“To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all.”
Yet another list of 10 articles I have enjoyed reading this week.
# The Masked Avengers [David Kushner, The New Yorker]
Anyone can join Anonymous simply by claiming affiliation. An anthropologist says that participants “remain subordinate to a focus on the epic win—and, especially, the lulz.”
# The Trotskyites of the Right are Wrecking the Conservative Party [Polly Toynbee, The Guardian]
Seeing a party in power melt down before your eyes would be a riveting spectacle, if it weren’t so shocking in its frivolity. The great Tory schism that has been boiling away since Margaret Thatcher’s day is finally bubbling over. Except it is beginning to look less like a split than a party united in taking leave of its senses. You could think of Labour in 1983 – but it was out of power. Watching the Conservatives tombstoning off a cliff and ploughing out to sea is more bewildering: they are the government.
# Bye, Google Maps. [Zach Hamed, Medium]
Every so often, an app comes along that just completely understands the way you think. I don’t normally write long posts about an app I’ve used. But Citymapper is so incredibly well-made that I decided to put together a list of common use cases of a maps app, and how both Google Maps and Citymapper handle them.
(Citymapper is an incredible app. It has a beautiful design and a comprehensive set of features. It is, however, limited to only a few cities.)
# When Life Hacking Is Really White Privilege [jendziura, Medium]
I find when you act confused but polite then people want to help if you’re white. There was a line behind me. I wasn’t fighting or angry. So there was no reason for anyone to get angry at me, because I’m white.
# Four Ways to Organize Your Money Based on Your Personality [Molly Triffin, Lifehacker]
Not all the money advice you read necessarily applies to your personality—different types of people need to utilize different strategies. Whether you’re too much of a perfectionist, a procrastinator, or a stockpiler of needless paperwork, here are four strategies to deal with your money persona.
# Why Amazon Has No Profits (And Why It Works) [Benedict Evans, ben-evans.com]
Amazon’s business is delivering very rapid revenue growth but not accumulating any surplus cash or profits, because every penny of cash is being ploughed back into expanding the business further. But, this is not because any given business runs permanently at a loss – it is because the profits from what is already there are spent on making new businesses.
# How to Be Alone [Maria Popova, Brain Pickings]
If the odds of finding one’s soul mate are so dreadfully dismal and the secret of lasting love is largely a matter of concession, is it any wonder that a growing number of people choose to go solo? The choice of solitude, of active aloneness, has relevance not only to romance but to all human bonds — even Emerson, perhaps the most eloquent champion of friendship in the English language, lived a significant portion of his life in active solitude, the very state that enabled him to produce his enduring essays and journals. And yet that choice is one our culture treats with equal parts apprehension and contempt, particularly in our age of fetishistic connectivity. Hemingway’s famous assertion that solitude is essential for creative work is perhaps so oft-cited precisely because it is so radical and unnerving in its proposition.
# My Year with a Distraction-Free iPhone [Jake Knapp, Medium]
In 2012, I realized I had a problem. My iPhone made me twitchy. I could feel it in my pocket, calling me, like the Ring called Bilbo Baggins. It distracted me from my kids. It distracted me from my wife. It distracted me anytime, anywhere. I just didn’t have the willpower to ignore email and Twitter and Instagram and the whole world wide web. Infinity in my pocket was too much. I wanted to get control, but I didn’t want to give up my iPhone altogether.
# Why Walking Helps Us Think [Ferris Jabr, The New Yorker]
Since at least the time of peripatetic Greek philosophers, many other writers have discovered a deep, intuitive connection between walking, thinking, and writing. “How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live!” Henry David Thoreau penned in his journal. “Methinks that the moment my legs begin to move, my thoughts begin to flow.” Thomas DeQuincey has calculated that William Wordsworth—whose poetry is filled with tramps up mountains, through forests, and along public roads—walked as many as a hundred and eighty thousand miles in his lifetime, which comes to an average of six and a half miles a day starting from age five.
