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Letters: Powell, Appalachia and Multitasking

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Letters: Powell, Appalachia and Multitasking

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Letters: Powell, Appalachia and Multitasking

Letters: Powell, Appalachia and Multitasking

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Listeners share their thoughts on General Colin Powell's endorsement of Barack Obama and discuss a PBS documentary series about the people and history of Appalachia. Also: listeners weigh in with their stories of successful — and not-so-successful — multitasking.

NEAL CONAN, host:

It's Tuesday, the day we read from your emails and blog comments. On the Opinion page yesterday, we heard Republican react to General Colin Powell's endorsement of Barack Obama. Many of you agreed with the general's critique of his own party as growing too narrow. Rachel Craig in Fayetteville, North Carolina did not. As an army wife, I was disappointed by General Powell's support of Obama. We have already forgotten how bad the situation in Iraq was and how the surge has improved the situation dramatically. McCain risked reelection to stand up for the best choice and we are all safer for it. I think Governor Palin was a superb choice for VP, and I'm confused how any Republican who favors limited government can vote for Obama.

We spent part of last week in the surprise swing state of Virginia. Politics came up, of course. But we also focused on the region and the people of Appalachia and we talk with the film makers behind a new documentary coming to PBS called "Appalachia: A History of Mountains and People." Firth Denwoody summed up the poll the mountains in an email. I grew up in Louisiana though my ancestors had settled in North Carolina's Yadkin River Valley. Someone said the draw is a craving. We used to visit the Ashville area every summer and I can remember that when I saw the blue ridge in the distance. My lungs filled with something I couldn't name but that nourished me with something I felt nowhere else. Roots go deep.

And we ended last week with a scientific look at multitasking. NPR's science correspondent John Hamilton gave us the bad news that no, our brains were not designed to do two or three things at the same time though most of us think we're pretty good at it including Michelle Lewis who emailed from Nevada to tell us: Until last year, I spent 12 years as a law enforcement dispatcher for the Nevada Highway Patrol. Multitasking was a necessary job skill working radios, phones and computers simultaneously with accuracy and timeliness of the utmost importance. I believe the time I spent doing this has given me a better than average ability to handle change. I'm able to pick up a task, quickly drop it to do something else, be interrupted and return to the original task without stopping to refocus or readjust what I've been working on.

Another listener took a different view. "Call me old-fashioned but I absolutely can not multitask. Every time I try, something gets forgotten or left behind. I'm disorganized and chronically late for trying to eat breakfast, text, check email and get dressed all at the same time. No kidding, I once walked out of my house while on the cell phone and finishing a bagel with just pantyhose on and no skirt." That email from Angela in South Bend, Indiana. And you can hear John Hamilton's final report on multitasking next Thursday on Morning Edition if he can figure out to type and edit audio at the same time. If you have comments, questions or corrections for us, the best way to reach us is by email. The address is talk@npr.org. Please let us know where you're writing from and give us some help on how to pronounce your name.

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