Bursts? Or Keep on Keeping On?







It’s been a busy two days for two of the causes for which my retired self is working – riverblindness and racism. For riverblindness, I’m doing publicity (you knew that,) for the Princeton United Methodist Church’s mission trip to support the United Front of Riverblindness. For anti-racism, I’m the PUMC rep to Not in Our Town, the interracial, interfaith social action group in Princeton committed to speak truth about ‘everyday racism’ and other forms of discrimination.

Yesterday was the YWCA’s Stand Against Racism Day and on behalf of NIOT I had fun zooming all over downtown, handing out pins taking pictures of merchants standing in front of their shops (e.g. the Nassau Inn, above)

as encouraged by Kathleen Morolda of Cranbury Station Gallery. Look for a Town Topics ad saluting the merchants and for pictures click here.

That same day NIOT-ers converged on Tiger Park in Palmer Square, handing out brochures and pins “PRINCETON: Let friendship and pride in diversity prevail,” holding signs, getting signatures, offering “think questions” to passersby.

Today was the May Day 5k to Combat Riverblindness, sponsored by PUMC. At the last minute (11 p.m. the night before) spouse and I decided to go. We walked the beautiful course from the seminary, down Alexander Road, turning into Institute for Advance Studies property. As we wended our way on the gravel path I remembered the countless times I drove that bumpy road to pick up my now 43-year-old son at Nassau Swim Club. Then along Battle Road, with its beautiful sycamores and continuing a steady pace uphill to the finish line. Thanks to spouse, who forced the steady pace, we chalked up a 55 minute time, not bad for us oldsters on a gorgeous but hot day.

Sports report: the May Day 5k first place winners were Daniel Feder with 17.17 and Carrie Brox in 19 minutes, followed by Christopher Samsen, Keith Moulton, and William Hurlin on the men’s side, Heather Mitchell, Vivian Bertrand, and Susan Juronics the next three women. To my surprise, two Princeton United Methodist Church runners were in the top 10, Keith Dixon and Scott Langdon. I didn’t even know they were runners!

A well run race – thank you, Jim Hein, Charles Phillips, Peter Meggitt, et al. Now I proudly own one of the gorgeous T-shirts designed by Mathew Ireland, modeled here by my Einstein’s Alley Entrepreneur Group buddies, Alberto and Dana Molina. Here’s a photo album by Charles Phillips, viewable if you have a Google account.

Collapsed at home I read, in Friday’s Wall Street Journal, that such bursts of activity are to be expected. Clive Thompson reviewed “Bursts” by Albert-László Barabási (Dutton, 310 pages, $26.95) Says Thompson:

In “Bursts,” Mr. Barabási argues that bursty patterns are wired into human behavior, because we’re task-rich but time-poor. When we’re faced with having too much to do and not enough time—a category under which you could safely file “all modern white-collar work”—we prioritize. We pick the most urgent things, focus on them and forget the rest. Once forgotten, a task often stays forgotten, ignored for hours, days, months or even years. The act of prioritizing inherently produces power laws that dictate what we do on a minute-by-minute basis.

Normally, I’d have thought that our penchant for bursts of activity would make life more erratic, as one person’s burst collides with another’s stasis. But Mr. Barabási argues that the effect is precisely the opposite: If we know that burstiness is common, predicting human behavior becomes easier.

Does this mean procrastination is good, after all? That it’s OK to not try to do everything? That we aren’t bad if we don’t proceed at a steady pace?

It may work for getting stuff done, but not for hiking. In hiking, as spouse kept saying, you just have to put one foot in front of the other. You just have to keep on keeping on.

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One thought on “Bursts? Or Keep on Keeping On?

  1. Read a chapter in The Language of Life by Francis Collins, who headed the Human Genome Project and is now at NIH. He makes the argument that there is no such thing as race

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