What I’m Reading Lately: 10 Feb: Emotional Balance, Memories, Spare Time, Being Alone, Real Estate Ethics

The interview question you should always ask, at Harvard Business Publishing:

“Some would argue, as Malcolm Gladwell does in his excellent New Yorker article, Most Likely to Succeed, that the only thing that predicts success in a job is actual success in that job. … After you have narrowed the pool of applicants down to those with the skills, experience, and knowledge to do the job, ask each candidate one question:  What do you do in your spare time?”

This is what interests me about people, whether they’re applying for a job or standing next to me at a party.


‘The End of Alone’ by Neil Swidey in the Boston Globe (long – yay for their ‘single page’ feature):

His argument is that being able to be connected 24/7 “is dulling our very capacity to ever be alone, or alone in our thoughts.” NYU Sociology prof Dalton Conley says, “‘It’s very hard for people to unplug and be alone — and be with the one data stream of their mind.'”

Thus, Conley says, we have anxiety because we’re afraid we’re “‘being left out of something, somewhere, and that we may lose out'” and this anxiety itself leads to more anxiety because trying to be constantly connected makes us anxious, too.

Swidey puts in a good word for just being uncomfortable and feeling awkward when we’re alone sometimes, rather than desperately texting and calling and emailing, trying to send everyone (including ourselves) the message that we’re not lonely losers. As Amherst College poly-sci professor Thomas Dumm says, “Loneliness is ubiquitous. … But people are less equipped to deal with it. Rather than going deeper, they try to push it aside.”

Some interesting stuff on the benefits of weak relational ties, too.


I’ve become a little fascinated by Freakanomic’s recent bleg on ‘A Real Estate Dilemma.’ It’s all in the comments. Lots of things to think about. A few off the top of my head:

If something is legal, does that make it necessarily ethical?

Is it wrong for one person to do something if its main flaw is that it would be disastrous if everyone did it?

If another person, or an institution, does something thoughtless, harsh or evil, to you — or to other people — does that give you license to do something similar to them with impunity?

Is “It’s just business” code for “No need for ethics here”? As long as business is legal, is that the same as it being ethical?

If a system that you have agreed to be part of seems to be unjust, it is then just for you to (a) opt out of it?  (b) work to thwart it?  What if doing so not only acts against the system but also provides economic benefits to you?

Is a house a place to live or is it an investment? When it’s a bad investment, is it then also a bad place to continue to live?

If a person or institution agrees to a certain risk, and their assessment of the risk turns out to be wrong wrong wrong in actuality, what is the fair recourse, if any?

Is the right thing always the fair thing?


How Memories Form, Fade and Persist Over Time: A report on three new studies.

(1) New brain cells (generated daily) help time-stamp memories by encoding those that “occur around the same time similarly. In this way, the mind knows whether a memory happened before, after or alongside something else.

(2) More research to support the idea that various regions of the brain are responsible for short- and long-term memory. In recent studies, the hippocampus, involved in short-term memory, was most active when participants recalled recent events. Old memories increased activity in the frontal, temporal, and parietal cortices, located on the surface of the brain, researchers found. Could have implications for Alzheimer’s research and treatment.

(3) “An individual nerve cell in the front part of the brain can hold traces of memories on its own for as long as a minute, possibly even longer,” which helps explain why cocaine can impair short term memory: It “causes a buildup of dopamine, a brain chemical that decreases the individual nerve cells’ ability to hold moment-to-moment information.”


Testing the Test: A Penn State English professor takes the GRE in English Literature 25 years later and reflects.  Bottom line: “Very little of the test, as far as I could see, had anything to do with gauging someone’s aptitude for graduate study in literature; it was, instead, as if I’d played an arduous two-and-a-half-hour parlor game.”


At Dave Pollard’s How to Save the World: Finding Balance: Jung’s Quaternity.

The idea, via Karla McLaren’s Emotional Genius, is that because “all emotions serve a vital rebalancing purpose” and yet most of us are “taught to suppress and deny our emotions, and that some emotions are inherently good and others bad, … we all become unbalanced to some extent.” We are all traumatised as children, she says. To cope, we “live in our minds — …  let the air/mind quadrant of our identities dominate. … We are taught to distrust our instincts (they are ‘irrational’). So we end up completely out of balance.”


Passive Aggressive Notes.com — Some are downright aggressive!


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