Book Review: The Distracted Mind: Ancient Brains in a High-Tech World by Adam Gazzaley, Larry D. Rosen

41aipvZ90dLMy review of this book is going to sound a bit negative, but my regard for it is not, hence the four-stars.

The book is nicely divided in three sections. The first one is the brain, how it works, studies, it’s history and evolution. The second section is about the effect of the technological world on the mind and vice-versa. And the third is about how to deal with the world, techniques to be more productive, less distracted, more engaged. I don’t have much to say about the first part except that it’s fascinating and some of the studies were new to me and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

The second section is where my surprises begin. For example, it spent a lot of time explaining how you cannot text and drive. I have used my phone while in the car to change songs, podcasts or the route (I use it for navigation) and every time I can clearly see my driving quality going down and thus I only do it in low risk cases (empty highway with lanes on both sides of me, things like that). I can’t believe that there are people that believe they can text and drive.

The second part also spent a lot of time explaining that multitasking is not doing more than one thing at the same time, but doing one for a bit of time, then the other and coming back and that switching has a cost and thus, doing two tasks multitasking is less efficient than doing one task and then the other. Again, is this news? I do multitask but I know both tasks are suffering. Generally I do it for enjoyment or because there’s value in one task being in-progress (silly example: applying coats of paint while reading a book, you need to wait between each coat, so, multitasking has some value).

The third section is what really surprised me the most and made me feel like a very uncommon person. My phone is by my bedside at night in case of an emergency, but only calls from certain people get through; everything else is blocked. I don’t pick it in the middle of the night and I know that when I do, or when I look at it before going to sleep, it’ll affect my sleeping cycle negatively. There wasn’t much new about this in the book but it was a good reminder to improve my sleep hygiene, which I’m going to start doing.

There was a category of recommendations that I found really interesting. Apparently, the presence of a phone, on someone’s hand or on the table, even if it never rings and it’s never touched, even if it’s off, reduces the quality of human interaction. I’m highly skeptical but I’m willing to give it the benefit of the doubt and maybe start avoiding having my phone present during these sort of interaction.

If you are struggling with messages, Facebook, mails, and so on, overriding your life, then, this book might have some good information for you. For me, it didn’t feel very applicably as I’m a work-at-home-entrepreneur, so, Facebook, email, IM tend to be much needed human interaction for me.

Aside from my experience of the book, I think the book is good, and if things are as bad as they are painted in it, more people should read it.

★★★★☆

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Book Review: General Class by Gordon West

I bought this book after watching a series of videos on YouTube that mentioned it:

61i+nE392VLThe book has a short introduction and then jumps straight into the question pool for the general class amateur radio exam. For each question, you have the four potential answers, followed by an explanation of the subject and the correct answer. Because the questions and the answer are so close, you might need to use a piece of paper to cover the answer while you think about the question without spoiling it.

I did my study mostly by watching the video and using https://hamstudy.org but the explanations on that website, sometimes, leave a lot to be desire. For quite a few questions, reading the explanations in this book helped a lot. It also has extra snippets of information spread throughout the book that are very nice.

Another positive thing about this book is that it’s full color. It has pictures but most importantly, diagrams and chart making use of the color range to make the information more accessible. Even though I know by heart some of that information, I find myself hopping they would make posters of these charts so I can hang them on my shack: they are beautiful and informative.

Oh… one more thing, I passed the test. Well, I passed the three tests in one sitting.

★★★☆☆

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Book Review: Foundation Licence Now by Alan Betts

9781872309804_9c3c0da200c92b4703ae40246d591184I wished someone handed me this book years ago, when I moved to the UK, because I would have gotten my foundation amateur radio licence much, much sooner if I knew how simple it was. I have a similarly leveled licence from Argentina (LU5ARC) and it was much harder to obtain.

I found the structure of the book a bit erratic. Some chapters are formatted much different than others. I didn’t find this to be a problem though, just surprising. The content is generally covered well and I think people with no knowledge of electronics or radio could read it and understand it all.

