Monthly Archives: January 2019
Snooze – A Creation of the Devil

I love my sleep. I used to survive on very little of it, but I can tell that I am getting prematurely old because I need more sleep that I used to. What makes it worse is that once you get “off” in your sleeping routine, it is hard to get back on. Though I battle with insomnia at times, I just have a hard time getting up in the morning when the bed feels oh so good.

I give this topic more of a positive spin over at WGS today, telling of an old technique I learned once about jumping out of bed that I am trying to implement again. Here, I am just going to complain a little!

Yes, I am going to complain about that evil Snooze Button that every alarm clock includes. I would venture to say that no other invention has done more to ruin the productivity and on time factor of humankind than the ability to put off getting out of bed with just a simple push of a button. Generally, alarms allow you 10 minutes of continued bliss with by just reaching out and slapping that big button of delay. Some are shorter, but 10 minutes is the norm.

What is with that design too? You know we all use the snooze way too much when alarm clocks generally are designed now such that the snooze button is by far the largest feature on the entire device. Most often this button is placed right at the top so you can simply roll over, and in your blind stupor slap around until you hit the clock and stop that incessant sound that is attempting to pull you out of la la land. No doubt you have woken up on many a day to find it is much later than you thought because you hit that snooze two or three times without even consciously being aware of what you were doing.

Alarm clocks need to include the ability to disable that snooze button, forcing us to actually wake up enough to realize what we are doing. Perhaps they could require us to tap it with a pattern of some kind to require a level of consciousness. “Shave and a haircut” would do. I have taken to actually putting my clock across the room so I have to get out of bed to turn it off; yet, even then I crawl back into bed and try to quickly get back into REM. With a one-year-old child in the house, I do have some real motivation to get that alarm clock turned off quickly. If I let it go, she is woken up too and the entire morning takes on additional complexity.
We all know that extra 10 minutes (per snooze) is most definitely not quality sleep time. Once we are broken out of the deep sleep cycle, we are simply trying to prolong the inevitable start of the new day. You are not going to warm up to the day any better by slowly waking up. Face reality and set the alarm for when you really need to get up and do it. You will get more quality sleep out of it than the perpetual snooze cycle.

Yet, like any other addiction, trying to break from this snooze crack is harder than it sounds. I am a deep sleeper that can do amazing things without ever breaking into consciousness. As a kid, I could sleepwalk with the best of them. I can carry on entire conversations in my sleep. It scares me to think of what secrets my wife could pull out of me if she were to abuse this ability. Good thing I don’t keep many secrets! Turning off the alarm and tricking myself into continuing to slumber is something my subconscious has done on many an occasion. Thus the across the room technique mentioned before. I even have to vary the location of the alarm on days that I know I have to get up for a specific appointment and can’t get away with a little tardiness.

So, as the title suggestions, I submit that the snooze button is a creation of the devil. It is not inspired as an invention to better humankind, rather bring us down into lazy habits and poor starts to our day. One more example of how we can procrastinate even the smallest of things, just getting out of bed. So it is time to kick that habit. Out with the snooze and in with maximizing my actual sleep time. How about you?

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Are Google’s (and others) Street View Photographs Privacy Violations?

Have you checked out the new Street View feature from Google? If not, it is a fun view of a couple of major cities as taken from a roving van topped with some special cameras. The low-resolution photos are all linked together for a virtual tour along city streets. Google is not the first to feature this with their map service, but hey, it’s Google! We all stand up and take notice, at least in the geek world.

Of course, any time a new service is launched that offers a unique view of our world, the right to privacy concerns are raised. In this case, I am not sure I agree with it though. The New York Times has an article highlighting a specific instance of a lady voicing her privacy concerns that is just one small point in the growing debate.
Google Earth was one of their first to bring up such concerns, providing a very public view of satellite imagery. Of course, this is done in a resolution that is less than personally identifiable. Later lawsuits requiring search engines to reveal search habits and history of individuals were an even greater concern. What they know about us online is scary. Now, with street-level photography, if you happen to be doing something less than flattering at the moment such a camera-equipped vehicle drives by, your actions might be immortalized for some time to come.

The concern here is your right to privacy vs the First Amendment right to document public spaces. I really am not all that torn on this issue as I feel public spaces are just that, public. Of course, I live in a fairly rural area, so the likelihood of me being documented is next to nothing. Still, I feel like if you are doing something in public view, you better be sure it is something you don’t mind the world seeing. What is the difference between what you are fairly consciously allowing your neighbors to see vs the whole world seeing that same thing? If you want something private, close the curtains or be sure you are doing that where no one can see.

This is not to say I am in favor of virtual peeping, but in our world of increasing digital exposure, we need to face reality. If you are out in public, there is a good chance your presence can be documented in some fashion. How often have you noticed that as you are casually at the park or anywhere, you happen to get caught in the background of someone taking a photo? Have you ever taken time to look in the background of your own photos or video to see what you didn’t notice you were capturing? It happens innocently all the time.

I am increasingly intrigued by new technology that links together all the digital media being published out there. I am extremely confident that YouTube and Flickr are just the tip of the iceberg as to what the near future holds in social networking media. As more of this media is publicly available, more technology will be developed to create better access to it, stringing together the collective effort into massive mindshare. I find it exciting rather than intimidating.

In the case of the “cat lady” mentioned in the NY Times article above, I think her complaint is petty but still representative of the concerning being voiced. Her blurry view of a cat in the window is the least of my concerns, but apparently high on hers. At least with Google, they offer the ability to request the removal of a photo, though in her case I am not sure if they will honor it.
So, word to the wise, realize public these days really means wide open to the view of the entire world. Be aware and mindful of it, and you have nothing to fear!

