Thursday, December 17, 2009
The other day kiddo pointed out to a random man on the street while being chauffeured by moi, from school to home," Does he believe in Gandhiji?"
She has been taught in school that she has to be "good" because God is watching all and that God has created everything around her and of course all the other beautiful "truths" about God have been revealed to her.
Now was this question directly proportional to hodgepodge created in her mind because of my questioning existence of God AND because of the healthy dose of Gandhi they are exposed to in school and the near legend/God like iconic status attributed to him?
So should I try uncloud her befuddlement or let "wisdom" which comes with age (ahem!!) take its natural course and unravel it for her ???
Wednesday, December 9, 2009
Thursday, November 26, 2009
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
So(w) among other thoughts hogging my mind , the one bo(a)ring question was:
What would be the ramifications on economic structure and society, if it was mandated globally with universal top approval ratings ,that for the next 25 years, those whose net worth (as per current valuations) was above USD 2 million and growing, would be required to be progenitors of a minimum of 3 and the "lesser" mortals RESTRICTED to one or none?????
Friday, November 20, 2009
"Does'nt it seem just everybody shouts at each other nowadays?
I think its because conflict is drama. Drama is entertaining and entertainment is marketable!
Finding consensus and common ground is dull. Nobody wants to watch a civilized discussion that acknowledges ambiguity and complexity. We want to see fireworks!
We want the sense of solidarity and identity that comes from having out interests narrowed and exploited by like-minded zealots! Talk show hosts. Political candidates, news programs .All become successful by reducing debates to the level of shouted rage.
Nothing gets solved. But we're all entertained."
- Calvin (Bill Watterson)
Thursday, November 19, 2009
India is a democratic country in its truest sense.....
we allow mercs, beemers, porshes, nanos, marutis ,
2 wheelers, 3 wheelers,
2 legged mammals,
cows, goats, sheep, buffaloes, dogs,
statues, mini shrines......
equal space on the roads.
Apologies if I have missed out any category.
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
Monday, November 16, 2009
"THE SOUL WOULD HAVE NO RAINBOW IF THE EYES HAD NO TEARS."
I have been thinking past days.....
Are rainbows overrated?
Is the human soul so frail that it craves for that silver lining around a dark cloud?
Or is it etched on the human psyche to anticipate the sun bringing out the rainbow after a rainstorm?
Do we need crutches to propel ourselves forward?
Should we reject the old adage.."Its always darkest before dawn"?
And prepare ourselves for the new reality...."Its darkest before pitch black"?
Or I am in a dark mood and the sun will soon come shining through and lift the clouds? :-)
Sunday, November 15, 2009
Saturday, November 14, 2009
Today it finally dawned upon me after so many years....
a fine print rider which accompanies
every Indian drivers licence
every Indian motor registration:
"You are entitled to stop your vehicle
in the middle of any 2 way narrow road
for upwards of 5 minutes
have your private conversation
with any citizen of India
who may be a pedestrian or a fellow motorist".
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
Watching out of my window
a fledgling hawk (I live by the river side)
learning to spread its wings…….
the tentative wing flaps,
overtures of movements,
letting the air pockets guide it,
sometimes steering, gliding,
then soaring up towards the sun……
the exhilaration of first flight...
seen this before,never fails to fascinate!!
Monday, November 9, 2009
The universe is expanding,there is evidence of the existence of a parallel universe.
Minds are contracting, there is evidence of the lack of coexistence with a parallel mindset!
What a contradiction!!!
Saturday, November 7, 2009
“I used to wake up at 4 A.M. and start sneezing, sometimes for five hours. I tried to find out what sort of allergy I had but finally came to the conclusion that it must be an allergy to consciousness.”
So how do I switch off my consciousness or my sneezing???
Thursday, November 5, 2009
"last minute rush" junkies
osmosis is a gradual,
often unconscious process of assimilation
then can reverse osmosis
fix degenerate minds???
To tune in
with our environment
should be as easy
as tuning a violin!!
Paying too much
to certain things
can earn you
a lot of tension!!!
Thursday, October 29, 2009
Sunday, October 25, 2009
Cat & Chaos, c'est moi!!
As says he ................."Chaos is a friend of mine!!!"
So is it some sort of extra sensory reaction to a person?
Or is it a sense of lingering "deja vu", if I may so call it, which guides at some phrenic layer?
Or am a I closet clairvoyant?
But,I consider myself rational and I let rationality steer my intuitive cues, so......
Dunno!!! Any thoughts, anybody????
Monday, October 12, 2009
I very recently heard a quip that we Indians are a nation full of people who just love their "shortcuts" (a method, procedure, policy, etc., that reduces the time or energy needed to accomplish something. ref:dictionary.com.)...... so are we merely improving our individual efficacy/productivity when we jump traffic signals,break queues,pay bribes etc etc?????
Saturday, July 11, 2009
Monday, June 29, 2009
Sunday, June 28, 2009
Don't go where the path lead.....
Rather go where there is no path,
And leave a trail!!
AND UJJWAL'S RESPONSE (of long ago too)..... :-)
Path always leads to somewhere..... if there exists "somewhere", then "some path" must be there..a kind of one to one correspondence always exists....you can always find a diffeomorphism taking "some path" to somewhere. In the process you might find a Klein's bottle ....for the time being you can forget all these and try to solve Zeno's paradox!!
Friday, June 19, 2009
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
Iwishsetter: Imaginary best friend
Twinebriated: Seeing double
Westwingnut: A president you didn't vote for
Twentiming: Keeping 19 mistresses
Retrowitted: Thought of a clever comeback too late, but included it when recounting the incident to someone else
Twilite: Sunset over Los Angeles
Twitterboarded: Drowned in tweets
Whineternet: The blogosphere
Typewrither: Carpal tunnel victim
Bidwetting: Excessive reaction to winning an auction on eBay
Toiletdew: A euphemism for seat splatter
Acqwitted: Found innocent of any sense of humor
OMG-lo: Chat-speak to describe a lack of excitement in life.
