Chas' Compilation

A compilation of information and links regarding assorted subjects: politics, religion, science, computers, health, movies, music... essentially whatever I'm reading about, working on or experiencing in life.

Monday, April 17, 2017

How our sleep patterns change throughout our lives, and how to cope with the changes

And don't I know it. This article explains a lot:

Sleep Patterns Make Steep Changes During Your Life
[...] MIDLIFE SLEEP CRISIS

A lot of accomplished people claim not to need a lot of sleep. Household arts maven Martha Stewart purports to get only four hours a night. So does Tonight Show host Jay Leno. Napoleon, Winston Churchill, John F. Kennedy, Salvador Dali and Leonard da Vinci didn’t get much shut-eye either. So television journalist Pamela Wallin, who also averages only four hours a night, is in august company. “I’ve been an insomniac for as long as I can remember,” says Wallin, a Saskatchewan native who lives in Toronto. “I’ve tried herbal remedies and chamomile tea. I avoid prescription drugs because I can’t afford to lose my sharpness the next day.” Ultimately, Wallin regards her chronic insomnia as something she just has to live with. “If I needed more sleep,” she reasons, “I probably wouldn’t have gotten done what I have done in my life.”

Sixty-two per cent of Americans experience a sleep problem a few nights a week, according to a National Sleep Foundation study released last month. Two-thirds say sleepiness interferes with their concentration. “We should really get nine or 10 hours of sleep,” says psychologist Coren. “But we’re only getting seven. Sleep is not something we value.” Family stresses, the frenetic pace of life and poor bedtime habits all contribute to an epidemic of sleeplessness. Among modern complications: the wired world. “I know people who have a fax machine at the foot of their bed with a little bleeper so they can get up in the middle of the night to read their faxes,” says Coren. “The pressure to lead a 24-hour life is getting worse.”

At least many poor sleepers know they need help. About 2,000 people a year use the sleep clinic at UBC run by psychiatrist Jon Fleming. Thirty-five per cent of them complain of insomnia, a disorder that often runs in families. Others attend the clinic because of sleep apnea (troubled breathing) and narcolepsy (an overwhelming desire to sleep), among other sleep disorders. “The causes of insomnia are legion,” says Fleming. “It can be caused by psychiatric conditions or drug and alcohol abuse. But the leading cause is stress.” When Vancouver children’s bookstore owner Phyllis Simon can’t sleep, she gets out of bed for a while and writes a list of all the things she has to do. “I try to transfer my anxieties to the list. Then I’ll make myself a cup of warm milk.”

But waking up in the middle of the night and then going back to sleep – – as Simon sometimes does — can be harder on cognition than not sleeping at all, says University of Montreal psychiatrist Roger Godbout. “Your performance the next day will be worse than if you stay up all night,” he explains. While insomnia may lead to fuzzy thinking, those who short-circuit sleep by working long hours could also be compromising their physical health. Research at the University of Chicago shows adults who get fewer than seven hours of sleep are more prone to diabetes, high blood pressure and endocrine dysfunction.

Women also report more sleep problems than men — a consequence, often, of their biology. Just before menstruation, says Toronto Western Hospital sleep researcher Helen Driver, “there is a withdrawal of hormones that triggers poor sleep.” Entering menopause doesn’t make it better. Thirty-six per cent of menopausal women polled by the National Sleep Foundation said hot flashes interfered with their night’s rest. Sleep investigators are becoming more aware of the effects of the female hormones, estrogen and progesterone, says Driver. “Progesterone,” she says, “interacts with a receptor in the brain that seems to have sleep-inducing qualities.” [...]
I used the "Midlife Stage" as an excerpt for this blogpost, because that is about where I am at now. But the entire article starts with infancy, childhood, teen years, all the way through to old age. Something for everyone! Read the whole thing, for embedded links and advice for improving your sleep, whatever stage you may be in.
     

Labels: , , ,

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Successful people don’t operate alone

America's Insensitive Children?
Perhaps unlike their U.S. peers, kids in Denmark—where happiness levels are the highest on Earth—are taught in school to care for one another from a young age.
Contrary to popular belief, most people do care about the welfare of others.

From an evolutionary standpoint, empathy is a valuable impulse that helps humans survive in groups. In American schools, this impulse has been lying dormant from a lack of focus. But in Denmark, a nation that has consistently been voted the happiest place in the world since Richard Nixon was president, children are taught about empathy from a young age both inside and outside of school.

[...]

