You’re being watched!

In the past month I’ve been living in England, a country of ale, floods and some royal human beings. The UK has another pendant issue that makes it even more unique and notoriously debated: it is the omnipresence and ubiquitous of the eye. No, I’m not referring to white barbed, Mr. all powerful in the protestant sky, nor to Orwell’s or Fitzgerald’s novel, I literary mean one eyed machines that overlook some bipeds and quadripneus underneath.

Walking along the sidewalks of the clean streets of London, Oxford and some harmless villages nearby one notice many signposts, indications and stickers attached to the street illumination posts warning you that you are being watched. Now to the juicy polemic… is it right or wrong, moral or not, helpful or a complete waste of resources? being watched

The Closed-circuit television (CCTV) system seems to be, in most cases, extremely well hidden. In London many are located on the rooftops in such a way that even Yoda will have difficulties to spot (I want to differ the kind of cameras I’m referring to the traffic cameras that are in almost every western city and town). Even with my 20/20 and love of spy movies I barely managed to spot a few. In the villages the spotting game is even direr. I tried for some time yet until I asked a local, I couldn’t distinct them from a simple electricity box.

So far, whenever I mention the camera issues, especially to a foreigner, the front directly frowned and the left corner of my interlocutor’s mouth suddenly rises in discontent. Some actually pronounce words and say it’s not constitutional, and try the use of law jargon referring to something about liberty, freedom and privacy. Of course, there are many arguments against an intrusive and potentially problematic data such as this (hacking, facial recognition system, drone house surveillance etc.). Some can talk about social control in the neoliberal city, others about urban regeneration, yet with the years that go by it seems that the number of cameras grows much higher than the population.

According to the Telegraph there is one surveillance camera for every 11 people in the UK (after that in 2011, it was estimated forth of that). That means that in a population roughly estimated to be around 63,705,000 people, there are 5,791,363 cameras.

The same article also quotes Simon Adcock, of the BSIA, The British Security Industry Authority, saying that “Effective CCTV schemes are an invaluable source of crime detection and evidence for the police. For example, in 2009 95 per cent of Scotland Yard murder cases used CCTV footage as evidence.”

In my opinion, other than the possibility to track the criminal footsteps, there is also the prevention issue. Try the next experiment at home: leave some money or any valuable item on the sidewalk, and see how long before it is carried away never to be seen again. Now, put a sign nearby that notify the presence of a camera. What do you think will happen? Or, as Dan Arieli once replied to a Halloween fan, leave the candy basket outside only make sure there will some sort of identification form to every kid that will pass by the door, otherwise, say goodbye to the candies with the first group of kids.


So is it really the growth of the “surveillance state”? We all know the image of a all common four camera post in a busy junction, it certainly leaves the impression that UK has lost its way. However, strolling in the streets of the mannered state, the only visible items are the signs, and to be honest, considering that it´s probably not you that they are looking for and that any mugger will think twice before trying anything, I feel, well… like someone is watching over me.



Weekly choice: a winner, orgasm and lost time

Is There a Gene for Winning Gold Medals?

“The 10,000-hour rule is the idea, popularized by Malcolm Gladwell, that you can attain mastery in any field if you just devote 10,000 hours to it. Whether you want to be a chess grandmaster, the next Jimi Hendrix, or the next Tiger Woods, natural talent is basically irrelevant. All you need is 10,000 hours of dedicated practice. Unsurprisingly, it ain’t quite so simple. The rule does have its origins in some perfectly good research. But this research doesn’t show that anyone can master anything in 10,000 hours. For one thing, 10,000 hours is an average, and there’s a huge range of variation on either side of the average – enough that it’s misleading to say even that approximately 10,000 hours is what it takes. (…) But what exactly is talent? If we define it loosely as anything other than practice, then it includes a very wide range of factors. One of these factors is body type. Bodies come in all shapes and sizes, and some shapes and sizes are better for certain sports than others. Body type is so important that, according to Epstein, if we had a list of the heights and weights of all Olympic competitors, and even if we knew nothing else about them, we could correctly guess their events in almost every case.
Other Interesting Tidbits

The relative importance of nature vs. nurture varies from event to event. Football coaches say “You can’t train speed.” Epstein agrees. Slow children will never be fast adults. On the other hand, given six months, any healthy adult could probably train to run a marathon (albeit not in 2 hours and 10 minutes).

