Useful tips

My TEDx Paradox!

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TED Talks is one of the innovative inventions in last twenty manage to enter the top entrepreneurial mission one can define as success. It is the essence of what good Internet use is all about. Briefly said, it is sharing good and creative ideas while inspiring and promoting the feeling of joy for the progress of men and women. That being said, no great invention can, and should, exist without some criticism. I personally heard comments that had implied the conferences as elitists, others that say it´s a waste of time of serious men and women, scientists and person of culture, and some speakers even complained about censuring their talks. Taking into account this criticism, one cannot argue with the hundreds of thousands of view for every recently-uploaded Talk or with the smile and awe most people immediately get when discussing the last TED Talk.

1656319_10205408741838721_1313697782321493374_nSo, to celebrate the release of my TEDx Talk video I thought of scribing some words about this memorable and wonderful experience. As it seems, about three months ago I had the chance to participate in a TEDx event. I was one of eight speakers, all of us excited and nervous, no matter what was our background and experiences we lived.

The title of my talk is Trip to Awareness and New Trispective about Life. In it I shared experiences, as well as wonderful, exuberance, life filling events that made my life rich and interesting. Many adventures, of the kind that for years were left unspoken, were revealed on this TEDx stage, mentioning some travels I did and the subsequent thoughts I had. As it seems, after many travels and adventures in different countries experiencing and learning about cultures, languages and some of the similar preoccupations we share, I might have managed to reach few exciting conclusions. The Talk was an exciting event, and although I was asked for more journey anecdotes as well as experiences I acquired, I think I succeeded inserting some of the mindful conclusions I had and the unique and pragmatic theory about life (some of which can be found in my books).

I did not say it during the Talk but without any doubt, it is inspired from a book I published in 2012 called Trispectivism (from which part of the title and this very blog are derived). In it I elaborate the method of thought process that I used to arrive to that theory and, as mentioned, was pondering about the wonderful experiences I had in the many countries I have traveled and lived.

When I think about this TEDx experience, one particular thought comes to mind: The TEDx Paradox. It is the constant effort to balance between what one might see as egocentric blabber and a necessary explanation about oneself. How does one choose wisely what to say about the things he or she did, what is great, what is mediocre and what is common and might seem as over-reacting self consumed person? As an academic, I participate in conferences regularly for the last 5 years but this experience is quite different. Presenting your work in front of experts in the matter that will judge your academic or professional ability turned out to be quite different from presenting yourself in front of a large variety of curious people with different backgrounds that will judge you according to how you present yourself in public.

“Just look above the audience”, was the first of few good advices I received and gladly assimilated. Another one was to engage with the audience, this one I failed to follow. Yet my learning experience was more than those advices and seeing my limitations but also about fear, responsibility and doubts before, and while, the Talk.

But maybe the important conclusion for me is that the Talk initiated one of the most significant contemplation I did in recent years and that is the realization that in spite of my amazing experiences, I began to acknowledge how little I have actually done to make the world a better place. This introspective reasoning rearranged my priorities and now, at the age of 36 it´s time to try and give back no matter how little we might think any contribution one can make.

And to end this, nothing better than the words of TED founder in person:

And to end this, nothing better than the words of TED founder in person:

