Why Alarm Clocks Are Evil

Darth Vader Alarm Clock

The Force is strong with this one.


That is annoying to read, let alone to actually hear at 200 decibels (an entirely unscientific approximation) first thing in the morning. It is no wonder that you’ve probably had the inclination to smash your alarm clock a la Bill Murray in Groundhog Day at least once in your lifetime. You know, like this:


The Force is strong with this one as well.

Or maybe this:

I would advocate purchasing a large number of cheap alarm clocks – just to do this on occasion.

Anyhow – the point is that Science (with a capital “S”) has determined what many of us already knew: Your Alarm Clock May Be Hazardous to Your Health.

And it’s not just about the chronic sleep deficit many of us suffer from (as if that weren’t bad enough). By holding ourselves to the time demands of today’s society, we are “wreaking havoc” (the Words of Science) on our body’s natural rhythms, preventing our internal “daily clock” (a bundle of nerves called the suprachiasmatic nucleus, if you must know) from rewinding itself, impairing the body’s ability to do stuff – like control body temperature, secrete hormones, regulate blood pressure, and manage your internal organs. You know, the little things. We are “tuned” to the natural cycle afforded to us by the rotation of the earth – sunlight and darkness reset the body clock to prepare it for action the next day. Vary too much from that schedule for too long, either by waking too early or staying up too late, and you are asking for trouble.


This thing doesn’t spin for nothing.

While we might not be able to turn off our alarm clocks and cancel all of our morning meetings, we can ask ourselves the following:

  • Where else in my life am I answering to an ‘unnatural’ calls?
  • What is throwing me off of my natural rhythm? What IS my natural rhythm?
  • How can I “rewind”, and how often do I need to?

Now I wouldn’t want you to waste time by worrying about time, but the clock is ticking …




photo credits:

Darth Vader Alarm Clock – millionaireplayboy.com. It’s not what you think!

Bill Murray 1: tumblr

Bill Murray 2: gifsoup

Earth: Wikipedia


Brain Building – The Key to Ending Mental Illness or The Beginning of the Robot Takeover?

So as usual, I am not sure what to make of an intriguing article, therefore I am sharing it with you (from the BBC Future “Will we ever” series): Will we ever… simulate the human brain?. For those who may not have the time to make the jump to the article it is basically this: the European Commission has granted One Billion Euros to the Human Brain Project (an aside: One Billion is always capitalized when paired with a major currency – it’s a rule I just made up. I call it the Caraballo Currency Capitalization Convention). As the “Human Brain Project” name implies, it aims to build a computer-based “simulated” human brain within 10 years.

digi brain

The a-MAZE-ing brain!
Ha! Get it?
Because it looks like a … oh never mind.

Two main points here:

  1. One Billion Euros is a whole lot of money. I mean, it’s like A TRILLION DOLLARS (see the above mentioned Caraballo Convention). Okay, okay. Actually, it is more like $1.3 Billion Dollars. Still, that’s a whole lot of €s and/or $s.
  2. Isn’t this how every dystopian sci-fi comic book, novel, movie, video game and music video starts? Try to do something awesome and it goes horribly, horribly bad? Did Terminators 1, 2, 3 or 4 (are there more?) not get released in Europe? Apparently not, since the Brits launched their fourth – fourth! – Skynet satellite in December 2012. At least we know who to blame when serving our robot overlords.

The beginning of the end … robot line-dancing?

Now there are lots of good, scientifically sound reasons for building such a simulated brain, such as being able to beat all of the other scientists at chess, to count cards at the local casino, and of course, to beat up on all of the mere mortals on Jeopardy (Watson is now fully engaged in the fight against cancer, btw). While those are certainly fine reasons, the main purpose behind “creating” a human brain is it would (theoretically) help us better understand how parts of the brain interact with one another. Of particular interest is how one part of the brain compensates (or doesn’t compensate) for another part, without having to “test” (read: injure or impair) the actual brains contained in the actual heads of actual people. This would, in fact, be awesome, and revolutionize the care and treatment of those with severe brain injury or mental illnesses, and possibly even impact the way we organize and share information.

Abby Normal

What is a normal brain, anyhow?

The main problem is – we don’t really know how the brain works right now, so how do we build a model that simulates it? Apparently we’ve been trying for decades and have a few models that can do a few things, but nobody has had the audacity and/or the funding to build something as complex as the entire brain. Until now.

Here’s how we thought the brain worked 130 years ago. The map may have changed – but do we really know enough to build one?

