kitchen table math, the sequel: Greetings from the midbrain! and housekeeping and email

Monday, March 16, 2015

Greetings from the midbrain! and housekeeping and email

Parachuting into my own blog for the first time in (days? weeks?) —I see Le Radical Galoisien is back!


Anyway, I've not been here because I'm there, in the basement of the brain, prowling the basal ganglia. The book's deadline has now been moved to September 1, thank heavens, but it's still going to be a race to the finish, or a slog. A guillotine deadline, as an editor of mine once said, and not happily.

Making matters worse, in the closing moments of 2014 I made a commitment, as my sole resolution for 2015, to clear out my office. Not just my office, but my family room and living room, too, which had become holding areas for office spill-over.

I am clearing out my office, as well as my family and living rooms. The latter two now have nary a file or folder insight. Success.

As of this morning I have scanned, filed, stored, and/or discarded 670 items. (Yes, I'm counting.)

The subset of those 670 items that has been scanned, filed, and/or stored has also been duly recorded on Workflowy, giving me a fighting chance of locating any one of them again when I need it.

(M. said to me the other day: "You should write down where you put things." I said: "I do.")

As it turns out, writing a book about the basal ganglia and decluttering 16 years of office accumulation at the same time was a crackpot idea, not to put too fine a point on it. Fortunately, because I'm writing a book about the basal ganglia (about the frontostriatal circuit, actually) I now know why writing a book about the basal ganglia and clearing out 16 years of office accumulation at the same time is insane:
[L]ots of multitasking requires decision-making: Do I answer this text message or ignore it? How do I respond to this? How do I file this email? Do I continue what I’m working on now or take a break? It turns out that decision-making is also very hard on your neural resources and that little decisions appear to take up as much energy as big ones. One of the first things we lose is impulse control. This rapidly spirals into a depleted state in which, after making lots of insignificant decisions, we can end up making truly bad decisions about something important. Why would anyone want to add to their daily weight of information processing by trying to multitask?
Why the Modern World is Bad for Your Brain by Daniel Levitin
Clearing away 670 items requires six hundred and seventy decisions, each one of them momentous as far as my brain is concerned.

I can't even begin to estimate how many separate decisions writing a book about the frontostriatal circuit requires. Every sentence in and of itself requires multiple decisions, since most of my sentences go through multiple revisions. That's just for starters.

Which brings me to the next issue:
In discussing information overload with Fortune 500 leaders, top scientists, writers, students, and small business owners, email comes up again and again as a problem. It’s not a philosophical objection to email itself, it’s the mind-numbing number of emails that come in. When the 10-year-old son of my neuroscience colleague Jeff Mogil (head of the Pain Genetics lab at McGill University) was asked what his father does for a living, he responded, “He answers emails.”
Several months ago (in the fall? the summer?) my Outlook calendar and email program blew up again. This has been going forever, along with multiple crashes of my not-remotely-ancient iMac, entailing multiple trips to the Genius Bar and, finally, a long-distance relationship with kindly Brad, who lives and works on the Apple mothership.

Each repair of my iMac took another bite out of Outlook, and I am now at the point where I can't retrieve anything from Outlook, not even addresses.

I can fix it, I'm sure, and I would if I had even one single synapse free to devote to the task.

But I don't. Not one.

So: if you've sent me an email and I haven't answered, that's why. I'm now mired in indecision over whether to simply set up another gmail address and post it here on the blog, or post the gmail address I've been using for family and local friends and use that for everything, or what.

I don't have any synapses to devote to that decision, either.

(While I'm on the subject of ancillary gmail addresses, should I set one up to sell the books I no longer want on Amazon? A tall-ish stack of books is sitting on the floor beside my desk, awaiting further action.)

I need more synapses.

OK, back to work  miss you all and will try to be present more often  !


Auntie Ann said...

Don't co-mingle your emails; that way lies madness! Separate accounts is the ultimate in folderization.

I have one account for personal, one at work, one just for Amazon purchases, one for other online purchases, one for websites that insist on a log-in but which I never want to hear from again (I never look at that email, except to confirm signing up with a site--they can spam it all they want and I'll never see it,) another to keep track of school things, and probably others I've forgotten about.

Look into forwarding options. You could set up an email address, and then if you get the old one sorted, just have everything at the new address forward back to the old.

Glen said...

Catherine, check your Blogger spam filter for my detailed response. I posted it three times, verified that it had successfully posted each time, only to discover later that it had been removed. Maybe using a term starting with "E" followed by "MAI" and ending with "L" too frequently triggers an immune response.

Jen said...

I posted on this before, like uh, more than a month ago, but now I see the comment above and figure it got lost somewhere.

This posting explains the problems of group work and group think for kids, especially middle school and high school age kids.

There are too many distractors in a group setting. Too many ways to have to think that are not academic -- how is my group perceiving me, how will I be perceived for being in this group, how will we divide and/or do the work so that I can get a grade my parents will accept, how can I be smart/argue in this group and still get the work done, etc. etc. etc.

Not saying that those are valid concerns, but that they are all "tasks" that are eating away at brain space.

Catherine Johnson said...

Auntie Ann --- You are giving me hope.

Plus you may have finally galvanized me to do what I keep thinking I should do: SET UP DIFFERENT ACCOUNTS FOR DIFFERENT AREAS OF MY LIFE.

Thank you.

Catherine Johnson said...

Glen - what the heck is going on???

This is a response you posted to ktm?

Also on the To-Do list: get a new blog (Katie & I are working on that ....)

Glen said...

Catherine, yes, you asked for help, and I wrote a fairly detailed response. Blogger accepted it each time, but refreshing the page a few seconds later showed that it had disappeared. This wasn't the only time, either (recently). Back in the old days on KTM, you eventually found a stash of my postings in your spam filter, so maybe that's happening again.

I don't blame you, because Blogger ;-)

Catherine Johnson said...

Glen - I'm going to go see if I can find your comment now -- I desperately need it!

Catherine Johnson said...

SO frustrated.

Your comment isn't there.

Not that I can see.


Glen said...

I just rewrote it (even longer), forgot to save a copy before I submitted, and lost it. One last time in super-mini form that will sound abrupt, because I will omit discussion of options, qualifications, etc:

* Drop Outlook. Use gmail. Let Google maintain. When your device crashes, it won't "take a bite outta" your email, calendar, contacts, etc. Fix or replace device, log back in: back in business.

* Have more than one gmail acct, but not too many. Consider private, business, and spam. That last is for companies you don't trust that demand your email address. You check private during private time, business during business time, and spam during blue moons. I actually have private (family, old friends, doctor) and semi-private (school, sport team families, kitchen contractor, Amazon, mailing lists....).

* Re: selling books. If you are as short of time as you seem to be and don't really need the money, don't sell your books. You will get busy, fall behind on shipping, ruin your vendor rating, and nobody will buy from you. Instead, GIVE them to someone who really needs the money. Let them sell and keep 100%.

Now, wish me luck....

Glen said...

Okay, that worked, so I'll add: I suggest gmail, because you are familiar with it already, and gmail can integrate with calendar and contacts just like Outlook. Google Calendar can send text message reminders to your phone, reminder emails, etc. I think you can replace most or all of what you needed Outlook for. And if you ever want to use a non-Apple device, your mail, calendar, etc., will still work the same.