All about the money

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In the past few years I’ve been living in Spain, where for the last 4 years you will find a large scale economic crisis. I don’t want to prolong about this unsettling issue (a theme for a future post), now I simply want to reflect about the choices and decision-making that led people abuse the system so badly that left tens if not hundreds of thousands of people penniless.
Here’s an example for I mean. Yesterday I needed to change currency from Euros to pounds, something I have done many times in the past. This time it ended up being not only different but also illuminating (after being humiliating). The thing is that I got ripped off. From all the countries I’ve visited (developing world included), the first to rip me off in exchange shop is in Oxford, UK.
2014-03-29 17.22.11As I was saying, I was looking for a place to exchange money and came across this center shop with many signs that shows the currency rate and written in large letters 0% commission. I entered, said hello, asked if it possible to change from Euros to sterling and gave 100 Euros to the teller. The amount she gave me back was lacking little more than 10 pounds. I told her she made a mistake and she said no. I insisted that there should be ten more pounds (according to the 1.27 written all over). She said that it is the commission. Confused I looked at the sign and pointed on where it was written for blind that there is no commission. Little I knew how wrong I was. In small small prints it said on the bottom to ask about the 13.6% commission. Yes, to “ask” about the commission.
I immediately understood and asked to cancel the exchange. Calmly she said there is no refund, pointing to a little plat sign hidden behind the neighboring teller booth.
To be honest it is the last place I expected to be deceived in such a way (perhaps it is the exact reason why they chose that location). I felt cheated and helpless. So this is how people do business. I asked her why she didn’t say there is such a commission and she said she cannot or she will lose her job. The reply to my next question was interesting, I asked how she can do that if she knows the person will be deceived, and she replied that she doesn’t have the luxury not to work. I have to admit that after all the weird jobs I did, this answer was not surprising yet annoying. So that was self reasoning for daily deceiving people, as if it is either deceiving or drinking alcohol watching in a sinking sofa.
Fortunately for me, I´ve been taking a Mooc class of prof. Dan Ariely from Duke University about Behavior Economics and this was a real life application of the course. Ariely talks about how the Default option actually change our way of dealing and negotiating decisions. Having that in mind I couldn´t forget those small prints saying “Please ask about our 13.6% commission”. I began thinking that if someone asks, the teller will tell him there is no commission (or less, depending on how she looks), and it they simply assume they read well the large letters saying 0% commission (without venturing to the unseen letters), she will charge them without saying anything. I went back to the shop and asked. “well – she said – it is negotiable!”. “This is wrong – I said – who can I contact?”. She gave me an email address.

chequepoint
I have to admit that doing Ariely’s Mooc I learned quite a lot but I never really understood the use of it until yesterday. Ariely talks about it in doing good things (as setting the default to donate organs etc.) but now I understood how it is done to legally cheat, to be dishonest in a way that all you think about in the end of the day is how much money you made. Many people choose to blame Capitalism and free market with that, I wouldn´t go that far; I think it is simply people who decide to fraud and cheat, not the tool.
For any of you who arrive to the UK, beware of this company:
Chequepoint
28 Cornmarket Street, Oxford OX1 3EY

shop in Oxford

 

Weekly choice: about honesty, memory and many many kisses

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The Right Way to Answer “What’s Your Greatest Weakness?”

David Reese from Harvard Business Review shares his concerns about the new generation of young inspired business men and women who just finished career school programs. In this interesting and amusing post he demonstrate what how a business interview should be more than how it is being taught.

interview-tips

“Thomas Jefferson once said that “honesty is the first chapter in the book of wisdom”. Though truth-telling abounds in grade school platitudes, it seems scarcer the older we get. But this decline in honesty — let’s call it dishonesty — isn’t necessarily innate. Dishonesty can be taught. In my experience, I’ve noticed that, of all culprits, college career centers are exceptional traffickers of such miseducation. In the process, they’re hurting their brightest students’ chances of making it in the world of startups by convincing them to give dishonest answers to tough interview questions.

What is your greatest weakness? Even if you’ve only had just one professional interview in your life, then you’ve probably still been asked some version of this question. Do you remember how you answered? Did you say that you work too hard? That you have perfectionist tendencies? Or that you’re too passionate? Be honest. “

http://blogs.hbr.org/2014/01/the-right-way-to-answer-whats-your-greatest-weakness/

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RSA Animate – The Power of Networks

The animated series of RSA is simply sublime. It is an amusing and active way to learn about important concepts in our society. “In this RSA Animate, Manuel Lima, senior UX design lead at Microsoft Bing, explores the power of network visualization to help navigate our complex modern world. This link is taken from a lecture given by Manuel Lima as part of the RSA’s free public events program.”

http://www.thersa.org/events/rsaanimate/animate/rsa-animate-the-power-of-networks

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It’s Okay To Be Smart!

