I love to read, but I find it hard to work into my schedule. Which is not to say my schedule is “full”, I just mean there aren’t natural times when I’m likely to read.
When I was in elementary school, I would read in school when I was supposed to be doing school work, read while I walked home sometimes, read until supper, read until bed, and read on the way back to school the next morning where I would get three more books (I was in Grade 3 or 4 as I recall).
Later, I would read on buses while commuting, but that was always a crapshoot as to whether I would feel nauseated or not.
But lunchtimes? That was ME time. Grab some food, ignore the world, and read. A friend of mine that I met at french training was really struggling because he had to drive to the school. Normally, he would read on the bus in the morning for almost 40 minutes on his way to work, plus over lunch, and then 40 minutes on his way home. He had LOTS of time. Once he started French? He was basically down to lunch hour. It was driving him bonkers.
When I’m at the office, I drive to work so reading-by-commute is out. I do read at lunches sometimes, but I also often use that time to read news articles more than books.
These days, my book reading often goes in binges. I rarely have a book “on the go” so to speak…I’m either reading intensely or I’m not reading at all. We bought books for Jacob on the weekend, and I need to read three of them for mature themes and content before he does. Today, I plowed through the last 3/4 of I Am Number Four by Pittacus Lore. I’ve seen the movie and practically fell asleep; the book was much better, and while it is about war, there is some normalcy in there too. I don’t know that Jacob will enjoy the book, but I’m fine with him giving it a try. He read Maximum Ride by James Patterson, and there are some similar but less fantastical elements. More sci-fi than fantasy for this one.
But I took most of the evening off from my to do list to just sit and read. Yeah, sure, I was burning some files from one media to another, did a couple of chores, wrote this post, caught up on some discussions I’m part of online. But mostly I just sat here and read while the other stuff hummed along. And I finished the book. I feel like it took me longer than normal though…440 pages in total, and I was already about 100 pages in when I started reading tonight, but it still took me over 3 hours. But I definitely zoned out in there. Want to know the weird part? I did it while sitting at my desk. I didn’t even move to a comfy chair. I guess that means the story was engaging enough that I didn’t even notice! 🙂
As a public servant, and similar to every other industry, there is a lot of speculation about what post-Covid workplaces will look like. Many of our operations can be done well-enough from home, and the challenges we have now are mostly about IT infrastructure, home office solutions, and privacy. Much of our work is digital and email-enabled, so it’s not a giant leap to work from home. We just traditionally haven’t done that transition for all the usual pressures related to remote workers and supervision/monitoring, and some unique pressures related to privacy, taxpayer dollars, and supporting Ministers in person.
Paul Taylor over at Governing.com wrote an article about five changes he sees coming to the public service post-Covid. Here’s an excerpt:
Your Cubicle. Our Conference Room. Where Did They Go? Your space may get bigger as facilities staff reconfigure space to conform with the 6-foot separation requirements. Coupled with limits on group size, that is likely to grow cubicle row into what were once conference rooms. … Beyond the Point of No Return. Social distancing is bound to spread employees across more square footage than agencies have to reconfigure to handle everybody at work. What’s more, as governments confront the need for budget cuts in the tens and hundreds of millions, the public-sector layoffs announced to date are likely to rise exponentially as the tax base shrinks. … The Grey Beard Dilemma. The Centers for Disease Control and other public health officials have cautioned since the beginning of the crisis that “Older adults and people who have severe underlying medical conditions like heart or lung disease or diabetes seem to be at higher risk for developing more serious complications from COVID-19 illness.” That may provide some employees an excuse to leave public service early — or be the catalyst for difficult conversations with their managers about a mutually agreeable plan of when and how to transition.
He has two other points about masks and gloves + surveillance and testing, and I think it is way too premature to be estimating what those measures look like. One estimate of putting 100 people per floor into a 20 floor office building (with only 2 people per elevator to maintain distancing and assuming normal start times and the usual number of elevators per building) had it taking almost 3-4h to get everyone just to their desks. Exits would take the same although maybe a bit faster if some people take the elevator.
