Archive for July, 2007

It has been known for close relatives to forget my birthday, so I was very interested to read at the British Psychological Society blog that a study has shown that people who are dogmatic have poorer working memory. That explains everything.

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From Knackered Downunder

Dana Gioia, the chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts in the US, is bemoaning the lack of connection that many Americans now have with culture. It may be a familiar argument, but Gioia’s point is that it wasn’t always so.

What’s also interesting is that Gioia — in a commencement speech at Stanford last week — claims that one of the side-effects has been the bifurcation of America into passive and active citizens; in other words, those who spend time as passive consumers of electronic entertainment, and another group which uses and enjoys the new technology.

They go out — to exercise, play sports, volunteer and do charity work at about three times the level of the first group. By every measure they are vastly more active and socially engaged than the first group. Continue reading ‘art for art’s sake’

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As pointless exercises go, collecting a copy of the latest Harry Potter at midnight Friday/Saturday comes fairly close. Because this is the last book expected in the series, and because the oldest Chip off the Old Hack was able to keep himself awake this time, I relented and we traipsed into town amid the latest Friday convention of Bath binge-drinkers to join the thronging hundreds in wizard costumes queuing up outside the two chosen bookshops.

There was clearly a Pareto 80/20 distribution going on, with Waterstone’s bagging the lion’s share of buyers in exchange for some form of goodie bag (or so I heard), while the smart money (KH and COTOH included), who did not want to stay up all night, chose the more down-at-heal WH Smith’s outlet, where a more straightforward and expeditious exchange of money-for-book took place. It was not really a party atmosphere, more like some tired observance of a ritual whose original import has been forgotten. The only spectacle was that of the muggle bingers taunting the Potterholics. Continue reading ‘harry potter and the messed-up circadian rhythms’

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Behavioural economists have shown that we overestimate how much gym time we will use when signing up for monthly or annual health club membership; we’d be better off paying for individual sessions.

That’s certainly my experience. I was a member of a gym behind Fleet Street for a number of years, and never lifted a single weight. Membership was subsidised (modestly), but this was not complete profligacy, or an egregious triumph of hope over experience; the purpose of my membership was really to use the showers. My exercise regime involved riding a bike to work 130 miles a week in all weathers, so access to a shower was mandatory. I rode flat out, had no concept of rest and recovery, and would end up knackered, or — more scientifically — suffering from overtraining syndrome.

The idea of modulating effort and choosing to have rest days never crossed my mind — the mutant puritan gene at work. Progressively, after riding home from 12-hour days late in the evening following frequently pointless conference calls with New York head office, all the benefits of this excercise started to go into reverse. Continue reading ‘gym fees require heavy lifting’

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If you are a parent of a state school pupil in the UK, it is sports day across the country this week. Even though it is already Wednesday, tardily I’ve decided that we’ll focus on sports this week; coming first is not important, it’s the taking part that counts.

Sports day itself presents a variety of hazards for the modern parent. On average you can expect to lose two afternoons of work. Worse still you may get caught in an on-again, off-again spiral caused by the British weather. There is also the obligation to join what can be the life-threatening race between parents that normally concludes proceedings.

It’s no joke. A friend of ours once broke an achilles tendon in the fathers’ sack race. As far as I can recall, it took a good year to heal properly. And there’s worse when you consider the headline on the front page of Peak Performance sports science newsletter that dropped through the mailbox this morning screaming “Why fit athletes suddenly drop dead, and how to stop it happening“. Continue reading ’42 and the meaning of life’

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