Antidisestablishmentarianism: a fancy word

I am guilty. Guilty of being able to spell the word above without using a spell-checker. It’s a curious word and I think it is worth knowing what it means and where it came from. Let’s dissect it. As all great stories do, it starts in Medieval England…

Henry VIII was famous for two things. Marrying women and executing folk. As it so happens, he was married to a very important lady, called the Catherine of Aragon. They were married for quite some time but there was a significant problem with her: she couldn’t give Henry a son. You see, the English have very specific rules about who gets to sit on the throne, explained here. Hence, Henry desperately wanted a son in order to pass his crown to him and name him the heir upon his demise. This was a problem and as Catherine was getting older and older, Henry began to worry. The only way to solve this issue and somehow acquire a legitimate heir would be to get married again. Yet, this was not really a possibility since the church did not allow divorces. So, Henry did what any reasonable person in his place would do; he started his own church. That is now called the Church of England, the state church of the country.

However, some people were Catholic and therefore didn’t particularly appreciate that Henry established this new church as the state church very much. Hence, they wanted to disestablish this church as the official church of England. Hence, this cause was dubbed disestablishment. However, other folks didn’t particularly appreciate this and fought against it. Their movement was, therefore, antidisestablishmentary. A person who supported this movement was then known as antidisestablishmentari-an. Group up enough of these people and suddenly, you have the ideological movement of antidisestablishmentari-an-ism. Antidisestablishmentarianism. There you go, one of the longest words in the dictionary.

To end with a little quirk, even Eminem used this word in one of his songs, Almost Famous. Listen to him rap this insane word in the following clip.

 

 

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The Black Books: Social critique

You are most probably not familiar with the show The Black Books. It is a rather niche British TV series which, let’s be frank, you probably wouldn’t find funny unless you have a special taste for the British humour.

Anyway, there is a rather curious scene where one of the characters, Fran, gets a generic office job. The issue is, Fran is not told what the job entails and what she is supposed to do. Watch how she handles a board meeting she is summoned to:

As the events unfold, Fran gets a promotion. Yup, she gets a promotion despite the fact that she does not even know what the job is about.

The show makes an obvious point in showing us the ridiculous job positions and the way the system is set up. There are people, somewhere in the world, and their numbers are not as low as you might expect, whose job is pretty much completely useless. An example of this is obviously paperwork. You are probably aware of this if you yourself started a business. It varies from country to country but the amount of papers you need to fill and the reports and taxes you need to submit is outright ridiculous in some cases. Furthermore, someone actually needs to read all those pieces of paper and sort them and move them about into their proper pigeonholes. The show actually explores the issue of taxes in the very first episode where the main character, Bernard, literally sticks and tapes all of the receipts together to make a “smart, casual jacket” rather than doing his taxes.

On the other hand, managerial positions are far from being useless, contrary to the popular opinion. While it would be nice to explore the importance of managers in the corporate world, this post would be far too wordy for that.

Procrastination: The Ultimate Review

You know the word. You’ve heard it before. Perhaps you even used it yourself. You get all jittery when someone whispers it in a dark alley after dusk.

Procrastination

Yeah, quite awful isn’t it? It seems to be a more ubiquitous of an ailment than the common cold. But wait! There are certainly a lot of books on the topic and how to deal with it; how to be productive. I looked it up, Amazon will show you over 7130 results if you type that into the search bar. Seems like a lot to go through, though just the first result reads: Procrastination Cure. Easy enough, let’s just delve into one of these little guides.

But wait, it’s not really working is it? Well there are certainly a lot of tricks and ways to make yourself pick up the habits you really want to have. Yeah well, turns out it’s more complicated than that.

From the medical point of view, procrastination is the very much logical mechanism for jittery cavemen who sought instant gratification, like sex or food. It’s a great way to survive, should you live in the ice age. Though it is most inconvenient nowadays when you just absolutely need to finish that term paper yet the next season of GoT is coming up (it’s the 17th by the way) and you just catch yourself binge watching all the previous seasons.

The main way in which tricks which battle procrastination work (this is important in order to understand, pay close attention) is to provide the brain something else. Our brains, curious little guys, seek instant gratification. Binge eating, show watching, having sex, etc. NOW, the brain wants it NOW. It doesn’t want to wait. Imagine you are having a conversation with your brain.

You: Alright, so can we do the term paper now? I am failing sociology, I need to do this.
Brain: What do I get out of it.
You: Well, we don’t get to fail and stay at uni for a bit more. Also, if we have a good grade, we can get a first. And then, we can get, like a really cool job. And then we’ll have like lots of money so we can be lazy and watch like, films in the bed all the time.
Brain: So, now you want me to toil away and do this incredibly boring… thing, and then in 10 years I get something back?
You: …
Brain: …
You: Well..
Brain: Sod off.

It doesn’t sound all that great, if you are the brain, does it? Why would the brain want to do that, it wants something now. It wants to be shown it is a good boy. It wants dopamine and it can’t get it from writing the term paper (except at the end). Let me outline for you an exercise which is rather effective against procrastinating.

Let’s say you need to do a task which involved a lot of smaller tasks. Say, you are a free-lancer and you need to write up 10 blog posts in order to pay the rent. Get two glasses and 10 paper clips. Now, fill one of the glasses with the paper clips and using a dry, erasable marker, let’s call the first glass to-do. Using the same marker, label the empty glass done.

