The Philosophical Apprentice

“Only one who devotes himself to a cause with his whole strength and soul can be a true master. For this reason mastery demands all of a person.” Albert Einstein

Archive for the month “November, 2013”

A Great New Resource for Web Reading

Reading on the web is one of my favorite things to do. And I mean favorite since I subscribe to at least 200 or so feeds on my Feedly account. Of course, most of what I read is the ephemera of a summer’s day. But occasionally I want to save an article that I find particularly interesting. This is why I’ve been so fond of Microsoft OneNote. I could with one click either send the article or website to a OneNote page or, if I wanted, I could print it directly into OneNote. Life was good until I started using Firefox exclusively. I could still send a webpage to OneNote but it was a bit of a hassle due to the number of steps involved. Then at work where I try to do most of my internet reading during my lunch break the IT people upgraded to Windows 7 which does inhibits the print to OneNote feature in OneNote 2007.

Since I have very little flexibility over my computer at work I’ve been using the web version of OneNote. It works and I can access my saved material on any computer with access to the web but it is a cumbersome process and so my search continued.

Thankfully I’ve come across a great new free resource – Readability.  It works with Firefox so you can add it to your browser so when you come across a good article that you would like to save and read at greater length and leisure you only need to hit the red readability button and it saves it your read list. Once there Readability strips all the crap away and leaves the text and pictures in a nice clean interface. It also includes a link to the original article which I find very useful.

So far I’ve come to really rely on Readability. So far it has helped me become a more efficient blogger since when I come across an article I want to blog later on I can access it quickly on my Readability page and go on from there.

I haven’t played with all the features of the program to date and I would like to explore how much I can store on it and whether I can create folders and archives on it and so do away with OneNote altogether.   I will blog my result later on but in the meantime taking readability out for a test drive is well worth your time.


A Musical Thanksgiving

I am visiting family for Thanksgiving and quiet time is at at a premium. What to be thankful for? I am thankful for my faith, for my  family, for my good health, for currently having a job. For many things. I am also thankful for coming across the music of Arvo Part.

Here is a beautiful piece of music for your thanksgiving holidays. Enjoy.

More Bad News for Night Owls

Over at the PsyBlog, Jeremy Dean writes about some new research into the differences the morning people and the night people.

For the first time differences in neural structures have been shown between people who are night owls and early risers.

In the new research on 59 participants, those who were confirmed night owls (preferring late to bed and late to rise) had lower integrity of the white matter in various areas of the brain (Rosenberg et al., 2014).

Lower integrity in these areas has been linked to depression and cognitive instability.

This research doesn’t tell us what the relationship is, but the authors guess that it may be related to ‘social jet-lag’.

Social jet-lag comes about because night owls are forced to live–as most of us are–like early risers. Work, school and other institutions mostly require early rising, which, for night owls, causes problems.

As night owls find it difficult to get to sleep early, they tend to carry large amounts of sleep debt. In other words, they’re exhausted all the time.

As a result, they tend to be larger consumers of caffeine and other stimulants, in order to counteract their sleep debt.

Oh dear. What to do? I for one have had enough. I am thinking about starting my own group to deal with this. I am thinking about calling it the ‘Night Owl Liberation Organization’ or NOLO, for short.

Seriously, this is a big problem for many people. I know it is in my life and I don’t know how to solve it. When I do I’ll let everybody know. In the meantime,, everybody should make it point to read the PsyBlog which is a fantastic resource.


Say Hello to my Little Friend

There is a law in computer science that the newest version of Windows will run smoothly for about one week before it begins to behave like molasses in January. I bought a new laptop a year or two ago with Windows 7. I have it set up in my study cave and I only use it for schoolwork and for the odd occasion when I travel. Still, for what little I do use it it’s been running really slow, twiddle your thumbs slow.


Enough of that I decided. I’d installed Ubuntu on it last winter and played around with it for a while but I had forgotten my password.  I still had my installation thumb drive so I decided to reload it again alongside Windows.  Time for decisive action you see. It reloaded fine and it even prompted me to upgrade to the latest variation 13.10 Saucy Salamander.

