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Thursday, 30 June 2016

Listening

Yesterday I held a speech at Joan's funeral. Some 2 weeks ago, Joan had read my speech and she had approved the 2nd draft. She was eager to know how important she had been in my life. I remember how difficult it was for me to balance each word, to highlight her rather than me. My 1st draft was not approved and I knew she was right. My 2nd draft came straight from my heart rather than from my mind. Each word was about her importance in my life.

A friend asked me to write a blog about listening versus talking. I am not much of a talker, usually. I prefer listening, at least when I am interested. Joan's approval of my speech gave me the strength to publicly express her importance in my life. Afterwards, I quickly escaped into my solitude to recover from losing her after reconnecting with her again.

According to a 2015 (Dutch) article in Psychology Magazine (Blendle), nearly all people are not good listeners. We are easily distracted and we even feel better when we talk ourselves. The article gives 4 reasons why careful listening is hard: 1) we don't appreciate listening, 2) listening is too easy, 3) we are (too) eager to respond, 4) talking about ourselves stimulates the same brain areas as food, sex and drugs.

The 1st reason is an intriguing one as listening requires a sender, message, and receiver. In my view, listening is the preferred option but only in case the sender has a message which contains some added value to me. In case the message is not interesting then multitasking (see #2) indeed becomes quite easy in my mind. The article refers to checking your mental "to do" list and I relate to that.

In my view, reason #3 largely depends on the likability of the sender. I'm not at all eager to interrupt a woman whom I like. To some extent, it's the same with men. People whom I don't like either get my silent treatment or my disciplined anger. Finally, there is another big difference as I am much more inclined to listen in business than in private affairs.

I do not genuinely relate to reason #4. However, when I do start talking then it's usually to compete, to convince, to impress, to teach, and sometimes even to bully someone else into silence. I suppose indeed these very same brain areas may get affected.

Ultimately, I think, feel and believe that listening fits one of my earlier diagrams. See my 31 March 2016 blog: Why are opinions stronger than facts?

We listen when we are interested in knowledge and facts.

We talk in case of beliefs and opinions.

We share (ie, talk & listen) in case of feelings.

We dream about imagination and fantasies.


Talk Talk - Such a Shame (1984) - artists, lyrics, video, Wiki-1, Wiki-2


Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Joan (7) - To the water / Breng me naar het water


To the water


I walked into the bedroom
On a rainy afternoon
And I heard her say to me
Not a moment too soon

She said child don’t you worry
I will always be with you
From the way she’d looked at me
I believed it to be true

When she said
When she said

I’m ready to close my eyes
Steady and hold tight
I’m gonna be crossing over
To heaven and the great divide

And I

I’m ready to close my eyes
Heavy and so wide
I can feel it pull me under
Steady as the rising tide

Take me to the water
By the road that leads you down
And lay me down

It was early in the evening
She gave all that she could give
And I felt her leaving me
But I learned how to live

When she said
When she said

I’m ready to close my eyes
Steady and hold tight
I’m gonna be crossing over
To heaven and the great divide

And I

I’m ready to close my eyes
They’re heavy and so wide
I can feel it pull me under
Steady as the rising tide

Take me to the water
By the road that leads you down
And lay me down
Lay me down

I’m ready to close my eyes
Steady and hold tight
I’m gonna be crossing over
To heaven and the great divide

And I

I’m ready to close my eyes
They’re heavy and so wide
I can feel it pull me under
Steady as the rising tide

Take me to the water
By the road that leads you down
Take me to the water
Scatter me around

Take me to the water
By the road that leads you down
Take me to the water
Scatter me around

Take me to the water
By the road that leads you down
And lay me down
Lay me down


Matt Simons - To the water (2014) - artist, lyrics, video, Wiki



Marco Borsato & Matt Simons - Breng me naar het water (2016) - lyrics, video

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Joan (6) - Rhythm of Life

Yesterday evening, I finally put on the radio again at home. The song that was playing was Oleta Adams with Rhythm of Life. It was one of the songs Oleta Adams played at Haarlem Jazz in August 2014. Joan and I enjoyed that concert very much. Some remarkable things have already happened. It feels very much that Joan is still around (me) but in a very different capacity. She promised that to me anyway. So it makes perfect sense.

It's difficult finding my rhythm of life again. I suppose she feels that and urges me to find it again. For now, I'm trying to recover through nature and solitude. I will succeed once again. She and I both know that. The message of the song was to point out my short term goal. Sometimes sadness can be overwhelming and then you lose focus. Without goals, life is meaningless.

It's very hard for me to be around people. Especially now. People seem addicted to social media. Even in times of sorrow. I even asked Joan if she would take her gadgets with her. She smiled at me. I know she was just trying to accommodate the people who were unable to pay her a visit. Nevertheless, their usual starting question - “how are you?” - increasingly annoyed her. Ultimately, she couldn't even hide that from her voice anymore.

Words are not necessary. That's what Joan often said. There is a deep truth in that. As the Greek philosopher and mathematician Pythagoras (c. 570 –c. 495 BC) once said: “Be silent or let thy words be worth more than silence”. Even as a writer, I use that very same mantra.

