How To Do Division In Your Head
How to Do Division In Your Head
We've all been there. You're driving to work, or school, or mom's house, or therapy, or the erectile dysfunction clinic, or wherever, and the craving hits. You're hungry, and not just for any old takeout. You want some pasta. So you pull through the local Italian place and grab some Fettuccine Alfredo to go, and take it on into your car because you're in a hurry.
You balance it precariously on your steering wheel, using your right hand to steer and operate the turn signal, while your left hand manipulates your plastic fork in such a way that you might on occasion get a reasonable bite of noodles, and simultaneously holds the bowl in place when it's time to turn the wheel a little more. You decide that you can clean up any spilled pasta later, and say a silent thank you to whoever it is you feel compelled to thank that you have functioning arms, thus making your mobile dinner a possibility.
I say we've all been there, but maybe that's just me. I am just terrible at multitasking, a term that didn't even exist until 1965, when it was coined in an IBM paper detailing the facilities of the IBM Operating System/360. Multitasking isn't even a thing all computers do, when you get down to it, unless they are multi-core systems—that is, unless they have more than one brain. People, without exception, don't.
INB4 "What about The Man With Two Brains?" because that's a movie, dumbass
Now I suppose I could link you to several different articles that all say what I'm about to with a few less words: multitasking is bad for you. But rather than just regurgitate facts and studies at you, I'm going to outline a handful a reasons I suspect multitasking is bad for me, personally. If you see yourself in any of these, I ask you to at least consider the possibility that I'm not totally full of crap...
5. I am getting dumber every year!
When I was a child I skipped two grades for reading. I went to the middle school for math when I was in grade school, and was doing high school math. Straight As were just expected, and they weren't at all hard to come by. I held my own in conversations with people of all ages, on all topics, and was loved very nearly universally. I organized shows, wrote songs, threw parties, invented dances, made my own games, and in general was about the smartest kid anyone I knew knew. Maybe my future wife was smarter, but no one else was.
Lately I find that my days consist mostly of sitting in one spot on the couch, talking to randomers on the internet while watching some television or listening to music or both, while also writing vaguely political rants or half-cocked fiction in media that aren't really going to get me any press, good or bad. I have already lost my job thrice this year, have released one EP of music that nobody seems to particularly like (which is sort of by design, but even so), and have passed on a business opportunity which, admittedly, seems pretty bleak, but who knows? Truly intelligent men can parlay any business into success, right?
Would have made a joke about being brown and therefore too obsessed with rape and drug running, but actually this is a pretty funny picture without a caption
Now there are multiple explanations for my dumbering as I get older, I'm sure, but on the other hand the one thing that has been consistent over the years has been my propensity to never do just one thing. Eating breakfast? Sure, but I'm also on the IRC. Doing business? Only if I can still try to find more material for my list of best albums for the year. Make an album that might get on somebody else's list? That's one of the few things that I CAN'T multitask on, which is part of why it never happens.
A University of London study found that multitaskers, in particular those who tried to do several cognitive tasks at once, ended up dropping so far in IQ that they may as well have been smoking pot all through the night before. See, the study found multitasking men dropping scores to that of an 8 year-old child. I have to say, though, that looking at my own 8 year-old self, I sort of wish that was how it worked.
4. I am addicted to multitasking!
Something I've wondered for some time is whether people who multitask are addicted to it, like a drug? Is all that sensory input hitting us just right, in the pleasure and reward centers?
Now I have been diagnosed with ADHD. It's another in a long string of, "Okay, what's wrong with you now, Prince Charming?" diagnoses of my mental health over the years, but I really do think there's something to this. They say babies' brains are like sponges; well my brain is like a baby's brain, except that it's a really crappy sponge. It's actually less like a sponge and more like, I don't know, a silk shirt or something. My brain is a douchebag uniform.
Terrible at holding information, but sick at looking sick
The point is, it takes in a ton of information, but what it does with that information isn't always relevant. The important thing is, it's ALWAYS taking something in. Like Bert's mom, but somehow more irritating. And science backs me up on this: taking in a whole lot of information feels good. So good that, even when a little goddamned peace and quiet would do my brain a whole lot of good, I just... can't do it. I'm playing video games on my iPad at two in the morning while laying next to my very patient wife in bed. And not even the fun ones! I'm not even doing it for fun! It's more like, I really can't not do it for some reason. Le sigh.