Recap: two glasses, one done the other to-do. The first one is empty and the other one is filled with 10 paper clips.

Now, this is the hard part. Start writing. Sit down and write the first blog post. See, that wasn’t so tough. Here comes the fun part, take one of the paper clips from the to-do glass and place it into the other glass. Now the score is 9 to 1. The next post, another paper clip. You get the idea.

The basic principle behind this is that your brain gets immediate feedback. It sees that it did something. You moved the paper clip into the other glass. Good job, get yourself a pat on the shoulder! (That was a metaphor. Brains don’t have shoulders.)

Quite unfortunately, no one is going to explain to you why those exercises work, so I hope you enjoyed the summary. People do spread these tricks don’t really understand them and people who devised them are way too clever to explain them in laymen terms. Now when you understand it, you can easily come up with your own exercises and modify them. For example, instead of paper clips, you can have biscuits. Reward yourself and the brain will be happy for you to work as long as you want.

You still here? I guess you are really looking for a way to stop procrasting. Alright, let me give you a little guide: head over to Habitica.com and try that our for yourself. I will soon write a short review where I will thoroughly dissect the idea behind the project.

Khan Academy: You can learn anything

Self-help books are notorious for being more or less useless. To start doing something, working on a project, is difficult. It’s not easy to make that first step and start. On a related note, you might have heard of a video made by Khan Academy with the title: You can learn anything.

The video conveys an important message and it blatantly states the obvious which we often fail to realise in our everyday life. There was a point in time when Einstein couldn’t count to ten. While self-explanatory and, after mulling it over for a bit, it becomes totally obvious. When Shakespeare was a toddler, he had to learn the alphabet. We all do, no one is born smart.

While the genetic information gets passed from the parents to offspring, our memories and all the information we store in our long-term memory during our lives get lost. Hence, we all start at zero, more or less. Naturally, the message is not perfectly honest since different sorts of education and upbringing both influence us heavily in adulthood. Were you born into a posh family, you probably obtained an exquisite and expensive education. It is no coincidence that all the British prime ministers almost invariably went to Eton College, a very expensive and fancy place to study which few can afford.

Despite several shortcomings, the video does have an important and very honest message. We all start and zero and there is no shame in trying and failing. We all fail when we try something new. Sure, some people fail less often than others but we all failed at some point at something.

This blatant realisation is one of the best self-help adages you can live by. It might still seem to you that learning something new, especially if you are somewhat older (it’s a great excuse, isn’t it? “I’m too old for this”), is just a hell lot of work and you can’t possibly manage that with your time schedule. How long do you think it takes to learn something new? Instead of elaborating on it with fancy words, let me just give you a great summary in the following video:

 

20 hours. That seems magnificently short, does it not? It’s true though, you would be really puzzled at how quickly you can pick up a skill. While it is true that as we age, our brains become less plastic and it does get a bit more difficult to pick up new skills, it is always possible. It might take you 25 instead of 20 hours but still, that is a very decent result.

So, why don’t you, once in a while, pop to Khan Academy and try to pick up the basics of Quantum Mechanics? You might surprise yourself. To give you some motivation, this is my score on Khan Academy as of now, just to show I’m not talking cobblers.

Khan.png

John Oliver and the importance of polite society

John Oliver is a rising figure who is sort of a self-proclaimed vigilante, running a weekly segment on HBO called Last Week Tonight. Link to the channel at the end of the post.

The main idea behind these segments is to pinpoint inconspicuous problems in the society and do the sort of research necessary to properly understand them. This is greatly beneficial to the general public as not many people have the time or willingness to do this sort of background digging.

The themes are mainly American, but there are a few important sections which aimed to outline the issues in Europe as well, for instance, the rather misguided Brexit and the rise of far-right nationalists in France. John Oliver and his team (I feel the need to mention the people working behind the scenes who make the whole show possible, kudos to them) want, in essence, to raise awareness about important problems our society faces.

They do it in a rather non-traditional way. There are not as many comparable sources and people/organisations who do the same sort of work. One example is, of course, bloggers and vloggers but those can target a markedly smaller reader/viewership than an HBO segment. Furthermore, Last Week Tonight is run by very intelligent professionals who actually know a great deal about the presented problems.

One of the unfortunate aspects of the show is the language used though. N.B.: I do absolutely hold the opinion that John Oliver is a great man and his cause is admirable, especially since he has to face the consequences such as litigation. The target audience is probably a rather educated, liberal sort, for instance, the sort of people who watch Game of Thrones, enjoy the experience and remember more than 6 characters altogether.

However, the language John Oliver uses is rather crude and it creates an odd contrast between the sophistication and in-depth comprehension of the given issues which he is trying to convey to the audience and the penile references who are, sorry to say, occasionally somewhat shoddy. His videos are full of improper and rude language, possibly in order to connect with people more. This use of swear words on television does make him stand out and brings something new to the segment. However, as of late the number of insults and sexual references has steadily increased.

Were his segments rid of this crass language, it might be possible to extend the target audience to important societies, such as schools. In high schools, the professors would be doomed to show their pupils these segments, especially the newest ones, since that would be a violation of the regular school code. That is a shame since young students could be one of the loudest groups who want a change in the society. It has often been the case in the past that revolutions and demonstrations were led and organised mostly by university students and were John Oliver more appropriate with his language to be shared with the younger generation, the problems he comments on might just become solvable much more easily.

John Oliver’s Youtube channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/LastWeekTonight