Saturday, 31 December 2016

Not Teaching: Week 26

Exactly half a year has passed since I was in a classroom. I have caught up with “Time & Tied” edits, written an entire personified math novel, and for the last two months I have been posting 4 blog updates every week (across all three blogs). Yay. I was also sick for a couple of days this past week. Boo.


Previous INDEX Next

The holidays are still keeping me busy though, so all I can think to say is Happy New Year.

Item counts run Sunday (December 25) to Saturday (December 31).

Step Count: About 36,000.
Lots of time spent with family (and ill), not a lot spent moving around. Only one day over 6,000 steps.

School Email Count: 1 New (0 sent)
School’s finally on break.



Writing/Art Related Items (from Sun to Sat):
 -Drew, inked and published a math comic
 -Drew, inked and cued up the next math comic
 -Wrote a TANDQ post on Decision Fatigue
 -Wrote a T&T Commentary post

Non-Writing Items for the past week:
 -Christmas, driving home, more Christmas
 -Dealing with much freezing rain on the driveway
 -Saw the Star Wars “Rogue One” movie
 -Met up with a friend from high school
 -Met up with relatives for New Years Eve

PROBABLE PROJECTS in the coming week:
 -Catch up on last two “Bones” eps
 -Medical appointment somewhere
 -Figure out how to proceed with Recaps and Parodies in 2017

POSSIBLE NEXT items:
 -Split up “Time & Tied” into short parts for RRL
 -Post recap about OAME (from May)
 -Post recap about Math PD (from Feb)
 -Post recap about Anime North (from May)
 -Post recap about CanCon 2016 (from Sept)
 -Post recap about COMA Social (from Sept)
 -Catch up with web serials I’ve enjoyed
 -Write a TANDQ article on Polling and Bias
 -Write a post about types of praise/encouragement
 -Organize all the paper clutter from school
 -Organize all the electronic clutter from school
 -Weed through/organize emails
 -Do another Parody Math Video
 -French Citizenship project
 -Actually market some of my creative stuff
 -Binging Anime (Magical Index)
 -Binging Anime (Steins Gate)
 -Binging Anime (RWBY borrowed from Scott)
 -Get back onto tumblr.
 -Read some of the books sitting at my desk

Like last week, I’ve cued this to automatically post, since this time I’ll be in Toronto.
Previous INDEX Next

Friday, 30 December 2016

TANDQ 16: You Decide

In 2014-2015 I wrote an education column called "There Are No Dumb Questions" for the website "MuseHack". Those 15 columns were republished on this site with this index page. I have had some ideas for further columns since; here's the first (and only) one for 2016.


Why can’t I decide on my dinner?


Making decisions is exhausting, regardless of context. Let’s look here at “Decision Fatigue”, tossing in my own experience within the field of education, plus the idea of ego depletion for good measure. I will begin our tale back in 2004, when psychologist Barry Schwartz published a book, “The Paradox of Choice”. Based in part on “The Jam Study” (by Iyengar and Lepper in 2000, when consumers bought more jam when the display had fewer varieties), Barry’s argument is that more choice leads to paralysis, less satisfaction, and more anxiety. He did a related TED talk in July 2005. Ten years later (Dec 2014) there was a follow-up conversation with him; attempts to duplicate the results of “The Jam Study” have had mixed success. Is the whole idea ridiculous? Or have we merely not pinned down what situations cause such paralysis?

With no clear answer yet, let’s turn to a study published in 2011. Levav and Danzinger analyzed judge decisions over the course of a year in an Israeli court, and found that prisoners who appeared early in the morning received parole 70% of the time, while those who appeared late in the day received parole 10% of the time - even when the infraction was essentially equivalent. A conclusion was that judges were experiencing “decision fatigue”; the more choices one makes throughout the day without breaks, the more mentally fatigued one becomes, and thus the more one will look for shortcuts (such as maintaining the status quo). The term “decision fatigue” was coined by social psychologist Roy Baumeister. The tricky thing about it is that you don’t feel physically tired, so you may be less aware of the problem.

