Men are far more likely to make stupid decisions in sports. But are the reasons for this stupidity all bad? I don’t think so.

This will come as no surprise to anyone who plays a coed sport:

On the playing field, men are more likely than women to make dumb decisions.

The major finding:

As the competition (in US Open Tennis) gets tighter, men are more likely to screw up. During set tiebreakers, female players were more likely to make the correct challenge call, and men more likely to make an incorrect call.

The study, conducted by conducted by economics professors from Deakin University in Melbourne and Sogang University in Seoul, only looks at US Open tennis, but the same principles are easily applied to other sports, including golf.

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More than half of the errors that I make while playing golf are mental errors, and a good percentage of them amount to little more than dumb decisions.

These dumb decisions fall into three categories:

  1. I failed to take an aspect of the course (a tiered green, an enormous pond, a stiff breeze) into account before swinging.
  2. I failed to think strategically before swinging
  3. I attempted a shot that was impossible or nearly impossible in hopes that it might work.

It’s this latter error (and my most frequent error) that this study seems to address.

Errors like these often occur when I am standing in a tree line on the edge of a fairway. “The mature shot” (a phrase my friends and I often use to describe the boring but sensible shot) would be to chip the ball out of the tree line onto the fairway and proceed to the green.

Instead, I look ahead to the green and see an opening through the tree line down to the green. Hitting my ball through this series of spaces between the trees will require me to hit a ball low and long and accurate to within three feet, absent of any slice or draw. It will require the perfect shot. But if I manage t pull it off, I could be on the green and save myself at least one stroke.

It’s a decision I make often. It’s a decision that my friends make often.

The results are rarely good.

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These findings can be applied to other sports as well. I play coed basketball, and I’ve found that a man is much more likely to throw up an improbable shot during a game (and particularly near the end of the game) than a woman.

The authors attribute the propensity for men to make these kinds of dumb decisions to three factors: 

Overconfidence: Men are more prone to cockiness, and think that their perspective is always correct.

Pride: Men also possess a disproportionate amount of pride. Governed by their egos, men can’t bear to lose, and are more susceptible to making an irrational decision.

Shame: Men are also less prone to shame than women. They don’t see the same downside to screwing up. “Guys just don’t care as much about losing challenges,” Martina Navratilova, winner of 18 Grand Slam singles titles, told TIME. “Women are more concerned about being embarrassed.”

The authors of the study agree:

“At crucial moments of the match, such as tiebreaks … male players try to win at all costs, while female players accept losing more gracefully.”

Overconfidence and pride seem to be hindrances to performance in almost all cases, but a reduced propensity for shame is less clear.

In the 16 years that I have spent working primarily with women, in addition to the three years spent studying at a women’s college, I have taken note in this difference in the way that men and women experience shame. I think Navratilova and the authors of the study are correct:

Men are far less concerned about being embarrassed than women.

While this lack of concern over embarrassment may lead to my willingness to attempt impossible golf shots and ultimately cause me to lose more often, I’ve also noted that men are more willing to take risks, both athletically and professionally, and that these risks often pay off enormously.

It also allows men to focus more closely on critical aspects of their job that they deem most important while allowing less important but potentially embarrassing aspects of the job to receive little or no attention.

It also prevents concern over perceived embarrassments over factors that others would never even notice.

This one seems especially prevalent in female culture.

So yes, men are more likely to make dumb decisions on the tennis court, and probably in most athletic endeavors. And yes, overconfidence, pride, and shame (or a lack thereof) are contributing factors to our stupidity.

But men’s reduced level of concern over embarrassment may not be all bad. At the very least, it reduces anxiety and worry and frees up vast amounts of time and resources. But it may also greatly contribute to a man’s willingness to try new things, take risks, fight relentlessly, fail often, and ultimately find higher ground.

And take some terrible golf shots along the way.

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Plants are smarter than we ever imagined. Eating them is no less cruel than eating a cow. And cows taste better.

