It's not just shiny object affliction. This chick apparently has a stack depth of 1.5 items.
Even after fifteen consecutive distractions, I still usually know I left the kettle on.
To begin with, I have about a five-task planning horizon. This isn't even a stack. On a good day, I can be actively pursuing three tasks in parallel, while sizing up two more off to the side (and maybe grabbing utensils soon to be needed, if in my other flurry I discover them near to hand).
I originally learned to do this playing too many arcade games in my early twenties. I played one game with two joysticks for so many hours, that my cognition perceptibly split in two. I became completely aware of one planning horizon for navigation (mostly evasion, some targetting) and a separate planning horizon for aggression (the weapon stick) and some kind of mutual constraint optimization going on between these (this sometimes in the heat of the moment fell by the wayside, and my two hands would simply continue to function independently, each hand sort of making guesses about what the other hand might do—there was often a point in those old arcade games where the game would decide you had already played long enough, and it was time to terminate you with extreme prejudice; often I managed to beat the game nevertheless, but good luck keeping both hands on a fully coordinated, shared page for the death-defying duration; this was back during the Miller's Crossing "ethics" phase, where game designers felt obligated to give you a real chance, however slim).
I also have a sleep disorder, and regularly in the thick of my sleep disorder, my elite, simultaneous planning horizon shrinks down to a single task (or portion thereof). Damn is that annoying. And there's this voice that follows me throughout the whole day: "You know what? If you had your real brain, you'd have dunked that basketball three times just on the way to the bathroom to take a piss. And today you haven't managed to dunk that basketball even once in the past hour, sitting in your work chair, occupied with nothing else."
And I go, "thanks for the vote of confidence; and, oh yeah, ba da bing for reminding me where I was heading just now".
On the squirrel front, I have a somewhat different problem than the chick of the moment. My verbal intelligence is like Uncle Buck. Once he enters the room, it's very hard to send him packing again so I can return to working on math or code: 300 immobile lbs of curtain-ring Velcro. Consequently, I've also subjected myself to this kind of sad self-chaperonage, but for a different reason: to try to keep my word-brain at bay for long enough to accomplish other things.
Ideally, I would get through three two-hour blocks by mid-day and that would be the end of my technical obligations. But even ten minutes of Rachel Maddow (is the world still here? huh? is it? huh?) while I consume my morning coffee and jot a few notes in my journal is sometimes enough to compromise my entire morning. My squirrels are mainly verbal notions; they are generated internally, from the very first meagre sign of a toasted bread crumb, all the way until the sun goes down.
When I was feeling up for it, I used to sometimes cook a five course meal, with five unfamiliar recipes, selected from an unfamiliar cuisine (one time it was Korean, another time some country in Africa), involving maybe a dozen unfamiliar ingredients, while aiming to serve all of these dishes hot more or less at the same time. Usually I managed four, while shunting a problem child into "maybe tomorrow", or "maybe next time". Which should make it obvious why I clipped the following paragraphs on first encounter:
Time Is on Your Side — 7 October 2015
Bread is dough's destiny, and bread-making is like being a parent: Just as a child can be spoiled by too much interference with the natural processes of time, to make good bread you must leave the dough to its own self-creation.
The challenge is internal: Can you suppress your need to fuss and fiddle, to make myriad tiny adjustments to a dish before you're satisfied? It can be hard for some cooks (like myself), who feel like they're not cooking unless engaged in a frenetic, four-burner free-for-all.
But if you can achieve some measure of mastery over this inner, kitchen-destroying Tasmanian devil, you can make excellent, bakery-quality bread, be it boule, baguette, or batarde, that you wouldn't hesitate to purchase from a professional baker.
Oh God, the blissful flurry of my epic cooking sprees (unwanted inner dialogue doesn't stand a chance). My wife says there are moments were I appear to cook with four arms, rather than two.
Back in my arcade days, my internal cognitive splitting didn't stop with my hands. There was an additional split in both hands where they each independently computed optimal eye trajectory (and tussled for control). I was better at this one game than anyone else I knew (including several who could play the machine hour upon hour on one quarter), and I suppose they all suspected that my advantage was raw hand speed, but it was actually the sequencing efficiency of my visual saccades.
In the heat of an extreme moment, there's usually an exact sequence and pacing that the eyes must dart around the screen to provide the necessary input for the four or five tasks queuing up separately on each hand. My hands became almost entirely autonomous (unless I deliberated interceded). But the conscious calculation of eye motion never did. The key thing here is that the timing of the eyes and the hands were semi-independent. I might glance in a direction during a micro-lull, in service of some action four or five steps away in the queue, and when the time came to exercise that action, it was conducted blind in the moment, on the basis of what I had previously seen. And I could sometimes have three or four blind actions queued up, at priapic peak pre-peek.
Sometimes my eye cognition would send a panic signal: "overloaded! no can cover off!" and my tactical priority would briefly shift to lowering the net visual burden—eye lag is a body bag—perhaps sacrificing a total kill of a regenerating threat (then you have kill it all over again from the beginning, but them's the breaks).
This whole internal cognitive system was weirdly co-dependent, and yet semi-autonomous. At the height of my game playing, it was also quite the drug. Somehow some part of you just can't believe you're keeping this giant shifting shower of fleeting micro-initiatives airborne all the while.
When I'm writing, it's actually not that different. I have something like a fifty entry buffer for recent words associations and sounds on the page, and that buffer shuffles slightly with every new word I type. And there are at least two separate stacks of agendas that I'm processing in parallel the whole time (one to constructively guide exposition, the other to subvert/queer said exposition).
I don't think it's so different for other intense writers, but I do suspect I have a larger observation deck window between my conscious cognition and my semi-conscious cognition than most people, almost entirely because of youthful my video game history. The difference with me is that I can sometimes almost observe the 15 Hz shuffle-queue industry going on behind the scenes. (Nabokov surely had a bay window of unusual semi-conscious aperture—different from and weirdly more powerful than my own—or he simply could not have done what he did. Nabokov! A human 15-gallon tureen of humble soup.)
So I do kind of get this chick's squirrel thing, but I sure don't get her shallow planning horizon.
Or at least, not until my sleep degenerates.
Then I'm a pancake person, too, but pathetically even more disabled than that (why am I trying to achieve this again? my sharpest motives from the previous day become dim to me, and yet another part of my brain remains entirely trim, and finding myself stuck with scant capacity to employ my trimmings otherwise, the damn thing sits there and constantly harangues me—with florid precision—about my various mental incapacities all the live-long day).
Ironic coda: my sleep is presently on a scheduled program of degeneration, so as to reset a failed sleep program; a tiny portion of my mind is already unglued (right on schedule), so I'm letting Uncle Buck roam free (today only: the whole couch, instead of half the couch). Three days from now, Uncle Buck will become a tiny bit tongue tied and somewhat unreliable; about a week from now, my sleep reset will have been completed, and once again—with sufficient sad self-chaperonage—I'll have the mental capacity to bend my nose back to STEMmering along wordlessly.