Now “she's gone and I better learn how to face it” (Hall & Oates, lyrics, video). Nevertheless, there's a struggle inside of me between not wanting to face it and realising I have no choice. I noticed an interesting line in Oleta’s song: “The rhythm of life is the force of habit”. Actually, this force of habit will probably save me from drowning in sorrow. I noticed the same in my mother after the death of my father in 1994.

I remember that I was sometimes upset seeing people working alongside the roads while driving to the hospital and afterwards the hospice. I suppose we all feel that the loss of a loved one should make the world stop for - at least - a moment. Life continues however. Nevertheless, we all have our individual choices, like Joan (see June 27 blog). I will not exercise that choice myself as I still have goals to fulfil in life. Writing helps tremendously in finding my rhythm again. Joan urged me several times to continue my writing.

A month ago, a friend told me that she received signs from her late husband whenever she needed guidance. Those signs would usually contain intimate shared memories (eg, songs) but also road signs. Such moments felt very reassuring to her. She just knew that he was somehow still around her.

Yesterday evening, when I drove home after Joan’s death, I suddenly noticed a road sign that I had never seen before all of these weeks: “tot ziens” – or “see you”. Joan never wanted to say farewell to me. She always said that we should say “tot ziens” to each other. I just smiled and realised that she is keeping her promise to me.

Oleta Adams - Rhythm of Life (1990) - artist, lyricsvideo, Wiki-1, Wiki-2

The rhythm of life is the force of habit



Monday, 27 June 2016

Joan (5) - Rest In Peace, my very dear friend

For the past 3 weeks, I had the privilege to be back in Joan's life again after a temporary absence. I tried to get back into her life before but she was holding back. With hindsight I understand. On 6 June 2016, I received her shocking text message that she was terminally ill. The next day I was too paralysed to visit her. Since June 8, we have been reconnecting and better than ever before.

I am proud of her in so many ways. Her strength is an example to all of us. Up until the very last moment - and actually even well beyond that - she has been the conductor of our lives. In her case, I don't mind as I respect her opinion and I know that she respects mine. I also respect Joan's decision. Actually, all of us respect Joan's decision.

Euthanasia is no longer an academic debate to me. A few days ago, I asked her privately if she was totally sure as I didn't want her to be beyond the point of no return. She acknowledged that she was 100% sure and asked me if I still backed her decision. I acknowledged that I fully and wholeheartedly supported her decision. We both saw in each other's eyes that we were honest with each other.

I am not sure if Joan and all of us could endure her sickness much longer. At each visit, I notice a further deterioration in her physical situation. Mentally she is very much aware of what is going on despite the heavy morphine doses against the pain. This discrepancy between mind and body could easily suggest to some that things are less serious than they really are.

To my astonishment, bewilderment and disbelief, her church does not support her decision. I did not respect their public debate on her decision around her sick bed. I was very much upset about that event and was hardly able to restrain my immense anger. Yahweh is a God of Love, Mercy And Forgiveness, and not a God of pain and torture. Ultimately, it is just as simple as that.

Today, I visited Joan for the last time. I will shed my tears at home, while driving, until my arrival. She doesn't like seeing us crying and I have grown accustomed to her wish. Instead I will try to make her smile again but I do notice the pain in her thin smiles.

She asked me not to wear black but earthly colours at her funeral. I have shown her the 2 options and she picked the one I thought she would. My new shoes were also approved. I will go in style as she would always expect from me. She has also asked me to take care of myself. I am not sure if I have fully acknowledged her request. It might be too hard for me for some time but I will recover myself in due course.

Joan has involved us in her decision. Our involvement makes us accept her decision without hesitance. Euthanasia went from an academic debate to an intimate conversation. I won't hold her back from her decision (see 1st June 27 blog). After careful reflection on the why, I concluded that it must be Love. Letting her go rather than fighting her decision, is perhaps the hardest part in loving.

In another 2 hours, I will do my best not to shed a tear and just smile at her. With love.

Paul Carrack - Don't Shed A Tear (1987) - artist, lyrics, video, Wiki-1, Wiki-2

Don't shed a tear for me 
My life won't end without you
(Without you)
Long as the night will be 
The sun will rise without you


R.I.P. Joan (30 April 1962 - 27 June 2016)

Joan (4) - I Won't Hold You Back


I Won't Hold You Back

If I had another chance tonight
I'd try to tell you that the things we had were right
Time can't erase the love we shared
But it gives me time to realize just how much you cared

Now you're gone, I'm really not the same,
I guess I have myself to blame
Time can't erase the things we said
But it gives me time to realize that you're the one instead

[Chorus:]
You know I won't hold you back now
The love we had just can't be found 
You know I can't hold you back now

Now that I'm alone it gives me time
To think about the years that you were mine
Time can erase the love we shared
But it gives me time to realize just how much you cared

[Chorus:]
You know I won't hold you back now
The love we had just can't be found (Listen to me baby)
You know I can't hold you back now

[Instrumental break]

You know I won't hold you back now
The love we had just can't be found
You know I can't hold you back now
The love we had just can't be found



Toto - I Won't Hold You Back (1982) - artists, lyrics, video, Wiki-1, Wiki-2


Have a safe journey baby. See you at the other side.

