dimecres, 31 d’octubre de 2018

Qui controla el rei, per Mònica Planas

Reportatge de ETB2:
https://www.eitb.eus/es/television/programas/360-grados/capitulos-completos/

CRÍTICA TV
Qui controla el rei?
¿La monarquia s’ha convertit en un important negoci familiar?

MÒNICA PLANAS Crítica de tele 30/10/2018 20:53
DIARI ARA

https://www.ara.cat/opinio/monica-planas-qui-controla-rei_0_2115988614.html

Diumenge, a l’espai de reportatges '360 grados' d’ETB2, la televisió pública d’Euskadi, oferien ‘La monarquía, un negocio rentable’, en què investigaven els privilegis dels Borbons. El programa, dirigit i presentat per la periodista Eider Hurtado, contactava amb persones que, per motius professionals o per investigacions periodístiques, tenen coneixement dels negocis del rei emèrit Joan Carles I i de l’actual monarca Felip VI. Quina és la fortuna actual de la casa reial? ¿La monarquia s’ha convertit en un important negoci familiar? ¿Felip VI serà l’últim rei d’Espanya?

El programa donava resposta a totes les preguntes menys a l'última. Calculaven la fortuna en dos mil milions d’euros i a partir d’aquí es remuntaven a gairebé seixanta anys enrere per trobar l’origen d’aquest enriquiment. El programa es mullava retolant en pantalla les quantitats cobrades per Joan Carles a partir de conceptes dubtosos, poc ètics, obscurs o fins i tot aparentment delictius. Des de donacions d’empresaris fins a ingressos per ajudar a la democràcia dels anys 70 però dels quals va desaparèixer el rastre.

Tots els testimonis que intervenen en el reportatge donen la cara i expliquen en què es basen per fer les seves afirmacions. S’apunta a regals milionaris, fins i tot esponsorització del monarca a partir del lluïment de rellotges o marques de roba. També es parla de l’existència de comptes corrents a Suïssa gràcies als seus testaferros, els noms dels quals consten en diversos paradisos fiscals, i de comissions de milions d’euros amb Corinna com a mitjancera. El programa entrevista un excomptable de l’ambaixada espanyola a l’Aràbia Saudita que confirma múltiples visites de Joan Carles amb l’ambigüitat de si eren oficials o privades. Un portaveu del sindicat de tècnics d’Hisenda exigeix investigacions sobre els ingressos dels Borbons perquè sospiten de delictes fiscals que per ara no aconsegueixen demostrar per la falta de transparència política. Destaquen quin és el vincle dels monarques amb la trama Gürtel. El programa denuncia la llei del silenci facilitada pel PP, el PSOE i Ciutadans per protegir qualsevol investigació. La llàstima és que s’hagin de servir del testimoni i les gravacions obtingudes per Eduardo Inda per a moltes informacions, un ésser còmplice de les clavegueres de l’Estat que no s’hauria d’alimentar mai.

Amb noms i cognoms, '360 grados' destaca quines són les ‘amistats perilloses’ de Joan Carles i Felip. ‘La monarquía, un negocio rentable’ és un programa agosarat, rigorós, que, precisament per la manca de transparència política, no pot acabar de corroborar moltes de les seves hipòtesis. Malgrat tot, és sòlid. És el reportatge que s’hauria de convertir en un escàndol social i polític, emetre’s arreu d’Espanya i fer trontollar la Corona. Però la monarquia està massa protegida encara pel poder mediàtic, massa covard. El mal menor és que l’emeti la televisió d’Euskadi, que passi desapercebut i que la resta de cadenes facin el despistat.

dimarts, 30 d’octubre de 2018

dilluns, 29 d’octubre de 2018

Numeració en català


La regla del D-U-C (desenes-unitats-centenes). D-U / U-C
Es posa guió entre les desenes i les unitats (per exemple cinquanta-quatre) i entre les unitats i les centenes (per exemple dos-cents). Els milers i valors superiors no porten guió.
Cal fixar-se en l’excepció del 21 al 29 amb ‘-i-



/kua.../ = qua... excepte ‘cua’
8 v o b?
(francès = huit)
11 16 ‘z’ o ‘tz’
17 ‘ss’
21 29
vint-i-*
31 99
decena - unitat
101 120
121 129
130 199
200 220