Ikeaburger:A Swedish meatball
If 12 am is witching hour...
What is 3.15 am....
"Owl"ing hour or "Lark"ing hour?
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
Quoting an Indian born and bred, now aussie citizen had to say about the "racial" attacks in Australia.....
"not only indians, but asian, aussies are also getting belted. the govt laws are the problem. 90% of these attacks are committed by juvenile, than 17 yr old kids...in big gangs who look for easy pickings....
cops have no right to catch them....law states they cannot be arrested but only fined 550 aud....hahhaha....
radical changes to law and more powers to police....
going to court will cost the victim about 15000 aud minimum....threats aside....
hence they are not reported....
attacks are carried out at railway stations....bus stops..pertol pumps after 8pm....students...couple retunring from work.lot of these kids are on ecstacy...drugs..hence cannot think straight...
we try and take extra precaution....
racism thats the wrong term to use...multi cultural....so many ethinic minorities....
there is a bit of misunderstanding etc..
but attacks were all opportunistic ones for a quick penny and a ciggy...
thats about it
well to end it all ....after having observed the indian media and the quality of their reporting.....
i can say TOINS is out to make come quick COINS...that about...
cheap tricks ....."
Friday, June 12, 2009
Sunday, June 7, 2009
Wednesday, April 29, 2009
will never get written!
"There's a hell of a distance between wise-cracking and wit. Wit has truth in it; wise-cracking is simply calisthenics with words."
— Dorothy Parker
And there is a thin line between meanness and wise cracking! Who is to define that line!!! ..CAT
Tuesday, April 28, 2009
Is that me still around or has moi hardened beyond redemption or do I pretend not to hurt under the guise of purported equanimity or have I figured that it is a squandering of emotional energy or I am in cognizant of the reality that there is a more often than not a mismatch between what each expects,so why bother or my brain has addled.....
Whatever it is...my alter ego has decreed that most are not worthy to bare my soul to. I intend to obey!
Wednesday, April 8, 2009
The Age of the Rage: Why are we so Angry?
Did you know that one person in 20 has had a fight with a next-door neighbour? That one driver in four admits to committing an act of road rage? That cases of "air rage" rose by 400 per cent between 1997 and 2000? That stress has overtaken the common cold as the main reason for taking time off work?
We appear to be living in an age of rage. Earlier this week there seems to have been an incidence of "queue rage" in a supermarket during which a man was punched - and later died. The death raises the whole issue of apparently random acts of violence that are often the product of momentary losses of self-control.
"Check-out rage" is just one more to add to our already long long list of road, air, trolley, parking space and cyclist rage. It is why a motorist will follow a pedestrian on to a bus and stab him; why a shopper will break another shopper's nose for something as trivial as bumping into his or her trolley. When I was riding in a taxi in London recently a cyclist hammered on the window in fury at a perceived (imagined, in my view) transgression by the driver. In a flurry of F-and-C-words he threw a fistful of coins at the taxi. As far as I could see nothing had happened.
Anger, humankind's natural and healthy reaction to stressful situations, is increasingly being acted out via physical violence - even though we are richer, take more holidays and lead more comfortable lives than ever before. There are several theories as to why our society is becoming ever more infuriated. The fast pace at which we live our lives - "hurry sickness", for instance, has taught us to desire and demand instant gratification.
If something or someone delays us, we see it as a threat to our precious, finite time. There is also huge pressure to deliver at work in jobs that are increasingly insecure, competitive and ruthlessly based on performance.
Dr Michael Sinclair, a consultant psychologist in London specialising in anger management, says that, generally, people who grossly overreact to trivial events with violence are suffering from a central lack of confidence. The normal reaction, he says, when someone bumps into you is to think "that was a bit rude" and move on.
But angry people interpret everything as a personal slight, an insult to their already fragile egos. "Being bumped into will make the inadequate person feel even more inadequate," Sinclair explains. "It exacerbates their sense of vulnerability."
Times of economic gloom can exacerbate the problem. Sinclair says that he has recently seen his referrals increase as people battle to cope with the angry emotional fall-out from redundancy, heightened job insecurity or a suffocating mortgage. A person lacking in self-esteem can be driven to the edge by just a clipped letter from a bank.
Experts have said that in decades such as the 1960s and 1970s people tended to turn their frustration inwards, perhaps taking their anger out on their spouses behind closed doors. The tendency now is to turn it outwards: to externalise the problem to a complete stranger.
When people feel under threat they undergo physical and mental changes. Their heart rate, blood flow and tension rises as the body prepares for action. The mind goes into tunnel vision as it focuses on the threat and loses the bigger picture. Various factors will then inhibit the average person from acting upon it, such as not wanting to behave violently in public. But with more people behaving aggressively in public there is an unspoken "social permission" to do so.
And yet it is not as though everyone is walking around like a ticking hand grenade. Most of us - even though we may feel a surge of spleen when someone blocks our way - simply curse under our breath and walk away.
Sinclair says that anger is a process involving different stages: the environmental trigger, the interpretation of the trigger ("This person is disrespecting me") and the physical arousal - the adrenalin rush that defends the threat to self-esteem.
The British Association of Anger Management has produced a six-point plan to help people to manage anger:
1. Stop, think and look at the bigger picture. Consider the consequences between the event and the reaction.
2. It's OK to have a different opinion. Opinions are not facts - they are only what you think.
3. Listen carefully. Learn to listen. Observe the other person's body language. Verify: clarify information. Empathise: keep your heart open at all times.
4. Use your support network, a group of people on whom you can call when you need to talk to someone so that your anger doesn't get out of control.
5. Keep a journal. This is a powerful way of not internalising your anger. Your journal can be used as and when you need to. Record how you feel about what happened, and your views on a problem. Using your journal will bring clarity to the situation.