# The Most Important Transportation Innovation of the Decade Is the Smartphone [Eric Goldywn Jabr, Citylab]
Almost all movement in a major city now begins with a phone. Mobile apps and interfaces help people do everything from sort through route options to locate an approaching bus or hail a taxi or for-hire vehicle. While cities and transportation regulators have released data and encouraged innovation through contests and hackathons, no U.S. city has aggressively pursued development of an integrated app that enables users to plan, book, and pay for trips across multiple travel modes. Instead, it’s the likes of Uber and Google Maps and CityMapper and RideScout that have demonstrated what is possible, and controlled the movement market to date.
A recent article on Medium – Academia and the People Without Jobs – recently caught my attention, quite possibly because of its salience to the choices I will soon have to make. It’s not the first and certainly will not be the last to discuss the allegedly bleak situation facing post-doctoral students.
The 1960s are over. When are we going to wake up and realize that it’s 2014 and our academic paradise is a smoldering ash heap, a sad leftover from thirty something years of complete and utter demolition? We no longer have a booming economy and tons of federal money going into the university system. The days of cheap, accessible higher ed are done and gone. And yet, we keep churning out graduate students as if they, too, are going to end up as university professors. As if each and every one of them will soon have their own hip little office full of books, dedicated students, and bright, starry-eyed careers ahead of them. It’s not happening. Paradise. In. Ashes.
I’m not sure whether the situation in the United Kingdom is the same as the United States (as detailed in this linked article), but I feel it, amongst many others, has raised a number of important concerns for those contemplating post-doctoral study. As someone who is considering studying for a PhD in Geography, it’s alarming to see so many negative and so few positive articles.
Our paradise burns. We stand by watching. We burn with it. We have to change the narrative. We need to listen to those other voices.
A further short post of ten articles I have enjoyed reading this week.
# ‘Paris Syndrome’ Drives Chinese Tourists Away [Ania Nussbaum, Bloomberg]
Chinese people romanticize France, they know about French literature and French love stories,” said Jean-Francois Zhou, president of the Chinese association of travel agencies in France. “But some of them end up in tears, swearing they’ll never come back.
# How to Be Polite [Paul Ford, Medium]
Politeness buys you time. It leaves doors open. I’ve met so many people whom, if I had trusted my first impressions, I would never have wanted to meet again. And yet — many of them are now great friends. I have only very rarely touched their hair.
# Slot Machine Science [Brad Plumer, vox.com]
Slot machines have this reputation for being these arcade devices only played by little old ladies. But these devices are now driving the gambling industry and bringing in the majority of profits.
# The Most Wanted Man in the World [James Bamford, WIRED]
Edward Snowden [is] the most wanted man in the world. For almost nine months, I have been trying to set up an interview with him—traveling to Berlin, Rio de Janeiro twice, and New York multiple times to talk with the handful of his confidants who can arrange a meeting. Among other things, I want to answer a burning question: What drove Snowden to leak hundreds of thousands of top-secret documents, revelations that have laid bare the vast scope of the government’s domestic surveillance programs?
# The Future of College? [Graeme Wood, The Atlantic]
A brash tech entrepreneur thinks he can reinvent higher education by stripping it down to its essence, eliminating lectures and tenure along with football games, ivy-covered buildings, and research libraries. What if he’s right?
# The End of Neighbours [Brian Bethune, Maclean’s]
It’s a new day in the neighbourhood all across the Western world. More than 30 per cent of Canadians now say they feel disconnected from their neighbours, while half of Americans admit they don’t know the names of theirs. An Australian sociologist investigating community responses in the wake of the 2011 floods in Queensland found relations in “a precarious balance”; neighbours were hesitant to intrude even in emergencies—leading the scholar to conclude that “we are less likely than ever to know” our neighbours. Quite right, too: A recent poll of 2,000 Britons found a third declaring they couldn’t pick their near neighbours out of a police lineup.
# Postscript: Robin Williams, 1951-2014 [Anthony Lane, The New Yorker]
The snuffing out of a life, especially when the flame was still strong, is never less than a shock, and admirers of Robin Williams, who died on August 11th, will feel that they have been left in the dark.
# Suicide & Silence: Why Depressed Men are Dying for Somebody to Talk To [Owen Jones, The Guardian]
Why are so many more men killing themselves than women? “Is it biologically set in stone that men take their own lives – or is it cultural?” Powell asks. “If you look at how the suicide rates have changed, how they go up and down, you can see that it’s cultural – it’s about what we expect.” And this is what is so troubling about male suicide. Women are actually more likely to suffer from depression, but more likely to seek help whey encounter trouble. The uncomfortable truth is that stereotypical forms of masculinity – stiff upper lips, “laddishness” – are killing men.
