Saturday 13 December 2008

The Now Habit

As you may know at least since my September post, I am often a procrastinator nowadays, and not too happy about it. The cause of that has largely been a mystery for me. I would take umbrage at anyone suggesting it was because of plain laziness — after all, as (I think) most human beings, I like being productive and useful and making a difference, and there are areas in my life (music for instance) where I do not procrastinate at all as a rule.

Enter The Now Habit by Neil Fiore, which I came across by way of an MP3-music and audiobook web shop the other day. According to its subtitle, it's "A Strategic Program for Overcoming Procrastination and Enjoying Guilt-Free Play" and it seems to be just the thing I need. There is a summary with a very good, comprehensive mindmap on Litemind, and another good review on Life Optimizer.

I've been listening to about half the book so far and I'm about to read the book, which I've also bought. Apart from some parts being a bit long-winded (in the verbatim interpretation of "tell them what you're gonna tell them, tell them, tell them what you've told them" frequently encountered in American articles and books), I appreciate it very much. Thanks to Fiore's description, I've found myself able to recognise much of my procrastination as a response to anxiousness caused by my perfectionism. I've been aware of the latter for a very long time, but had not really drawn this very important connection between the two phenomena yet. Very helpful indeed.
I'm starting to profit from the book also on the part of handling the issue. The two key ideas that are most present in my mind for now are these:
  1. Stop worrying about the end of the project and how you don't know how to do everything needed on the way — start taking a little, perfectly managable step NOW (and so on).
  2. Stop talking to yourself in terms of "I have to do this or that (although I don't want to)", that just fuels inner resentment against the task and causes procrastination of the second type (or the 1st in Fiore's order), which is "as an indirect way of resisting pressure from authorities" (the authority in this case being part of yourself). Consider the task and make a conscious choice, either wholeheartedly to commit to it — or not to tackle it and to bear the consequences. The words of Yoda in Star Wars come to mind: "Try not. Do, or do not — there is no try."
Finally, on a related website I found this saying, a wonderful antidote to my perfectionism:
"Anything worth doing is worth doing poorly at first."
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Sunday 19 October 2008

Good news: Colin Powell endorses Barack Obama

Here is General Colin Powell's thoughtful endorsement of Barack Obama, which includes very pointed criticism of the Republican party and campaign.

The full NBC Meet The Press program (including more interview with Powell and background talk with political analysts) is available as a video and in transcript.
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Thursday 9 October 2008

Obama spokesperson slams FOX News "journalist"

Ah, how I like the sound of a Repuglican smear-attack dog whining.
Here, Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs gives the Republican TV channel FOX News' journalist Sean Hannity a healthy dose of the Republicans' own medicine: When Hannity tries the latest Right-wing guilt-by-association smear on Gibbs, Gibbs counters by attacking Hannity for giving air time to a well-known anti-Semite a few days earlier, driving Hannity into the defense. See or read for yourself:


SEAN HANNITY: Why would you sit on a board -- would you sit on a board with a guy who bombed the Pentagon [William Ayers] and wasn't sorry about it?

ROBERT GIBBS: He sat on a charitable board and a board that funded by a conservative Republican and a friend of Ronald Reagan.

HANNITY: Was that poor judgment?

GIBBS: That was Walter Annenberg.

HANNITY: I didn't ask you -- was that poor judgment on Obama's part?

GIBBS: I don't think that was poor judgment at all. I think what Barack Obama has done throughout his career is talk about the big issues that are important to him --

HANNITY: All right, you're giving me spin now. I'm asking you --

GIBBS: Okay -- let me ask you one question.

HANNITY: All right. You ask me a question.

GIBBS: Okay. Are you anti-Semitic?

HANNITY: Not at all.

GIBBS: Okay. On your show on Sunday --

HANNITY: Uh-huh --

GIBBS: You -- the show that is named after you, right? The show with -- the centerpiece of that show was a guy named Andy Martin -- right?

HANNITY: No -- I know you're reading your talking points regarding --

GIBBS: No, no --

HANNITY: When I interviewed -- hang on one second. Let me answer your question.