Categories: Uncategorized
Seven steps to help a child’s back and neck pain in schools

I’ve talked before about the problems that carrying heavy bags are causing children. And after I wrote the blog post, I spent the weekend trying to persuade my son to take a day’s worth of kit to school, rather than a week’s. The problem is that the sanctions that come with forgetting sports kit or books are worse, in a child’s mind than the possibility, long hence, of back pain.

But there are things that parents and teachers could do, which help take those damaging decisions out of the children’s’ hands:

1) Get them to use a backpack, not a sports bar – and use both shoulder straps. Using both shoulder straps might be less cool – might make them look like a language tourist – but it keeps the back straighter and so stronger.

2) See if the school can use ergonomic chairs. Not the cheap option obviously, and may need to be restricted to ICT or computer studies classes. But it will help.

3) Don’t let children sit on the floor, or use bean bags, to work or play on a laptop or games console. Make sure they use a chair. They won’t thank you for it at the time, but maybe they will later…

4) Make sure that when children are using a PC, they mimic the workplace and create for themselves a decent workstation. Good desk, good chair (ideally a proper office chair), and a computer screen set at eye level.

5) Consider only letting them use a desktop PC, in fact. A laptop tends to encourage poor posture – but if a laptop is the only real option, make sure they site correctly. Straight back and all that …

6) Don’t allow them to slob about in front of the TV, especially after a long session in front of a PC. Get them outside, get them doing sport, get them active.

7) If they develop back or neck pain – get them to a doctor, an osteopath or a chiropractor. These are tender years in a child’s physical development. Don’t let things drift.

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On Dying Young

Andrew Breitbart died yesterday, and half the people who knew who he was mourned publicly and sincerely, and other the half tried to hold their tongues. Some failed.

I was one of the latter group and failed a little. I follow this stuff for a living and knew who Breitbart was, and watched his work with some amusement, some dismay, and some anger. He was responsible for wrecking or hurting a lot of reputations and careers, some of whom might have deserved it, some of whom absolutely did not. He often lied about people and accused others of lying without basis. It doesn’t seem right to me, even on the occasion of his sudden death, to ignore this. Certainly, the death of a public figure never caused Breitbart to restrain himself from criticism.

One of the things that puzzled me about all the reaction was how often Breitbart was called a conservative or a “conservative warrior.” He was many things but calling him a “conservative” is arguable. By his own admission, he wasn’t that interested in policy, or even politics, in the sense of governance. He was interested in the battle, in the fight between His Team and Their Team, and he was utterly devoted to advancing His Team’s cause, and running up the score, which seemed to be counted by scalps. Ethics, morality, or even, really politics as detached from personality seemed to have nothing much to do with it. Is there anybody in the world who imagines, for example, that he would have said or done anything about Anthony Weiner’s Weiner if Weiner had an (R) after his name? Calling him a committed conservative, to me, makes as much sense as calling Lawrence Taylor a committed Giant. He was a very, very effective fighter for his side, and most of the people who mourn him on that side (excepting those who knew him personally) seem mostly to be mourning his departure from the battlefield. Who will take it to the enemy now?

Other people have opined about his legacy and his role in coarsening our debate better than I can. One of the things that bug me is that the political battlefield has now extended into every arena so that everything is fodder for fighting — my father in law, a staunch conservative, refused to use Heinz Ketchup during the 2004 election season. Once politics is interfering with your condiments, it’s no longer recognizable as politics. Breitbart was one of the many who made a nice living in the manufacture of brand new forms of brickbats.

And, of course, it’s frightening that anyone who dares stick their neck out into the public sphere now must need to expect to pay a harsh price, extracted by Breitbart’s role models, heirs, and imitators. I personally try — believe it or not — to treat people decently, even the people I’m making fun of so that we never cross the line from satire to cruelty. When I die, I don’t want half the people who knew who I was wondering if it would be polite to say what they’re really thinking.

Speaking of which, I happened to spend an hour today talking to Jennifer Gleason, the widow of G. Chris Gleason, who collapsed and died just a few hundred yards short of the Philadelphia Marathon finish line, minutes before I finished the race myself. I saw him lying there, being treated by the EMTs who could not resuscitate him. Like Breitbart, he died too young (Gleason was 40), like Breitbart, he had a wife and young children (who were waiting for him just on the other side of the finish line — Jennifer told me this part of the story and I started to weep.) Gleason — to my knowledge — never attacked anyone publicly, never got involved in politics, never denounced anyone, and never was featured on cable news by bookers who know that denunciations make good TV. He did touch a lot of people’s lives, though, as evidenced here. If you’re going to think about the tragedy of a husband and father died young, spare a thought for Chris Gleason.

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No Habla Ingles?
No Habla Ingles?

Why do people think it is acceptable to speak to their friends/co-workers/family in their own language when no one else in the group can understand them? Would they like it if I started speaking in a foreign language around them?No Habla Ingles?

Case in point: I get my nails done at a salon that has only Asian women working there. They all speak English, this I know because they speak to me in English. So I know they can all speak it. But when they speak to each other, it is in their language, and sometimes they laugh and just keep talking and talking, and I can’t help but think “maybe they are talking about me?” Maybe I am just being a little self-conscious, but it’s rude!

It reminds me of that Seinfeld episode where Elaine gets her nails done and swears the ladies there are talking about her, so she gets George’s father, who understands their language, to come on an appointment with her. Turns out, they ARE talking about her and having a good time doing it!

No Habla Ingles?

Maybe I’m just a little paranoid…. but when I see them look at me from the corner of their eyes, and then a few remarks go flying in their language, along with a few smiles or chuckles… well, what’s one to think?? We all know women can be so caddy! YES, we can!!

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