Walt Whitman

Walt Whitman on Beethoven and Music

An interesting piece on Walt Whitman and music.

“Feeling, life, motion and emotion constitute its import,” philosopher Susanne Langer wrote of music, which she defined as “a highly articulated sensuous object.”

Although many great writers have contemplated the power of music, few have articulated it more perfectly or more sensuously than Walt Whitman (May 31, 1819–March 26, 1892) does in Specimen Days (public library) — the sublime collection of prose fragments and journal entries, which gave us Whitman on the wisdom of trees and which the poet himself described as “a melange of loafing, looking, hobbling, sitting, traveling — a little thinking thrown in for salt, but very little — …mostly the scenes everybody sees, but some of my own caprices, meditations, egotism.” And what a beautiful, generous egotism it is….

Read the rest here Walt Whitman

Managing Actions

How to Manage Actions and Gain Time

For the present is the only thing of which a man can be deprived, if it is true that is the only thing which he has, and that a man cannot lose something he does not already possess

– Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

Managing Self

Now that I’m attempting to limit my smartphone usage. The next thing I want to focus on is time management.  During my year in Pharmacy school, I realized my time management skills were not adapted to that environment.  I could have done things differently.  This has me thinking about how I manage time and what I want to do about it.

There’s a lot of advice on time management, yet I find myself looking at time management not from a time perspective but an actions perspective. (See ted talk shifting time)

Every Action has a Starting Point

There seems to be as many productivity strategies as there are stars in the sky. They offer advice based on personal experience and studies researching concentration.

There’s an irony from all this information, taking the time to sift through all this information is probably the least effective use of your time. Do you need to search the internet for hours? No. What you’ll find are hundreds of ways other people organize their lives only to find out it’s not for you. I made this mistake.  Now I’m back at the beginning trying to figure out what’s the best time management strategy.

The problem is not that we have a short life, but that we waste time. Thus the time we are given is not brief, but we make it so.

– Seneca, Shortness of Life

So where do I start?  I inventory my actions.  To figure out how to manage my actions I’ll need to inventory all the time-consuming things I do. I need to know appropriately how I’m spending my minutes and hours of the day.

I don’t want to spend more time organizing my actions than I am trying to complete them. It’s a trap someone can easily fall into.

Perception is a remarkable experience, I always feel as if I need to get more done or that I don’t have enough time for everything.  I can track my time and realize I’m spending 1 hour on twitter and 1 hour looking online with no purpose but only out of boredom. Only after looking at these numbers I can see an obvious path.

Managing What’s Important

My goal is to track my actions, assign them a level of importance (1,2, or 3 with 1 being most important). I’m hoping to see if managing my actions is a better alternative than looking at time.

I’m hoping to make better use of my time although I can see a point of difficulty when actions become very scheduled. Sometimes this can’t be avoided when there are meetings and appointments but I think this method can work around it as long as I have flexibility with other action goals.

This should also give me a realistic expectation on how much time i need for redundant actions. Maybe I’m giving myself too much or too little time.

This will also include downtime. If I want to watch a movie or read a book, I should be able to manage these actions by planning how long the movie should be or how many pages I want to read.

I’ll use my google calendar to track actions. I like to color code things so I can see what actions are taking most of my time. This isn’t going to be highly scheduled where my google calendar is going to be completely blocked but it will let me see how I use time. I’ll be using my smartphone for some calendar entries so I’ll have to track my usage and balance it out.

Time as a Necessary Resource, Like Food

One advice I heard about and was a line of thinking I found interesting was treating time the same way you treat food.

There’s food that’s good for you, this can be my necessary actions. Then there’s junk food, this can be Netflix or surfing the internet.

When I wanted to work out and lose weight, I found apps to help me monitor my food intake and workouts. This worked. I lost the weight and was healthier.

Self-Monitoring

This is consistent with a review of self-monitoring during weight loss showing people who tracked food intake lost more weight than those who didn’t. So why should treating actions and time be any different?  It shouldn’t be. I’ll be aware and accountable for what I need to do thereby giving me the time to do it.

Keeping track of my actions and their durations will let me see if I’m over inflating or underestimating time needed for a task.

Logging my time allows can allow me to track my progress whether its adjusting time scales for actions or finding what actions are really not helping (I’m looking at you Netflix). This can help me focus on creating a custom productivity method that’s based on real life instead of how I think things should be.

But each year, short lived, is unlike the last and rarely resolves in the style it arrives

– Armitage, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

There’s one thing I try not to do and that’s multitasking important projects. It’s been shown that multitasking can have negative effects on productivity.  Multitasking creates a high cycle of activities between different actions.  This doesn’t allow us to focus and create a meaningful impact on the action. Avoiding multitasking important actions will allow me to better track and organize my actions to evaluate my time.