GIBBS: No, no. I don't have talking points --

HANNITY: When I interviewed Malik Shabazz; when I interviewed Al Sharpton --

GIBBS: Right.

HANNITY: When I interviewed all of these controversial figures -- you see on Fox, we actually interview people of all points of view, whether we agree or disagree.

GIBBS: So --

HANNITY: I -- the statement you're about to read --

GIBBS: Yeah, Andy Martin --

HANNITY: I -- I totally, completely --

GIBBS: Called a judge a crooked, slimy Jew, who has a history of lying and theiving -- comments (unintelligible) --

HANNITY: Here's my answer to you --

GIBBS: Martin went on to write that he understood better why -- better why the Holocaust took place, given that Jews [sic] survivors are operating as a wolf pack (unintelligible) --

HANNITY: Here's my answer to you. I find those comments despicable. But wait a minute --

GIBBS: You put him on your show!

HANNITY: We put Malik Shabazz on the show --

GIBBS: It's the Hannity -- it's the Hannity show!

HANNITY: I put Khalid Muhammad on my show. I put --

GIBSS: Why am I not to believe that you're anti-Semitic?

HANNITY: Let me -- here's the answer --

GIBBS: Why am I not to believe that everyone who works for the network is anti-Semitic --

HANNITY: Here's the -- here's the --

GIBBS: Because Sean Hannity gave a platform to a man who thinks -- who thinks Jews are slimy?

HANNITY: Mr. Gibbs -- Mr. Gibbs -- Mr. Gibbs -- I's a journalist who interviews people that I disagree with all of the time, that give their opinion. Fox has all points of view. We're allowing you on the program, and I do not agree with hardly anything that Obama says.

GIBBS: (Laughs) Well --

HANNITY: So let me answer -- no, no, no --

GIBBS: How can you give a platform to virulent anti-Semites --

HANNITY: Here's -- I will tell you this --

GIBBS: who can't even get a law license in Illinois?

HANNITY: That I -- I'll make a deal with you. If Barack Obama admits that what he did by sitting on a board with -- giving speeches with -- having Ayers -- going over to Ayers' house --

GIBBS: You'll admit you're anti-Semitic?

HANNITY: No, no. I'll admit to you that -- I will tell you that Barack Obama wants to be president. It's poor judgment. It is irresponsible --

GIBBS: (Laughs) Well --

HANNITY: And it's reckless to -- no, let me finish -- to be friends with a guy that bombed our Pentagon, was at war with our country, whose motto was to kill our children and kill your parents.

GIBBS: Well, I think it's deplorable that you had some on TV that's anti-Semitic --

HANNITY: And it's deplorable that your candidate for president has not been honest with the American people.

GIBBS: That calls Jews slimy, and understands the Holocaust better because of the way he views --

HANNITY: I'm explaining --

COLMES: (unintelligible) We have a short time here --

HANNITY: Let me finish first. Let me finish (to Alan Colmes). I'm explaining to you --

GIBBS: I can't believe you would give a platform --

HANNITY: So you do not want to want me to interview anybody I agree, dis[agree] -- I can only -- I can only interview people you disagree with?

GIBBS: You put the whole show around him, Sean!

HANNITY: Barack Obama --

GIBBS: You had to believe only that you agree with each and everything that Andy Martin says.

HANNITY: Listen -- Barack Obama, the president [sic] sat in the pew of Jeremiah Wright for 20 years, a guy who hates America.

GIBBS: I think -- I think you're changing the subject -- will you do me a favor?

HANNITY: Barack Obama -- Barack Obama is friends with William [sic] Pfleger --

GIBBS: Will you do me a favor?

HANNITY: I have one last question.


HANNITY: Did Barack Obama ever sit and meet with Louis Farrakhan? Has he ever met with Louis Farrakhan?

GIBBS: I don't -- I don't know the answer to that.

HANNITY: Will you give us an answer by tomorrow?

GIBBS: Will you get back to me on whether you're anti-Semitic?

HANNITY: Ah, I'm not anti-Semitic. I am the biggest supporter of Israel.

COLMES: (unintelligible)

HANNITY: Benjamin Netanyahu blurbed my book.