However, I agree that there will be a lot of discussions about rejigging floor spaces and decreasing common areas. I also think there will be much greater emphasis on giving people camera-enabled computes with full band-width capabilities (the Canadian federal government has had lots of laptops and tablets with cameras, but very little infrastructure to support video-calls from your desktop), and if you are meeting through computers, why not continue to work from home?
I’m less sold on the ruminations about layoffs in mass modes — there will be debts to pay off, guaranteed, but there will also be huge government programs to implement. It’s way too soon to make those estimates.
But as an ageing worker with diabetes, I fully agree about the complications going back to the office. I have zero interest in risking my life just to work in a cubicle. If I can do my work from home, I’m happy to do so. And if they offered some sort of buyout/medical early retirement option? I suspect I would be crunching the numbers to see if I could make it work.
Great article, even if I don’t fully agree with all his points.
As part of PolyWogg’s Reading Challenge 2020, I wanted to read the uber-popular “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck” by Mark Manson. I frequently avoid pop psych stuff as the analytical side is rarely up to my standards, but it is subtitled a “Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life”, and I’m willing to give it a chance. So I started keeping notes as I read it.
Chapter 1: Don’t try
The basic premise is that most self-improvement efforts are too vague or too generic to be helpful. They are all about getting more, doing more, having more success, and that the real key to doing so is self-improvement. But Manson argues:
Self-improvement and success often occur together. But that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re the same thing.
And so people end up focusing on trying to achieve self-actualization in every aspect of their life, every achievement possible.
The key to a good life is not giving a fck about more; it’s giving a fck about less, giving a fck about only what is true and immediate and important. […] Most of us struggle throughout our lives by giving too many fcks in situations where fcks do not deserve to be given. We give too many fcks about the rude gas station attendant who gave us our change in nickels. We give too many fcks when a show we liked was canceled on TV. We give too many fcks when our coworkers don’t bother asking us about our awesome weekend.
Oversimplifying somewhat, I would summarize the argument as simply you’re going to get annoyed about SOMETHING, so why not make sure that the something you are annoyed about is worth it. In other words, don’t sweat the small stuff, only sweat the big stuff you care about.
Chapter 2: Happiness is a problem
The argument is that happiness is not a “solvable equation”. You find happiness by loving the struggle. If pain of some sort is inevitable, and you accept that, focus on accepting which pain is worth your while. And the journey is the source of happiness, not the destination.
Also known as “Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.”
But Manson adds a small twist about finding problems you like to solve (i.e. what you love).
He then goes off on a long BS rant about links between Millennials, entitlement, and social media. Yawn. It was also said about every generation before this one. “The kids today…with their long hair, their rock and roll, their lack of responsibility…”. He then equates all of it to relying on denial or victim mentality, and thus the reason none of them can “change”. If someone wants to see an entitled summary of a narcissistic a-hole of epic proportions, his summary of his own adolescence and how his parents were to blame would rank up there among the all-time greats. Double yawn.
I did like one quote near the end:
Who you are is defined by what you’re willing to struggle for.
Not quite “I have a dream”, or, “I think therefore I am”, but there’s at least something in it.
Chapter 3: You are not special
This chapter is mostly meaningless self-aggrandizing about his rough childhood (spoiler alert: it wasn’t as “traumatic” shit as he thinks) to come to the conclusion that you can’t be special in every area, and maybe average in some or even the majority is okay.
Chapter 4: The value of suffering
About this point in the book, I’m starting to realize that he has some nuggets of ideas in each chapter, but most of his evidence tends to prove the exact opposite of what he’s trying to say. For example, his grand example of measuring things wrong is Pete Best being kicked out of the Beatles and the statement “I’m happier than I would have been with the Beatles.” Ignoring the self-rationalization process involved in any kind of statement like that, there’s absolutely no basis to know even if it would be objectively true. Yet instead of pointing out the fallacy of any such “what if / road not taken” comparison, i.e., the entire basis for regret, Manson uses it to prove that not all suffering is bad. Okaaaay.