So I’ll see what happens and readjust my plan as I get feedback from this personal experiment.

Breaking Smartphone Use

Smartphones Changed how we see the World

Smartphones significantly changed the way we look and acquire information.  They also present new challenges in how we use them.

Devices that are small enough to fit in your pocket or wrapped around your arm, now allow near instant communicate with people around the world (social media, etc), take and share photos, and access collected knowledge and thoughts of key opinion leaders from around the world is in real time.

With all the positive aspects smartphones possess there’s are negative outcomes. The smartphone’s power can be so consuming that all you want to do is stare into its little screen awaiting the little “high” of receiving a “like” or favorable comment.

No single worthwhile goal can be successfully pursued by a man who is occupied with many tasks because the mind, when its focused is split, absorbs little in depth

Seneca, Shortness of Life

Productivity and Smartphone Use

I’ve been noticing an increase in unproductive smartphone usage.  Typically I would scroll through news or social media to see what fresh craziness is going on, upon viewing my phone stats, my assumption was correct; I was using the smartphone unproductively. I response, I’ve decided to start an internet fasting routine.  My hope is that this will help me take a healthy approach in smartphone usage.

I’ve put together an action plan to better control my smartphone usage before it becomes habit forming. Luckily, I haven’t gotten to the point where my smartphone is the first and last thing I see during my day.

Thoughts on why I want to Start Limiting Smartphone Usage

The Negative Effects of Chronic Smartphone Use

Battling boredom: for me, checking news feeds or social media was a way for me to pass the time while I was waiting for something to happen. Anecdotally, I’ve seen the same action from others while waiting for an appointment and while waiting for meals at home or dinning out.

I get it, people get bored, I get bored, it happens. What does this really mean? I think it’s a shift in attention. It changes our focus from the here and now to some distant, nebulous object that can be a source of instant gratification.

Loss of Empathy and Connection with Others

Social media has both expanded our reach and limited our interactions. Interactions have become more numerous but shallower in depth versus face to face interactions.

We call these mini computers smartphones but think about how many times you’ve used it as a phone. I’ll use it as a phone once in a while but most of my communications are through text message or email. Texting is convenient if you want to send short messages or instructions but when using it for discussions we lose our ability to read the other person. We don’t hear the inflections, tone; we don’t see facial expressions. It’s to the point where people use emojis as a way to show intent.

With the increase usage of smartphones we are also seeing an increase in loneliness.

Smartphones and Sleep Effects

How many of us have fallen asleep while holding a smartphone? I know I have. Newer smartphones have changed their lighting effects in response to implications blue lights effect on sleep quality. I set my phone for night mode between sunset and sunrise in hopes of improving sleep quality.

Losing Focus at Work

I’ve changed my work email habits to check my email on 2 hr intervals. This allows me to focus specific tasks and get into a productive work flow. Using my email interval usage as an example, I plan on using my smartphone in the same way.

I heard this podcast about deep work, Cal Newport makes the case for digital devices, marketed as ways of increasing productivity, actually divide our attention which then leads to decreases in productivity and decreased quality in results.  This is main reason why I changed my work email habits and I hope to see the same results for smartphone usage.  Surveys shows the negative effects of habitual technology use and work quality.

Picking my Head up Once in a While

One of my goals for internet fasting and decreasing my smartphone usage is to be more involved with what’s around me. I always think it’s a sad sight when I see people out at dinner and everyone’s on their phones or people have their phones on the table. My opinion, if you have a specific reason such as waiting on message regarding an active family emergency or issue then there’s no reason to have your phone out. The message that sends is: I’ll listen to you until something happens on my screen.

Breaking the Bonds of Smartphones

Just like most habits that aren’t chemical based, it should be easy to break this habit using discipline.

Smartphones have data tracking so you can see what you’re using and how often. My first goal is to take a screenshot of my current usage and compare it to usage 30 days from now. I can reset those stats and see usage 30 days from then.  I’m might also track the number of times per day I check my phone when not responding to messages.

People Expect Immediate Responses

If you’re smartphone is never more than arms length away, then we share the same concern with turning off notifications: responding right away.  What did we do before smartphones or phones that could text? We left our messages and waited. I think we’ve been conditioned to react as if all communications were equally urgent and needed immediate attention.  Most aren’t and they get in the way of achieving your daily goals by distraction and loss of focus.

Final Thoughts

I hope this experiment will help me focus on the goals I’ve set for myself (daily or short-term) so I can be more productive in personal and professional pursuits.

