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Workagolism as escape path from social problems

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Workagolism and work overload can be self-inflicted, not externally inflicted.

Are You a Workaholic Workaholism Symptoms and Regaining Balance

On the seventh day, even God rested. But for workaholics, the day of rest never comes. There is always one more email to read, one more phone call to take, one more critically important trip to the office that can't wait until Monday. Weekends? Holidays? Family? As the uber-workaholic Ebenezer Scrooge put it, "Bah, humbug!"

"It used to be that I never went on vacation without my laptop and a couple of beepers," says George Giokas, who describes himself as a "reformed" workaholic. When he was starting his company, StaffWriters Plus, in the pre-BlackBerry mid-1990s, Giokas spent more than a few late nights and nearly every Saturday at the office, he tells WebMD.

As he confessed to the online edition of Business Week in 1999, "I've struggled with the weekend issue many times, trying to figure out why I absolutely have to work then. It must be ingrained in me to the point of being a kind of addiction -- like going to the health club every day. If I miss one day, I feel awful."

But Giokas has since learned that the problems that pop up when he's away from the office will still be there when he gets back, and that what happens in the office stays in the office.

"I'm not the sort of person to bring home problems," he says, "and I don't dwell on issues. I get a pretty good night's sleep."


Workaholism: A Life Out of Balance

Not every workaholic, however, is able to achieve the balance that Giokas has found.

Justin Blanton, who practices law in California's Silicon Valley, tells WebMD that he is a workaholic and that the problem has only gotten worse in the four years since he wrote the following on his blog:

"Whether I'm reading a Harry Potter book on my PDA while waiting in the deli line, checking email on my phone as soon as my date makes for the ladies room, or heading back to my computer each commercial break (no TiVo… yet) -- I'm always checking something."

"It's gotten worse in the sense that it hasn't let up at all, and I feel more compelled to be busy," Blanton says today.

In a culture that prizes work ethic, overachievement, and financial success -- where gazillionaires such as Warren Buffett and Bill Gates are household names, and Donald Trump has his own television show -- people who are addicted to working are seen by outsiders as smart, ambitious, and entrepreneurial.

"The system is almost built to reinforce workaholics," says Simon A. Rego, PsyD, associate director of psychology training at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City. "Those are the people who end up getting positive job evaluations, get opportunities for promotion, and see themselves getting bonuses or raises. It's almost like the system has a built-in model to give them free hits of what they're addicted to."

Even when out of the office, workaholics can satisfy their cravings with cell phones, PDAs, laptops, and WiFi, which ensure that work need never be out of reach.

But blaming technology for workaholism is like blaming the supermarket for food addiction or the corner liquor store for alcoholism, says Bryan E. Robinson, PhD, author of Chained to the Desk: A Guidebook for Workaholics, Their Partners and Children, and the Clinicians Who Treat Them.

Robinson and other clinicians who treat patients for work-associated stress say that working hard and having easy access to work does not automatically make someone a workaholic.

Surprising Addictions

"It's important to understand the context," says Edmund Neuhaus, PhD, director of the Behavioral Health Partial Hospital Program at McLean Hospital in Belmont, Mass. "If you're working to the exclusion of your family, your marriage, other relationships, and your life is out of balance, or your physical health is out of balance -- when work takes an exclusive priority to everything else, that's the more extreme end of the spectrum where it becomes a problem," Neuhaus tells WebMD.

"The preoccupation with work is really at the core of what workaholism is," says Robinson, professor emeritus at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte, and a psychotherapist in private practice in Asheville, N.C. "I always say that the difference between someone who's a true workaholic and someone who's just a hard worker is that the workaholic is on the ski slopes dreaming about being back at work, and the hard worker is in the office dreaming about being on the ski slope."


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Old News ;-)

[Oct 16, 2017] 3 Reasons Why We Are Addicted To Smartphones

Oct 16, 2017 | www.msn.com

So, what draws people to these phones? Surely, it is not just the groundbreaking design or the connection with a community. As a minister, psychotherapist and scholar studying our relationship with hand-held devices, I believe there is much more going on.

In fact, I'd argue, as I do in my book "Growing Down: Theology and Human Nature in the Virtual Age," the phones tap into our basic yearnings as humans.

Here are my three reasons why we love our phones.

1. Part of an extended self

Our sense of self is shaped while we are still in the womb. The development of the self, however, accelerates after birth . A newborn, first and foremost, attaches herself to the primary caregiver and later to things – acquiring what has been called an "extended self."

The leading 20th-century American psychologist William James was among the first to argue for an extended self. In his "Principles of Psychology," James defined the self as "the sum total of all that a man can call his, not only his body and his psychic powers, but his clothes and his house, his wife and children." Losing any of this extended self, which could include money or another prized object, as he explained, could lead to a sense of great loss. In early childhood, for example, babies and toddlers cry if they suddenly lose their pacifier or favorite soft toy, objects that become part of their extended selves.

Phones, I argue, play a similar role. It is not uncommon for me to feel a sudden onset of anxiety should I drop my phone or am unable to find it. In my experience, many individuals feel the same way. It is also reflected in how often many of us check our devices.

Psychologist Larry Rosen and his colleagues at California State University found that 51 percent of individuals born in the 1980s and 1990s experienced moderate to high levels of anxiety when they were kept from checking in with their devices for more than 15 minutes . Interestingly, the percentage drops slightly – to 42 percent – for those born between 1965 and 1979.

This is primarily because they came into being during a time where hand-held technologies were only beginning to make their entry. For this group, phones became part of their extended self only as late teens or as young adults.

[Sep 17, 2017] Colleagues Addicted to Tech

Notable quotes:
"... dwelling on the negative can backfire. ..."
"... It's fine to acknowledge a misstep. But spin the answer to focus on why this new situation is such an ideal match of your abilities to the employer's needs. ..."
Apr 20, 2015 | NYTimes.com

Discussing Bad Work Situations

I have been in my present position for over 25 years. Five years ago, I was assigned a new boss, who has a reputation in my industry for harassing people in positions such as mine until they quit. I have managed to survive, but it's clear that it's time for me to move along. How should I answer the inevitable interview question: Why would I want to leave after so long? I've heard that speaking badly of a boss is an interview no-no, but it really is the only reason I'm looking to find something new. BROOKLYN

I am unemployed and interviewing for a new job. I have read that when answering interview questions, it's best to keep everything you say about previous work experiences or managers positive.

But what if you've made one or two bad choices in the past: taking jobs because you needed them, figuring you could make it work - then realizing the culture was a bad fit, or you had an arrogant, narcissistic boss?

Nearly everyone has had a bad work situation or boss. I find it refreshing when I read stories about successful people who mention that they were fired at some point, or didn't get along with a past manager. So why is it verboten to discuss this in an interview? How can the subject be addressed without sounding like a complainer, or a bad employee? CHICAGO

As these queries illustrate, the temptation to discuss a negative work situation can be strong among job applicants. But in both of these situations, and in general, criticizing a current or past employer is a risky move. You don't have to paint a fictitiously rosy picture of the past, but dwelling on the negative can backfire. Really, you don't want to get into a detailed explanation of why you have or might quit at all. Instead, you want to talk about why you're such a perfect fit for the gig you're applying for.

So, for instance, a question about leaving a long-held job could be answered by suggesting that the new position offers a chance to contribute more and learn new skills by working with a stronger team. This principle applies in responding to curiosity about jobs that you held for only a short time.

It's fine to acknowledge a misstep. But spin the answer to focus on why this new situation is such an ideal match of your abilities to the employer's needs.

The truth is, even if you're completely right about the past, a prospective employer doesn't really want to hear about the workplace injustices you've suffered, or the failings of your previous employer. A manager may even become concerned that you will one day add his or her name to the list of people who treated you badly. Save your cathartic outpourings for your spouse, your therapist, or, perhaps, the future adoring profile writer canonizing your indisputable success.

Send your workplace conundrums to workologist@nytimes.com, including your name and contact information (even if you want it withheld for publication). The Workologist is a guy with well-intentioned opinions, not a professional career adviser. Letters may be edited.

[Sep 17, 2017] Smartphone is a curse not only a technical miracle

Notable quotes:
"... To my generation computer games seem crazy but incredible amounts of money are spent developing each new game. Man's ingenuity has been turned against himself as mental addiction takes its place next to chemical addiction. ..."
"... You need to use AdBlock and NoScript (or the equivalent for whatever OS and browser you're using.) I don't see ads hardly anywhere. The main reason for using these tools is not only to get rid of ads, it's to enhance the security of your computer. ..."
Sep 04, 2017 | turcopolier.typepad.com
wisedupearly , 04 September 2017 at 03:39 PM
Death of education by smartphones is a recent meme worrying educators. The ads, news bites, and apps are crafted specifically to attract attention. They are the end result of marrying Madison Avenue with Silicon Valley and only the most effective/annoying/distracting survive to become the template for the next generation.

To my generation computer games seem crazy but incredible amounts of money are spent developing each new game. Man's ingenuity has been turned against himself as mental addiction takes its place next to chemical addiction.

Richardstevenhack , 04 September 2017 at 07:38 PM
"If I look up a news article on the Web, swarms of ads descend to interrupt, and we spend precious time trying to delete them and move on as even as more continue to appear. The volume of ads are so asphyxiating these days that it isn't worth the effort to get rid of them, and so I turn them off., annoyed and exasperated."

You need to use AdBlock and NoScript (or the equivalent for whatever OS and browser you're using.) I don't see ads hardly anywhere. The main reason for using these tools is not only to get rid of ads, it's to enhance the security of your computer.

[Sep 17, 2017] Sic Semper Tyrannis How We Die by Richard Sale

Notable quotes:
"... Today, we learn in snatches or in brief bites. We don't settle down to learn comprehensively. We can't concentrate. Our life is one of incessant interruptions. If I look up a news article on the Web, swarms of ads descend to interrupt, and we spend precious time trying to delete them and move on as even as more continue to appear. The volume of ads are so asphyxiating these days that it isn't worth the effort to get rid of them, and so I turn them off., annoyed and exasperated. ..."
"... News items are intruders. Their origin is external to our thought. If outside events are always being dumped on our brains, it is hard to take the time to grade them in terms of our general knowledge. We do we really know? It takes a lot of reflection to answer that. Only by looking at our own knowledge from all sides, do we get a grasp of the insights that come from experience rather than the knowledge that come from foreign impressions. Schopenhauer once said that real thinking means "comparing truth with truth." To me that means deciding which truth had more meaning and priority in my own mental life? ..."
"... The ability to focus on a subject for a long time without fatigue was one of Napoleon's mottos. Who today can do that? What benefit to we get from blotting out distractions and learning to reason carefully for a long time without getting tired? It becomes harder for us to do everyday. Topics flock to our brains. The Middle East, President Trump, North Korea. Are these things really interesting? If we buckle down and concentrate on them, what will be the reward? To me, the rewards are always meager. There is a lot of competition when it comes to current affairs. If we fall behind, we suffer a pang of regret – some neighbor knows more about current affairs than I do. But so what? I want to ponder things that are unique to my own temper and mental capacity. I don't want to become a replica of my neighbor. There are few worse fates than that. I want to ponder things that are appropriate to my nature and experience. I want to encourage thoughts that have truth and life in them that occur naturally, not from without. ..."
"... Let's face it. Today we are all the junkies of daily news. "The Daily Fix" phrase is perhaps the most appropriate. ..."
"... One of the main villains of modern life is opinion. Popular opinion has replaced thought and reflection. Opinions are the product of ignorant hearsay. All of us see or view something and, without considering what it means, we rush to bray our reactions to anyone who can hear it. But is our reaction valid? Insightful? Useful? Enlightening? Opinions are unstable; they become outmoded, lacking in pertinence or validity and over time, are discarded. An opinion is the prisoner of the moment, a prisoner of the thoughtless and automatic the commonplace. For every thousand people cry a thing up only a pitiable few cry it down and their voices are drowned out. ..."
"... New York Times' ..."
"... You need to use AdBlock and NoScript (or the equivalent for whatever OS and browser you're using.) I don't see ads hardly anywhere. The main reason for using these tools is not only to get rid of ads, it's to enhance the security of your computer. ..."
"... Most people (68%) have an IQ that is within 1 standard deviation of average. These people are mediocre; functional, but mediocre. Of the remaining 32% we have 16% on the far left side of the bell curve. These people are truly stupid. That leaves only 16% (16 out of every hundred people you meet) that have some spark of intelligence above mediocrity. Of those, only 2% are truly bright. ..."
"... This, I think, is the root of the problems you discuss. Most people simply do not have the ability to do more than absorb and rote repeat the shallow informational garbage that is tossed at them. Their stunted intellectual capacities don't permit them to gain satisfaction from deep meditations. Rather, they prefer the gross pleasures of food, drink, slapstick and gossip. ..."
"... I think much of what is "modern life" is soul stifling. There are many ways to sidestep or repudiate the crassness and incivility of the world today, but for me, it has been to exit the metropolitan life. Going to my farm, where there is no cell service, no big highways and people still ride their horses down the roadways - I feel a palpable release and relief just driving into the area. ..."
"... The key to things, as has been taught throughout time, is to do things in moderation - and the internet and smartphones are no exception. However, the addictive appeal of instant everything is apparent to us here commenting, and is to be understood and moderated. In that vein, I want to thank the Colonel for giving us the opportunity to enjoy this little nook of cyberspace - thank you! ..."
Sep 17, 2017 | turcopolier.typepad.com

Triviality

Today, we learn in snatches or in brief bites. We don't settle down to learn comprehensively. We can't concentrate. Our life is one of incessant interruptions. If I look up a news article on the Web, swarms of ads descend to interrupt, and we spend precious time trying to delete them and move on as even as more continue to appear. The volume of ads are so asphyxiating these days that it isn't worth the effort to get rid of them, and so I turn them off., annoyed and exasperated.

The chief point is that we cannot sit and think and read or reflect in peace any more. Everything calls to us, tempts us, distracts us, befuddles and annoys us. Our brains are not what they once were, not because of age, but because our culture works differently on them and hinders their further development.

News items are intruders. Their origin is external to our thought. If outside events are always being dumped on our brains, it is hard to take the time to grade them in terms of our general knowledge. We do we really know? It takes a lot of reflection to answer that. Only by looking at our own knowledge from all sides, do we get a grasp of the insights that come from experience rather than the knowledge that come from foreign impressions. Schopenhauer once said that real thinking means "comparing truth with truth." To me that means deciding which truth had more meaning and priority in my own mental life?

The ability to focus on a subject for a long time without fatigue was one of Napoleon's mottos. Who today can do that? What benefit to we get from blotting out distractions and learning to reason carefully for a long time without getting tired? It becomes harder for us to do everyday. Topics flock to our brains. The Middle East, President Trump, North Korea. Are these things really interesting? If we buckle down and concentrate on them, what will be the reward? To me, the rewards are always meager. There is a lot of competition when it comes to current affairs. If we fall behind, we suffer a pang of regret – some neighbor knows more about current affairs than I do. But so what? I want to ponder things that are unique to my own temper and mental capacity. I don't want to become a replica of my neighbor. There are few worse fates than that. I want to ponder things that are appropriate to my nature and experience. I want to encourage thoughts that have truth and life in them that occur naturally, not from without.

I do not understand why so many people strive so hard to be up to date. They are always in a race to try and announce headlines before their neighbors. They rarely study or master the stories the headlines advertize. They evade the labor of memorizing. All they can recapitulate are the headlines. If you ask about the stories, they hesitate then falter out, "I only saw the headlines." I am sometimes eager to have them summarize what they've read, but there is no there, there as Gertrude Stein said about Oakland, CA.

Let's face it. Today we are all the junkies of daily news. "The Daily Fix" phrase is perhaps the most appropriate. It is really shameful if you think about it, but no one does, or if you protest about the meaningless deluge of daily news, you are labeled over-sensitive or nit-picking. Most of us awake to news headlines. There is a hurricane, an accident that kills sailors, a helicopter crashes, a new threat of annihilation from an Asian punk regime.

But do we learn anything from these? We are like those toy birds that dip their beaks into a dish of water. They look as if they're drinking, but they don't. They are not built to absorb anything. Their dipping looks like activity, but it is all counterfeit. Unfortunately the breathless topics of today are not of permanent interest nor do they enrich the mind. They are transitory, destined not to last. They keep us floating on the surface of life, preventing us from diving deep and discovering something new and valuable and priceless.

We see lists of notable books on the Civil War, the downfall of the Soviet Union, the Fall of the Bastille. We see new books on the French Revolution or the fall of Paris in 1870. We see histories of the Balkans or the Ottoman Empire. We see books about the nature of power, religious or corporate or military. Do we read them, study them?

As we get older, our minds get more introspective. We want to seize the enduring truths that reside in our nature or our close friends. Such things sharpen the mind; help expand the range of our inner insight. Worthless Opinions

One of the main villains of modern life is opinion. Popular opinion has replaced thought and reflection. Opinions are the product of ignorant hearsay. All of us see or view something and, without considering what it means, we rush to bray our reactions to anyone who can hear it. But is our reaction valid? Insightful? Useful? Enlightening? Opinions are unstable; they become outmoded, lacking in pertinence or validity and over time, are discarded. An opinion is the prisoner of the moment, a prisoner of the thoughtless and automatic the commonplace. For every thousand people cry a thing up only a pitiable few cry it down and their voices are drowned out.

We suffer from an increasingly lack of sound judgment.

... ... ...

Isolation

Isolation plays a large part in retarding study. The pleasure of learning is a noble pleasure, and like all good things, sharing what we learn with others increases its value. We are social creatures, and it is part of our nature to share the excellent. But most of the time we lack people to share the joy of our discoveries with. We are victims of the addicts of the mental lightweights who confine their reading to New York Times' bestsellers, people who lack the means to judge the merit of what they're reading, who lack the talent to articulate its virtues. They lack the standards of taste and the critical spirit required to evaluate them correctly.

Isolation has killed a lot of thinkers. I remember How Hume's book on Reelections on Human Nature fell absolutely flat after it was published yet, over time, became a classic. But popularity can kill as well. We think of how Mozart's amazing genius wowed and fascinated his audiences and followers and yet his fame resulted in him buried in an unmarked grave for the poor. Crowds are dismayingly fickle. Their interest lacks stamina.

Apparently it is the task of modern culture is to herd all of us on well traveled roads, never taking the road less traveled. Few of us explore and the few who do are not met with enthusiasm or praise or appreciation but by polite indifference mainly because your knowledge is not current or popular.

Popularity is a trap. It retains a viselike grip on the ignorant. It is sinister because it is addictive. If something is popular and makes money, then it must be successful, and if successful, it must be superior. No one asks the fans of the popular why they admire as they do. Because they assume that everyone else thinks just as they do and everyone else suffers from the same mediocre qualities of taste and narrowness of mind.

It is a hard truth that people of more talented intellectual capacity seek out people with similar temperaments and natures. That is the key to all friendship. With the right people, they come alive. They speak freely and honestly, relating facts that stimulate their listeners who then come forward with their own treasured items of memory and knowledge that stimulate and reinforce the conversation. Both sides leave the discussion strengthed and invigorated. Both are eager to hear more, learn more. Both return feeling less isolated from the ephemeral l thing tat matter so much in the world.

