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Distractions, Distractions – The Downside of Time on My Hands. When Focus Gets Diluted

16 Aug

Those of you who frequent the blog will know that I have recently started a “personal sabbatical“. The daily workouts, reading the stack of books waiting for me and starting on the honey-do list of home repairs isn’t exactly working out as planned. I’m managing to get four 3 mile runs a week in, have knocked off two books and until the 100F weather has passed the repairs can wait.

Instead my mind is distracted with eight peer-reviewed publications in development, a book chapter, 3 trade magazine articles, discussions with a number of collaborators about ChemSpider, supporting testing of the system, sourcing new data for the database, blog-posting and so on. Over the years it has become increasingly easy to be distracted in my office with 2 office phone lines, a personal line, two skype numbers, one cell phone, one PDA, one blackberry, three email accounts, one hardware fax, one Efax, 2 dogs, blah, blah, blah. Life is as “adjectived and overwhelming at times as the descriptor for Pepsi from the 1970s – Lipsmackingthirstquenchingacetastingmotivatinggoodbuzzingcooltalkinghighwalkingfastlivingevergivingcoolfizzing Pepsi (and yes, that’s out of my head…there wasn’t much to do growing up in a small village in Wales in the 1970s except channel skip ITV, BBC1 and BBC2 (how can you surf three channels) and read beer mats (coasters for my American friends)).

Such an overwhelm of dings, chimes, pings and reminders in the modern office can be distracting. It only gets worse when I have time on my hands. A friend sent me the text below today…it fits all too well. All due respect to those with ADD, and I have highly productive friends who do, this just seems to fit the past week to a tee….Age Activated Attention Deficit Disorder….(what’s below was sent to me…but oh, I’ve been there…)

“I decide to water my garden.

As I turn on the hose in the driveway, I look over at my car and decide it needs washing.

As I start toward the garage, I notice mail on the porch table that I brought up from the mail box earlier.

I decide to go through the mail before I wash the car.

I lay my car keys on the table, put the junk mail in the garbage can under the table, and notice that the can is full.

So, I decide to put the bills back on the table and take out the garbage first.

But then I think, since I’m going to be near the mailbox when I take out the garbage anyway, I may as well pay the bills first.

I take my check book off the table, and see that there is only one check left.

My extra checks are in my desk in the study, so I go inside the house to my desk where I find the can of Pepsi (editor’s note: changed from Coke to Pepsi…because of the beermat…see above) I’d been drinking.

I’m going to look for my checks, but first I need to push the Pepsi aside so that I don’t accidentally knock it over.

The Pepsi is getting warm, and I decide to put it in the refrigerator to keep it cold.

As I head toward the kitchen with the Pepsi, a vase of flowers on the counter catches my eye–they need water.

I put the Pepsi on the counter and discover my reading glasses that I’ve been searching for all morning.

I decide I better put them back on my desk, but first I’m going to water the flowers.

I set the glasses back down on the counter, fill a container with water and suddenly spot the TV remote. Someone left it on the kitchen table.

I realize that tonight when we go to watch TV, I’ll be looking for the remote, but I won’t remember that it’s on the kitchen table, so I decide to put it back in the den where it belongs, but first I’ll water the flowers.

I pour some water in the flowers, but quite a bit of it spills on the floor.

So, I set the remote back on the table, get some towels and wipe up the spill.

Then, I head down the hall trying to remember what I was planning to do.

At the end of the day: the car isn’t washed, the bills aren’t paid, there is a warm can of Pepsi sitting on the counter, the flowers don’t have enough water, there is still only 1 check in my check book, I can’t find the remote, I can’t find my glasses, and I don’t remember what I did with the car keys.

Then, when I try to figure out why nothing got done today, I’m really baffled because I know I was busy all damn day, and I’m really tired.

I realize this is a serious problem, and I’ll try to get some help for it, but first I’ll check my e-mail….”