Lincoln Gettysburg Address

Anniversary of Gettysburg Address

154 years ago, President Lincoln was invited to say a few words at the dedication of a war memorial. The President tried to capture the importance of preserving the Union.  Forgotten until America’s centennial, these 270 words represented the importance and hope for the new nation.

Gettysburg Address

“Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate — we can not consecrate — we can not hallow — this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

Post-Pharmacy School Failure: How to Create a Life Vision

Failing out of Pharmacy School has change my planned career arc; the plans I had are no longer valid and now I have to figure out what to do.  A lot of people talk about having goals: setting goals, achieving goals, goal timeframes, etc.  While having goals is fine but goals have to be built on a foundation, and that foundation is your personal vision statement.

Path to your Future Self

When looking at the future, I don’t think in terms of what do I want to do, I think of who do I want to be.  I try to get an overall view of myself such as, I want to be more well read and I want to learn more about a particular field of science. These are starting points for goal creation.

Why Goals don’t Succeed

I think the main reason why we set goals and don’t succeed is because we don’t have a vision of what we want to become.

Vision is an overall view of yourself and where you want to be in a defined timeframe (e.g. 1 year, 4 years).  Your vision statement is the North Star to your goal.  This means if you want to have goals, you first need to know what general direction you need to go or how you want your life to be. 

Such as are your habitual thoughts such also will be the character of your mind, for the soul is dyed by the thought.

– Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

Creating your Vision Statement

Think of qualities you think are important and compare those qualities to the qualities you think you possess.  This has to be a honest self assessment and it won’t do any good for you to over or underestimate your skills or knowledge.

Cultivate a mindset of purpose. Find what you’re good at doing, find what you like doing, see if there is a need for your skill, and see if you can get paid for it.  When you can answer these questions, you’ll find a direction for your vision.

Starting small to see incremental gains is in my opinion the best way to keep yourself motivated.  A good example of this is working out. You set a goal of decreasing your run time a few seconds each week or increasing the amount of weight you can lift.  This keeps you motivated because you can see in a short time the gains from your goals.  Since there are a lot of options for creating a personal vision statementI recommend not trying to change too much too soon. Because of all these options, people tend to not make changes or choices due to the stresses of trying to pick what to do. I know I get this way sometimes when I have too many choices that I don’t choose anything. This is called overchoice.

No single worthwhile goal can be successfully pursued by a man who is occupied with many tasks because the mind, when its focused is split, absorbs little in depth

– Seneca, Shortness of Life

Start Simple, Start Small

So plan what you want to see in your life in 3 month increments.  

Start by writing 3 to 5 things that are important to you today. I recommend using a journaling method to track your progress. I used google docs to track progress but I changed to a basic composition book because I like the action of writing things down and flipping through pages to see my progress.  While journaling, this doesn’t have to be a daily event, this can be done 2 or 3 times a week or less if you want. The point is to give you a visual aid on how you’ve been progressing and thoughts on how you do change actions if you’re not seeing results.

Next, write 3-5 things that take up most of your time, I’ve been managing my actions (time management) using google calendar and color coding activities. Then see if there’s overlap between what’s important to you and things that take up your time. If there’s no overlap then this is an opportunity to change how you use your time.

Next, write 3-5 strengths and weaknesses and 3-5 skills you have or want to have.  These will become the foundations of how you want to lead your life.  

Your vision statement doesn’t have to be a long essay on your life. It can be 2 sentences.

Learning how to think really means learning how to exercise some control over how and what you think. It means being conscious and aware enough to choose what you pay attention to and to choose how you construct meaning from experience

– Dreyfus & Kelly, All Things Shining

Time is on your Side

Given these points, creating and maintaining your vision statement is going to be an active feedback process. This is not something you’re going to complete while drinking an ice cold bourbon (yeah, that’s how I like mine, don’t judge).  As with anything worth doing, it’s going to take time.

Sometimes the most profound things are the simplest. I’ll digress with this example: In 1873 there was an event in Pennsylvania; the Secretary of State delivered a 2 hour speech at a cemetery talking about the ravages of war. After that long speech, another man spoke. He spoke only 273 words. It doesn’t take long to say 273 words but. those words are the Gettysburg Address.  Who remembered the 2 hour long speech?

Furthermore, your vision statement is more about quality than quantity. So taking your time with it is important. 

My vision statement is very simple: to be a better, more knowledgable man tomorrow than I am today. This is my guidance on how to make my goals. I think to myself, does this goal make me a better man? Does this goal make me a well rounded man?  When they don’t, I change them.

