13 November, 2011

A Blog with Substance

As small as my blogosphere network might be (although, mind you, quality makes up for quantity) last week something besides just posting happened: my blog was labeled as “A Blog with Substance” by Siiri. Especially as
1)    I value my Siiri’s opinion rather highly (as a PhD student in Durham, UK, I feel she can more than pull her weight in intellectual discussions) and
2)    substance is definitely the most obvious label for my blog

All in all, I am most grateful: thank you Siiri! After a dry spell because of my Bachelor thesis writing this definitely was the perfect time to nudge me to keep churning out blog texts.

The protocol concerning “A Blog with Substance” nomination is that I should nominate eight other blogs and tell eight random facts about myself. However, due to my very small network and encouraged by Siiri’s example, I shall only nominate two blogs. Not because there aren’t any good blogs out there, just simply because my network is so small that eight blogs would be pretty much everything that I follow regularly.
So, eight random facts:
  1. I’m writing a Bachelor thesis about “Using criteria of indoctrination in analysis of mentoring” (or so I would translate the Finnish title). As you may know, I study Industrial Management and will major in Work Psychology and Leadership. Despite being thought of as the “major for the hippies” my subjects is too philosophic even for most of that lot. This is what happens when I’m told “yeah, you can choose your theme yourself, just has to be something related to mentoring”.
  2. Next year, I will be applying to study Applied Philosophy in Helsinki University. Philosophy is a long-time passion of mine. After three years at a technical university, I’ve finally managed to accept the fact that this is not what I want to do. I’m somewhat amazed at my own stubbornness.
  3. I really hate calling people. Email and Facebook definitely has saved me, as I rarely am forced to call anyone – sending email is just easier. Then again, if we didn’t have email maybe I would’ve learnt to like phones…
  4. One of my mottos is “People are more stupid than evil”. If anyone wrongs me, hurts me, or does anything I really dislike, I always try to remember it’s really because they thought of the situation differently, they didn’t have all the facts or they forgot something. It’s never because they were deliberately evil and were really trying to piss me off.
  5. I’ve had a leg injury for 3-4 months. I like to run and would be training for the Berlin Marathon if it weren’t for the leg. Have I seen a doctor yet? Once, yes. Did it help? Not really. Have I tried again? No, of course not. I’ve been sitting on it and complaining for the past two months. Talk about stubbornness. Or procrastination. I think I’m seeing a theme here…
  6. I’m a very introverted person. I love books and can spend countless hours curled up on the sofa with a book in my hand. It’s not that I don’t like people, it’s just that I seem to prefer classic, well respected texts to drinking or small talk. But a good, interesting discussion will get me from my hole.
  7. I love mountains. And sunshine. (yet I obstinately live in Finland!) To be honest, the views I’ve seen in Austria, Slovenia and South America still take my breath away. I have a recurring dream of climbing a mountain. One day…
  8. I’m terrible at seasoning food. I mean, it has reached the point of being weird. I can cook alright, but my food mainly tastes really bland. It’s almost as if I were scared of those damn peppers!

And now for my nominations for the next “A Blog with Substance”! *Drum roll*

The first has to be Herra Gägä (http://herragaga.blogspot.com/) . This blogger, who writes in Finnish, will blow your mind away with interesting thoughts about the society, politics or whatever that seems interesting. A blogger whose posts will leave you wanting for more and admiring the length and breath, yet consistency, of his posts.

The second nomination goes to ribbonfarm (http://www.ribbonfarm.com/). This blog is well noted in several reviews and will spark your creativity about technology, business, sociology et al. At times the breadth of different subjects means the occasional article is beyond my interests, but I guess it’s good to go outside the comfort zone for a change.

05 November, 2011

More X is good

A lot of decisions about things in life is about optimization: how long should I study for this exam, in which order should I do things a,b, and c, how much pounds will I need to exchange when going on a trip. Now, those things aren’t terribly hard to decide. The longer you study, the less free time you have – simple rule. You probably have an inkling as to what kind of questions the lecturer prefers, and you have an idea of your strong and weak points. Cash exchange is a problem already framed in numbers, so that’s even easier. The problems start, however, when we’re facing larger problems with multiple variables.

To take an example, let’s think about an example questions, say “How much time should I spend per week to improve my career prospects?”. Let us define “improve career prospects” as anything that goes beyond the pareto rule and your standard result – basically anything that is extra effort aimed at making you better off careerwise. Depending on your career, it can be anything from networking to programming to reading articles or magazines, to name a few. I’m sure you know better than I do, what that would be in your career.

So, what kind of optimization problem are you facing? What are the relevant variables? The input side seems straightforward enough: time. No worries there. The output side, too: career prospects. What’s my problem, then? Well, mainly the fact, that there are a dizzying number of interdependencies here. A lot of other stuff is influenced by your decision on this problem. To name a few: time spent with your family, time spent on hobbies, energy available for other things, physical fitness, etc… Pretty much anything, that involves time in one way or another. Those are the hidden output variables.
In these kinds of situations, our brain fails us. You know that your time is limited. You know that the time you cannot spend all of your time on improving your career prospects. You know that you want to have hobbies and a family, too. But instead of supporting the decision you’ve made about splitting your time, your brain goes completely haywire.

As you do something that you intrinsically enjoy, for example advance your career, you brain releases dopamine. And dopamine makes you feel good. So your brain goes “Oh yeah! Feel so good, gimme more of this!!” But you can never fulfill that expectation completely – because you want to do other things, too. And when this happens with every enjoyable thing…you’ll be left with a crave for more, a crave for more of everything that you desire.

It does help to realize that your brain works like this. Because next time, when you feel like you haven’t spent enough time with your wife/spouse/kids/work/hobbies/whatever, maybe you’re right – maybe you’ve been slacking off. Or maybe it’s just your brain talking.