Sometimes students get the wrong message from their classmates: that it is not cool to be smart in science. But biologist Joe Hanson has a more positive signal that he likes to send to kids – in fact the name of his popular science show on YouTube (via PBS Digital Studios) says it all: “It’s Okay to Be Smart.”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_mD-ia6ng0A

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TED of the week!

“Psychologist Elizabeth Loftus studies memories. More precisely, she studies false memories, when people either remember things that didn’t happen or remember them differently from the way they really were. It’s more common than you might think, and Loftus shares some startling stories and statistics, and raises some important ethical questions we should all remember to consider.”

http://www.ted.com/talks/elizabeth_loftus_the_fiction_of_memory.html

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Song Of The Week! Bésame Mucho…

Besame_Mucho“Bésame Mucho” (Kiss me a lot) is a song written in 1940 by Mexican songwriter Consuelo Velázquez. It is one of the most famous boleros, and was recognized in 1999 as the most sung and recorded Mexican song in the world. According to Velázquez herself, she wrote this song even though she had never been kissed before at the time, and kissing as she heard was considered a sin.

She was inspired by the piano piece “Quejas, o la Maja y el Ruiseñor” from the 1911 suite Goyescas by Spanish composer Enrique Granados. It is incredible how so many people around the world are attracted to this song. Probably one of the reasons is exactly that, the innocence it portrays. The listener is facing pure and natural first desire of a kiss, of a touch, of emotion, taking you back to your first tender kiss.

There are slight differences in the wording at the end of the chorus, regarding the words perderte después (to lose you afterwards). Considering that Velázquez may have been fifteen years old when she wrote the lyrics, this sentence reflects inexperience and innocence. Indeed, a video from “TV Mexicana”shows Consuelo Velázquez playing the piano while the singer sings perderte después. Many interpretations use perderte otra vez (lose you once again) instead of the original. Emilio Tuero was the first to record the song, but the Lucho Gatica version made the song famous. Covered by the Beatles both on stage and in the studio, they included the song in their setlist during the band’s audition for Decca Records, their first EMI recording session and the Get Back sessions. A performance from the Get Back sessions was included in the documentary film Let It Be, while one from the EMI audition appeared on the Anthology 1 compilation. They sang their rendition of the song with English lyrics that do not correspond to the original Spanish ones. As for the land of pizza and love, the song was recorded in 2006, by the Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli for his album Amore (watch below).

Weekly choice, by peers

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10 Simple Things You Can Do Today That Will Make You Happier, Backed By Science

A study in the Journal of Health Psychology found that people who exercise feel better about their bodies, even when they saw no physical changes.

brain

Body weight, shape and body image were assessed in 16 males and 18 females before and after both 6 × 40 mins exercise and 6 × 40 mins reading. Over both conditions, body weight and shape did not change. Various aspects of body image, however, improved after exercise compared to before.

http://xposethereal.com/science/10-simple-things-you-can-do-today-that-will-make-you-happier-backed-by-science.html

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 TED’s Best of The Week:

Jackson Katz: Violence against women—it’s a men’s issue

domesticviolence1Domestic violence and sexual abuse are often called “women’s issues.” But in this bold, blunt talk, Jackson Katz points out that these are intrinsically men’s issues — and shows how these violent behaviors are tied to definitions of manhood. A clarion call for us all — women and men — to call out unacceptable behavior and be leaders of change.

Jackson Katz asks a very important question that gets at the root of why sexual abuse, rape and domestic abuse remain a problem: What’s going on with men?

http://www.ted.com/talks/jackson_katz_violence_against_women_it_s_a_men_s_issue.html?-

“We need more men with guts, with the courage, with the strength, with the moral integrity to break our complicit silence and challenge each other and stand with women and not against them.”