Sunday, 26 June 2016

Joan (3) - Wildflower


Wildflower

She's faced the hardest times you could imagine
And many times her eyes fought back the tears
And when her youthful world was about to fall in
Each time her slender shoulders
Bore the weight of all her fears
And a sorrow no one hears
Still rings in midnight silence, in her ears

Let her cry, for she's a lady
Let her dream, for she's a child
Let the rain fall down upon her
She's a free and gentle flower, growing wild

And if by chance I should hold her
Let me hold her for a time
But if allowed just one possession
I would pick her from the garden, to be mine

Be careful how you touch her
For she'll awaken
And sleep's the only freedom that she knows
And when you walk into her eyes
you won't believe
The way she's always paying
For a debt she never owes
And a silent wind still blows
That only she can hear and so she goes

Let her cry, for she's a lady
Let her dream, for she's a child
Let the rain fall down upon her
She's a free and gentle flower, growing wild


Skylark - Wildflower (1973) - artists, lyrics, video, Wiki-1, Wiki-2


Note: all-time favourite song of Joan

Saturday, 25 June 2016

Tipping Points - Brexit - Where ignorance is bliss, it's foolish to be wise

A geopolitical shift in Europe is on its way following the outcome of the 23 June 2016 Brexit referendum. Other exit referendums are likely to follow (eg, Dexit, Frexit, Nexit). Nicola Sturgeon has already stated that a 2nd Scottish UK-exit referendum is "highly likely", as the Scots voted largely in favour of Remain (NYT). On 16 June 2016, the NYT already wrote a telling article: "From Great Britain to Little England".

On 13 June, the Dutch PM even said at an EU conference: “I’m totally against referendums and I’m totally, totally, totally against referendums on multilateral agreements because it makes no sense, as we’ve seen with the Dutch [Ukraine] referendum” (eg, Politico). It might be too late for that. The day after the Brexit, Geert Wilders insisted on a Netherlands exit, or Nexit (eg, Politico).

The remark of the Dutch PM also reminded me of my blog of 23 January 2015: "Common sense is not for the common man". Clearly common sense did not prevail in the Brexit debate. It was all about emotion (Leave) and to some extent about arguments (Remain). John Oliver addressed that well in his HBO Last Week Tonight show (YouTube). The mere fact that Nigel Farage, Marine Le Pen, Donald Trump and Geert Wilders are in favour of EU exits, already proves beyond reasonable doubt that such exits are not about common sense (eg, Politico).

On 17 June 2016, even the Russian President interfered in the Brexit debate with a valid question: "There is a great problem with Brexit, why did he initiate this vote in the first place? Why did he do that? So he wanted to blackmail Europe or to scare someone, what was the goal if he was against?" (Telegraph). I suppose this question will indeed end up in history books.

Donald Tusk, President of the European Council, made an interesting observation: “But I always remember what my father used to tell me: What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger” (Politico). Without the notorious UK thwarting, the EU might indeed be better off. Brexit could be the alarm bell for Europe, rather than a wake-up call. The nationalist movements all around Europe make Europe a much more dangerous place - from any perspective.

The Dutch Ukraine and Great Britain's Brexit referendum show that referenda are not appropriate for vital decisions on complicated multilateral agreements by people who are not really interested in the details, and whose emotions are easily provoked by skilled scaremongers. Clearly, direct democracy is a threat "where ignorance is bliss, and it's foolish to be wise". A modern version of an ancient (1742) quote from Thomas Gray's poem "Ode on a Distant Prospect of Eton College".

A European political union is impossible right now, and probably that is even for the best. However, a federation of European states is not impossible and would even "legitimise" several current European structures (eg, border police, CommissionCouncil, Parliament) and would also benefit the German idea of a European army.

Like every cloud has a silver lining, Brexit may be the final push to a flexible EU (eg, Reuters) or a 2-speed / 2-tier EU. Possibly further integration by the original 6 members of the ECSC (BeNeLux, France, Germany and Italy), and an associate membership for others (FT). This idea may even save some UK politicians from total disgrace. The British delay in invoking article 50 of the EU Treaty, despite declaring 23 June 2016 as Independence Day, already speaks volumes

The Beatles - Yesterday (1965) - artists, lyrics, video, Wiki-1, Wiki-2

Yesterday all my troubles seemed so far away.
Now it looks as though they're here to stay.
Oh, I believe in yesterday.

Suddenly I'm not half the man I used to be.
There's a shadow hanging over me.
Oh, yesterday came suddenly.

Why she had to go, I don't know, she wouldn't say.
I said something wrong, now I long for yesterday.

Yesterday love was such an easy game to play.
Now I need a place to hide away.
Oh, I believe in yesterday.

Why she had to go, I don't know, she wouldn't say.
I said something wrong, now I long for yesterday.

Yesterday love was such an easy game to play.
Now I need a place to hide away.
Oh, I believe in yesterday.




Friday, 24 June 2016

Recognition and Appreciation (2) - Compliments

In response to yesterday's blog on recognition and appreciation, a friend wrote to me that she doesn't like compliments as she feels she doesn't deserve them. She prefers action rather than words. Actually, a recent article in Psychology Today confirms her statement to me: Why women can't accept compliments. Compliments do have a weird effect on people. Why?

The sheer number of Psychology Today articles on compliments (Google) is worrisome in itself. Apparently, it already starts by the art of making a compliment, then it's about the translation from hearing what was said to listening what was meant, then it's about whether or not to accept the compliment, and finally it's about how to respond to a compliment. It is kind of amazing (to me) that compliments comprise of a full cycle of communication.