ZERO
UN (U)
DOS
TRES
_UATRE
_INC
SIS
SET
_UIT
NOU

DEU
ON_E
DO _ _ E
TRE _ _ E
CATOR_E
QUIN_E
SE _ _ E
DI _ _ ET
DI_UIT
DINOU

VINT
VINT-I-UN
VINT-I-DOS
VINT-I-TRES
VINT-I-QUATRE
VINT-I-CINC
VINT-I-SIS
VINT-I-SET
VINT-I-VUIT
VINT-I-NOU

TRE_TA
TRENTA-UN
TRENTA-DOS
...
QUARANTA
CINQUANTA
S _ _ _ ANTA
SETANTA
VUITANTA
NORANTA
NORANTA-NOU

CE _ _
CENT UN
CENT VINT
CENT VINT-I-UN
CENT TRENTA
DOS-CENTS
DOS-CENTS VINT
DOS-CENTS VINT-I-UN
NOU-CENTS NORANTA-NOU
MIL
MIL UN


L’u de gener
L’1 d’abril
L’onze de març, l’11 de març, l'11 de Setembre, l'11S

Podeu fer proves i validar els dubtes a: https://dilc.org/numeros.php


diumenge, 28 d’octubre de 2018

Meet the marathon cheats by Mark Wilding

https://www.theguardian.com/global/2018/oct/28/meet-the-marathon-cheats

The Observer Sport
Meet the marathon cheats
As runners get ready for next Sunday’s New York Marathon, we look at what makes a person claim a medal when they haven’t gone the full distance

Mark Wilding

Sun 28 Oct 2018 10.00 GMT

Just over halfway through the 2011 Kielder Marathon in Northumberland, Steve Cairns was in third place and out on his own. As he passed the 14-mile mark, he could see the two leading runners, Ricky Lightfoot and Marcus Scotney, a few minutes ahead on the trail. Behind him, just passing the 13-mile point, were the chasing pack. Cairns knew he had little chance of catching the front-runners. He was equally confident that, with a six-minute gap to close, the rest of the field had little chance of catching him. “I’m just going to enjoy this,” he decided.

Cairns held on to his position and finished the race comfortably. As he crossed the finish line, he heard his result called over the PA. “I’m thinking, did I hear that right?” he says. “Fourth?” He asked a marshal to point out who was third. Cairns recognised the man immediately. It was Rob Sloan, the winner of a 10k race held the day before. There was no mistaking him: Sloan had a mohican haircut and distinctive tattoos. Cairns had exchanged nods with him on the start line; this was the first time he’d seen him since. Cairns placed a hand on Sloan’s shoulder. “When did you pass me?” he demanded. “Out on the course,” Sloan shot back.

Sloan didn’t attend the medal ceremony. In the hours after the race, troubling details about his performance began to emerge. No other runners could recall him passing them on the trail. Photographs suggested he was missing from the race with a few miles to go. Then there was the most damning evidence of all. Witnesses clearly recalled seeing Sloan during the last few miles of the race – just not on the course. Sloan had taken a bus.

Race organiser Steve Cram, the Olympic 1,500m runner, called Sloan. “He absolutely denied it initially,” says Cram. “Then he eventually owned up to it.” The BBC reported the story and, soon enough, the tale of the marathon bus cheat had been picked up all over the world. Despite the evidence against him, Sloan retracted his confession. Cram banned Sloan from his races. UK Athletics followed suit and Sloan disappeared from the running scene. Meanwhile, Cairns was awarded his third place medal. “It was vindication,” says Cairns. “But what I couldn’t understand was: why had he done it?”

For a sport with few material rewards, marathon running has produced some illustrious cheats. In 1980, the Boston Marathon was won by Rosie Ruiz, who set a women’s course record. Suspicions were raised by Ruiz’s unflustered appearance at the finish line and witnesses later reported seeing her joining the course with less than a mile to go. Kip Litton, a dentist from Michigan, allegedly cheated numerous times in a bid to run marathons in every state – and claimed first place in a race of his own invention. At the 1999 Comrades 55-mile ultra-marathon in South Africa, two brothers claimed ninth position after running the race in relay, swapping clothes in toilets along the route. They were only caught when photos emerged of the two men wearing watches on opposite wrists at different stages of the course.

Setting aside doping, marathon cheats can be divided into two main categories. There are the bib mules: runners who compete under another competitor’s race number, typically in order to record a qualifying time for another prestigious race. (Bib bandits – runners who forge race numbers to secure entry to events – are a related but distinct category.) Then there are the course cutters, who engage in that most rudimentary cheating tactic: jumping a barrier or ducking under some tape to skip a section of the course.