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Fearful ‘Memories’ Passed Between Generations Through Genetic Code

“A frankly mind-blowing new study suggests traumatic events that happen to a parent could be passed down through their genes onto their children. The research, published in Nature Neuroscience, was carried out on mice, which were conditioned to become afraid of a particular smell: in fact a smell not unlike cherry blossom (Dias & Ressler, 2013). Even the grandchildren showed the fearful response. So the fearful response towards this smell was passed down two generations. The mechanism for the transmission of this response across generations appears to be through the mice’s sperm.

The reason this study is so potentially exciting is that evolution is thought to occur mostly through random genetic mutations across many generations.”

http://www.spring.org.uk/2013/12/fearful-memories-passed-between-generations-through-genetic-code.php

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Top 10 Reasons why Diversity is Good for the Boardroom

  1. It reflects the real world – something every company should be sensitive to.

  2. Healthy debate can lead to better decisions.

  3. Divergent backgrounds mean tackling the same idea in differing ways.

  4. Great ideas come from disruption of the status quo.

  5. Your clients and customers are diverse.

Read the rest at:

http://www.forbes.com/sites/mikemyatt/2013/11/18/top-10-reasons-diversity-is-good-for-the-boardroom/

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Person of the week! Alfred Hitchcock, Master Of Suspense

alfred_hitchcock_master_of_suspense_two_headedHitchcock’s strength and reputation as a filmmaker was that he was able to visualize his subconscious fears and desires and turn them into waking nightmares on the silver screen. Many viewers share those feelings and emotions, which is why he will remain in the public consciousness for many years to come.

Hitchcock (1899–1980) was nominated for six Oscars throughout his career, receiving best director mentions for Rebecca (1940), Lifeboat (1944), Spellbound (1945) Rear Window (1954) and Psycho (1960). Over three decades after his death, at the age of 81, Psycho, adapted for the big screen from a novel based on the life of American serial killer Ed Gein, remains Hitchcock’s greatest-ever film. Psycho is regarded as the world’s first ‘slasher’ movie, terrifying and shocking the public when it opened in 1960. It contained unprecedented levels of violence and sexuality, and its infamous ‘shower scene’ was later named the ‘Best Death’ in modern cinematography.

But Alfred Hitchcock, in a newly-unearthed interview, says he was ‘horrified’ when spectators took his subversive classic Psycho seriously.

Watch the 1964 sit-down uncovered found in the BBC archives, where the master of suspense says he intended the film to be a dark comedy made ‘rather tongue-in-cheek’.

“I never carry more than I can afford to lose” (Psycho)

Inspirational task of the week

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Recently I decided to take a course in one of the many MOOCs available. Being a fan of writing I chose a course titled The Future of Storytelling. Today we are at the six week and I have to admit this is a great experience. Every week they offer weekly video material, lessons, interviews and tasks on the following topics (not necessarily in this order):
– Storytelling basics.
– Serial formats (on the TV, web and beyond) – Theoretical lesson, extremely interesting.
– Storytelling in role-playing games.
– Interactive storytelling in video games.
– Transmedia storytelling.
– Alternate-reality gaming.
– Augmented reality and location-based storytelling.
– The role of tools, interfaces and information architectures in current storytelling.

storytelling

The first Storytelling-MOOC will focus on fictional formats. The goal is to inspire and help understand as well as broaden our horizon of what is and might be possible and what has already been attempted, and what has succeeded or even failed – and why.

And yes, for all of you who are wandering if there are some of those pesky assignments we all loved so much in out toddler years, yes, the task (homework) of the week is indeed given. However, taking under consideration we are all somewhat busy adult.

I have to admit that I didn´t do all of my homework but here’s one for the last week. The task was to take a camera, be it you mobile phone, a webcam… , and introduce oneself to the other StoryMOOCers, telling the viewers which works inspired your interest in storytelling most up to know. In the task you should pick out 1-3 works of art, literature, film, TV, game, a website or else and tell what’s so special about it that you think it might help inspire somebody else anywhere on this planet.