I suppose reverse psychology (see my 16 April 2015 blog) plays an important role in compliments. People often mean - or hear - something else than what was said. And that is where the complication starts. The sender of a compliment may apply reverse psychology but the receiver may also assume this. Unfortunately, this gives 4 different situations and only one (1) instance in which both sender and receiver understand each other correctly - or a 25% probability.

I wouldn't be surprised if reverse psychology is a reason why women can't accept compliments. In my view, women are natural experts in - applying and hearing - reverse psychology. PT: "According to one study, "only 22 percent of compliments given from one woman to another were accepted." Before we assume that women simply don't know how to receive compliments, the study found that they accepted compliments from men 40 percent of the time".

The Dutch article from Psychology Magazine on recognition and appreciation also mentions 2 other aspects: the timing of the compliments and the (non) repetitive nature of its wording. Compliments need to be given/received on a timely basis. Using the exact same phrase each time, erodes the sincerity of the compliments.

I think, feel and believe there is another important reason for not giving compliments. While male-to-male compliments are rather straightforward and could easily be packaged into a joke to soften the loss of power, female-to-female compliments are often most dangerous. Unfortunately, male-to-female and female-to-male compliments are prone to misunderstandings given the potential alleged sexual implications. Even in relationships, compliments may imply a quid pro quo - or in Dutch: "voor wat, hoort wat".

Given the above you could wonder why we even bother giving compliments. Actually, many people don't often give compliments. Probably because you need to think too much and too long about them. Before you know it, the moment is gone.

Eurythmics - Would I Lie To You? (1985) - artists, lyrics, video, Wiki-1, Wiki-2


Thursday, 23 June 2016

Recognition and Appreciation

This blog is at the request of a friend who sent me a (Dutch) article from Psychology Magazine on recognition (NL: erkenning) including appreciation (NL: waardering). It took me some time to recognise and appreciate its importance. Perhaps fear was another reason for my delay. To some extent, this topic is like a taboo as we really don't like to admit how much we crave for it.

The Psychology Magazine article is about the importance of recognition and appreciation and about the impact on our lives when we do not receive it (on a timely basis). Expressing recognition and appreciation (to others) is often hard for us as it feels that we are losing power. The resulting squeeze between expressing and receiving is like a chicken and egg dilemma: What comes first?

The importance of recognition and appreciation is visible in the so called Maslow hierarchy of human needs. Wiki: "Maslow's hierarchy of needs is a theory in psychology proposed by Abraham Maslow in his 1943 paper "A Theory of Human Motivation" in Psychological Review".

Recognition and appreciation is at #4. This may seem low until you realise the first three steps: #1. Food, water, sleep, etc. #2. Shelter, safety and security, #3. Friendship, family and (sexual) intimacy. Step #5 is self-actualisation or self-realisation.

The impact was visible on Father’s Day. I didn't hear anything from my children which hardly comes as a surprise. I'm used to their behaviour and expected it, although it still hits a nerve. Unfortunately, other people started wishing me a nice Father’s Day, which annoyed me. We expect recognition first and foremost from our parents, our partner, our children, our brothers and sisters. Hearing it from friends, acquaintances, and co-workers is just different.

I vaguely remember that my daughter once complained to me that I raised the bar for her, compared to her younger brother. She was right and I acknowledged that. Raising children requires a delicate balance between the children’s strive for recognition and appreciation, and the parents’ strive for ambition. To some extent, ambition is indirectly a parental strive for recognition and appreciation through the children's efforts. Although I had my reasons, more praise and less pressure would have been appropriate and deserved.

I suppose that we all use our perspective on our childhood experiences as a rear view mirror in defining how we should (not) raise our children. Parenting does not require an education or a license (see 2 May 2015 blog) while it's clearly one of the most challenging efforts ever.

Another friend told me that she never felt recognition or appreciation from her parents. To date, it still has a negative impact on her life. I doubt her parents treated her badly. They were just too busy with their work and their own relationship. They may not even recognise her side of this story. Essentially, it's her opinion – her perspective – on what happened back then rather than an undisputed fact.

During my visits to - and conversations with - Joan, I noticed how important my recognition and appreciation of her role in my life is to her. She is proud of her role and shares it with family and friends. It touches me whenever I hear her talk about it. It even touches me writing this. I am proud of holding her hand during my visits as it’s another way of showing love and affection (lyricsvideo) apart from recognition and appreciation.

The New Radicals - You Get What You Give (1998) - artists, lyrics, videoWiki-1, Wiki-2

Don't let go
I feel the music in you
Fly high
What's real can't die
You only get what you give
You're gonna get what you give
(don't give up)
Just don't be afraid to live



Note: please feel free to send your blog suggestions to me.