6. Don't take anything personally. Nothing that others do or say is because of you. What others do and say is a projection of their own reality on to you. When you are immune to the opinions, projections, behaviours and actions of others, you will not be a victim of needless suffering any longer
|REVOLUTIONARY||An oppressed person waiting for the opportunity to become an oppressor.|
|ROCK 'N' ROLL||A raucous musical rendering of adolescent glandular activity, peddled to receptive teens since the 1950s as a cheap and relatively bloodless means of overthrowing parental authority, along with most of the accumulated values of Western civilization.|
|SALARY||A market value assigned to professionals as a function of their scarcity, their usefulness to employers and their ability to feign enthusiasm for their work.|
|CULT FILM||A movie seen about fifty times by about that many people.|
|DENIAL||How an optimist keeps from becoming a pessimist.|
|DNA||A complex organic molecule characterized as the building block of life and appropriately shaped like a spiral staircase to nowhere.|
10. To boldly go..
Gene Roddenberry, creator of the Star Trek television series (motto: To boldly go where no man has gone before), appropriately had his ashes blasted into space on a satellite and distributed as it orbited the earth.
The memorial spaceflight, in 1997, quickly set a trend - especially among fellow Trekkies. James Doohan, who played chief engineer Scottie on the Starship Enterprise was also projected into orbit as did astronaut Gordon Cooper. Bit tough on the families if they want to leave flowers.
German Countess Carlotta Liebenstein left a staggering fortune of 139 million German marks (about £43 million) to her beloved pet dog Gunther III when she died in 1991. The hound and his offspring - imaginatively named Gunther IV - were able to live in the lap of luxury in a mansion with a personal maid, chauffeur and customized pool.
This isn't the only pampered pooch to have benefited from a bequest. New York hotel magnate Leona Helmsley, dubbed the "Queen of Mean" during a 1989 trial for tax evasion, left $12 million (£6 million) of her estimated $8 billion estate for the upkeep of her Maltese terrier Trouble. Two of her four grandchildren meanwhile got nothing.
Unsurprisingly, the request by Helmsley, famous for her quip that "only the little people pay taxes," sparked nothing but trouble. After the will was contested, the pooch was stripped of $10 million by a Manhattan judge leaving the poor thing with a paltry $2 million. It's a dog's life.
8. The Great Stork Derby
Eccentric lawyer Charles Vance Millar was well known in Toronto, Canada, for his love of practical jokes and he saved the best until last.
He bequeathed a large sum from his significant estate to the woman in Toronto who could produce the most children in the ten year period after his death. The resulting contest, after his death in 1926, became known as the Great Stork Derby. The four winning mothers, Annie Katherine Smith, Kathleen Ellen Nagle, Lucy Alice Timleck and Isabel Mary Maclean, each received C$125,000 for their nine children.
The pranks didn't end there. Millar's will also left shares in racetracks and breweries to anti-gambling and temperance supporters. Three men who were known to despise each other were granted joint lifetime tenancy in Millar's Jamaican holiday home.
7. Death wish
Revenge is sweet - even from beyond the grave. American housewife Mary Kuhery is reported to have left her husband $2 as long as he promised to spend at least half of it on a rope with which to hang himself.
In 1960 Samuel Bratt was slightly less vengeful. However, he still grasped the opportunity to get even with his wife who had never allowed him to smoke. He left her £330,000, a huge sum back then, provided that she smoke five cigars a day.
6. No women allowed
When misogynist American lawyer T.M. Zink died in 1930 he left $50,000 in trust for 75 years by which time he hoped that it would have grown to $3 million. He decreed that the fund should then be used to found the Zink Womanless Library. The words "No women admitted" were to mark each entrance and no books, works of art, or decorations by women were to be permitted. His family challenged the will and won.
5. Alas poor Yorick
Juan Potoachi gave 200,000 pesos to the Teatro Dramatico in Buenos Aires in 1955, on condition that his skull be preserved and used as Yorick in Hamlet. William Shakespeare himself was less generous. The bard left most of his estate to his elder daughter Susannah Hall while his wife only received his "second best bed".
4. Fangs very much
Harold West was so worried that he would become a vampire after his death, in 1972, that he left strict instructions that his doctor "drive a steel stake through my heart to make sure that I am properly dead". That should do it
3. Live forever
Predeceased by his wife and two daughters, John Bowman, from Vermont, America, was convinced that after his death, in 1891, the family would be reincarnated. In anticipation, he left a trust fund for the maintenance of his 21-room mansion, including a demand that servants prepare dinner nightly in case the Bowmans were hungry when they returned. The money ran out in 1950.
2. Monkey business
An 83- year-old Danish widow left the equivalent of half a million Danish crowns (about £40,000) to six chimpanzees - Jimmy, Trunte, Fifi, Trine, Grinni and Gigi - who lived at the Copenhagen Zoo. Senior Deputy Judge Christian Notlevsen, who read out the testament in front of their cage, said the heirs had behaved better than many people he had seen in court during readings of wills.
1. Poetic licence
The last wish of Donal Russell, from Springfield in the US state of Oregon, was to have his body skinned, his hide tanned like leather and then used to bind books of self-penned poetry. The 62-year old wordsmith stated that his body "be skinned from the head down and tanned for the purpose of face binding volumes of my verse."
The squeamish funeral directors refused, so his widow asked the courts to help her honour his wishes. The request was turned down because it violated laws about what could be done to human remains. How prosaic.
Monday, April 6, 2009
Sunday, April 5, 2009
Sunday, March 29, 2009
Saturday, March 28, 2009
Thursday, March 26, 2009
Hook, Line and Sinker:
Ten of the Most Audacious Swindles Ever
Fortunately, most victims suffer a greater dent to their pride than their bank balance. But some involve the loss of millions or even billions of pounds and cause real financial hardship. Here are ten of the most audacious financial swindles ever.
Monday, March 23, 2009
The present financial crisis explained in simple terms.........................
One-eyed-Gordon is the proprietor of a bar in London. In order to increase sales, he decides to allow his loyal customers - most of whom are unemployed alcoholics - to drink now but pay later.
He keeps track of the drinks consumed on a ledger (thereby granting the customers loans).
Word gets around and as a result increasing numbers of customers flood into One-eyed-Gordon's bar. Taking advantage of his customers' freedom from immediate payment constraints, One-eyed-Gordon increases his prices for wine and beer, the most-consumed beverages. His sales volume increases massively.
