Archive for February, 2008

Antidepressants don’t work for people who are not depressed
February 28, 2008

I saw an article Antidepressants don’t work – official study on my friend’s delicious page. Knowing his political inclinations, I promptly recognised the subtext big bad companies making millions by selling snake oil.

In cases like this I always go to Slashdot Science to find proper discussion and second opinions. And here it was:

The study did not find that “Antidepressants work no better than a placebo”. What it seems to have found is that there is an indication that antidepressants do work for people who do have a serious depression, while there is little indication it works better than a placebo for lighter (possibly misdiagnosed) cases.

So, antidepressants have no measurable effect on those who are not depressed.

However, the study states that the difference is only due to severely depressed patients being less susceptible to placebo effect. So we haven’t got that settled yet. The industry backlash is yet to come.

Going out
February 27, 2008

Today was the first day for almost a week that I had time to write this blog.

I spent hours surfing the net. Occasionally staring at the few sentences I’ve managed to draft in an editor window.

I have to go out. Actually, I think I’ll visit a restaurant again.

Dream fantasy
February 25, 2008

A year or two ago I found an excellent cover of King Crimson’s 21:th century schizoid man sung by Minoru Niihara. However, I couldn’t find it any more.

Here’s the best song by Niihara’s former (and also current since 2006 – I found this out while searching for pages to link) band Loudness, Dream fantasy:

OK
February 25, 2008

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It is Monday and everything seems to be OK. At least this site tries to tell us so.

Weekend
February 22, 2008

I’ll be having a rather uneventful weekend. I’ll spend it off the Net and mostly out of town too.

But don’t worry. I’ll be back next week. Hopefully rested and hungrier for action. And in a better mood.

Flaneuring
February 22, 2008

Yesterday I ate my lunch at a restaurant. It was just an ordinary hotel restaurant, and I happened to be the only customer at the time.

The waitress was very friendly and even apologised for the cleaning staff vacuuming in the lobby. I told her it’s okay. Actually it was nice to have some noise to break the silence. I believe having a radio on or other background music would have distracted me far more.

I took out my notebook and began sketching and making lists and notes. For some reason I felt very decisive and productive. While waiting for my meal I covered a lot of things I’ve procrastinated about for a long time.

No wonder Sartre wrote his books at caf├ęs. There seem to be things that are virtually impossible to do at home. At least for me. Or if I get them done, it might literally take weeks or months before I force myself to begin. Those things are:

  • planning
  • brainstorming
  • making decisions

I can come up with several explanations why some work is easier at public places.

    • No distractions. At the cafeterias, railway stations, or restaurants basically the only things of relevance to you are the ones you’ve carried with you. At home there are multitudes. Every item carries a meaning, probably reminds you of something you’ve done or you should do. This all makes it harder to concentrate just on the subject matter at hand.
      • People are watching you. You are reading or writing something. At least subconsciously you feel obliged to go on doing what you started. At the restaurant I took out my notebook and started scribbling. Now when I think about it, making only a note or two on an empty notebook would have seen somehow wrong, considering I somehow managed to create a vision (at least for myself) of being a busy guy with something important to do. You’ve got audience, and you have to go on acting. You don’t want to appear as a fake.
        • You see people. Usually procrastination means there is something you want to avoid. Something you’d rather not think about. We humans are pack animals, and we don’t want to be alone if something worrying happens. At a cafe you can look around, see other people, reason that they seem to be OK and go on working on the hard part, because maybe it really isn’t the end of the world after all.
          • Positive distractions. Maybe you feel stuck on something. There’s plenty of things you can use to clear your mind for a while. Have another cup of coffee. Watch that guy outside trying to park his van. There are some things that might grab your attention, but usually they won’t last too long either. They’re nothing to take part in. At home you’d see a book, or a heap of dirty clothes, or a television. There are things that might get your attention for hours and eventually spoil the whole day.

          It seems the point is in breaking the solitude. At home I can very easily fall in a nearly vegetative state and just let the hours pass. I get nothing done and feel awful afterwards.

          Steve Pavlina makes roughly the same points in his essay Working in unusual places. Worth reading.

            Bad studying habits – a case study
            February 22, 2008

            A friend of mine is writing her thesis (at last). She’s not reading this, so I can tell you how much her plans suck:

            • She’s made a schedule, which is basically fine. Too bad she’s planned to work ten hours every day. I told her she’d have twice more done by halving the daily toil.
            • She hasn’t scheduled free days. No socializing, no fun. Just sitting at home studying and writing. The result: she’s addicted to Facebook and online games.
            • I’ve asked her how her work is going. What does she want to say, what has she discovered. I told her describing her work to a complete ignoramus like me would get her out of social scientific jargon and be of great help in seeing things more clearly. No response. She doesn’t want to talk about her work until it’s ready.
            • I’ve asked how many pages are ready. She’s not very comfortable talking about it. And no wonder. I just heard she hasn’t even begun the actual writing. One hundred pages to go. If I remember correctly, the original deadline was somewhere in October.

            I hope she makes it by sheer perseverance. I believe she’s actually capable of that. However, if I ever have to do something like that, I know I’d at least try to

            • Keep my daily portions realistic. I read somewhere Oxford mathematicians taught one can do something intellectually demanding for about two hours a day. Maybe three, but definitely not more. Use these two hours (really use) well and you’ll be as productive as you can ever be.
            • Remember the fun.
            • Talk about it to anyone willing to listen. Nobel physicist Richard Feynman said once that if you can’t describe what you’re studying to your slightly demented grandmother, you don’t have any grasp of it yourself either.
            • Talk about my schedules and advances and make the fear of public humiliation work for me.

            Fast cars
            February 21, 2008

            Cars making speed records in Bonneville Salt Flats. Can anything be more straightforwardly boyish and fun?

            I got this link from a friend of mine. We went to school together and we were interested in things ten year old boys usually are (or at least were at the time): cars, trains, aeroplanes, space exploration, and Second World War.

            While teens we went to different schools. I’ve seen him very sporadically ever since. About a month ago I met him on Facebook. Seems like he’s still into the very same things as back when we were kids. I’m a bit jealous.

            Billy Cobham / Tommy Bolin: Stratus
            February 20, 2008

            Some weeks ago a friend of mine stated that this is the best music ever made. I cannot exactly recall when or who. We were very drunk or something.

            I wrote this to test how to embed a video in a WordPress blog. Not very convincing. Seems like the video doesn’t scale with the narrow column. I can’t remember this ever happening with Blogger. I ended up just changing the theme to something with a wider main column.

            You might notice that this video can’t really boast of rich visuals. Next time I’d link to something where the picture actually changes. One step at the time.

            The top 5 uncommon timesavers for bloggers/writers
            February 20, 2008

            This excellent list by Tim Ferris is a must read for every writer. I’ve been blogging for over five years but still learned a lot from it. These are the things you seldom come to think about, as obvious as they seem in retrospect.

            My favourite is number four, thinking in lists. Mostly it’s just brainstorming. Being conscious of what I know or what I want to say. I wish I’d done it more often.