Nowadays, after almost every major race, a handful of competitors is exposed as cheats. (In some cases, more than a handful: thousands of runners were disqualified after this year’s Mexico City Marathon.) It’s difficult to know if the problem is on the rise or if there are simply more offenders being caught. As technology has improved, marathon cheating has become more of a high-risk endeavour. Competitors are now kitted out with electronic chips that register runners’ progress as they pass over timing mats installed around the course. This provides more accurate times – but it also gives organisers, and anyone who cares to look, a wealth of data to examine for suspicious results. Several nights a week, Derek Murphy settles down in front of the TV at his home in Cincinnati, opens up his spreadsheets and gets to work. By day, Murphy is a business analyst, but he’s become better known as the man behind Marathon Investigation, a blog that for the past three years has been relentlessly exposing cheaters in the marathon world.

Murphy sees many different kinds of cheating. His specialism is in outing runners who fraudulently obtain qualifying times for the Boston Marathon. Sometimes it’s for material gain. Other times it’s for bragging rights on social media. More often that not, says Murphy, the cheating isn’t premeditated. “A lot more of it is where it spirals away from them,” he says: a snap decision followed by lies that get out of control.

Not all runners approve of Murphy’s approach, seeing him as something of a vigilante, but Murphy is unperturbed by such criticism. “Of course there are some people who dislike what I do,” he says. “People say that I’m shaming runners and I should focus on the positive. But I think it’s important to hold people accountable.”

Any characterisation of Murphy as a lone vigilante also ignores an important fact: he has an army of collaborators. “I’m being tipped off by friends or former friends,” he says. “They’re saying, ‘I know this person, they couldn’t have done this, can you look at this result?’” Murphy is simply the public face of a wider movement determined to enforce standards of fair play.

On 23 April this year a thread was posted to the Runner’s World forum: “London Marathon Cheaters – let’s do this”. It was the day after the race and forum members focused on identifying negative splits – indicating the second half of the race had been completed faster than the first. Significant negative splits, combined with missed timing mats, often indicate a runner who has cut the course. Rory O’Connor was among the first to be named: an Irish runner in the 60-64 age category who appeared to have run nearly nine miles in 15 minutes. He later insisted that “he ran every step”. Plenty of other runners exhibited similarly unbelievable times.

Several runners named in the thread told versions of the same story: they had intended to run the full distance until they became tired or injured. Abigail Willmitt, the secretary of Liverpool Running Club, pulled out of the race just after halfway and says she was taken across a barrier to be checked over by medical volunteers. Shortly afterwards, a friend passed by who was struggling. Willmitt says she was given permission by a marshal to accompany her friend from the 22-mile mark. She crossed the finish line but never claimed a medal. Willmitt struggles to understand why she was named and shamed online. “I’ve never once said that I completed the full distance,” she says.

Chris Walker from Dewsbury attracted particular criticism after forum users reported seeing social media posts in which he claimed to have completed the race. Walker declined to be interviewed but said via email that a long-term illness forced him to drop out of the race. He subsequently made his way to the finish line where he claimed a medal and posed for a finisher’s photo. Walker, who was running to raise money for charity, said he was afraid of letting down sponsors and supporters.

None of this year’s course cutters, however, attracted the level of notoriety achieved by Jason Scotland-Williams at the London Marathon in 2014. Scotland-Williams ran the first half of the race in two hours and seven minutes – a respectable if unremarkable time. But the previously unknown 34-year-old then kicked up several gears, crossing the finish line another hour and one minute later, completing the second half of the race faster than Mo Farah – and not far off half-marathon world record pace.

Sceptics examined his split times and discovered Scotland-Williams had missed three timing mats in the second half of the race. The Sun, in an article headlined Con Your Marks, alleged he had jumped a barrier and cut the course. Subsequent articles dubbed Scotland-Williams the “Faux Farah”. He claims he was bombarded with abuse online and that strangers visited his house to admonish him in person. Throughout it all, he denied that anything but hard work had contributed to his incredible time. As he recalls, at one point the head of the London Marathon called and urged him to confess. He refused.

Four years on, asked to look back on his performance, Scotland-Williams begins by sticking to his guns. “I’m an achiever, I’m a competitive person, I like to be the best at what I do,” he says. “That’s just how I am. If other people don’t have that drive or that thirst for success or that hunger, I can’t help that.” Nothing is impossible, he says, and the anger he provoked was unwarranted. “I broke no laws, I hurt nobody. Nobody lost their life. All I did was move my legs.”

