Age of Over Parenting

I don’t have kids of my own, but I’ve spent plenty of time around them over the years. Although I don’t live near my family anymore, I’ve got 3 nieces and 2 nephews and I have to admit – I spend time thinking about them. I’m sure they’ll be raised just fine, but as the oldest sibling in my family, I can’t resist learning a little about raising kids so I can impart a little advice when I go to visit.

So, when articles like this cross my stream, I enjoy reading them. I consider them. I probably give them too much thought. But, it is so interesting!


In my nine years as a parent, I’ve followed the rules, protocols, and cultural cues that have promised to churn out well-rounded, happy, successful children. I’ve psychoanalyzed my kids’ behavior, supervised an avalanche of activities, and photo-documented their day-to-day existence as if I were a wildlife photographer on the Serengeti. I do my utmost to develop their minds and build up their confidence, while at the same time living with the constant low-level fear that bad things will happen to them. But lately, I’ve begun to wonder if, by becoming so attuned to their every need and so controlling of their every move, I’ve somehow played a small part in changing the very nature of their childhood.

Turns out, you can over-do it and become so involved that you are taking away from your kids childhood, instead of adding to it.

I like the question asked of the parents later in the article, “think of your happiest moment as a child… were your parents there?” I can say that, for me, my parents weren’t there for all of my happiest moments. Because the best moments were when I accomplished something by myself. There is freedom and power in that.

Sleep is More Important than Food

Think about it, how well do you perform hungry – compared to how well you perform if you haven’t slept? A day without food, vs. a day without sleep – under which circumstance could you get more work done?

That’s the subject of the article by Tony Schwartz in the Harvard Business Review - Sleep is More Important than Food.

So why is sleep one of the first things we’re willing to sacrifice as the demands in our lives keep rising? We continue to live by a remarkably durable myth: sleeping one hour less will give us one more hour of productivity. In reality, the research suggests that even small amounts of sleep deprivation take a significant toll on our health, our mood, our cognitive capacity and our productivity.

So go ahead and sleep in – go to bed early – anything to get your sleep. It is a luxury of sorts, but one you shouldn’t feel bad about indulging in. There is no downside to getting enough sleep.

Everyone who exercises should hopefully know by now that you need to take breaks. You exercise one day, that tells your body it needs more muscle, and then you take a few days off to let your body build the muscle. If you don’t take breaks – you never see the gains.

Sleep is the same for learning. When you learn something during the day, it gets stored in a buffer (short term memory). It is like your brain making a list of things it needs to do. Then, while you sleep, your brain commits those things to long term memory. But, your short term memory is limited – if things don’t get saved, then they are gone and you have to learn them again… And that is more wasteful of your time than just going to bed a hour earlier.

On Facts vs. Opinions

And why I’m not going to bother arguing them with you…

It seems that I find my self in many discussions throughout the day that resolve themselves to merely be a difference of opinion. I don’t like arguing opinions, it is useless. You can’t argue whether an opinion is right or wrong – opinions just are. If I say, “I think dirt tastes good,” you can’t really argue with that – it is what it is – mainly, a fact about an opinion. But, most people don’t word things that well. A person usually just says, “dirt tastes good,” while they wipe brown bits of it from their lips. Then the so-called “normal” person they are talking to says, “no it doesn’t” and you have a messy, dirty argument on your hands.

The problem is, while “dirt tastes good” sounds like a fact, it isn’t. It is an opinion pretending to be a fact, which is rather rude of it, I think. There is no point in trying to convince someone that they don’t like dirt. That is an argument you can’t win – and an argument you can’t win is one worth not having.

So if you can’t argue about opinions, can you argue about facts? Not really. Something is either a fact or it isn’t. You could argue that the thing someone is claiming as fact isn’t, but you’d better have proof.

Anyway, we’d better define what I mean by “fact.” A fact is at least two of these:

  1. Verifiable
  2. Testable
  3. Consensus-able


The first criteria I have for facts is that I can verify them. What this means, is that I have some way of getting at the same resource you used to come up with your fact – or a better resource. Was George Washington the first U.S. president? There are many places where I can verify that, so we call it a fact. It may be a “soft” fact, since I can’t go back in time and see it for myself, but a fact it remains – due to consensus. I’ll get to that in a second…


Another good criteria for facts is that they are testable. This works better for “hard” facts – things I can see with my own eyes. For instance, you say “red and blue make green” and I can get some paint and try it out. A point about tests – a good test will always be able to falsify a claim. You want a test to have zero false-positives, otherwise they are basically useless for determining facts.


Consensus is an oddball. Basically, it is a group of people sharing the opinion that a fact is a fact. This is why you can’t have consensus by itself, it relies on one of the other corners of the “fact triangle” to make a fact. Lot’s of people share the same opinion, like when Prop 8 was voted down in California – but that doesn’t mean it is a fact that homosexual marriage is a bad thing, just a fact that many people held that opinion.

