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Honesty, productivity and capitalism [19 Jul 2005|12:42am]

These three things aren't playing nice together. I think we need a realignment. I'm issuing a plea to stop pretending like you are working harder than you are, so that we can bring expectations down a bit. Who's in? (Updated 2005-07-20)

Lately it feels like I've been seeing an increasing number of productivity "tips" which are actually just ways of deceiving each other. These deceptions are ways to either give the appearance of productivity, or to project a reasonable excuse for a lack of productivity.

A couple of small examples.

43folders has this "tip":

Messy house? Always keep several get well cards on the mantel.... so if unexpected guests arrive, they will think you've been sick and unable to clean.

Or the story referenced on Slashdot this past week about little white lies for white collar workers:

"Instead of being a slave to technology, you can master it, you can make it look like you are working when and where you are not," said Marc Saltzman, 35, the author of "White Collar Slacker's Handbook" published in June.

It goes on to talk about rolling the computer clock back to make it look like you wrote e-mails in the past.

This all coincides with the story that has capitalists everywhere cringing --- people totally slack for an average of two hours during their work day.

Maybe these things are a sign that we are working too hard? No, I think they are a sign that we are pretending to work too hard, and we are working too hard at pretending to work too hard. There's an illusory level of productivity we are all supposed to achieve, and projecting the impression of having achieved it is apparently more important than being honest with each other.

Beyond that, I think one of the main ways to be more productive is to focus on simplifying my life. I don't see how keeping up all of these deceptions is going to make my life any easier.

Put get-well cards on the mantel? I'll have to concoct some story about the illness I didn't have; remember what that story was, to be prepared for future interrogations; and have some kind of backstory for the person who sent each card. This sounds absurdly nonproductive to me, and it's only going to put me more behind on cleaning the house. Did I remember to stop at the drug store to pick up the cards? Did I remember if I've used any of these stories before? No thanks.

These kinds of standards won't fade away unless they have to coexist with reality. If we continue deceiving each other, that will never happen, and we'll all end up having to game each other to keep our productive reputations. It's not good for our ethics or our actual productivity.

Update: 43folders added a note that the messy house thing was a joke. I didn't mean to be critical of them or this one post in particular --- there are lots of these things floating around, and they are all funny --- from phony get-well cards to fake background noise and staged cell-phone calls to escape situations we don't want to be in. But, even though they are jokes, people do actually do these things. There are even different business models around them. When I got my first cell phone, it had a feature where I could set a timer and it would ring, so that I could pretend I had a call --- this was a feature advertised separately from the alarm. So, what do we make of these things? They are both silly jokes and actual practices.

This was a trackback to http://www.typepad.com/t/trackback/2848668.

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If I Can't Take My Hummer There, I'm Not Going [19 Jul 2005|11:18pm]

I vent a bit of frustration at the Boston Globe for suggesting that we should open the pedestrian mall at Downtown Crossing to cars, to increase the popularity of the area.

The Globe editors had a horrible idea today.

IT MAY take more than free wireless Internet, increased code enforcement, or even the addition of a popular, moderately priced department store to enliven Downtown Crossing. Counterintuitive as it may seem, what the struggling downtown pedestrian mall might really benefit from is the return of automobiles.

"Counterintuitive" is an understatement.

For those of you not familiar with the area, Downtown Crossing is where all the subway lines come together; the Blue line, the Green line, the Red line, the Orange line, the Silver line. The gang's all here. There are some large chain stores, like TJ Max (forgive me for not looking up the proper spelling or punctuation), Macy's, Filene's and Barnes & Noble. There are a billion cell phone stores, Staples, Starbucks, a bunch of random lunch-oriented food places and carts, some banks, some clothing stores --- pretty typical stuff.

This is my favorite quote from the editorial.

Downtown Crossing's open turf provides too many congregating points for vagrants. The reintroduction of automobiles could restore the natural urban balance where space is precious.

Who gets to decide what this "natural urban balance" is? Strong enough for a man, but made for a woman?

Downtown Crossing looks grungy. There are a lot of pigeons, there are young black men in baggy clothing selling homemade rap CDs. There's an old white guy blaring Pink Floyd out of a portable stereo at 9am selling newspapers. Sometimes he has a sidekick. There are people who don't speak good English staffing various pushcarts. There are, in fact, many "vagrants" congregating.

Apparently people are worried that the dirt might rub off on them. Not to say that people don't get hurt in crimes. To address that, perhaps we ought to hire some police officers, and consider our social welfare programs and the state of the general economy, instead of using the money to build more parking garages.

But hold on, part of what makes this suggestion absurd is that you can already drive into Downtown Crossing. We are not talking about a large area that is pedestrian-only here. It's far smaller than something like the Pearl Street Mall in Boulder, smaller than the similar area in Salem, MA. In fact, it's smaller than the Meijer (think Wal-Mart) parking lot in Rochester Hills, MI. I'd wager that no point of Downtown Crossing is more than 75 feet away from a place you can drive, and I think I'm being conservative. It is a tiny patio of public space in an ocean of highways and streets. The real issue is parking.

They don't like the kind of people congregating there, so they want to eliminate the space where those people congregate. Those people are getting in the way of these people going to Target. This is an explicit use of automobiles and their infrastructure by one group of classes to disappear another group of classes. As if those people just grew out of the pedestrian concrete, and when the pedestrian concrete is gone, they will simply vanish along with it.

Can we think a little deeper, please?

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Films ranked by uses of the word "fuck" [19 Jul 2005|11:21pm]

I see that a number of my favorite movies are pretty high up on this list. Some of the placements are pretty surprising.

Here's the list.

I would not have guessed that The Big Lebowski would weigh in at #10, ahead of both Pulp Fiction and Resevoir Dogs. The Dude, Walter, and Donny managed to collaborate for a whopping 2.4 instances per minute.

True Romance is another favorite sneaking in at #17.

Thank god for Wikipedia.

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