Divas

The purpose is to learn and share our knowledge for its own sake not because we want to not to become the center of attention. A neighbor's kid came to visit his parents. He was obsessed with learning about Rubik Cube. One the night of his arrival, there was a dinner in progress, but no sooner had the guests entered in the hallway, than this kid was putting on an exhibition, wresting with his cube, blocking the entering hallway, of course earning automatic applause from his audience. A short time later, he then went down to Miami to attend an international competition, and after all his self display his scores were mediocre, resting stolidity in the middle of the pack. I wondered if his interest was merely a desire to attract cheap applause, or whether he was serious student determined to become an expert, putting in those long hours of concentrated focus to improve his skill. Of course, my hopes were mislaid. He moved onto so something else where he would be the center of attention and hog the spotlight.

How We Die

Am reading an excellent book, How We Die ? The author, Sherwin Nuland, is a doctor, a surgeon, who is a well educated and deeply cultured man. He writes with eloquence. His prose is not for the squeamish. He retails very grisly details about how we lose our lives. Each chapter documents the chief causes of death in America, heart disease, Alzheimer's, accidents, suicides, "Murder and Serenity", etc.

One death he documents was that of James McCarty who died of a heart attack. He was a successful construction executive who led a "suicidal" life. He smoked, ate rich food, consumed a lot of red meat, and grew flabby and overweight and never exercised. He arrived at the emergency room at 8 p.m., on a hot and humid Sept. evening. He complained of "a constrictive pressure behind the breastbone" that radiated up into his throat and down his left arm. The pressure had begun after his usual heavy dinner. His face was ashen and sweaty. His heartbeat was irregular but improved after initial treatment.

At 11:00 p.m., Nuland arrived. McCarty wasn't pleased to see him. McCarty greeted him with a thin, forced smile. Nuland was 22 years of age at the time and this was one of his first cases. As Nuland sat down, McCarty suddenly threw his head back and "bellowed a wordless roar that came out of his throat from somewhere deep in his stricken heart." He hit his balled fists with surprising force up against his chest as his face became swollen and purple.

Nuland explains how he opened up the chest cavity to massage the man's heart. The heart felt like "an uncoordinated squirming, a jellylike bagful of hyperactive worms." The heart was wriggling under his fingers, and he began a series of firm, syncopated compressions.

Then Nuland writes "Suddenly a something stupefying in its horror took place." (Excellent sentence.) McCarty "threw back his head once more, and staring at the ceiling with his glassy, unseeing gaze of open, dead eyes, roared at the distant heavens a hoarse, rasping whoop that sounded as if the hounds of hell were barking." (Pat described this as McCarty's "last hurrah." McCarty, of course, was already dead when this happened.

The book is written in this effective pictorial style. It spares the reader nothing.

Of course, we all die from lack of oxygen. We cease breathing and our esophagus muscles can constrict and make us bark as we die or there can be seen great heaving as our lungs fail. The myths that our nails or hair grow after our death are simply myths. After we die, nothing grows. The lively energetic spirit that was one our deepest being had fled, leafing a pathetic shell behind that is not pleasant to look at. The eyes, at first unfocused and glassy, soon become covered ay a gray film that has no expression at all. The body beings to shrink. We have become mere luggage. What will survive of us has already been done. There is nothing else to look forward to.

I learned enough of New Testament Greek to read St. Paul's letters, which were outstandingly articulate in every way. But when I came to the Resurrection, I became skeptical. It was a lovely wish – to be restored to your parents, your wife, and your friends. But St. Paul's belief had its antecedents Zoroaster, the great Persian religious leader, was said to have been torn to pieces by his followers, but rose after three days. I don't like coincides. Of course, Jesus appeared to his followers but there was little to record of him after that. Was he resurrected a second time? There is little information.

... ... ...

Posted at 01:01 PM in Richard Sale Permalink

Murali , 04 September 2017 at 01:33 PM

You are spot on. The biggest problem we face is our own self and the delusion in search of non-existing knowledge out side of us. As you say if we sit comfortably and contemplate our own experiences both good and bad, there will be a greater awakening to the world outside of us. But as we search for knowledge outside of us be it internet or other mediums we are bombarded with irrivelent information such as the pop us ads etc. I have to plead guilty of the later but sometimes I do practice the former!
dilbert dogbert -> Murali... , 04 September 2017 at 10:27 PM
In my early years I marched along the trail knowing that in the mist dimly seen was "The Wall". Now at 81 "The Wall" is clear, spotlighted in bright sunlight.
Linda , 04 September 2017 at 02:42 PM
I am overwhelmed by this gift of your constant thinking. I agree with you about not wanting to live if my wits are gone, but I fear that it will be impossible for me to tell what that moment might be. I am I guess still afraid of death even though I strive to overcome this feeling. We would all like to die peacefully in our sleep one night but I think this rarely happens.
wisedupearly , 04 September 2017 at 03:39 PM
Death of education by smartphones is a recent meme worrying educators. The ads, news bites, and apps are crafted specifically to attract attention. They are the end result of marrying Madison Avenue with Silicon Valley and only the most effective/annoying/distracting survive to become the template for the next generation. To my generation computer games seem crazy but incredible amounts of money are spent developing each new game. Man's ingenuity has been turned against himself as mental addiction takes its place next to chemical addiction.
Richardstevenhack , 04 September 2017 at 07:38 PM
"If I look up a news article on the Web, swarms of ads descend to interrupt, and we spend precious time trying to delete them and move on as even as more continue to appear. The volume of ads are so asphyxiating these days that it isn't worth the effort to get rid of them, and so I turn them off., annoyed and exasperated."

You need to use AdBlock and NoScript (or the equivalent for whatever OS and browser you're using.) I don't see ads hardly anywhere. The main reason for using these tools is not only to get rid of ads, it's to enhance the security of your computer.

readerOfTeaLeaves , 04 September 2017 at 10:59 PM
Having watched my father pass away in recent months, after several years confined to a wheelchair and in the care of gifted, compassionate immigrants, I sincerely appreciate this post.

In those last weeks, the most help that I could offer was to play him any opera, musical, jazz, or orchestral piece that he requested -- all via a quick search on my iTunes account. In the last hours, when he could no longer speak, Indian Chakra music (also via iTunes) helped his breathing and was a balm beyond what words could ever express.

What he taught me is that it is not how we die -- in his case, stoic, uncomplaining, loved, and treasured -- but how we live, that matters.

His life, like so many of his generation, was shaped by several years spent in the US Army between 1943 - 45, much of it in the South Pacific, then Japan. The catastrophic destruction that he witnessed, which he did not share with me until he was well into his 80s, shaped the way that he lived his life, and sharpened his priorities, his beliefs, his politics, his ethics, and his capacity for friendship. Also, his capacity for making a decision, then sticking to it.

He once told me that after watching 'so many bodies stacked up like cordwood' in the cleanup of Yokohoma after it had been firebombed, he promised himself that he would never, ever remain in any job if he was miserable after 72 hours. He kept that promise to himself, and helped countless others also try to find meaningful work, be productive, and laugh through job losses, down cycles, and lawsuits.

In other words, his military experiences in WWII seemed to liberate him in a sense to live his life as fully as he possibly could, and he always felt grateful to have had a solid education, a superb local library, and -- much later -- The Internet to help him reconnect with friends strewn across the country.

Today, he would be called 'resilient'. Many of the traits that helped him be successful in a long career were sharpened in the US Army, and he felt that 'kids today' would have enormous benefits from some kind of national service. That generation knew how to pull together. Whether today's kids can figure it out remains to be seen.

EvanHP , 04 September 2017 at 11:57 PM
I'm in my 40's. I had a heart attack (MI) 3 years ago and a stroke 2 weeks ago. The MI felt like 1000-lbs of compressed air was shot into my lungs. When I had the stroke I was typing a report at my desk around 7 pm. My wife was still at work. My right arm went completely numb and the right side of my face felt partially numb. I was rushed to the ER at a local hospital outside Boston.

No major long-term effects. In both cases (MI and stroke) I was a bit freaked out because I was conscious and knew that what was happening was grave. In both cases my overwhelming thought (fear) was that I was about to enter eternity and I wondered if I had lead a good enough life to avoid eternal isolation from God. During the stroke they were ready to use a very aggressive treatment called TPA, which, the ER doctor told me, could result in bleeding in the brain and fatality. I was frightened of death for the first time in my life. Because it was real. I asked my wife if we might need to call a priest. She said I would be ok. The decision to not go forward with TPA was made by a brother and sister-in-law (one a Harvard Med cardiologist and the other a professor of medicine) who talked with the ER doctor by phone as this was going down (I'm sure a first for him).

Anyway, crazy stuff. I will be changing my lifestyle in many ways-- body, mind, and spirt. I'm practicing my faith more diligently and plan to go to confession at least once per month and say the rosary daily. A view these events as a wake up call for my health and a severe mercy for my eternal soul.

Bill H , 05 September 2017 at 01:27 AM
I was undergoing some sort of medical test and the technician noticed I was reading a book, one of the Patrick O'Brian series which includes Master and Commander which was such a good movie. I told him I was reading the series for what I thought was the sixth time and he was stunned. He could not believe that anyone would read a book twice, let alone a series of twenty books six times. I think Richard Sale understands why I'm reading it yet again.
Eric Newhill , 05 September 2017 at 05:35 AM
Nice article, Richard.

I volunteer at a hospice home in my community. It's a nice place and people in the community can spend their final days there, for free, well taken care of, with their families and friends, in a clean, peaceful, respectful environment. The goal of the home is provide as much dignity in death as possible. I've seem a lot of people go through the dying process and have been there at the final moment for some of them.

You'd be surprised at how many residents pass their last week and day and even moment with some banal game show blaring away on the television. You might be surprised at how few conversations there are about spiritual matters, how few reflections on what was learned during life, how few conversations regarding great adventures, joys, loves, sorrows.

For most, death comes painlessly. There is a sigh and, perhaps, a brief rattle and then the resident is gone. Quite uneventful. Quite mundane.

Most people (68%) have an IQ that is within 1 standard deviation of average. These people are mediocre; functional, but mediocre. Of the remaining 32% we have 16% on the far left side of the bell curve. These people are truly stupid. That leaves only 16% (16 out of every hundred people you meet) that have some spark of intelligence above mediocrity. Of those, only 2% are truly bright.

This, I think, is the root of the problems you discuss. Most people simply do not have the ability to do more than absorb and rote repeat the shallow informational garbage that is tossed at them. Their stunted intellectual capacities don't permit them to gain satisfaction from deep meditations. Rather, they prefer the gross pleasures of food, drink, slapstick and gossip.

David E. Solomon -> Eric Newhill... , 05 September 2017 at 09:25 AM
Sorry Eric but I don't buy your assumptions at all. I think if you were to look carefully and without bias, you will find that the mediocrity you have perceived is almost entirely the result of a very poor national (at least in the USA) public education system.
gaikokumaniakku , 05 September 2017 at 08:54 AM
"Are these things really interesting? If we buckle down and concentrate on them, what will be the reward? To me, the rewards are always meager. There is a lot of competition when it comes to current affairs. If we fall behind, we suffer a pang of regret – some neighbor knows more about current affairs than I do. But so what? I want to ponder things that are unique to my own temper and mental capacity."

Dear sir, thank you for your essay. You are very right in your principles. One should meditate and think deeply. One should not be distracted by passing fads and foolish fancies. I am a foolish fellow. I fritter my time away on distractions. I know that I should say "no" to exciting projects and focus on just one useful enterprise, but in general I fail.

One thing that I do focus on is putting together aggregated news of police misconduct, government corruption, and conspiracy theories. Up through 2016, I thought it was just another foolish habit. I had perhaps two dozen readers every day - I got no money for keeping them abreast of the headlines.

And then, in 2016, John Podesta was accused of human trafficking. If the allegations - known as Pizzagate - are even close to true, then the entire USA government will be shaken when the truth comes out. I reported on Pizzagate when it was news, just like I report on every other report of government misconduct. And instead of two dozen visitors, I got thousands. For just one day, or just one month, there were thousands of people who wanted to read the allegations, and I played a very small role in delivering the truth that had been exposed by much braver and abler men. I hope the corruption will be exposed, and then everyone will wake up, and my blogging efforts will be obsolete. I would very much like to feel that I can ignore the news in good conscience.

Oilman2 , 05 September 2017 at 10:50 AM
I think much of what is "modern life" is soul stifling. There are many ways to sidestep or repudiate the crassness and incivility of the world today, but for me, it has been to exit the metropolitan life. Going to my farm, where there is no cell service, no big highways and people still ride their horses down the roadways - I feel a palpable release and relief just driving into the area.

My recommendation is simply to limit your drinking. Nobody gets drunk every day except alcoholics, who have a sickness. My sense of things on the internet and in smartfone-land is similar - it's like a drunk who needs to drink. If you have a little, it is fine, although you don't always need it. If you have a lot, then you are like a drunk - because knowing things does not mean you can affect them, and worrying over things you cannot affect is a recipe for many ills.

The craziness of the world will recede in the future - so much of what is considered 'normal' now is not so, when viewed from the lens of history. Things go in cycles, and the current world is the most technologically complex one in known history - and thus it has more innate vulnerabilities than any other previous human existence. Simplification will come, and is likely on its way in our children's or grandchildren's times here on Earth.

Concurrently, my focus has been on building the farm so that my children and possibly their own, have a place to go that is not the city, that is simpler, that is closer to the Earth and provides them with things impalpable. This has and is a great source of happiness in this life for me.

I haven't subscribed to the Judeo-Christian faith since I was originally indoctrinated in my early teens via catechism. I never grokked a God that delivers binary choice - this world would be anathema to that type of being. I believe reliving the wheel of life a far more likely and positive possibility for souls. Polishing ones soul in repeated attempts has an appeal much greater than burning in hell eternally or playing a harp among identically blissful angels - the binaries offered by many religions are not reflective of what humanity is, IMHO. I guess in the next years I will discover what the truth of things is, and take comfort in my offspring moving through time beyond my own.

The key to things, as has been taught throughout time, is to do things in moderation - and the internet and smartphones are no exception. However, the addictive appeal of instant everything is apparent to us here commenting, and is to be understood and moderated. In that vein, I want to thank the Colonel for giving us the opportunity to enjoy this little nook of cyberspace - thank you!

And for this essay - thank you. I surely needed to be written, as it is something we all should acknowledge. Death is something natural, normal and inevitable. Easing the burden of loss to your loved ones is an important responsibility as we pass through the veil.

[Sep 17, 2017] Inside the rehab saving young men from their internet addiction by Joanna Walters

Jun 16, 2017 | www.theguardian.com

At a cabin in the Washington state woods, the reSTART center helps residents withdraw from technology that has consumed their lives in Redmond, Washington.

By the time Marshall Carpenter's father broke down the barricaded door of his son's apartment and physically ripped him away from his electronic devices, the 25-year-old was in a bad way. He could not bear to live a life that didn't involve hours upon hours of uninterrupted screen time.

"I was playing video games 14 or 15 hours a day, I had Netflix on a loop in the background, and any time there was the tiniest break in any of that, I would be playing a game on my phone or sending lonely texts to ex-girlfriends," Carpenter says.

We are sitting in a small, plain apartment in a nondescript condo complex in Redmond, Washington, on the outskirts of Seattle. Marshall shares the apartment with other men in their 20s, all of whom have recently emerged from a unique internet addiction rehab program called reSTART Life.

"I was basically living on Dr Pepper, which is packed with caffeine and sugar. I would get weak from not eating but I would only notice it when I got so shaky I stopped being able to think and play well," he adds. By then, he'd already had to drop out of university in Michigan and had lost his sports scholarship.

His new friends Charlie and Peter nod sagely. Charlie Bracke, 28, was suicidal and had lost his job when he realized his online gaming was totally out of control. He can't remember a time in his life before he was not playing video games of some kind: he reckons he began when he was about four and was addicted by the age of nine.

Marshall and Charlie at reSTART, an internet addiction center.

Marshall and Charlie at reSTART, with Charlie's dog, Minerva. Photograph: Rafael Soldi for the Guardian

For Peter, 31, who preferred to withhold his last name, the low came when he had been homeless for six months and was living in his car.

"I would stay in church parking lots and put sunshades up on the windows and spend all day in my car on my tablet device," he says.

He was addicted to internet porn, masturbating six to 10 times a day, to the point where he was bleeding but would continue.

When he wasn't doing that, he was so immersed in the fantasy battle game World of Warcraft that in his mind, he was no longer a person sitting at a screen, but an avatar: the bold dwarvish hero Tarokalas, "shooting guns and assassinating the enemy" as he ran through a Tolkien-esque virtual realm.

And when he wasn't doing that, he would read online news reports obsessively and exercise his political opinions and a hair-trigger temper in the comment section of The Economist, projecting himself pseudonymously as a swaggering blogger-cum-troll.

"I was a virgin until I was 29. Then I had sex with a lap dancer at a strip club. That's something I never thought I would do," he says.

After completing the initial $25,000, 45-day residential stage at the main "campus" a few miles away, clients move into the cheaper, off-site secondary phase. Here they get to share a normal apartment, on the condition that they continue with psychotherapy, attend Alcoholics Anonymous-style 12-step meetings, search for work and avoid the internet for a minimum of six months.

Marshall, Charlie and Peter successfully completed the second phase and have graduated from the reSTART program, but they have chosen to stay in the same apartment complex and rent with other recovering gamers as they continue to reboot their lives.

Mostly they carry only flip phones and have to go to the library when they want to check email.

"I'm taking my life in six-month chunks at this stage. So far I haven't relapsed into gaming and I'm feeling optimistic," says Bracke.

An addiction overwhelmingly afflicting men

A climbing wall at the main ReStart campus, deep in the woods.

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A climbing wall at the main reSTART campus, deep in the woods. Photograph: Rafael Soldi for the Guardian

Nine miles east, down a dirt track off a country road that winds through forests, six young men are sitting in a wooden cabin amid a cluster of moss-draped trees – the reSTART campus.

Spring sunshine is flooding through the windows and the only sounds are birds singing and the men cracking their knuckles as they stare at the floor.

They have recently arrived at rehab.

Hilarie Cash, a psychotherapist and the chief clinical officer at reSTART, asks the guys to begin a communication exercise.

Philip, 22, steps into the middle of the group. He's been here for three weeks and is on a year's medical leave from Duke University after getting hooked on Dota 2, the sequel to the fantasy battle game Defense of the Ancients. He asks Adam, who only arrived four days ago and is fidgeting awkwardly, to stand up and face him. (The real names of those currently in the residential program have been withheld.)

Kevin, who has been here for four weeks, coaches them through an exercise known in counseling circles as the "listening cycle", designed to facilitate emotional conversations in relationships.

It's a basic introduction for the new guy.