The other thing to keep in mind, when looking for consensus, is the group of people forming the consensus. In order for something to be deemed a fact, you want consensus with the people who know about it. Just take a look at the ridiculous “evolution debate.” Among biologists, people who study life, there is very good consensus on evolution. Why? They are the ones doing the studies. They know what they are looking at, they have developed intimate knowledge of how biological systems work. To them, it becomes almost taken for granted that evolution is real – and I say almost, because of the second group of people.

Outside of the mainstream biological community there are many people who deny evolution is real. The people on this side have also formed a consensus – creationism – that is directly opposite to that of the other group. So, you have creationism going head to head against evolution – and it would be really confusing, except the creationists really only have one leg to stand on.

See, creationists have managed to form a consensus, and have gone as far to try and pass off their opinion as fact. And it really is only an opinion, which is why this makes such a great example. Let’s tear down creationism…

First, is it verifiable? You could say that most creationists will point to the bible as their verification. But, the problem with the bible is it doesn’t lay out the details of creation, or how it worked – it basically just says, “God did it” and leaves it at that. Since you can’t just ask God to show you what he did – and no, I don’t count praying and receiving a “feeling” as the same thing – then you can’t really call it verifiable.

Well then, is it testable? Sort of. There really isn’t a way to set up a test to see if things were (at least, not that I know of) spontaneously created, but you can test to see if it still happens. In short, it doesn’t. Turns out, when you watch a species closely, for long enough, you can see it evolve.

The only thing that creationism has is consensus, which simply isn’t enough.


I’ve said that you shouldn’t argue facts, because there really isn’t anything to argue about. You also shouldn’t argue opinions, because they are specifically not factual. There is no way to prove an opinion true or false, because that isn’t the nature of opinion.

Then, when is it worth your time to argue something? When someone is purposely trying to cast an opinion as a fact, or calling a fact just opinion. This is where the real argument lies. You have to be careful, though, to make sure you are on the right side of it – which means learning how to tell your facts and opinions apart. You also need to watch out for lazy speakers who phrase something like a fact, but really mean it as opinion. “Dirt tastes good” is never a good time to get into an argument. Other than some good-hearted mocking, it is best to leave things like that alone.

Getting Enough Sleep

Here is an interesting TED talk by Arianna Huffington on sleeping more in order to succeed. (Don’t worry, it isn’t very long, but is humorous).

I agree whole-heartedly. Sleep is so amazing important to being able to think clearly. It doesn’t matter how smart you are, if you don’t get enough sleep, you’ll never be able to use all of your ability.

I used to be one of those dudes that only slept 4 hours a night. It wasn’t really due to choice, but because I literally had too much to do. That had to change. In college, I began to realize that if I didn’t sleep enough, my mind was a little hazy. I started getting 6-7 hours of sleep a night and it was better.

Then when I started working as a programmer, I realized even that wasn’t enough. Programming is taxing on the brain. I had to be more alert, have a better short term memory and be able to think super clearly about complex problems. I changed. I made sure that I got 8 hours or more of sleep a night.

Now I am super protective of the amount and quality of sleep I get. Even one hour less than normal and I notice a difference.

What do I do?

  1. I stop drinking anything with caffeine between 6pm and 7pm. It takes about 4 – 5 hours for the effects to wear off (for me, ymmv).
  2. I go to bed around 11:30pm – no later than Midnight.
  3. I set my alarm for 8:20am (living close to work is nice)
  4. I normally start to naturally wake up around 8am – after around 8 hours of sleep.
  5. If I feel like getting up, I do and turn off my alarm.
  6. If I feel like staying in my nice comfy warm bed, I do and then get up when my alarm goes off.

I plan to be in bed about 9 hours a night. This gives me time to fall asleep and time to slowly wake up. It also gives me time to meditate on my day before I fall alseep. The alarm is less to wake me up and more to let me know it is time to take a shower. The idea is that I’ll already be mostly or partially awake when it goes off. Waking up suddenly sucks and I’m prone to snoozing it.

If I think I’m going to have trouble falling asleep, I read. TV, movies and the internet make your brain too active. Reading lets you escape and wind down, while also wearing you out a little. Even a good book will make me drowsy if I’m reading it close to bed time. Of course, I also put it down when it is time to go to sleep.

So, get more sleep. We need more people thinking clearly and paying attention. Put yourself on a schedule if you have to. Go to bed even if you aren’t tired. Read a book for a little bit if you can’t fall asleep.

Getting 4 hours of sleep a night doesn’t make you better at anything. Quit bragging about it. It doesn’t make you seem cool or successful – and you’d have the presence of mind to realize that if you got more sleep.