This is my video (which I promise to improve in future posts):

*If you would like to post your personal advice of the books and inspiration and share it with us please send it to me to sicohenmail@gmail.com and I´ll upload it. If you don’t want to be in the video, you can simply make it just about your piece of inspiration.

Weekly choice: on being productive, altruist and feminist

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RSA Animate – Re-Imagining Work

How can we get people more engaged, more productive, and happier at work? Is technology part of the problem – and could it also be part of the solution? Dave Coplin, Chief Envisioning Officer at Microsoft, imagines what might be possible if more organization embraced the full, empowering potential of technology and encouraged a truly open, collaborative and flexible working culture.

http://comment.rsablogs.org.uk/2013/09/25/rsa-animate-reimagining-work/

“Work is no longer a Destination!”

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An Analysis of Altruism

Neel Burton is a psychiatrist, philosopher and writer who lives and teaches in Oxford.  In this interesting article he proposes a different perspective of altruism.

http://outre-monde.com/2013/09/01/an-analysis-of-altruism/

“Altruistic acts are self-interested, if not because they relieve anxiety, then perhaps because they lead to pleasant feelings of pride and satisfaction; the expectation of honor or reciprocation; or the greater likelihood of a place in heaven; and even if neither of the above, then at least because they relieve unpleasant feelings such as the guilt or shame of not having acted at all.”

animal-altruism

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Ted’s best for the week

In this creative talk Ben Saunders (an explorer of limits) urges the audiences to consider carefully how to spend the “tiny amount of time we each have on this planet.”

http://www.ted.com/talks/ben_saunders_why_bother_leaving_the_house.html

“To try, to experience, to engage, to endeavor rather than to watch and to wonder, that’s where the real meat of life is to be found. It’s the juice that we can suck out of our hours and days,” says Saunders. “If I’ve learned anything from 12 years now of dragging heavy things around cold places, it’s that true, real inspiration and growth only comes from adversity and challenge, from stepping away from what’s comfortable and familiar and stepping out into the unknown.”

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Person of the week, Simone de Beauvoir, the mother of modern feminism and a symbol of sexual freedom!

simone

The one who upheld the issue of freedom for women, as the most desirable human condition, especially freedom of choice.

Women have reproductive role and the role of upbringing, said Beauvoir, and this is in part why women find it difficult to be free. However, the woman does not need to be defined by her uterus, it is possible to have a life outside of her reproductive functions.

One of her best-known books, The Second Sex, deals with the treatment of women throughout history and is often regarded as a major work of feminist philosophy and the starting point of second-wave feminism.

simonsartreHer life is also known with her relationship with the famous philosopher and Nobel laureate Jean- Paul Sartre. They were one of the most celebrated intellectual unconventional couples. They met in 1929 and never got married or even lived together, but they dedicated themselves to each other agreeing to retain the freedom to be sexually and emotionally with others and up to sharing the details to each of these connections.

http://www.openculture.com/2013/06/philosophys_power_couple_jean-paul_sartre_and_simone_de_beauvoir_featured_in_1967_tv_interview_.html

second sexIn  her novel, ‘’The Second Sex’’ she explores the biological, psychoanalytic and Marxian explanations of women’s fate, understanding women in terms of “the other”, or what is not the self, which is secondary, inessential, and inferior.  De Beauvoir assesses the history of relations between the poles from the time of the primitive society to modern era and looks at women’s sexuality and her relationship with a female “otherness”.

She observes the myths related to women, especially those who are attached to motherhood; examines representations of women in the novels of male authors and evaluates the evolution of the contemporary status of women from girl to womanhood as wives and mothers. She considers the special position of lesbians, independent woman and a career woman, and extensively analyzes the role of prostitutes, a role which she saw as one where women can, under certain conditions, use the “otherness” in order to take advantage of men.

