By Virginia Heffernan
I have a lot of new habits in 2013, but no new habit is more firmly entrenched than thinking about my new habits. I tick off boxes: spent time outside, meditated, stretched, deleted emails. Done done done and done. Then I give other people props for the same practices. You surfed? You did Deepak Chopra's meditation challenge? You completed sun salutations seven mornings in a row and then installed some email filters? Props to all of you!
This box-checking and witness-bearing is time-consuming. But I'm into it. All because a new app called Lift, designed to promote new habits and enmesh you in a community of Ben Franklins who love a well-checked box, has found its way to my iPhone.
Instead of texting, these days--all right I still text like a fiend, but maybe I'm briefer--I have started to savor Lift's lists of "trending" habits, "popular" habits and "easiest" habits. Since one habit I'm always meaning to get into is "be more like other people," I'm heavily influenced by the good-habit aspirations of my fellows.
That's how I ended up thinking about my carriage for the first time (never cared but "good posture" is a hot habit), and nothing beats the weird pleasure of getting Internet "props"--like Facebook likes--for standing up straighter.
I did put "eat less bread" down as a habit, but mostly Lift is about positive habits, not Lenten self-denial. It's also about simple stuff that can become reflexive, like "drink water," "sleep by midnight" and "eat breakfast." Predictably, the most popular coveted habit is "exercise," with more than 50,000 participants. (Kettlebells, kettlebells, blah blah yoga.)
But "read" is not far behind. That one draws a lot of comments, like Caitlin M's: "Finished The Hobbit! Amazing story." And C.C's: "Charles Bukowski's Post Office almost made this 45 min bus ride tolerable. Almost."
I like someone called Robert Brown on the reading list. He's reading Fitzgerald's "This Side of Paradise," along with something called "21 Ways Rich People Think Differently From Average People."
Other surprise books that register among the readers on Lift: Jonathan Safran Foer's "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close," and "The Decameron" by the brilliant 14th-century Chaucer progenitor Giovanni Boccaccio. (Who had little time for good habits unless they were "cuckold more.")
Right now I find habit acquisition a wonderfully optimistic thing to do. Shoring up fragments against this ruin, as Fitzgerald might have seen it. In "set priorities for the day," I see everything from "tan" to "sort out tea" to "be awesome."
In "Read Bible," a trending habit, you can find diligently data-entried excerpts from Numbers, Romans, Psalms, Deuteronomy. All on the little Lift app.
I find myself returning to Lift several times during the day. The earnest will to self-improvement—to tan and think like rich people and be awesome—sweetens human affairs in immeasurable ways. Seeing it so baldly on display is heartening, and also kind of funny.
I'm not sure how instructive it is, however. Just today I decided to get some more frugality habits into my Lift mix. The words of one reformed spendthrift caught my eye. On "save money," Anne N seems pleased she did a "Good job anally."
Hm. No judgments here. I just hope it was economical.
Appitude: Can using Lift on your phone make you a better person?Tue, Feb 5, 2013 1:36 PM EST
By Virginia Heffernan
- Storm along East Coast dumps snow, snarls traffic1 hour 29 minutes ago
- Senators: Put cameras on train tracks, engineers45 minutes ago
- Indian heartland votes give BJP boon over Congress1 hour 46 minutes ago
- Seizure of nuns stokes Syrian Christian fears11 hours ago
- Nobel economics winner Fama says risk of global recession in 2014
STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - One of the three Americans who won this year's Nobel prize for economics said bloated public deficits on both sides of the Atlantic meant that recession remained a real risk for 2014. Eugene Fama, who shares this year's 8 million crown ($1.2 million) prize with Robert Shiller and Lars Peter Hansen, said on Saturday that highly indebted governments in the United States and Europe posed a constant threat to the global economy. ...
- JPMorgan emails show China family hires made to win deals: NYT
(Reuters) - Internal JPMorgan Chase & Co emails and computer files being examined by U.S. authorities show that the bank favored hiring people from prominent Chinese families in order to win investment banking business, the New York Times reported on Saturday. The documents show that a JPMorgan program designed to prevent questionable hiring practices was ultimately viewed inside the company as "a gateway to doing business with state-owned companies in China," the Times said, adding that it had reviewed copies of the emails and computer spreadsheets. In one email, an executive said that hiring sons and daughters of powerful people in China "almost has a linear relationship" with winning assignments, the Times said. A JPMorgan spokesman declined to comment on the report, as did representatives of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and the office of the federal prosecutor in Brooklyn, New York, which are investigating the matter.