I’ve been using Ubuntu exclusively for the past two weeks now and I have been very impressed. The speed and responsiveness have been extraordinary. When I use Windows at work it feels like I’ve downgraded from a Ferrari to a Yugo. I can also browse the internet confidently knowing that I’m immune to most of the crapware and viruses proliferating in the digital commons. And best of all its free.

Of course there is a bit of a learning curve with using a system as different as Ubuntu. Loading software not located in the software center  is a hassle. And so far I have been unable to use TOR with it.  But overall I have been adjusting just fine.

Speaking of software, I’ve been pleased with the range of variety. It comes with Firefox and Thunderbird which gives you the flexibility to adjust the tools people use the most. The only real drawback so far has been the lack of an open source alternative to Microsoft OneNote. As much as I hate Microsoft, particularly its CEO, I have to say that OneNote is one of the best programs ever created. I could probably run OneNote with WINE but I don’t really want to fool around with it. As a work around I have been using the web version of OneNote but it lacks a lot of the functionality that makes the installed so great. I am currently exploring open source alternatives OneNote but while many are called few are chosen. I have faith that one day I’ll find an alternative to OneNote that’ll allow me to cut the cord to the Microsoft Empire. In the meantime me and my little friend Ubuntu are going to get to know each other a lot better.


My first foray into cat blogging. In honor of this blog’s theme I present to you Henri the existentialist cat. Enjoy

Descend into the Cone of Silence

I’ve taken Leo Babauta’s advice and decided to start cutting out the distractions at my job by wearing headphones and listening to relaxing music. It works. I’ve been able to cut out a lot of the gossip and jocularity that are a constant source distraction to me and that prevent me from concentrating on my work.

It’s also been a lot of fun discovering a whole new range of music such as space and ambient. Here’s a youtube clip from a group called the  B-Tribe. The name of the song is The Sun. If this doesn’t calm your blood pressure nothing will. Enjoy.

A Huntin’ We Will Go

I’ve been wanting to take my kids squirrel hunting for the longest time. However, my wife is not, to say the least, a fan of hunting. She would only relent to my taking the kids if she went along.

She was true to her word and last Sunday we all went for a walk in the woods by our house.  My wife was wasn’t feeling well so we only stayed for about an hour and a half. We still had a wonderful time and I even managed to bag a squirrel.

Cleaning the furry little devil was a learning experience since I hadn’t done it since my childhood. Still I got through it and I had him for dinner that night.

Unfortunately, the meat was extraordinarily ‘gamey’, almost to the point of being unedible.

A couple of more experienced hunters in the shop recommended that I soak squirrel in apple vinegar overnight to get rid of the gaminess. I plan to try it out later on since my little taste of squirrel hunting over the weekend has whetted my appetite for more.

Productivity and Philosophy

For a blog that ostensibly exists to cover the travails of a middle aged man attempting to arrive at a working knowledge of the western philosophical tradition, I write about a lot about productivity and time management.

In my opinion, learning about time management  is a lot like learning logic in philosophy. Just as it is really hard to do philosophy without a solid grounding in logic so it is difficult to do philosophy whatsoever if you do not have the time to invest in it.

What I strive to do with all the time management skills I’ve picked up over the years is to free up the time to read and write philosophy. It is a critical skill set for me since I’m married with kids and working a full time job.

I know from past experience that if I do not set aside at least 10-15 hours a week then my studies suffer and I have to struggle in the back end to get up caught up. Getting caught up usually means a lot of late-nighters which I’m really trying to avoid.

An make no mistake, philosophy is a difficult subject to learn. As the London Philosophy Study Guide expresses it

At no stage in one’s career is reading philosophy easy. Some people claim to read philosophy for pleasure. Wittgenstein is reported to have said that he found reading some philosophy ‘a kind of agony’. Many people are inclined to agree with this. Whatever good intentions philosophers have to make their works clear, accessible, and fun to read, the result is rarely any better than more dull and dense prose with a few corny jokes. Remember that you read philosophy not for the pleasure of the moment, but for what you can come away with.