A young and dynamic customer service consultant at the local bank recognizes these customer debts as valuable future assets and increases One-eyed-Gordon's borrowing limit. He sees no reason for undue concern since he has the debts of the alcoholics as collateral. At the bank's corporate headquarters, expert bankers transform these customer assets into DRINKBONDS, ALKBONDS and PUKEBONDS. These securities are then traded on markets worldwide. No one really understands what these abbreviations mean and how the securities are guaranteed. Nevertheless, as their prices continuously climb, the securities become top-selling items.
One day, although the prices are still climbing, a risk manager (subsequently of course fired due his negativity) at the bank decides that the time has come to demand payment of the debts incurred by the drinkers at One-eyed-Gordon's bar. However they cannot pay back the debts. One-eyed-Gordon cannot fulfill his loan obligations and claims bankruptcy. DRINKBOND and ALKBOND drop in price by 95 %. PUKEBOND performs better, stabilizing in price after dropping by 80 %.
The suppliers of One-eyed-Gordon's bar, having granted his generous payment due dates and having invested in the securities, are faced with a new situation. His wine supplier claims bankruptcy and his beer supplier is taken over by a competitor. The bank is saved by the Government following dramatic round-the-clock consultations by leaders from the governing political parties. The funds required for this purpose are obtained by a tax levied on the non-drinkers.
(from my archives: courtesy The Sunday Times. CAT)
Our little Emperors: does worrying do more harm than good?
As the mother of two young daughters, Ruth Appleton is used to doling out praise for almost everything they do. Even she was taken aback, however, when her younger daughter, Rachel, now 5, arrived home from nursery clutching a certificate for "sitting nicely on the carpet".
"It made me wonder what she was doing the rest of the time," said Appleton, from Porthcawl, Wales. "I thought it was a bit over the top rewarding her for something so routine. But it's part of a whole culture of stickers and smiley faces and 'celebration assemblies'."
Anyone with children at primary school will instantly get the picture: no child's existence is complete without "circle time", or "show and tell" sessions at which they are encouraged to parade their achievements and examine their feelings. The received wisdom on child-rearing says nothing should be allowed to damage a child's sense of self-worth: just last week the Football Association (FA) decided to ban teams including children under eight from publishing their results, for fear of putting the kids under too much pressure if they lost a match.
As parents, we are encouraged to nurture our children's sense of "self", but are we unwittingly doing them more harm than good?
Our child-centred society means we fret over what our kids eat, what they wear, their friends, their exam grades and their safety. A US academic has coined the term kindergarchy – a new (affluent) world order in which children rule.
"Children have gone from background to foreground in domestic life with more attention centred on them, their upbringing [and] their small accomplishments," wrote Joseph Epstein, a recently retired lecturer at Northwestern University, in The Weekly Standard, a US magazine.
"On visits to the homes of friends with small children, one finds their toys strewn everywhere, their drawings on the refrigerator, television sets turned on to their shows. Parents seem little more than indentured servants."
Epstein's recollections of his own childhood evoke an utterly different world. Parents didn't feel the need to micro-manage their children's lives. He doesn't remember his parents reading to him, or turning up to watch him compete at athletics. They left it to him to decide which foreign language to study at secondary school and weren't much bothered that he was a mediocre student.
Now, he says, it's a wonder more teachers aren't driven out of the profession by parents bombarding them with e-mails, phone calls and requests for meetings. "Students told me what they 'felt' about a novel," he recalled. "I tried, ever so gently, to tell them no one cared what they felt. In essay courses, many of these same students turned in papers upon which I wished to – but did not – write, 'Too much love in the home'."
In Britain, too, there has been a seismic shift in parenting. "At the weekends, the kids are saying to us, 'What are we doing today?' – in other words, 'You are going to entertain us, aren't you?' " said Appleton, who works part-time for Netmums, an online network for mothers.
It is becoming a worldwide trend. A recent production of Snow White at a primary school in Japan featured 25 Snow Whites, no dwarfs and no wicked witch, as parents objected to one child being picked out for the title role. In Sweden a boy was prevented from handing out invitations to his birthday party at school because he was "discriminating" against the two classmates he did not invite.
A straw poll in Netmums' virtual coffee house produced distinctly mixed feelings about the phenomenon. "The cushioning effect of awarding stickers and praise for inconsequential trivia masks what children really need and are looking for – guidance, consistency, self-reliance and love," said one mother, Liz.
Another, Jeanette, was concerned that her daughter's teachers would not correct spelling mistakes, "because she was spelling the words how you said them", nor correct her writing when she drew letters back to front.
"The reality is, she does need to be corrected," said Jeanette. "Children have to learn. I'm not saying it has to be negative, but there has to be a balance. When our kids go into the workplace, they are in for a shock."
That would appear to be true. Earlier this year the Association of Graduate Recruiters said the generation born since 1982 – the so-called generation Y – were "unrealistic, self-centred, fickle and greedy".
They used the example of a new recruit to a transport company who rang his mother to complain: "I have got to go to London tomorrow and they haven't even given me a map."
The employer threw up her hands in anger, according to Carl Gilleard, AGR's chief executive: "Here was someone working for a transport company, who had spent three years at university, who was aggrieved because he hadn't been given a detailed map."
On a more sinister level, the child-centred approach also seems to have contributed to a decline in standards of behaviour in schools, with children ever more conscious of their "rights" and teachers afraid to chastise unruly children for fear of being attacked or accused of assault.
Last week Boris Johnson, the London mayor, highlighted the problem of indiscipline in schools as a factor in street violence. "Too many kids in London are growing up without boundaries, without discipline and without the family structures they need," he said. "We should bring back discipline and the idea of punishment."
In Merseyside an academic is bucking the trend of navel-gazing in schools. Peter Clough, head of psychology at the University of Hull, is working with children at All Saints Catholic high school in Knowsley, attempting to teach them to be "mentally tough".