- Supreme Court justice denies stay in airline merger
By Lawrence Hurley WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A U.S. Supreme Court justice on Saturday night denied a last-ditch effort by a group of consumers and travel agents to stop the merger of American Airlines and US Airways. The application was denied by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the court's public information office said. The combination of American's parent, AMR Corp, and US Airways Group would create the world's largest carrier and follow last month's resolution of antitrust objections by the U.S. Department of Justice. In their appeal to the Supreme Court, plaintiffs led by California resident Carolyn Fjord warned that "irreparable injury" could be caused to the domestic airline industry if the deal goes ahead as planned.
- ThyssenKrupp says keeping its European steel unit
Germany's ThyssenKrupp is holding on to its Steel Europe business, a company spokesman said on Saturday, responding to speculation that a sale could help its current restructuring efforts. German magazine Focus, citing no sources, reported that ThyssenKrupp Chief Executive Heinrich Hiesinger had told an internal leadership meeting it was wrong to believe that a sale of the European business could support the company. Hiesinger in August dismissed any speculation on a possible sale of Steel Europe as "nonsense", but such talk has resurfaced due to the conglomerate's weakening finances. ThyssenKrupp, which has suffered three straight years of losses and racked up debts, is trying to move away from a bulk steel market, hit by weak demand and overcapacity, to more profitable products such as elevators and factory components.
- After vote, lawsuits likely next hurdle for Volcker rule
By Douwe Miedema and Sarah N. Lynch WASHINGTON (Reuters) - When U.S. regulators adopt the Volcker rule on Tuesday, they will make good on a promise by politicians to rein in banks' ability to gamble with their own money. The coordinated action by five separate regulatory agencies is seen sparking a court challenge as Wall Street tries once again to avoid one of the harshest elements of the post-financial crisis crackdown. The rule, championed by former Fed Chairman Paul Volcker, was a last-minute addition to the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform law and takes aim at a business that had been a big money spinner for banks before the crisis. "For something of this magnitude and this controversial ... there will be somebody who will challenge it," said Brian Cartwright, an advisor at consultancy Patomak Global Partners and a former general counsel at the Securities and Exchange Commission, one of the agencies voting on the measure.
- Libya lost $7 billion to oil strikes, must find new buyers
Libya has lost more than $7 billion and faces new competition from Algeria and Nigeria in oil markets due to strikes at oilfields and ports drying up exports, Oil Minister Abdelbari al-Arusi said on Saturday. A mix of militias, tribesmen and civil servants have seized most oil ports and fields to demand more political power or higher pay, throttling Libya's oil export lifeline. The OPEC producer is facing turmoil as Prime Minister Ali Zeidan's government struggles to control dozens of former militias which helped oust Muammar Gaddafi two years ago but which have refused to give up their arms. Arusi said Libya had lost 9 billion Libyan dinars ($7.29 billion) in oil revenues after output had fallen to 250,000 barrels a day from 1.4 million bpd in July.
- Ex-SAC trader points to Cohen testimony in insider trading case
A former SAC Capital Advisors trader, set to go on trial next month on insider trading charges, wants to cite in court some 2012 testimony given by the hedge fund's founder Steven Cohen, claiming it rebuts the government's case. He filed court papers late Friday seeking to use testimony given by Cohen to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission in May 2012. Martoma contends the testimony will show he had nothing to do with decisions to trade in Elan Corp and Wyeth in 2008. Filed in U.S. District Court in New York, the Martoma documents showed how extensively investigators questioned Cohen about the trading at the center of the case against Martoma, who was charged in November 2012 with insider trading in what is said to be the most lucrative such U.S. scheme ever.
- Asian shares underpinned by China trade, falling yen
By Wayne Cole SYDNEY (Reuters) - Asian markets were poised to move higher on Monday, energized by a potent cocktail of upbeat Chinese trade data, a weaker yen and a firm finish on Wall Street. Both the dollar and the euro extended their gains on the yen, with the single currency hitting a five-year high in what should be a boost to Japanese exports, profits and stocks.