He introduces the common concept of self-awareness being like an onion with layers:
What are emotions?
Why do we feel certain emotions?
Why do I feel that emotion and how am I judging things?
But then he does nothing really with it. He does summarize true self-improvement as being really about prioritizing better values for ourselves. Now THAT’S an interesting premise. It isn’t quite the same as people just simply committing to service to others as a panacea for all that is ailing you, but rather a way of focusing on the types of priorities you choose. Of course, he does settle for complaining about material things or pursuing pleasure, but the idea was interesting.
Chapter 5: You are always choosing
I liked the opening premise. He gives an example of being forced to run a marathon vs. choosing to run a marathon, and often the act of “choice” determines what your outcome is like (pain or joy). I much prefer Kottler’s “Change” treatment of a similar issue which is that how you talk to yourself during trauma oftens determines how you process it later, but okay, it’s pop-psych here, not true psych. Where Manson goes off the rails is his interpretation of blame, choice, and responsibility.
Basically he argues that we don’t always control what happens to us, but that we can control how we interpret it and how we respond. Except every psychologist knows that statement is simply not true. Some of us have serious issues, we’re not all self-aware and rational creatures, so saying we don’t respond like Pavlovian dogs to some stimuli doesn’t make it true. But he wants to use it to say while we are “responsible” for our problems, we are not “to blame” / “at fault” for our problems.
I can’t help but be reminded of the classic comedy skit by David Frye called “Richard Nixon – A Fantasy”. He does voices for all the characters, and as Nixon, he gives a press conference explaining the difference between being responsible and to blame. He says, “Let me be perfectly clear. I am responsible, but not to blame. Let me explain the difference. Those who are to blame, go to jail; those who are responsible, do not.”
About this point, just over 50% of the way through the book, I would probably have chucked it if I wasn’t reading it for a reading challenge. And as I noted above, there are a few nuggets here and there that are interesting ideas.
Chapter 6: You’re wrong about everything (but so am I)
This chapter is badly named, not surprisingly, but I like the idea that many people like to live in a “known” world, even if painful, believing something negative rather than hope for something else that is totally uncertain and requires work to achieve. Often this shows up as “unrealized potential” — the would-be rock star who never tries too hard, or the writer that never writes. It’s easier to think of yourself as having the potential to be great than risk it all and fail. And so he concludes that certainty is the enemy of growth.
See? This is what I mean. Amidst all the fucks and shits in the text, suddenly he finds an acorn of value like a blind squirrel.
Except, then he goes off the rails again. He uses it to argue that what is holding people back is fear (true, obviously) and that it is fear of challenging their own view of themself. So, the solution for him is to redefine yourself as simply as possible so that you’re not trying to challenge a complex view. Yep, crickets. Chirping in the night while time passes.
Chapter 7: Failure is the way forward
Don’t be afraid of failure, failure leads to growth, growth leads to goodness, goodness defeats the dark side of the force, a temptation you must avoid, hmm, if to face Vader you must. Or something, I don’t know, he lost me in his own shitstorm story. I don’t know if he was smoking something or watching Empire Strikes Back with Yoda too much, but he kinda goes off on a tangent.
When he eventually emerges, he has some interesting thoughts about how we tend to think of a linear process of “motivation” leading to “action” which leads to “results”. And so we often look for inspiration or motivation to get ourselves going, to start “acting”. But he notes that sometimes the action leads to an outcome or interim result that will actually give us the motivation we need. Cause and effect, reversed in a way. If this sounds vaguely familiar, think back to every Nike ad you’ve seen for the last 20 years. “Just do it”.