I have always secretly hoped that someday we would discover that plants are just as sentient as animals, and as a result, the aggressively judgmental, overly proselytizing ethical vegans of the world would be forced to come to terms with the fact that when it comes to food, they are no less murderous than the cow and chicken-eating people like me.

It’s getting harder and harder to deny that plants are a hell of a lot smarter and more aware of their surroundings than we ever thought.

Plants have a sense of smell.

Plants can see.

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Plants can hear.

Certain plants are capable of evading enemies and discerning friend from foe.

Plants can communicate with each other:

 

Plants respond to gravity. Light. Chemicals. They move. They network. They sleep. They play:

 

Michael Pollan writes a lengthy piece in The New Yorker about plant intelligence, including the distinct possibility that plants have feelings and memory.

Natalie Angier, writing for  the New York Times, points out that plants are chemical factories that are capable of calling for help. Warning their neighbors. Bait and trap their enemies. Plotting the demise of their attacker.

Angier challenges the moral high ground that ethical vegans have so righteously ascended. She writes: 

Plants no more aspire to being stir-fried in a wok than a hog aspires to being peppercorn-studded in my Christmas clay pot. This is not meant as a trite argument or a chuckled aside. Plants are lively and seek to keep it that way. The more that scientists learn about the complexity of plants — their keen sensitivity to the environment, the speed with which they react to changes in the environment, and the extraordinary number of tricks that plants will rally to fight off attackers and solicit help from afar — the more impressed researchers become, and the less easily we can dismiss plants as so much fiberfill backdrop, passive sunlight collectors on which deer, antelope and vegans can conveniently graze. It’s time for a green revolution, a reseeding of our stubborn animal minds.

I’ve said it before: It’s remarkably arrogant for us to think that we fully understand the true nature of any living thing, including plants. To simply assume that the carrot you are eating is incapable of experiencing thought or pain or existential suffering is foolish. As scientists are continuing to discover, plant life is capable of far more sentience than we could have ever imagined.

So eat up, my ethically vegan friends, while there is still time. It won’t be long before we discover that the acorn that smacked you on the head was purposely thrown by an oak tree getting revenge for it’s leafy brethren.

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The ad has good intentions, but it doesn’t depict reality, and that could be more damaging to girls than no ad at all.

This new Verizon-sponsored ad, which was made in conjunction with Makers to show how parents unintentionally steer their daughters away from science and math, is receiving a lot of praise for the way it doesn’t focus solely on female body and beauty issues, as well as its willingness to shine the light on the role that parents play in the problem. 

Amanda Marcotte of Slate calls it a “blast of refreshing cool air.”

I understand why critics like the ad so much, but here’s my problem with it:

Are there really parents in the world as sexist and stupid as the ones depicted in the commercial?

I’m not sure. If there are parents like this, they are hardly in the majority. 

There are four incidents depicted in the commercial during which the girl is supposedly steered away from science.

First, while hiking up a mountain and through a stream while wearing rubber boots, her mother says, “Sammy, don’t get your dress dirty.”

On a hike? Up a mountain? In a stream? Is there some fine dining establishment at the summit with a strict dress code? Is this rocky, mountain trail also the path to Sammy’s kindergarten graduation?

Next, a slightly older Sammy is standing in a tidal pool, holding a starfish. Dad says, “You don’t want to mess with that. Why don’t you put it down.”

A starfish? Not an angry crab. Not a potentially poisonous sea urchin. Perhaps the most defenseless creature on the entire planet: A starfish.

Next, Sammy is hanging spheres decorated as planets over her bed. Her mother pokes her head into her bedroom and says, “This project has gotten out of control.”

Perhaps it’s the use of glitter, which should be banned from the Earth, that has gotten her mother’s knickers in a bunch. I could understand this concern. I’d even be willing to support the mother’s discontent. But other than the possible overuse of glitter, what exactly has “gotten out of control?” Was Sammy’s mother thinking that her solar system would consist of just eight planets, but Sammy foolishly made thirteen?

The last example is the worst. Teenage Sammy is drilling a screw into a model rocket while her older brother looks on. Dad shouts, “Whoa. Be careful with that (drill). Why don’t you hand it to your brother.”

