Monthly Archives: January 2010

From Chandler to Sunbird, Goosync and my Nokia

Some time back I posted a little review of my experience with Chandler and the Getting Things Done. I liked Chandler, but it ended up being a bit slow for my old PC. I found the Lightning add on for Thunderbird, which is an implementation of Sunbird, the Mozilla calendar. After having some installation problems with Lightning under Ubuntu, I went full Sunbird and I have not looked back. It stands alone, integrates seamlessly with Google Calendar, it seems to have very little overhead. It has alarms that beep at me when I have meetings and it has a Task List that works really well for a GTD workflow.

Hard Landscape Items go in the Calendar. Tasks get added to the Task list. Subordinate task get added to the “notes” section under the current Task. I only see the 5 Next tasks for my 5 projects. The backlog of 25 other tasks that will come up later are not visible until I move them up. I like that because it makes me feel less overwhelmed by choice.

I had a problem before with my uncommon Nokia phone. There is not a super-easy to sync my phone’s calendar with my Sunbird calendar. Enter Goosync. Goosync is a paid service that (for a very small yearly fee) syncs my phone’s calendar with my Nokia calendar. My Nokia was a bit of a pain to set up, but it’s on a pay-as-you-go service and it wasn’t easy to get the data service to work. So if you have data access with your plan, I expect that Goosync can make life easy. So now my phone beeps along with my computer. Perfect. I need all the help I can get.

Cheers,
Peter

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Nootropics 2010: Starting the year off smartly

I’m in the mood to look at nootropics (smart drugs) again. Here are some things I think are good and that should be harmless at the recommended levels on the package. I’m not a physician, so don’t take my word for it.

Non-synthetic: I have tried these and found a subtle effect.

Fish oil (inexpensive suplement)
A good Multivitamin and Multimineral that includes:
Vitamin C
Thiamin
Riboflavin
Vitamin B12
Emergen-C contains the above plus pantothenic acid, minerals, alpha lipoic acid, and quercetin

Add a good placebo like Nature’s Bounty Ginkgo Biloba, Flavay flavanoids, or any other such thing.

Lifestyle: Keeping healthy habits is a big deal, and I found that lifestyle effects were at least as potent as the above.

adequate, natural sleep (for me 8 hours works well)
exercise (30-45 minutes, weights and a short run, 3-4 times per week)
stretching
meditation
sunlight (a 20 minute walk outside when I am low on gumption)

From the Bowels of the Internet: Here are a bunch of things that random people on the internet recommend. I don’t recommend them, and I have not tried them. If you have, send me an email.

Supposedly, these promote a restful sleep:
Phenibut (“Relax-All Capsules”)
Melatonin (natural sleep aid)
5-Hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP, another supplement)

Supposedly, these promote alertness and mental acuity:
Deprenyl (Zelapar, oral lozenge, prescription)
DL-Phenylalanine (DLPA, marketed as a nutritional supplement)
Galantamine (“GalantaMind”, also a supplement)
Pyritinol
Centrophenoxine
Vinpocetine (“cerebral metabolism” supplement)
Dimethyaminoethanol (DMAE, another supplement)
Aniracetam
Piracetam (another supplement)

Review: Surviving America’s Depression Epidemic

The commodification of relationships hurts them. In Surviving America’s Depression Epidemic: How to Find Morale, Energy, and Community in a World Gone Crazy Bruce Levine discusses how the patient-psychiatrist relationship has been undermined by consumerism. On one hand, managed health care demands snappy diagnoses and generic prescriptions – not exactly a fertile scenario for deep friendships. On the other hand, exchanging money for a deep friendship feels icky (for lack of a better word).

The psychiatrist-patient relationship is particularly interesting because it is one which is nominally concerned with the healing of emotional wounds. This is something for which friendships and deep relationships are also really important. The dangers of over-commercializing or commoditizing a doctor-patient relationship are present for other kinds of relationships, too. I would suggest that virtually all relationships in the American Paradigm are seen in the context of the exchange of goods and services. Case in point: I regret something I once said to a significant other. I said that doing nice things for one another is what loving relationships are “all about.”

Doing nice things for one another is nice. Moreover, I like doing things for people who are important to me, and (of course) I like having nice things done for me. Even at the time, I didn’t think of it as a profound statement. It was just something offhand. But my point is that gifts are not what loving relationships are “all about.” In saying so, I had stumbled into a subtle and pervasive lie of our culture. The exchange of gifts (material or otherwise) is a natural consequence of a strong relationship, not the foundation.

The book explores good territory, and it’s an engaging read. It’s particularly relevant for those who want to think carefully about the kinds of professional relationships they want to build with their patients. But I think it has wider relevance, too.

Cheers,
Peter

Amazing first decade, futurists, and suffering

The Jester has has his time for long enough. Once he crosses the line into flagrant paranoia, I have to step in.

It’s a new year and a new decade. The decade might have been better for Science (still no flying cars) but all-in-all, I’m pretty happy. We’ve seen tissue engineering come a long way including grow-your-own skin and grow-your-own hearts. We’ve seen metamaterials with negative index of refraction and a lower thermal conductivity than vacuum, both of which I grew up believing were physically impossible. We seen bona fide proof of evolution (as if we needed more).

Basically I can’t even begin to touch on all the cool things in that happened in the last ten years. It’s enough to have give me a glimmer of faith in the vision of the futurists’ utopia: we may conquer death and scarcity and create a world of never-ending exploration. But maybe human nature needs scarcity and death to be whole. Maybe ten years is a good time for reflection on what we all want for ourselves and for each other. Facile suggestions that ‘happiness’ is what we want miss the point: If we knew what would make us happy, we would have it by now.

Ultimately, and strangely, I’m not sure that conquering death and scarcity will make us any kinder. I think we’ve made some real progress toward doing those things, and I’m not alone in that thought.

Yet, even so, I think a lot of otherwise crazy-seeming people might be sane in the light of this statement: abundance does not necessarily engender generosity. People who think we’re better off without public healthcare may be right up to a point: the threat of true suffering can be motivation for good. Don’t get me wrong – I don’t hold with people who would sell others’ welfare for the sake of an abstraction. The Free Market is all well and good until Henry Frick has you killed because you want fair pay. Yet, we only have the opportunity to be truly charitable in the face of true misfortune. Would we cheat ourselves of this sorrow?

If we could truly alleviate human suffering on a large scale, would we be neutering humanity?

Cheers,
Peter