Fears grow for children addicted to online games

Read more

Philip, who was underweight when he arrived, says to Adam, who is overweight: "I'm worried that you're not eating healthily. I noticed you've been skipping dinner."

Adam is meant to repeat back to Philip what he heard him say the problem is. He mumbles, barely audible, and can't seem to remember what he's just been told.

He's unable to focus, and the air is thick with reluctance and embarrassment.

Stephen, another newbie, is gazing at the ceiling, yawning, sighing, then looking mildly irritated.

Alex, 20, comes to the rescue. He arrived at rehab in January but has popped back to visit the group and explains: "It's so hard at the beginning. Day one here, I was a wreck, and the first two weeks I was backsliding."

His games of choice were The Legend of Zelda, a solo action adventure series, where "instead of being the depressed piece of shit I was in real life" he could exist as a swashbuckling hero.

Adapting to a tech-free world structured around rural communal living and social skills was a nightmare, he says. "I wouldn't join in at first and I got called out for it by the others."

[Sep 17, 2017] Lessons from Sheryl Sandberg -- Stop Working More Than 40 Hours a Week

The problem is that you can't learn IT well working 40 hours a week. This is too complex specilaty and it does rtequre long hours. So only people who can put long hours can survive in IT.
Notable quotes:
"... There's been a flurry of recent coverage praising Sheryl Sandberg , the chief operating officer of Facebook, for leaving the office every day at 5:30 p.m. to be with her kids. Apparently she's been doing this for years, but only recently "came out of the closet," as it were. ..."
"... They discovered that the "sweet spot" is 40 hours a week – and that, while adding another 20 hours provides a minor increase in productivity, that increase only lasts for three to four weeks, and then turns negative. ..."
"... Anyone who's spent time in a corporate environment knows that what was true of factory workers a hundred years ago is true of office workers today. People who put in a solid 40 hours a week get more done than those who regularly work 60 or more hours. ..."
"... However, the facts don't bear this out. In six of the top 10 most competitive countries in the world (Sweden, Finland, Germany, Netherlands, Denmark, and the United Kingdom), it's illegal to demand more than a 48-hour work week . You simply don't see the 50-, 60-, and 70-hour work weeks that have become de rigeur in some parts of the U.S. business world. ..."
"... In other words, nobody should be apologizing for leaving at work at a reasonable hour like 5:30 p.m. In fact, people should be apologizing if they're working too long each week–because it's probably making the team less effective overall. ..."
Apr 28, 2012 | Inc.com

You may think you're getting more accomplished by working longer hours. You're probably wrong.

There's been a flurry of recent coverage praising Sheryl Sandberg, the chief operating officer of Facebook, for leaving the office every day at 5:30 p.m. to be with her kids. Apparently she's been doing this for years, but only recently "came out of the closet," as it were.

What's insane is that Sandberg felt the need to hide the fact, since there's a century of research establishing the undeniable fact that working more than 40 hours per week actually decreases productivity.

In the early 1900s, Ford Motor ran dozens of tests to discover the optimum work hours for worker productivity. They discovered that the "sweet spot" is 40 hours a week – and that, while adding another 20 hours provides a minor increase in productivity, that increase only lasts for three to four weeks, and then turns negative.

Anyone who's spent time in a corporate environment knows that what was true of factory workers a hundred years ago is true of office workers today. People who put in a solid 40 hours a week get more done than those who regularly work 60 or more hours.

The workaholics (and their profoundly misguided management) may think they're accomplishing more than the less fanatical worker, but in every case that I've personally observed, the long hours result in work that must be scrapped or redone.

Accounting for Burnout What's more, people who consistently work long work weeks get burned out and inevitably start having personal problems that get in the way of getting things done.

I remember a guy in one company I worked for who used the number of divorces in his group as a measure of its productivity. Believe it or not, his top management reportedly considered this a valid metric. What's ironic (but not surprising) is that the group itself accomplished next to nothing.

In fact, now that I think about it, that's probably why he had to trot out such an absurd (and, let's face it, evil) metric.

Proponents of long work weeks often point to the even longer average work weeks in countries like Thailand, Korea, and Pakistan–with the implication that the longer work weeks are creating a competitive advantage.

Europe's Ban on 50-Hour Weeks.

However, the facts don't bear this out. In six of the top 10 most competitive countries in the world (Sweden, Finland, Germany, Netherlands, Denmark, and the United Kingdom), it's illegal to demand more than a 48-hour work week. You simply don't see the 50-, 60-, and 70-hour work weeks that have become de rigeur in some parts of the U.S. business world.

If U.S. managers were smart, they'd end this "if you don't come in on Saturday, don't bother coming to work on Sunday" idiocy. If you want employees (salaried or hourly) to get the most done–in the shortest amount of time and on a consistent basis–40 hours a week is just about right.

In other words, nobody should be apologizing for leaving at work at a reasonable hour like 5:30 p.m. In fact, people should be apologizing if they're working too long each week–because it's probably making the team less effective overall.

[Sep 17, 2017] If You Get Rich, You Wont Quit Working For Long

Dec 26, 2016 | news.slashdot.org
(bbc.com) 406 Posted by msmash on Monday December 12, 2016 @11:45AM from the understanding-people dept. An anonymous reader writes: You'd think striking it suddenly rich would be the ultimate ticket to freedom. Without money worries, the world would be your oyster. Perhaps you'd champion a worthy cause, or indulge a sporting passion, but work? Surely not. However, remaining gainfully employed after sudden wealth is more common than you'd think . After all, there are numerous high-profile billionaires who haven't called it quits despite possessing the luxury to retire, including some of the world's top chief executives, such as Amazon's Jeff Bezos and Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg. But it turns out, the suddenly rich who aren't running companies are also loathe to quit, even though they have plenty of money. That could be, in part, because the link between salary and job satisfaction is very weak. According to a meta-analysis by University of Florida business school professor Timothy Judge and other researchers, there's less than a 2% overlap between the two factors. In the long run, we derive job satisfaction from non-monetary sources, which include positive peer relationships, the ability to work on meaningful projects and even leadership opportunities.

[Sep 17, 2017] The ethic of hard work , Obama, Trump and Hillary by Gaius Publius

Notable quotes:
"... If anything, the whole plagiarism scandal reflects somewhat poorly on Michelle Obama. One reason Obama's words were able to play so well at the RNC was that in the lifted passages, Obama was speaking using the conservative language of "bootstrapping." Obama's sentence, that "the only limit" to one's achievements is the height of one's goal and the "willingness to work" toward it, is the Republican story about America. It's the story of personal responsibility, in which the U.S. is overflowing with opportunity, and anyone who fails to succeed in such a land of abundance must simply not be trying hard enough. ..."
"... People on the left are supposed to know that it is a cruel lie to tell people that all they need to do is work hard. There are plenty of people with dreams who work very hard indeed but get nothing, because the American economy is fundamentally skewed and unfair. This rhetoric, about "hard work" being the only thing needed for the pursuit of prosperity, is an insult to every tomato-picker and hotel cleaner in the country. It's a fact that those who work the hardest in this country, those come home from work exhausted and who break their backs to feed their families, are almost always rewarded the least. Far from embarrassing Melania Trump and the GOP, then, it should be deeply humiliating for Democrats that their rhetoric is so bloodless and hollow that it can easily be spoken word-for-word in front of a gang of crazed racists. Instead of asking "why is Melania Trump using Michelle Obama's words?" we might think to ask "why is Michelle Obama using the right-wing rhetoric of self-reliance?" ..."
"... This is, of course, the myth of "meritocracy" that Thomas Frank has exposed with scalpel-like precision in his latest book Listen, Liberal . It's clear that the Democratic Party, at its core, believes with Michelle (and Barack) Obama the comfortable and self-serving lie that no individual has anyone to blame but herself if she fails to achieve high goals. She should just have reached higher; she should just have worked harder. ..."
"... It's not only a lie, it's a "cruel lie," as Nimni says. So why is she, Michelle Obama, telling it? Clearly it serves her interests, her husband's interests, her party's interests, to tell the "rich person's lie," that his or her achievement came from his or her own efforts. To call most people's success a product of luck (right color, right gender, right country, right neighborhood, right schools, right set of un-birth-damaged brain cells) or worse, inheritance (right parents), identifies the fundamental unfairness of our supposed "meritocratic" system of allocating wealth and undercuts the "goodness," if you look at it writ large, of predatory capitalism. By that measure, neither the very wealthy themselves (Charles Koch, Jamie Dimon) nor those who serve them (Barack Obama et al ) are "good" in any moral sense. ..."
"... U.S. cultural norms, as the piece describes accurately, glorify and misrepresent "work" especially of the "hard" kind. Hmm I wonder where that notion came from and why it gained such a foothold in the prevailing groupthink? ..."
"... The present regime of "teach to the test" here in America almost completely short circuits the teaching of critical thinking skills. With stressed parents increasingly abdicating their responsibilities towards the upbringing of their offspring in favour of the State, is it any wonder that the narrow interests of the State, such as the Iron Law of Institutions, are supplanting enlightenment in the minds of the young? We now must begin to consider the divergence of the interests of the Society from the interests of the State. With the balance of power swinging heavily in favour of the State these recent decades, I am not sanguine about the near term future of our culture. ..."
"... As is so often the case in American culture, the "hard work" meme emerges from the slave system. Slaves had to be bullied and terrorized in order to extract "hard work" from them, given that they had zero rewards of any tangible sort for it. So "hard work" required constant vigilance and frequent punishments while slaves rationally attempted to do the least amount of work that enabled them to escape the many types of tortures they were regularly threatened with. ..."
"... Then after "emancipation," plantation owners complained that they could not get any of those lazy, shiftless Negroes to perform "hard work" for them, given that the newly freed men and women were much more interested in getting ahead for themselves than continuing to pick cotton or harvest rice for starvation wages. ..."
"... I don't think you are over-simplifying, Clive–in Hong Kong, too, my experience has been that most people I deal with in the work world take a great deal of intrinsic pride in doing a job efficiently and well, for its own sake, not because it will necessarily make you more money. ..."
"... What I'm starting to sniff in the zeitgeist today is that Trump's kids are totally changing what people think of the father. People are making the semi-rational assumption that anyone who can raise such good kids must be very different in private than he is on the campaign trail. ..."
"... the genesis of the "plagiarism" attacks. The mud slinging has started early in this campaign. However, if Trumps' family can exude some sense of charm and class, the entire mud slinging strategy can be 'stood on its' head.' ..."
"... Me, I'm terrified of Hillary Clinton and the devastation that her ascension to the Presidency might bring to this nation and to the world. She is not only a liar, a blatantly self-dealing criminal, but more devastating yet, a sociopath of the first water, willing to walk across the bodies to advance her personal and class agenda. ..."
"... Her time as President would go a long way toward cementing the Unitary Executive in place (i.e., a functional Dictator, as understood in the Roman Republican meaning of the term, a Tribune, in which a chief magistrate of the State like the President under our Constitution, whose writ as an authoritarian ruler ran so long as there was a national emergency. I serve as the clerk for government documents in a university law library, and I can tell you that the number of House Documents announcing a "National Emergency" or the continuation of a previously announced "National Emergency" is very alarming. These "emergencies" are the camel's nose under the tent in my estimation for the slow accretion of Dictatorial powers (again, in the Roman Republican sense of the term "dictator") toward the Caesar-like role of Unitary Executive. These "National Emergencies" functionally invest power into the hands of the President and those forces military, legal, and regulatory under the control of the Executive by which the President can wage military, legal/diplomatic, and economic warfare against those who refuse to bend the knee to US-dominated global hegemony. ..."
"... Hillary is practically salivating to grasp the rod of power embodied in the Unitary Executive. Warfare will follow her tenure in office like a dire shadow, and due to her belief in the right of and necessity of the US to enforce a global hegemony, she is inevitably moving toward a deadly clash with other nuclear powers unwilling to submit to the yoke of globalized, stateless, culturally-anodyne finance capitalism. Good times await. ..."
"... "Our well-nigh useless Legislative branch has largely surrendered its Constitutional responsibilities to the Executive through such trash as Authorizations of Military Force rather than engaging in the mandated procedure of the Declaration of War found in the Constitution to authorize extended use of military (and legal and economic) force." ..."
"... That allows individuals to claim they had no responsibility for the war, something Pence and Clinton cannot claim because of their votes. But on what other things do you see Obama as being a strong "unitary executive." I thought it was generally viewed that Congress had thwarted his (almost) every wish. ..."
"... And how about that patriot act renewal, US out of iraq/afganistan? Vicky nuland and the ukraine? I guess the problem is that you get your information as it is generally viewed, but you fail to indicate who it is that generally views things that way, however, it should help you understand why trump will win because hillary is generally viewed as corrupt. ..."
"... I'm intrigued by author's concluding idea. "It involves another attempt to take over the Republican Party, this time by the Clinton-led Democratic leadership. " ..."
"... And if the words were lies coming out of Obama's mouth, what are they coming out of Trump's mouth? ..."
"... "Far from embarrassing Melania Trump and the GOP, then, it should be deeply humiliating for Democrats that their rhetoric is so bloodless and hollow that it can easily be spoken word-for-word in front of a gang of crazed racists. Instead of asking "why is Melania Trump using Michelle Obama's words?" we might think to ask "why is Michelle Obama using the right-wing rhetoric of self-reliance?" ..."
"... A lot of this is related to the Democrats and what Bill made "successful" with his presidency. The lack of a truly left party that works for average citizens has created this environment when a character like Trump can gain such support. This article illustrates but another example of meritocratic nonsense being regurgitated by the party. ..."
"... A thought-provoking and unexpected take, Gaius Publius. I was struck by one item left off your list of lucky attributes: beauty. Both Michelle Obama and Melania Trump are undeniably beautiful women -– tall, slim, with the elegantly symmetrical features prized in every culture. Sadly in beauty-obsessed America the doors opened for women who look this lovely are shut hard against women who are fat, or old, or ugly. ..."
"... I had pretty much the exact same thought as your second "blackbird" when the video of Melania Trump plagiarizing Michele Obama's speech and all my liberal friends were yuking it up. All I could think was "If the same speech could plausibly come out of either of their mouths without alienating the audience, we have much worse problems than her Mrs. Trump's copycating." The fact that this seemed to bother hardly anyone else made it worse. So much of these elections just get reduced down to rooting for your team at a sporting event. This works well to keep people from having to deal with a lot of unpleasant questions and conclusions. ..."
"... Read Roosevelt's speech, Trump certainly did, for some real fear mongering and look at the coalition he has taken over the Republican party to form. FDR 1932. ..."
"... > "another attempt to take over the Republican Party" Which shouldn't be that hard, since both the Democrat and Republican parties are neoliberal. As always, the real enemy is the left. ..."
"... I'm surprised Gaius failed to address this portion of Michelle's speech which he quoted: "tell the truth; keep your promises; treat others with dignity and respect." Since when has Obama told the truth, or kept his promises, or treated anyone except Jamie Dimon and Lloyd Blanfein with respect? ..."
"... Put aside whether "Michelle Obama" or some speechwriting merc came up with the banal verbiage redolent of Sunday school and Horatio Alger. What gives the snippet its special Trumpian turn into hyper-unreality, an ever-expanding balloon of hot boast and hyperbolic deceit, is the way it transcends garden-variety plagiarism by laying claim to the very virtues that the appropriation itself falsifies. ..."
"... That's chutzpah! The stunning effrontery supersizes an overall meta-ness that's less indicative of middle-class morality and meritocracy than the predatory opportunism of the exploitative rich, what C. Wright Mills might have recognized as the "higher immorality." Here we have a colossally vain billionaire atop an empire of glitz and privilege kayfabing his way to a party nomination as the indignant voice of the brutalized working class he's dedicated his life to disparaging as envious losers. The mind reels between giddiness and nausea. ..."
"... You can't forever distract it away with Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous and color counter-revolutions against exploitative freeloaders (the non-rich and famous ones, that is). It takes an philosophy of human worth apart from vanities over this or that temporarily adaptive skill or happy accident. ..."
"... I think Oren Nimni basically gets it right: When you cut through the tautologies and the bromides that many parents deliver to their children, what you have is the message, "don't expect government to be there for you; those days are over" (which, actually, sounds like Bubba Bill's pitch–"the day's of big government are over"). ..."
"... If you work hard enough and have enough ambition you will succeed is not a lie to those born on 3rd base, it was true for them. The Obama's the Trumps. They are really just guilty of not understanding the plight of those who were born at bat against a major league pitcher. ..."
www.nakedcapitalism.com

naked capitalism

Gaius Publius Two Ways of Looking at a Plagiarism

Oren Nimni: Obama's statement "is an insult to every tomato-picker and hotel cleaner in the country"

The fact that Michelle Obama's statement is blatantly false (and that a woman of color in the United States said it) is revealing. Current Affairs writer Oren Nimni on that (emphasis in original):

If anything, the whole plagiarism scandal reflects somewhat poorly on Michelle Obama. One reason Obama's words were able to play so well at the RNC was that in the lifted passages, Obama was speaking using the conservative language of "bootstrapping." Obama's sentence, that "the only limit" to one's achievements is the height of one's goal and the "willingness to work" toward it, is the Republican story about America. It's the story of personal responsibility, in which the U.S. is overflowing with opportunity, and anyone who fails to succeed in such a land of abundance must simply not be trying hard enough.

People on the left are supposed to know that it is a cruel lie to tell people that all they need to do is work hard. There are plenty of people with dreams who work very hard indeed but get nothing, because the American economy is fundamentally skewed and unfair. This rhetoric, about "hard work" being the only thing needed for the pursuit of prosperity, is an insult to every tomato-picker and hotel cleaner in the country. It's a fact that those who work the hardest in this country, those come home from work exhausted and who break their backs to feed their families, are almost always rewarded the least.

Far from embarrassing Melania Trump and the GOP, then, it should be deeply humiliating for Democrats that their rhetoric is so bloodless and hollow that it can easily be spoken word-for-word in front of a gang of crazed racists. Instead of asking "why is Melania Trump using Michelle Obama's words?" we might think to ask "why is Michelle Obama using the right-wing rhetoric of self-reliance?"

This is, of course, the myth of "meritocracy" that Thomas Frank has exposed with scalpel-like precision in his latest book Listen, Liberal . It's clear that the Democratic Party, at its core, believes with Michelle (and Barack) Obama the comfortable and self-serving lie that no individual has anyone to blame but herself if she fails to achieve high goals. She should just have reached higher; she should just have worked harder.

It's not only a lie, it's a "cruel lie," as Nimni says. So why is she, Michelle Obama, telling it? Clearly it serves her interests, her husband's interests, her party's interests, to tell the "rich person's lie," that his or her achievement came from his or her own efforts. To call most people's success a product of luck (right color, right gender, right country, right neighborhood, right schools, right set of un-birth-damaged brain cells) or worse, inheritance (right parents), identifies the fundamental unfairness of our supposed "meritocratic" system of allocating wealth and undercuts the "goodness," if you look at it writ large, of predatory capitalism. By that measure, neither the very wealthy themselves (Charles Koch, Jamie Dimon) nor those who serve them (Barack Obama et al ) are "good" in any moral sense.