We tend to think of talent as something distinct from training, but that’s not the best way to construe it. According to Epstein, talent is about how rapidly training pays off within a given domain. Some people (like Donald Thomas) profit from training much more rapidly than others. Still, even with all the talent in the world, no one can reach the top rungs of the sporting ladder without training.”


Rationalism and Animal Ethics

“Firstly, we should note that most countries are still in some way opposed to a rational worldview. Even where I write from, in the UK, secularisation has gone from strength to strength and yet it would be right to label anti-theism a minority view. Many here see the problems with violent extremism, but not the links with faith or religion per se. So it is legitimate to raise concern that this cause is already enough on its own. (…) Suppose we lived in a different world: one where human beings were wired very differently and the pursuit of reason had very different effects. One doesn’t need to flesh out the details too succinctly as it is merely a thought experiment, but suppose that promoting reason and science in this strange world actually led directly to lower technological development, lower levels of education and increased violence. We might describe this world as one where human beings were negatively influenced by understanding: the more they know about anything, the less they care for everything.“


33 Powerful And Creative Print Ads That’ll Make You Look Twice

“Most ads out there are annoying, but given the amount of professionals working in the marketing and advertising industries, they’re bound to come up with something cool and creative sooner or later. We’ve searched the web and collected some of the most creative print ads we could find.

Some of them feature clever tongue-in-cheek jokes that make us laugh, others have clever puns that make us think, and some even make us react emotionally. The Crisis Relief ads especially excel at this last point. It’s nice of these companies to respect us by appealing to our intellect or sense of humor rather than simply trying to catch our attention with a simple low-cut neckline or flashy colors.


Most of these ads don’t just advertise the company or cause behind them, they also make an actual point. So if you don’t understand the angle at first, give it some time and think about it.”


Ted’s Best Of The Week! Mary Roach: 10 things you didn’t know about orgasm

“Freelance writer and humorist turned accidental science journalist Mary Roach likes to ask the questions we all wonder about but are usually too polite to mention. What happens after we die, anyway? How fast do cadavers rot? Can a corpse have an orgasm?

In her talk «10 things you didn’t know about orgasm», Roach digs deep into scientific research in sexuality — much of it recent, much of it ancient — and shares several hilarious and disturbing thoughts.”


Writer Of The Week! Marcel Proust!

Proust is many things, but among them, he is a comic novelist, alert to the absurdity of human nature and behavior.

ProustValentin Louis Georges Eugène Marcel Proust (10 July 1871 – 18 November 1922) was a French novelist, critic, and essayist. His monumental novel À la recherche du temps perdu (In Search of Lost Time) is, to this day, an appreciated unique work of art. It is a seven-volume novel based on Proust’s life told psychologically and allegorically. Proust is many things, but chief among them, he is a comic novelist, alert to the absurdity of human nature and behavior, keenly aware of the deceptions we practice on ourselves as well as on others, alive to the discrepancies between appearance and reality. There is comedy in most great novelists – in Scott and Stendhal, Austen, Dickens and Dostoevsky; all had a sense of the absurd; all were capable of taking delight, sometimes scornful delight, in the comedy of hypocrisy.

As a young man, Proust began by writing parodies of his contemporaries, and the writing of parody is an act of comic criticism.

À la recherche made a decisive break with the 19th century realist and plot-driven novel, populated by people of action and people representing social and cultural groups or morals. Although parts of the novel could be read as an exploration of snobbism, deceit, jealousy and suffering and although it contains a multitude of realistic details, the focus is not on the development of a tight plot or of a coherent evolution but on a multiplicity of perspectives and on the formation of experience. The protagonists of the first volume (the narrator as a boy and Swann) are by the standards of 19th century novels, remarkably introspective and passive, nor do they trigger action from other leading characters; to contemporary readers, reared on Balzac, Hugo and Tolstoy, they would not function as centers of a plot. While there is an array of symbolism in the work, it is rarely defined through explicit “keys” leading to moral, romantic or philosophical ideas. The significance of what is happening is often placed within the memory or in the inner contemplation of what is described. This focus on the relationship between experience, memory and writing and the radical de-emphasizing of the outward plot, have become staples of the modern novel but were almost unheard of in 1913.