But at quite such an impressive pace? Is it possible he made a regrettable decision that spiralled out of control? Before answering that question, there are some things people need to understand, says Scotland-Williams. Running numerous races for charity had taken its toll and, by 2014, his knees had begun to fail him. “I’m not a person to quit,” he says. “Even if I have to crawl across the finish line, I’m going to cross the finish line.” With that context established, he says: “Was a rash decision made? Did I make a mistake? Possibly. At the end of the day, I achieved my goal. I crossed the finish line.”

But did he cut the course? He declines to elaborate further. “Was a decision made which probably proved to be a bad one? Do I regret said decision? To a degree,” he says. “At the same time, that doesn’t take away from my previous accomplishments, doesn’t take away from what I’ve achieved in terms of fundraising, and certainly doesn’t take away from who I am as a person. Do I deserve the backlash I got? That’s a matter of different people’s opinions.”

Liam Convery was among those discussing suspect results on the Runner’s World forum after this year’s London Marathon. At 47, he has completed the race seven times. He explains that some runners’ anger stems from the scarcity of places at prestigious races. “It is a privilege,” he says. “For someone to take a place that I would have treasured and treated it that way seems morally very dubious.” But there’s more to it than that. For Convery, any marathon runner who takes a shortcut to the finish line is doing a disservice to the sport. “The achievement is in overcoming the adversity,” he says. “To simply take the easy way out: not train, turn up, cut a corner, take the medal, take the kudos for doing it? I’m sorry, I just don’t have a lot of respect for those people.”

There is some consensus among the running community that, at the top level, cheaters must be identified. There, anyone taking a short cut has the potential to deny others their rightful rewards. But how should cheating be dealt with among the thousands of amateurs who run marathons, for whom races represent a personal battle of determination and will? To what extent is victory diminished by the dishonesty of others? Is cheating at this level a matter of personal responsibility?

Hugh Brasher, event director at the London Marathon, declined to be interviewed for this article. In a statement, he said: “We have processes in place which identify the very small number of runners with anomalies in their results and these runners are contacted by our results team to request an explanation. If no adequate explanation is received, their results are removed from the system and the runner is asked to return their finisher’s medal.”

At the Brighton Marathon, race director Tom Naylor says considerable effort is made to ensure any cheats are identified and disqualified. “However, can I say hand on heart that every single person that’s on our finisher list has not cheated or has not cut a corner? No.” From a participant’s point of view, if a fellow runner cut the course, “I’d be disappointed for that person, but I still finished the race,” says Naylor. “And for the rest of my time I know that I’m a marathon runner and I can be proud of myself and I can be proud of the people I ran with the whole way.”

Derek Murphy has changed tactics over time. In the early days, he was prepared to write about anyone. But with increased reach has come greater responsibility. He has taken down some of his early posts concerning amateur cheaters. Now he looks for repeat offenders, or runners who have secured tangible benefits from their dishonesty. Before posting to his blog, he asks himself: “What did they really gain and do they really deserve the attention?”

Murphy is keen to refute any suggestions that his work paints running in a negative light. His motive, he says, is to ensure race places and rewards go to those who deserve them. While he enjoys identifying suspect results, he gains little pleasure from bringing shame upon offenders. “The part I hate is writing the articles and having to contact and sometimes confront people,” he says. “It’s much more rewarding to write about the positives.”

Next weekend, more than 50,000 people will line up to run the New York Marathon. Each will emerge with their own story: of overcoming mental and physical hurdles just to make it to the start line, of summoning previously untapped reserves to run a personal best, of races run in memory of loved ones or in support of meaningful causes. Most of those stories will never be widely told – but will be no less significant for that. And for those who reach the finish line by dishonest means? Murphy, and a legion of other amateur race investigators, will be watching.

dissabte, 27 d’octubre de 2018

MORE THAN 4,000 SWEDES INSERT CHIPS UNDER THEIR SKIN by Anthony Cuthberston

SWEDISH CYBORG CRAZE SEES MORE THAN 4,000 SWEDES INSERT CHIPS UNDER THEIR SKIN

RFID technology, which is used in everything from credit cards to passports, is finding its way into the human body

Anthony Cuthbertson
@ADCuthbertson


Thousands of people in Sweden have been implanting microchips in their hands as part of a new biohacking trend in the country that aims to make people's daily lives easier.

Biohax, one of the companies involved in implanting the chips, said it has now carried out more than 4,000 "installs" of the technology since it launched five years ago, allowing people to replace physical key cards, IDs and train tickets.

The subdermal chips, which are injected beneath the skin between the thumb and forefinger, use radio-frequency identification (RFID) technology, which is found in everything from credit cards to passports.  

The chips can be read by any device that supports near field communication (NFC), meaning most modern Android smartphones can recognise them. They do not need recharging as they do not require a battery to function. 

