Friday, April 27, 2012

tiger moms

[this is an old one i had in a drafts folder that i completely forgot about]

i don't like that i am reading every story about amy chua and her memoir that i can get my interwebs paws on. it's very unlikely i'll ever have a "parenting style" as it is unlikely that i'll have children. but still, i would think, based on the harried stories of friends, that the only true parenting style is survival. nevertheless, i am absorbed with press about this book. i am annoyed that i'm so easily amused. and it's not even the articles that amuse me, it's the anonymous web-comments that i am sopping up with a big piece of self-assurance.

google reminded me i have a blog

i got a message from google about how i need to migrate my blog over to somewhere else lest i lose the ability to do something or other. thanks for the reminder about the blog google!

Monday, February 28, 2011

"working" from "home"

i started my new-found self-employed consulting status about 5 weeks ago, and have learned a great deal about how challenging this type of work is going to be for me.

if anyone who has worked from home has any true and tested tips to help me

- actually get work done.
- not lose my sanity and start muttering to myself on public transit. and/or
- not allow work and non-work to blend into one unholy seamless web.

please do share!

i put home in quotes because i am more likely than not working from coffee shop, or working from the vancouver public library, or working from the parking lot of a grocery store on the sunshine coast because of an unsecured wifi connection.

ack! it was hard not working, but now it's hard getting motivated to work in a non-office type work environment.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

sidewalk rage!

thanks to m.r. for forwarding this article to me from the wall street journal.

Get Out of My Way, You Jerk!
Researchers Study 'Sidewalk Rage,' Seeking Insights on Anger's Origins and Coping Techniques

by Shirley S. Wang

You don't need a car to get road rage.

For many people, few things are more infuriating than slow walkers—those seemingly inconsiderate people who clog up sidewalks, grocery aisles and airport hallways while others fume behind them.

Researchers say the concept of "sidewalk rage" is real. One scientist has even developed a Pedestrian Aggressiveness Syndrome Scale to map out how people express their fury. At its most extreme, sidewalk rage can signal a psychiatric condition known as "intermittent explosive disorder," researchers say. On Facebook, there's a group called "I Secretly Want to Punch Slow Walking People in the Back of the Head" that boasts nearly 15,000 members.

Some researchers are even studying the dynamics that trigger such rage and why some people remain calm in hopes of improving anger-management treatments and gaining insights into how emotions influence decision making, attention and self control.

"We're trying to understand what makes people angry, what that experience is like," says Jerry Deffenbacher, a professor at Colorado State University who studies anger and road rage. "For those for whom anger is a personal problem, we're trying to develop and evaluate ways of helping them."

Signs of a sidewalk rager include muttering or bumping into others; uncaringly hogging a walking lane; and acting in a hostile manner by staring, giving a "mean face" or approaching others too closely, says Leon James, a psychology professor at the University of Hawaii who studies pedestrian and driver aggression.

For the cool-headed, sidewalk rage may seem incomprehensible. After all, it seems simple enough to just go around the slow individual. Why then are some people, even those who greet other obstacles with equanimity, so infuriated by unhurried fellow pedestrians?

How one interprets the situation is key, researchers say. Ragers tend to have a strong sense of how other people should behave. Their code: Slower people keep to the right. Step aside to take a picture. And the left side of an escalator should be, of course, kept free for anyone wanting to walk up.

"A lot of us have 'shoulds' in our head," says Dr. Deffenbacher. Ragers tend to think people should do things their way, and get angry because the slow walkers are breaking the rules of civility. It's unclear exactly why some people harbor such beliefs, Dr. Deffenbacher says. Such ways of thinking are generally learned from family, friends or the media, he adds.

Ragers' thoughts tend to be overly negative, over-generalized and blown out of proportion, leaving them fuming about how they can't stand the situation, how late they are going to be, and how this always comes up, Dr. Deffenbacher says. In contrast, someone blissfully free of sidewalk rage may still be frustrated, but thinks more accepting thoughts such as, "this is the way life is sometimes" or, "I wish that slow person wasn't in front of me," he says.

