What I’ve Been Reading Articles

The Perils of Instant Gratification

Saturday, September 27th, 2014

Redding. LSM, Wpt, etc for posts 074As the economy gets ever better at satisfying our immediate, self-serving needs, who is minding the future?

So asks the cover article of the fall edition of American Scholar magazine, entitled Temptation, Inc. It’s a long, wide-ranging, provocative piece that explores the many ways in which consumer technology is getting better and better at exploiting our natural impulsiveness and cravings for immediate rewards and pleasure.

As a parent and educator, it was the first few paragraphs that really grabbed my attention, this profile of a young man addicted to the online game World of Warcraft:

Spring Break Road Trip? Use it to Fill the Knowledge Tank

Tuesday, March 25th, 2014

P4210022Dear Friends,

I get a kick out of the recent Volkswagen commercial in which two guys pile into their Passat for a road trip, and then the passenger is appalled when his driver pal announces that instead of listening to music they’re going to learn a language.

Thirteen hours later, the buddies climb out of the car at a rest stop; the friend is still highly annoyed, and he rants and fumes at his companion…in fluent Spanish:

My own kids passed a good chunk of their childhoods in the car; I’ve always been an eager and ambitious traveler, so we spent virtually every school break driving somewhere. And we made those hours pass by listening to books on tape.

Learning to Make Your Holidays Wonderful!

Sunday, December 22nd, 2013

PC210242I was a psychology major in college, and I love finding out everything about how our minds work. Of course I study education and learning, but I also read all I can get my hands on about human behavior and emotions. Why do we do what we do?…and how can we do better and be happier?

Lots of people figure that psychology isn’t a “real” science, or that it’s just “common sense.” But, within the past few decades psychology has joined forces with fields including neuroscience, medicine and economics to produce tons of data-based, factual information, much of which is extremely helpful, even life-changing, not to mention counter-intuitive and even wacky.

How Might Differing Value Systems Impact Your Relationship?

Thursday, July 5th, 2012

There was a time in my life when I lived in the South and I dated a military man, a decorated Special Operations soldier, a guy with tons of what I still consider “the right stuff.”

Joe was super-smart, responsible, kind, scrupulously honest, family-oriented, conscientious, and like me, more focused on doing valuable work than on making tons of money.

The relationship itself, however, was stupefyingly difficult, for reasons Joe and I struggled to figure out.

Permission to Be Quiet

Thursday, March 15th, 2012

Here comes spring, and I’m eager to get outside. There’s nothing I enjoy more than Central Park on a sunny weekend afternoon.

I go for the fresh air and sunshine and pretty surroundings and exercise. I bring a book and I sit on a bench by myself and read…

…which is the sort of behavior that leads extrovert pals to frown in concern and ask me questions like this: Why don’t you socialize more? Why don’t you take a break from the books and get out and make some more friends? 

And it casts a shadow of self-doubt. Is there something wrong with me?

The Crippling Fear of the Unwise Choice

Saturday, March 10th, 2012

In the fall of my senior year of high school, I applied to one college. I was accepted. I attended.

This was waaaay back in 1977, and many of my peers report similar experiences. Most of us somehow wound up attending institutes of higher learning. “Choice” doesn’t necessarily feel like the right word to describe the processes that got us there.

In the abstract, I can imagine having searched more thoroughly and located  a school that would have been a better fit for me. But, I can’t actually name that school. And this is despite my being in a line of work that acquaints me with the features of hundreds of colleges and universities.

For better or worse, I truly never thought in terms of selecting the “right” college.

Ana Homayoun describes the angst that I and my similarly clueless peers were spared:

Too Much Choice Can Be Depressing

Sunday, February 19th, 2012

We just got back from a trip to Barcelona, one of the foodie meccas of Europe, and I was very glad that I had just finished reading The Paradox of Choice by Barry Schwartz.

Otherwise, we might have been overwhelmed by the riotous quantity of eating options. We could have spent all day agonizing over the restaurant choices and trying to decide which one was “the best.”

Instead, we did what Schwartz recommends: we limited our options. Each day, we perused the menus of two or three eateries, and we selected one of them.

We wound up having wonderful, memorable meals. Truly, in Barcelona it’s difficult to dine badly. And we felt satisfied and happy about our choices…happier than if we had invested hours researching and deliberating.

One big problem with having too much choice is that the human brain hates the feeling of loss, more that it enjoys the experience of gain.

Some Small, Good Changes in Your Everyday Diet

Saturday, January 7th, 2012

[On Saturdays my topic of focus is A Small, Good Thing, inspired by one of my favorite Raymond Carver stories.]

Some people like to make large, dramatic life changes, while others aspire to gradual, incremental improvements. (Personally, I’m of that second camp.)

Joel Fuhrman’s excellent book, Eat to Live, contains valuable nutrition advice for everyone.

A Small, Good Resolution: Stop Lying (Even the “White” Lies)

Saturday, December 31st, 2011

[On Saturdays my topic of focus is A Small, Good Thing, inspired by one of my favorite Raymond Carver stories.]

A big part of my identity is rooted in thinking of myself as a kind, caring, gentle and optimistic person…one who says supportive, positive things…a Tigger, not an Eeyore.

I’m uncomfortable saying anything that might come across as negative or unnice.  I hate the thought of hurting someone’s feelings or having them get angry at me.

Is There a Goal to the Psychoanalytic Process?

Sunday, November 27th, 2011

[I’m devoting my Sunday blog posts to the topic of Learning Through Experience. This will very often mean Learning From Mistakes, and talking about mistakes and errors in general, including my own. It will also include the reflecting upon and valuing of all sorts of experiences.]

When I think “psychoanalysis,” my mind conjures a Woody-Allenesque caricature of a “neurotic” patient spending decades of his life lying on his analyst’s couch, endlessly rehashing every real or imagined detail of his childhood, in a fruitless internal quest for The Answer to his psychological distress.


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