“The bonds between ourselves and another person exists only in our minds. Memory as it grows fainter loosens them, and notwithstanding the illusion by which we want to be duped and which, out of love, friendship, politeness, deference, duty, we dupe other people, we exist alone. Man is the creature who cannot escape from himself, who knows other people only in himself, and when he asserts the contrary, he is lying.”

Marcel Proust, In Search of Lost Time

Mind the God

Lately, it seems that there is an increasing scientific curiosity about the mind and the reasons for the way we behave, think, act and perceive the world we live in. One of the latest themes where we can witness a rise in public attention and social conversation is the scientific reason for religion. While up until 40 years ago, no one could even imagine there will ever be such liberty and openness to actually research this part of our life, today both religious and non religious are cooperating to get some answers (I have to admit though, that by saying cooperating I mean most of the investigators are non-religious and the test subjects are religious).


The results are by far fascinating. We can learn so much about ourselves as the social animal, about history, anthropology, sociology and many more sciences combined. A recent study shows that religious faiths activates a network of nerves that coordinate the social communication, feelings, imagination and memory (not for all aspects). It shows that in the human brain God is perceived as another human being with thoughts, intentions and of course, feelings. The neuroscientist Alumit Ishai, professor of cognitive neuroscience in Zurich University, investigates this subject. A few years ago she studied, with the help of a MRI, what is happening in the mind of Carmelita’s nuns when they perceive a union with their God. The results were that the mystical experience caused an augmented activity in the visual cortex, the Insular cortex and the Orbitofrontal which shows us that it is not any different from another substantial excitement as emotional experience.


It is known today that gods and similar ideas were with Homo sapiens for the past 70,000 years and more. This is when they started to create variety of worship rituals, beliefs in different gods and general awe towards the unknown and unfamiliar (which of course was practically everything). This need for gods is a common interest for social psychologist, evolutionist, anthropologists and other investigators from different fields (up to philologists at times). The question is what caused that need to believe and if it had an effect on civilization, meaning, whether or not the belief helped civilization coagulate, as with skills as survival and procreation.

The more common and logical of the explanations today is based on the cognitive model of believe as a product of human mind. That, of course, explains why there is an obvious personification to any god that was ever worshiped. Religious people have the tendency to relate to the god they perceive many of the natural characterization they feel. That is to say, that other than thoughts, intentions and feelings that are common to all, each believer sees her god according to what she feels. A person who is very sensitive will normally see God as a very caring and sensitive being; another person with a temper, will perceive God as a fearful being, one that punishes and condemn etc.

This conclusion is also supported by the fact that human being tends to relate any incidence they experience to a personified existence and not to the nature of things. One example is when someone wakes up at night because of a loud noise, the first instinct it to shout “who’s there” and not “what is going on there”.

The theory of the mind is fascinating and surely one post will not be enough. Thus, in the next few weeks I will upload some more interesting studies related to this great enigma, the mind. If you are interested, you are more than welcome to propose links, ideas and even guest blogging.

S. I. Cohen

Weekly choice: some stress, more sex, Chomsly and the church

How Couples Can Cope with Professional Stress

“Most of us are familiar with the cycle. At work, the pressure to be “always on,” to meet deadlines, to serve the demands of colleagues or customers, or to deal with a difficult coworker can create stress that leaks into our personal lives. This stress can cause us to be impatient with romantic partners or kids or to neglect our duties at home, creating a vicious cycle of anxiety outside the office that makes work stresses even harder to face. There are countless examples of couples driven to the edge by work-related stress. And psychological studies have shown that outside stressors — particularly stress at work — can push relationships to the breaking point. But they don’t have to.

Listen and support. There’s a time to question, challenge, or offer solutions. But often when helping a partner deal with professional stress, listening and support are most valuable.

Recognize and respect different coping mechanisms.

Kill comparisons.

