Do the most unpleasant tasks first

Start your day by doing the most unpleasant tasks first.


Most of us have a task or two on that we really don’t want to do, and we procrastinate by doing other, less difficult or unpleasant tasks, often reasoning that we need to do those first. This goes for work and non-work life. The scientific literature on self-control suggests that willpower, our ability to make ourselves do things, is a very limited resource, and is at its peak early in our day. Given that, it’s best to do the most unpleasant tasks first and move from those to progressively more pleasant tasks as the day goes on. This approach will maximize our productivity.

No Man is an Island

No man is an island

No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thy friend’s
Or of thine own were:
Any man’s death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in mankind,
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; 
It tolls for thee. 


This wasn’t written as a poem, but as part of Donne’s “Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions”, a reflection on life while he was seriously ill. The words below are from Meditation XVII, and it’s well worth reading the whole of that meditation.

More on Donne’s Devotions:

The whole of Meditation XVII:

Note: I just realized I posted on this topic in 2013. This is an expanded and somewhat different entry.

You do not have to be good.

Wow. This is the most beautiful poem I’ve read in a while. It’s worth thinking through what this is saying to you, and what your answer will be.

Wild Geese

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting —
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

Mary Oliver 

You can watch the author reading her poem here:

US Firearms Deaths – Comparison to Wars

Earlier this year, Neil deGrasse Tyson posted a set of statistics on firearms deaths compared to deaths from war and terrorism. At a minimum, it should make you think about how much we sacrifice for our love of firearms.

For those of you wondering, these statistics are accurate. The source below has done the work of researching that.

Neil deGrasse Tyson, Guns, and Statistics


Deadly weapons aren’t for everyone

Gun-toting Florida mom shot in the back by her 4-year-old may go to jail for 180 days


BoingBoing’s coverage of this incident, including the offender’s/victim’s pic is perfect.

This is why I want serious firearms regulation. I’ve met far too many people like this, including some in the military and law enforcement, but civilians are generally worse. We need to have strong weapons laws with serious bite to them. Carrying deadly weapons isn’t for everyone, as this woman clearly demonstrates, and we will be forced to have this lesson repeated daily until enough of us learn it to take decisive action.


We have a moral duty to discuss the place of religion in society.

I mostly disagree with Harris on this, but I think it’s important that we have serious public and private discussions on the issue.


In response to a question by a G+ friend, I’ll elaborate on my one line comment above.

I don’t agree we should criticize a person’s faith, but we should absolutely be able to discuss it, and we have a moral duty to do so if that faith affects others. I think criticism just causes a religious person to close down any potential for dialogue, and (especially in the case of the western monotheistic religions) supports the religious idea that the world is against them.

Religious beliefs are getting people killed, or at least these belief systems provide a framework for dehumanizing others and making it easy to harm them. The current hateful situation in the US is not caused by religion, but religion acts as a catalyst, enabling and speeding the dehumanization and violence against the most vulnerable people. These belief systems keep humanity from advancing by causing us to divert much of our creative energy to attacking and destroying one another.

I also consider a wide variety of religious beliefs to be offensive. As far as reasonableness, I don’t think reasonableness is applicable to metaphysical belief systems. We can apply such a standard, but the religious believer won’t accept it and none of the theistic religions pass the reasonableness test.

Harris’ main point seems to be that religion is going to get us killed and is fundamentally incompatible with civilization, which I interpret as the belief that we need to eliminate religion if we want to maintain human civilization and not go extinct. I disagree with this point. Religion is neither necessary nor sufficient for violence and destruction of civilization. Humans have many traits that were useful in the past for survival in a hostile world, but are now slowing our advance toward a more peaceful and prosperous existence.

We spend much of our time and energy trying to achieve power, acquire things, and satisfy our desire to dominate and destroy, all at the expense of others, human and non-human, and these traits existed before the first proper religion was born. Perhaps most importantly, we often lack the empathy required to live together in diverse groups.