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

The origin of antisemitism

The root word Semite gives the false impression that antisemitism is directed against all Semitic people, meaning Christians, Jews and Muslims. However, the compound word antisemite was popularized in Germany in 1879 as a scientific-sounding term for Judenhass - or "Jew-hatred"- and that has been its common use since then. (Wiki)

According to the Bible, Noah had 3 sons: Japheth, Shem and Ham. In medieval ethnography, the world was believed to have been divided into three large-scale racial groupings, corresponding to the three classical continents: the Japhetic peoples of Europe, the Semitic peoples of Asia and the Hamitic peoples of Africa. (Wiki)

As language studies are interwoven with cultural studies, the term also came to describe the religions (ancient Semitic and Abrahamic) and Semitic-speaking ethnicities as well as the history of these varied cultures as associated by close geographic and linguistic distribution. (Wiki)

Abrahamic, or Semitic, religions, emphasizing and tracing their common origin to the tribal patriarch Abraham, are one of the major divisions in comparative religion, along with Indian, Iranian, and East Asian religions. Judaism, Christianity and Islam are the largest Abrahamic religions. The largest Abrahamic religions in chronological order of founding are Judaism (late second millennium BCE), Christianity (first century CE) and Islam (seventh century CE). (Wiki)

Wiki: The German word antisemitisch was first used in 1860 by the Austrian Jewish scholar Moritz Steinschneider (1816-1907) in the phrase antisemitische Vorurteile (antisemitic prejudices). Steinschneider used this phrase to characterise the French philosopher Ernest Renan's false ideas about how "Semitic races" were inferior to "Aryan races"'. Note: italic by Wiki.

Wiki: "The term Aryan originates from the Sanskrit word ārya, in origin an ethnic self-designation, in Classical Sanskrit meaning "honourable, respectable, noble". Note: italic markings by LO.

The history of anti-Judaism (rather than antisemitism) even predates Islam and Christianity. Wiki: Pre-Christian anti-Judaism in ancient Greece and Rome which was primarily ethnic in nature.
Traditional Muslim antisemitism was - at least in its classical form - nuanced, in that Jews were a protected class. Essentially, there are "three categories: "ancient antisemitism, which was primarily ethnic in nature; Christian antisemitism, which was religious; and the racial antisemitism of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries." (Wiki). Note: italic markings by LO.

Wiki: Louis H. Feldman asserts that "one of the great puzzles that has confronted the students of anti-semitism is the alleged shift from pro-Jewish statements found in the first pagan writers who mention the Jews... to the vicious anti-Jewish statements thereafter, beginning with [the Egyptian historian and priest] Manetho about 270 BCE". Note: all markings by LO.

The Simon Wiesenthal center: "In every country the Jews were the convenient enemy. To the illiterate, they were knowledgeable; to the peasants, wealthy; to the rich, clever. The Romans saw them as political rivals; the Inquisitors saw them as Christ Killers; the Cossacks saw them as squeezing out the wealth of the land. To them they were different; different in their looks, in their mode of dress, in their beliefs, in the observance of their holy days....".

James Ingram & Michael McDonald - Yah Mo Be There (1983) - lyrics, video, Wiki

Heavenly Father watchin' us fall
We take from each other and give nothing at all
Well, it's a doggone shame but never too late for change
So, if your luck runs low, just reach out and call His name, His name

Yah mo B there, Yah mo B there


Note: Yah stands for Yahweh

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Profiling - a behavioral science

I first learned about the FBI Academy's Behavioral Science Unit through the crime novels of Patricia Cornwell. The BSU was established in 1972 at the FBI Academy and was disbanded in 2014 (Wiki). Apparently, this unit was then transferred into field operations and renamed into Behavioral Analysis Unit. Wiki: "The BAU was brought into mainstream culture by television shows such as Criminal Minds, which depict an elite group of "FBI profilers" who travel the country assisting local law enforcement on diverse cases". Note: italic markings by LO.

Many products and services of Apple, Facebook, Google and Microsoft are free. Nevertheless, we all know - or should know - that there is no such thing as a free ride. These companies monitor our online activities, discover patterns through data mining, build a user profile, and then sell (parts of) that profile for targeted advertising (eg, PC World).

There is a science fiction crime drama called Person of Interest (8.5 in IMDb) in which an artificially intelligent (AI) surveillance program sends the identities of civilians involved in impending crimes, based upon their spoken or written word. To some extent, the idea is in line with the 2002 Sci-Fi movie Minority Report (7.7 in IMDb) in which a special unit - the Pre-Crime division - of the police is hunting for people who only think about committing a crime. 

On Sunday 19 June 2016, Donald Trump stated the following on American national TV in relation to the profiling of American Muslims: “I think profiling is something that we’re going to have to start thinking about as a country. We really have to look at profiling. We have to look at it seriously. And other countries do it. And it’s not the worst thing to do. I hate the concept of profiling, but we have to use common sense. We’re not using common sense.” (eg, CNNPolitico, WP).


Essentially, Donald Trump is now combining all 3 elements of the above: criminal behavioral science analysis, AI surveillance, and a Pre-Crime unit for minorities. On 19 June 2016, House Speaker Paul Ryan said that his fellow Republicans should follow their “conscience” when it comes to whether or not they support Donald Trump. “This a very strange situation,” Ryan said in an NBC interview, and “[Trump is] a very unique nominee.” (eg, Guardian, NBCTIME).

On 18 June 2016, Donald Trump called these efforts by a group of Republican convention delegates to prevent him from officially clinching the nomination “illegal” and “a hoax.” (WSJ). Obviously, things cannot both be illegal and a hoax. If it doesn't exist (hoax) then it can't even be illegal. Also see my 19 April 2015 blog on "Urban legends and hoaxes".