Returning to the original question now, it’s more difficult to decide on dinner because it comes at the end of a day. A day spent making a host of other decisions. Decisions imposed on us by society (such as jams in the supermarket), by ourselves (do I check social media or not), and by our careers (as in the case of the judges). Speaking as an educator, I know grading papers wipes me out, and most teachers would say it’s one of the least pleasant parts of the job. I feel it’s even harder of late, because you cannot simply tally up points - you need to analyze every test holistically, according to the individual student and criteria, before deciding on a single grade. Which could mean that’s 30 other decisions an educator doesn’t feel like dealing with in that day, before we even get into the actual process of teaching itself. I presume there are some similarities to other occupations.

Ego Waffles


Tied up with “decision fatigue” is something called “ego depletion” - the notion that we have a limited supply of willpower. It decreases throughout the day, as we do things like make decisions. Here, studies were done where willpower was first depleted through an event of self-control (for instance, “don’t eat these cookies” or “don’t cry during this emotional scene”) and then the subjects were given something that required mental effort to complete. Those with depleted willpower spent less time on the task than a control group. Baumeister even published a book on Willpower in 2011, looking at how we might prevent the drain, with ties to glucose levels. And now, in 2016... the possibility has been raised that the whole idea is incorrect.

Ah, science, never change. Or rather, often change. The main issue became how the effect might only exist for people who believe in it (similar to the placebo effect). But do the more recent debates and investigations into “ego depletion” necessarily impact “decision fatigue”? Is it equally possible that loss of willpower may happen to some people, under the right conditions, and yet not others? And what about that initial idea of paralysis of choice, how does that figure in? Are you feeling at all overwhelmed by the fact that I’m effectively turning the decision-making back on you?

Well, if we DO assume that there is something to “decision fatigue”, some strategies have been raised that can help. The most obvious one is to reduce some of your 35,000 daily decisions by increasing routine. With one of the biggest elements there being limiting your wardrobe, so that you don’t have to decide what to wear in the morning. A second strategy is to pick your battles; not to constantly worry about getting the best option. Choose something that will suffice, so that you’re less tempted to default to the status quo with more important decisions later on. Finally, ask for help. This last is particularly useful if you know someone else who has more expertise. Granted, all of this may not help you to pick your dinner, or me to grade my papers, but at the least, it can give you the gift of time. Time which might have otherwise been spent overanalyzing. Thank you for deciding to read this column!

For further viewing:

1. Why We Experience Decision Fatigue

2. Deciding for others is more fun than doing it for ourselves 

3. “Fighting Decision Fatigue” (SmithBusinessSchool video)

Got an idea or a question for a future TANDQ column? Let me know!

Saturday, 24 December 2016

Not Teaching: Week 25

I’m still managing to be on target for things with deadlines. Though I cut my thumb while trying to prepare tomatoes. Apparently this time of year is busy whether I’m at work or not. The main problem being everyone ELSE now has the same deadline (Dec 25). Ah well, Merry Christmas everyone.


Previous INDEX Next

Item counts run Sunday (December 18) to Saturday (December 24).

Step Count: About 46,500.
No day was over 9000, some particularly less, as things I had to do didn’t involve much movement.

School Email Count: 54 New (1 sent)
Some of those involved holiday gatherings and a wine raffle.


I'll need to reorganize in 2017...

