Thursday, 16 December 2010

When will it end?

Here we are with a huge budget deficit, 1000s of jobs gone, 20% VAT, public services cut, student riots due to tripling of their fees.

Millions of people are going suffer. The country's economy is a mess thanks 2 a select few.

As they all sit in their ivory towers untouchable, everyone else has to row the boat faster. Someone explain to me why this has happened? again!

At what point in the history of this country wil the people stop being raped by the government?

When will it end?

Monday, 18 October 2010

My Facebook addiction is a bad joke.

Good morning World.

Well today, is a day where I have decided to try something a little different. Facebook has become far too much of a time waster for me, that I have acctually had to get a friend to lock me out.

She has even gone as so far as to setup a seperate email address, just so that I dont cave in and change my password my self.

As useful as facebook is, I have found my self spending large quantities of time and procrastinating on it daily.

When I have large amounts of work to do, or I am sitting at the station waiting for the train. Instead of reading a book, or when in the studio getting my work done, I sit for hours messing about and reading hte mini feed, staring blankly out in to the nothing-ness of other peoples holographic lives, through the lure of the facebook mini feed.

Where are you with your facebook addiction? Do you think you could live for a month with out it?

Well 3 years ago, we were all just find with out it, what has happened to the world that 500 000 000 people feel the need to be "connected" in such a way. What ever happened to letters and email.

I think I am going to set my self a task to send my friends emails or real letters! gosh! can you imagine my friends faces when they receive a real letter!


Happy Days!

Friday, 15 October 2010

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

A poem from my beautiful man to me. ( I am indeed a lucky man...)

For half his life he's lived without,
The stong and nurturing hands,
Of guidance from a parent,
Alone in a smokey land.

Yet somehow he's grown up to be
More than most can aspire
So morally enabled,
With a heart that burns like fire

A light to show my problems
A light blind my fears
A light to make everything better
A strong man to wipe my tears!

I love you.

Monday, 27 September 2010

Why is email addictive? Help I'm addicted

Email is addictive..

Like lots of people who sit in front of a computer all day, I am addicted to email. This worries me for two reasons. The first is the sheer strength of my compulsion. I must hit the ‘get mail’ button at least a hundred times a day. Sometimes, if I don’t have any new mail, I hit it again immediately, just to check. I interrupt my work to check my mail even when I know that I’m not going to find anything interesting and that I should just concentrate on what I am suppossed to be doing. When I come back to my office it’s the first thing I do. If I’m prevented from checking my mail for more than a few hours I get a little jumpy and remain that way until I have.

This is all rather sad, but the second reason I am worried by my email addiction is that I work in a psychology department and we’re supposed to understand how these things work. Now email isn’t a drug – it doesn’t deliver a chemical into your bloodstream. Yet it is clearly addictive. I’m a normal rational person (which is to say I’m just normally maladjusted) and I know that I don’t need to check my email as often as it do – certainly not immediately after checking it the first time for Goodness’ sake! – but still I am compelled. What’s going on, and can psychological science help me out?

Why is email addictive?

So, I think I’ve got an idea of what’s going on with email, and if I’m right it should provide some clues as to how I can stop myself being so addicted. The key is what psychologists call ‘operant conditioning’. This means the mechanisms by which behaviour is shaped by its consequences; how what we do depends on the rewards and punishments of what we did last time. This topic is the heart of behaviourism, that school of thought which dominated psychology for most of the last century. Many lab animals, and many person-hours, were recruited to help understand exactly how rewards and punishments could be arranged to influence behaviour. One suprising finding is that if you want to train an animal to do something, consistently rewarding that behaviour isn’t the best way. The most effective training regime is one where you give the animal a reward only sometimes, and then only at random intervals. Animals trained like this, with what’s called a ‘variable interval reinforcement schedule’, work harder for their rewards, and take longer to give up once all rewards for the behaviour is removed. There’s a logic to this. Although we might know that we’ve stopped rewarding the animal, it has got used to performing the behaviour and not getting the reward. Because ‘next time’ might always be the occasion that produces the reward, there’s never definite evidence that rewards have stopped altogether.
Email is addictive because it is a variable-interval reinforcement schedule

We’re animals – we have animal brains. All animal brains have the circuitry in place for producing operant conditioning. It’s a fundamental psychological process, and just the sort that can create behaviours what operate automatically, or in spite of our consciously telling ourselves we should do otherwise. Like me checking my checking my email. Checking email is a behaviour that has variable interval reinforcement. Sometimes, but not everytime, the behaviour produces a reward. Everyone loves to get an email from a friend, or some good news, or even an amusing web link. Sometimes checking your email will get you one of these rewards. And because you can never tell which time you check will produce the reward, checking all the time is reinforced, even if most of the time checking your email turns out to have been pointless. You still check because you never know when the reward will come.