It’s one of the stupidest ideas on the planet. Here’s a wake-up call — if you COULD just “do it”, you would have already done it and you wouldn’t need a fucking book. If you haven’t, maybe there’s something holding you back. And it ain’t motivation, asshat. Maybe it’s fear, but more likely it’s way more complicated than that. But no worries, try it anyway. Uh huh. Sure Mark, no problem. Everyone will get right on it, now that you’ve opened them up to the most obvious idea on the planet.
Chapter 8: The importance of saying no
I kept wondering if Marie Kondo read this book before she came up with her joy theory. If it doesn’t give you joy, get rid of it. Or in Manson’s words:
The point is this: we all must give a fuck about something, in order to value something. And to value something, we must reject what is not that something. To value X, we must reject non-X.
Wow, I read all of the previous crap to get to this? Man, I better get some sort of badge for this.
Chapter 9: …And then you die
Yep, that’s it. Or it could be called “…and then the book ends”.
Did you ever see the movie City Slickers with Billy Crystal? He goes off to be a cowboy for a vacation, and Jack Palance tells him that he has to find his “one thing” that is his purpose in life. The single thing, in Manson’s world, that you give a fuck about if you only had one fuck to give. And you could be happy if you organized your life and your goals around that one thing while letting go of everything else that didn’t bring you joy or closer to that joy.
Or you could just summarize it as “Don’t sweat the small stuff and it’s all small stuff”.
There ain’t much else there. Even if it is written in more Millenial vernacular than Boomer examples.
For reviewing purposes, I skipped over the short Chapter 6, focused on Sky Portal operations, as I’ll do that chapter after I have a chance to connect to my tablet and test some of the operations. I thought of doing the same for Chapter 07, Connecting a PC, Mac, Tablet or Smartphone to Your Tablet, but it’s a short chapter, and easily dispensed with here.
Some of the highlights:
P.165 – Wired Connections for RS-232 Hand Controls…I knew that most of the wired connections used a USB to Serial adapter, and plugs in to the RJ-22 Jack (I thought it was an RJ-45, but apparently not!). However, one “new” thing in the guide is that there is a way to do a wired connection to a tablet or smartphone using SkyWire + Sky Safari with an iOS device. I had no idea there was an option for a physical wire connection. I might have skipped the dongle wifi if I had known that earlier, as there can be challenges maintaining connections.
P.165 – Wireless connections…As with the wired one, I didn’t know people had attempted doing it with BlueTooth but it sounds way more exciting than the wifi connection. Out of my abilities, most likely, but I’d be willing to buy one if it is ever perfected. I’ll stick with my wifi connection (SkyPortal module) although good to see the range of other options available.
P.168 – Software to Control Celestron Telescopes…I don’t have a lot of interest in this aspect, to be honest, and I have a copy of NexRemote that came with my scope back in the day. However, what I found incredibly useful was the suggestion that when any software asks you for your type of scope, if it doesn’t offer you an option for your specific model, it suggests using NexStar GPS or CPC…very useful to know! I also like the multiple refs to more materials on the author’s website.
P.169 – Troubleshooting Serial and USB Connection Problems…I have had problems with my wifi connection in the past, but I read the other connection section anyway. Interesting that NexStar Observer List software (NSOL) is only able to connect through the ports on the bottom of the hand-controller, not the extra ports on the mount. Under the Troubleshooting WiFi Connection Problems section (P.171), I was intrigued to see that when connecting to Android, it may note that the internet is not available (yes, I’ve had this!). It says you have to say “YES” and “DON’T ASK AGAIN” or Android will block everything. Nice. I also didn’t know that I could connect both my phone and the telescope through my router at home (if I was in the backyard) and that connection works better. While that would be helpful at home, I’m curious if that method (called Access Point mode) would work with my iPhone set as a hotspot. Something to keep in mind for the future.
A good short reference chapter. Hopefully, I won’t need the trouble-shooting part as much.