Not a table saw. Not a weaponized laser beam. Not a nail gun. A drill.

I’m not saying that girls can’t use table saws, weaponized laser beams, or nail guns, but as a parent, I can understand the concern for any teenager (or me) using these tools. But a drill is one step removed from an egg beater. It’s one of the most benign of all the power tools. What damage could Sammy possibly do with a drill?

I believe that parents play a role in a girl’s decisions to turn away from science and math. I just don’t believe that it’s typically (or ever) done in such ham-handed, overtly sexist ways as depicted in this commercial. 

Most important, unrealistic and exaggerated ads like this make it too easy for parents to watch them and think, “I’d never do anything like that,” while ignoring the more subtle signals that we send to our girls everyday.

When we show parents the worst examples of parenting, we offer them the opportunity to feel good about themselves and their own parenting, when in truth, they may be just as guilty of the same kinds of behavior that this ad depicts, only in more subtle and realistic forms.  

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Napping will kill you. Science says so.

A 13-year study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology has revealed that if you take naps during the day, you are more likely to die sooner than those who do not. 

The study, which was performed by researchers at Cambridge University, studied the habits of over 16,000 men and women in Britain and found that those who take naps during the day are almost a third more likely to die before they turn 65.

The biggest risks come from respiratory problems that napping is likely to induce. People who slept during the day for more than an hour had more than double the chance of dying from a respiratory illness than those who didn't nap at all.

I’ve always thought that napping was stupid.

A waste of time. A sign of weakness.

Now it’s deadly, too.

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It’s the second parent’s second opinion that is often most valuable

Interesting data out of the UK indicates that that kids who grow up with a single parent or step-parent think of themselves as no less happy than kids who grow up with their biological mom and dad.

Researchers from UK’s NatCen Social Research analyzed data from almost 13,000 children and found that children’s stated happiness had no correlation to their family structure. 36% of 7-year olds said they were “happy all the time” and 64% said they were happy “sometimes or never,” regardless of whether they were raised by two biological parents or one. This result stayed the same even when researchers controlled for social class.

These results surprise me. 

Since becoming a parent,  I have come to understand the value of a two parent household, regardless of who those parents may be. There are moments in parenting when a second opinion is essential and invaluable.

That second opinion is oftentimes the voice of reason.

When sleep-training our daughter, for example, Elysha and I would would put Clara into her crib and walk away as she began crying. Sitting downstairs, we would listen to her wail through the monitor, and invariably, one of us would crack and decide that we had waited long enough.

The other would then say, “Give it five more minutes.”

Five more minutes was all it ever took for her to fall asleep.

Today she sleeps like a rock and refuses to sleep in our bed, even if we want her to.

I’m not sure that she would be as well trained as she is had only one of us been present during sleep training.

It need not even be a second parent. Any level-headed adult will do. If Elysha was abducted by aliens next week and I found myself alone with my two children, I would immediately move one of my single friends, male or female, into my home to assist with parenting.

Not to change the diapers, make dinner or help with bathing (though that would be nice, too), but simply to serve as the voice of reason when it was needed.

To be available to provide a second opinion.    

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Also, happiness is not everything. Though children appear equally happy in one or two parent homes, research has also shown that children in single-parent homes are more likely to become incarcerated or drop out of school, so maybe that second opinion is as valuable as I initially thought.

Spite is good. Science agrees. Tim Martin agrees.

The New York Times recently published a piece entitled Spite is Good. Spite Works. Research seems to indicate that human decency and cooperation require “a certain degree of so-called altruistic punishment: the willingness of some individuals to punish rule breakers even when the infraction does not directly affect them — challenging the guy who broke into the line behind you, for example.”

I have been known to act spitefully from time to time. I maintain an “I told you so” calendar, for example, and consider the words “I told you so” to be the best four words in the English language.   

I may have even attempted to coin the phrase, “The best reason to do anything is spite.”

As you might imagine, I was thrilled to see the New York Times piece. It’s always nice to see that science is on my side.

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Before you disagree, consider this enlightening story:

J D Wetherspoon is a well known, highly respected British pub chain.