I have just proved to myself how automatic my email checking behaviour has become. I am writing this in a hotel room which doesn’t have internet access. When sorting through my email (you don’t need a connection to delete email you’ve replied to, or are never going to reply to) I still hit the ‘check mail’ button at the rest points of the read-consider-delete cycle I am performing. My reflective self knows that there is no internet connection, so there is no way in hell I’m going to have new email – but that knowledge doesn’t filter down to the part of me hitting the ‘check email’ button. The habit, engrained in my mind by operant conditioning, is isolated from conscious knowledge, and in part from deliberate control; it can start without me thinking about it or even me wanting it to.
How can we design in solutions?

If operant condition is at the root of the problem, what’s the solution? Over a hundred years of experimental psychology has provided a rigorous characterisation of behavioural conditioning, and of the process by which reinforced behaviours disappear – known as extinction. By looking at each stage of the process by which a behaviour becomes conditioned, we can throw up ideas for addressing the problem of ‘unconditioning’ them.
Weakening the action-reward link

If a behaviour isn’t rewarded then it will gradually disappear. The problem is that we don’t want to remove the reward (email), so we need, instead, to weaken the strength of the link between the action and the reward. A simple delay would do this – imagine a five minute delay between hitting the check email button and getting new email. A delay is doubly-effective because the longer the delay the more likely you are to have email and so the more consistent the reward will be – and hence the less strong its reinforcing effect (I can see this is action when I go away for a week and check my email when I come back. I might have hundreds of emails, but there’s often nothing that seems very interesting. The combined effect just isn’t as rewarding as the anticipation of getting one hundred single emails). In theory, the opposite end of this ‘consistency strategy’ would be to check email constantly. If you check your email every second then the consistency of the reward increases – you consistently get nothing! The action-habit might extinguish because the action is now rewarded so infrequently relative to the number of times it is performed. How to do this practically? Have your inbox constantly visable, so that there is no jump from wondering if you have new mail/seeing a ‘new mail’ alert and knowing that it isn’t that important (although a down side is that if the new email is intrinsically distracting – such as a good joke, hot piece of gossip or invite out – it will now definitely interrupt when it arrives).

Removing the action all together, so that you cannot demand an email check, doesn’t solve the problem – we just move the association from the action of hitting ‘check mail’ to the action of opening your email client to see if there is any mail there. One strategy is to wait 30 seconds from the appearance of the alert before checking to see what kind of mail has arrived – if you can internalise the delay.
Weaking the stimulus-action association

Automatic behaviours such as email are contingent on environmental triggers – they need the right circumstance to become active, since they aren’t invoked by a smart, deliberate consicous process. So one way to decrease email checking behaviour might be to decrease the association between stimuli and the action. Moving or removing the ‘check mail’ button will stop it hijacking your action-stream when it is in your field of view. Similarly, so will stopping email alerts all together, but it leaves you with the problem of wondering what is going on while you’re attention is on another app (are you missing out on some important information?). Changing the consistency of the environmental trigger could work. If the ‘new mail’ appeared slowly, so it didn’t grab your attention, was in a different place each time, or was a different shape/colour/icon then your low-level monitoring systems wouldn’t be able to form an association between its appearence and automatically triggering the ‘check mail’ interrupt habit. When you wanted to check your email you could scan for the icon – it could still be perfectly obvious, but the lack of consistent appearence would prevent it getting wired into a direct channel in your brain.
Social solutions

I don’t think the solution is social – getting people to never email you urgent information wouldn’t work. There would always be invites for coffee that someone didn’t feel like knocking on your door or phoning you to make, but which they’d still like you to know about (and you’d still like to know, so you’ll be checking your email for them). Plus there’ll always be important information which isn’t urgent, but which we’re still going to want to know as soon as it is available (look at news – it rarely has any immediate consequence for our daily lives, but checking it is how many of us start the day).
Shifting the cost-benefit ratio

A classical approach to changing habits is to shift the cost-benefit pay-off. If checking or reading email is made harder to do, mayhbe we can increase the cost of the action and hence make the overall reward of getting email less. More difficult interfaces maybe? Several screens to click through to get the email? Passwords and ‘are you sure’ dialogue boxes? Punishment is the ultimate ingredient that you can add to alter the pay-off matrix. Except for those of us with immense self-disicipline (“if i check email in the next hour, no coffee at lunchtime”) self-imposed punishment isn’t an obvious strategy (and are those with self-discipline likely to have a problem with getting distracted anyway?).