Writing/Art Related Items (from Sun to Sat):
 -Drew, inked and published a math comic
 -Wrote a song parody for the holidays (sixth annual)
 -Drew for Holiday Math Parody and created video

Non-Writing Items for the past week:
 -Play at NAC on Sunday
 -Medical Appointment Monday
 -Started + Completed work on Image Project
 -Harp Concert on Monday
 -Dept holiday gathering on Wednesday
 -Staff holiday gathering on Thursday
 -Holiday assembly at school on Friday
 -Holiday shopping on Friday

PROBABLE PROJECTS in the coming week:
 -Banking online blog posts
 -Christmas, driving home, more Christmas
 -Write a TANDQ article on Polling and Bias
 -Meet up with a friend from high school

POSSIBLE NEXT items:
 -Catch up on last two “Bones” eps.
 -Split up “Time & Tied” into short parts for RRL
 -Post recap about OAME (from May)
 -Post recap about Math PD (from Feb)
 -Post recap about Anime North (from May)
 -Post recap about CanCon 2016 (from Sept)
 -Post recap about COMA Social (from Sept)
 -Catch up with web serials I’ve enjoyed
 -Write a TANDQ article on Decision Fatigue
 -Write a post about types of praise/encouragement
 -Organize all the paper clutter from school
 -Organize all the electronic clutter from school
 -Weed through/organize emails
 -Do another Parody Math Video
 -French Citizenship project
 -Actually market some of my creative stuff
 -Binging Anime (Magical Index)
 -Binging Anime (Steins Gate)
 -Binging Anime (RWBY borrowed from Scott)
 -Get back onto tumblr.
 -Read some of the books sitting at my desk

Things are still a bit chaotic at the moment. I wonder, when I reach the halfway point at the end of the month, should I switch to counting down the weeks, not up?

Previous INDEX Next

Saturday, 17 December 2016

Not Teaching: Week 24

It’s starting to sink in that the Christmas thing is approaching. Sigh. That’s about on schedule, I don’t think about it much until the last week of school, which is this coming week (to Dec 23 - this may have been a good year to take off). I did put up the Christmas tree lights outside yesterday, and my in-laws are in town.


Previous INDEX Next

Yeah, I’m not much into holidays. They break the routine, and cause work to pile up, as being social leads to exhaustion. Quiet decorating is fun though; I’ll be okay with Christmas music by the 25th.

Item counts run Sunday (December 11) to Saturday (December 17).

Step Count: About 58,600.
I continue to go for walks, either to the store, or around the island in the kitchen while checking social media.

School Email Count: 59 New (0 sent)
There’s holiday gatherings this coming week. I hope to get to one.



Writing/Art Related Items (from Sun to Sat):
 -Wrote, drew, inked and published a math comic
 -Wrote ahead for the math comic, because holidays
 -NaNoWriMo wrapped last Sun with 86,083 words. (89,019 in the uncensored version)
 -Completed Wattpad publishing of “The Girl Who Speaks With Algebra”
 -Wrote a guest post for the Archive of Unusual Events (coming later this month)

Non-Writing Items for the past week:
 -Medical Appointment Monday
 -Dinner with Friends Monday
 -Bank appointment for mortgage
 -Dentist checkup Wednesday
 -Two trips to the airport during rush hours
 -Yoga Thursday
 -Movie with friends Saturday

PROBABLE PROJECTS in the coming week:
 -Play at NAC on Sunday
 -Medical Appointment Monday
 -Start work on Image Project (seriously)
 -Start work on Holiday Math Parody (ditto)
 -Concert on Monday
 -School holiday gatherings
 -Catch up on last two “Bones” eps.
 -Holiday shopping? >.<

POSSIBLE NEXT items (changed!):
 -Split up “Time & Tied” into short parts for RRL (*NEW)
 -Post recap about OAME (from May)
 -Post recap about Math PD (from Feb)
 -Post recap about Anime North (from May)
 -Post recap about CanCon 2016 (from Sept)
 -Post recap about COMA Social (from Sept)
 -Catch up with web serials I’ve enjoyed
 -Write a TANDQ article on Decision Fatigue
 -Write a TANDQ article on Polling and Bias (*NEW)
 -Write a post about types of praise/encouragement
 -Organize all the paper clutter from school
 -Organize all the electronic clutter from school
 -Weed through/organize emails
 -Do another Parody Math Video
 -French Citizenship project
 -Actually market some of my creative stuff
 -Binging Anime (Magical Index)
 -Binging Anime (Steins Gate)
 -Binging Anime (RWBY borrowed from Scott)
 -Get back onto tumblr.
 -Read some of the books sitting at my desk