"Positive psychology says, 'Count your blessings.' My kind of psychology says, 'Life can be hard and you have to learn to deal with it'," he explained.
According to Clough, mentally tough pupils do better in exams and are less likely to see themselves as victims of bullying. If they fail at something, they try again. Using a diagnostic test devised by AQR, a business consultancy, Clough has been assessing his group's attitudes to challenges, looking at such factors as whether they consider themselves optimists or pessimists and whether they think they can stay cool in stressful situations. Those with the lowest scores are learning visualisation, relaxation and anxiety-control techniques to help them toughen up.
"I'm encouraging kids not to run away from stress but face up to it," said Clough. "If you've got a maths exam, just do it."
We have to decide what we want our children to be – tough go-getters or touchy-feely carers. Or is it even about them?
Frank Furedi, professor of sociology at Kent University, believes our child-centredness is really adult-centredness. "It's a way of reassuring ourselves that our children are going to be insulated from pain and adversity," he said. "We tell children they are wonderful now for tying their shoelaces or getting 50% in an exam. But really it's our way of flattering ourselves that we're far more sensitive to children than people were in the past."
The trouble is, Furedi says, that it's a self-fulfilling prophecy. "You're subtly giving kids the message that they can't cope with life," he said. "I have a son of 12 and when he and his friends were just nine I remember being shocked at them using therapeutic language, talking about being stressed out and depressed."
While researching The Dangerous Rise of Therapeutic Education, its co-author Dennis Hayes, visiting professor of education at Oxford Brookes University, discovered a leaflet telling students that if they studied sociology they might come across poor people and get depressed and if they studied nursing they might come across sick people and get distressed – so the university offered counselling.
"It was telling students they could not cope before they started," he said. "The focus on feelings has become ridiculous. One friend told me his daughter was crying at home one night and when he asked why she said, 'It's my turn to put my worries in the worry box tomorrow and I haven't got any!' " Perhaps we underestimate the resilience of children. One coach of an undereights football team was in favour of publishing results, saying they just enjoyed playing, whatever the score. "They didn't care that they lost," he said of one game. It was only 21-0, after all.
Saturday, March 21, 2009
(from my archives courtesy The Sunday Times)
Here's a question for all you anxious parents out there who are busy wrapping your children in cotton wool this summer the better to protect them from the predatory paedophiles inevitably lurking behind every leylandii hedge.
Let's just suppose, in some sick parallel universe, that you wanted your children to be abducted. Let's imagine that you'd had enough of them and decided that your cunning plan was to chuck them out of the house then sit back and wait for some passing kid-snatcher to run off with them. How long do you think you'd have to wait? Warwick Cairns will tell you. It would take 200,000 years, he says. And then you'd get them back within 24 hours. If you wanted them to be taken for longer you'd need to hang about for around 600,000 years. Because in any one year the average child stands a 0.0005 per cent chance of being abducted by a stranger and a 0.00016 chance of not being recovered alive within 24 hours. And yet, obviously, this is not how most people perceive the risk at all.
This perturbs Cairns, which is why he has written a new book How to Live Dangerously: Why We Should All Stop Worrying and Start Living. It is not only a prolonged, statistically-based plea to stop living in our beige world of risk-minimization where conkers and sack races are banned and where children are ferried everywhere in cars. It also concludes that if you really want to be safe, you ought to put yourself in more danger.
That's right. Cairns's book turns commonly held beliefs on their heads and presents them back to the reader so that they say something completely different. So, cycling without a helmet to work is actually safer than driving in a car, he asserts, in the face of British Medical Association figures that show that a cyclist is 11 times more likely to die on the roads than a person travelling by car.
How? Because though cyclists are more likely to die in road accidents than motorists, road accidents account for only 1.4 per cent of all deaths. Whereas heart and lung disease account for more than half of all deaths with heart disease killing a third of us. People who cycle 25 miles a week halve their risk of heart disease so more cyclists lives are extended by exercise than ended by accidents. Actuarial data reveals that for every year of life lost through cycling accidents, 20 are gained.
And cycling without a helmet increases your safety further, he argues, because cyclists who wear helmets tend to feel less vulnerable and thus take more risks. The same applies to drivers. Research shows that motorists, seeing cyclists "protected" by helmets, take less care when passing them: they drive on average 3.35in closer and come within 3ft 23 per cent more often. Indeed, in 1989 when it was made compulsory for children in the back seats of cars to wear seat belts, the number of children killed and injured in crashes initially went up. Because people thought their kids were now properly protected they took less care and drove faster and more recklessly. There is no shortage, of course, of experts telling us that we are cushioning ourselves and our children too much from the lessons of life that actually protect us.
In his book Paranoid Parenting, the sociologist Professor Frank Furedi describes the culture of fear that has led parents to restrict their children's independent outdoor lives and remarks that in 1971 eight out of ten eight-year-olds were allowed to walk to school alone. Now it is fewer than one in ten. Last month his report Licensed to Hug suggested that adults are now afraid to interact with other people's children because they fear being labeled a paedophile. One quarter of the adult population will need criminal record checks under the new child-protection scheme coming into force next year. He says that the obsession with formal vetting will put children in more danger because no one will use their judgment any more. Cairns, 46, says that it was having children (he has two daughters aged 14 and 10) that first caused him to dwell on the increasing ways that we are raising them in "captivity".
"People keep saying to me that they can't believe how different their childhoods were to the ones that kids growing up today have," he says. The best example he has of the shift in parental protectiveness is this: "A man I know told his mum, when he was 8, that he wanted to go to Holland for the day with his friend. So she said 'OK' and actually saw them off to the station with their ferry tickets and made tea for them when they got back that night." Can you imagine what would happen if a child did that today? The parent would be arrested for child neglect for a start (and rightly). But the anecdote makes a good point about how our willingness to be outraged has changed. Compare it with what happened when Lenore Skenazy, a journalist in New York, wrote in times2 this year about letting her nine-year-old son make his own way home from Bloomingdales on the subway after he pleaded to be allowed to go home alone. Americans were in uproar and she was branded, absurdly, "America's worst mom". And yet, as Cairns says, we increasingly want to lock our children indoors where there are actually more hazards, not only from relatives (the majority of child killers are in the family), but from other dangers. Three children a day, for instance, are injured in the home from burns or smoke inhalation, and one dies every ten days. "So, they go out and very rarely indeed, one child of the 12 million [in this country] gets abducted," he says. "Or they stay in where one child gets burnt to death every ten days."