# How (and Why) to Develop Your Mental Toughness [Patrick Allan, Lifehacker]
Developing your mental toughness can help you be more emotionally resilient, push you to go further and harder, and build armor to persevere against the bullets that life fires your way. It’s not as easy to just “be tougher,” though. Here are some tactics to toughen up your mind for life’s hard knocks.
# Is Samsung bigger than Google? [Nilay Patel, The Verge]
Apple’s forever going to do Apple things, keeping its products premium and exclusive and tightly integrated with each other. Samsung and Google, on the other hand, are increasingly competing to offer the alternative open platform. Each wants to own the foundation that everyone builds on; the hub on which we all place our spokes.
I’m always interested in discovering new ways to improve my productivity. Earlier today I came across a fantastic website, A Year of Productivity. One article – 100 Time, Energy, & Attention Hacks to be More Productive – stood out as particularly valuable.
Here are a few of my favourite tips:
2. Quit watching TV. If you’re average, you’ll spend 13.6 years of your life watching TV—time you could spend doing much higher-leverage tasks.
3. Keep a time diary. When you track exactly how you spend your time, you can see how much time you’re wasting, which helps you reclaim lost time, and reflect on how to better spend your time in the first place.
6. Start a maintenance day. Group all of your “maintenance tasks” (laundry, groceries, cleaning, watering plants, etc.) together on one day of the week so you have more time to focus on higher-level tasks the rest of the week.
8. Keep all of your emails five sentences or less, and make a note of it in your signature. Using this hack I’ve blown through my inbox like crazy, and most people don’t mind when you keep your emails short and to the point.
34. Drink 16oz of water right after you wake up. Right after you wake up every morning, drink at least 16oz (500mL) of water. Your body just went eight hours without any fluids, and is likely dehydrated.
40. Nap. If you find your energy waning, or that it naturally dips at a certain time every day, take a short nap. Napping improves your memory, makes you more attentive and alert, prevents burnout, and boosts your creativity.
60. Download Coffitivity (web, Android, iPhone, iPad, Mac). The ambient hum of a coffee shop has been proven to boost your productivity and creativity. Coffitivity simulates that same vibe on your computer.
66. Capture all of the open loops in your head, like things you have to do, things you’re waiting on, and other ideas and commitments that are weighing you down. This will give you more mental space to think about bigger and better things.
91. Respond to your email in batches. Schedule a few times throughout the day to deal with email instead of dealing with messages as they come in. This compartmentalizes email into a few chunks of time in your schedule.
Another short post of ten articles I have enjoyed reading this week.
# Is Coding the New Literacy? [Tasneem Raja, motherjones.com]
We make kids learn about biology, literature, history, and geometry with the promise that navigating the wider world will be easier for their efforts. It’ll be harder and harder not to include computing on that list. Decisions made by a narrow demographic of technocrat elites are already shaping their lives, from privacy and social currency, to career choices and how they spend their free time.
# The Obesity Era [David Berreby, aeon.co]
And so we appear to have a public consensus that excess body weight (defined as a Body Mass Index of 25 or above) and obesity (BMI of 30 or above) are consequences of individual choice. It is undoubtedly true that societies are spending vast amounts of time and money on this idea. It is also true that the masters of the universe in business and government seem attracted to it, perhaps because stern self-discipline is how many of them attained their status. What we don’t know is whether the theory is actually correct.
# How to Spend the First 10 Minutes of Your Day [Ron Friedman, Harvard Business Review]
If you’re working in the kitchen of Anthony Bourdain, legendary chef of Brasserie Les Halles, best-selling author, and famed television personality, you don’t dare so much as boil hot water without attending to a ritual that’s essential for any self-respecting chef: mise-en-place.
# How to Read A Book [Shane Parrish, Farnham Street Blog]
You already know how to read. I bet you were taught how in elementary school.
But do you know how to read well?
If you’re like most people, you probably haven’t given much thought to how you read.