Some ragers say that thinking insulting thoughts about other pedestrians serves as "mental venting"—and makes them feel better. Even if it does provide some momentary relief, such thinking rehearses bad behavior and can make anger a more automatic reaction to these situations, says Dr. James.

"When you're emotionally upset, you're impaired," says Dr. James.

He should know. He used to be a very aggressive walker as he vied with swarms of tourists for space on the crowded streets of Honolulu, he says. He would square his shoulders and walk straight ahead, bumping into people and thinking it was his right; he was the one walking properly.

But his wife repeatedly called him an aggressive walker, he says. Finally, she convinced him. Now he tries to walk around people rather than into them, he says. And he says he feels guilty when he does succumb to the urge to barge through.

Psychologists say that the best thing for a rager to do is to calm down. Anger, after all, is associated with a host of negative health consequences, including heart problems and high blood pressure.

But calming down isn't always easy. Those at the extreme end of the rage continuum, sidewalk or otherwise, may have intermittent explosive disorder, a condition characterized by an inability to inhibit aggressive impulses that lead to assault or destruction of property, according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, psychiatry's bible of diagnoses.

If friends or family comment on your anger, or you think you need to tell someone how to walk—however politely—you may have a problem, says Dr. James, who devised the Pedestrian Aggressiveness Syndrome Scale. It outlines 15 bad pedestrian behaviors featured in Dr. James's research based on questionnaires and interviews. Although the scale hasn't been statistically verified, he says anyone who engages in one of these behaviors regularly may give in to the others as well.

Many anger-management treatments haven't been studied thoroughly enough to show whether they work. One type shown to be effective, cognitive-behavioral therapy, seeks to alter thoughts and actions by coming up with alternative ways to view a situation.

For instance, instead of thinking about how much of an idiot the pedestrian is and how he shouldn't be allowed on the sidewalk, imagine the person is lost or confused, or simply doesn't see you, says Eric Dahlen, a psychology professor at the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg who researches anger, aggression and traffic psychology.

Developing strategies to quell the rage may be wise: Sidewalks aren't getting any less crowded, and pedestrian speeds, research shows, are slipping as the population ages.

In addition, most people on a sidewalk are in groups, and they tend to walk side-by-side or in an outward-opening V-shape, impeding the flow of foot traffic, according to an article published recently in PLoS One, a Public Library of Science journal.

People slow down when distracted by other activities, too. A 2006 study by the City of New York and the NYC Department of City Planning showed smokers walk 2.3% slower than the average walker's 4.27 feet per second. Tourists creep along at an 11% more-leisurely rate than the average walker, while cellphone talkers walk 1.6% slower, according to the study. Headphone wearers, by contrast, clipped along at a 9% faster rate than average.

A series of studies by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign using a virtual-reality simulator found that walkers consistently slow down when they talk on their phones, and that kids and older adults are more likely to get hit by cars while on the phone compared with those who weren't on the phone.

So, how best to navigate around speed-challenged strollers?

Most people tend to look down as they walk. That's a mistake, says Mehdi Moussaid, a cognitive scientist at the University of Toulouse who models walkers' behavior on public sidewalks and was an author of the PLoS One study. Some of his advice: Look up and take a wide-angle view to catch openings and slip through.

—Sarah Nassauer contributed to this article

Thursday, February 3, 2011

but first, a mattress

i am slowly moving into my new place. m.r., my roomie, has been here since january 1, while i camped out at my parents' place while they were away. they are now back and my motivation to properly move in has hit an all-time high. i love my parents. i just love them more from afar.

while my belongings continue to collect dust on atlantic avenue, due to my own procrastination and anxiety about moving, i am living like a refugee in my new room. courtesy of friends of d.b.'s in victoria, i have a table. courtesy of r.g., i have an air mattress & sleeping bag.

