Spend $1000 on your hobby

by July

What would you buy if someone gave you $1000 to spend on your hobby?

This question made me think about how some hobbies are much more expensive than others.


Deep concentration — a crucial 21st century skill?

by July

… the greatest driver of both personal satisfaction and economic value in the work you do is your ability to sustain states of deep concentration on a single task. “To do good physics work,” he quotes the eminent physicist Richard Feynman saying, “You need absolute solid lengths of time … it needs a lot of concentration.” This is true of most knowledge work, and, Newport points out, the ability to produce unique work of merit has never been more highly rewarded in the marketplace.

At exactly the same time it has never been harder to accomplish. Our time and focus are constantly fractured and fragmented and this makes it harder to find and make use of sustained blocks of time in states of deep focus. We’re constantly interrupted by email and text and social media as well as our own desire to ‘check the internet’… I mean ‘research’ something.

Over time this shapes how we function. Day after day of scattered reactivity driven by our inboxes versus sustained effort in thinking about the most important problems in our world results in our losing the ability to sustain the habits of mind that allow us to our best work. It’s a bit like the way we’re losing our ability to read deeply- a topic I recently wrote about that also has direct relevance for schools.


It seems as if many totebaggers spend their work days checking in on this blog and other online sites.  Does at least part of your job require sustained “states of deep concentration on a single task”?  Or does your job mainly require you to shift your focus constantly to new tasks?  Or both?

After seeing that I was having trouble becoming too distracted to focus deeply on tasks, I found that getting back into the habit of reading books helped “rewire” my brain to be able to concentrate over longer periods.  (Check out the link to Forgetting How to Read to learn more about this.)

Your thoughts?  In particular, how does this relate to students?

Do most schools think about limiting focus and distractions and NOT constantly switching activities as highest-value learning environments? They do not. In fact they are probably more worried about “keeping students engaged” through group work or consumer-facing technologies or activities designed to pander to rather than reverse short and skittish attention spans. The overuse of group work might be an example in some cases.

Your latest food finds

by July

I learn about many of the latest food trends from my kids.

Why everyone is obsessed with Jollibee fast food — from its sweet spaghetti to fried chicken better than KFC

I only noticed a Jollibee location as I walked by it recently because my son had raved about it.  I would have tried it out except there was a long line of customers waiting to place their orders.  Maybe next time.  I’m curious.

What about all the juice bars that sell expensive “healthy” fresh juice that promise to cure everything that ails you?  My daughter has to have her regular fix and has convinced me to try some, but I’m not sold on their promises.  When you become a member of Pressed Juicery you get discounts on their juice bottles and shots.

I’ve noticed that power “bowls” have become options even at Taco Bell and other fast food places.  Impossible burgers are becoming available at more places, including Burger King.  People have become obsessed with hard seltzer.

What recent food discoveries have you made?  Maybe they’re only new to you.  Have you tried new ethnic foods lately?  Do you consider these fads or do they have staying power?  Have your go-to foods or restaurants changed very much recently?

The odds of needing long-term care

by July

Do you think much about long-term care needs?  What has been your experience with family or friends?  What are your plans?

The duration and level of long-term care will vary from person to person and often change over time. Here are some statistics (all are “on average”) you should consider:

Someone turning age 65 today has almost a 70% chance of needing some type of long-term care services and supports in their remaining years

Women need care longer (3.7 years) than men (2.2 years)

One-third of today’s 65 year-olds may never need long-term care support, but 20 percent will need it for longer than 5 years

How Much Care Will You Need?

Do these costs-of care numbers seem reasonable?

The Odds on Needing Long-Term Care – WSJ

Mental illness

by July

This recent comment seemed to set off a spirited discussion on the treatment of mental illness:

I believe we have redefined normal life suffering as pathological.

I thought of this when I read about Dr. Paul McHugh, a “professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and a tenacious skeptic of the crazes that periodically overtake his specialty”.

