Sunday, 17 August 2014

Whether the weather is hot; dictionary entries, internet bloat and retrain your brain

Because I went to bed early this morning, and woke with a general vibe of "meh" ( i'll refer back to this later in the article) which still lingered a little after my usual morning yoga, I chose not to go 'messing about on the river' today, with a bunch of friends. In short, when you're tired, you're just tired and the lethargy sometimes sits there in the mood for a while. It's a good or bad thing, depending on what you feel at the time.

Not being one to willingly just "slump it", so to speak,  about an hour before the actual planned meet-up, I looked out of the lounge window and then sauntered outside with my mug of coffee, with a view to getting a bit more perked-up.  But the cloudy, grey, washed out ambience just wasn't inspiring the necessary emotive vitamin or booster vibes that I needed to help swing the decision towards 'going for it!', and leaving the house to get to the waterways.

Today could just be a minor blip on the summer weather chart here in the U.K, or it could be the first signs of autumn, which is a season I also love, due to the  enthusiastic scattering of  rust / orange coloured leaves starting to appear amongst the foiliage. I'm going with the former reasoning, as I've always loved summer and want it to last a little while longer.

Speaking of changes, the english language recieved another swathe of zeitgeist flavoured vocabulary recently, via additions to the oxford dictionaries website. This is the 'side arm' of the company and is not to be confused with the official oxford english dictionary we know and refer to :-

Oxford Dictionaries Adds ‘Hot Mess,’ ‘Side Boob,’ ‘Throw Shade’

I confess that I know what side boob, YOLO and FML are, and the other entries made me chuckle wholeheartedly and smile. I mentioned "meh" earlier, as that's another form of expression used to indicate a level of apathy or disinterest. It's not, to my knowledge, in any dictionary..at least not yet *.

Ultimately I'm all for a change in the way people express themselves, as long it doesn't resort back to full on grunts, in a neanderthal style. Come to think of it, grunting in itself has many levels of expressivity, as is indicated by a night out when the food and drink starts to (over) flow, at work when even saying 'yes' or 'no' is too much of an effort, and during parliamentary debates.

All the aforementioned are usually indicators of some level of  system overload that brings about this 'back to basics' approach, and I've participated in two of them, at various times over the years ( no, I'm not a member of parliament).  On the whole however, humans are mostly good at redressing that sort of imbalance pretty rapidly, as and when required; e.g. if your boss/other half etc, walks in and looks unimpressed with the general scene/vibe.

But the internet is a less immediate system to readjust, if subjected to bloating. This is illustrated here in the following article by referencing a web hosting company, and the problems they had as a result :- 

The Internet Has Grown Too Big for Its Aging Infrastructure

In my lifetime, I've spent a portion of it being 'an I.T. guy'.  To that aid, I sat a number of the exams, passed them ( in some instances with very high test scores),  and then just got on with the job. I've mentioned all of this, as i'll try and make some parts of the article less 'techy' for the uninitiated. In short, when we use the internet, the journey our requests for information take via the send and recieve routes is limited by the amount of  electronic routes available to make those journeys.

A real world example could be to ask two different courier services to deliver a parcel or letter from you to the other side of town on the same day, after direct pick up from your house or flat.  In effect, there are a finite number of routes and both vendors will try to do this as cost effectively as they can, with all the variables that contains (and entails),  and the mapping devices such as sat navs and even paper maps, will aid in that.

The routers used by service providers are like a more powerful beefed up version of a connecting device, with it's own built in sat nav style system, akin to our domestic routers but with much more memory and interconnectability. However, the routers themselves are in some cases running out of 'map storage space' numerically, with 512000 'routes' being the maximum route memory capacity for many devices.

As the internet has grown far larger in the last few years for all sorts of reasons, the routers are starting to choke on the levels of data being thrown at them, thereby causing what I call the 'cough splutter' effect. It can be manfested as a slow down when surfing the 'net, or even a time-out style 'page freeze' when locating a website. Sometimes you even get the ubiquitous "404 error" (file not found) as it's taken so long to locate the resource or page, that it just gives up during the journey.

Thankfully, as there is an increased awareness of the problem, vendors can contribute to building a workaround and/or a solution to resolve it. This is essential, as the increased proliferation of connectable devices will mean a larger siphoning off of network bandwidth, during useage. Slow-downs and choke-ups used to be pretty common to my memory, especially back in the late 90's when I was still using dial-up to connect to the internet, and you were at the mercy of a mostly analogue network to perform everything. That's now a thing of the past and we can mostly connect with remarkable fluidity and ease these days.

Speaking of reaching the limits, the final article brings it all back to the human being, and is about how to retrain your brain to better handle your own level of cerebral overload :-

4 Ways To Retrain Your Brain To Handle Information Overload

What's interesting for me, is that it says multi-tasking is a myth. Im not so sure about that. I mean, I'm sitting here with the music on, reading articles, writing my post, trying hard not to think about how hungry I'm now becoming and occasionally looking out of the window to see if the weather has changed ( it hasn't and is still "meh"), whilst still carrying on typing this out, and editing it as I go along. That's multitasking, as far as I know. Still, I could always look out of the window a lot less and go and eat something, which would narrow it down to the essentials, so to speak.

On a more serious note,  Daniel Levitin, a psychologist and behavioral neuroscientist who is referenced within the article, does make some very valid points regards what I call suffering from 'brain drain', which is the result of over-tasking far too much, in the name of productivity. Naturally, your focus does slip here and there, when you're taking on too much all at once. Especiallly in the name of getting on with at least one main task at hand whilst having some variety of other 'jobs to do' as well, for example.

I haven't yet read Levitin's book,  but it's interesting for me to note that there is a whole generation who seem to be far more adept at a higher level of multitasking from a younger age. I see them using smartphones with a level of speed and fluidity that is remarkable, and they're also more happily ensconced in using multi function controller devices when playing games, than the generation(s) before them.

My take on it, may be that it's also more age related too, which is logical and also references each generation being born into a different set of socio-economic variables that relied on them needing to perform different sets of tasks as the norm, depending on what they encountered in their immediate environments. Technology is there as a tool to help us and not in my mind, to become the ultimate 'command system' which takes too much away from the humane aspect of interactivity.

Ultimately, that's a discussion for another time, but as long as I can still reach for an on and off button somewhere on a device, then 'Im fine.  Knowing that I still have that vestige of control that allows me to disengage at will, is what the man machine interaction equation is all about for me.

And now my need for nourishment and glucose based ingestives has reached a level of 'come on! what are you waiting for?', that needs placating, so I must attend to that forthwith.  But first, one more look out of the window.

I can see four different shades of grey cloud, strewn across the sky.."meh". 

* I've since found that "meh" is on the oxford dictionaries site, which I swear I had no idea about until I checked up on this, when editing this post:-

Meh 

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