They negate the need for things like physical cards, pass codes and signatures, potentially allowing efficient and frictionless transactions at checkouts, international borders and travel terminals. However, the nature of the device means they have raised privacy concerns, with some weary of the chips being used to track people.

Beyond efficiency, the creators of the implantable RFID chips claim they help reduce plastic waste, with figures from the International Card Manufacturers Association estimating that six billion cards produced each year.

"In the past years, we've succeeded to replace an assist several corporations to exchange their plastic access cards into the Biohax install," the company's website states. 

"We've accomplished to assist the Swedish national railway system to enable the Biohax install as a replacement for paper tickets and plastic travel cards."

A Swedish-language Facebook page dedicated to subdermal RFID chips has received almost 7,000 likes, with advocates claiming that the technology is on the verge of becoming mainstream.

Zoltan Istvan, a noted transhumanist who was among the first adopters of the technology, told The Independent that the number of uses of the chips continue to evolve, though there are still limitations.

"I had an RFID chip inserted into my hand three years ago and use it to get in and out of my home, which is great because I don't need to carry around house keys anymore," he said.

"Unfortunately, technological progress means my chip is already relatively behind the current technology and it will take a surgical procedure to upgrade it, albeit minor."

One potential solution to this issue, Mr Istvan said, would be to implant a tube beneath a flap of skin, from which chips can easily be inserted and removed. 

dimecres, 17 d’octubre de 2018

How we see words by Daniel Glaser

https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2016/apr/03/how-we-see-words-and-read-at-a-glance

A neuroscientist explains Life and style
How we see words
A bitesized explanation of how we read signs at a glance

Daniel Glaser

Sun 3 Apr 2016 06.00 BST

(...) When we read, the eyes don’t focus on individual letters in turn - this would take far too long. Instead we learn to recognise the general shape of words, or familiar phrases, allowing us to speed through texts and understand church signs at a glance.

Studies have shown that a word’s first and last letters are the most important in determining its shape, wchih menas i’ts slitl pbslisoe to udesnatrd a prsahe wetirtn lkie tihs - just about, anyway (although modern spell checkers make it very difficult to type). (...)

diumenge, 14 d’octubre de 2018

The lost art of concentration: being distracted in a digital world by Harriet Griffey

https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2018/oct/14/the-lost-art-of-concentration-being-distracted-in-a-digital-world

Train your brain Health & wellbeing

The lost art of concentration: being distracted in a digital world

We check our phones every 12 minutes, often just after waking up. Always-on behaviour is harmful to long-term mental health, and we need to learn to the hit the pause button

Harriet Griffey
Sun 14 Oct 2018 09.00 BST

It is difficult to imagine life before our personal and professional worlds were so dominated and “switched on” via smartphones and the other devices that make us accessible and, crucially, so easily distractible and interruptible every second of the day. This constant fragmentation of our time and concentration has become the new normal, to which we have adapted with ease, but there is a downside: more and more experts are telling us that these interruptions and distractions have eroded our ability to concentrate.

We have known for a long time that repeated interruptions affect concentration. In 2005, research carried out by Dr Glenn Wilson at London’s Institute of Psychiatry found that persistent interruptions and distractions at work had a profound effect. Those distracted by emails and phone calls saw a 10-point fall in their IQ, twice that found in studies on the impact of smoking marijuana. More than half of the 1,100 participants said they always responded to an email immediately or as soon as possible, while 21% admitted they would interrupt a meeting to do so. Constant interruptions can have the same effect as the loss of a night’s sleep.

Nicholas Carr picked up on this again in an article in the Atlantic in 2008, before going on to publish his book The Shallows two years later. “Immersing myself in a book or a lengthy article used to be easy,” he wrote. “My mind would get caught up in the narrative or the turns of the argument, and I’d spend hours strolling through long stretches of prose. That’s rarely the case any more. Now my concentration often starts to drift after two or three pages. I get fidgety, lose the thread, begin looking for something else to do. I feel as if I’m always dragging my wayward brain back to the text. The deep reading that used to come naturally has become a struggle.”

The impact of interruptions on individual productivity can also be catastrophic. In 2002, it was reported that, on average, we experience an interruption every eight minutes or about seven or eight per hour. In an eight-hour day, that is about 60 interruptions. The average interruption takes about five minutes, so that is about five hours out of eight. And if it takes around 15 minutes to resume the interrupted activity at a good level of concentration, this means that we are never concentrating very well.