Founded in 1979 by Tim Martin, the company owns over 900 outlets. The company also operates the Lloyds No. 1 chain and a number of Wetherspoon Hotels. It has become known for converting large, unconventional premises into pubs.

The J D Wetherspoon name comes from one of Martin's teachers in New Zealand who could not control his class, and told Tim that he would never succeed in business.

The man named his business out of spite.

It’s not hard to imagine that spite was probably a primary motivator in Tim Martin’s success.

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Casual Friday EVERYDAY could save the world (and your soul)

I have argued for years that formal dress codes and formal dress expectations are ridiculous.

The idea that men go to work every day in a coat and tie, even when it’s 85 degrees outside, is insane.

Neckties are insane in all circumstances. Wrapping your neck in an unnecessary floral noose is insane.

I stopped wearing ties about six years ago. Other than my sister-in-law’s wedding and two weddings that I officiated, I have not worn a tie in that time. I only wear a suit if I am attending a wedding or another formal situation (an interview, for example) where my lack of a suit might impede my success.

Even then, failing to comport to the expected dress code is often irrelevant and unnoticed, as I have argued here before.

If you are a person who thinks that formal dress is ridiculous but worries about the impression that you may be making, I have hope for you:

The United Nations panel on climate change, along with researchers at Lancaster University, are recommending that we abandon the stupidity of a suit and tie in an effort to curb climate change.

That’s right. Stop dressing like a mindless automaton who the sixteen year-old version of you would have despised and you can do your part to save the world.  

Currently, heating and cooling systems in the office and at home are designed to provide comfortable conditions for people wearing lightweight clothing, such as suits.

As more people wear casual, thicker clothing, these buildings will need less energy.

‘There is no doubt that the move away from formal office wear towards jeans, hoodies and more casual clothes is reducing the need for workplaces to be heated to the same degree,’ said Professor Elizabeth Shove from the research center.

‘And in hot climates, why not change dress codes rather than cooling buildings to counter the effect of wearing a suit and tie? These are not entirely fanciful questions.’

Not fanciful at all.

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How many times have you seen this happen:

A man and a woman arrive at a formal affair. The man is wearing a suit and tie, which amounts to more clothing than he ever wears in his regular life. As a result, he is warm and uncomfortable. If there is dancing at this affair, he will likely perspire as much as he would while working out at the gym.

At the same time, his female companion is wearing a little black dress. Because the room is being cooled for the men in their formal attire, the woman is cold. Her arms are covered with goose bumps. As a result, she eventually dons the suit coat of her male counterpart.

By the way, if dancing is involved, she is likely wearing shoes that will need to be removed in order to dance.

As a wedding DJ, I watch this bizarre ritual all the time. Men and women dress in ways that deny themselves comfort.

It turns out that not only is it stupid, but it’s hurting our planet.

Around half the energy used in buildings is used to keep them at this temperature, all over the world, regardless of the weather outside.

If we all decided to dress for comfort rather than some arcane sense of what is proper or appropriate, we could make an enormous dent in CO2 transmissions.

We could also be more like the people we wanted to be when we were young and idealistic and brave.

The Reverse Nap: Mounting evidence that I am not a crazy person

I’ve been reversing napping for more than a year now.

I go to sleep at my regularly appointed hour, usually somewhere between 11:30 PM and midnight.

Then I wake up at some point in the middle of the night, usually around 2:00 AM. I climb out of bed. go downstairs and work for about 90 minutes. I write, revise, empty the dishwasher, walk the dog, pay bills, read.

Then around 3:30 AM I return to bed and experience all the joys of climbing into a warm bed and falling asleep for a second time that night. I sleep for another 90 minutes or so and then wake up again and begin my day.

The Reverse Nap.

I don’t do it every night, but I do it many nights.

When I first started reverse napping, people thought I was crazy. Then I wrote about it, and shortly thereafter, a few people began trying it and wrote to me, singing its praises.

