Month: May 2014
NEW addition: Question of the Week!
Dear S. I. Cohen,
Recently I had a discussion with my friend about capitalism, where one of his arguments against it was that capitalism is toxic environment for job creations. And he passionately claimed how capitalism makes rich people richer, and those who are born without wealth and opportunities enjoyed by the rich people, will stay poor. Also, that capitalism is out of control and is leading to the destruction of the environment.Do you think it´s true and if it is what can we do about to stop it?
As you noticed, there are many people that use the word Capitalist, Capitalism and its variations to describe the worse kind of human conduct, malevolence and hustle. Many think of Capitalism and create their own so called “facts” about how that system degraded what could have been a better society.
Well, one could actually ask the person if he or she actually knows what Capitalism really is (from an economical perspective). Followed by a short silence (of an unexpected turn in the conversation for a broken consensus), the answer is usually a hesitated ‘yes’. One would continue and ask about how, when and where did it begin, for what purpose, what was the economical system before, was it better…? Needless to say that the more you’d ask, the greater the confusion and discrepancy will be.
The first thing to regard is how little people actually know about what just a minute ago they were so convinced.
Moreover, there is quite a lot of double standard (myself included), in that the persons in question were holding an Iphone or a Tablet or their car keys in their hands while beheading the same capitalist that created that for them.
One can ask that person if she exchanged her technological wonder with a neighbor (that constructed the device) for some food or something of her creation. I sincerely doubt it. Today, you can find many places that began a local currency or an exchange based economy (Greece, Island, south of Spain with the PUMA, Comunes and Mercado Trueque and even the idea behind Bit coin).
The fact rests the same: no market, no matter how free or on the contrary, how regulated, is immune to self-interests and the greed of people.
The thing is that so far I truly believe that no one thought of a better system. The problem is with the people using the system. As many things in life, capitalism is a technique, an economic technique, with no emotions or preferences, the user, on the other hand, is the one that can easily manipulate it for his benefit. Thus, as said before by many.
In no other system a poor person can become rich if he knows how to work it for his benefit and that is something very noble. On the other hand, because of its power, you can imagine many will take advantage of it, stripping themselves from any valor or moral behavior.
Certainly, I´ll be the last to come to the rescue of any system, whether economical, political or social… their all have some positive and many negative. Yet, when it comes to blind and confused criticism, I do find more harmful than contributive for the better of our society. So, if I was you, I´ll do some reading and next time you face this friend ask him what does he think about global warming (right before he gets into his 4X4).
How Attention Works: The Brain’s Anti-Distraction System Discovered
Attention is only partly about what we focus on, but also about what we manage to ignore.
“Neuroscientists have pinpointed the neural activity involved in avoiding distraction, a new study reports. This is the first study showing that our brains rely on an active suppression system to help us focus on the task at hand (Gaspar & McDonald, 2014).
The study’s lead author, John Gaspar, explained the traditional view of attentional control:
“This is an important discovery for neuroscientists and psychologists because most contemporary ideas of attention highlight brain processes that are involved in picking out relevant objects from the visual field.” While this process is important, it doesn’t tell the whole story of how attention works.
Gaspar continued: “Our results show clearly that this is only one part of the equation and that active suppression of the irrelevant objects is another important part.”
The study, published in the Journal of Neuroscience, involved 47 students carrying out a visual search task while their brain signals were monitored. The finding may have important implications for psychological disorders which involve problems with attention.
The study’s senior author, John McDonald, said:
“…disorders associated with attention deficits, such as ADHD and schizophrenia, may turn out to be due to difficulties in suppressing irrelevant objects rather than difficulty selecting relevant ones.”
TED’s Best Of Week!
Tristram Wyatt: The smelly mystery of the human pheromone
“Do humans have pheromones? Tristram Wyatt is on the case. A researcher at Oxford, Wyatt is interested in the evolution of pheromones throughout the animal kingdom.
