A very brief review of The Passively Multiplayer Online Game (PMOG)

The Passively Multiplayer Online Game has been generating a lot of hype lately. Yesterday I installed the necessary Firefox Extension, “played” for a few minutes, and then decided to uninstall the extension and maybe come back to the game once it gets interesting.

My main objection to the PMOG is this: It tries to make web surfing, which I do for work, fun again. And it attempts to do this by making it like work. Badges? Leveling up? Laying “mines”? Who has the time?

The game will either be interesting months and months from now, when there’s rich, non-time-sensitive activity going on. Or else the game would have been interesting years and years ago (like when you used to use Excite as your search engine) before the web was colonized for profit.

Either way, now is not the right time. At least not for me.

A Mouse on a Treadmill or a Rat in a Maze?

I’m torn between which metaphor best describes my life: either I’m a mouse on a treadmill, running in place, getting nowhere, or I’m a rat in a maze, going blindly down random paths in order to get that cheese, which, face it, isn’t much of a prize.

Consider this: I work a high-prestige, low-paying job in order to pay for my children’s preschool so that I have time to work in my high-prestige, low-paying job. So I can pay for school. So I can work. On and on it goes, etc.

Mouse on a treadmill or rat in a cage? I don’t know, but either way I’m a rodent.

My carbon footprint has got to be ridiculous

In a recent conversation between Thom Yorke and David Byrne in Wired, Yorke describes how Radiohead conducted a study to assess its carbon footprint, in the hopes of then being able to reduce it. But their biggest impact upon the environment turned out to be something out of their control: all their fans driving to their concerts.

It makes me wonder about my carbon footprint. It has to be ridiculously huge. Not because I drive to work, but because I fly. It’s one of those crazy tales of an academic couple, two professors who can’t, because the market is so tight in their fields, find tenure-track jobs in the same city. So I fly to work. Actually I drive to the airport, fly to a city 400 miles away, then drive again to campus. Two days later I do the same thing in reverse to get back home. As I say, my carbon footprint has got to be ridiculous.

In fact I know it is.

Using Friends of the Forest’s Carbon Calculator, I’ve just found that my flying to work churns out about 23 metric tons of carbon dioxide every year. The average American releases under a half metric ton of carbon dioxide from flying.

This is not just ridiculous, it’s despairingly ridiculous. I can refuse all the plastic bags I want at the grocery store, but in the end I’m one of the killers of the world.

The Pros and Cons of Life Hacking

I’ve been meaning to blog about Clive Thompson’s NYT Magazine article on life hacking for a week now, but, as it happens, I’ve been operating on “continuous partial attention” myself since, oh, I don’t know, weeks, months, maybe years even.

While the science Thompson describes is fascinating–when is the perfect moment to interrupt someone at work?–I tremble thinking how this science will eventually be put to use: making us more productive workers.

Taylorism was nothing compared to what the good people at Microsoft are cooking up, with their studies of attentions spans, interruption cycles, and multitasking management.

The whole idea behind the anarchic-sounding life hacking, it seems to me, is to simplify your life, not so you can enjoy it more, but so that you can increase your productivity. Even the famous hipster PDA presumes that efficiency and work are the most important things in your life.

I don’t want to hack my life so that I can work more and work better. I want to work less.

Play is an endangered species.