# The Overwhelming Persistence of Neighbourhood Poverty [Richard Florida, City Lab]
As Harvard’s Robert Sampson and NYU’s Patrick Sharkey have pointed out, concentrated poverty – with people stuck in disadvantaged neighborhoods for generations – remains a constant of our cities. Such chronic and entrenched poverty can have long-lasting effects on the life chances of those who live there. As classes continue to segment and segregate away from one another, our cities risk becoming a patchwork of concentrated disadvantage juxtaposed with concentrated advantage.
Perhaps the biggest urban policy question of the coming decades will be how to create new pathways for opportunity for those living in places associated with entrenched poverty. While much attention has focused on the plight of those who are displaced by gentrification, the far more pressing issues center on the persistence of poverty and disadvantage in the urban center.
# An Inside Look at Facebook’s Method for Hiring Designers [First Round Review]
According to Zhuo, finding the ideal designer who fits your needs is a two-part process. First, you have to find promising candidates (she runs through three concrete steps). And second, you need to decide if they’re right for your team — which can be trickier than it seems.
# Does It Matter How a Condemned Man Dies? [Alex Hanford, GQ]
The drug used to kill inmates on death row – sodium thiopental – has run out. The story of what replaced it is as alarming as it is horrific.
# Why Not Even Exercise Will Undo the Harm of Sitting All Day & What You Can Do About It [Hannah Newman, Quartz]
A large review recently published in The Journal of the National Cancer Institute confirms what we’ve been hearing for years: Sitting can be fatal.
# 10 Lessons I Learned from a Year of Productivity Experiments [Chris Bailey, Lifehacker]
Over the last 12 months I have conducted countless productivity experiments on myself, interviewed some of the most productive people in the world, and read a ton of books and academic literature on productivity, all to explore how I could become as productive as possible. This is what I’ve learned.
# 50 Apps To Improve Your Life In 2014 [Johnny Davis, Esquire]
You’re au fait with Spotify and OK with Kindle. But do you have an app that can remember business cards? Or hail a cab? Esquire your smart device in 50 easy steps.
A short post of ten articles I have enjoyed reading this week.
# How to Build a New Habit: This is Your Strategy Guide [James Clear, jamesclear.com]
Habits account for about 40 percent of our behaviors on any given day. Understanding how to build new habits (and how your current ones work) is essential for making progress in your health, your happiness, and your life in general.
# 7 Reasons Why You Will Never Do Anything Amazing With Your Life [Raymmar Tirado, Medium]
You should be very worried. You should drop everything and immediately question your existence on earth. You should find a mirror, look yourself in the eyes, raise your hand and slap yourself in the face.
# 7 Things You Need To Stop Doing To Be More Productive, Backed By Science [CamMi Pham, Medium]
When I was 17 years old, I used to work and study for about 20 hours a day. I went to school, did my homework during breaks and managed a not-for-profit organization at night. At that time, working hard landed me countless national campaigns, opportunities to work with A-list organizations and a successful career. As I got older, I started thinking differently. I realized that working harder is not always the right path to success. Sometimes, working less can actually produce better results.
# The Beginner’s Guide to Getting Better Sleep [James Clear, Entrepreneur]
Cumulative sleep debt is robbing companies of billions of dollars in revenue. It’s robbing individuals of shaper mental performance. It’s preventing athletes from performing at their best. And it’s a barrier between you and optimal performance. The answer is simple, but remarkably underrated in our productivity-obsessed culture: get more sleep.
# Thirty Things I’ve Learned [Nick Crocker, Medium]
# How to Get Ahead by Speaking Vaguely [Joel Stein, Bloomberg Businessweek]
A study called “Using Abstract Language Signals Power,” published this month in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, shows that projecting power is incredibly simple. Just communicate in abstractions. Details convey weakness.