In August 2018, research from the UK’s telecoms regulator, Ofcom, reported that people check their smartphones on average every 12 minutes during their waking hours, with 71% saying they never turn their phone off and 40% saying they check them within five minutes of waking. Both Facebook and Instagram announced they were developing new tools designed to limit usage in response to claims that excessive social media use can have a negative impact on mental health.

Continuous partial attention – or CPA – was a phrase coined by the ex-Apple and Microsoft consultant Linda Stone. By adopting an always-on, anywhere, anytime, any place behaviour, we exist in a constant state of alertness that scans the world but never really gives our full attention to anything. In the short term, we adapt well to these demands, but in the long term the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol create a physiological hyper-alert state that is always scanning for stimuli, provoking a sense of addiction temporarily assuaged by checking in.

Myth of multitasking
With our heavy use of digital media, it could be said that we have taken multitasking to new heights, but we’re not actually multitasking; rather, we are switching rapidly between different activities. Adrenaline and cortisol are designed to support us through bursts of intense activity, but in the long term cortisol can knock out the feel-good hormones serotonin and dopamine in the brain, which help us feel calm and happy, affecting our sleep and heart rate and making us feel jittery.

It would seem then that this physiological adaptation, fostered by our behaviour, is a predominant reason for the poor concentration so many people report. The fact that we are the cause of this is, paradoxically, good news since it hands back to us the potential to change our behaviour and reclaim the brain function and cognitive health that’s been disrupted by our digitally enhanced lives. And this may even be more important than just improving our levels of concentration. Constant, high levels of circulating stress hormones have an inflammatory and detrimental affect on brain cells, suggests the psychiatrist Edward Bullmore, who has written about the link between inflammation and depression in his latest book, The Inflamed Mind. Depression, along with anxiety, is a known factor in knocking out concentration.

Put simply, better concentration makes life easier and less stressful and we will be more productive. To make this change means reflecting on what we are doing to sabotage personal concentration, and then implementing steps towards behavioural change that will improve our chances of concentrating better. This means deliberately reducing distractions and being more self-disciplined about our use of social media, which are increasingly urgent for the sake of our cognitive and mental health.

It takes about three weeks for a repeating behaviour to form a habit, says Jeremy Dean, a psychologist and the author of Making Habits, Breaking Habits. Getting into a new habit will not happen overnight and adaptation can be incremental. Start by switching off smartphone alerts, or taking social media apps off your phone, then switching off the device for increasingly long periods.

Practise concentration by finding things to do that specifically engage you for a period of time to the exclusion of everything else. What is noticeable is that you cannot just go from a state of distraction to one of concentration, in the same way that most of us cannot fall asleep the minute our head hits the pillow. It takes a bit of time and, with practice, becomes easier to accomplish.

The ‘five more’ rule
This is a simple way of learning to concentrate better. It goes like this: whenever you feel like quitting – just do five more – five more minutes, five more exercises, five more pages – which will extend your focus. The rule pushes you just beyond the point of frustration and helps build mental concentration. It’s a form of training as well as being a way of getting something accomplished.

Sitting still would seem an easy thing to achieve. But it is harder than it sounds. It is akin to meditation, which can be a useful way to improve concentration. In this case, however, just get in to a comfortable, supported position and sit still and do nothing for five minutes. Use it as a pause between activities. Of course, if you already practise meditation, combine this with breathing for a quick “time out”.

Meditation and focus
Switching off from both external and internal distractions does not come easily. Learning how to be more mindful, practising mindfulness or meditation, can all help facilitate greater concentration, not least because feeling calmer restores equilibrium and focus.

Most of us breathe poorly: we tend to over-breathe, taking three or four breaths using only the upper part of our lung capacity, when one good breath using the lungs more completely would serve us better. This shallow breathing is very tiring, not only because we expend unnecessary muscular energy, but because we reduce our oxygen intake per breath.

In its extreme form, over-breathing becomes hyperventilation, which can trigger panic attacks. In all mindfulness or meditation practice, breathing is key. So it’s wise to learn good techniques first. A daily practice, starting with 10 minutes and building on it, means that the ability to take some restorative “time out” will also be available to you:

  • Lie comfortably on the floor, knees bent, chin tucked in – what Alexander Technique teachers call the “constructive rest position” – or sit upright in a chair, legs uncrossed, feet flat on the floor.
  • Consciously relax your neck and drop your shoulders, rest your arms by your sides with your palms turned upwards.
  • Breathe long and gently through your nose, into your belly until you see it gently rise, for a slow count of five.
  • Pause, and hold that breath for a count of five, then gently exhale through your mouth for another count of five.
  • While doing this, try to clear your mind of all other thoughts, or if this is difficult close your eyes and visualise a pebble dropping into a pool of water and gently sinking down.
  • Repeat this breathing cycle 10 times; then see how your regular breathing adjusts.
  • You can also use this breathing technique at any time you feel tense or stressed, or as the basis of any meditation.

