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Readings: 18 Apr 2016

Cal Newport, on scheduling margin around your meetings:

There are few experiences more stressful than a day in which your schedule is so fractured with appointments to talk about work that you have no time to act on the results of all this discussion – leading, instead, to the awful sense of a growing stack of obligations, all being juggled in your head, that you have no idea how to define or handle.

At Maria Popova’s recommendation on, I read Bertrand Russell’s The Conquest of Happiness last week. It’s delightful1 and I underlined damn near half the book, but this quote in particular:

It is amazing how much both happiness and efficiency can be increased by the cultivation of an orderly mind, which thinks about a matter adequately at the right time rather than inadequately at all times.

This is my new aspiration.

Neuroskeptic tears down the fad of looking for a “neuroscience” explanation for everything.

Really, the human brain is no harder or easier to understand than the human mind, because they are ultimately the same thing. So, while it is possible in principle to reframe a “mind” issue as a “brain” issue, it’s often not useful to do so. Consider that the feeling of hunger, like all mental states, is a product of some process in your brain. If you’re hungry, it might be possible to work out the exact neural basis of your hunger – but you’d still be hungry. The solution to the brain-state of hunger is to eat something, and you don’t need to know any neuroscience to know that.

From the David Chapman back catalog, “How to Think Real Good”:

Part of a “pretty good idea” is a vocabulary for describing relevant factors. Any situation can be described in infinitely many ways. For example, my thinking right now could be described as an elementary particle configuration, as molecules in motion, as neurons firing, as sentences, as part of a conversation, as primate signaling behavior, as a point in world intellectual history, and so on.

  1. With the exception of some dated language about sex and race… there was some wincing from time to time. Daniel Dennett’s introduction addressed it well, so I’ll just recommend you read that first. ↩︎