webscott's travel and photography blog

The Wonderful World of Cinema

Where classic films are very much alive! It's Wonderful!

The Case for Global Film

'in the picture': Films from everywhere and every era

A Sky of Books and Movies

Books & movies, art and thoughts.

Emily Munro

Spinning Tales in the Big Apple


hold a mirror up to life.....are there layers you can see?