(The idea of the supposed "goodness" of the successful capitalist, by the way, his supposed "greater morality," goes all the way back to the 18th Century attempt of the wealthy to counter the 17th Century bleakness of Protestant predestination. How could people, especially the very rich, know whether they are among the "elect" or the damned? God gives them wealth as a sign of his plans for them, just as God gives them morally deficient poverty-wage workers to take advantage of.)

Clive , July 22, 2016 at 4:27 am

There's also a flip side to the main point drawn out in the above article ("if you work hard you'll be successful and rewarded") which, dare I say, is rarely mentioned and even an anathema in U.S. culture (not, mind you, that I think British culture isn't going the same way so I am not trying to throw stones in this glass house).

Which is: quite often, you are rewarded if you don't "work hard" and even if you work somewhat "hard" the rewards you receive are out of all proportion to the effort you have to make. But no-one (or few people) are willing to admit, if they are in that position, that - to put it crudely - they are really doing bugger all but raking it in.

I, for example, do very little. What I do do certainly isn't "hard work". Now, I have expended a certain amount of mental effort on understanding the system - the dynamic - in play at my employer. And how to successfully exploit that to gain the maximum amount of financial reward for the least amount of effort. But I would hardly call that "work", and certainly it is not of "hard" variety.

U.S. cultural norms, as the piece describes accurately, glorify and misrepresent "work" especially of the "hard" kind. Hmm I wonder where that notion came from and why it gained such a foothold in the prevailing groupthink?

In Japanese culture, to introduce another nuance, the concept of "hard work" is still present as a thing to be looked up to but it is more tinged with an air of "doing your best" or "doing your upmost" rather than "hard" (i.e. demanding) work and lacks the "you're going to get the payoff if you do" quid pro quo. The reward, in Japanese culture, comes from knowing you've done the best you can which is more a personal satisfaction than a financial compensator. But I am glossing over some complexity here so do not view what I've just said in this paragraph as anything other than a simplification.

ambrit , July 22, 2016 at 5:02 am

May I suggest that the "simplification" you mention is an essential part of any group control strategy. Simplified thinking may work wonders in efficiency studies or some sorts of high energy physics, but in the realm of social relations, simplicity masks diversity and complexity to the detriment of any version of "truth." I was lucky in having skeptical parents and some excellent minds among my High School teachers. The present regime of "teach to the test" here in America almost completely short circuits the teaching of critical thinking skills. With stressed parents increasingly abdicating their responsibilities towards the upbringing of their offspring in favour of the State, is it any wonder that the narrow interests of the State, such as the Iron Law of Institutions, are supplanting enlightenment in the minds of the young? We now must begin to consider the divergence of the interests of the Society from the interests of the State. With the balance of power swinging heavily in favour of the State these recent decades, I am not sanguine about the near term future of our culture.

timotheus , July 22, 2016 at 7:43 am

As is so often the case in American culture, the "hard work" meme emerges from the slave system. Slaves had to be bullied and terrorized in order to extract "hard work" from them, given that they had zero rewards of any tangible sort for it. So "hard work" required constant vigilance and frequent punishments while slaves rationally attempted to do the least amount of work that enabled them to escape the many types of tortures they were regularly threatened with.

Then after "emancipation," plantation owners complained that they could not get any of those lazy, shiftless Negroes to perform "hard work" for them, given that the newly freed men and women were much more interested in getting ahead for themselves than continuing to pick cotton or harvest rice for starvation wages. Ever since, we have lived with the embittered voice of the slaveowner infuriated at the loss of all that labor power he once had at his disposal for free. Thus the mythology that "hard work" is all you need to perform to get ahead and the implicit wink-wink-we-know-who-won't-do-that racism that goes along with it.

MsExPat , July 22, 2016 at 10:27 am

I don't think you are over-simplifying, Clive–in Hong Kong, too, my experience has been that most people I deal with in the work world take a great deal of intrinsic pride in doing a job efficiently and well, for its own sake, not because it will necessarily make you more money. (Although often that is the result– over-performing and exceeding expectations is a great way of ensuring repeat customers and a thriving business.)

Coming from the US, where every corporate smile and "Have a Nice Day" is being recorded for performance review, I find this a most refreshing cultural trait, one that I have tried my best to assimilate.

Uahsenaa , July 22, 2016 at 11:14 am

I would add to what Clive said that in Japan the ganbare ethos is also underlined by a certain expectation that your wider social group will back you up, or at least make certain your life doesn't fall off a cliff. This doesn't always work in practice, and there are obvious examples of social groups that the Japanese polity like to pretend simply doesn't exist, but it is a cultural expectation. You even see it among homeless camps in Japan, which constitute a very clear in group.

In the US, a great of anxiety stems from the realization that you could do your best in all circumstances and still have your life fall apart, since that social backstop just isn't there, especially not in the world of meritocracy, in which you're expected to basically give up your pre-existing social networks in order to even participate.

Portia , July 22, 2016 at 1:09 pm

I remember one job where my Boss warned me: "Nice guys finish last here."

Nice of him, eh?

Figure out the culture of your workplace, and if you can stomach it, do what you have to do to succeed. This is what the Obamas and the Clintons have done. And geez, they can stomach a lot. But I do know people who have "worked hard" and been successful in their own businesses, and musicians are a prime example of having to really do the work to get the work. It's who you want to be recognized by, in my way of thinking.

ewmayer , July 22, 2016 at 4:37 am

I often think the better saying would be "Whom the gods would destroy, they first make outrageously successful."

With outrageous – as in wildly-disproportionate-to-effort-and-actual-talent – success comes a sense of infallibility, inevitability, hubris. A self-centered personality-cult delusion – ergo a form of madness – which often ends in a spectacular undoing. Alas, not nearly often enough, when it comes to the DC cabal of hubristic upward-failing sociopaths.

GOP convention finished with a bang tonight, and thankfully the dire pre-convention worries about the streets of Cleveland flowing with rivers of blood proved unfounded – I'd studiously avoided the previous evenings, aside from a few brief nauseating while-channel-flipping glimpses – but happened to catch Trump himself tonight. While I disliked Trump's police-centric take on American security at home, I thought he really effectively hammered the issues of economic inequality – including a mention of soaring unemployment rates in the latino and black communities (I wish he would have said more in that vein, but he did at least say something) and governmental corruption at the highest levels, as well as Hillary's multiple foreign-policy debacles; the whole "what has 15 years of blowing shit up in the middle east done for us?" issue. Also made a very pronounced point of embracing Sanders' "top issue" of bad so-called-free-trade deals, while emphasizing the degree to which things were rigged against Bernie. And closed with a nifty turning of Hillary's pet slogan against her [I paraphrase, too tired to dig the exact quote out]: "she demands a three-word loyalty oath 'I`m with her' well I'm here to tell you tonight that I'm with you ."

And the speeches by his kids (Donald Jr last night, Ivanka tonight) were both good, and I think likely surprising – in a positive way – to many people. The image of the whole family onstage post-speech will likely resonate with the traditional Republican base – clean-cut successful-looking guys and attractive ladies of a leggy-blond (but not Barbie-esque/ditzy) type I expect even folks of a conservative Mormon bent will have found something to like in that image. Scott Adams comments on the kids :

What I'm starting to sniff in the zeitgeist today is that Trump's kids are totally changing what people think of the father. People are making the semi-rational assumption that anyone who can raise such good kids must be very different in private than he is on the campaign trail.

Would be interested to hear the takes of other NC readers who watched the nomination acceptance speech.

ambrit , July 22, 2016 at 5:20 am

Re "..a minority of one.." At least you go in for nuance and reflection. My take on H Clinton and her claque is that they all perceive the Candidate as a 'majority of one.'
Your comment about the wife of Trump reminds me of the old saying by Caesar that : " Caesars' wife must be above suspicion." Thus, the genesis of the "plagiarism" attacks. The mud slinging has started early in this campaign. However, if Trumps' family can exude some sense of charm and class, the entire mud slinging strategy can be 'stood on its' head.'

JerseyJeffersonian , July 22, 2016 at 9:28 am

Me, I'm terrified of Hillary Clinton and the devastation that her ascension to the Presidency might bring to this nation and to the world. She is not only a liar, a blatantly self-dealing criminal, but more devastating yet, a sociopath of the first water, willing to walk across the bodies to advance her personal and class agenda.

Her time as President would go a long way toward cementing the Unitary Executive in place (i.e., a functional Dictator, as understood in the Roman Republican meaning of the term, a Tribune, in which a chief magistrate of the State like the President under our Constitution, whose writ as an authoritarian ruler ran so long as there was a national emergency. I serve as the clerk for government documents in a university law library, and I can tell you that the number of House Documents announcing a "National Emergency" or the continuation of a previously announced "National Emergency" is very alarming. These "emergencies" are the camel's nose under the tent in my estimation for the slow accretion of Dictatorial powers (again, in the Roman Republican sense of the term "dictator") toward the Caesar-like role of Unitary Executive. These "National Emergencies" functionally invest power into the hands of the President and those forces military, legal, and regulatory under the control of the Executive by which the President can wage military, legal/diplomatic, and economic warfare against those who refuse to bend the knee to US-dominated global hegemony.

Our well-nigh useless Legislative branch has largely surrendered its Constitutional responsibilities to the Executive through such trash as Authorizations of Military Force rather than engaging in the mandated procedure of the Declaration of War found in the Constitution to authorize extended use of military (and legal and economic) force. This gives the Executive carte blanche to engage in unending wars (beginning to sound familiar?) with all that that implies concerning the dominance of the MIC in the formulation of national policies.

Hillary is practically salivating to grasp the rod of power embodied in the Unitary Executive. Warfare will follow her tenure in office like a dire shadow, and due to her belief in the right of and necessity of the US to enforce a global hegemony, she is inevitably moving toward a deadly clash with other nuclear powers unwilling to submit to the yoke of globalized, stateless, culturally-anodyne finance capitalism. Good times await.

And that is only the beginning, as the plans she has for the US citizenry are scarcely less dire, what with the inevitability of the Grand Bargain in service of Finance Capitalism looming dead ahead.

Clinton delenda est.

Russ Zimmerman , July 22, 2016 at 10:15 am

"Our well-nigh useless Legislative branch has largely surrendered its Constitutional responsibilities to the Executive through such trash as Authorizations of Military Force rather than engaging in the mandated procedure of the Declaration of War found in the Constitution to authorize extended use of military (and legal and economic) force."

That allows individuals to claim they had no responsibility for the war, something Pence and Clinton cannot claim because of their votes. But on what other things do you see Obama as being a strong "unitary executive." I thought it was generally viewed that Congress had thwarted his (almost) every wish.

flora , July 22, 2016 at 10:54 am

This seems pretty strong. https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/feb/05/obama-kill-list-doj-memo

tegnost , July 22, 2016 at 11:16 am

Indeed, the republicans twisted barack's arm behind his back and forced him to allow insurance company lobbyists to write the "Affordable Care Act". Since you have tsa pre check I'll guess that your cadillac plan is still operational, or if not that that all the people who pay for insurance they can't use are subsidising you, and your own health care costs have been ameliorated. They also forced him to nominate merrick garland. They forced him to foam the runway for the banks and forced him to let all the bankster crimes go unpunished. My view is that obama, like hillary, is a republican because for both of them the policies they worked to advance are republican policies. TPP, ISDS, ACA, Edward Snowden, Chelsea Manning I could go on and on. I agree with the author that dems like obama and hillary are interested in serving the top sliver of the population that has the lions share of the wealth. It's not right/left anymore, it's top/bottom .

And how about that patriot act renewal, US out of iraq/afganistan? Vicky nuland and the ukraine? I guess the problem is that you get your information as it is generally viewed, but you fail to indicate who it is that generally views things that way, however, it should help you understand why trump will win because hillary is generally viewed as corrupt.

flora , July 22, 2016 at 5:59 am

I think both Obama and Trump were reciting a standard variation of the American Dream™. Horatio Alger stories are part of the US mythos. Bill Clinton used a variation in 1992. Most US pols use the "up from nothing by dint of hard work and good morals" line. The flap is that O and T used the exact same words instead of noting that the sentiment itself is boilerplate?

I'm intrigued by author's concluding idea. "It involves another attempt to take over the Republican Party, this time by the Clinton-led Democratic leadership. "

Roger Smith , July 22, 2016 at 7:16 am

" And if the words were lies coming out of Obama's mouth, what are they coming out of Trump's mouth? "

They are still lies, but they are lies in keeping with the ideology that dominates the party of which Trump is the nominee. Nimni summarized this well:

"Far from embarrassing Melania Trump and the GOP, then, it should be deeply humiliating for Democrats that their rhetoric is so bloodless and hollow that it can easily be spoken word-for-word in front of a gang of crazed racists. Instead of asking "why is Melania Trump using Michelle Obama's words?" we might think to ask "why is Michelle Obama using the right-wing rhetoric of self-reliance?"

A lot of this is related to the Democrats and what Bill made "successful" with his presidency. The lack of a truly left party that works for average citizens has created this environment when a character like Trump can gain such support. This article illustrates but another example of meritocratic nonsense being regurgitated by the party.

jrs , July 22, 2016 at 11:04 am

I think she initially claimed she wrote it didn't she? But yea it's clearly silly coming out of her mouth. Although being a model may be hard work (it could very well be frankly), she hasn't worked hard for years by now, and didn't get into such a privileged position by hard work (in whose definition exactly does marrying money count as hard work?).

So while in Michelle Obama's mouth the words are a lie, at least they might be a lie that's kind of true for her, in Misses Trumps mouth it's beyond silly. I have no idea if Mr Inherited Wealth and Misses Married Money do raise their kids that way or not. Wow the rich are crazy!!!

Hana M , July 22, 2016 at 6:16 am

A thought-provoking and unexpected take, Gaius Publius. I was struck by one item left off your list of lucky attributes: beauty. Both Michelle Obama and Melania Trump are undeniably beautiful women -– tall, slim, with the elegantly symmetrical features prized in every culture. Sadly in beauty-obsessed America the doors opened for women who look this lovely are shut hard against women who are fat, or old, or ugly.

MsExPat , July 22, 2016 at 10:17 am

+ Good point. Jane Sanders was repeatedly ridiculed for her appearance by pro-Hillary twitter bots during Bernie's campaign , and I doubt that would have happened had she been young, fashionable and svelte.

Hana M , July 22, 2016 at 11:32 am

There is a strong correlation between height and compensation. "When it comes to height, every inch counts–in fact, in the workplace, each inch above average may be worth $789 more per year, according to a study in the Journal of Applied Psychology (Vol. 89, No. 3).

The findings suggest that someone who is 6 feet tall earns, on average, nearly $166,000 more during a 30-year career than someone who is 5 feet 5 inches–even when controlling for gender, age and weight."
http://www.apa.org/monitor/julaug04/standing.aspx

Hana M , July 22, 2016 at 12:07 pm

That apparently is not true. One study of lawyers "found that those rated attractive on the basis of their graduation photographs went on to earn higher salaries than their less well-favoured colleagues. Moreover, lawyers in private practice tended to be better looking than those working in government departments." Even among economists, beauty pays and "attractive candidates were more successful in elections for office in the American Economic Association." http://www.economist.com/node/10311266

Roquentin , July 22, 2016 at 7:56 am

I had pretty much the exact same thought as your second "blackbird" when the video of Melania Trump plagiarizing Michele Obama's speech and all my liberal friends were yuking it up. All I could think was "If the same speech could plausibly come out of either of their mouths without alienating the audience, we have much worse problems than her Mrs. Trump's copycating." The fact that this seemed to bother hardly anyone else made it worse. So much of these elections just get reduced down to rooting for your team at a sporting event. This works well to keep people from having to deal with a lot of unpleasant questions and conclusions.

Or worse still, they've become so used to neoliberal platitudes like "pulling yourself up by your bootstraps" that it's become "common sense" or the don't even recognize it as such.

A forgotten man , July 22, 2016 at 9:05 am

In case you missed it, T's entire speech was about the "forgotten man," those that work hard and still cannot make a living wage. The height of their dreams count for nothing. The system is rigged. Read Roosevelt's speech, Trump certainly did, for some real fear mongering and look at the coalition he has taken over the Republican party to form. FDR 1932.

Lambert Strether , July 22, 2016 at 11:41 am

> "another attempt to take over the Republican Party" Which shouldn't be that hard, since both the Democrat and Republican parties are neoliberal. As always, the real enemy is the left.

Jess , July 22, 2016 at 12:50 pm

I'm surprised Gaius failed to address this portion of Michelle's speech which he quoted: "tell the truth; keep your promises; treat others with dignity and respect."

Since when has Obama told the truth, or kept his promises, or treated anyone except Jamie Dimon and Lloyd Blanfein with respect?

dingusansich , July 22, 2016 at 1:07 pm

you work hard for what you want in life, that your word is your bond and you do what you say and keep your promise

Put aside whether "Michelle Obama" or some speechwriting merc came up with the banal verbiage redolent of Sunday school and Horatio Alger. What gives the snippet its special Trumpian turn into hyper-unreality, an ever-expanding balloon of hot boast and hyperbolic deceit, is the way it transcends garden-variety plagiarism by laying claim to the very virtues that the appropriation itself falsifies.

That's chutzpah! The stunning effrontery supersizes an overall meta-ness that's less indicative of middle-class morality and meritocracy than the predatory opportunism of the exploitative rich, what C. Wright Mills might have recognized as the "higher immorality." Here we have a colossally vain billionaire atop an empire of glitz and privilege kayfabing his way to a party nomination as the indignant voice of the brutalized working class he's dedicated his life to disparaging as envious losers. The mind reels between giddiness and nausea.

What then exists outside the genteel social Darwinism of meritocratic ideology and further descent into a society of the spectacle, the Reaganite sitcom devolved into the Trump unreality show? To the gnomic, sidelong mysticism of Stevens let's add the frontal transvaluation of a sardonic Shaw:

What am I, Governors both? I ask you, what am I? I'm one of the undeserving poor: that's what I am. Think of what that means to a man. It means that he's up agen middle class morality all the time. If there's anything going, and I put in for a bit of it, it's always the same story: 'You're undeserving; so you can't have it.' But my needs is as great as the most deserving widow's that ever got money out of six different charities in one week for the death of the same husband. I don't need less than a deserving man: I need more. I don't eat less hearty than him; and I drink a lot more. I want a bit of amusement, cause I'm a thinking man. I want cheerfulness and a song and a band when I feel low. Well, they charge me just the same for everything as they charge the deserving. What is middle class morality? Just an excuse for never giving me anything.

Governors both, Democrats and Republicans, the meritocrats and the masters. What must be taken in is that the unskilled, the uneducated, the out of step, the unlucky, all need the means to live. If that's taken from them by the self-described deserving on the Acela and the higher immoralists in their towers and Gulfstreams, a democracy will begin to wobble like a spinning coin on the verge. You can't educate that away. You can't forever distract it away with Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous and color counter-revolutions against exploitative freeloaders (the non-rich and famous ones, that is). It takes an philosophy of human worth apart from vanities over this or that temporarily adaptive skill or happy accident.