In my world this translates to “At the end of the day: two blog posts have been started, I’ve only partially updated Windows (not rebooted yet), three email inboxes still have unread messages, I’ve not yet dismissed my appointments on my PDAs, I’ve added text to two more publications, initiated some Bugzilla entries and have got out of bed at 3am to focus on things (and that’s today!).

 

About tony

Antony (Tony) J. Williams received his BSc in 1985 from the University of Liverpool (UK) and PhD in 1988 from the University of London (UK). His PhD research interests were in studying the effects of high pressure on molecular motions within lubricant related systems using Nuclear Magnetic Resonance. He moved to Ottawa, Canada to work for the National Research Council performing fundamental research on the electron paramagnetic resonance of radicals trapped in single crystals. Following his postdoctoral position he became the NMR Facility Manager for Ottawa University. Tony joined the Eastman Kodak Company in Rochester, New York as their NMR Technology Leader. He led the laboratory to develop quality control across multiple spectroscopy labs and helped establish walk-up laboratories providing NMR, LC-MS and other forms of spectroscopy to hundreds of chemists across multiple sites. This included the delivery of spectroscopic data to the desktop, automated processing and his initial interests in computer-assisted structure elucidation (CASE) systems. He also worked with a team to develop the worlds’ first web-based LIMS system, WIMS, capable of allowing chemical structure searching and spectral display. With his developing cheminformatic skills and passion for data management he left corporate America to join a small start-up company working out of Toronto, Canada. He joined ACD/Labs as their NMR Product Manager and various roles, including Chief Science Officer, during his 10 years with the company. His responsibilities included managing over 50 products at one time prior to developing a product management team, managing sales, marketing, technical support and technical services. ACD/Labs was one of Canada’s Fast 50 Tech Companies, and Forbes Fast 500 companies in 2001. His primary passions during his tenure with ACD/Labs was the continued adoption of web-based technologies and developing automated structure verification and elucidation platforms. While at ACD/Labs he suggested the possibility of developing a public resource for chemists attempting to integrate internet available chemical data. He finally pursued this vision with some close friends as a hobby project in the evenings and the result was the ChemSpider database (www.chemspider.com). Even while running out of a basement on hand built servers the website developed a large community following that eventually culminated in the acquisition of the website by the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) based in Cambridge, United Kingdom. Tony joined the organization, together with some of the other ChemSpider team, and became their Vice President of Strategic Development. At RSC he continued to develop cheminformatics tools, specifically ChemSpider, and was the technical lead for the chemistry aspects of the Open PHACTS project (http://www.openphacts.org), a project focused on the delivery of open data, open source and open systems to support the pharmaceutical sciences. He was also the technical lead for the UK National Chemical Database Service (http://cds.rsc.org/) and the RSC lead for the PharmaSea project (http://www.pharma-sea.eu/) attempting to identify novel natural products from the ocean. He left RSC in 2015 to become a Computational Chemist in the National Center of Computational Toxicology at the Environmental Protection Agency where he is bringing his skills to bear working with a team on the delivery of a new software architecture for the management and delivery of data, algorithms and visualization tools. The “Chemistry Dashboard” was released on April 1st, no fooling, at https://comptox.epa.gov, and provides access to over 700,000 chemicals, experimental and predicted properties and a developing link network to support the environmental sciences. Tony remains passionate about computer-assisted structure elucidation and verification approaches and continues to publish in this area. He is also passionate about teaching scientists to benefit from the developing array of social networking tools for scientists and is known as the ChemConnector on the networks. Over the years he has had adjunct roles at a number of institutions and presently enjoys working with scientists at both UNC Chapel Hill and NC State University. He is widely published with over 200 papers and book chapters and was the recipient of the Jim Gray Award for eScience in 2012. In 2016 he was awarded the North Carolina ACS Distinguished Speaker Award.
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Posted by on August 16, 2007 in Uncategorized

 

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