Then I found research suggesting that segmented sleep, with two periods of rest separated by a period of wakefulness, was the dominant form of sleep in Western civilization prior to the Industrial Revolution. Human beings, it turns out, are already wired to reserve nap and did so for centuries.

Then I found research suggesting that if you are already awakening in the middle of the night and struggling to fall back asleep, remaining in bed can actually lead to “learned” insomnia, a kind of sleeplessness is caused by anxiety that comes from trying too hard to doze off when you can’t. 

Last week, New York Times science columnist Anahad O’Connor answered a question from a reader who falls asleep easily but is wide awake after only 3-4 hours.

O’Connor turned to Dr. Meir H. Kryger, a professor at Yale School of Medicine and the author of “The iGuide to Sleep,” who suggests the following:

If you wake up at night and find that you still cannot get back to sleep after 20 minutes, do not lie there in anguish staring at your clock. Get out of bed and do something that distracts and relaxes you, like reading a book. Then return to bed when you feel sleepy.

Dr. Kryger is suggesting the Reverse Nap.

Perhaps I’m not so crazy after all.

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Dumb people help make dreams come true

A survey, conducted by the National Science Foundation, found that 1 in 4 Americans believe that the sun revolves around the Earth.

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Also, less than half of Americans know that humans evolved from other species of animals.

These numbers are shocking. They may be an indication of the failure of science instruction in America (though I tend to believe that people who lack this level of basic understanding suffer from personal accountability issues rather than failures in instruction). 

Regardless of the cause, I like to look at the bright side of things:

With so many uninformed and possibly stupid people in America, it will be that much easier for my children (and even my students) to find jobs in their chosen fields.

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As long as they don’t end up like the morons who responded to this survey (and I’ll make sure of that), they should do well in the job market.

More good news from the study:

Only 66 percent of European Union residents knew that the Earth revolves around the sun.

National pride restored!

Not to mention an entire continent filled with people even less informed than Americans. In today’s global economy, more good news for the well informed.

If Dennis is a dentist, what is a Dicks?

You may have heard about this research, which seems to suggest that your name can influence your future career choice.

If your name is Dennis, you are more likely to become a dentist.

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This works with other names, too. Lauras and Larrys are also more likely to become lawyers, for example.

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The effect is attributed to something called implicit egotism.

“People prefer people, places, and things that they associate (unconsciously) with the self. Peoples positive automatic associations about themselves may influence their feelings about almost anything that people associate with the self.”

I plan on using this odd human tendency as the basis of a novel someday.

But here is the $10,000 question:

If these findings are correct, what does this mean for someone like me with the last name Dicks?

Or even worse, someone like my uncle Harry Dicks, or my great uncle, Harry Dicks, or my father, Les Dicks?

Advancements in medical technology are amazing. I dread every one of them.

My brother had a root canal last week.

Unfortunately, I have some experience with root canals. When I was 17 years old, I was in a car accident that dislodged my entire bottom row of teeth. Doctors wired the row back down, losing one one in the process, and the teeth remarkably took root again. Unfortunately, they are now more naturally prone to problems as a result of the trauma.

So far two have required root canals.

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My first root canal took place in 1993. It was a three day process which required the dentist to drill a hole through my tooth down to the nerve and then pack the tooth with a filling. Each time filling was added, he would pack it down until the filling pressed against the nerve and caused me pain, at which point I was required to raise my hand to tell him that he had reached the level that caused pain.

I couldn’t receive Novocain or any other pain suppressor because the dentist needed to know when it hurt in order to do the job. 

This went on for almost two hours. It was awful. It hurt like hell for days and days later.

My second root canal took place in 2006. Elysha and I were in Bermuda on our honeymoon, and during the last day of the trip, my tooth began to ache. By the time we arrived home, it was hurting badly, and the dentist determined that a root canal was needed.

This root canal took less than an 45 minutes and was entirely pain free.

I hugged the dentist when he was done. I nearly cried.

I should be grateful to live in a time when medical advancements have transformed a painful, three day process into a simple, 45 minute procedure. Every day scientists takes steps closer to  eradicating disease, extending lifespan and improving our overall well being.

I should be thrilled. 