When the market is be all and end all, an expression of natural law and supernatural giver of meaning, it's hard to see how even a managed, minimal democracy can prevail except as grotesque, corrupt parody, a mood traced in the shadow a decipherable cause. Or did I read something like that somewhere, like in a poem?

George S , July 22, 2016 at 1:25 pm

I don't recall Ms. Obama's speech. Based on the excerpts I heard during the recent news cycle (from both speeches) were pathetic. I think Oren Nimni basically gets it right: When you cut through the tautologies and the bromides that many parents deliver to their children, what you have is the message, "don't expect government to be there for you; those days are over" (which, actually, sounds like Bubba Bill's pitch–"the day's of big government are over").

... ... ...

Tim , July 22, 2016 at 2:47 pm

If you work hard enough and have enough ambition you will succeed is not a lie to those born on 3rd base, it was true for them. The Obama's the Trumps. They are really just guilty of not understanding the plight of those who were born at bat against a major league pitcher.

... ... ...

[Sep 17, 2017] My Success at Work Made Me a Failure at Home

Notable quotes:
"... By the time we had three young children, I was rarely home. ..."
"... After Cisco bought IronPort, I went to work for Cisco for a few years, then quit and took about 18 months off. During that time, my relationship with my family completely changed. I was packing lunches, driving carpools, making dinners; I began doing my part. With the help of my wife and other role-model dads, I essentially got re-programmed. In 2011, I joined Andreessen Horowitz as a partner. But my new role at home has continued to work for us even though I'm working full-time again. ..."
"... Scott Weiss is a general partner at Andreessen Horowitz. You can follow him on Twitter @W_ScottWeiss. This piece originally appeared on Medium . ..."
Sep 30, 2015 | Observer

My brightest years running a startup were the darkest ones for my family.

My wife and I were college sweethearts. We delayed having children first by choice, then by necessity, as we put ourselves through business school. But nearly six years into our marriage, we agreed it was time. My wife and I both worked at startups and were committed to our careers; we expected that we would both pursue our careers and raise our first child at the same time. To facilitate that, we found an amazing, energetic, full-time nanny. In fact, my wife went back to work just two weeks after our first child was born, because the startup she was with was approaching an IPO, and our new nanny supported us through that period. When my wife became pregnant with our second child, I was a managing partner at Idealab, a startup studio, where a large part of my job involved shutting down companies that had been hurt by the dot-com bust. I planned to take some time off and stay at home while my wife went back to work six months after the birth, but by the time our second child was born, 22 months later, a lot had changed. Disenchanted with my work and eager to build something of my own, I had decided to start a company. As we brought our daughter home from the hospital, I had already launched into fundraising for what would be IronPort, an email-security startup.

It was just my co-founder and me in the beginning, and while we had an ambitious vision - to protect enterprises against all Internet-related threats - we didn't yet have the resources to scale it. So initially, we did everything by ourselves. The life one signs up for at an early-stage tech startup involves getting in early, killing yourself to make something great, and getting a meaningful product out before you run out of money. This was true even after we started hiring people. I didn't code, but as the CEO, I felt it necessary to be physically present with the engineering team. Sometimes, I would get everyone lunch or dinner. When we started pulling consistent coding weekends, we brought in the entire management team to serve the engineers: We brought them food, washed their cars, got oil changes, took in their dry cleaning, and arranged for childcare for their kids in the office.

Thanks to all the effort, IronPort ultimately grew to be very large and successful over its seven years as an independent company, before being acquired by Cisco. It was an incredible, once-in-a-lifetime professional experience. But those brightest years at work were without a doubt the darkest years at home. We had added baby number three just 18 months after the second one, which had forced us to make a decision about how to parent going forward. We did the math - and some soul-searching - and figured it would take two or more nannies and other staffers to allow us to keep pursuing work at our current pace. So, after years of working full-time in a startup with our first child, and continuing to work as its senior VP of business development after its IPO, my Harvard MBA wife, who had had an amazing career in her own right, "decided" to become a full-time mom and take care of our kids.

By the time we had three young children, I was rarely home. And when I was there, well, let's just say I wasn't particularly helpful or cheery. My perspective at the time was: I'm killing myself at work, so when I get home, I just want to kick back with a cocktail and watch some TV. All I do is talk to people all day long, and so at home, I'd really prefer just quietly relaxing. Then, as IronPort grew, I was constantly on the road with customers, press, analysts, and of course, employees. We ultimately got most of our revenue from outside of the U.S., and we all felt it to be very important to support our disparate offices from Europe to Asia to South America. There were several times when I was gone more than half of the days in a given month. Even when I was home, I was usually in this brutal state of sleep deprivation and recovery from adjusting to yet another time zone and couldn't be relied on to help with childcare.

My wife's experience was totally different. She was now home speaking in monosyllabic words to kids all day and was starving for adult conversation by the time I got in the door. And that part about sitting on my ass in front of the TV with a cocktail? This ran counter to all of her efforts to teach the kids about pitching in together as a family. The message of everyone helping to cook, clean, and be responsible for the household fell completely flat when daddy wouldn't so much as take out the trash or change a light bulb. Nope, I was far too important for that and suggested she should hire someone to keep the house clean or even cook, if that was "stressing her out."

Ugh. I was completely missing the point. I was setting such a great example at work, but such a terrible one at home, where I often acted like a self-important asshole. Something had to change.

After Cisco bought IronPort, I went to work for Cisco for a few years, then quit and took about 18 months off. During that time, my relationship with my family completely changed. I was packing lunches, driving carpools, making dinners; I began doing my part. With the help of my wife and other role-model dads, I essentially got re-programmed. In 2011, I joined Andreessen Horowitz as a partner. But my new role at home has continued to work for us even though I'm working full-time again.

My wife and I have now been married for 22 years. Reflecting on the years we've spent as parents, here are the most critical things I needed to change:

Disconnect to Connect

During the IronPort days, when my children were young, I thought what I was doing at work was far more important and urgent than what was going on at home. I was often accused of being physically present without being mentally present. (If you find yourself sneaking into the bathroom to complete emails, then you're certainly not in the moment.) My wife dropped a bunch of hints, but I was undeterred. When I left IronPort, I realized that committing to my family required disconnecting from work (e.g. turning off the computer and phone), and completely focusing all of my attention on the details of the home. Cooking a great meal. Helping with a science project. Discussing the future with my partner.

Planning and Priorities

My wife and I have a weekly date night. My son and I are in a fantasy football league together. I cook with my daughters. Most times these have become immovable appointments on my calendar. When my calendar reflects that I can't do a meeting on Wednesday and Friday mornings before 9 a.m., because I cook breakfast and drive a carpool, then it's amazing how meetings just don't get scheduled. (If it's at all possible, living physically close to the office is also a huge help to juggling the priorities. It means that I can cut out for a family dinner and then go back to the office or have a late meeting afterwards.)

Communicate

When I was traveling at IronPort, I would sometimes go for days without communicating at all. When friends would ask my wife, "Hey, where's Scott this week?" she would sincerely have to answer, "I have no idea, you'll have to email him yourself." I was that sucked in. Now that I am completely tuned in to the weekly family schedule, we plan and calendar family meals (perhaps the single most important thing we do), pickups and drop-offs, and make adjustments on the fly. For example: Did some time suddenly free up so I can catch the last 30 minutes of the kids' basketball game? Can I pick something up on the way home? And so on. My norm is to check in between meetings, but if I'm the "parent on duty" - i.e., if my wife is out of town - then I will start a meeting with, "You'll have to excuse me, but I'm the only parent in town so I need to keep my phone handy in case of an issue." Communication was by far my biggest area for improvement. Now, multiple, daily phone and text check-ins are the norm. Communication is important in a broader sense, too. I believe that families - and that includes everyone - need to discuss each parent's life-changing decisions, such as joining a startup or becoming a CEO, together. And they should reserve the right to change the contract as their life together evolves.

Participate

It's just not possible to be a real partner if you aren't deeply involved in all aspects of the family; you can't just ask your partner to delegate certain tasks to you. Or maybe you can, but then it needs to be a mutual, shared decision - one that honors your partner's choices and dreams, too. But I personally believe that even the busiest CEOs should drive a carpool, pack a lunch, help with homework, make a breakfast or dinner, and consistently attend school events. And note, my wife didn't need another person to "manage" in the household; she needed me to "own" some of our family life activities myself. Being involved every week is the only way to stay connected at home, and it cannot be outsourced. It might even make you a better CEO since you're more sensitive to the needs of others.


There's a debate that rages in the corridors of VCs, startups, and other intense entrepreneurial centers, which is: Can you have it all? Aren't the best CEOs and founders so ambitious, so driven, that they must sacrifice everything to make it work? We have seen couples struggle with this on a personal level, and there is almost always an imbalance that leads to deep sacrifices on one front or the other.

What historically has been somewhat unique to Silicon Valley is the age and experience level of CEOs; that role is often achieved a decade earlier than in traditional industries. I've observed that CEOs in their 20s may be fully equipped and knowledgeable enough to handle leading a company, but when their family life begins to expand and demand for their attention increases, they are at a loss as to why things aren't just falling into place. The changes that I've described ideally should be made before you get to that point.

It's easy for me to share this advice now - after I sold my company. The reality is that it took certain sacrifices, in terms of my family life, to make IronPort a success. Still, I'm hopeful. I'm hopeful that the new generation, having grown up with more permeable boundaries between work and home, and being used to new technologies to keep them even more connected in ways we couldn't be before, refuses to accept a world in which one can't have it all.

Scott Weiss is a general partner at Andreessen Horowitz. You can follow him on Twitter @W_ScottWeiss. This piece originally appeared on Medium.

[Sep 17, 2017] High achiever disease

Notable quotes:
"... This question originally appeared on Quora : What is the mindset of high achievers? ..."
"... Nicolas Cole is an artist, writer, creative marketing strategist and self development coach. He's also a Quora contributor. You can follow Quora on Twitter , Facebook , and Google+ . ..."
Oct 22, 2015 | Observer

This question originally appeared on Quora: What is the mindset of high achievers?

I'm a very high achiever. I know this. I am obsessive, I am overly ambitious, and I am definitely out of balance at times (something I'm working on), but that's just how I operate. The rules I live by are strict but that's because they have to be. As a result, a I'm criticized a lot by people who aren't "high achievers." But that comes with the territory. And as a result, I achieve what I set out to achieve.

Here is my mindset.

1) My Time Is Gold

Time is the only thing I have. Time is what creates my writing. Time is what makes me money. Time is what allows me to eat, sleep, read, learn. Time is my most precious resource.

When deciding where to invest my time, I am extremely greedy. I have to be. I give my close, close friends the time they deserve because I value our relationship. Casual friends and acquaintances I give extra time I have to, when I can. Anyone else, I weigh the investment versus the return and go from there. It might not be "normal" but it's required to reach the levels of success I know I want for myself.

2) I Set Goals and I Reach Them

When I set a goal, I put a date to it. I tell myself when I'm going to have it done by. If I don't have it done by then, I better have a good reason for not doing it. If I don't have a good reason, I set another date and push myself harder to reach it. I do the same thing even if I had a good reason in the first place.

The difference between those who "achieve" and those who don't is the follow through. It's the ability to set a goal and walk through the finish line.

3) I See Every Decision As Crucial

Every decision I make has an effect. What time I go to bed, how much time I spend reading or writing, how much time I spend with my friends, etc. Everything I do, every choice I make, I ask myself whether or not it is moving me closer towards my goal. Will this burger make me feel sick and will I waste an hour feeling groggy later? Yes? Ok, I don't eat it. Will me going out late tonight keep me from waking up early to write? Ok, I don't go out. Every single decision has to, in some way, be contributing to my growth. Am I perfect? Am I 100% consistent? No. But I'd say I'm somewhere around 80-90%. And that percentage over a long period of time is insanely, profoundly, immeasurably valuable.

4) I Learn Something From Everyone

Every single person I meet, I try to learn something from. Whether it's a CEO of a major company or a random person next to me on the train, I believe we all cross paths for a reason and there is a lesson everywhere you turn. By seeing life this way you are always open to the process. Every moment is an opportunity to grow. And the more moments you string together, the faster you learn, the more you grow, and better you become at everything you do.

5) I Invest In Skills, Not In Rewards

I can play classical piano. I can beatbox. I can write stories. I can sing. I can produce music. I can rap. I can write songs. I can take pretty good pictures. I can lift weights with top athletes. I can cook. I can do a lot of things. I don't say this to brag, I say this to point out the fact that I am not a prodigy, I am not a genius, I am NOT ANY MORE GIFTED THAN YOU. The only difference is that instead of spending my Friday nights going to clubs and getting drunk, my Saturday nights hanging out at bars, my Sundays at brunch sipping mimosas, instead of being super social and mr. on-the-town, I work. I work really hard. And to me it's not even work, it's fun. I'd rather learn a new skill than get drunk. I'd rather socialize with people who I can learn from rather than having the same repetitive conversations with inebriated acquaintances. And it's sad how this mentality is seen as "above" other people. That's just part of the gig. People don't like it when you get good at stuff. People want you to be lazy like them. Fuck that.

6) I Surround Myself With Likeminded People

There are people out there who live life like me. There are people who want to learn more than they want to get rich. There are people who want to build something of their own more than they want to climb their way up the corporate ladder. There are people out there like you, you just have to find them. And once you do find them, become friends and help each other. Once a week I meet up with a few entrepreneurs I know and we exchange ideas, set new goals, and hold each other accountable. Once a week I also meet up with an artist group from my college and we help each other stay grounded, meditate, and share our art. These sorts of groups of peers are beyond valuable. They will help you remember what you're working toward.

7) I Read, A Lot

I read #ABookAWeek, minimum. On my website, I share which book I read last week and allow people to sign up for my weekly newsletter: www.nicolascole.com/blog.

I know you can learn without reading. I know that experience is immensely valuable. But if you're not reading you're not learning fast enough, and that's just the truth of it. When someone asks me what I'm reading, I say, "What genre?" I alternate between self development How-To books, timeless fiction literature, books on spirituality and meditation, books on creative process, nonfiction memoirs, and books on marketing and advertising.

Pick up a book. Now.

8) I Know The Value Of A Mentor

I write about mentorship a lot because I believe it is the single most effective way to learn, period.

When I find a mentor, I give them everything. I throw everything I think I know out the window and I allow myself to be completely open to what they have to teach. I work harder than they expect me to work. I ask a million questions. I spend as much time around them as possible because I know how rare and valuable a mentor can be.

Since I was 15 years old, I've had some sort of mentor in my life. To show you how crucial mentors are, here's what happened:

15-18: Gaming Mentor. I sought out and played with one of the best World of Warcraft players I could find. As a result, we became best friends and I went on to become one of the highest ranked World of Warcraft players in North America.

19-22: Lifting Mentor: I became friends with a powerlifter at my gym. He took me under his wing and taught me everything. We became great friends (still friends today) and he helped me gain 40 lbs of muscle and lift more weight than I ever thought was possible for a once-skinny-kid like me.

23-Present: My current mentor is also my boss -- a successful entrepreneur and marketing master. He hasn't just taught me about business, he's taught me how to be my own man. He's taught me how to carry myself, how to dress, how to handle clients, how to pitch clients, how to explain my creative ideas, how to stand up for what I believe in, and how to be willing to pursue ideas that other people would call "impossible."

9) I Care About What I Create

This might be the most important differentiating factor in being a high achiever: I care. I care a lot. I care what I create, I care about the difference I make, I care about helping people, I can about helping others learn. I care, and as a result, I take things personally. I care if someone doesn't like what I make. I care about what people think. I do. It doesn't deter me from what I want to do, but I do care. And because I care, I put my everything into what it is I do.

People that don't care, go nowhere. And do you know why most people don't care? Because it's hard. It leaves you vulnerable. It is a chink in the armor where people can point and aim and say, "Hah, you care." Especially as a man, we're told not to care. And a lot of people don't care out of fear that what they DO care about will make them look naive. What if other people don't care about what you care about? How weird will you look then?

If you want to achieve, if you want to become successful-use whatever words you want-if you want to reach something that is slightly out of your grasp, you have to care. You have to care a lot. You have to allow yourself to feel all those emotions: excitement, fear, ambition, vulnerability. And you have to use what you feel to propel you to create, create, create.

You have to care.

Related Links:

Has anyone achieved anything by reading self-improvement articles/books?
How can 20-year-olds enhance their intelligence?
What are some real-life bad habits that programming gives people?

Nicolas Cole is an artist, writer, creative marketing strategist and self development coach. He's also a Quora contributor. You can follow Quora on Twitter , Facebook , and Google+ .

[Sep 16, 2017] How One Writer Is Battling Tech-Induced Attention Disorder

Sep 16, 2017 | tech.slashdot.org

(wired.com)

Posted by BeauHD on Tuesday September 05, 2017

New submitter mirandakatz writes: Katie Hafner has spent the last 23 days in rehab. Not for alcoholism or gambling, but for a self-inflicted case of episodic partial attention thanks to her iPhone . On Backchannel, Hafner writes about the detrimental effect the constant stream of pings has had on her, and how her life has come to resemble a computer screen. "I sense a constant agitation when I'm doing something," she says, "as if there is something else out there, beckoning -- demanding -- my attention. And nothing needs to be deferred."

"I blame electronics for my affliction," writes Hafner, who says the devices in her life "teem with squirrels." "If I pick up my iPhone to send a text, damned if I don't get knocked off task within a couple of seconds by an alert about Trump's latest tweet. And my guess is that if you have allowed your mind to be as tyrannized by the demands of your devices as I have, you too suffer to some degree from this condition." Hafner goes on to describe her symptoms of "episodic partial attention" and provide potential fixes for it: "There are the obvious fixes. Address the electronics first: Silence the phone as well as all alerts on your computer, and you automatically banish two squirrels. But how do you shut down the micro-distractions that dangle everywhere in your physical world, their bushy gray tails twitching seductively? My therapy, of my own devising, consists of serial mono-tasking with a big dose of mindful intent, or intentional mindfulness -- which is really just good, old-fashioned paying attention. At first, I took the tiniest of steps.

I celebrated the buttoning of a blouse without stopping to apply the hand cream I spotted on the dresser as if I had gotten into Harvard. Each task I took on -- however mundane -- I had to first announce, quietly, to myself. I made myself vow that I would work on that task and only that task until it was finished. Like a stroke patient relearning how to move an arm, I told myself not that I was making the entire bed (too overwhelming), but that I had a series of steps to perform: first the top sheet, then the blankets, then the comforter, then the pillows. Emptying the dishwasher became my Waterloo. Putting dishes away takes time, and it's tedious. Perhaps the greatest challenge lies in the fact that the job requires repeated kitchen crossings. There are squirrels everywhere, none more treacherous than the siren song that is my iPhone."