Another, less obvious example of empathy training in Danish schools is in how they subtly and gradually mix children of different strengths and weaknesses together. Students who are stronger academically are taught alongside those who are less strong; shier kids with more gregarious ones; and so on. The goal is for the students to see that everyone has positive qualities and to support each other in their efforts reach the next level. The math whiz may be terrible at soccer, and vice versa. This system fosters collaboration, teamwork, and respect.

Studies show that this system of interactive teaching involves a steep learning curve. Students who teach others work harder to understand the material, recall it more precisely, and use it more effectively. But they also have to try to understand the perspective of other students so they can help them where they are having trouble. The ability to explain complicated subject matter to another student is not an easy task, but it is an invaluable life skill. Research demonstrates that this type of collaboration and empathy also delivers a deep level of satisfaction and happiness to kids; interestingly, people’s brains actually register more satisfaction from cooperating than from winning alone.

Perhaps, then, it is no surprise that empathy is one of the single most important factors in fostering successful leaders, entrepreneurs, managers, and businesses. It reduces bullying, increases one’s capacity to forgive, and greatly improves relationships and social connectedness. Empathy enhances the quality of meaningful relationships, which research suggests is one of the most important factors in a person’s sense of well being. Research also suggests that empathetic teenagers tend to be more successful because they are more purpose-driven than their more narcissistic counterparts. And if you think about it, it all makes sense. Successful people don’t operate alone; every human needs the support of others to achieve positive results in his or her life. [...]
When I was younger I might have dismissed this as new age twaddle. But I'm older now, and I've learned to appreciate that people are, to varying degrees, interdependent on one another. No one lives in a vacuum, and certainly "successful" people have good relationships with other people.

Empathy does matter. I think we are sometimes resistant to it because our empathy can be manipulated for political or commercial purposes. But regardless of attempts to misuse it, it still has a place in human society. There is a lot of alienation in American culture. You have to wonder if, children were taught to recognize and understand empathy and human emotions, their own and others, at an early age, if there would be less school shootings and bullying?

As a landlord, I've also seen a lot of people, many young people, who seem to have no control over their emotions, and they often end up being evicted, because they lack self control and seem not to understand basic human interactions. They seen not to understand their own emotions, and unable to empathize with other peoples emotions. In frustration, they become angry and lash out, which only makes their problems worse. It does not bode well for our culture or our country.

I'm amazed at how many young people I see, who have everything going for them, who have much more help and resources available to them than I did at their age, repeatedly fail and sabotage themselves. They are angry all the time, and seem to lack basic social skills to succeed in life. Even if one does not agree with everything in this article, I would still say there is definitely room for improvement in this area.
     

Labels: , , , , , ,

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

"Micro Habits" for Language Learning

Forget “learning a language.” Focus on forming the habit.
[...]

What is a Habit?

Habits are the key to behavior change.

When you form a habit, you won’t have to get “motivated” to do something. You won’t have to use willpower or “force” yourself and get it done.

Think about how it feels to go to bed without brushing your teeth. It feels wrong. You feel like your day isn’t complete — and you’ll even drag yourself out of bed to do it, despite being tired.

Why?

Because brushing is so deeply ingrained into your daily routine that it actually requires more willpower to NOT brush than just to brush! It’s a deeply formed habit — and you rarely miss a day.

How much more progress would you make if you could retrain your brain to treat language learning the same way? How much faster could you master the basics and move on to fluency if you practiced your new language 365 days in a row without missing a day?

You’d be unstoppable. And you’d definitely be able to hold a casual conversation without grabbing the dictionary every other word.

It all starts with changing your behavior and forming new habits.

This idea of making language study a habit in my life was on my mind a lot back in Florence when I was learning Italian.

And so I’ve spent the last two years rigorously researching behavior change and figuring out how to make goals like language learning, working out or waking up earlier a natural part of my day, rather than an eternal struggle. Since then I developed Pavlok — a wearable technology to help you build new habits (and break bad ones). Pavlok currently commits you to fitness, waking up on time, and being more productive — but we are currently working on integrating Duolingo and other language learning tools so it can commit you to forming the habit of learning a language.

In this article, I’m going to distill all of our best research and teach you the step-by-step process for reprogramming your brain and making language learning so efficient that it becomes part of your everyday life, automatically.

If you’ve ever felt like learning a new language was a chore, and that you weren’t making the progress you’d like, this article is for you.

Keep reading! [...]
The rest of the article is about Demystifying the Habit Formation Process, and intentionally forming good habits that work for you. Here it is applied to language learning, but it could be adapted to many other areas also. Read the whole thing, for embedded links and more.
     

