Monday Assorted Links

When Procrastination doesn't keep me from doing what I should be doing, I fall back on creating a links post.

  1. Digitized K-mart in-store background music (1989-1993). As Susie Bright said in her Facebook post, "This is a soundtrack waiting for its porn film."
  2. Pick your guru carefully.
  3. 19th-century views of the Year 2000.
  4. Alternate Histories has released its 2015 Holiday Pack!
  5. The James Randi documentary, An Honest Liar, which I saw via Netflix. Randi fought the good fight, but as his nemesis Uri Gellar says near the end, "We won." And as the movie shows, Randi's own need to believe is great. The most bizarre scene is an old television clip of him hanging upside-down, escaping from a straitjacket, while a woman in elegant poofy dress sings "You've Got the Magic Touch."
  6. We suffered a break-in earlier this year. Nevertheless, I draw the line at this.

Links: Standing Desks

We had a discussion at work recently about how much we sit, standing desks, treadmill desks, etc. So I did about 90 minutes of searching and came up with the following digest of items that I thought covered the topic fairly well. This will be my starting point if the topic comes up again in the future. Bottom-line: Variety is the spice: mix standing and sitting, don’t do too much of either, move regularly. I was surprised by the observations from some writers about the types of work best done sitting vs. standing. 

Recommendations

I always like going to Wirecutter for their recommendations of consumer tech stuff. (They have a sister site, Sweethome, for house- and kitchen recommendations.)
We’ve spent hundreds of hours over the past three years testing 13 standing desks. The $700 Ergo Depot Jarvis is the best for most people. It’s as sturdy and reliable as a high-end desk, but sells for half the price and comes with a seven-year warranty—compare that to the typical one to three years its competitors offer. It ships faster, too.
If you use a standing desk, you should also be using an anti-fatigue mat. This will provide support for your feet and relieve pressure on your heels, back, legs, and shoulders, which in turn helps you stand for longer. After hours of research and weeks of foot-on testing, we recommend the Imprint CumulusPro for just under $100. We found it was the most supportive out of the dozens considered and nine tested. What’s more, it won’t offgas toxic chemicals, has a ten-year warranty, and feels great to stand on. And in a panel test several months after this article was first posted, every Wirecutter editor who tested our top contenders chose the Imprint CumulusPro as their favorite.
One of my co-workers said he liked the video demo of the Kangaroo adjustable height desk.
As for desk mats — I have heard/read of people also using wobble boards.

First-person lessons learned

As it turns out, you must check your posture constantly and move around, whether you sit or stand at work, because standing all day can be as bad as prolonged sitting. A 2005 longitudinal study in Denmark found that the incidence of hospitalizations due to varicose veins was higher among those who stand or walk at least 75 percent of their time at work. Of course, nurses and factory workers have known this for some time, but it seems to be largely forgotten in the stand-up-desk trend.
As for me, my doctor’s diagnosis of my leg pains did not prompt me to dismantle my stand-up desk. Now I follow my body’s cues. When I begin to feel lethargic or my neck or shoulders bother me, I shift to standing, and almost immediately my muscles relax and I feel more energized. If my legs or feet later begin to ache, I’ll take the experts’ advice and elevate one foot or plop into my chair. And I try to move a lot more in general — doing shoulder rolls, shaking out my limbs, walking to chat instead of e-mailing, or visiting the water fountain down the hall.
  1. Don’t switch straight to a standing desk; make the transition gradually. I’ve actually got my old desk set-up plus a separate desk on which I have the equipment that allows me to stand while I work. I just switch my laptop and wireless mouse and keyboard over to my new desk when I want to work standing up, but I can still sit when I need to.
  2. Standing too much is just as bad as sitting, which is one reason why it’s a good idea to mix it up. If your lower back gets tired from standing, sit down again to work, or stretch it out.
  3. I thought I wouldn’t be able to write while standing, but that’s been fine, although it took a bit of getting used to because I was so accustomed to thinking while sitting. Standing to think is actually quite effective because you’re moving around, which for some reason keeps your brain awake.
  4. ...
  5. The main message is to try out what works for you and don’t think you have to do everything standing. 
[A too-long article, but skim it for the pictures and some of his research. He used a standing desk that didn’t elevate or retract, which led him to look for other solutions.]
If a standing desk works for you, that's great. But if it doesn't, don't force it?—?especially if it negatively impacts your work. Standing while working might not be for you. It wasn't for me. And that's okay. Standing for long periods of time isn't much better than sitting anyway.
The key is to do some activity every day. It doesn't have to be a five-mile sprint. A walk to and from work, taking the stairs, or some squats while you're waiting for your lunch can be enough to do the trick.