GIBBS: Let me tell you -- I don't think -- I don't think your Jewish viewers are going to take it very well when you had someone like that on your show.

HANNITY: Excuse me. Excuse me. I am the biggest supporter of Israel --

GIBBS: I think it's bad that you gave him a platform.

HANNITY: And I've got a 30 year history of -- on the record of it.

GIBBS: Well, ask them and their friends about what Andy Martin said. You used that guest --

HANNITY: And listen -- I am not friends with a guy that bombed the Pentagon. I'm not friends with a guy that bombed the Capitol --

GIBBS: Here, you take this (hands Hannity a card) -- take that.

COLMES: Well, let me jump in for a second, Robert.

HANNITY: Your candidate is friends with him, not me.

GIBBS: You're friends with someone who is a virulent anti-Semite. Ask someone -- ask Benjamin Netanyahu about that!

HANNITY: Your candidate is friends with a terrorist!

GIBBS: That's not true.

COLMES: Hey guys --

HANNITY: He sits on a board with a terrorist.

COLMES: Guys, stop it. First of all, he's not anti-Semitic.

HANNITY: Thank you very much.

GIBBS: Well, well --

COLMES: This game of guilt by association I disagree with, on all fronts. I will defend Sean against anti-Semitism, he's not anti-Semitic. But I also deplore this game of guilt by association.

GIBBS: Sure!

COLMES: The people who've sat on this board were also republicans; on one of these boards there was the former president of North-Western University; Walter Annenberg was a Reagan ambassador who gave his money --

GIBBS: Friend of Ronald Reagan --

COLMES: So this game of guilt by association is ridiculous!


Thursday 4 September 2008

The Procrastinator's Creed

(For a very good friend and fellow procrastinaritis-afflicted one:)
  1. I believe that if anything is worth doing, it would have been done already.
  2. I shall never move quickly, except to avoid more work or find excuses.
  3. I will never rush into a job without a lifetime of consideration.
  4. I shall meet all of my deadlines directly in proportion to the amount of bodily injury I could expect to receive from missing them.
  5. I firmly believe that tomorrow holds the possibility for new technologies, astounding discoveries, and a reprieve from my obligations.
  6. I truly believe that all deadlines are unreasonable regardless of the amount of time given.
  7. I shall never forget that the probability of a miracle, though infinitesmally small, is not exactly zero.
  8. If at first I don't succeed, there is always next year.
  9. I shall always decide not to decide, unless of course I decide to change my mind.
  10. I shall always begin, start, initiate, take the first step, and/or write the first word, when I get around to it.
  11. I obey the law of inverse excuses which demands that the greater the task to be done, the more insignificant the work that must be done prior to beginning the greater task.
  12. I know that the work cycle is not plan/start/finish, but is wait/plan/plan.
  13. I will never put off until tomorrow, what I can forget about forever.
  14. I will become a member of the ancient Order of Two-Headed Turtles (the Procrastinator's Society) if they ever get it organized.
Cheers! /Sebastian
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Sunday 8 June 2008

A Good Pun Is Its Own Reword!

Here's a new list for your indulgence!

Energizer Bunny arrested -- charged with battery.
A pessimist's blood type is always b-negative.
Practice safe eating -- always use condiments.
A Freudian slip: when you say one thing but mean your mother.
Shotgun wedding: A case of wife or death.
I used to work in a blanket factory, but it folded.
If electricity comes from electrons does that mean that morality comes from morons?
A hangover: the wrath of grapes.
Corduroy pillows: are making headlines.
A book on voyeurism: a peeping tome?
Dancing cheek-to-cheek is really a form of floor play.
Banning the bra: was a big flop.
Sea captains: don't like crew cuts.
Does the name Pavlov ring a bell?
Successful diet: the triumph of mind over platter.
Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana.
A gossip: someone with a great sense of rumor.
Without geometry: life is pointless.
When you dream in color: it's a pigment of your imagination.
Condoms: should be used on every conceivable occasion.
Reading whilst sunbathing makes you: well-red.
When two egotists meet: it's an I for an I.
Alarms: What an octopus is.
Crick: The sound that a Japanese camera makes.
Dockyard: A physician's garden.
Incongruous: Where bills are passed.
Khakis: What you need to start the car in Boston.
Oboe: An English tramp.
Pasteurize: Too far to see.
Propaganda: A gentlemanly goose.
Toboggan: Why we go to an auction.
and finally,
Marriage: the mourning after the knot before.