3. I do less shit when I'm trying to do more of it at once!
The thing that really got me wondering about whether I had the ADHD was hyperfocus, which seems to be the opposite of what most people associate with attention deficit disorders. It's not all about not being able to pay attention to stuff. Sometimes, it's about paying WAAAAAY too much attention to one thing.
You're doing something, but then someone mentions something else, or there's a popup ad or some sort of visual or auditory reminder that, somewhere, something else is happening, and suddenly that's just as important as whatever you were doing in the first place. I am trying to develop a recipe for the perfect Cuban roast pork, but I can't help but notice the small pile of dishes in the sink, and it is literally impossible to cook when you can't stop thinking about how important the dishes are, and how many more you're going to generate in your culinary quest, and whether you have enough dish soap to do the dishes, and how your dear ol' dad used to use doing the dishes as a penalty for doing wrong, and
Well shit. Now I'm obsessed with doing dishes. And the worst part is, I'm not even doing them.
This is a real problem when you're already hopelessly lost in the process of attempting several things all at the same time. Consider a region of the brain called Brodmann's Area 10 in the anterior prefrontal cortex.
It's the brain's bright red baboon ass
It's part of the frontal lobes, which are vital for setting goals and sticking to them. This area in particular is responsible for switching attention from one task to the other. To be more precise, it enables the brain to make a temporary save state of a previously running task, to be executed upon completion of whatever's taking precedence at the time, which is really all people do when they try to multitask. They aren't doing two things at once, they're doing two things at the same time: a crucial difference.
The older you get, the worse that area functions, but when you abuse this region of the brain, pushing it in ways it was not meant to be pushed, you can easily double the amount of time it would have taken to do both things one at a time. Or in my case, you could just not do the thing at all because it's overwhelming and oh god oh god oh god
2. I'm probably going to kill someone!
Now this is the part where I have to come brutally clean. This is where a lot of you are going to leave me and say, "Nope, never mind, that Notch can suck a dictionary," because you guys are not homophobic, you just hate nerds. And God bless you for it.
Unlike me, who hates nerds AND faggots!
I have been guilty of texting while driving. And emailing while driving. And IRCing while driving. And foruming while driving. And singing while driving. And dancing while driving. And air guitaring/drumming/DJing while driving. And eating and drinking (not alcohol) while driving. And dressing and undressing while driving. And if I really had to think about it, just about anything you can imagine doing in a car, and maybe a couple of things you can't, I've probably already done them while driving.
Now it's a lame excuse that when you drive professionally, you're always driving, so all these things have to be done at some point, but no. They don't have to be done at that point. It's just how it seems to work out, for me. The same thing that drives me to watch TV while eating dinner drives me to eat dinner while driving. I've heard a song I particularly liked, gotten onto Amazon.com on my phone, bought the album for my cloud, gotten into my cloud player, played the album, and looked up the lyrics so I could sing along, all while in motion. It's like a dragonfly mating ritual except the female is my music and the penis is my... phone, and... the sperm is... the lyrics? I'm also getting much worse at metaphors. Damn you, multitasking!
And the horror you're experiencing is the horror I experience when I see a dragonfly
Amazingly, I've only had one close call in my fifteen years of driving, ten of them professionally. I was particularly stressed out, driving between my hometown and Wichita, and I was tired, and I was texting someone and drove right through a red light, passing neatly in front of an oncoming semi, and was promptly pulled over by the sheriff. I got a ticket for reckless driving, which was not compounded by my phone use since he apparently didn't notice that I was gaping at it at the time.
The fine was substantial, as it should have been. Ever since that time, I've learned my lesson and am happy to say I'm no longer a menace on the roads.
Ha-ha, no. I went to court and the prosecutor was a young woman who apparently found me quite fetching, and commuted my ticket to a parking violation. I paid the fine for the new infraction and was back on the road with no damage to my driving record. The moral of the story is, if you live in America you can do whatever you want as long as you're good looking and have enough money.
I am trying to do better though!
1. I started writing this article in 2013!
I only finished it when I happened to notice that it was in my saved drafts, when I was supposed to be doing something else. At least I didn't write it in the car.
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