Be active together.


Laugh together. Serendipitously, humor is also a key way to deal with stress: Studies have shown that laughter can alter your mood and soothe your stress response. Life’s problems are hard, but when couples can learn to tease one another, to laugh, and to use humor to confront life’s difficult issues, they may also manage their relationship and their professional anxieties better.”


What Kind of Porn Do Women Like the Most?

In fact, there appears to be two fundamental truths about women and porn:

Fact #1: Most women don’t like porn.

Fact #2: But those women who do, tend to like the same kind of porn that men do.

First, there have been many attempts over the decades, dating back to the 1970s, to create commercial visual pornography that appeals to women enough that they would be willing to pay for it, and each time these efforts have either (1) failed completely, (2) only survived because of the financial support of gay men, or (3) survived with a female customer base that is a tiny fraction of the customer base for pornography targeted at men.

Second, […]

There are women who wonder if their complete absence of interest in porn is normal. Other women wonder if their interest in graphic, hardcore porn is normal. Both are common. The only variation that seems to be relatively rare is for women to have a strong, abiding erotic interest in softcore, “female friendly” porn.


Noam Chomsky Amusingly Sidesteps Student’s Question “How Can I Talk to Women Better?,” But Explains “Life’s Just Empty” Without Love

“Noam Chomsky is a pretty unlikely celebrity. As a preeminent anarchist theorist, his political writing is full of passionate intensity, but in his numerous public appearances, he conforms much more to images associated with his day job as a preeminent academic and linguist. He’s very soft-spoken—I’ve never heard him raise his voice above the register of polite coffee-shop conversation—and frumpy in that elder scholar kind of way: uncombed gray hair, an endless supply of sweaters and corduroy jackets…”


Ted’s best of the week! Rita Pierson: Every kid needs a champion

Rita F. Pierson, a professional educator since 1972, taught elementary school, junior high and special education. She was a counselor, a testing coordinator and an assistant principal. In each of these roles, she brought a special energy to the role — a desire to get to know her students, show them how much they matter and support them in their growth, even if it was modest. Rita Pierson, a teacher for 40 years, once heard a colleague say, “They don’t pay me to like the kids.” Her response: “Kids don’t learn from people they don’t like.’” A rousing call to educators to believe in their students and actually connect with them on a real, human, personal level.

“I gave [my students] a saying to say: ‘I am somebody. I was somebody when I came. I’ll be a better somebody when I leave. I am powerful, and I am strong. I deserve the education that I get here.’”

“Every child deserves a champion — an adult who will never give up on them, who understands the power of connection, and insists that they become the best that they can possibly be.”

News of the week!

After a long struggle that in most cases was happening away from the spotlight, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) confronted the silence policy of the Vatican in regarded the child molester priests. For so long, countries and the large majority of people kept quiet while looking the other way bowing their head with the hope that this malaise will simply disappear from public eyes and ears. While knowing that under the roof of the sacred house and by a strange reality of untouchable uniform, hundreds of men, perverted men, went unpunished. In many cases that were publicly exposed, the head of church simply transferred the abusers from one church to another, often in a different country. What else can they do when according to their faith all those sexual offenders really needed is to say that many Ave Maria and who knows how many Padre Nostrum. Not forgetting the convenience of the church to make it go away as fast as possible in order not to lose more of the already diminishing blind followers.

church justice

deafThis official call for justice will surely not be completed for it is all too obvious that the interest of the Vatican lay elsewhere, and it is certainly not going to help the ten of thousand of abused children that are scarred for life and the hundreds that died of depression as results of those godly acts. However, finally we see a progress towards reason and justice that can overcome the fear of the untouchable and all powerful church. When confronted, religious individuals often forget that it is not about one bad seed, it is about a corrupt system.

To read the official document, click here.

To read more on the matter:

P.D. Probably the most disturbing is the response of the Vatican to the UN. The Holy See says this report is influenced by the non-governmental organizations which favor gay marriage. So, an NGO in favor of freedom of the union between two people who love each other is responsible for the accusation of child abuse by countless members of the Church. A Holy church which will continue, as Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, with its “moral teaching”.  May God saves us all!