It is important, then, that you make your reading of philosophy as efficient and rewarding as possible.


Quote of the Day – Deep Breakfast

“Evelyn slapped Raymond on the back with a laugh. ‘You must be starved, old friend. Come into my apartments, and we’ll suffer through a deep breakfast of pure sunlight.'”

I’ve loved this quote for its beauty ever since I came across it in the Spring of 1989. It’s taken from the cover of New Age artist Ray Lynch’s album Deep Breakfast. I’ve always wondered where it came from so I decided to look it up recently.

I was surprised to find it was taken from a novel by a controversial spiritual guru named Adi Da. See also here.

I had heard a little bit about Adi Da in the past due to his influence on Ken Wilber who used to be a big hero of mine. However, Wilber was always trying to downplay Adi Da’s influence and from what little I’ve read I can see why.

As it is I’ve lost my appetite over the years for eastern religions much less eastern gurus. I still like the quote though and while New Age is not one of my favorite genres of music, the Deep Breakfast album remains one of my favorites.  And so enjoy a little Celestial Soda Pop while you’re here.

Here’s How to Tell if You’re an Official Nightowl

A favorite blog of mine, Mark’s Daily Apple. has a good post on what he calls ‘Chronotypes’.  According to Mark

A growing body of research has identified something called a chronotype: a sleep phenotype, determined by slight alterations to the “Period 1″ gene, that influences your sleep and wake time. Genetic early birds have an AA nucleotide base and will be naturally inclined to go to bed and wake up earlier. They make up roughly a third of the population. 16% of people are genetic night owls with a GG nucleotide base; they tend to have later bedtimes and wake times (about an hour after the early birds). And the middle ground – which is almost 50% of people – have an AG base and a tendency to wake up “between” the two extremes. You can affect your sleep habits by changing things like light exposure at day/night, electronic media consumption, caffeine intake, and so on, but the genetic chronotype will always underline your response. It’s the baseline, and recent evidence in live humans confirms this.

Worse, according to Mark’s research being a nightowl is associated with a host of health problems

Well, mornings tend to be tough for folks with the night owl chronotype. That’s to be expected, since going to bed later than society expects while having to wake up earlier than your biology “wants” means inadequate, lower quality sleep. We all know how a night of poor sleep feels. Imagine a lifetime!

But that’s not all. A quick trip through the literature reveals numerous connections between the night owl chronotype and poor health outcomes. It all seems quite dire:

In type 2 diabetics,  having a night owl chronotype is independently associated with poor glycemic control. Shift workers were excluded from the study so as not to confound the results.

Among fibromyalgia sufferers, night owl chronotypes are more affected by the syndrome than other chronotypes.

Night owls tend to eat unhealthy food, have more sleep apnea, and secrete more stress hormones.

”Evening types” (does this sound derogatory to anyone else?) are more likely to be depressed than other chronotypes.

Why would a chronotype that confers a higher risk of just about every negative health malady be selected for by evolution? How did the GG nucleotide even survive?

Because it’s only in a society with a standard universal workday that begins at around 8 AM that the night owl is an unhealthy, lazy malcontent worthy of our disdain. For every one of the “negative health effects of being a night owl chronotype,” I can link it directly to a lack of sleep:

Poor glucose tolerance? A lack of sleep will lead to it.

Fibromyalgia? Strongly linked to a lack of sleep.

Unhealthy eating? A bad night’s sleep makes junk food more enticing.

Prone to depression? Bad sleep could be causing it.

The good news is that there appears to be an accurate test to determine a person’s chronotype. According to Mark it is “widely considered to be just as accurate as the genetic tests, so anyone who’s wondering about their own genetic chronotype should go on and take it.” You can access it here.

I have not taken it myself and probably won’t since I am pretty damn sure I am an extreme nightowl. But I would be curious to know it anybody has taken it and what their reaction was?

Post Navigation