[Although, on reflection, I don't think this question is as rhetorical as it sounds here. The problem is not with your ability to deliberately schedule and implement actions (including actions such as self-punishments), the problem is with automatically evoked actions (i.e. checking email) and then getting distracted by the consequences. These are two types of actions and it is entirely conceivable that they might be differently ammeanable to the deliberate control of our reflective selves]
Rewarding an alternative, incompatible behaviour

A final strategy, and one that is used in animal training to remove problem behaviours, is to reinforce an alternative, incompatible action. If you have a problem with your pet eagle landing on your head the most efficient way to stop it is to reward landing on a mat at your feet, rather than struggle with extinguishing head-landing. What this would mean in the context of email checking I will leave as an exercise to the reader.
Over to you

So, what I’m really interested in is in seeing what people think. If some of what I’ve said makes sense, what other ways are there to use it to make email less addictive? Or maybe I’ve got the solution completely wrong. Or the problem? I’d like to hear either way

Some things I read while writing this follow (thanks to Marc Baizman for the Katie Hafner article in the NYT)

Andrew Brown on why the internet-addiction will be like alcoholism for this generation of writers

‘Husband training’, New York Times article about using behaviourist principles in your marriage

February 10, 2005 New York Times, You There, at the Computer: Pay Attention by Katie Hafner (designing interfaces that work with our attention, rather than distract)

Thursday, 5 August 2010

Thyriod Function & Flouride in UK water. Bad news if you have low thyroid function - hyperthyriodism

Who knew that the water in the UK is filled with so much fluoride, and that in the 1970s doctors used fluoride to treat an over active thyroid gland.
So if you are like me, and you have an under active thyroid, if you drink a lot of tap water, with fluoride, it could greatly impair your thyroid function, and lead to weight gain, anxiety, stomach problems (IBS), joint pain, fatigue, food intolerance, feeling cold all the time, strange pin pricks in the toes. 
Tap water is great, but if  the fluoride is effecting my thyroid function, what the hell am I doing drinking it? 

Sunday, 25 July 2010

How to cure your Facebook addiction?

So it has been a couple of years now since I wrote about my horrendous addiction to social media. And anyone who has read my blog will know that I am directly involved in this kind of work as I am a web designer. However, recently, I have started working from home as I left full time employment.

It has become abundantly clear that I have a bit of a problem again, as I find my self obsessively checking Facebook, or spending hours and hours connected to it.

I have decided to formulate a plan to cure my self of this incessant addition.

Here is my plan:

Step 1: Give a close friend your user-name and password.
Step 2: Get your friend to login and change your password.
Step 3: Get your friend to write the new password on a bit of paper and put it in an envelope.
Step 4: Have your friend change the email address on your account so you are unable to reset the password.
Step 5: Agree a time scale, of when they will unlock your account. 1 month, 2 months etc

And if you really want to be even more sure you cant get the password out of your friend, ask them to get a close friend to change the password to something else.

Good luck, trying to deal with it.

Please comment if you have this problem or you have ideas on how to stop this addiction.

Sunday, 18 July 2010

Nichiren Buddhism is not about simply chanting, and nother more.

Personally I don't think chanting is understanding or insight. People of course are free to practice chanting, but this is not any branch of Buddhism personally that I would associate with and my personal belief is that this is quite literally mind control , and not the original meaning of any aspect of Buddhism. Buddhism is a intellectual study for the development of the mind and spiritual insight, this practice does not fulfill either goal and misrepresents Buddhism.

My response:

Thank you for your honest comment.

I think that if the Buddha was alive today, he would say this... "do not cast judgement on beliefs and practices of others."

Nichiren Buddhism is a practice centred in daily life, there are three tenants for good solid practice.

1. practice/chanting
2. Study
3. Faith

We study the Lotus Sutra and align our lives for the greater good and happiness of others.