His book though is not just about mollycoddling children, it is about the irrationality of many of our fears (you would have to fly on an aeroplane every day for 26,000 years to die in a crash - in the same period you'd have been killed 20 times driving to the airport, he says). Indeed in Freakonomics - the formula by which people will fret about, say, SARS, which will almost certainly never kill them, but be blasé about heart disease, which in one case in three will - is expressed thus: "Risk = hazard + outrage". Which means even if a hazard is low, the amount of public outrage about it can make it appear high and vice versa.
"You cannot help worrying sometimes," Cairns says. "When a child goes missing and it's in your face five or six times a day on the news, it is going to have an effect. But I just want to say, 'look it's not so bad'." Besides, people need risk in life, he adds. Indeed studies have shown that if children's playgrounds are made too safe and too soft children will go off and find something more dangerous,. They need a challenge. He cites the example of a Norwegian headmaster, Asbjorn Flemmen, who recently designed an edgy adventure playground which would never have passed health and safety laws here. It included a "jungle" area left to go wild where children could hide among potentially hazardous hut-building materials. What happened was that after a while the number of children being injured on the site fell dramatically. "The children, through experiencing danger, and after seeing what happened to people who didn't take enough care, soon came to appreciate their own limitations," he says.
There are things that Cairns does worry about, such as when his daughters are older and start going out with young lads in cars because the risks there are very real. And he would never in a million years start smoking, considering this an infinitely riskier pastime than his two favourite hobbies skateboarding and downhill mountain biking. "I do it for physical exhilaration," he says. "I have broken a few bones and been knocked out. But if you confront risk and go in with your eyes open, very often you're safer."
EDIT1: APOLOGIES....IT IS THE W.P. STYLE INVITATIONAL AND NOT "MENSA" AS MENTIONED EARLIER.
ALL MATERIAL APPEARING ON THIS POST IS COPYRIGHTED.
In the true tradition of the the Washington Post STYLE Contest, I throw open the Cat&Chaos Contest .Thanks Aman, for the gentle goad! :-).
Stirred but not shaken (?), anyways here goes......
Aberrent: the prevailing rentals which deviate from what is normal or desirable.
Paradice :a place, situation, or condition in which a gambler finds perfect happiness.
Penny Envy: in psychoanalysis, the theory that some girls' and women's psychological problems stem from a sense of deprivation about not having (earned ) penny(s) .Very few psychologists now accept this concept.
Mento(s)pause: A time in a woman's life when stimulation diminishes and ceases, usually between the ages of 32 and 42 and she then has to pop 2 Mentos in her mouth.
Oki time for my Mentos break.......
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
I am feeling lazy and not in a particularly prolific/creative mood (whats new!), another one from my archives. CAT
Once upon a time a man appeared in a village and
announced to the villagers that he would buy monkeys
for $10 each.
The villagers, seeing that there were many monkeys
around, went out to the forest and started catching them.
The man bought thousands at $10 and, as supply
started to diminish, the villagers stopped their effort.
He next announced that he would now buy monkeys
at $20 each. This renewed the efforts of the villagers
and they started catching monkeys again.
Soon the supply diminished even further and people
started going back to their farms. The offer increased
to $25 each and the supply of monkeys became so
scarce it was an effort to even find a monkey, let alone
The man now announced that he would buy monkeys
at $50 each! However, since he had to go to the city
on some business, his assistant would buy on his behalf.
In the absence of the man, the assistant told the villagers:
'Look at all these monkeys in the big cage that the man
has already collected. I will sell them to you at $35 and
when the man returns from the city, you can sell them
to him for $50 each.'
The villagers rounded up all their savings and bought
all the monkeys for 700 billion dollars.
They never saw the man or his assistant again, only
lots and lots of monkeys!
WALL STREET BAILOUT PLAN WILL WORK !!!!
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
On the grave of Ezekial Aikle in East Dalhousie Cemetery, Nova Scotia:
In a London, England cemetery:
Here lies Ann Mann,
Who lived an old maid
But died an old Mann.
Dec. 8, 1767
In a Ribbesford, England, cemetery:
The children of Israel wanted bread
And the Lord sent them manna,
Old clerk Wallace wanted a wife,
And the Devil sent him Anna.
Playing with names in a Ruidoso, New Mexico, cemetery:
For not rising.
Memory of an accident in a Uniontown, Pennsylvania cemetery:
Here lies the body
of Jonathan Blake
Stepped on the gas
Instead of the brake.
In a Silver City, Nevada, cemetery:
Here lays Butch,
We planted him raw.
He was quick on the trigger,
But slow on the draw.
A widow wrote this epitaph in a Vermont cemetery:
Sacred to the memory of
my husband John Barnes
who died January 3, 1803
His comely young widow, aged 23, has
many qualifications of a good wife, and
yearns to be comforted.
A lawyer's epitaph in England:
Sir John Strange
Here lies an honest lawyer,
And that is Strange.
Someone determined to be anonymous in Stowe, Vermont:
I was somebody.
Who, is no business
Lester Moore was a Wells, Fargo Co. station agent for Naco, Arizona in the cowboy days of the 1880's. He's buried in the Boot Hill Cemetery in Tombstone, Arizona:
Here lies Lester Moore
Four slugs from a .44
No Les No More.
John Penny's epitaph in the Wimborne, England, cemetery:
Reader if cash thou art
In want of any
Dig 4 feet deep
And thou wilt find a Penny.
On Margaret Daniels grave at Hollywood Cemetery Richmond, Virginia:
She always said her feet were killing her
but nobody believed her.
In a cemetery in Hartscombe, England:
On the 22nd of June
- Jonathan Fiddle -
Went out of tune.
