Going “off-label” for a neurological edge

There is an interesting article in the New Yorker about the phenomenon of students and type-A personalities using — without “need” — attention deficit drugs such as Adderal and Ritalin to improve their study skills and concentration. It’s a chilling look at the future of neurological therapies for gaining a performance edge, a glimpse at a Gattaca-style world where we’ll start mental doping to stay competitive.

Quoting Dr. Anjan Chatterjee, the writer, Margaret Talbot, writes:

As he notes in a 2007 paper, “Many sectors of society have winner-take-all conditions in which small advantages produce disproportionate rewards.” At school and at work, the usefulness of being “smarter,” needing less sleep, and learning more quickly are all “abundantly clear.” In the near future, he predicts, some neurologists will refashion themselves as “quality-of-life consultants,” whose role will be “to provide information while abrogating final responsibility for these decisions to patients.” The demand is certainly there: from an aging population that won’t put up with memory loss; from overwrought parents bent on giving their children every possible edge; from anxious employees in an efficiency-obsessed, BlackBerry-equipped office culture, where work never really ends.

Basically this is a case of people taking speed to focus. Add in the benefit of losing some weight in the process, and one can see why this is a trend that won’t go away.

It reminds me of the Bruce Sterling short story where a hacker takes his girlfriend’s study drugs so he can win an online game. Anyway, it is a thought-provoking piece that is sure to drive demand for bogus ADHD medication prescriptions, not warn people away.

When video goes wrong


Randall Stross writes today in the Sunday New York Times about the fine line between camp and hell when it comes to corporate video.

In it he calls attention to the wonderful internal video made by some Microsoft researchers for a product technology called Songsmith — apparently a “song generator” that one sings into and which then infers from the lyrics what the electro-synth soundtrack should be.  It is indeed awesome in its awfulness. Watch the first 30 seconds, get the idea, and skip to the video at the end of this post for its real contribution to society.

The payoff on Stross’ story is the pointer to what some clever souls have done with the Songsmith technology, feeding into it well known head bangers such as Metallica, and my personal favorite, Van Halen. This has made my day, almost as much as the discovery earlier this week of what the acronyms SIaS and FIaT mean in conjunction with Yankee’s owner, George Steinbrenner.

Top 10 Marketing Blunders of 2008 « Collateral Damage

Lenovo’s “Customer of the Year” — Constantine von Hoffman (for threatening to tell people we delivered a ThinkPad to him ahead of schedule) — has posted his annual list of the top marketing boners, blunders, bloopers, etc.. I strongly recommend a full visit, my favorite is Vista toilet paper and Lolita brand beds.

1 Ford features “Space Oddity” — a song about astronaut suicide — in new car campaign.

2 Framingham State College uses the word blah 137 times in a 312-word fundraising letter.

3 Disney (multiple entries): Bans kids from DisneyWorld restaurant; Changes “It’s A Small World” to “A Salute to All Nations, But Mostly America”; and Sells “High School Musical” panties for tween girls with the phrase “Dive In” on them.

4 Woolworths (UK) launches Lolita brand of beds for young girl

See the rest below ….

Top 10 Marketing Blunders of 2008 « Collateral Damage.


Interesting front page story in the NYT this Sunday morning about President-elect Obama likely having to surrender his Blackberry and email privileges for the duration of his term due to security concerns and public information laws. At first I was reading the piece, saying “Boneheads. Email good. Luddites in government, bad.” Then the security concerns were cited and I suddenly thought it is maybe not such a good idea to have the Commander In Chief on the RIM network sending emoticons to the National Security Advisor: “Dude. Chechnya! WTF? Call me! (Go Sox)”

Still, for an administration that is releasing weekly “fireside chats” on YouTube, that is seeking a National CTO, and which delivered on the promise of technology first opened up by Joe Trippi and the Howard Dean campaign,  it seems utterly ass-hatted to take away email. But, unless a secure alternative can be developed, the president-to-be may be in the same boat the president-that-was found himself eight years ago when he sadly signed off of his AOL mail account and told his friends it was nice knowing them electronically.

CapeCodTimes.com – Signs of anarchy in Osterville

Speaking of Project Mayhem:

“The phrase “PAPERI STREET SOAP COMPANY,” with each A encircled was painted in black across the walls of a bank, clothing store, real estate office and other businesses, according to a report by Officer John Alexander”

CapeCodTimes.com – Signs of anarchy in Osterville.

Mis-spelled graffiti leads police to fruitless Google search for meaning of random tagging. Drop the “i” from “Paperi” and you have the name of Fight Club’s Tyler Durden’s human fat (liposuction trash) soap company: “Paper Street Soap Company.”

Project Mayhem

Why can’t project codenames be more awesome? Corporate and organizational code names — the granddaddy would be the Manhattan Project — are usually generated to cloak some secret project under an innocent sounding name to throw off spies.

There is a codename generator: http://www.codenamegenerator.com but none of the examples are very funny. I mean, there’s a certain genius who came up with “Shock and Awe”, or, my personal favorite from “Fight Club” — Project Mayhem.

Projects I would like to work on:

  • Project Bohica
  • Project Meconium
  • Deathstar

Keep in mind during a “name the conference room” contest at a former employer, I lobbied hard for a theme related to cannibalism: The Donner Party Room, The Essex Whaleboat Room, Andes Soccer Teamroom, etc.. I lost.

Word of the day: borborygmus

Next time the person next to you in a meeting commits some loud stomach rumbling — you know that gurgling, growling noise that almost sounds like a fart, but because it’s internal it doesn’t carry the noxious impact and therefore is okay, but deserving of a comment anyway — say to them:

“Hey, nice borborygmus.”

That’s pronounced “bore-bore-rig-mus” and is pretty onomatopoetic to my ear.