Do our smells make us sexy? Popular science suggests yes — pheromones send chemical signals about sex and attraction from our armpits to potential mates. But, despite what you might have heard, there is no conclusive research confirming that humans have these smells molecules. In this eye-opening talk, zoologist Tristram Wyatt explains the fundamental flaws in current pheromone research, and shares his hope for a future that unlocks the fascinating, potentially life-saving knowledge tied up in our scent.”
“Don’t wash I’m coming home!”
Movie Of The Week! Breaking The Waves!
“Breaking the Waves” is emotionally and spiritually challenging movie directed by Lars von Trier and starring Emily Watson. It is the first film in Trier’s ‘Golden Heart Trilogy’ which also includes The Idiots (1998) and Dancer in the Dark (2000). It tells the story of Bess, a simple young woman of childlike naive, who sacrifices herself to sexual brutality to save the life of the man she loves. Jan, paralyzed from an industrial accident profoundly depressed, asks Bess to have sex with other men and tell him about it, thinking this will allow her to return to a normal life, and she, on the other hand, sees it as an expression of her devotion to Jan. What in the world motivates Jan to demand such repugnant actions from the wife he adores? Bess, with her fierce faith, believes that somehow her sacrifice can redeem her husband and even cure him. As his condition grows worse, her behavior gets more desperate; she went to a big ship where even the port prostitutes refuse to go, because of the way they have been treated there. The epilogue of Breaking the Waves is impossible to describe—it must literally be seen to be believed—but it grows organically and coherently from everything that’s come before it, bringing the film to a bold and brilliant conclusion. In Breaking the Waves, von Trier makes the case that as long as a “truly revolutionary alteration to the social conditions” is still in the future, women will continue to pay with their lives for the sins of the fathers. Whether Bess is a victim of patriarchy or whether she is heroic in her choice to live and die on her own terms is a question that viewers will invariably need to answer for themselves.
Watch the movie: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AR_mMxHJ0t4
The 3 Costs of Multitasking
We all switch between tasks, and we do so often.
“How much time do you think you lose when you engage in task switching? Like many of our daily challenges, here too there are three different factors to consider.
The first factor to consider is the direct time that we spend on our secondary task. For example, imagine that you’re busy working on some complex description of a problem, and you hit a particularly challenging point. You are stuck in a slight mental block, unable to make any real progress for a few minutes. So you think to yourself, “Let me take a quick five minute break and use this time to catch up on email.” Twenty minutes later, you are still responding to email, feeling that familiar unjustified satisfaction we all feel when we managed to clear some of that email backlog in our inbox. Ten minutes later, you are finally back to working on your complex task, and if you bothered to look at your clock, you would realize that the last thirty minutes were a direct cost of the switch.
(…) This belief in “switching helps” is the reason that many people switch so often. Unfortunately, this is unlikely to be the case. Most likely, once you are back, for the next ten minutes or so, your engagement with your complex task is only partial, and you are not yet fully back into it. The reality is that even when you are back working on your main task — for a while longer — you keep on paying a low-productivity-price for your task switching.”
Inspirational Video Of The Week! Tolerance.
Family is Family. Parents are Parents. Love is Love.
The Positive Effect of Creative Hobbies on Performance at Work
Why photography, cooking or other creative hobbies might help you get on at work.
“People who have a creative hobby outside work may find it boosts their work performance, according to a new study by organisational psychologists. The study looked at the indirect effect of creative hobbies like photography, needlework or cooking on work performance (Eschleman et al., 2014). The study found that creative hobbies may help employees recover from the demands of their job. People in the study talked passionately about their activities outside of work. The study’s lead author, Kevin Eschleman, said: “They usually describe it as lush, as a deep experience that provides a lot of things for them. But they also talk about this idea of self-expression and an opportunity to really discover something about themselves, and that isn’t always captured with the current recovery experience models.”