Anna Hopewell's grave in Enosburg Falls, Vermont has an epitaph that sounds like something from a Three Stooges movie:
Here lies the body of our Anna
Done to death by a banana
It wasn't the fruit that laid her low
But the skin of the thing that made her go.
More fun with names with Owen Moore in Battersea, London, England:
Than he could pay.
Someone in Winslow, Maine didn't like Mr. Wood:
In Memory of Beza Wood
Departed this life
Nov. 2, 1837
Aged 45 yrs.
Here lies one Wood
Enclosed in wood
The outer wood
Is very good:
We cannot praise
On a grave from the 1880's in Nantucket, Massachusetts:
Under the sod and under the trees
Lies the body of Jonathan Pease.
He is not here, there's only the pod:
Pease shelled out and went to God.
The grave of Ellen Shannon in Girard, Pennsylvania is almost a consumer tip:
Who was fatally burned
March 21, 1870
by the explosion of a lamp
filled with "R.E. Danforth's
Non-Explosive Burning Fluid"
Oops! Harry Edsel Smith of Albany, New York:
Born 1903--Died 1942
Looked up the elevator shaft to see if
the car was on the way down. It was.
In a Thurmont, Maryland, cemetery:
Here lies an Atheist
All dressed up
And no place to go.
Over the past decade, two facts have become increasingly obvious – that our ever-increasing consumption is wrecking the planet, and that continually chasing more stuff, more food and more entertainment no longer makes us any happier. Instead, levels of stress, obesity and dissatisfaction are spiralling.
So why is our culture still chasing, consuming, striving ever harder, even though we know in our sophisticated minds that it's an unrewarding route to eco-geddon? New scientific studies are helping to reveal why. It's our primitive brains. These marvellous machines got us down from the trees and around the world, through ice ages, famines, plagues and disasters, into our unprecedented era of abundance. But they never had to evolve an instinct that said, "enough".
Instead, our wiring constantly, subliminally urges us: "Want. More. Now." Western civilisation wisely reined in this urge for thousands of years with an array of cultural conventions, from Aristotle's Golden Mean (neither too much, nor too little) to the Edwardian table-saying: "I have reached an elegant sufficiency and anything additional would be superfluous."
Consumer culture ditched all that, though, constructing instead an ever more sophisticated system for pinging our primitive desire circuits into overdrive. It got us to the point where we created everything we need as a basis for contentment. Now it's rushing us past the tipping point, beyond which getting more makes life worse rather than better. And it's making our brains respond more weirdly than ever.
Our old wiring may condemn us to keep striving ever harder until finally we precipitate our dissatisfied demise. But, instead, we could learn to practise the comfortable art of "enough" in this overstuffed world. There is a broad armoury of strategies we can adopt to proof our brains against the pressure to pursue and consume too much, to work too hard and to feel constantly inadequate and underprivileged. The most fundamental of these is knowledge: forewarned is forearmed. So here are just a few of the myriad unexpected ways in which our culture pushes our wanting brains into overdrive.
Stuffed by Celebs
Consumer society has invented a barrage of ways to stimulate our want-more brains' acquisitive instincts, but the latest and greatest of these innovations is celebrities.
The desire-driven wiring of our primitive brains evolved in the Pleistocene era, between 130,000 and 200,000 years ago. It was moulded by half-starved hunter-gatherers and farmers whose crops frequently failed. Those who kept going survived to give us their yearning genes. That wanting instinct gets fixated on material goods. We evolved to desire possessions as no other creature does. Neolithic cave sites may partly explain why. Many contain millions of hand-axes – far more than cave-dwellers ever needed. Anthropologists believe that the best axes were not just prized tools, but precursors of Ferraris and Jimmy Choos. Owning Stone Age bling displayed your high reproductive value.
Nowadays this status-chasing urge makes designer goods sorely alluring, even if they make no real difference to our luxury-glutted lives. Our hunter-gatherer brains seem wired to experience constant buyers' urges, too. Brain scans by Emory University in Atlanta show how the reward-chemical dopamine is released when we spot a product and ponder its purchase. But only the anticipation, the hunt, releases dopamine. After the deal is sealed, the high may evaporate in minutes, leaving what shop-owners call "buyer's remorse".
One of the most successful ways to dispel that remorse and stimulate more buying is celebrity endorsement. Manufacturers spend millions paying the likes of Elizabeth Hurley to squirt their fragrance and Daniel Craig to handle their gadgets. Neurologists at Erasmus University in Rotterdam report that our ability to weigh desirability and value is knocked awry if an item is endorsed by a well-known face. This lights up the brain's dorsal claudate nucleus, which is involved in trust and learning. Areas linked to longer-term memory storage also fire up.
Our minds overidentify with celebrities because we evolved in small tribes. If you knew someone, then they knew you. If you didn't attack each other, you were probably pals.
Our minds still work this way, giving us the idea that the celebs we keep seeing are our acquaintances. And we sorely want to be like them. Humans are born imitators: this talent enabled us to develop far quicker than our competitors could via biological evolution alone. One chimp can watch another poking a stick into an anthill and mimic the basic idea, but only humans can replicate a technique exactly. We must choose carefully whom we copy and have evolved to emulate the most successful people we see. Thus, many of us feel compelled to keep up materially with celebs, the mythical alphas in our global village.
We've also evolved to despise being out of the in-crowd. Brain scans show that social rejection activates brain areas that generate physical pain, probably because in prehistory tribal exclusion was tantamount to a death sentence. And scans by the National Institute of Mental Health show that when we feel socially inferior, two brain regions become more active: the insula and the ventral striatum. The insula is involved with the gut-sinking sensation you get when you feel that small. The ventral striatum is linked to motivation and reward. To stave off the pain of feeling second-rate, we feel compelled to barricade ourselves behind evermore social acquisitions. That kept our ancestors competitively stretching for the next rung of social evolution, but now it has locked us into a Pyrrhic battle because the neighbours can also just about afford the latest status symbols, too.
