Category: Excerpt

Multitasking Considered Harmful?

Psychology professor Anthony Wagner:

In about half of the studies, the heavy media multitaskers are significantly underperforming on tasks of working memory and sustained attention. The other half are null results; there’s no significant difference. It strikes me as pretty clear that there is a negative relationship between media multitasking and memory performance – that high media multitasking is associated with poor performance on cognitive memory tasks. There’s not a single published paper that shows a significant positive relationship between working memory capacity and multitasking.

Study Arabic Sometime

From “Why Arabic Is Terrific”:

Nearly all Arabic words consist of a three-consonant root slotted into a pattern of vowels and helper consonants. The root gives the word its base meaning, while the pattern modifies this meaning in a systematic and predictable way. This idea is so cool that you’d think it came from a constructed language, and yet Arabic has actual native speakers who live completely normal lives and will not try to talk to you about Runescape.

For example, the pattern ma--a-, where the hyphens are placeholders for three root consonants, is nearly always a place name in Arabic. The pattern  i-a-a-a generates a verb meaning “to cause someone to do X”, where the meaning of X is determined by that three-consonant root.

Can’t Pass Down the Cloud

The leather notebook is a combo of a lot of things. It’s lyrics from songs, and it’s turned into a weird kind of diary for me, and I keep my to-do list in it. My sister gave it to me as a gift. She makes fun of me because I’m on my phone all the time. She said when I’m writing songs I should write them in a book, because when I’m older I won’t want to go back and look at my notes on the cloud, I’ll want a physical thing. That resonated with me. You’re not going to want to pass down your cloud to your kids. It’s just nice to have something physical to write in.

B-Roc, from electronic duo The Knocks.

Dogs in Ancient Islamic Culture

From Alan Mikhail, author of The Animal in Ottoman Egypt:

It’s no surprise that the first Muslims had so many dogs. Most of them kept large flocks of sheep and goats, and dogs helped to manage and protect these other animals, preventing them from running away and scaring off would-be thieves and predators. Sheep and goats were these early Muslims’ food and capital, and dogs helped to protect these investments.

[…]

As Islam spread throughout the Middle East and the world, it moved from being a religion of nomadic peoples to one centered in cities. Many of the world’s largest cities in the millennium between 700 and 1700 were Muslim cities. As they did in the countryside, in cities too dogs played vital roles. They of course continued to protect property and shoo away intruders, but in cities dogs served an even more important function—they ate garbage. From Damascus and Baghdad to Cairo and Istanbul, urban authorities supported dog populations as consumers of waste to keep city streets clean. Muslim leaders built watering troughs for dogs, many mosques threw out food for them, and butchers used them to keep away rats and other vermin. Humans who committed violence against urban canines were often punished. Muslim cities were much cleaner and more pleasant places with dogs than without them.

All of this meant that Muslims throughout the world were in regular daily contact with the many dogs in their midst. They recognized how useful canines were as guards and cleaning agents and, we can only presume, developed quite intimate relationships with them built around regular contact and the kind of affection bred from codependence.

Not The Most Important Thing in the World

There’s a new profile article on Bleacher Report about Golden State Warrior’s current head coach, Steve Kerr. It includes a lot of interesting bits and quotes, and these ones are my favorite:

Popovich, then as now, was not surprised either. “The guy is there before and after practice, running and shooting until he’s dripping wet,” he told reporters before the ’03 Finals. “He hasn’t stopped practicing every day, working every day, even though he hasn’t played.”

“Life is too short to be with jerks,” Popovich added. “This is a business, and it’s not the most important thing in the world.”

No, you can never have too many shooters.

And, no, Kerr does not think basketball is the most important thing in the world, or that his team’s very public failure to win another title last year—the seventh ring coming down to the seventh game—was the end of it. “You’ll wish that you had won that game forever,” Kerr says of the Game 7 loss to his former team. “But you go home and you have dinner with your family and you take a vacation and you remember it’s not life or death.”

A Little Bit of Your Abilities

A very important piece of information I want you to understand is that these tests only measure a little bit of you and your abilities. They are important and you have done so well, but Ben Twist is made up of many other skills and talents that we at Lansbury Bridge see and measure in other ways.

Unmournable Bodies

From Teju Cole:

The scale, intensity, and manner of the solidarity that we are seeing for the victims of the Paris killings, encouraging as it may be, indicates how easy it is in Western societies to focus on radical Islamism as the real, or the only, enemy. This focus is part of the consensus about mournable bodies, and it often keeps us from paying proper attention to other, ongoing, instances of horrific carnage around the world: abductions and killings in Mexico, hundreds of children (and more than a dozen journalists) killed in Gaza by Israel last year, internecine massacres in the Central African Republic, and so on. And even when we rightly condemn criminals who claim to act in the name of Islam, little of our grief is extended to the numerous Muslim victims of their attacks, whether in Yemen or Nigeria—in both of which there were deadly massacres this week—or in Saudi Arabia, where, among many violations of human rights, the punishment for journalists who “insult Islam” is flogging. We may not be able to attend to each outrage in every corner of the world, but we should at least pause to consider how it is that mainstream opinion so quickly decides that certain violent deaths are more meaningful, and more worthy of commemoration, than others.

Between Being Brave and Being Funny

I have never once seen a cartoon of Mohammed that has made me laugh. Not one.

Thus starts Hugo Rifkin’s excellent article, “There is a difference between being brave and being funny“.

It is easy to mock the Saudis, because they are savages who live in palaces. Iran exists in totalitarianism, and the Islamic State are murderous fascists. All — obviously, obviously — are ripe for it. To mock Islam itself, though, is to accept that all bar a small, statistical anomaly among those whom your barbs are stabbing will not be comfortable at all.

So, it seems to me that the solution to the fear, equivocation and confusion that any liberal satirist might feel right now is not, necessarily, to keep on grinding. Rather, it is ponder why it should be that offending Muslims, actually, isn’t funny. It is to look at their marginalisation in the West; their near invisibility in politics, media, comedy and all the rest of it, and recognise that this is a problem that makes mockery, which is vital for everyone, far more complex.