I am all for bold research, but here’s the analogy that came to mind for me: early attempts at heavier than air flight. Some very smart and ambitious folks spent a whole lot of time and money looking at birds and building contraptions that tried to mimic the structures and movements of our feathered friends (just as the researchers in this project are building their model by mimicking the structures and activities they “see” in the brain). As it turns out, successful heavier than air flight (for humans) has nothing to do with feathers or flapping wings. Why would we think a successful “model” of the brain will “look” anything like the ones in our heads?


Capes – not much better.
But don’t tell THIS superhero!!

Another reason for concern – two telling quotes from some recent research conducted at the University of Iowa’s Neurological Patient Registry:

… self-awareness corresponds to a brain process that cannot be localized to a single region of the brain … In all likelihood, self-awareness emerges from much more distributed interactions among networks of brain regions.

Followed up with this:

Clearly, neuroscience is only beginning to understand how the human brain can generate a phenomenon as complex as self-awareness.

In short – we aren’t sure how the brain becomes self-aware, but we’re going to go ahead and build one. Hmmm. So, what if it happens to become self-aware in the process? Maybe it won’t try to destroy us, but would it be ok to hurt it, or turn in off? Then what?

Finally, there is this – according to a top researcher (not associated with the HBP) the “race” to build a human brain is really about “who can get the most biological functions and animal-like behaviours” from their program. So, super-brains that behave like animals and make mistakes? Great. At least the big (real) brains at Cambridge have the funding to investigate how to mitigate the risk of robot uprising as well. Hopefully they finish before the brain-builders!


Granted, some animal behaviors are less dangerous than others.

So in case you couldn’t tell – I am not a fan of trying to replicate the human brain. In my opinion, the defining characteristic of the human brain … is the human heart.

What do you think?




photo credits:

Digital Brain – dailygalaxy.com

Dancing Robots – PC Watch – Japan

Abnormal Brain – Young Frankenstein (A great Mel Brooks movie, 1974)

Phrenology Chart – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phrenology

Red Bull Flugtag – Sydney Telegraph

Cute Puppy – Awesome Joolie via photopin cc

Stickin’ it to “the Man”: A Cautionary Tale of (Self) Sabotage, Wasted Energy, and Really Strong Cleaning Products

Many people are familiar with the term “saboteur” – a person who secretly and intentionally destroys property or equipment belonging to another. In the context of coaching, a saboteur is an “inner voice” (often negative) that often articulates seemingly logical roadblocks which in the end, prevent you from taking bold action in pursuit of your dreams. As a coach I help people come up with strategies to recognize and overcome their saboteurs so they can find the energy and a way to “make things happen” – getting them closer to fulfilling their goals.


That big hammer? Many saboteurs are a bit more subtle.

The following story, however, is an example of what can happen when we let the saboteur run rampant. Unfortunately, it is all true!

A little over three years ago, in the far-away land of England, a 41-year old mid-level employee at a global marketing research firm was denied a pay raise. While understandably upset, the employee decided at that point that he needed to take action, and put his considerable skills to work devising a plan. And while his plan involved staying in his current position at his current pay, he committed himself to it, knowing that he would be rewarded for his diligence and determination. What do you think that plan might have been? What type of plan would you commit to when faced with a similar setback?


Maybe it’s time for a clean slate.

Well, if your plan didn’t involve spraying caustic chemicals into company computers over a span of three years, you weren’t on the same wavelength as Mr. Edward Sobolewski. That’s right, his plan was revenge. Rather than look inwardly to address some of the issues in his own life (which he did finally share in court – just before being sentenced to 8 months in prison on top of a $16,000 fine), he decided to destroy £32,000 (that’s a lot of £s – just over $50,000) worth of his employer’s computer equipment over a three year period.  Not in a fit of rage after being denied his raise, not three months later after some other boardroom slight, but slowly, thoughtfully, and deliberately from 2009 until he was eventually caught in 2012. While that is one of the longest acts of workplace (self) destruction I have heard of, the real shame is in what could have been. What if he had turned that energy into improving himself instead of harming others? What if he had turned his focus into pursuing an outside interest that would have made him happy, instead of a long-term covert action campaign that would land him in jail (with much diminished employment prospects)?


Using art to stick it to The Man – unlikely to land you in jail.

It’s a little too late for Ed to confront his saboteurs, but not for us. Despite Jack Black’s entertaining “you can’t win” rant (the “live” version of the .gif image above) from “School of Rock”, he manages to succeed by focusing his energy on what he really wants, not really by trying to “fight the man” (although it is a recurring theme).

Where is your energy directed? Who are you fighting? The Man? Or maybe yourself?



photo credits:

Bugs Bunny Gremlin – http://looneytunes.wikia.com/wiki/The_Gremlin

Spray Bottle – http://www.scarletcleaning.co.uk/pages/commercial.html

School of Rock .gif – tumblr