We all need to take time out, so set a timer to signal a break, or use an app such as Calm.com. Or you can just play a favourite music track, knowing that it will give you a set amount of time in which to press pause and do nothing.

Another effective technique for boosting concentration is counting backwards. Counting backwards in sevens from 1,000 might sound like an exercise in exasperation, but it does require you to concentrate very hard: try it. It requires persistence and the use of different skills, which for some may include visualising the numbers as you count. Whatever it takes, keep at it for long enough to completely focus and you’ll also have the added bonus of finding that you have, temporarily, cleared your head of everything else for a few minutes.

Similarly, spelling words backwards is a good way to focus: start with words that are easy: dog, box, cup, and then build up to longer words – including nouns and more abstract words – such as cushion, blonde, effort, number – increasing the length and complexity of the word. Again, this is an exercise that can be built on.

Another way to focus is to sit in a comfortable position and find a spot on the wall to stare at. This works best when you have no conscious association with it to distract you – so, a black spot about two inches in diameter at eye level works well. Focus all your attention on this for around three minutes to start with (you can set a timer if this helps) and let any thoughts that arise drift away, constantly returning your focus to the spot.

Anyone familiar with meditation will recognise this technique. If it helps to notice your breath, slow and steady this too, but always make your visual focus on the spot the priority. Practiced regularly, this can become so familiar it creates a resource on which to draw, enabling you to consciously refocus at will, even without the visual prompt.

Watching the clock
An old-fashioned clock face with hands and a second hand is needed for this. Starting with the second hand at the 12, focus intently on its progress around the clock face without allowing any distracting thoughts to intervene. Every time your concentration is interrupted by a stray thought, wait until the second hand is at the 12 again, and start again. It’s harder than it sounds and can feel very frustrating initially, but once the ability is learnt it’s easy to access again and again, whenever you need to create a more concentrated state of mind.

We access so much information through what we see, but often we are not particularly observant about what we are looking at, leaving us with just an impression or feeling about what we’ve seen. In an effort to improve concentration skills, it’s worth considering how looking at and then visualising something, can reinforce concentration. Start by paying more attention, whether this is looking at a picture in an art gallery, or taking a bus ride, or just enjoying the scenery from a window. You don’t have to commit an exact graphic image to memory, but engage with it, notice details, reflect on it and, within a short time, you will be able to close your eyes and visualise it. There is no right or wrong way to do this, it’s just an opportunity to practise focus and improve concentration.

There’s a huge difference between hearing and listening. Learning to listen well starts quite self-consciously but will also become a useful habit. You can use music to practise this, the length of a track giving you between three to five minutes (or longer) on which to focus. Really listen to the nuances of the music, its notes, cadences, instruments used, lyrics. Music is often just a background noise but real, complicated musical notation can be more than just pleasurable, it can be a real boon to helping relearn concentration skills.

Physical exercise
For any extended period of exercise – whether it be yoga, playing a team sport or dancing – the engagement of the brain with the body is also an exercise in concentration. Regular exercise also activates the body and this is beneficial for the brain.

A Dutch study of schoolchildren published in the Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport in 2016 showed that interspersing lessons with a 20-minute stretch of aerobic exercise measurably improved attention spans in the children that participated. Another 2014 study from the American Academy of Paediatrics, on the benefits of exercise in 7 to 9-year-olds, not only found that the children’s physical health improved as they got fitter, but also their brain function, cognitive performance and executive control.

Sleep
Poor sleep and being chronically under-slept affects concentration, while also reinforcing those stress hormones to compensate, making it a bit of a vicious circle. Improving sleep cannot happen overnight, particularly if it is a chronic problem, but taking measures to improve this will yield results over a period of weeks, rather than days.

One place to start is clearing your bedroom of TVs, computers and other technology. Although any type of light can inhibit sleep, research has shown that light towards the blue end of the spectrum is especially effective at keeping you awake because it stimulates the retina in the eye and inhibits the secretion of melatonin from the pineal gland in the brain.

Computer screens, tablets, smartphones, flat-screen TVs and LED lighting all emit large amounts of blue light, and it is important to avoid these before trying to sleep. Around 80% of people routinely use these devices running up to bedtime, and among 18 to 24-year-olds this figure increases to 91%, according to research carried out by Prof Richard Wiseman.