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/30/books/review/Gray-t.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

« L’intellectuel est ainsi fait, il se mêle toujours de ce qu’il ne regard pas. » (Sartre sur pourquoi il se mêle dans les affaires d’autre)

Farewell classroom, hello classMOOC

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In the past few months we witness an impressive amount of bloggers, articles (both academic and newspaper) and general conversation that are writing about and discussing the recent education revolution. I´m referring to the Massive Open Online Course, commonly known by the acronym MOOC. The MOOCs are the free virtual university classroom and it is the symbol of this new and exciting era where accessibility to knowledge was never simpler and more accessible.

MOOCbetterwordbubble

You are probably thinking what the majority were saying in the first couple of years since 2008 (and what some still do today): ‘we don´t have time for that’ or ‘I already got a job’. Well, while this certainly is true, still, the MOOCs provide opportunity that before people can only dream of. Some, unfortunately, are working in places they do not really want to be (whether choosing it for practical reasons or extrinsic pressure) hence, now they can easily study what you always dreamed of. Then, whether or not you´ll be able to take it to the next level and actually making a profession of it, maybe, but you´ll never know unless you´d try. As always, the best thing about trying is not the success (a great motivation) but the experience and the skills we acquire while learning and evolving (the best motivation).

In today’s hyperactive world, as in practically anything we do, we will not pay too much attention if it has no utility to us -Probably some of you will stop reading after seeing this word “utility” but let’s face it, even though there is no romance in a phrase like this, it is still quite true.- Thus, MOOC is very successful exactly because it offers all the utility we need: desired knowledge and in a convenient time.

This is why I decided to make it easier to all of you that are knowledge addicts and put together a list of useful links to some of the many resources.

My own experience with online learning and virtual classroom started years ago when I first started viewing courses and podcasts through sites as Academ.org and LearnersTV and such. Later I upgraded to Google Academic Earth, with a large variety of courses from all subjects and a multitude of universities. While my passion is studies about Social Psychology and Social Science I also took listened and followed classes about Economics, Philosophy and Psychology (I even tried Mathematics but I admit that it wasn´t my cup of tea).

Today, thanks to innovators such as Andrew Ng (London, 1976), Daphne Koller (Jerusalem, 1968), Bestian Thrun (Solingen, 1967), Anant Argawal (Bombay, 1960) and many more we have platforms that not only provide us with the courses but also the framework for us to be able to take one step further towards making it an official diploma. Probably the biggest of all is Coursera with more than 17 million students from all over the world. The 400 classes are given in 83 different education centers all over the world in all the major languages.

The MIT open courseware, whether it is learning Italian language and home cooking simultaneously, psychology or the world of Finance, you have the opportunity to follow your passion into a more profound level. If you are more into language try Duolingo or maybe to learn computer code (in codeacademy), possibilities are endless.

Other important universities also began their own web of free and shared lectures. Some of the most known are: Cornell’s eCommons (like this interesting one about Quantum Theory made simple), Harvard’s edX (initiated with MIT), Stanford Online and many others (click here for a list of 775 free online courses from different universities).

moocOther centers and platforms that are just as good are: Udacity, Iversity (where I personally take a course this semester), Khan Academy, e-learning, Edmodo (highschool education), Open2Study, P2PU amongst others.

And so, as Koller tell us in the wonderful TED Talk, today education can travel over barriers as financial difficulties, distance to the closest education facility, and physical disability. With a click of a mouse and average internet connection (whether private or public), everyone can become a student and participate in this wonder we call universal knowledge.

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Short video on what is MOOC:

ps

I´ve been asked if all the people that enroll in these courses are academics. Well, the answer is certainly not. Just in my course there are about 5000 students, viewing their profile I found that the large majority are nothing but academics (commercials, shop owners, retired, artists, high-schoolers, unemployed and many more).