Labels: , , ,

Friday, February 10, 2017

South Dakota: Where The Jobs Are

Why people are moving to South Dakota
60% of people who moved to South Dakota did so for a new job or job transfer
South Dakota, home of Mount Rushmore, topped the list of states with the most inbound movers in 2016, and it’s mostly for the jobs.

The state, which has seen a 23% increase in people moving to the state in the last five years, took the No. 1 spot for the first time, beating Oregon, which had been in the top place for the past three years. South Dakota also attracted those looking to live closer to family and retire, according to the 40th annual moving study by St. Louis-based moving company United Van Lines. The study based its findings on states’ inbound and outbound percentages compared to total moves the company handles.

Of the people moving to South Dakota, 60% came for jobs. The state is home to financial services firms, like Citibank C, +0.83% , and has a low unemployment rate and reasonable home prices, said Michael Stoll, an economist and professor and chair of the Department of Public Policy at the University of California, Los Angeles, who worked with United Van Lines on the study. High demand jobs with high wages in South Dakota include registered nurses, accountants and auditors, general and operations managers, elementary school teachers, secondary school teachers and management analysts, according to the South Dakota Dept. of Labor & Regulation.

“There are more pull factors than push factors,” Stoll said. The unemployment rate in South Dakota was 2.7% in November, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, compared with the U.S.’s unemployment rate that same month of 4.6%. The median home in South Dakota is about $170,000, according to real estate website Zillow’s home value index.

The top inbound states after South Dakota were Vermont, Oregon, Idaho, South Carolina, Washington state, then Washington, D.C., North Carolina, Nevada and Arizona. [...]
Interesting, that Oregon had been the top state drawing new people for the past three years. I'm pretty sure though, that most people coming to Oregon are looking to retire, not find work. Read the whole article for embedded links and more.
     

Labels: , , , , ,

Sunday, January 22, 2017

The Rapid Advance of Artificial Intelligence: is it the problem, or the solution?

In some ways, it's both:

Davos Highlights AI's Massive PR Problem
[...] Artificial Intelligence: The Evolution of Automation

Perhaps Henry Ford was able to build a market for the Model T by paying his assembly line workers a living wage, but it’s not clear if everyone buys into the same principle when it comes to the economic impact of automation today.

In fact, the problem may only be getting worse with the arrival of the next wave of innovation in automation: artificial intelligence (AI). AI has been playing a role in automation for years in the form of assembly line robotics, but innovation in the technology is now reaching an inflection point.

One of the concerns: AI will increasingly target white-collar jobs. “AI is going to focus now as much on white-collar as on blue-collar jobs,” explains John Drzik, President of global risk at insurer Marsh, in the ComputerWeekly article. “You are looking at machine learning algorithms being deployed in financial services, in healthcare and in other places. The machines are getting increasingly powerful.”

[...]

Given the sudden and rapid acceleration of innovation in AI, some Davos attendees even sounded alarmed. “The speed at which AI is improving is beyond even the most optimistic people,” according to Kai-fu Lee, a venture capitalist with Sinovation Partners, in the Financial Times article. “Pretty much anything that requires ten seconds of thinking or less can soon be done by AI or other algorithms.”

This kind of alarmist talk emphasizes AI’s greatest public relations hurdle: whether or not increasingly intelligent computers will cast off human control and turn evil, à la Skynet in the Terminator movies. Increasingly intelligent robots replacing humans is “a function of what the market demands,” explains Justine Cassell, a researcher at Carnegie Mellon University, in the Washington Post article. “If the market demands killer robots, there are going to be killer robots.”

Killer Robots? AI Needs Better PR

Aside from the occasional assembly line worker getting too close to the machinery, killer robots aren’t in the cards for AI in the near term. However, the economic impact that dramatically improved automation might bring is a very real concern, especially given populist pushback.

[...]

Wealth and income inequality remain global challenges to be sure, but the accelerating pace of technology innovation brings benefits to everyone. After all, even the poorest people on this planet can often afford a smartphone.

In fact, the ‘killer robots’ context for AI is missing the point, as technology advancement has proven to be part of the solution rather than part of the problem for the woes of globalization. Actually, the disruptions businesses face today are more about speed to market than automation per se.

It’s high time to change the PR surrounding AI from killer robots to digital transformation. “Companies must adapt their business models to driver new areas of revenue and growth,” explains Adam Elster, President of Global Field Operations at CA Technologies. “With digital transformation, the biggest factor is time: how fast can companies transform and bring new products to market.”

