We always learn new things if we’re paying attention, but the past couple of weeks have had more than their usual share. Some were good, some were discouraging, almost all were unexpected. Such as:
- If you are prone to a strong vasovagal response (such as getting dizzy or passing out when getting an I.V. or donating blood) there are ways to prevent it that work surprisingly well.
- Language, for all its power to inspire and communicate with expressive depth, can also be used to confuse and complicate. You don’t have to be a political strategist to accomplish this. You don’t even need to be dishonest, or have any intention of misrepresenting your views. In fact, the more you try to express yourself with nuance and clarity, the more likely you are to end up in a roulette wheel (or is that Russian roulette?) of linguistic interpretation.
- Victoria’s Secret can’t be that much of a secret, otherwise they would not mail my wife 3 copies of the same catalog. Every week.
- Gmail may have the whole labels thing wrong. I thought it was a good idea at first, but try exporting mail out of Gmail into any other system without duplicates. Try getting a clear picture of how many messages you have under any label if you have been using multiple labels on your messages. Yes, it works great and with lightning-fast search it may not matter that Gmail’s organizational method actually contributes to clutter… as long as you never leave it or try to clean it up (I have not given up on the idea of hosted email or cloud-based solutions. I still think that’s usually the best way to handle email for anyone who doesn’t have their own datacenter). Using folders instead of labels reflects the real-world principle that an object cannot be in two places at once, and they force you to make decisions about where things should go. You wouldn’t want your garage or filing cabinet organized like Gmail. A multiple-labeled cresent wrench could be found both in the toolbox AND on top of the workbench. Until Craftsman comes out with a quantum superposition-enabled line of tools (which you could then find at any Sears store, and they could sell the same one over and over to everybody) the world that humans live in doesn’t work this way. Ask any designer; folders are good for the same reason that limits on any system are good. They force you to make decisions and clarify your actions. This lecture over at TED titled “The Paradox of Choice” presents an interesting psychological angle:http://video.ted.com/assets/player/swf/EmbedPlayer.swf
- I’ve learned that I can cut out a lot of unnecessary email by completely unsubscribing from Facebook email alerts. With the Facebook web site notifying you of everything that happened in the 10 minutes since you last checked, and the apps for smartphones behaving the same way, there’s no reason to have it spamming your inbox too.
- If you have to suffer through crappy coffee at the office, you can’t fix this by brewing a double-strength pot. You just end up with a pot of double-strength crappy coffee. Sadly true: most people approach making coffee the way Mormons approach sex. If you actually read the instructions on the side of that bag of quality beans from a local roaster (the one you’re going to buy right now because you’re throwing out that bargain-basement stuff) you’ll see the proper ratio. Two tablespoons for every 6 ounces of water. If you are using pre-packaged “office coffee” where you tear open a single bag for each pot, I sympathize. Not only is it “roasted” in the same sense that jaywalking is “adventurous”, it’s at best half as much coffee as one should use for that much water.
- I’ve learned that one of Radiohead’s performances from their 2008 appearance on “From The Basement” was left out of the compilation that you can buy. Too bad because it may be the best of the lot-
So what have you learned lately?