I guess you could say the proof is in the pudding and whether I’ll pass the test, but being that I already took ham radio courses and I’m an electronic technician, me passing the test is no proof of the quality and usefulness of this book.

★★★☆☆

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Book Review: Getting Started In Amateur Radio by Steve Nichols

36282097I’m not an expert but I’m also not a beginner to ham radio (I’m LU5ARC in Argentina and I’ll be working on getting my UK license next month) and this book opened my eyes to a lot of new cool things to do in the world of amateur radio. I marked a lot of things here to explore once I get my license.

This book even has a section on antennas that give you a good idea of the sizes and types of arenas you could use for different bands.

On the negative, this book has quite a few grammatical errors and typos, which I don’t mind, but it also contains quite a bit of jargon that is never explained. A bit I knew already because of my limited experience with radio, a bit I had to look it up.

★★★★☆

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The crimes of the future

I just watched Mac Goodman’s TED talk about the crimes of the future:

That reminds me of a question I had some time ago: How was it possible for Nazi Germany to invade and maintain control over most of Europe while USA doesn’t seem to control a couple of countries while using the most advanced military machine ever created?

The answer is simple: technology helps the individuals more than the groups or governments. The technology to blow up a tank today is much cheaper than in the 40s, during the second world war. As Marc Goodman said: the power of and individual do influence a group is going up, at an exponential rate, for both good and bad.

Something else I been wondering is, where are all these evil people? Because I constantly see ways to cause a lot of harm and disruption to a lot of people. The world is full of opportunities, it’s full of fuses ready to be lit by those that like to watch the world burn. The only thing I can conclude is that there aren’t that many people eager to do it. In the end, human beings are inherently good.

But still, a lot of bad things are happening in lots of places. Organized crime in Mexico and terrorism in the middle east still exist. You definitely cannot fix the problem by outgunning them and you cannot fix it by outsmarting them. I believe the solution is in destroying the motivation.

You can have people willing to strap a bomb to their chest only by years and years of the worst kind of religious indoctrination. If those people had access to just see what the rest of the world was, then they would be less likely to do it. If those people had access to join the rest of society and not live as an oppressed minority, then I would be very surprised if any took any other path than being peaceful and productive member of the society.

People are putting a lot of ingenuity at fighting the system to produce something and get it to the hands of people that want it, and want it badly. You stop fighting them and you start taxing them. Suddenly, many of the drug related problems, specially those related to crimes, would go away. You still would have to deal with people self-destructing with drugs, but all evidence suggests that it would be the same or even better than what we have now. And if people want to self destruct, they’ll find a way to do so with or without drugs (tobacco, alcohol, food… heck, even exercise and TV!), no government or religion can magically solve the problem that all human beings face: what do I do with my life?

What I like about Marc Goodman’s approach is the openness. He’s not fighting to create a big brother, but to turn many more aspects of society into an open source model, a model we know it works. I just don’t think it’s enough, I think we still have to figure out what motivates people to be destructive and attack the motivations.

Don't ignore the technology!

Technology is making the word more efficient. At some point, communicating with a person far away, required writing down the message with ink in a piece of dead tree and have someone or some company physically move that to the other location. Now we fire an email and it’ there in seconds.

I’m actually not sure if in that case we are more efficient (global communication infrastructure vs global transportation infrastructure and gas for the trucks and planes), we are definitely faster.

Recently my oven broke. The door is not stoping when it should and goes almost all the way to the floor when you open it. I’ve notified the management company and wanting to make the process more efficient I’ve recorded a video of the issue and sent it to them. Ah, technology, love it!

Today the repair main arrived (at 7:30hs, very Swiss). He open the door and… “Ah! It’s broken, I’ll come back next week with the spare parts.”

Honestly I wasn’t surprised, but we already have the technology to make this whole thing more efficient, I did my part and I was ignored. I bet the apartment management company never sent the guy the video.