First, let’s be clear that he believes “mental illnesses are real things . . . that need to be studied, and can be treated”.  On the other hand, he believes some illnesses are “iatrogenic—a Greek word meaning “brought on by the healer”—implanted by the therapeutic process that purports to discover them”

Dr. McHugh gives some examples of iatrogenesis:  some cases of recovered memory, transgender/sex reassignment surgeries, and PTSD.

Dr. McHugh argues that the treatment of returning soldiers for the liberally applied PTSD diagnosis is another example of iatrogenesis. Such diagnoses are far rarer among Israel Defense Forces veterans, who experience plenty of trauma. Israelis “know that you can get a terrible psychological reaction out of a traumatic battle. And they do take the soldiers out, and they tell them the following: ‘This is perfectly normal; you need to be out of battle for a while. Don’t think that this is a disease that’s going to hurt you, this is like grief. You’re going to get over it, it’s normal. And within a few weeks, after a little rest, we’re going to put you back with your comrades and you’re going to go back to work.’ And they all do.”

By contrast, American psychiatrists say: “ ‘You’ve had a permanent wound. You’re going to be on disability forever. And this country has mistreated you by putting you in a false war.’ They make chronic invalids of them. That’s the difference.”

Standing Against Psychiatry’s Crazes – WSJ

What are your thoughts?

Some related links if you feel like reading some more:

The Real Problems With Psychiatry
A psychotherapist contends that the DSM, psychiatry’s “bible” that defines all mental illness, is not scientific but a product of unscrupulous politics and bureaucracy.

Psychiatry’s Incurable Hubris
The biology of mental illness is still a mystery, but practitioners don’t want to admit it.

In 1973 the American Psychiatric Association voted to declare that homosexuality was no longer a mental illness and thus should be removed from the DSM, psychiatry’s “bible” of illnesses.

The obvious question—how scientific is a discipline that settles so momentous a problem at the ballot box?—was raised by the usual critics.

Tuesday open thread

We have an open thread all day.

Anyone else interested in back pain relief?

A comprehensive guide to the new science of treating lower back pain
A review of 80-plus studies upends the conventional wisdom.

You can try to find a “back whisperer”.

These “back whisperers” come from many different backgrounds: doctors of physical therapy with an orthopedic clinical specialist certification, personal trainers with a degree in exercise science, physical therapists.

Or maybe just pop an Aleve as needed.

Upcoming topics:

Wednesday  —  College housing culture clash  (Rocky Mountain Stepmom)
Thursday  —  Open thread
Friday  —  Totebag Fantasy Vacation  (Honolulu Mother)
Sunday —  Politics open thread

How many towels?

by July

Everyone Seems to Be Divided on How Many Towels to Own—Here’s What We Think
Why is this so difficult?

Twitter user Advil launched the tweet that started Towelgate this weekend, and has garnered almost 2,500 replies. He believes that 10 is the perfect number of towels for a couple to own—but his girlfriend, not so much.

Soon enough, the internet’s replies came pouring in, with everyone wanting to put their two cents in on the Great Towel Debate. Some said 10 was just perfect, others replied that you definitely need more than 12, and some were more stumped than ever before….

While it definitely depends on how many people are living in the household, how many guests you typically have visit you, and a few other factors, we can all agree that most households should have more than one. (C’mon, what are you going to dry off with while your sole towel is being washed?!)

For a more definitive answer though, we’re going to need Marie Kondo to weigh in.

How many towels should you own?  What about sheets sets, blankets, or kitchen towels?  How many are too much?

Country clubs on the decline?

by July

Death of the Country Club
A changing culture imperils a venerable institution.

The country club, once a mainstay of American suburbia, faces a cloudy future, with a changing culture eroding its societal influence. Golf and tennis, the traditional club pastimes, have lost popularity. Declining marriage and fertility rates mean fewer families joining. Young professionals, many burdened with limited incomes and high debt, balk at paying dues. And a yearning for broader community makes the clubhouse’s exclusivity unappealing. The country club is increasingly a refuge for retirees—and, upon closure, a site for mixed-use development.

What do you think?  Do you see this happening  locally?  What replaces a country club for younger generations?