It’s entirely the opposite.

Each medical (or dental) advance reminds me of how many more breakthroughs are yet to come. I’m reminded about how human lifespan will continue to be extended, as it has been for centuries, and how I might miss out on this future progress unless I continue to avoid death.

I appreciate these advancement in medical technology, but I worry that they are not  coming fast enough. One of my greatest fears is that scientists will develop an anti-aging serum a week or two after I die.

There may even come a day when human immortality is a possibility, either physically or by means of downloading our consciousness onto a computer. I know it sounds like a pipe dream, but it really isn’t. Scientists are working on these technologies right now.

If the human race achieves some form of immortality a day or two after I have died, I ‘m going to be very annoyed.

Male lions aren’t lazy after all. They are actually more efficient than female lions.

There was a time when scientists believed that the female lion was the hunter and the male lion lounged around all day, waiting for the female to bring home the bacon.

This assumption was made based upon scientific observation. It was not hard to see.

Female lions chased and killed their prey, and male lions did not.

I wasn’t sure how I felt about this.

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Part of me was annoyed with the male lion for disparaging our sex by acting like a lazy, good-for-nothing freeloader. The lion is supposed to be the King of the Jungle, but he more closely resembled Archie Bunker.

But another part of my was impressed by the male lion’s ability to avoid hard work and allow someone else to do it for him. As a person who believes in delegating responsibility whenever possible, the male lion’s approach to hunting appealed to my ongoing desire to increase productivity.

Except he wasn’t exactly writing a novel, building a home or otherwise using his time wisely. He was rolling around in mud. Ideally strolling. Splashing in rivers. Napping. 

I despise napping.

So I was conflicted. I wasn’t sure how I should feel about the male lion.

Not anymore.

Further research into lion behavior, conducted partly through the use of infrared drones, has discovered that male lions are just as active when it comes to hunting as female lions.

They simply hunt for efficiently.

Rather than chasing antelope on the savannah under the hot African sun, male lions hunt at night by locating a game trail and positioning themselves in an ideal spot for ambushing unsuspecting prey. They use considerably fewer calories in this type of hunting but are just as effective as finding and killing their prey as their female counterparts.

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It turns out that male lions are actually better hunters than female lions.

It would be ridiculous for me to find joy in this newfound knowledge. Aside from both being male, lions and I have nothing in common.

Still, I do.

The King of the Jungle is once again deserving of that title.

Even better male lions have embraced my philosophy of life completely:

Accomplish as much as possible, as efficiently as possible.

We should constantly be looking to reinvent the wheel

“Why reinvent the wheel?”

Whenever I hear this question (which is a lot), my response is always the same:

“My wheel will be better.”

“Why reinvent the wheel?” asks us to to accept work that has been already done as ideal. It implies that the products of the past are highly effective for our current needs. It insists that time spent on something already completed is a waste of time.

I rarely find any of this to be the case.

As if to drive home this point, researchers at MIT have literally reinvented the wheel, and it’s a hell of a lot better than anything that’s come before it.

It’s amazing.

Why reinvent the wheel?

Because we should always believe that we can do better.

When was the last time you were bored?

Slate’s Gemma Malley makes the argument that extending a human beings lifespan would result in inexorable boredom.

Do we really want to extend the human lifespan indefinitely? Would it really make us happy?

To which I believe the answer is no, and no.

What we forget when we focus on extending our lifespan as long as possible is that things make us happy because they are rare, finite, and therefore valuable and precious. Diamonds. Newborns. Laughter. Great first dates. Great third dates. Sunshine. (I live in London. Trust me, sunshine is very rare and very finite.) Make these things available to everyone all the time, and they would lose their glow, become mundane.

Two thoughts:

1. Nonsense. This may be true for some, who seem perpetually bored even in their twenties, but certainly not for all.

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2. Other than the times when I am forced to sit through a meeting, I can’t remember the last time that I was bored. I gave a talk to a Happiness Club last week, and the central theme of my talk was to say yes to everything that life has to offer, regardless of how busy you already are. 

“Be so busy that you wish you had more time for television.”