[Sep 16, 2017] Happy Music Boosts Brains Creativity, Study Says

Sep 16, 2017 | science.slashdot.org

(newscientist.com) 102 Posted by BeauHD on Thursday September 07, 2017 @09:00AM from the creative-juices dept. An anonymous reader quotes a report from New Scientist: Need inspiration? Happy background music can help get the creative juices flowing. Simone Ritter, at Radboud University in the Netherlands, and Sam Ferguson, at the University of Technology in Sydney, Australia, have been studying the effect of silence and different types of music on how we think. They put 155 volunteers into five groups. Four of these were each given a type of music to listen to while undergoing a series of tests, while the fifth group did the tests in silence. The tests were designed to gage two types of thinking: divergent thinking, which describes the process of generating new ideas, and convergent thinking, which is how we find the best solutions for a problem. Ritter and Ferguson found that people were more creative when listening to music they thought was positive , coming up with more unique ideas than the people who worked in silence. However, happy music -- in this instance, Antonio Vivaldi's Spring -- only boosted divergent thinking. No type of music helped convergent thinking, suggesting that it's better to solve problems in silence. The study was published in the journal PLoS One .

[Apr 06, 2017] Alienation in neoliberal healthcare system

Notable quotes:
"... The spike in reported burnout is directly attributable to loss of control over work, increased performance measurement (quality, cost, patient experience), the increasing complexity of medical care, the implementation of electronic health records (EHRs), and profound inefficiencies in the practice environment, all of which have altered work flows and patient interactions. ..."
"... The rest of the items seem more plausible. However absent from the post is consideration of why physicians lost control over work, have been subject to performance measurement (often without good evidence that it improves performance, and particularly patients' outcomes), and have been forced to use often badly designed, poorly implemented EHRs ..."
"... In fact, we began the project that led to the establishment of Health Care Renewal because of our general perception that physician angst was worsening (in the first few years of the 21st century), and that no one was seriously addressing its causes. Our first crude qualitative research(8) suggested hypotheses that physicians' angst was due to perceived threats to their core values, and that these threats arose from the issues this blog discusses: concentration and abuse of power, leadership that is ill-informed , uncaring about or hostile to the values of health care professionals, incompetent, deceptive or dishonest, self-interested , conflicted , or outright corrupt , and governance that lacks accountability , and transparency . ..."
"... We have found hundreds of cases and anecdotes supporting this viewpoint. ..."
"... However, the biggest cause of physicians' loss of control over work may be the rising power of large health care organizations, in particular the large hospital systems that now increasingly employ physicians, turning them into corporate physicians . ..."
"... We have also frequently posted about what we have called generic management , the manager's coup d'etat , and mission-hostile management. Managerialism wraps these concepts up into a single package. The idea is that all organizations, including health care organizations, ought to be run people with generic management training and background, not necessarily by people with specific backgrounds or training in the organizations' areas of operation. Thus, for example, hospitals ought to be run by MBAs, not doctors, nurses, or public health experts. Furthermore, all organizations ought to be run according to the same basic principles of business management. These principles in turn ought to be based on current neoliberal dogma , with the prime directive that short-term revenue is the primary goal. ..."
Apr 06, 2017 | www.nakedcapitalism.com

Here is what the blog post said about the causes of burnout:

The spike in reported burnout is directly attributable to loss of control over work, increased performance measurement (quality, cost, patient experience), the increasing complexity of medical care, the implementation of electronic health records (EHRs), and profound inefficiencies in the practice environment, all of which have altered work flows and patient interactions.

We dealt with the curious citation of inefficiencies as a cause of burnout above.

The rest of the items seem more plausible. However absent from the post is consideration of why physicians lost control over work, have been subject to performance measurement (often without good evidence that it improves performance, and particularly patients' outcomes), and have been forced to use often badly designed, poorly implemented EHRs . Particularly absent was any consideration of whether the nature or actions of large organizations, such as those led by the authors of the blog post, could have had anything to do with physician burnout.

Contrast this discussion with how we on Health Care Renewal have discussed burnout in the past. In 2012, we noted the first report on burnout by Shanefelt et al(2). At that time we observed that the already voluminous literature on burnout often did not attend to the external forces and influences on physicians that are likely to be producing burnout. Instead, burnout etc has been addressed as if it were lack of resilience, or even some sort of psychiatric disease of physicians.

In fact, we began the project that led to the establishment of Health Care Renewal because of our general perception that physician angst was worsening (in the first few years of the 21st century), and that no one was seriously addressing its causes. Our first crude qualitative research(8) suggested hypotheses that physicians' angst was due to perceived threats to their core values, and that these threats arose from the issues this blog discusses: concentration and abuse of power, leadership that is ill-informed , uncaring about or hostile to the values of health care professionals, incompetent, deceptive or dishonest, self-interested , conflicted , or outright corrupt , and governance that lacks accountability , and transparency .

We have found hundreds of cases and anecdotes supporting this viewpoint.

... ... ...

Finally, the Health Affairs post mention of "loss of control over work" deserves special attention. It could represent a catch-all of more "system factors" as noted above. However, the biggest cause of physicians' loss of control over work may be the rising power of large health care organizations, in particular the large hospital systems that now increasingly employ physicians, turning them into corporate physicians .

In the US, home of the most commercialized health care system among developed countries, physicians increasingly practice as employees of large organizations, usually hospitals and hospital systems, sometimes for-profit corporations. The leaders of such systems meanwhile are now often generic managers , people trained as managers without specific training or experience in medicine or health care, and " managerialists " who apply generic management theory and dogma to medicine and health care just as it might be applied to building widgets or selling soap.

We have also frequently posted about what we have called generic management , the manager's coup d'etat , and mission-hostile management. Managerialism wraps these concepts up into a single package. The idea is that all organizations, including health care organizations, ought to be run people with generic management training and background, not necessarily by people with specific backgrounds or training in the organizations' areas of operation. Thus, for example, hospitals ought to be run by MBAs, not doctors, nurses, or public health experts. Furthermore, all organizations ought to be run according to the same basic principles of business management. These principles in turn ought to be based on current neoliberal dogma , with the prime directive that short-term revenue is the primary goal.

... ... ...

Summary

I am glad that physician burnout is getting less anechoic. However, in my humble opinion, the last thing physicians at risk of or suffering burnout need is a top down diktat from CEOs of large health care organizations. The CEOs who wrote the Health Affairs post not have any personal responsibility for any physicians' burnout. However, the transformation of medical practice by the influence of large health care organizations run by the authors' fellow CEOs, particularly huge hospital systems, often resulting in physicians practicing as hired employees of such corporations likely is a major cause of burnout. If the leaders of such large organizations really want to reduce burnout, they should first listen to their own physicians. But this might lead them to realize that reducing burnout might require them to divest themselves of considerable authority, power, and hence remuneration. True health care reform in this sphere will require the breakup of concentrations of power, and the transformation of leadership to make it well-informed, supportive of and willing to be accountable for the health care mission, honest and unconflicted.

Physicians need to join up with other health care professionals and concerned member of the public to push for such reform, which may seem radical in our current era. Such reform may be made more difficult because it clearly would threaten the financial status of some people who have gotten very rich from the status quo, and can use their wealth and power to resist reform.

[Jan 30, 2017] How to Manage Your Tasks with Todo.txt

Mar 24, 2014 | computers.tutsplus.com

There's far too many to-do list apps to pick the perfect one. They're each so similar, yet different, and they'd all take time to setup and learn to use. You already have too much to do, so why take the time to learn how to use a new to-do list app just to keep up with everything you have to do?

The simplest way to keep track of your tasks is to write them down on a piece of paper. You can list them in the way that makes sense to you, with any extra info you want, and only have to carry the paper around to keep track of what you need to do. It's simple, cheap, and just makes sense.

But perhaps you'd rather keep a digital to-do list, so it'll be on all your devices and you won't have to worry about accidentally throwing it away. You just need a solution that's as simple as plain paper and ink.

Enter Todo.txt . It's a system for keeping track of your to-dos in a plain text file, and is the closest digital equivalent to keeping track of your tasks on paper. In this tutorial, I'll show you how to use Todo.txt to replace those paper lists and still ensure everything gets done.

What Is Todo.txt?

Todo.txt is a framework of guidelines through which a simple text file can become a feature-rich to-do list. Instead of just writing your tasks in a list at random, its simple rules will help you avoid creating a mess of tasks, and will make that plain text file into something much more useful and interesting. That might sound confusing, but it's actually simple. Here's how it works:

The first rule in Todo.txt is that each to-do item is its own line in your text file. New to-do item, new line. So let's give that a try. Open your favorite text editor (or just use Notepad on a PC or TextEdit on a Mac), and type in some tasks you need to get done, each on its own line, like so:

1 2 3 Do the dishes because they're starting to pile up and it really looks bad. Do a load of laundry, preferably a light load. Vacuum the house, making sure to get into all the little corners.

There's my first three tasks, each of which are rather long. You can include as much info as you want into each task. Just make sure each task is on its own line.

Now, just save that file as todo.txt , and place it inside your Documents folder or somewhere else you can access it easy. Better yet, place it in your Dropbox folder so you can easily sync it later.

And just like that, you've started to use Todo.txt! Sure it doesn't seem all that impressive just yet: a plain text file with your to-do items in it. Now we're ready to start using some of the text formatting conventions Todo.txt supports, and use some of the tools that support Todo.txt. That's when you'll see how useful this whole idea can be.

How to Speak the Lingo

We now have a text file called todo.txt that's stored in our Documents folder. Inside it we have a few to-do items. Let's take a look at that file again (this time, in the interests of brevity, I've shortened my todo items a bit):

1 2 3 Do the dishes. Do a load of laundry. Vacuum the house.

Ok, not bad so far, but we really aren't using the Todo.txt framework to the full. While Todo.txt is supposed to be simple, it isn't featureless. Todo.txt is designed to help you prioritize your to-do items, as well as organize them into projects and contexts . This is largely following the spirit of David Allen's famous productivity methodology known as "Getting Things Done" , or more often abbreviated to "GTD"-but you can use these tools to organize your tasks however you'd like. If you don't like GTD, you can still use Todo.txt to keep track of your tasks, and use these extra features to help you keep them organized.

Now, let's look at how projects, contexts, and priorities would apply to our sample list, and how to actually mark tasks as complete. I'll keep using my simple to-do list that, honestly, isn't tasks you'll likely need to put down on a to-do list, but you can use the same ideas shown here to keep track of any of your tasks.

Projects

In my list, all three items are related to cleaning the house. So we can group them all into a project called "cleaning". Just add a "+" sign followed by the project name to your tasks, like so:

1 2 3 Do the dishes. +cleaning Do a load of laundry. +cleaning Vacuum the house. +cleaning

That's nice, but everything on my list falls into the same project, so it seems a little redundant. I could break everything out further, especially the "Do a load of laundry" task that includes putting the load in the washer, then the dryer, and finally folding the clothes. Todo.txt allows items to be in more then one project; just add another + project to the end of the task to add it to another project. Let's take advantage of this and split the "Do a load of laundry" to-do item into multiple items, and then put them in their own "laundry" project.

1 2 3 4 5 6 Do the dishes. +cleaning Put a load of laundry into the washer. +laundry +cleaning Put the load into the dryer. +laundry +cleaning Fold the load of laundry. +laundry +cleaning Put away the folded clothes. +laundry +cleaning Vacuum the house. +cleaning

Great. Now our to-do list is split into multiple projects, and our "laundry" project tasks are categorized under the "cleaning" project as well.

Context

Context refers to a place or situation where you have certain things to do. In the case of our sample list, the context for all of them is pretty obvious: at home. In a case like that, I don't think adding a context is really all that useful, since it's an implied part of the project itself. Let's add some more items so we can better understand context.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Do the dishes. +cleaning Put a load of laundry into the washer. +laundry +cleaning Put the load into the dryer. +laundry +cleaning Fold the load of laundry. +laundry +cleaning Put away the folded clothes. +laundry +cleaning Vacuum the house. +cleaning Buy eggs. Buy juice. Buy a new pair of jeans.

I added three new to-do items, all of which have to do with buying things. The first two are food items, things I'll need to buy at the grocery store. The last one is an article of clothing, something I'll probably buy at the mall. All of these items could be put into a "shopping" project. But the location I'll buy them at is different. This is where contexts come in. Designate a context in Todo.txt with an "@" sign followed by the name of your context. Here's what our new list, including contexts, looks like:

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Do the dishes. +cleaning Put a load of laundry into the washer. +laundry +cleaning Put the load into the dryer. +laundry +cleaning Fold the load of laundry. +laundry +cleaning Put away the folded clothes. +laundry +cleaning Vacuum the house. +cleaning Buy eggs. +shopping @grocery Buy juice. +shopping @grocery Buy a new pair of jeans. +shopping @mall

And there we go. Now the to-do items in our "shopping" project have been given a context. When we're at the grocery store we can focus on the items we need to buy there, and the same goes for when we're at the shopping mall.

Priority

The last feature we need to look at is priority. To do that, we'll add a few work-related tasks to the list, then assign a priority to them and some of our existing tasks. Just add a letter surrounded by parenthesis to the beginning of your tasks to give them a priority.

01 02 03 04 05 06 07 08 09 10 11 (A) Do the dishes. +cleaning (B) Put a load of laundry into the washer. +laundry +cleaning Put the load into the dryer. +laundry +cleaning Fold the load of laundry. +laundry +cleaning Put away the folded clothes. +laundry +cleaning Vacuum the house. +cleaning Buy eggs. +shopping @grocery Buy juice. +shopping @grocery (A) Buy a new pair of jeans. +shopping @mall Email Matt about my new article idea. +work (A) Finish rough draft of next article. +work

Priorities are designated by an uppercase letter, A-Z, which is enclosed in parentheses, and then followed by a space. They always appear at the beginning of the to-do item, and are in alphabetical order-that is, a task with a priority of (A) is more important than a (B) task, and so on. You'll see why this is when we get into some of the tools you can use to manipulate your Todo.txt file.

Marking Items Complete

One final word on formatting your Todo.txt file: marking a task as complete.You could delete the item once you're done with it, but that isn't the preferred way in Todo.txt. Instead, put a lowercase "x" at the start of the to-do item, like so:

01 02 03 04 05 06 07 08 09 10 11 (A) Do the dishes. +cleaning (B) Put a load of laundry into the washer. +laundry +cleaning Put the load into the dryer. +laundry +cleaning Fold the load of laundry. +laundry +cleaning Put away the folded clothes. +laundry +cleaning Vacuum the house. +cleaning Buy eggs. +shopping @grocery Buy juice. +shopping @grocery x (A) Buy a new pair of jeans. +shopping @mall Email Matt about my new article idea. +work (A) Finish rough draft of next article. +work

If you'll notice, there's now a small "x" at the beginning of the line containing the item "Buy a new pair of jeans." This signifies that the jeans have been bought and the item has been completed, effectively "crossed off" my list. That way, you'll see what you've completed, along with the stuff that still needs done.

You now know how to assign to-do items both projects and contexts, as well as how to prioritize various items inside your plain text to-do list. All of this helps make our to-do list more useful to us than it was before, giving structure and organization to an otherwise basic, unordered list. You can use each of these features, or none of them-it's your choice. Todo.txt at its basics is whatever you'd like it to be. It's a blank slate for your tasks, and some rules that keep everything organized.

And you could stop here. That's enough to keep up with your tasks the way you want, in a plain text file. You could easily find all of your projects or contexts with a Command-F or Control-F search, and stay on top of what needs done with nothing else.

But because we're following conventions outlined by Todo.txt, we can make use of some other interesting tools which give even more power to our humble little text file.

Desktop App Options

Being an open source project, Todo.txt also works in a variety of specialized apps outside of your plain text editor. You'll find apps for almost any platform that work with Todo.txt, but one of the best is a free app: Todour .

Todour is available for both Mac and Windows, and gives a simple graphical interface to our Todo.txt file. And I mean simple . Take a look:

See what I mean? You should notice right away though that your items have been correctly prioritized automatically. You won't see much fancy stuff here in Todour, but it has all the essentials. You can add and remove items, mark them as done or undone, and all of that is nicely supported within your plain text file. Check the little box there to mark an item complete, and a lowercase "x" appears at the start of that line in your text file. Nifty, isn't it?

The reason I really recommend Todour over using just a text editor is that it includes a search filter. This lets you take full advantage of projects and contexts and can dynamically hide everything else in your to-do list. Just search for a project or context, and only those tasks will appear. Search for a project and a context, and you'll see only the tasks that have both.

Overall Todour, like Todo.txt itself doesn't have many flashy features. But it has the essentials and it gets them right.

Mobile Access

Todo.txt was born from the command line, in a traditional computer world. But that doesn't mean you can't use Todo.txt on mobile devices. In fact, there are Todo.txt apps for iOS and Android for $2 each. They have all the same features and functionality that we've already discussed including projects, contexts, and priorities. The interface is clean and minimal, and focused on just letting you quickly keep up with your Todo.txt tasks.

There isn't too much to say about the mobile apps, other than that they work just like you'd expect. Like Todo.txt itself, these mobile apps are simple and straightforward. You can add tasks, filter them by project and category, and edit or complete them on the go-and keep everything in sync with your computer via Dropbox.

There's still one more tool to cover in the Todo.txt arsenal, and it's the most potent one-but also the most geeky: the command line interface.

[Jul 22, 2016] Is What Michelle Obama Said a True Statement? by Gaius Publius

Notable quotes:
"... If anything, the whole plagiarism scandal reflects somewhat poorly on Michelle Obama. One reason Obama's words were able to play so well at the RNC was that in the lifted passages, Obama was speaking using the conservative language of "bootstrapping." Obama's sentence, that "the only limit" to one's achievements is the height of one's goal and the "willingness to work" toward it, is the Republican story about America. It's the story of personal responsibility, in which the U.S. is overflowing with opportunity, and anyone who fails to succeed in such a land of abundance must simply not be trying hard enough. ..."
"... People on the left are supposed to know that it is a cruel lie to tell people that all they need to do is work hard. There are plenty of people with dreams who work very hard indeed but get nothing, because the American economy is fundamentally skewed and unfair. This rhetoric, about "hard work" being the only thing needed for the pursuit of prosperity, is an insult to every tomato-picker and hotel cleaner in the country. It's a fact that those who work the hardest in this country, those come home from work exhausted and who break their backs to feed their families, are almost always rewarded the least. ..."
"... This is, of course, the myth of "meritocracy" that Thomas Frank has exposed with scalpel-like precision in his latest book Listen, Liberal . It's clear that the Democratic Party, at its core, believes with Michelle (and Barack) Obama the comfortable and self-serving lie that no individual has anyone to blame but herself if she fails to achieve high goals. She should just have reached higher; she should just have worked harder. ..."
"... It's not only a lie, it's a "cruel lie," as Nimni says. So why is she, Michelle Obama, telling it? Clearly it serves her interests, her husband's interests, her party's interests, to tell the "rich person's lie," that his or her achievement came from his or her own efforts. To call most people's success a product of luck (right color, right gender, right country, right neighborhood, right schools, right set of un-birth-damaged brain cells) or worse, inheritance (right parents), identifies the fundamental unfairness of our supposed "meritocratic" system of allocating wealth and undercuts the "goodness," if you look at it writ large, of predatory capitalism. By that measure, neither the very wealthy themselves (Charles Koch, Jamie Dimon) nor those who serve them (Barack Obama et al ) are "good" in any moral sense. ..."
naked capitalism
Is What Michelle Obama Said a True Statement?