January might be “recap month” to start clearing some of that out. Because there is still an offline list of other tidbits!
Previous INDEX Next

Saturday, 10 December 2016

Not Teaching: Week 23

Something I’ve never really noticed is how it does get dark sooner in the winter. It would almost always be dark when I left school, be it October or December, but now that I’m home I’m baffled at how it’s dark before 5pm. If I want to go for a walk outside in the light, it needs to be fairly early in the day.


Previous INDEX Next
Arts night was this past week at school. I do miss the staff and the students, but not the workload - there’s still a lot I need to get done, somehow. I compared notes with Bev that night. My feelings might be normal.

Item counts run Sunday (December 4) to Saturday (December 10).

Step Count: About 51,200.
That’s pretty good, since on Wednesday I stayed home and only had 808, a new low. Two days over 10k though.

School Email Count: 63 New (0 sent)
A number about a holiday raffle. Two weeks until the break.


Writing/Art Related Items (from Sun to Sat):
 -NaNoWriMo editing session on Sunday
 -Wrote, drew, inked and published a math comic
 -Kept up with Wattpad publishing of “The Girl Who Speaks With Algebra”
 -Revisions to T&T site format, plus there’s been some comments!
 -NaNoWriMo ended with 67,819. Last Saturday saw 71,739 words. Now at 87,173 and just need a bit of wrap-up plus the epilogue!
 -Responded to Writer Interview Questions

Non-Writing Items for the past week:
 -Medical Appointment Monday
 -Yoga Monday
 -Math Dinner Monday
 -School Arts Night Thursday
 -Choir concert Friday

PROBABLE PROJECTS in the coming week:
 -Medical Appointment Monday
 -Yoga Thursday
 -Want to finish NaNoWriMo effort!
 -Possible serial fill-in for another author
 -Start work on Image Project
 -Start work on Holiday Math Parody

UNCHANGED NEXT items:
 -Post recap about OAME (from May)
 -Post recap about Math PD (from Feb)
 -Post recap about Anime North (from May)
 -Post recap about CanCon 2016 (from Sept)
 -Post recap about COMA Social (from Sept)
 -Actually turn this into more of a newsletter?
 -Catch up with web serials I’ve enjoyed
 -Write a TANDQ article on Decision Fatigue
 -Write a post about types of praise/encouragement
 -Organize all the paper clutter from school
 -Organize all the electronic clutter from school
 -Weed through/organize emails
 -Do another Parody Math Video
 -French Citizenship project
 -Actually market some of my creative stuff
 -Binging Anime (Magical Index)
 -Binging Anime (Steins Gate)
 -Binging Anime (RWBY borrowed from Scott)
 -Catch up more on “Bones” (no spoilers past S11.18!)
 -Get back onto tumblr.
 -Read some of the books sitting at my desk

So hyper focussed on finishing “The Girl Who Speaks With Algebra”, no idea when the unchanged will ever change.
Previous INDEX Next

Saturday, 3 December 2016

Not Teaching: Week 22

So, I made all my deadlines from last week. Monday comic, T&T index with first ep cued up, daily Wattpad of my NaNoWriMo; even managed 5k words on Nov 30th. Because I do deadlines. Then I sort of bemoaned about it on Twitter. Then I got some responses.


Previous INDEX Next

Hadn’t exactly anticipated the response angle. SerFicDigest gave me a lead, TheWeirdTeacher gave me a shoutout (pumping Monday site views to a mind-bending 220+ and J Golden commented) and I chatted with C Burke and Rodriguez. Then at the NaNoWriMo after party I ended up in a discussion about people not hitting stride until after their first couple books (both J.K. Rowling and something to do with vampires) owing to world building or genre finding. (So I feel better about T&T.) I even got a couple comments on my T&T site.