Maintaining your Vision Statement

Maintaining your vision is an active process, it’ll will take time and attention for you to evaluate your current actions against your vision statement and to see how you can readjust your actions.You have to do the work. You have to have the dedication.  You need to be disciplined.  Like I mentioned above, you’ll have to monitor your progress (use a journal) and do personal evaluations.

Seeing other students going for a professional degree, I saw that a lot of us want things to be perfect. We think “I want this action to be perfect, I want this project to be perfect”; perfect doesn’t exist. As a result, when you don’t reach 100% of your goals it feels like a let down. It’s not.

Change is good

Take any advancement you achieve as a victory.  Learn from what didn’t work and change it. Maybe you need to update your vision statement based on new information. That’s always a good thing and remember, things that don’t bend under stress shatter. 

Antioxidant Benefits of Mushrooms

If you ever wondered about putting mushrooms on your pizza, salad, pasta or whatever, here’s a reason why you should.

There’s an aging theory that’s been around for a while; it involves free radicals.  Free radicals are chemicals or atoms like oxygen that are missing an electron. These chemicals try to be electron balanced with the number of electrons they’re supposed to have.  They try to balance out by donating an electron to another chemical or taken from another chemical. This makes the free radical highly reactive causing damage to cells, proteins and DNA. This is something we don’t want around. Over time, free radicals may cause enough damage which may be associated with diseases related to aging: like cancer, coronary heart disease and Alzheimer’s disease (a growing problem in U.S. without a cure or treatment to slow cognitive loss).

Enter the Mushroom

Penn State researchers found mushrooms may contain unusually high amounts of 2 antioxidants that some scientists suggest could help fight aging and bolster health. In their study, they found that mushrooms have high amounts of the antioxidants ergothioneine and glutathione, these antioxidants vary between types of mushrooms.

Replenishing antioxidants in the body, then, may help protect against oxidative stress, which is the balance of free radicals like oxygen in the body and how the body removes them.  One mushroom found to have the highest antioxidant levels is the porcini, a mushroom popular in Italy. Yet, for those of us not in Italy or having access to these mushrooms, the common white button mushroom has these antioxidants.  When applying heat to chemicals, you may have chemical changes that decrease the chemical effectiveness.  Cooking mushrooms does not seem to significantly affect the compounds.  These chemicals seem to be very stable in cooking conditions.

How Many do you Need?

The researchers found you’ll need to eat approximately 3 mg per day or around 5 white button mushrooms to match the daily intake of low neurodegenerative disease countries.  So next time you have the opportunity to eat a mushroom, go for it, you might be doing yourself some good.

Dinosaur Extinction Sheds New Light on Cancer Treatment

What is Iridium?

Iridium, discovered in 1803, is a metal from the same family as platinum.  It is hard, brittle, the world’s second densest metal, and is the world’s most corrosion-resistant metal.

The metal is rare on Earth, but found in large quantities in meteoroids.  Large amounts of iridium was discovered in the Earth’s crust layer dating from around 66 million years ago, leading to the theory that it came to Earth from an asteroid which may caused the extinction of the dinosaurs.

Iridium Interaction with Cancer Cells

Researchers have shown cancer cells can be targeted and destroyed with the iridium, the metal from the asteroid that may have caused the extinction of the dinosaurs, according to new research by an international collaboration.  Researchers demonstrated iridium can be combined with organic material to kill cancer cells.  Iridium causes a reaction within the cell resulting in toxic version of oxygen, without harm to healthy tissue.

Researchers created an iridium compound (iridium plus organic material) that can be targeted to cancerous cells.  The process results in a transfer of energy within the cell.  The energy transfer within cancerous cells converts oxygen (O2) into a single oxygen (singlet or 1O2).  This singlet oxygen is poisonous and kills the cancerous cell.

The process begins with energy transfer.  First, energy is transferred when visible laser light is targeted through the skin onto the cancerous area.  Next, the light reaches the light-reactive coating of the compound.  The metal is activated and starts the conversion process of O2 to singlet oxygen.  Lastly, the cell becomes filled with the toxic singlet O2 killing the cancerous cells.

In laboratory settings, researches created a tumor-like sphere, this model mimics tumors found in lung cancer cells.  Using a red laser light (this can penetrate deep through the skin), researchers found the activated organic-iridium compound had gone into and filled every layer of the tumor, killing it.  This shows the potential effectiveness of reaching target tissue and potential variety of tumors that can be targeted.

As a result, researchers demonstrated potential safety of this method by conducting the treatment on non-cancerous tissue and finding it had no effect.

 

 

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