Consider for a second the bare statement - "the only limit to the height of your achievements is the reach of your dreams and your willingness to work for them" (Obama's version). Is this true? Is it true that if you dream big enough and work hard enough, the "limit to the height of your achievements" disappears?

Obviously not. As a young high school graduate, working summers in a General Motors assembly plant to earn college money, I saw hundreds of men and women, many the lowest of the low, the sweepers, for example, whose lives mark "lie" to that statement. The next time you stay in a hotel, look at the woman who cleans your room and ask if she's where she is because she won't work hard. Most people like these are trapped, the way billions are trapped around the world, working in powerless service to others for the scraps those others allow them?

Oren Nimni: Obama's statement "is an insult to every tomato-picker and hotel cleaner in the country"

The fact that Michelle Obama's statement is blatantly false (and that a woman of color in the United States said it) is revealing. Current Affairs writer Oren Nimni on that (emphasis in original):

If anything, the whole plagiarism scandal reflects somewhat poorly on Michelle Obama. One reason Obama's words were able to play so well at the RNC was that in the lifted passages, Obama was speaking using the conservative language of "bootstrapping." Obama's sentence, that "the only limit" to one's achievements is the height of one's goal and the "willingness to work" toward it, is the Republican story about America. It's the story of personal responsibility, in which the U.S. is overflowing with opportunity, and anyone who fails to succeed in such a land of abundance must simply not be trying hard enough.

People on the left are supposed to know that it is a cruel lie to tell people that all they need to do is work hard. There are plenty of people with dreams who work very hard indeed but get nothing, because the American economy is fundamentally skewed and unfair. This rhetoric, about "hard work" being the only thing needed for the pursuit of prosperity, is an insult to every tomato-picker and hotel cleaner in the country. It's a fact that those who work the hardest in this country, those come home from work exhausted and who break their backs to feed their families, are almost always rewarded the least.

Far from embarrassing Melania Trump and the GOP, then, it should be deeply humiliating for Democrats that their rhetoric is so bloodless and hollow that it can easily be spoken word-for-word in front of a gang of crazed racists. Instead of asking "why is Melania Trump using Michelle Obama's words?" we might think to ask "why is Michelle Obama using the right-wing rhetoric of self-reliance?"

This is, of course, the myth of "meritocracy" that Thomas Frank has exposed with scalpel-like precision in his latest book Listen, Liberal. It's clear that the Democratic Party, at its core, believes with Michelle (and Barack) Obama the comfortable and self-serving lie that no individual has anyone to blame but herself if she fails to achieve high goals. She should just have reached higher; she should just have worked harder.

It's not only a lie, it's a "cruel lie," as Nimni says. So why is she, Michelle Obama, telling it? Clearly it serves her interests, her husband's interests, her party's interests, to tell the "rich person's lie," that his or her achievement came from his or her own efforts. To call most people's success a product of luck (right color, right gender, right country, right neighborhood, right schools, right set of un-birth-damaged brain cells) or worse, inheritance (right parents), identifies the fundamental unfairness of our supposed "meritocratic" system of allocating wealth and undercuts the "goodness," if you look at it writ large, of predatory capitalism. By that measure, neither the very wealthy themselves (Charles Koch, Jamie Dimon) nor those who serve them (Barack Obama et al) are "good" in any moral sense.

(The idea of the supposed "goodness" of the successful capitalist, by the way, his supposed "greater morality," goes all the way back to the 18th Century attempt of the wealthy to counter the 17th Century bleakness of Protestant predestination. How could people, especially the very rich, know whether they are among the "elect" or the damned? God gives them wealth as a sign of his plans for them, just as God gives them morally deficient poverty-wage workers to take advantage of.)

[Sep 21, 2014] Workaholism in America: A European's Perspective by Tijana Milosevic

01/08/2011 | huffingtonpost.com

Coming from Serbia -- a country of six million in Eastern Europe that once belonged to a larger, war-torn entity called socialist Yugoslavia -- I wasn't fully aware of the notion of "career anxiety" when I came to Washington D.C. for my MA degree. Until one evening, that is, at the very onset of the school year. A colleague of mine who was just turning 27 raised his glass and voiced his fear: "Twenty-seven: no serious job and no stable career track."

I was 23 at the time and could not comprehend why anyone would be obliged to have a "career track," let alone a stable one, especially at (what I saw as) the tender age of 27. In fact, I had never entertained the concept the way my American friends were referring to it.

While many Americans move out of their homes when they're 19 to hit college, the East- European model is quite different. Countries are smaller, and if there's any migration it is directed typically towards the capital, so young people continue to live with their families through college. Because of high unemployment rates and poor standard of living, they aren't expected to become financially independent, and many depend on their parents well into their late twenties or even early thirties -- without a sense of shame that such state of affairs entails in the US. These factors reduce the relevance of what Americans often describe as "the treadmill feel" -- an almost compulsive desire for continuous promotions, financial gains, followed by a rise in social status, and an increasing social anxiety.

In societies that are similar to mine, the American model is looked down upon as "harsh capitalistic," "individualistic" and above all "alienated," as American parents are not perceived to provide enough financial and emotional support for their children. In fact my family and friends had observed that I shouldn't have chosen America, since I would probably feel better in Western Europe -- where life is not as fast paced as in the US and capitalism still has a "human face."

For example, Americans still work nine full weeks (350 hours) longer than West Europeans do and paid vacation days across Western Europe are well above the US threshold. The French still have the 35 hour working week, while the hourly productivity is one of the highest in the world. On the other hand, in the US an increasing popularity of employment therapy suggests that a high-paying job still comes first, as job issues "have a huge mental health component," and therapists emphasize the importance of "toxic co-workers and the ramifications of massive layoffs."

Numerous writers have outlined the dangers of isolation and careerism in the American society. In her famous work "Eichmann in Jerusalem," Hannah Arendt equates careerism with a lack of thinking that led to Holocaust: "what for Eichmann was a job, with its daily routine, its ups and downs, was for the Jews quite literally the end of the world. Genocide [...] is work. If it is to be done, people must be hired and paid; if it is to be done well, they must be supervised and promoted."

In Serbia even young and busy corporate-minded career professionals do not have to mark their calendars to meet with close friends. One can always find the time for a spontaneous chat over coffee. Still, this laid back culture is now beginning to change with an increasing development of free market capitalism. I still remember how strange it felt when I first came to DC and had to schedule coffees and lunches with people weeks or even months in advance. I found it odd that people rarely picked up the cell phone (which, granted, could be merely my personal experience, although many Americans confirmed it!) and would often leave the time and date of the call in their voicemails, which implied the other person might not get back to them in a while. I also came to discover that what Americans often referred to as "friends," people from my region would prefer to call "acquaintances." The term "friend" cannot be reserved for someone you meet once in a couple of months and do not know well enough to open up to.

Those experiences bring to mind a memorable line from from "Eat, Pray, Love," a biographical story recently turned into a Hollywood blockbuster starring Julia Roberts: "You Americans know entertainment but you do not know how to enjoy yourselves." Roberts plays a successful thirty-something American who decides to embark on a soul-searching trip to Italy, India and Bali after realizing her job, husband and newly bought house are not what she really wanted from life. Perhaps that's a superficial take on what many would describe as an equally superficial Californian trend to "do something spiritual," but the above quote shows there's something to the American career frenzy that remains unique to the United States. The opportunity cost for "dolce far niente" or "the joy of doing nothing," runs high.

Reflecting on this, I ran into an interesting take on "Eat Pray Love" by a 23-year old blogger: "We are not sympathetic to spiritual personal crises anymore. If you want to have an emotional breakdown about something, you better have a logical, elaborate and secular reason; otherwise you will be dismissed as whiny, annoying and laughable." I wonder if her comment has to do with the lack of experience or the possibility that the generation entering the work force will not have an adequate justification for its desire to escape the treadmill feel -- amidst all the superficial takes on this complex topic.

More:

Workaholism America Work Mentality The Balanced Life Europe Work Mentality America Work Life Balance u.s. Work Mentality America Workaholism Europe Work Life Balance u.s. Workaholism u.s. Work Life Balance America Work Life Balance Work Life Balance Work Life Balance Workaholism

[Aug 02, 2014] If You're Always Working, You're Never Working Well

August 02, 2014 | Soulskill
An anonymous reader writes: Hard work is almost an axiom in the U.S. - office culture continually rewards people who are at their desks early and stay late, regardless of actual performance.

Over the past decade, it's encroached even further into workers' private lives with the advent of smartphones. An article at the Harvard Business Review takes issue with the idea that more work is always better:

"When we accept this new and permanent ambient workload - checking business news in bed or responding to coworkers' emails during breakfast - we may believe that we are dedicated, tireless workers. But, actually, we're mostly just getting the small, easy things done. Being busy does not equate to being effective. ... And let's not forget about ambient play, which often distracts us from accomplishing our most important tasks. Facebook and Twitter report that their sites are most active during office hours. After all, the employee who's required to respond to her boss on Sunday morning will think nothing of responding to friends on Wednesday afternoon.

And research shows (PDF) that these digital derailments are costly: it's not only the minutes lost responding to a tweet but also the time and energy required to 'reenter' the original task."

How do we shift business culture to reward effective work more than the appearance of work?

Trepidity

partly as a result, work culture is also haphazard (5, Informative)

One of the bigger cultural differences I've found working in both the U.S. and Scandinavia is that American meetings are long, unpredictably scheduled, and really disorganized. A 10am meeting might really get down to business by 10:15 if you're lucky, maybe 10:30, and probably won't end on time at 11:00am.

Nobody will have distributed any material to consult ahead of time, or even a proper meeting agenda for that matter, and as a result people don't come particularly prepared, and a ton of time is wasted.

Since there is no real agenda, who needs to be at the meeting also hasn't been very carefully decided, so a bunch of people are just in case, and they spend half the time on Facebook or email while irrelevant parts of the meeting happen. The assumption seems to just be that just half-assing the whole thing is the best way to go...

dbIII (701233) | 11 hours ago | (#47588713)


Re:partly as a result, work culture is also haphaz (3, Insightful)

One of the bigger cultural differences I've found working in both the U.S. and Scandinavia is that American meetings are long, unpredictably scheduled, and really disorganized

One quite pathetic situation/problem in large organisations is that people can be seen to be more effective the more "face time" you have with them. Thus some long meetings exist for the sole purpose of spending time with the people with the power to promote. Apparently it then snowballs into the "company culture".
Since I'm now in a small enough place that everyone has no choice other than spending time with everyone else I can avoid that stupidity but I still see it on occasion when the company I work for takes jobs from some large multi-nationals - I get to see a little window into full-on Dilbert territory. Things like meetings where eight people from the other company turn up but only two speak, who get left floundering with no backup when out of their depth despite all the others there.

Anonymous Coward | 11 hours ago | (#47588747)

Re:partly as a result, work culture is also haphaz (4, Interesting)

You forgot to mention that no one takes meeting minutes or notes. Thus any decisions made are lost two steps out the door. Which in turn requires future follow up meetings to re-decide/debate the same issues. I've seen heated discussions over issues that were already resolved in a prior meeting.

Thiarna (111890) | 12 hours ago | (#47588555)

No thought required (5, Interesting)

I find in most business cultures I've had contact with that actually spending time to think about a problem is actively discouraged. Problems get bounced from one person to the next, and the actual work performed by any one person on something is so limited that often no-one understands the full problem. The always connected culture described in the article is part of the problem, but more fundamentally it is that there is such the constant stream of email with so little thought put into it

CptJeanLuc (1889586) | 7 hours ago | (#47589771)

Counter-productive American work culture (3, Interesting)

From working from Europe in a global organization a few years ago, it was interesting to see how American colleagues always seem to be projecting the importance of their work and their persona, with an always-on mindset. And it was interesting how emails got answered in the late evening US time zones, with replies that were clearly in the style of "I want you to know that I read your email and am working in the evening", but with no real effort behind the response. And with silly emails like "going away with family on vacation for two days, so I will be reading email less frequently" - dude, why are you checking your emails on a vacation.

Furthermore, US colleagues often seemed obsessed about strengthen their own work position, paranoid about any initiative which may reduce their importance, and generally working relations and politics to make themselves as hard-to-fire as possible. Some people clearly playing their own agenda not really caring about what is right for the company. And creating as little transparency as possible about information they own, making it hard to objectively assess their performance, or replace them with someone else. The kind of person who will do what they are asked, and little else.

In Scandinavia, my experience is we tend to focus on getting sh%# done, and nobody really cares when you do it. In most work environments people are not expected to be always-on, and we embrace the idea that it is good for people to be able to take some weeks vacation once in a while. Plus with public welfare systems - yes, the dreaded "socialism" - you don't have to be overly paranoid about the consequences of losing your job.

One of the most effective tools I have had in terms of time management, is that whenever someone has asked me something with a questionable or unreasonable timeline, I have questioned the time frame and discussed what are actual requirements - and usually there is no problem shifting the timeline to something reasonable. Just because someone asks, that does not mean you have to say yes. There is nothing worse than under-delivering. It is better both for yourself, and for whomever is asking, to push back and find something that works - and then deliver a quality end product. Or some times reducing the scope - someone asks for a big presentation, which you know they may end up changing everything - and you agree on instead making a rough draft and storyline. So you just saved yourself a ton of work, and all it took was 2 minutes of intelligent discussion.

As for changing the culture, I'd say just take a position regarding how and when you plan to work, and let your colleague and peers know. Or at least discuss what is the expectation in terms of work commitments. So they will not be expecting an always-on mindset. In the end, if you keep delivering your stuff, I would think that is what matters.

[Mar 11, 2013] The masochistic work culture of Wall Street by John Gapper

March 11, 2013 | FT

The article by Erin Callan, former chief financial officer of Lehman Brothers, on how she lost herself in work, is an interesting reflection not only on women on Wall Street, but also on how relentlessly many bankers work.

Ms Callan, who lost her job in 2008 "amid mounting chaos and a cloud of public humiliation only months before the company went bankrupt", writes in the New York Times of the extreme work culture at the top of the former investment bank:

"I didn't start out with the goal of devoting all of myself to my job. It crept in over time. Each year that went by, slight modifications became the new normal. First I spent a half-hour on Sunday organizing my e-mail, to-do list and calendar to make Monday morning easier. Then I was working a few hours on Sunday, then all day. My boundaries slipped away until work was all that was left.

Inevitably, when I left my job, it devastated me. I couldn't just rally and move on. I did not know how to value who I was versus what I did. What I did was who I was."

The phenomenon doesn't occur only at the top. The Epicurean Dealmaker, a pseudonymous banker who writes on the culture and mores of Wall Street, has a good description of the qualities needed in a junior analyst.

"She must be intelligent, patient, hardworking, relentless, unflappable, diplomatic, self-sacrificing, and forbearing. She must always maintain her equanimity, even in the face of a spittle-flecked Associate berating her for not correcting his misspelling of the client CFO's name in a presentation book or a Managing Director who looks at her blankly when she asks how the meeting she skipped Christmas Day with her family to prepare the book for went (the client cancelled)."

Bankers are not the only ones facing this workload. Other professionals, such as lawyers and management consultants, also charge extremely high fees, for which they put themselves at the whim of clients.

Those who reach the top get very well paid. Even those at the bottom earn – or have earned – more than anyone else of their age. But the bargain, that they have to be on call around the clock, has a price.

Work-life balance is not just for women

FT.com

he debate about "work-life balance" will generate contributions weightier than Erin Callan's short article (Is There Life After Work - NYTimes.com) in last weekend's New York Times, but few will be sadder.

Ms Callan, former chief financial officer at Lehman Brothers, used to keep a model of a private jet on her desk, according to Andrew Ross Sorkin's Too Big To Fail. She had to be told to remove a framed photo of herself getting out of a limousine, drawn from a magazine profile that dubbed her "The Most Powerful Woman on Wall Street". Now she has deep regrets.

..."I'm beginning to realise that I sold myself short," she writes. "I was talented, intelligent and energetic. [My career focus] didn't have to be so extreme."

This belated epiphany is the latest squall in the great storm system of controversy stirred up by Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg's book Lean In , out this week. Some critics have taken issue with Ms Sandberg for using her lofty pulpit to preach to women about how they should realise their potential.

I like the book, but, if anything, Ms Sandberg sells herself short. The lessons of Lean In – which is her expression for the full commitment women must make to their choices – are far more broadly applicable, to men as well as women.

If employees lean in, only to keel over on to the boardroom table out of fatigue, something is wrong. The book and Ms Callan's lament expose a problem with the system, not just with the people in it. Managers ought to be creating the conditions to get the best work from all staff, not simply to extract the most work from a determined few. If employees are driven, or drive themselves, to unproductive and unhappy extremes, the whole corporate economy suffers.

Ridding the world of the term "work-life balance" would be a start. As Ms Sandberg writes early in her book, if the problem is framed in that way, "who would ever choose work over life?"

The description also lays a trap for those individuals who believe they can spend the first half of their lives on work, and the rest on life. "That is not balance," writes Ms Callan. Too right: in fact, it is two periods of extreme imbalance, neither of which is likely to lead to happiness. Ms Callan, now 47, relates the breakdown of her first marriage as a result of work pressure and, underlining the particular dilemma faced by many women, her attempts, so far unsuccessful, to conceive a child with her new husband.

To focus the discussion only on women in the workplace limits the debate unnecessarily. Ms Sandberg wants a world in which both her daughter and her son will be able to choose their path freely, unhindered by obstacles or preconceptions. To get there, men as well as women will need to read, and adopt, many of her suggestions.

Among the most important is former secretary of state Colin Powell's leadership vision (cited approvingly in the book) of rejecting "busy bastards" – leaders who spend too long in the office. They set a poor example to staff, who end up feeling they will be judged on input of hours rather than output of useful work.

Many of the men at Lehman Brothers were probably also at the end of their tethers by 2005, when Ms Callan says she was spending most weekends sleeping in order to recharge herself for the week ahead. The bank would doubtless have interpreted an admission of exhaustion as a sign of weakness.

This attitude may be beginning to change, albeit only when a crisis point is reached. Both Lloyds Banking Group and Akzo Nobel gave their (male) chief executives leaves of absence to recover from extreme fatigue. Both men were in the early months of their roles – a period when external expectations were at their highest and internal support networks had yet to develop.

Ms Callan and Ms Sandberg mainly address the personal choices that determine happiness and achievement. The Lloyds and Akzo cases – and other stress-related problems that never come to light – demonstrate the need for more enduring structural solutions, too.

Managers and policy makers should act to correct these imbalances, not least for reasons of workplace equity and humanity. But there is a blunter motive for action: corporate leaders who inadvertently force women, and men, towards burnout, risk draining talented people from the pool that is supposed to feed their companies' future success.