In the study, two groups of people were asked about their creative activities outside work and also how creative they were at work. The results from both samples showed that those who had a creative hobby were more likely to feel a sense of relaxation outside work and to feel greater control and a sense of mastery (…) and were more likely to help others and to be more creative in the performance of their job. Large organizations, such as Zappos Inc., incorporate employee artwork into office decorations. Other similar activities commonly found in organizations include food cook-offs, cross-discipline education opportunities, and costume contests during holidays. A more cost-effective and less intrusive approach for organization is to inform employees that creative activity may help them recover from the workplace.” (Eschleman et al., 2014)”
TED’s Best Of The Week! Why people believe weird things, by Michael Shermer
“Why do people see the Virgin Mary on a cheese sandwich or hear demonic lyrics in “Stairway to Heaven”? Using video and music, skeptic Michael Shermer shows how we convince ourselves to believe — and overlook the facts.”
“Science is not a thing. It’s a verb. It’s a way of thinking about things. It’s a way of looking for natural explanations for all phenomena.”
Poet Of The Week! Jacques Prévert!
Jacques Prévert, (born1900, Neuilly-sur-Seine, Fr.—died 1977, Omonville-la-Petite), French poet who composed ballads of social hope and sentimental love; he also ranked among the foremost of screenwriters, especially during the 1930s and ’40s. Jacques Prévert was born in a lower middle class family. He made fun of the obsessions and conformity of this social class during his entire life and participated actively in the surrealist movement. He was a member of the Rue du Château group along with Raymond Queneau and Marcel Duchamp. His poems are often about life in Paris and life after the Second World War. The peak of Prévert’s career came immediately after World War II. In 1945, the same year that Les Enfants du paradis was released, he published his collected poems, Paroles. The book sold more than 500,000 copies, almost unheard of for a book of poems in France. “Prévert spoke particularly to the French youth immediately after the War, especially to those who grew up during the Occupation and felt totally estranged from Church and State,” wrote Lawrence Ferlinghetti in the introduction to the 1990 edition of Paroles, which he translated into English in 1958.
Prévert’s poems were collected and published in his books: Paroles (Words) (1946), Spectacle (1951), La Pluie et le beau temps (Rain and Good Weather) (1955), Histoires (Stories) (1963), Fatras (1971) and Choses et autres (Things and Others) (1973). Prévert produced several art collages during the late 1950s and early 1960s. “They were surreal, comic and beautiful, scathingly anti-church, anti-corporation, anti-hypocrisy,” Merriam wrote in the New Republic. They were exhibited in Paris in 1957 and in Antibes in southern France in 1963. He continued to publish books, including Histoires et d’autres histoires (Stories and Other Stories) in 1963 and Choses et autres (Things and Other Things) in 1972.
After a long illness, Prévert died on April 11, 1977, at his home in Omonville-La-Petite, in Normandy, France. That day, Carné (as quoted in the New York Times) called him “the one and only poet of French cinema,” whose “humor and poetry succeeded in raising the banal to the summit of art” and whose style reflected “the soul of the people.” Prévert wanted to be remembered as a people’s poet. A few years before his death, in an interview quoted in Harriet Zinnes’s introduction to her book Blood and Feathers, Prévert said, “I was popular even before being fashionable. That’s how it was. What gave me pleasure was having readers. They are the greatest literary critics. These are the people who know the best literature, those who love it, not the connoisseurs.”
Pour toi mon amour
A Better Way to Cope With Persistent Bad Memories
New technique holds promise for those experiencing disturbing emotional flashbacks
“A better way to deal with recurring negative memories is to focus on the context and not the emotion, according to a new study published in Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience (Denkova et al., 2014). For example, if you were thinking about a funeral you attended, you might focus on what you were wearing or who was there, instead of how you were feeling at the time.
“Sometimes we dwell on how sad, embarrassed, or hurt we felt during an event, and that makes us feel worse and worse. This is what happens in clinical depression — ruminating on the negative aspects of a memory. But we found that instead of thinking about your emotions during a negative memory, looking away from the worst emotions and thinking about the context, like a friend who was there, what the weather was like, or anything else non-emotional that was part of the memory, will rather effortlessly take your mind away from the unwanted emotions associated with that memory. Once you immerse yourself in other details, your mind will wander to something else entirely, and you won’t be focused on the negative emotions as much.”