Wednesday 2 April 2008

A bit of levity

Just found this again in my fun archive...
(The original post including the comments appeared in a newsgroup a couple of years ago.)

The year's best [actual] headlines of 2004:

12 on their way to cruise among dead in plane crash
[Count me out!]

2 sisters reunited after 18 years at checkout counter
[They were definitely in the wrong lane]

Astronaut Takes Blame for Gas in Spacecraft
[That's what he gets for eating those beans!]

Cold Wave Linked to Temperatures
[who would have thought!]

Complaints about NBA referees growing ugly
[Makeover time!]

Dealers will hear car talk at noon
[Yes Michael?]

Drunk gets nine months in violin case
[A harsh sentence!]

Enfield (London) Couple Slain; Police Suspect Homicide
[they may be on to something!]

Enraged cow injures farmer with ax
[It was him or me, your honour!]

Grandmother of eight makes hole in one
[They don't half start young these days]

Hershey bars protest
[What would you do if you were about to be eaten?]

Hospitals are Sued by Seven Foot Doctors
[Boy, are they tall!]

If Strike Isn't Settled Quickly, It May Last Awhile
[you think?!]

Include your children when baking cookies
[Buy a bigger oven though.]

Iraqi head seeks arms
[Torso not found yet]

Is There a Ring of Debris around Uranus?
[not if I wipe thoroughly!]

Juvenile Court toTry Shooting Defendant
[see if that works any better than a fair trial!]

Kids Make Nutritious Snacks
[Tastes like chicken?]

Killer sentenced to die for second time in 10 years
[Beware of the zombies!]

Lack of brains hinders research
[Or any cerebral activity, for that matter.]

Lawmen from mexico barbecue guests
[Pass the mustard please.]

Local High School Dropouts Cut in Half
[Chainsaw Massacre all over again!]

Lung cancer in women mushrooms
[Something with the spores?]

Man Struck By Lightning Faces Battery Charge
[he probably IS the battery charge!]

Man eating piranha mistakenly sold as pet fish
[Give him an aqualung]

Milk drinkers are turning to powder
[Ashes to ashes]

Miners Refuse to Work after Death
[good-for-nothin' lazy so-and-sos!]

New Study of Obesity Looks for Larger Test Group
[weren't they fat enough?!]

Old school pillars are replaced by alumni
[either that, or face unemployment]

Panda Mating Fails; Veterinarian Takes Over
[what a guy!]

Police Begin Campaign to Run Down Jaywalkers

Prostitutes appeal to pope
[but not the other way around.]

Quarter of a million chinese live on water
[And bread?]

Queen Mary having bottom scraped
[Count me out]

Red Tape Holds Up New Bridges
[you mean there's something stronger than duct tape?!]

Safety experts say school bus passengers should be belted
[How cruel]

Something Went Wrong in Jet Crash, Expert Says
[no, really?]

Squad helps dog bite victim
[Add insult to injury]

Stolen painting found by tree
[The Whomping Willow]

Two soviet ships collide, one dies
[The other one lived to tell the tale]

War Dims Hope for Peace
[I can see where it might have that effect!]

And the winner is....
Typhoon Rips Through Cemetery; Hundreds Dead
(Can you believe it?)

SR P1-morgon: Computers the new eco-scoundrel? [SE/EN]

"Är datorn den nya miljöboven? (webbradio)

IT-användningen i världen påverkar klimatet nästan lika mycket som flygindustrin, det visar en ny rapport som Håkan Nordin, TCO development tagit fram. Vi har också besökt kontorsarbetare som förklarar varför de inte stänger av datorn när dom går på lunch eller möte."