Where populism is a scarcity-driven movement – ‘there’s not enough to go around, so I need to make sure I have my share’ – technology innovation broadly and AI in particular are surplus-driven: ‘we all benefit from technology, so now we must ensure the benefits inure to everyone.’ [...]
Read the whole thing, for embedded links and more. This will be an ongoing debate for many years to come.
     

Labels: , , , , , , ,

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

The Ubiquitous Alexa; is the Amazon AI assistant starting to be everywhere?

Kinda looks that way. The title of the article below refers to cars, but the article itself goes into much more. More about Alexa being incorporated into other appliances and, well, have a look:



Alexa will make your car smarter -- and vice versa
The integration into vehicles is yet another sign of how dependent we're becoming on AI.
[...] Within a span of just two years, Amazon's cloud-based voice service has spread far beyond the Echo speaker with which it first debuted. Alexa has gone from being an at-home helper to a personal assistant that can unlock your car, make a robot dance and even order groceries from your fridge.

At CES, both Ford and Volkswagen announced that their cars would integrate Alexa for weather updates, navigation and more. According to CJ Frost, principal architect solutions and automotive lead at Amazon, the car industry is moving into a mobility space. The idea isn't restricted to the ride anymore; it encompasses a journey that starts before you even get in the car. With the right skills built into the voice service, you can start a conversation with Alexa about the state of your car (is there enough fuel? is it locked? etc.) before you leave the house. It can also pull up your calendar, check traffic updates and confirm the meeting to make sure you're on track for the day.

Using a voice service in the car keeps your connection with the intelligent assistant intact. It's also a mode of communication that will be essential to autonomous cars of the near future. I caught up with Frost and John Scumniotales, general manager of Automotive Alexa service, at the Las Vegas convention center to trace the progression of the intelligent assistant from home speakers to cars on the road. [...]
The rest of the article is in an interview format, discussing where this is all going, and how and why, and what the future holds. Read the whole thing for embedded links, photos, video and more.

There have been lots of reviews on Youtube comparing Alexa with Google Home. People who use a lot of Google Services, claim the Google device is smarter and therefore better. But it's not that simple.

I have both devices. If you ask your question of Alexa in the format of: "Alexa, Wikipedia, [your question here]", the answer you get will often be as good or better than what Google can tell you. Alexa has been around longer, has wider integration, and more functions available. It can even add appointments to my Goggle Calendar, which Google Home says it cannot do yet!

Google Home does have some features it excels at, such as translating English words and phrases into foreign languages. If you own any Chromcast dongles, you can cast music and video to other devices, which is pretty cool. Presently it's biggest drawback is the lack of development of applications that work with it. However, it's POTENTIAL is very great, and a year or two from now we may see a great deal more functionality. It has the advantage of access to Google's considerable data base and resources. It could quickly catch up with Alexa, and perhaps surpass it. But that still remains to be seen.

It's not hard to make a video that makes one device look dumber than the other. But in truth the devices are very similar. Both can make mistakes, or fail at questions or functions. Sometimes one does better than the other. I actually like having both. It will be interesting to watch them both continue to evolve. To see if Google can close the gap created by Amazon's early head start. To see how the two products will differentiate themselves over time.

For the present, if you require a lot of integration with 3rd party apps and hardware, and if you are already using Amazon Prime and/or Amazon Music services, you might prefer Alexa. If you you are heavily into Google services, and/or Google Music or Youtube Red, you might prefer Google Home. Or if you are like me, an Amazon Prime/Music member and experimenting with Youtube Red and owner of chromcast devices, you may prefer both! Choice is good!
     

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Sunday, January 01, 2017

Is the Star Trek Communication's Badge
Finally a Reality?

Yeah. Well, kinda, sorta, in a way... does Bluetooth count? You decide:


Published on Dec 15, 2016
To a Star Trek-obsessed kid growing up in the 90s, there was nothing cooler than the combadge, a communicator so small it fit into a Starfleet logo worn on the chest. I amassed quite a collection of combadge prop replicas over the years, but this isn’t just another hunk of chrome-plated potmetal: this is a communicator pin that actually works. (Well ... sometimes. And only with the help of your phone.) Join me for the MrMobile review of the Star Trek Bluetooth Combadge by Fametek!
An interesting first attempt, although apparently there is room for much needed improvements. Hopefully the manufacturers will learn from this, and the Next Generation of the device will do better.

Don't throw your smartphone away yet. ;-)

Source: Star Trek's Combadge Is Finally Real, But It's Got Some Bugs

     

Labels: , , , ,