what happened and concentration, cherry wallpaper, the confidence fairy

I’m not sure what happened. The morning went well. I seemed to have an allowance of concentration. Things that had been on the tip of my brain suddenly came into focus. I saw things that needed to be done before they would inevitably lead to last minute panic – not from me but from others. Maybe it was a blood sugar dive, but suddenly all that was gone about when it was time for me to squeeze in a blog post. I’ll get though the rest of the day on autopilot. Things will get done competently enough, but the jet fuel is exhausted. Its fumes from here on. Brief diversions vastly improve focus, researchers find

A new study in the journal Cognition overturns a decades-old theory about the nature of attention and demonstrates that even brief diversions from a task can dramatically improve one’s ability to focus on that task for prolonged periods.

The study zeroes in on a phenomenon known to anyone who’s ever had trouble doing the same task for a long time: After a while, you begin to lose your focus and your performance on the task declines.

Some researchers believe that this “vigilance decrement,” as they describe it, is the result of a drop in one’s “attentional resources,” said University of Illinois psychology professor Alejandro Lleras, who led the new study. “For 40 or 50 years, most papers published on the vigilance decrement treated attention as a limited resource that would get used up over time, and I believe that to be wrong. You start performing poorly on a task because you’ve stopped paying attention to it,” he said. “But you are always paying attention to something. Attention is not the problem.”

Lleras had noticed that a similar phenomenon occurs in sensory perception: The brain gradually stops registering a sight, sound or feeling if that stimulus remains constant over time. For example, most people are not aware of the sensation of clothing touching their skin.  The body becomes “habituated” to the feeling and the stimulus no longer registers in any meaningful way in the brain.

It’s a study. What you get in studies like this is what is true for most people most of the time. My concentration is not up to the intensity of Limitless to say the least, but I can relate. My naturally occurring non-kick-ass version of NZT-48 runs out and that means often sometimes, though not always – emergencies and caffeine can rev me up again – it is good enough, but no great leaps in amount or quality of work. Taking breaks just gives my mind a chance to wonder, not gather reinforcements for another charge.

dock and fishing net . another experiment. i took the colors up a lot almost a dynamic range effect. than i took it down with an action that softens and desaturated the colors.

Texas Governor and right-wing icon Rick Perry is not the schemer that  Bernie Madoff is, but for a public official he and Republicans in the Texas legislature did a pretty good job of convincing everyone of the “Texas miracle”. Rick Perry Doubled Texas’ Debt, Then Balanced Budget Through Accounting Gimmicks

Wittgenstein’s camera

To mark the 60th anniversary of his death, an exhibition exploring Wittgenstein’s experiments in photography, and how they relate to his philosophy, can be seen at the University’s Photographic and Illustration Services.

You’ll be happy to know that his photography is much more accessible than his philosophy.

macro photography

cherry wallpaper

After much delay I finally get around to the subject of procrastination

When I began writing, distractions were all low-tech. I had to worry about typewriter ribbons and correction fluid, for God’s sake. There was no possibility of spending an apparently productive day making backup files, defragmenting already tidy hard drives, emailing, watching grainy online movies of cats falling over, or playing virtual patience. (I once tried a more sophisticated computer game and, after many months, managed to advance my character by one level and put him into a loop of crouching, rocking and saying, “Oh, no.”) Nevertheless, I could still burn away whole pre-Amstrad weekends in keeping busy, rather than writing. Ever re-hung and filed your clothing along a colour gradient, or cleaned all your grouting with a toothbrush? I have.

Robert Louis Stevenson once said that he didn’t like writing, he liked having written.

I’m not a writer and thank goodness I have no ambitions in that direction. I’m not a glutton, but I do need to eat. For the writing that I must do I belong to the just do it school. It is a merciless school that borders on self-torture. It does have its compensations. I feel less guilt than I would otherwise.

Feelings are a part of economics. Though it is amazing that conservatives who claim the mantle of cold hard realities of life and the truth of the spread sheet have made feelings into a crutch they reach for when they’re shooting blanks on an issue. Did Obama kill the confidence fairy? Employers aren’t hiring, says the GOP, because big deficits breed “uncertainty.” But who is to blame for that?

So — just cut the deficit, and along will come the confidence fairy, waving her wand to usher in a magical “expansionary fiscal contraction.” A little (or a lot) of austerity, and all will be well.

One almost never hears this theory get much airtime when Republican presidents are busting budget surpluses and running up big deficits. Back when George Bush was cutting taxes, there wasn’t a peep from the business community or Republican legislators warning about the dire impact that future deficits would have on business confidence. Quite the opposite — as Dick Cheney so famously said: “deficits don’t matter.”

The reason Cons have taken a Bic to the spreadsheet is it doesn’t support the confidence argument. Corporations are enjoying pre-recession level profits. If the Fortune 500 is worried about anything it is how they’re going to fit their fourth Porsche into the garage.