So in theory I’m feeling better about things. In practice - my brain seems to be resisting somewhat. Teacher holdover for this time of year? Maybe still trying to parse what I need to get through this month? That being more writing, and medical things are happening again. On the bright side though, I think I’m free of CIBC. (They took over my MasterCard not long after I closed the account I never used, and recently changed it to a Visa; so I’ve been trying to get rid of it.)

Random factoid: Ottawa WriMos, 32% winners.

Item counts run Sunday (November 27) to Saturday (December 3).

Step Count: About 55,230.
Over 7500 until today. Out of the house twice but not much for steps.

School Email Count: 83 New (2 sent)
Much discussion about possible math conference/forum.


National Novel Writing Month went well...

Writing/Art Related Items (from Sun to Sat):
 -Wrote, drew, inked and published a math comic.
 -Drew and published Book 4 index for T&T
 -Kept up with Wattpad publishing of “The Girl Who Speaks With Algebra”

NaNoWriMo Words Etc:
 -TUE Nov 1: 2375. Nov 2: 890. Nov 3: 1917. Nov 4: 2156. Nov 5: 4442.
 -Nov 6: 2385. Nov 7: 403. TUE Nov 8: 2258. Nov 9: 2158. Nov 10: 1794.
 -Nov 11: 1523. Nov 12: 2840. Nov 13: 1989. Nov 14: 1711. TUE Nov 15: 2609.
 -Nov 16: 1160. Nov 17: 2444. Nov 18: 2298. Nov 19: 1148. Nov 20: 4380.
 -Nov 21: 685. TUE Nov 22: 3342. Nov 23: 1973. Nov 24: 3296. Nov 25: 2979.
 -Nov 26: 2000. Nov 27: 2460. Nov 28: 789. TUE Nov 29: 2386. Nov 30: 5029.
 -Verified Final Total: 67,819. Current Total: 71,739.
 -NaNoWriMo WriteIn on Sunday
 -NaNoWriMo “Thank Goodness It’s Over Party” on Saturday

Non-Writing Items for the past week:
 -Met relatives for brunch Sunday
 -Snow Tires on Car Monday
 -Dinner with Friends Monday
 -Trip out to buy, and then to mail card
 -Yoga Wednesday
 -School Christmas Concert on Thursday
 -Medical Appointment Friday
 -Brunch with Friends Saturday

PROBABLE PROJECTS in the coming week:
 -Medical Appointment Monday
 -Yoga Monday
 -Math Dinner Monday
 -School Arts Night Thursday
 -Want to finish NaNoWriMo effort
 -Respond to Writer Interview Questions
 -Possible serial fill-in for another author
 -Start work on Image Project

UNCHANGED NEXT items:
 -Post recap about OAME (from May)
 -Post recap about Math PD (from Feb)
 -Post recap about Anime North (from May)
 -Post recap about CanCon 2016 (from Sept)
 -Post recap about COMA Social (from Sept)
 -Actually turn this into more of a newsletter?
 -Catch up with web serials I’ve enjoyed
 -Write a TANDQ article on Decision Fatigue
 -Write a post about types of praise/encouragement
 -Organize all the paper clutter from school
 -Organize all the electronic clutter from school
 -Weed through/organize emails
 -Do another Parody Math Video
 -French Citizenship project
 -Actually market some of my creative stuff
 -Binging Anime (Magical Index)
 -Binging Anime (Steins Gate)
 -Binging Anime (RWBY borrowed from Scott)
 -Catch up more on “Bones” (no spoilers past S11.18!)
 -Get back onto tumblr.
 -Read some of the books sitting at my desk

I seem to be entering another busy period. Yes, November was light, what with spending a month writing 67k. I’m not sure how that works.
Previous INDEX Next