[ Mar 9, 2013] Is There Life After Work - NYTimes.com

March 9, 2013 | NYT

AT an office party in 2005, one of my colleagues asked my then husband what I did on weekends. She knew me as someone with great intensity and energy. "Does she kayak, go rock climbing and then run a half marathon?" she joked. No, he answered simply, "she sleeps." And that was true. When I wasn't catching up on work, I spent my weekends recharging my batteries for the coming week. Work always came first, before my family, friends and marriage - which ended just a few years later.

In recent weeks I have been following with interest the escalating debate about work-life balance and the varying positions of Facebook's Sheryl Sandberg, Marissa Mayer of Yahoo and the academic Anne-Marie Slaughter, among others. Since I resigned my position as chief financial officer of Lehman Brothers in 2008, amid mounting chaos and a cloud of public humiliation only months before the company went bankrupt, I have had ample time to reflect on the decisions I made in balancing (or failing to balance) my job with the rest of my life. The fact that I call it "the rest of my life" gives you an indication where work stood in the pecking order.

I don't have children, so it might seem that my story lacks relevance to the work-life balance debate. Like everyone, though, I did have relationships - a spouse, friends and family - and none of them got the best version of me. They got what was left over.

I didn't start out with the goal of devoting all of myself to my job. It crept in over time. Each year that went by, slight modifications became the new normal. First I spent a half-hour on Sunday organizing my e-mail, to-do list and calendar to make Monday morning easier. Then I was working a few hours on Sunday, then all day. My boundaries slipped away until work was all that was left.

Inevitably, when I left my job, it devastated me. I couldn't just rally and move on. I did not know how to value who I was versus what I did. What I did was who I was.

I have spent several years now living a different version of my life, where I try to apply my energy to my new husband, Anthony, and the people whom I love and care about. But I can't make up for lost time. Most important, although I now have stepchildren, I missed having a child of my own. I am 47 years old, and Anthony and I have been trying in vitro fertilization for several years. We are still hoping.

Sometimes young women tell me they admire what I've done. As they see it, I worked hard for 20 years and can now spend the next 20 focused on other things. But that is not balance. I do not wish that for anyone. Even at the best times in my career, I was never deluded into thinking I had achieved any sort of rational allocation between my life at work and my life outside.

I have often wondered whether I would have been asked to be C.F.O. if I had not worked the way that I did. Until recently, I thought my singular focus on my career was the most powerful ingredient in my success. But I am beginning to realize that I sold myself short. I was talented, intelligent and energetic. It didn't have to be so extreme. Besides, there were diminishing returns to that kind of labor.

I didn't have to be on my BlackBerry from my first moment in the morning to my last moment at night. I didn't have to eat the majority of my meals at my desk. I didn't have to fly overnight to a meeting in Europe on my birthday. I now believe that I could have made it to a similar place with at least some better version of a personal life. Not without sacrifice - I don't think I could have "had it all" - but with somewhat more harmony.

I have also wondered where I would be today if Lehman Brothers hadn't collapsed. In 2007, I did start to have my doubts about the way I was living my life. Or not really living it. But I felt locked in to my career. I had just been asked to be C.F.O. I had a responsibility. Without the crisis, I may never have been strong enough to step away. Perhaps I needed what felt at the time like some of the worst experiences in my life to come to a place where I could be grateful for the life I had. I had to learn to begin to appreciate what was left.

At the end of the day, that is the best guidance I can give. Whatever valuable advice I have about managing a career, I am only now learning how to manage a life.

Erin Callan is the former chief financial officer of Lehman Brothers.

[Sep 01, 2012] 'What Should I Do With My Life' One Man's Answer

NPR

Rick was a corporate lawyer specializing in radio station mergers. He nicknamed himself The Mechanic, meaning he was good at closing deals but terrible at bringing in business. He'd been passed over for partner and didn't make much money, forty or fifty thousand a year.

The hours were long, and he'd been doing it too long to enjoy it anymore. Doing it for what? Doing it only because he'd always been doing it, ever since Henry the VIIIth? Certain memories came back to him, like the time his wife had gall bladder surgery.

On the way over to the hospital, a partner handed Rick a cell phone and suggested he make calls while in the waiting room. Or like the time his son had to sit in his office all night while Rick met with clients. Or all those vacations he'd supposedly gone on, but every morning at 7 a.m. was checking the hotel fax machine and returning calls before his family woke. It was suddenly so clear to Rick: your job runs your entire life. Even if you work only eight hours a day, it stills controls your life. What you wear and when you wake up and when you eat and when you come home and when you go to sleep are all scheduled around work.

"I had a permanent edginess back then," Rick explained, though it was hard to imagine because he was now so peaceful. I commented on that, and he said, "It really has so much to do with multitasking. Even as I'm talking to you now, I'm trying to remember everything I want to tell you, and it hurts my brain to think two lines at once. I've become that sensitive to it. But I used to think six lines all the time. And stupidly I was proud of it. I thought it was who I was, but I see now it was a symptom of my work. And I see now that multitasking creates a sense of guilt that you're selling everyone short, including yourself. God forbid anyone accuses you of being less than 100% there, because then you're just defensive. That defensiveness, and that guilt, becomes a skin you wear every day, a skin you wake up in. You talk too fast, you drive too fast. I felt twenty pounds lighter when I shed that skin and learned to pay attention."

Rick's wisdom always came out perfectly like that. He had become a great philosopher, but not by reading books (he read Tom Clancy and Robert Ludlum) or talking to other philosophers. I don't think he realized how eloquent he sounded. He'd spent all that time alone in his truck, driving, being in the moment, noticing the road, the view, the beauty of the country, and somehow, because of that, when it came time to talk, these articulate words spun from his lips.

That day with Patrick pushed Rick 80% of the way toward quitting. So he went looking for the other 20%. He called his father in Minnesota, a retired engineer, and told him he needed to quit.

His father said, "You're 38 years old. You gotta stop squeezing into a round hole if you're a square peg. You're going to have a heart attack in five years. You've won it all and lost it all several times, playing a game you just don't want to play."

[Aug 29, 2012] Technology 'workaholics' sabotaging America by Paul Farrell

Turns out that 44% of Americans call themselves workaholics, well over 100 million. Americans are now working an average of 47 hours a week, an increase of 4 hours in two decades.
CBS.MarketWatch.com

LOS ANGELES (CBS.MW) -- In a recent column, "No Thanks, I Don't Want To Be A Millionaire," we reviewed an AARP survey of Americans' attitudes toward getting rich. Interestingly, they discovered that lots of Americans are saying: "No, I don't want to get rich. I don't want to be wealthy. I don't want to be a millionaire."

Why? Because it's just not worth it to them. The price is too high, too much of a loss of their humanness. However, for a majority of Americans, getting rich is a major goal -- but they are paying a high price.

Sorry, too busy for Workaholics Anonymous!

"The more we become connected, the more detached we become to the more
human elements of life."

U.S. News &
World Report

And unfortunately, the price is getting even higher. Listen to how subtle and deep the problem has become. A recent U.S. News & World Report tells of a software engineer who was "too busy" to drive some distance to Workaholics Anonymous meetings for help with his addiction.

So he set up an Internet chapter of the organization. Now he's got time to spend kvetching online with more than one hundred workaholics worldwide who attend these digital meetings.

But that's hardly scratching the surface. Turns out that 44% of Americans call themselves workaholics, well over 100 million. No wonder U.S. News is concerned about this new addiction:

"Can we keep working harder and harder indefinitely?" Americans are now working an average of 47 hours a week, an increase of 4 hours in two decades. We're working longer and harder, and yet a recent Gallup poll shows that 77% of us "enjoy the time away from work more than they do their time on the job." In short, most Americans are not "doing what they love." Most are "doing what they don't love," assuming the money will follow. But at what price?

Will technology sabotage the new economy?

These surveys are interesting. America's economy, our markets, our companies, our labor force are all focused on increasing productivity, output, returns, wealth. And one of the great benefits of technology was supposed to be as a labor-saving tool.

Technology was supposed to increase the efficiency of human effort per production unit, make life easier, and (we were promised) give us more time for our personal lives. What a joke! The opposite is the truth. Listen to Stephen Roach of Morgan Stanley Dean Witter:

This issue is not going away. In fact, it is absolutely guaranteed to become a much bigger problem for Americans. Moreover, at some point it is likely to backfire and sabotage many of the positive gains technology is clearly adding to our new economy, as Roach hints.

Scary stuff! We know technology's promises are already backfiring on a strictly materialistic level, forcing us to work harder, not less. But, in addition, they are also taking away our intangible humanness, especially with Internet technology, because, "the more we become connected, the more detached we become to the more human elements of life."

Office slaves

Office Slaves to Yuppie Scum. A List of Cubicle Comedies & Workplace Satires... Jump to text "

No self-respect cognitive dissonance in the office...
(Column No. 1; Guardian 2/10/06)

How do you avoid becoming a corporate drone? Firstly, it helps to accept that if you spend most of your waking hours confined to the office, it will eventually get to you. Anyone starting an office job expecting to escape the politics and petty bureaucracy is in for a shock. You can't expect to remain dignified in that environment. It's better to recognise your inevitable deterioration into something contemptible. The only alternative is to join the ranks of the deluded, seek opportunities and aspire to professionalism – but that's the action plan of the trainee drone.

Of course, jobs are supposed to give people self-respect, not take it away. But due to the nature of the typical workplace (authority hierarchies, miscommunication, chaos), employees end up behaving in undignified ways: concealing things from their bosses, redirecting blame, feeling resentment over trivial matters, reporting that everything's fine when it isn't, hiding in the toilets, etc.

Obviously this behaviour doesn't fit our beliefs about ourselves as essentially rational and well-adjusted. The result is cognitive dissonance, which occurs when our self-image is contradicted by our actions. How can you come to terms with your 'guilty' behaviour if you see yourself as honest and dignified? You think you're above it all, but the evidence of your own actions shows that you're immersed in it. Faced with the horror of your out-of-character behaviour, you rationalise and make excuses. You turn into an office drone.

Any smart person with a meaningless job suffers the crippling cognitive dissonance of: "I am intelligent, my waking hours are spent in stupidity". Rationalisations are used to mask the frustration: "I'd be bored without my job" (if you really believe that, it's probably time to consider entering a nursing home). According to Leon Festinger, creator of dissonance theory, the less you are paid to do stupid work, the more you will attempt to rationalise it ("well, it was fun"), rather than admit to doing it for the money. Remember this next time you hear someone claim to "enjoy" their underpaid desk job.

As an office worker, don't expect to have any dignity. Perhaps the only way to stay sane is to accept that you'll turn into something despicable. Don't fall for the office management propaganda about integrity and professionalism. In the corporate workplace, self-respect is out of the question – it exists only in the delusions of drones.

Employee motivation
(Column No. 2; Guardian 16/10/06)

Staff morale is a dangerous thing. Most companies spend money on morale-boosting schemes in the belief that it will raise productivity, but this is a mistake. If staff get the idea that they're supposed to be happy, where will it end? The risk is that it will lead to an eruption of office hedonism in which employees pursue a more relaxed approach to work. Obviously this can't be allowed to happen.

Businesses invest in motivational schemes mainly because of a fear of employee apathy and its effect on output. This shows they have a poor grasp of psychology, as apathy results not from a lack of motivational indoctrination, but from an absence of outlets for staff laziness. There's so much apathy inside corporations because people are expected to be productive 100% of the time. The only real solution to apathy is scheduled laziness. But obviously that can't be allowed to happen.

Another problem with morale-raising is that employees might get too uppity. If this happens, the mantra of office authoritarianism can always be invoked: "You're not being paid to enjoy yourselves". But this is risky because it contradicts the motivational message that you should enjoy your work. Office managers have a tough job keeping a balance between morale and cowering obedience.

You can experiment with this by suggesting that your company adopts schemes to shift control from bosses to underlings, "in the interests of morale". Optional Monday-morning attendance, for instance. See how long it takes before you're reminded that employees are paid to make the company profitable, not to make themselves happy. In fact, managers would be terrified of genuinely happy employees. Happiness means endorphins and relaxation, not adrenaline and strain – carefree workers aren't going to be perturbed by unmet deadlines or big overspends. Your boss would rather have you reeking of stress.

So, for every morale-raising gesture from the managers, there's an esteem-lowering mechanism in place. This keeps productively stable, as morale never gets high enough to undermine worker servility. Esteem-lowering devices are legion – performance reviews, automated employee-monitoring and a never-ending parade of patronising staff-development schemes courtesy of the Personnel Department.

A typical example of the latter is the team-building exercise. As if normal office work isn't demeaning enough, employees are forced to perform activities designed to humiliate. Team-building exercises originated in torture manuals – absurd "challenges" which have the effect of regressing groups of people to an infantile state, at which point they're supposed to bond with each other. The way to avoid this nonsense is to inform your boss that you've already booked a holiday and won't be available for the scheduled staff development. It doesn't matter if they think you're lying. If every employee did this, it would soon put an end to the stupidity.

Avoid work through invisibility
(Column No. 3; Guardian, 13/11/06)

As an office employee, you need a strategy for avoiding work – it's a requirement for job fulfilment. If you're unlikely to become a manager, the next best way to avoid work is to become invisible. If people can't see you, they can't pester you with work assignments.

Start becoming invisible by lowering the height of your chair and positioning your computer so you're hidden from your boss. You might also want to build tall stacks of documents around your desk. The next step is to be invisible in meetings. The easiest way is to not turn up. Five minutes before a meeting starts, make sure you go as far away as possible from your desk and colleagues. You can hide in the toilets or go for a walkabout. Nobody will notice you sneaking off – they'll be too busy preparing for the meeting and mentally rehearsing their lines.

You probably won't be missed, but have an excuse ready in case you're asked. Be imaginative when inventing explanations. For example, you had to go to your car because the security desk noticed squirrels tampering with your windscreen wipers. Remember to laugh in a self-deprecating way when you recount such stories – this is an old trick, taught to spies, for dealing with interrogation.

Once you've mastered guilt-free lying, you can progress to hard-core invisibility, otherwise known as skiving. The best-known method is to take sick days. As with avoiding meetings, it helps to have a set of fabrications memorised, just in case you're suddenly struck one morning with a massive disinclination to go to work.

Plan ahead. You can use your time in the office productively by searching the web for illnesses which sound convincing but not too obvious. Make a note of details of interesting symptoms, so you'll at least sound as if you're making an effort to seem believable. Claiming to have a "cold" every time will be regarded by your manager as a personal insult.

Some people have a guilty conscience about phoning in sick. The remedy is to imagine, vividly, how you feel at work on a typical Monday morning. That should make you feel queasy. By dictionary definition, "queasy" means ill. Therefore it's your duty to phone in sick. If you don't feel queasy at the thought of Monday morning, then by definition there must be something wrong with you, so you should phone in sick anyway.

Far too many people spread low morale by going to work when they don't feel like it. It's better for you, your colleagues, and the national economy if you stay at home. Or, to put it another way: prevention is better than cure, so phone in sick before you get ill.

Scheduling & deadlines
(Column No. 4; Guardian, 27/11/06)

A major peril of office work is project assignment. If you thought aimless drudgery was bad, wait until you experience the planned, monitored kind. Projects don't alleviate tedium – they simply schedule it. Deadlines, progress meetings and status reports add nothing to the emptiness but an artificial sense of urgency.

Scheduling forms a big part of project work – you should expect to spend at least two days a week planning, reviewing your plans and fabricating your timesheet to make it look as if you're working to plan. The main purpose of scheduling is to somehow squeeze a week's work into the few days remaining after the scheduling is done.

This is impossible, of course. The result is panic, guilt, stress and more scheduling. Ultimately, you pay the price by working 60-hour weeks on a 40-hour salary. Then, when chronic exhaustion takes its toll, you become even less productive. But the scheduling process makes no allowance for this, because the project team is in denial.

Ideally, at this point, you could quit. But there are other, less drastic, options. For example, whenever your manager asks you to estimate the time required for a task, always multiply the realistic figure by five. They will whine and moan, but you must stand your ground. Never accept an estimate of less than triple the time you think it'll take.

To help you stand up to your manager, remember that scientific research is on your side. In the 1990s, researchers at Sussex University conducted a five-year study into "Task Completion Wishful Thinking Syndrome", which concluded that tasks always take longer than we expect. This is apparently a universal human trait. From wallpapering a room to developing a new fighter aircraft, we all tend to underestimate how long it will take. We also never learn from previous missed deadlines – we fail to modify our expectations of our own performance based on previous experience.

The flip side of this is that we'll look back at any given period of time, and it will seem that we've accomplished embarrassingly little, relative to expectations. As a result, most of us go home from work every day feeling guilty. Managers then have an easy time emotionally blackmailing us into working overtime.

To assuage your guilt, it helps to familiarise yourself with the Law of Office SNAFU, which states that no project is ever completed on schedule. Projects which appear to finish on schedule are, by definition, not really complete. A corollary is that project managers are living in a dreamworld. No amount of hard work on your part can overturn these laws, so why bother straining yourself? Chronic under-productivity is as certain as gravity – you should never feel ashamed of it.

Guerilla tactics at work
(Column No. 5; Guardian, 11/12/06)

Office employees are required to sacrifice more than just their time and energy. They're expected to yield their souls too. As early as the interview stage it's made clear to new recruits that total commitment to the company is mandatory. This means adopting the company ethos and believing in its "mission". It's like joining a cult.

Your employer requires your sincere devotion. Cynicism is regarded as an attitude problem, and will result in your behaviour being closely monitored. In this kind of environment you need to disguise your contempt, otherwise everything you do will be regarded with suspicion.

Mask your sarcasm with humour, and avoid attracting unwanted attention. In fact it's probably best to channel all your simmering frustrations into covert propaganda rather than risk self-incriminatory verbal outpourings.

Office propaganda wars are the business world's best kept secret. Thousands of disenchanted employees are engaged in clandestine projects to counter the corporate propaganda relentlessly churned out in the form of newsletters, notices, memos, staff debriefings, team pep-talks, etc. The employer's aim is to make staff view the company goals as all-important. The antidote to this brainwashing is ridicule and parody, which can take the form of graffiti, stickers, fake notices, spoof emails, etc.

Ambitious, careerist types won't appreciate this subversive humour, as it undermines their sense of self-importance. Consider these folk as your enemies in the propaganda war. They might be your colleagues, but you don't have to socialise with them. Taking coffee breaks together isn't mandatory – make excuses and go later when you can read a newspaper undisturbed. But beware of being branded unsociable, as this attracts scrutiny from the company thought-police.

You can always fake sociability. On occasions when you can't avoid your colleagues, join in the office chit-chat. But whenever there's a choice, look for an escape route. Always keep an important-looking document close to hand, so you can pretend to be on an urgent errand.

Performance reviews will reveal whether you've successfully concealed your "attitude problem". If your supervisor suggests that you're not a "team-player", it means they're onto you. This means you'll probably be sent on team-bonding courses and be press-ganged into socialising with career-driven morons.

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