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Sep 22, 2021

Time: Definitely No Longer On Our Side

It constricts like a boa, expands like a waistline 

By Ed Goldman

See if you’ve had a recent exchange like this one, though with different names:

ME: Hi, Howie, I was wondering how your hip-replacement surgery went.

HOWIE: Pretty well, Ed. Thanks for asking. That was six-and-a-half years ago.

Edgy Cartoon

Curb Ordeal

Let me just interrupt this column to say: Aaaaaargh! What the hell has happened to time? 

Is this a by-product of climate change, cyber hacking, too much TV-show streaming, mindless mindfulness, or lowering one’s daily intake of carbs?

Do you find yourself, as I do, pulling the trash cans out for next morning’s pick-up and thinking, Didn’t I do this just yesterday? 

Do you sometimes entirely forget to do it because it hasn’t occurred to you that this is, in fact, the evening it needs doing? And have you therefore awakened early on collection day, heard the trucks grinding down the street and rushed outside in your bathrobe to put out the cans?

Then realized you, in fact, had? But forgot you did?

In my world, time’s starting to move like the high-speed train California will be able to boast of just about never. It’s one reason why I didn’t have as much difficulty with Pandemic Shutdown 1.0 as many of my acquaintances did.

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Granted, I neither contracted the dreaded disease (yet) nor have little kids darting around the house.  I didn’t have to home-school anyone. I made a futile attempt to teach Yiddish to my cat, the late 19-year-old Osborn the Magnificent, but could never get him to say anything but “oy” in response to pretty much everything.

But during the isolation I still refrained from watching daytime TV, a vow I made to myself in my senior year in high school when I was hospitalized for five days with pneumonia and mononucleosis. The only thing I could bear to watch back then was Dick Cavett’s first talk show (it aired in late morning, as I recall). Everything else was a kid’s program, game show, soap opera or, in the afternoon, a hacked-to-pieces B-movie interrupted constantly by a pencil-mustached guy named Jack Bailey. He’d hosted a fairly nauseating show called “Queen for a Day” (which did not feature RuPaul, who was only eight years old at the time, but which still have made it fun). He now did constant ads for his eponymous carpet company.

To sum up, if I ever watch daytime TV, all these decades later, I think I’m convalescing from something.

Anyway, since none of this explains why I need to put out my trash cans out every 20 minutes, I decided to do what everyone who’s facing an inexplicable, possibly existential dilemma does: I went to Harvard. 

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“How a clock measures time and how you perceive it are quite different,” according to the university’s website.  “As we grow older, it can often feel like time goes by faster and faster. This speeding up of subjective time with age is well documented by psychologists, but there is no consensus on the cause. In a paper published this month, Professor Adrian Bejan presents an argument based on the physics of neural signal processing. He hypothesizes that, over time, the rate at which we process visual information slows down, and this is what makes time ‘speed up’ as we grow older.”

As the professor says, “People are often amazed at how much they remember from days that seemed to last forever in their youth. It’s not that their experiences were much deeper or more meaningful, it’s just that they were being processed in rapid fire.”

Well, all of this is what I’ll share with Howie when we next get together for lunch. I’ve penciled him in for August of 2032. I’d better start getting ready.

Ed Goldman's column appears almost every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. A former daily columnist for the Sacramento Business Journal, as well as monthly columnist for Sacramento Magazine and Comstock’s Business Magazine, he’s the author of five books, two plays and one musical (so far).

Yes, Virginia

A Weekly Blog by Virginia Varela

President and CEO, Golden Pacific Bank

photo by Phoebe Verkouw

Screen time vs. face-to-face interactions—does it really matter?

I was born at a time before technology was so heavily intertwined in daily life. My young years involved laughing with friends in person, buying candy with cash, and finishing homework using a typewriter. I touched and read printed newspapers and magazines, danced to music on vinyl, and spent hours daydreaming without distractions. In my experience, boredom ignited creativity.

Over the past several months, the pandemic forced an increased use of screen time—we blew up our use of zoom. And did it really hurt us?

From a banker’s perspective, digitalized services increased to a new and unforeseen high. Screens took over tellers. It’s been reported that there were approximately 4,400 branch closures between 2017 – 2020 and 3,300 closures during 2020 at the height of the pandemic (source: S&P Global Market intelligence).

What did we lose or gain from this increase in screen time?

  • Psychiatrists warn about a new pandemic of screen addiction. Our young folks are alarmingly depressed.
  • Loss of privacy and heightened monitoring of our daily activities.
  • Questionable lack of social skills and inability to decipher body language.

On the positive side, we have gained tremendous access to overwhelming amounts of information, the world is more globally connected and the sheer convenience factor is overwhelming.

Still, from my perspective as a 60+ year old woman, there is something invigorating about being in a room full of people who are excited to talk about topics of similar interests. I like to see what folks wear, who huddles with whom, and interpret body language beyond the content.

Most of all, I like the whispers and off-the-record chats, smiles and physical touches. I miss it all. Physical interactions may or may not be good for business, but it’s much more human—and much more fun.

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