Through chanting Nam myoho renge kyo, and using the Gohonzon, we are able to observe our minds and emotions and make better choices and decisions in life.

Chanting is not a magic lantern, and we are quite aware that action is required to make changes in life and the world;

Devotion to the mystic law of cause and effect with the voice, is the meaning of this mantra, but primarily for people who practice Nichiren Buddhism, this is about becoming aware of all your actions, words & thoughts towards other people, your life and the world as a whole.

How do you feel about a Buddhism that forbid women that practised, how do you feel about Buddhism that said that only priests were allowed to practice, this was the case for what Buddhism had become in many parts of the world, and Nichiren Dishonan was a man who quite literally questioned these beliefs, as he felt that they were not true Buddhism.

Shakyamuni Buddah, gave birth this practice for the sole purpose of lifting people out of the three sufferings of life, birth, sickness and death. This practice meets that goal.

There are many paths to wholeness my friend, and you are correct when you say that this is some form of mind control, but I have to correct you and tell you that it is about controlling your OWN mind, not someone else, controlling it for you.

It is about mastering your thoughts, emotions and mind.

The mind is the root of most of our suffering as human beings at master this human mind, which I liken to a wild horse most of the time, is the key to developing strong and unshakable happiness.

My Peace go with you Buddah.

Love and Light

Monday, 12 April 2010

Information overload....

Do you ever feel like sometimes there is just too much to do?

Facebook, Twitter, sms, work email, personal email, phone calls, letters, junk mail, tv, magazines, books, the list is endless.

I wonder if its possible to suffer from information overload?

With all the things in life that need tending; the garden, the washing and ironing, friendships, the gym, spiritual practice, reading magazines, learning new skills, drawing and the ever amounting array of things I would like to achieve, how do I find the time when I am constantly plugged in to all these things?

Today, I am planning on resigning from my job, I have been here 4 months, but I cant take it any more.

The lack of creativity in this company is astounding. Considering our core product is creative media, I really am struggling to understand where this company went wrong.

Bebo recently went under, sinking to the bottom of the internet grave yard like a gunshot social media gangster with blocks on it's feet. Deep down to the bottom of the sea to sleep with the fishes.

This company was young, creative and bursting with ideas, it rose to fame in the last 5 years, but is now destined to be cut off and shut down.

According to figures from ComScore, Bebo's global unique visitors in February 2010 totalled 12.8 million, down 45% on February 2009. Facebook had 462 million visitors, MySpace nearly 110 million, and Twitter 69.5 million.

What went wrong? Being brought by a global corporation tarnished the cooler-than-thou image of an independent start-up that was particularly popular in school playgrounds. Aggressive expansion by Facebook also played a part.

Like most social networking sites, Bebo also benefited from a novelty factor that can disappear as quickly as it emerges. News Corp, the media conglomerate controlled by Rupert Murdoch, bought MySpace for $580m in 2005, only to watch its appeal diminish along with its value as it loaded the site with adverts.

ITV took a gamble on another UK start up, Friends Reunited, paying £120m in the same year, only to sell it at a huge loss last year.

Company insiders criticise AOL for failing to invest in Bebo, and point out that an acquisition by a corporate giant tends to stifle creativity. That may hide a more uncomfortable truth, however, which can make a mockery of the savviest owners. Social networking sites are businesses based on the fickle behaviour of internet users, who are free to move on to the next site when a competitor emerges and are offered few reasons to stick with their existing site. In that sense, Bebo was a fad.

It may not have fallen into the trap of letting naked commercialisation scare its teenage users away, but nor did it evolve in the manner that many of its competitors did.

Facebook is used by adults as well as children. Much of Twitter's power, influence – and likely longevity – derives from the fact it has become a professional tool, rather than an online outlet for gossip posted by its users.

Start-ups rarely fare well when they are taken under the wing of a bureaucratic corporate parent, and Bebo may also have suffered by hitching its wagon to AOL, a business that has itself seen better days.

It is owned by Time Warner, an American media giant that owns CNN, Time magazine and a host of other assets, but the $162bn deal that brought AOL and Time together is now regarded as one of the most disastrous in corporate history.

Buying Bebo was an attempt to build on AOL's status as the world's first internet provider by bolting on a new audience, but internet users are notoriously promiscuous.

For Bebo's young users, the site turned out to be the online equivalent of a teenage crush – intense while it lasted, but it didn't last…