Amber-tinted glasses can cut out glare, and it is also possible to fit screens with commercially produced blue-light blocking filters. Another solution, of course, is to avoid all electronic devices before bed in order to help avoid insomnia and improve sleep.

Reading for pleasure
One thing that many people who feel they have lost the ability to concentrate mention is that reading a book for pleasure no longer works for them. We have got so used to skim reading for fast access to information that the demand of a more sophisticated vocabulary, a complex plot structure or a novel’s length can be difficult to engage with. Like anything, single-minded attention may need relearning in order to enjoy reading for pleasure again, but close reading in itself can be a route to better concentration. To help that, read from an actual book, not a screen: screens are too reminiscent of skim reading and just turning pages will slow your pace. Read for long enough to engage your interest, at least 30 minutes: engagement in content takes time, but will help you read for longer.

Digital apps
Somewhat ironically, digital apps may have their place in monitoring, managing or restricting digital time, but bear in mind that they still keep you connected to digital devices. Better perhaps to wean yourself away from excessive digital use by doing something alternative: read a book, go to a movie (where turning off phones is required), take a walk, eat a meal without checking … basically restore some sort of self-discipline through the benefit of alternate activities.

But if you must turn to a digital solution to solve a digital problem, try these: track usage with Moment; access Facebook limiter; go Cold Turkey; try Stay On Task; use the App detox blocker; or break phone addiction with Space.

• Harriet Griffey is the author of The Art Of Concentration, published by Pan Macmillan at £10.99

dissabte, 13 d’octubre de 2018

Tech suffers from lack of humanities, says Mozilla head by Alex Hern

Tech suffers from lack of humanities, says Mozilla head
Mitchell Baker says firms should hire philosophy and psychology graduates to tackle misinformation.

Alex Hern @alexhern
Fri 12 Oct 2018 16.22 BST

Technology companies need to diversify their hiring practices to include more people from backgrounds in philosophy and psychology if they want to tackle the problem of misinformation online, the head of one of the biggest internet charities has warned.

Mitchell Baker, head of the Mozilla Foundation, has warned that hiring employees who mainly come from Stem – science, technology, engineering and maths – will produce a new generation of technologists with the same blindspots as those who are currently in charge, a move that will “come back to bite us”.

“Stem is a necessity, and educating more people in Stem topics clearly critical,” Baker told the Guardian. “Every student of today needs some higher level of literacy across the Stem bases.

“But one thing that’s happened in 2018 is that we’ve looked at the platforms, and the thinking behind the platforms, and the lack of focus on impact or result. It crystallised for me that if we have Stem education without the humanities, or without ethics, or without understanding human behaviour, then we are intentionally building the next generation of technologists who have not even the framework or the education or vocabulary to think about the relationship of Stem to society or humans or life.”

Baker is chairwoman of the Firefox developer and its parent non-profit organisation, whose mission statement is to keep the internet open and accessible to all.

As part of the push for positive change online, Mozilla, along with three other charitable foundations, is launching a competition aimed at encouraging universities to incorporate ethical education into undergraduate computer science degrees. The Responsible Computer Science Challenge will grant more than $3m over the next two years to successful proposals, Mozilla says.

“We need to be adding not social sciences of the past, but something related to humanity and how to think about the effects of technology on humanity – which is partly sociology, partly anthropology, partly psychology, partly philosophy, partly ethics … it’s some new formulation of all of those things, as part of a Stem education,” Baker told the Guardian.

“Otherwise we’ll have ourselves to blame, for generations of technologists who don’t even have the toolsets to add these things in.”

Kathy Pham, the computer scientist at Mozilla who is leading the challenge, said “Students of computer science go on to be the next leaders and creators in the world, and must understand how code intersects with human behaviour, privacy, safety, vulnerability, equality, and many other factors.

“Just like how algorithms, data structures, and networking are core computer science classes, we are excited to help empower faculty to also teach ethics and responsibility as an integrated core tenet of the curriculum.”

The news of Mozilla’s grant in the week that Amazon revealed it had ditched an AI recruiting tool it had been developing, due to the tool’s learned bias against female employees.

The company had tried to train an AI to identify promising candidates based on their CVs. But the AI had instead learned from historic data that Amazon apparently preferred male candidates, and began to downgrade applicants whose resume included the word “women’s”, or who graduated from all-women colleges.

https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2018/oct/12/tech-humanities-misinformation-philosophy-psychology-graduates-mozilla-head-mitchell-baker