This is what I have done with my life. It occurs to me that my wife and I have not watched a single minute of television since last Thursday night.

More than a week ago.  

Don’t get me wrong. We want to watch TV. We enjoy watching TV. There are even shows on the DVR that we would like to see. We just don’t have the time to sit down on the couch for an hour.

Boredom has become an impossible-to-imagine concept in my life, and I’m willing to bet on my continued ability to fill my life to the brim regardless of how long I live.

So I’m willing to risk the inherent perils of eternal life. Bring it on.

You’re making your insomnia worse. Get out of bed and do something great.

Author Nichole Berneir tweeted the following last week:

One thing that made a tremendous difference in my productivity & happiness a year ago: Instead of fighting insomnia, get up and work.

I found that I'd usually had enough sleep to make it through the next day safely (with coffee), and I get a tremendous amount done 4-6am.

Brilliant.

Sleep is bad enough. Fruitless time spent in bed makes no sense at all.

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It turns out that Nichole’s advice has support in the scientific community.

Restricting the amount of time you spend lying in bed may be one of the best weapons against conditioned or so-called "learned" insomnia. This kind of sleeplessness is caused by anxiety that comes from trying too hard to doze off when you can’t.

"The harder a person tries to sleep, the harder it becomes," says James Findley, Ph.D., clinical director of the behavioral sleep medicine program at the Center for Sleep and Circadian Neurobiology at the University of Pennsylvania's Perelman School of Medicine.

According to Findley, lying in bed when you’re alert strengthens the association between being in bed and not sleeping. Over time, the bed becomes a cue for being awake.

I don’t suffer from insomnia. On the contrary, I can fall asleep in less than two minutes after my head hits the pillow (and oftentimes much faster than that), and I remain asleep until my alarm goes off around 4:30 or (more frequently) I wake up naturally around that time.

There are a few secrets to my sleep success, in case you’re interested.

But when people turn to me for advice on increasing productivity, losing weight or achieving goals (as they occasionally do), one of their most common excuses for failure is a lack of time in the day to exercise, write, mediate, cook healthier meals or work on whatever goal they are trying to achieve.

I always say the same thing:

Everyone can sleep 30 minutes less. Everyone. If you really want to achieve something great, start by climbing out of bed 30 minutes earlier.

That’s 30 additional minutes in your day to exercise, write, meditate, prepare a healthier meal or do whatever is needed to get closer to your goal.

That’s an additional 3.5 hours per week to do something great.  

Think about how powerful that is. You just made your day 30 minutes longer than it was the day before. You’ve given yourself the gift of time.

There is nothing more valuable.

Nichole is right. If you can’t sleep, get out of bed. People who are awake before 6:00 AM accomplish an enormous amount while the rest of the world sleeps.

So sleep 30 minutes less, or like Nichole, stop wasting time in bed, trying to fall asleep, and get to work.

Or you could try a reverse nap. I hear it’s catching on.

What teachers know about bedtimes

New, compelling research on the connection between sleep and student success:

Researchers reporting in the journal Pediatrics studied more than 10,000 kids when they were three, five and seven years old and compared reports of behavior issues to their bedtimes. Kids with irregular sleep were more likely to have lower scores on tests that measured their ability to problem solve, and higher rates of hyperactivity, emotional difficulties, and problems dealing with peers.

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While the research is good, teachers have known this for years.

I routinely ask my students about their bedtimes, the consistency of their bedtimes and the presence of a television in their bedrooms, and this is what I know:

Student success can almost always be determined by these three factors.

Students with later bedtimes, students with inconsistent bedtimes (or no bedtime whatsoever) and students with a television in their bedrooms are almost always my most struggling students.

These three factors are quite possibly the most predictive of student achievement and behavior than any other.

Of course, these these factors might also be symptoms of an underlying problem, but the recent research would appear to indicate otherwise.

This should be good news to parents and would-be parents everywhere. Impose a consistent, relatively early bedtime and keep your child’s bedroom television-free, and you’re child’s academic and behavioral performance will almost surely improve.

