Tuesday, 21 July 2015

A GTD secret in Microsoft Outlook

Every once in a while, my email processing goes completely off the rails and my inbox runs into hundreds (if not thousands) of unprocessed emails.  Here's a handy setting in MS Outlook that lets me go super ninja when dealing with an overflowing inbox.

Go to Outlook Options --> Mail --> Others and look for the option After moving or deleting an open item

Setting this option to "Open the next item" forces one to deal with the next item in my inbox as soon as the current item is dealt with.  

This tip works very well if you have a bunch of Quick Steps defined that take care of your most common actions.

Happy GTDing!

Monday, 20 July 2015

Simplify the Facebook newsfeed (and regain some sanity)

There are a number of articles about how Facebook can cause or worsen depression.  
I can relate to some of these symptoms firsthand, and believe that there is a large dose of truth to what the above articles say.  And I am guilty of having way too many Facebook friends.  My friends' list is 800 people long not because I know all of them intimately, but because I was trying to be polite.  I didn't want to offend them by declining their friends' request.

So here's a fix I have been implementing on my Facebook news feed:

Here's my rationale: I am not interested in the lives of all the 800 odd people on my friends' list.  And unfollowing people is the one way to deal with the astounding amounts of clutter my newsfeed was serving me every time I log in.  

Yes, I am still following the absolute barest set of people whom I truly care about, or whose posts I find inspirational.  And my newsfeed is now a bit sane.

Sunday, 12 July 2015

Disabled and Differently-abled

Are we taking political correctness to extremes these days?  I especially noticed this during the recent newspaper articles about Ira Singhal, the candidate who topped the latest UPSC exams.  Ira Singhal suffers from scoliosis, an abnormal curvature of the spine. Some news articles were calling her "differently-abled" instead of "disabled", presumably for the sake of political correctness. 

Why is "disabled" considered a negative word? It really shouldn't, should it? It is a fairly objective word to describe that a specific human body is not capable of what might be considered ordinary by others.

Yeah, someone might argue that she topped the UPSC this year, and that is her different ability. But hey, so did some non-handicapped person last year - his name was Gaurav Agarwal. The media weren't calling him differently-abled now, were they?
I don't intend to sound judgmental against Ira Singhal, but from what I have read about her, there is nothing differently abled about her. She is a really smart person who happens to have a sub-optimal curvature of the spine. If the word "disabled" is the official Oxford Dictionary term used to describe, albeit in a generic manner, this condition, then there is nothing politically incorrect about it.
Coming to the point of differently-abled, there are two TED talks that got me thinking about what differently abled really means.
  1. Could Genetics Hold the Answer to Curing Autism - Wendy Chung is a researcher focusing on genetic causes of autism and explains that Autism is not a disease, but a spectrum of diseases. And often, a child can have a trade-off of one skill in favor of another. E.g. when growing up, a child may not learn to make eye contact, but can be super smart in math at the time. Perhaps that is what the term differently abled should mean.
  2. How Do You Reinvent Yourself After a Near-Death Experience? - This one must be one the most inspirational TED talks out there. Hugh Herr shows how to convert disability to opportunity in the truest of senses, and to expand human capability.  I preferred the Guy Roz interview of Hugh Herr to the actual TED talk.  Please do click on Listen to the Story at the NPR link before you watch the video.  
My favorite line from Hugh Herr's talk is "So when I was feeling badly about myself, insecure I would jack my height up. But when I was feeling confident and suave, I would knock my height down a notch just to give the competition a chance."  Just to give the competition a chance?  Isn't that the attitude that exemplifies what "differently abled" should mean?  And honestly, that is kind of different ability I personally would love to cultivate.

So in my opinion, calling the disabled as differently-abled purely for reasons of political correctness is not right. As long as one does not use the word "disabled" with contempt, there is no disrespect in using that word.  And let's save the phrase "differently abled" for those who truly are.