PolitiFact: "Trump said delegates seeking to change the convention rules to prevent his nomination "can’t do it legally." Under current rules, the delegates are bound to vote for whomever won their state’s primary or caucus (in most cases, Trump). But if this year’s rules committee votes to change the rules to thwart Trump, it’s well within its authority to do so. And intervention by the courts would be unlikely. Because political parties are private organizations, courts have said they can set their own rules. We rate Trump’s claim Mostly False".

I sincerely doubt that Donald Trump sees the irony of calling the NeverTrump or DumpTrump movements as illegal and - at the same time - proposing criminal profiling of US minorities. At least, Joe McCarthy would have been proud of Donald Trump. First communists and homosexuals, now Muslims. Who is next??

The Profilers - Bye Bye (2010) - artistsMySpace, SonicBidsvideo


Monday, 20 June 2016

Sorrow

I am angry and I cry for feeling helpless and powerless. My friend is dying and I am not able to change anything about it. She doesn't want people to cry at her bed but it's hard not to, at your 1st visit. The difference between then (strong) and now (fragile) is very hard to accept. So I do my crying at home and pretend that I am okay when I revisit her. This feeling of sorrow must escape.

I had to look for the subtle differences between grief, sad(ness), and sorrow. Wiki: Sorrow is an emotion, feeling or sentiment. Sorrow "is more 'intense' than sadness, it implies a long-term state". At the same time "sorrow [] suggests a degree of resignation which lends sorrow its peculiar air of dignity". Wiki: Grief is a multifaceted response to loss, particularly to the loss of someone or something that has died, to which a bond or affection was formed.

I doubt this feeling of sorrow will stop right after her passing away. I feel that it will only fade away slowly. Until then I am back in my sea shell mode in which my focus is inwards in order to deal with my emotions. My exterior is my armour but inside it's just soft tissue. I still believe, feel and think that it's much better than the opposite: Friendly familiar faces but inside as cold as ice.

Psychology Today has several articles on sorrow and a few interesting ones about its benefits: sorrow, a valuable emotion and a noble sadness - the benefits of sorrow. I will try to rephrase them in my own words in order to avoid long quotes from others.

Anger and sorrow are connected. We have difficulty in dealing with grief, sadness and sorrow. Often we are tempted to hide - or even bury - our sorrow rather than showing some emotion (lyrics, video). In such cases, our internal sorrow may turn into external anger instead which is also a display of (a lack of) power. PT: "Depression is sometimes called ‘anger turned inwards’.

Actually, latter description might be most accurate given my own 2013-2014 depression. I am still very proud of my 12 June 2015 blog which describes "the road to recovery from a depression or burn-out". It is much more easy to experience a depression than to escape it again. The power of the dark side is beyond anyone's imagination - unless you've been there already.

The healing benefits of sorrow are often unknown or underestimated. In my 9 September 2015 blog - Show some emotion - I mentioned that "at a young age, we learn from our parents that it's better to hide our emotions". We bring that attitude into our relationship, sport, study and work. While we often look for authentic / genuine, sincere and transparent people in relationships and at work, we often assess them as weak when we do find such people.

Experiencing sorrow is also experiencing compassion, for her/him, for others, and ultimately even for yourself. PT: "In many cases, we weep; and the release, the ‘catharsis,' of our tears bring us to the commencement of healing. We are forced, through a process of nature, to let go of our intense emotional attachment to the precious person, place, activity, object or idea that we are losing". Also see my 2 May 2016 blog called Teardrops.

"Your joy is your sorrow unmasked. And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears. And how else can it be? The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain". Quote from the 1923 book The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran, a Lebanese-American artist, poet, and writer.

Jackson Browne - Fountain of Sorrow (1975) - artist, lyrics, video, Wiki-1, Wiki-2

Fountain of sorrow, fountain of light
You've known that hollow sound of your own steps in flight
You've had to hide sometimes, but now you're all right
And it's good to see your smiling face tonight


Sunday, 19 June 2016

Fear Of Missing Out

To my own regret, I also suffer from the Fear Of Missing Out a.k.a. FOMO. Each morning when I wake up, the 1st thing I do is open my iPhone and see if there are any personal emails (seldom), text messages (seldom), instant (FB or WA) messages (yes), or interesting FB posts (sometimes) that I can use for this blog. Latter is my excuse for my FOMO. What is yours??

I'm writing this blog on my iPad, outside in the garden while enjoying the hide and seek game between the sun and the (in)famous Dutch clouds. My iPhone is always with me and I fill every idle moment by using it. My iPad is always within reach - at least at home. Nevertheless, I still prefer working on my iMac inside, when it's too cold or raining outside. Technology and FOMO are almost identical twins, from an individual point of view.

I never had this Fear Of Missing Out when I still had my basic Nokia 5110, 3310, or 6310 phones. You easily got bored when playing Pac-man or Snake, and much more quickly than now playing 2048, Solitaire or Sudoku. Obviously, the current Graphic User Interfaces (GUI) excel the previous complicated menu structures and the dull greenish colours. Obviously, connectivity (eg, friends, Internet) also plays a vital role.

Most of all, the Fear Of Missing Out is triggered by the notification sounds of the various apps in our smartphones. Nowadays, I am actively blocking these sounds as it’s really hard to ignore them after hearing them. A badge app icon (or message counter) is often more than enough as most notifications hardly qualify as urgent anyway. Still they feel as potentially urgent.