From the testing camps

There was one result that we all found to be true.
While standing, you feel a sense of urgency which causes you to be focused on the completion of tasks. This works ideally when you're working with tasks where you know what the outcome should be, and it's just a matter of completing it. [Also helps counteract the 3pm food coma.]
However, for tasks which require a creative approach—for example, thinking about a possible coding solution, or writing a great article—then the urgency provided by standing is more of a hindrance. We found that for creative tasks, sitting and not paying attention to your corporal self was helpful in letting your mind wander and explore creative options.

We think better on our feet, literally -- ScienceDaily

A new study finds students with standing desks are more attentive than their seated counterparts. Preliminary results show 12 percent greater on-task engagement in classrooms with standing desks.

From the skeptical camp

Common sense should prevail in these discussions.  If you have the luxury of choice and stand rather than sit at your job, you’re probably healthier because you’re probably more health conscious in other parts of your life.   You will burn more calories and exert more effort in standing if nothing else.  And you’re probably going to be stressed out, depressed along with the physical factors that result from standing or sitting all day if you’ve got little choice in the matter [ie, postal delivery or assembly line workers, who stand and move all day and are not appreciably healthier due to more stressful jobs].  Reports that draw these very loose correlations to activities like sitting certainly do not merit extreme changes in lifestyle.  If your job allows you the freedom to do so, I would think the best response would be a combination of sitting and standing throughout the day, rather than favoring the extreme.
Feel free to sit down and relax though, its not going to kill you.

Assorted links

  • Will tablets kill PCs? Daniel Lemire thinks tablets more than satisfy the mainstream (non-techie) user's needs. Jeff Atwood opines about his spiffy new ultraportable laptop, which is everything he wanted in a laptop 10 years ago.
  • A great animation showing the secret law of page design harmony (scroll down).
  • The oldest self-help book: a 19th-century American grimoire, or collection of magic spells and incantations. The writer explores the  American zeal for DIY and self-reliance as expressed in this once-popular book, which includes many features of modern self-help books, such as testimonials. "Within the pages of self-help books are recipes not just for healing but for divinity, a promise that every American can be individually complete and autonomous."
  • Whatever you think about in the shower is where your attention is -- so make sure you're thinking about something worthwhile.
  • Lemire on peer review and this salient quote: "The editor-in-chief of a major computer science journal once told me: you know Daniel, all papers are eventually accepted, don’t forget that."

Temptatious articles to read

This is why the potential is always there for me to get nothing done. Here are some of the top links that caught my eye from today's Arts & Letters Daily and Marginal Revolution sites. I could have spent a happy hour reading all of them, but I decided to confine them to my Readability queue instead. I may actually get around to reading these items in the next few months. We'll see if they're as interesting  to me then as they are today.

 

Assorted links

Assorted links

  • One of my favorite writing sites is by England-based sitcom writer James Cary and called, appropriately, "Sitcom Geek". What I love about his posts are his practical and serious thoughts on the business of conceiving and writing situation- and character-based comedy (as opposed to sketch or standup comedy). Here's his latest post, echoing the feelings/advice I read on many academics' and fiction-writers' sites: Just start typing
  • Another favorite blog is by self-help writer and editor Doug Toft. Here's one of his latest: 7 things to know before you use a self-help technique
  • I also enjoy the rough and ready booster shot that is the language learning site, All Japanese All The Time. Khatzumoto continues to stun me with his inventiveness and cheek in generating advice on how to teach yourself any language (especially Japanese). A great read for auto-didacts and those who want to be. Here's a recent post that helped me make up my mind on a personal issue that had stymied me: The problem is choice
  • Who killed lard?
  • Zombie grammar rules that eat your brain. First on the menu: split infinitives.
  • Fascinating: Sewer workers (and dwellers) of Victorian London

Assorted links

  • Steve reviews Robert Graves' The Anger of Achilles, and finds more ways to say that Graves is one can short of a six-pack than I could imagine.
  • Bookshelf Porn: "A collection of all the best bookshelf photos for people who *heart* bookshelves."
  • The illustrated guide to a PhD. Check out the other articles on his site if you're into programming and time management. Good stuff.
  • "Past the Cemetery," a poem by Charles Simic. I wonder what I'd have thought of the poem if it had been titled differently.
  • A cultural historian on Batman: "Here’s a character with massive financial resources and considerable technical and intellectual knowledge whose main response to crime is to dress up in a costume and beat up street-level thugs." Please. Batman is only as mixed-up as his super-villains.
  • Yiddish Theater talk-rendering of "Old Man River" (from the Mary Tyler Moore blooper reel)


Assorted links

  • "The truth is dancers and musicians live in two different worlds."
  • For academic writers, the Rule of 200. Writing 200 words/day is rather like writing for 15 minutes/day -- it sets an objective, emotionally neutral goal. Getting that first draft squeezed out is most important; quality can be layered in later. Also, this raises the task from a "special project" (I only write when I'm inspired or when I think I have time) to a routine that one doesn't have to think about doing -- you just sit down to do it. I would like to find a similar metric for editing a document, but maybe minutes per day is the best metric there.