but soon (hopefully as soon as later this morning), i will have a proper mattress. step one to really moving in. this mattress can't arrive soon enough since i didn't get any sleep last night on the air mattress. and it's a decent one, too. but an air mattress is an air mattress, and possibly i was too giddy with excitement about my real mattress.

i have a meeting with the canadian border services agency today to go over the list of things i want to move back to vancouver. k.r. is going to take my couch. i will miss that couch, but it is one less thing to worry about. although what's one more thing when you have 58 boxes. i am frankly perplexed as to where this stuff will go when it arrives. whenever that will be. though going to the csba is step one of the process of moving it back, i still do have to actually set up the move. given my foot-dragging on this task over the many, many, many months preceding this one, i have no real reason to think i will do anything about moving my stuff until long after it makes any sense to move it. if i haven't already hit that point.


but, at least i am working. yes! i started a consulting / contract gig with a small US-based non-governmental organization that does work in india. i am not going to make my first million doing this, but if i can eat, sleep and clothe myself somewhat fashionably, then perhaps that will be enough. the one thing i will miss more than anything else is the luxury of having disposal income for travel. i have been gone from law firm life for almost 2 years (it'll be 2 years in april). i miss not having to budget for travel or forgo travel altogether. now i have more time than ever, but no $ to spend.

unless i win the lottery!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Mile End, Brooklyn

i don't usually do restaurant reviews. but i wrote back in may 2010 or so about how montreal bagels were now available in brooklyn at a new montreal deli restaurant that opened, called "mile end." i finally got to go to "mile end" when i was in new york for my extended visit. and by finally getting to dine there, i don't mean once or twice. i was sucking back poutine, smoked meat, bagels and lox as frequently as i could afford to (and frankly, my gut really couldn't afford it, but oh well.) one day i had lunch and dinner there! what could i do, the latkes were only on for dinner!? anyway, this place is amazing. and i'm not just saying that because i am a nostalgia-phile, but also because the food is delicious. the downside is the wait. there are very few tables, so the waits are ridiculous. worth the wait? i would say so. the only thing that would have made "mile end" better was if i ran into leonard cohen dining there.

adventures in storage

[i'm going to pretend that i've been blogging regularly and just launch into it again.]

i spent way too much time in my storage facility in brooklyn this past november and december. way too much time. but i did my inventory and counted up my things. 58 boxes! of things i've never allowed to buy again, tote bags top the list. no matter how cute, no matter how indispensable they seem. i have boxes of tote bags. it's ridiculous!

i did sell books though -- boxes and boxes of books. i never thought i'd ever sell a book. gift, give-away, loan, donate, sure. but sell. i always had some sort of irrational opposition to selling my books. but i got over that fast! a musty roomful of boxes that you have to move in and out of the room every day for over a week will shake the irrational out of your brain. so i sold a bunch of books. well, i didn't. j.h. took them to the strand and i got nearly $200 from his efforts. yay! j.h. also took a stack that he would try to sell online. hopefully, we get good money for them. apart from the big bucks, this whole ordeal has marked a new way of thinking about books. but, even though i did get rid of a lot of books, i still held on to a whole bunch of books. the criterion for a book to stay in my storage room was whether it fit into any of the following: (1) a book i have read and reread or that i can honestly say i will reread; (2) a book written by a friend or by someone i know; (3) a gift with sentimental value (sorry, bro, that hardcover grisham you gave me for christmas didn't make the cut); (4) an art book; (5) books i haven't read yet, or have read only parts of; and (6) certain reference books (but not ages old law textbooks). so, i'm going to try to keep that method alive as i accumulate new books.

my other book-related new thing is that i have been writing down which books i've read. this came about when i realized that i forgot i had already read "the fourth man" by k.o. dahl and i re-read it, not once but twice! each time realizing part-way through the first half of the book that i had already read it. i am shaking my head writing this down. but yes, that is why i decided i would write down the names of books i have read. i started keeping track this summer, shortly after the second re-read of "the fourth man".

keep book recommendations coming because i am always looking for new books to read.