Executive summary:
PCs may at first seem inconspicuous from an ecological point of view, but there are so terribly many of them so their energy consumption (which makes up 70% of the problem) is enormous in sum. According to some calculations, the climate impact of the world's IT use is nearly as large as that of air traffic!

In a new report by TCO Development, whose main author Håkan Nordin was interviewed in Swedish public radio this morning, a typical office computer spends as much as two months per year running in spite of not being used (while the human is having lunch, in meetings etc.).

A few tips for office users:
  • Quite a lot of people obviously still believe that a screen saver saves energy. Sorry, that is complete nonsense: the computer is still running, as is the monitor, so they happily consume energy!
  • Find and activate the energy-saving settings of your computer (most computers in question run Windows, and Windows positively has these settings)!
  • Overcome your laziness... Do press the power switch on your monitor if you go away! Modern LCD displays take no longer than 1, 2 seconds to come on again once you are back.
For home users hunting for a new PC, Håkan Nordin recommends to pester the sellers with questions about the efficiency of the different models. A system with cheap, inefficient components may use up to 8 times as much energy as an equivalent efficient one!!

Also noteworthy: Another considerable part of the global IT consumption stems from the data centres feeding the internet.

Monday 31 March 2008

A reason to be proud to be a European

As an engineer I feel particularly proud to be a European these days, seeing as our space agency, the ESA, has accomplished and is accomplishing an impressive feat with the launch of Jules Verne, the first of a series of ATVs (Automated Transfer Vehicles) -- space "trucks" bound for the International Space Station ISS -- and its preparations for rendezvous with the ISS, which is to occur come Thursday. It is heartening to see how flawlessly nearly everything has gone for the mission so far!

Follow the news in ESA's ATV special and see some of the coverage by Jonathan Amos of the BBC's Science division, for instance about the launch and about today's beautiful approach "dress rehearsal" (at the bottom of which you can see a live plot of the ATV's path over the earth!).

Now if that can't motivate me to try and do some similarly high-quality European science...

Friday 21 March 2008

Obama speech

Last Tuesday, Barack Obama, the leading candidate in the Democrats' primaries for this year's US presidential election, gave a speech in Philadelphia, "A More Perfect Union", in which he took a critical stand on a questionable sermon of the former minister of his Chicago congregation, Reverend Jeremiah Wright.
I really think the speech is a noteworthy example of some of Obama's "philosophy" and even more than that, of his ability to express himself, both his rhethoric and eloquence, so I warmly recommend you to read and/or watch at least a part of it (you may not have enough patience for all of the 37 minutes) if you haven't done so yet!
What a joy it would be to have this man as the next US President, after the incumbent blundering, if and when not criminal, babbling baboon!! Here's crossing my fingers...

A new kind of tube radio... [DE]

Deutschlandradio Kultur: Das kleinste Radio der Welt ist ein Röhrenradio... ein Nanoröhrenradio! :-)

Sunday 16 March 2008

Castles in the Air

I read this the other day and found it very apt: “If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost. That is where they should be. Now put the foundation under them.” – Henry David Thoreau
Maybe it's a bit too verbose really to fit Miguel de Cervantes' observation: “An aphorism is a short sentence based on long experience”, but that doesn't lessen its value as food for thought.
There is nothing wrong with dreaming, as long as you don't stop at dreaming but strive to make the dreams come true -- that's what I've made out of it. Any more ideas?


"At a blank sheet you can stare forever."

Hej, hello, hallo, my friends, family and pals!
As I was planning to start this blog I spent some thought on which language to write in.  Since I don't feel keen on awkwardly writing everything thrice (for my German-speaking, Swedish-speaking, and international readers), what I have now decided upon is to take lingua franca English as the default (what surprise!), but to liberally post, quote, or link to stuff in either language if the subject is mostly interesting for the speakers of that language anyway.  Hope that suits you all fine!
Other than that, the task for this post was mostly to overcome the barrier expressed in the first words: the harrowing experience of sitting in front of a blank sheet (or screen in this case) and not knowing what to write simply because I have not written anything on it yet!
Seems I have succeeded in that... so from now on you may expect to find new entries of mine here on a loosely regular basis. As noteworthy events come and go.
Cheers! /Sebastian