Our brains have an instinctive way of handling information that worked well until very recently: if we are confused or worried by what we learn, we feel driven to learn more. Now, however, technology has brought an info-blizzard. We see, for example, more then 3,500 sales messages a day. More than six trillion business e-mails were sent last year. It's bewildering, so we feel driven to seek even more information in quest for the one golden fact that explains it all.
The roots of this lie deep. On the savannah where our ancestors evolved, you needed to make the best of all the information you had. Novelty – new faces, shapes and concepts – was rare and would spark a mental conflict between fear and curiosity. It would take strong inquisitiveness to stimulate an early human to explore matters such as: "What happens if I kick that lizard?" The people who explored often won the best chances to feed and breed. Over time, a reward system evolved in primitive brains to encourage information gathering.
It is still busily at work. A University of Southern California study reports that when we grasp a new concept, the "click" of comprehension triggers a shot of heroin-like opioids to reward the brain. The researcher Irving Biederman says human brains have a cluster of opioid receptors in a brain region associated with acquiring new information: we evolved to get high whenever we learn something. "We are designed to be info-vores," he says. "When you are trying to understand a difficult theorem, it's not fun. But once you get it, you feel fabulous."
The reward system is overridden by more pressing needs for food or safety, but on today's comfy sofas we have no predators or famines, so infomania can run amok, creating a mass desire for scary news, banal texts and celeb gossip. We keep seeking new sources for our mini-kicks because the opioid reward diminishes each time a novel experience is repeated.
Biederman's scans of volunteers' brains show they get less stimulation each time they see the same picture. In reply, the media industry offers increasingly quickfire stimuli that squeeze our "duh, seen that" response ever harder, intensifying our novelty addiction and curtailing our attention spans. This causes confusion: a survey by the Henley Centre, the social forecasting company, says that we are a society of info-hoarders, the new-media equivalents of crazy types living in homes crammed with newspapers. More than 70 per cent of people ticked the survey box saying: "I can never have too much information." But more than half also said that they don't have time to use the information they already have. One way of trying to cope with this overload is to cram in more information-seeking. Most twentysomethings now watch TV while also being online.
On top of this, our 24-hour rolling-news culture keeps us constantly story-chasing. Our minds fill with exaggerated anxiety as they witness regular reruns of the day's most shocking images. How many times does one have to see the same bomb-blast to get the idea? The horror is replayed continually, but we learn nothing more. Instead we become convinced that life is dangerous and beyond control. So we feel compelled to watch more news.
This is exacerbated by our primitive brains' limited sense of geography: if we see footage of a far-off massacre, our minds think it must have happened close by, within range of a Neolithic human's wanderings. We feel compelled to learn everything about this "nearby" threat. This causes a stressy cycle of continual info-seeking. Some psychology studies suggest that we should limit our news-watching to 30 minutes a day – or risk anxiety-related depression.
Appetite for Destruction
Having an overacquisitive, harried, multi-tasking mindset is one of the worst ways in which to approach one of the greatest challenges that unprecedented abundance presents us: food. A quarter of Western adults are obese and a third are overweight. The majority will, it is predicted, be overweight in the next 20 years.
Our appetite will always tell us that food is fearfully scarce. Historically, it has been right. As recently as 1321, one English person in five is thought to have died of famine. First World War British soldiers were on average only 5ft 5in tall. They had grown up seriously malnourished. With food, as with possessions and information, our brains have never before had the need for an "enough" button. Tests by Martin Yeomans, an appetite psychologist at Sussex University, show that we don't really know when to stop eating. He gave volunteers plates of pasta, but kept switching and replenishing their plates, so that they lost track of how much they were consuming. "One man happily polished off 2kg of pasta at one sitting and thought he'd had a normal portion," he says.
Our appetite levels are intensified by constant ads and marketing. Our brains fill with reward chemicals at the mere sight of it all. The pleasure response is stronger than the one we get from eating food itself, claims Dr Nora Volkow, the director of the US National Institute of Drug Abuse. This is why food marketing is so dangerous, she says: "It stimulates an old mechanism by which nature ensures that we actually consume food when food is available. We never knew when food was going to be available next."
This instinct is worsened by haste. Twenty years ago we spent on average 33 minutes over our evening meals. Now it's 14½ minutes. Meals get bolted as we refuel mindlessly over desks, in front of the telly, reading or on the phone. A 2006 survey found that fewer than 20 per cent of us regularly give our plates our full attention.
But being preoccupied or stressed while eating makes us overconsume, reports the journal Appetite. Your mind fails to experience the full spectrum of pleasure that it can obtain from consuming food. The "I've eaten loads, thanks" message fails to get sent from brain to body, and snacky pangs soon return. Kathleen Melanson, a nutrition professor at Rhode Island University, found this when she asked 30 women students to make two visits to her lab. Each time they were given a large plate of food and told to eat as much as they wanted.
When they were told to eat quickly, they consumed 646 calories in nine minutes, but when they were encouraged to pause between bites and chew each mouthful 15 to 20 times, they ate only 579 calories in 29 minutes. They also said they enjoyed their food more, felt fuller at the end of the meal and still felt fuller an hour afterwards. "Satiety signals clearly need time to develop," Melanson says. Other research indicates that it takes 20 minutes for your brain to realise that your stomach is full, so taking time to chew undistractedly enables your mind to keep up with your golloping.
PROOFING YOUR BRAIN
Change your mindset to "postmore" by challenging our culture's ingrained assumption that "more" of everything is automatically better. We're beset by slogans such as "Smart girls get More" and Virgin's "Get more" ad campaign.
Grow your gratitude. Our poor, starved, frozen ancestors would cry tears of joy if they suddenly landed in our culture of abundance. Fostering our appreciation of this bounty can also block the consumerist "cool" pressure to deride so many of our fine, workable possessions as "so last year".
Be enough. We're constantly told that we aren't rich enough, glam enough, cool enough, networked enough, etc. This has a powerful insidious effect on our primitive, socially competitive brain circuits. It's like a toxic substance that turns rational brains into needy toddler-like grizzlers.