There are no easy fixes when it comes to kids, but in comparison to many, this one isn’t too hard at all.

Is your marriage destined for success? Rate you and your spouse using these indicators.

Researchers from Rice University and the University of Nebraska—Lincoln analyzed data collected from more than 5,000 couples in order to find out how similar political beliefs were among spouses, and how much these elements played a role in the success or failure of a couple.

Simply put, opposites don’t attract. Couples with more similarities tend to fair much better than those that don’t. 

Researchers found that spouses’ strongest similarities were in church attendance and political attitudes, outweighing personality and physical appearance, and that these were key indicators of a successful marriage.  

As a reluctant atheist, I have always felt that I married into the perfect religion, since (as a Jewish friend once said) Jews are just agnostics with complex backstories.

This isn’t far from the truth when it comes to my wife.

The study, published in the Journal of Politics, lists traits they found similar in spouses, from super-alike to somewhat-alike.

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I went through the list to determine how Elysha and I rated, and we did well. It appears that we are destined for marital bliss. Here are the results:

  • Church attendance: Alike   
  • Political attitudes: Super alike    
  • Drinking frequency: Alike
  • Education: Super alike  
  • Height: Alike
  • Smoking frequency: Super alike
  • Weight: Alike
  • Sleep length: Not alike 

     

    Here is a selection of specific issues and attitudes that couples had similar views on, again rated from super-alike to less super-alike:

  • School prayer: Super alike 
  • Abortion: Alike
  • Gay rights: Super alike
  • X-rated movies: Huh? 
  • Death penalty: Super alike 
  • Divorce: Super alike 
  • Women's liberation: Alike   
  • Nuclear power: Not alike  
  • Astrology: Super alike 
  • Willingness to take a dangerous drug: Super alike 
  • Modern art: Alike 
  • Censorship: Super alike 
  • Belief that it's better to follow the rules: Not alike 
  • Liking to intimidate other people: Not alike 
  • Having been "fresh" to their parents as a child: Not alike
  • Best hurricane naming system ever

    I love this idea. It’s brilliant. It’s hilarious. It may not change minds, but it might shame and embarrass the criminally stupid and make the rest of us laugh in the process.

    Sadly, radical ideas like this rarely see the light of day. 

    Woman are cold

    My friend, who happens to be a physicist (so you know he’s smart) believes that women have a four degree comfort zone and men have a 20 degree comfort zone, and this explains why women are so often cold in an air conditioned environment. 

    I agree with this hypothesis. I have expanded slightly on his theory by identifying the average temperature ranges for both men and women.

    In my experience, women seem to be most comfortable in a 68-72 degree environment, whereas men seem just fine in temperatures ranging from 60-80 degrees.   

    I have not conducted a formal study to determine if my friend’s theory is correct, but I know this:

    In my four decades on this planet, I have never heard a man express the need for a sweater, jacket or wrap upon entering an air conditioned space. but I have heard a hundred thousand million women express this exact sentiment. 

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    This has been enough evidence for me, but lo and behold, there is actually some research that supports this belief. Findings suggest that there is a significant difference in heat perception between men and women on average. While studies have found that women's actual core body heat is slightly higher than men's, women's extremities tend to be a lot colder.

    In 1998, researchers at the University of Utah added a layer of subtlety to science's understanding of gender and body temperature. As had been found in previous studies, the researchers observed women tended to possess higher core temperatures than men (97.8 °F vs. 97.4 °F). Their hands, however, were consistently colder. A lot colder. While men registered an average hand temperature of 90 °F, the mean hand temperature for women was just 87.2 °F.

    Similar studies have also found this to be true for women’s feet as well. Apparently this reduced temperature in a woman’s extremities accounts for greater sensitivity to changes in air temperature.

    Thus the constant need for a sweater.

    What will forever remain a mystery to me is how often a woman finds herself in need of a sweater and doesn’t have one. If you’ve spent your entire life shivering in movie theaters, restaurants and banquet halls, why would you ever leave the house without an additional layer?

    I suspect that I’ll find no answer to this eternal conundrum.