# Being A Better Online Reader [Maria Konnikova, The New Yorker]
Soon after Maryanne Wolf published “Proust and the Squid,” a history of the science and the development of the reading brain from antiquity to the twenty-first century, she began to receive letters from readers. Hundreds of them. While the backgrounds of the writers varied, a theme began to emerge: the more reading moved online, the less students seemed to understand. There were the architects who wrote to her about students who relied so heavily on ready digital information that they were unprepared to address basic problems onsite. There were the neurosurgeons who worried about the “cut-and-paste chart mentality” that their students exhibited, missing crucial details because they failed to delve deeply enough into any one case. And there were, of course, the English teachers who lamented that no one wanted to read Henry James anymore. As the letters continued to pour in, Wolf experienced a growing realization: in the seven years it had taken her to research and write her account, reading had changed profoundly—and the ramifications could be felt far beyond English departments and libraries. She called the rude awakening her “Rip van Winkle moment,” and decided that it was important enough to warrant another book. What was going on with these students and professionals? Was the digital format to blame for their superficial approaches, or was something else at work?
# 9 Minutes a Day is the Magic Number for Better Personal Branding [Mihir Patkar, Lifehacker]
Professionals know it’s important to promote yourself to step up the corporate ladder. But if you think you don’t have the time for that, think again. Personal branding expert William Arruda says all you need is nine minutes every day.
# Kara Swisher Is Silicon Valley’s Most Feared and Well-Liked Journalist. How Does That Work? [Benjamin Wallace, NYMag]
# How to Change Other People [Leo Babauta, Zen Habits]
How often have you wanted to change other people so they’d be better? Better spouses, kids, roommates, coworkers, employees? We want our kids to study harder and clean up after themselves, our spouses to be more considerate, our coworkers to be on time, our roommates to be neater, our relatives to be healthier, and so we try to change them.
As a follow-up to my previous article on using an iPad or other tablet device in lectures, I felt that listing and justifying some of the apps I’ve used to assist my research and/or write my dissertation would be a worthwhile exercise. FYI, I used a combination of an iPhone, iPad & Mac to produce my dissertation and so, the apps discussed below may not be compatible with alternative desktop and mobile operating systems.
I’ve been a long time user and advocate of Evernote. A few people have previously misinterpreted my expressed enthusiasm for it on Bowling Googlies as a covert marketing attempt. Supposedly I’m on their payroll. I shouldn’t have to say this (again!), but I’m not. Put simply, I love it and use it for absolutely everything! It’s unquestionably the most versatile, reliable and feature-rich note-taking app. It’s also available for free and cross-platform. Rather than expounding yet another academic application of Evernote, I would recommend you to read this article by Greg Clinton. I would add that for my dissertation, I used Evernote to store reading materials, text notes, illustrations, and photographs, and Dropbox for the dissertation file itself, versions of it, and audio-recordings.
Adobe InDesign CC
Adobe InDesign CC may seem a peculiar and/or unnecessary choice for writing up your research. After all, its an expensive application intended for use by professionals not students and there are many alternatives (e.g. Google Docs, Microsoft Word, Pages for Mac). It is, however, an invaluable and unrivalled tool for those who obsess over the little details. Most importantly, It affords you absolute control over the design and structure of your document, something the aforementioned applications struggle to compete with. For those unfamiliar with Adobe InDesign CC, I would recommend this playlist of YouTube videos (intended for CS5, but also of use to CC users).
To eliminate the problems of computer failure, file corruption, loss and theft of devices and so forth, you should store everything in a cloud synchronised folder. Put simply, everything you’re not storing in Evernote should be stored in Dropbox. Whilst you could alternatively use Box, Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive or one of the many other cloud storage providers, I’ve found Dropbox to be the simplest and most reliable option.
RescueTime isn’t an academic app, but a time management tracker. It provides a very detailed account of how you spend your time to help you become more productive. It’s also cross-platform (available for Android, Linux, Mac & PC) and free. The free version of the app includes time tracking for applications and websites, the setting of goals, and online and weekly email reports. There’s also a premium version which provides all of the features of the free version in addition to alerts, accomplishments, website blocking, more detailed reports, and tracking of your time away from your computer or Mac. Toggl is an another good option.
DropVox is a great audio recording app for iPhone and iPad. In addition to using my dictaphone (a Phillips Voice Tracer LFH0882) to record interviews and focus group discussions, I used DropVox for audio backups. Whilst iOS and OS X do have built-in audio recording utilities, unlike DropVox, they don’t automatically upload the recordings to Dropbox. The app is also available for Mac.
If you’ve used any apps for research that I haven’t listed, feel free to leave a comment.