Therefore, a cold turkey approach for your FOMO or your social media addiction, probably works best. Go to “Settings”, then “Notifications”. Change the option Alerts into Banners. Disable “Show in Notification Centre”. Disable “Show in Lock Screen”. And most of all: Disable “Sounds”. Do not change “Allow Notifications” or “Badge App Icon”. Not seeing these Alerts and not hearing these notification sounds, usually solves the addiction or FOMO problem quite quickly.

It's still too hard for me to disable notification sounds for instant messages. Still they often annoy me as they “demand” my immediate attention. People can also usually see whether you have read their messages and they then “expect” an immediate response. In order not to be disturbed, I switch off the Volume button (eg, at the hospital or hospice), or go to Airplane mode (at night).

Allegedly, Johan Cruijff never even used a mobile phone. He just had a fax machine at home in his basement in case people had questions. He was of the opinion that urgent telephone calls would always find a way to him, either through his friends or family. Parents of Silicon Valley employees even send their kids to schools without computers: "tablets out, imagination in" (eg, Daily MailGuardian, Next SharkNYT). They very well know the distraction and disruption these gadgets cause as they earned millions - or billions - on that business model.

Some decades ago, connectivity was a luxury to many. Today it's still a luxury for a “few” (eg, Google Loon in Sri Lanka, or Facebook's Internet.org). Today's luxury is being offline whenever you please. While the Chiefs enjoy their silence, the indians are 24/7 connected and available. France even considers labour regulations regarding work related email outside business hours (eg, BuzzFeed, EconomistIBT). In a globalised world with clients, shareholders and suppliers all in different timezones, such regulation is clearly not a smart way forward.

thenewno2 - The Fear of Missing Out (2012 album trailer) - artists, video, Wiki-1, Wiki-2


PS: Dhani Harrison is the son of Beatle George Harrison. Hence, his voice.

Saturday, 18 June 2016

The Truth about Conspiracy Theories

The truth about [insert] is usually the way conspiracy theories are announced in the media and the Internet. For examples click on Orlando mass shooting, Obama birther, and 9/11. In my 13 June blog I mentioned that I do not believe in conspiracy theories. Nevertheless, I noticed that my mind follows a similar pattern, except for making the final step. Doubt usually prevails in my mind.

The usual pattern in any conspiracy theory is as follows: (1) an extraordinary event happens, (2) media struggling for explanations on the Why, (3) Government response not satisfactory, (4) spin doctors and Internet trolls create confusion, (5) randomness of extraordinary event gets disputed, (6) no trust in Government explanation, (7) search for own truth starts, (8) truth will relate to alleged shift in Power (9) this truth will blame certain groups and will usually match one of the 7 Belief systems (ie, Love, Money, Philosophy, Politics, Religion, Science, and the Truth).

After writing the aforementioned paragraph, I notice that my blogs on the tragic and extraordinary events regarding flights MH17 and MH370 (30 Dec 201415 April 2015, 9 July 2015, 26 Feb 2016) follow a similar pattern, to a large extent. While writing that previous sentence, I wonder whether there is even another phase in that pattern: (0) fear of [insert]. Indeed the prospect of flying already gives me stress, although not the flight itself.

Salon: "First of all, any extraordinary event will be followed by conspiracy theorizing. I can tell you that right now. Whatever happens tomorrow, there will be a conspiracy theory about it. Number two, I think it’s important that we understand that it satisfies a need".

This human need arises from our wish to understand and explain seemingly random events. Salon: "paradoxically, [a conspiracy theory] gives people a sense of control. People hate randomness [] it’s much easier to believe in a conspiracy. Then you have someone to blame, it’s not just randomness. [] it’s psychologically different from evidence-based thinking. A conspiracy theory is immune to evidence, and that can pretty well serve as the definition of one".

Especially, death is an excellent trigger for conspiracy theories: JFK, MLK, OBL. A conspiracy theory is far more appealing to fans/supporters than a senseless random event by a Lone Wolf. A conspiracy theory is also able to create a legend about that person. The result: greatness in life and even in death.

Scientific American: "A conspiracy theory, [political scientists Joseph E. Uscinski and Joseph M. Parent] explain, is defined by four characteristics: “(1) a group (2) acting in secret (3) to alter institutions, usurp power, hide truth, or gain utility (4) at the expense of the common good.”

The truth about conspiracy theories is that they will never die as people believe what they want to believe. Donald Trump is an excellent example: he creates innuendo himself and then builds a conspiracy theory based upon his own hearsay. 

Donald Trump nicknames his opponents after famous Disney cartoons (eg, Goofy, Pocahontas) while he sues people for referring to him as The Donald (WP). Is it possible that The Donald is hiding a truth about himself?? His childish speak, his tiny hands and short fingers could indeed suggest a Walt Disney prank. Or am I now creating a conspiracy theory??