We don’t yet know if this strategy will work in the long-term, which is very important for those suffering from depression, but it’s easy to do and unlikely to cause any harm.
Inspirational video of the week!
Can you see the beauty around you?
In the increasingly popular video that has started to spread social networks, BuzzFeed has asked a group of blind men and women to describe how they perceive beauty.
I recently got married, and my wife and I have been debating the topic of bank accounts. She’d like to combine them, because she wants to know how much is coming in and going out. I think separate accounts would be simpler for taxes, personal spending and budgeting. What’s your take?
The fact that you’re wondering whether to follow your preferences or your wife’s tells me that you are either a slow learner or very recently married (sorry, my Jewish heritage would not let me pass up that opportunity). But to the point: I think you should have a joint account.
First, there’s no question that in reality your accounts are joint in the sense that anything one of you does has an effect on your mutual financial future. For example, if one of you starts buying expensive cars from your individual account, there’s going to be less money for both of you to spend later on vacations, medical bills and so on.
More important, by getting married you have created a social contract of the form: “I will take care of you, and you will take care of me.” Adding a layer of financial negotiations to this intricate relationship can easily backfire. Think about what would happen if there was “my money” and “your money”? Would you start splitting the bill in restaurants? What if one of you has an extra glass of wine? And what if your wife ran out of “her money”? Would you tell her that if she does the dishes and takes the garbage out for a week, you would give her some of “your money”?
The problem is that once money becomes intertwined with deep relationships, they can start looking a bit more like prostitution than like love, romance and long-term caring. Separate bank accounts do have some advantages, but having them could put unnecessary stress on your relationship—and your relationship is much more important than managing your money efficiently.
Ted’s Best Of The Week! Will our kids be a different species, by Juan Enríquez
Throughout human evolution, multiple versions of humans co-existed. Could we be mid-upgrade now? At TEDxSummit, Juan Enriquez sweeps across time and space to bring us to the present moment — and shows how technology is revealing evidence that suggests rapid evolution may be under way.
“I think we’re going to move from a Homo sapiens into a Homo evolutis: a hominid that takes direct and deliberate control over the evolution of his species, her species and other species.”
Artist Of The Week, Gustav Klimt!
Gustav Klimt was born on 14 July 1862. He was the second of seven children of a lower-middle-class family, living in the Viennese suburb of Baumgarten. He began developing his talent as an artist at the age of fourteen, after he entered the University of Plastic Arts in Vienna (graduating at the age of twenty).
Gustav Klimt was always reluctant to talk about himself, referring questioners to his works instead. From his paintings, the viewer “should seek to recognize what I am and what I want.” he said repeatedly. Despite his success he remained unsure of himself in social settings. He habitually wore a blue painter’s smock, his hair was tousled, and he spoke the dialect of his humble origins.
Gustav Klimt’s style is highly ornamental. The Art Nouveau movement favored organic lines and contours. Klimt used a lot of gold and silver colors in his art work – certainly an heritage from his father’s profession as a gold and silver engraver.
He creates various pieces, which include:Danae, and The Kiss, which are extremely erotic and exotic in nature. They depict the differences in sexuality between men and women, and the pieces he creates during this time, although symbolic, are very literal in many of the figures, and depiction of the human form. Up until about 1914, many of the pieces that he created, took on this sexual under pining, and were not widely accepted, in part due to their graphic nature, and in part because of the time period that he lived in and worked in.
His works of art were a scandal at his time because of the display of nudity and the subtle sexuality and eroticism. His best known painting The Kiss, was first exhibited in 1908. As everything coming out of Klimt’s hands, it was highly controversial and admired at the same time.
After three decades of intensive work, numerous triumphs, and fierce hostility from his critics, Gustav Klimt died on 6 February 1918 after suffering a stroke, being fifty-five years old. He is buried in Vienna’s Hietzing Cemetery.
Click here for a documentary on his life: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FaGH-BczrVA