Rick Dees and His Cast of Idiots (1976) - Disco Duck - artist, lyrics, video, Wiki




Style Council - Speak Like a Child (1983) - artistslyricsvideoWiki-1, Wiki-2

Your hair hangs in golden steps
You're a bonafide in every respect
You are walking through streets that mean nothing to you
You believe you're above it and I don't really blame you
Maybe that's why you speak like a child;
The things you're saying like "I'm so free and so wild"
And I believe it when you look in my eyes;
You offer me a life, and never lies
Least only the kind to make me smile




The Donald (video)


Friday, 17 June 2016

U.S. nuclear codes

A few weeks ago, an American friend called me about a draft blog on which I had asked him to comment. In that conversation, he also suggested 2 topics for forthcoming blogs, of which one really surprised me: the recent news about high maintenance cost of 1970s technology and in particular for the US nuclear codes on floppy disks.

BBC, 26 May 2016: “The US nuclear weapons force still uses a 1970s-era computer system and 8-inch floppy disks, a government report has revealed. The Government Accountability Office said the Pentagon was one of several departments where "legacy systems" urgently needed to be replaced. The report said taxpayers spent $61bn (£41bn) a year on maintaining ageing technologies. It said that was three times more than the investment on modern IT systems. The report said that the Department of Defence systems that co-ordinated intercontinental ballistic missiles, nuclear bombers and tanker support aircraft "runs on an IBM Series-1 Computer - a 1970s computing system - and uses eight-inch floppy disks".

Actually, I am not even sure if I have ever seen such huge 8 inch floppy disks. These floppies almost resemble 10 inch classic vinyl music records. The earliest and biggest floppies that I recall were 5.25 inch, while using a “portable” IBM PC clone, called Hyperion. Later the rather "flexible" 5.25 inch version was replaced by a solid 3.5 inch version. I suppose that my kids (21 and 18) have never even seen any floppy disk, and neither the audio cassettes which we played in our car and used for storage of computer games.

My American friend probably assumed that I would regard this outdated technology as preposterous. Well, I did not. The beauty of this technology is that it is entirely offline. Nowadays, anything online is highly susceptible of breaches by domestic or foreign hackers. Considering the age of the average hacker, it's highly unlikely that they have ever seen 1970s technology. Even their fathers are unlikely to have seen – or possessed - that technology.

I compared the Pentagon situation with the recent SWIFT hacks. To date, at least 3 banking hacks are known: Ecuador ($9 million in January 2015), Vietnam (failed attempt in December 2015) and then a big one in Bangladesh ($81 million in February 2016). The suspects are North Korean hackers (eg, Fortune). Due to a clerical or typing error, the actual Bangladesh heist of $81 million was far less than the $1 billion that was planned.

My American friend finally agreed that this outdated Pentagon technology is probably much safer than most state-of-the-art technology. Ironically, outdated technology gives (an) additional layer(s) of safety and security. Hence, I have sympathy for the official US response: “This system remains in use because, in short, it still works," Pentagon spokeswoman Lt Col Valerie Henderson told the AFP news agency” (BBC).

Since 2015, another discussion on the U.S. nuclear codes has emerged: Would you trust Donald Trump with access to nuclear weapons? At first in the Republican debates (eg, Independent, Politico) and more recently also by Democrat Hillary Clinton (eg, Politico). Unfortunately, it's not even a hypothetical discussion. Politico: "If he were president, Donald Trump [] would be free to launch a civilization-ending nuclear war on his own any time he chose".

The prospect of Donald Trump being US President and being able to decide on using nuclear codes is just too much, and hopefully also for the clear majority of US voters on 8 November 2016.

Sometimes it's not the technology that is most scary, sometimes it's just the human touch.

Bruce Springsteen – Human Touch (1992) - artist, lyrics, video, Wiki-1, Wiki-2

Oh girl that feeling of safety you prize
Well it comes with a hard hard price
You can't shut off the risk and the pain


Thursday, 16 June 2016

The sounds of silence

Yesterday I visited my friend Joan again. She left hospital and stays at a hospice now. She told me that there is another person who hardly gets visitors while she gets many. I made a remark that kept clinging onto me. Visitors take away the sounds of silence and also the many thoughts inside our consciousness. For some the distraction of noise is most welcome, for others it's not.

Many people confuse solitude - and silence - with loneliness. I do not. I love my solitude, apart from the holiday season around Christmas and New Year. I have never really thought about how the opposite would feel. How it would feel to be afraid of silence. How it would feel to always need/want people around you, for company.

Socialising often feels like work to me, sometimes it's a pleasure, and sometimes even a burden. It depends on the nature and purpose of the event. Still, when I'm finally back at home, I usually wonder whether I did spend my time well. Spending time with others prevents me from doing my soul searching and my mind wandering and I really like - and even enjoy - visiting those friendly places inside my consciousness.

I suppose others are afraid of the silence and the emptiness and desperately try to fill these voids with words and with people. With hindsight I recognise that behaviour in certain people. Still I really do not understand what makes them so afraid. Perhaps they associate the Sound of Silence with not feeling alive - or even death. Noise equals life and living, and silence represents the opposite.

I have never been in a situation where there was no sound at all. Once I stopped my car in the middle of a fully deserted American prairie and heard no artificial or human sounds. The air was full of sounds however. Apart from the crickets, even the heat seemed to "break" the air in front of me, and made a remarkable sound which I still remember but cannot put in words (link). To me, it almost felt like a symphony of nature.

Sounds are everywhere when you listen carefully, and also in moments or situations which other people would describe as silent. The Sound(s) of Silence is not just a famous 1966 Simon & Garfunkel album and song (lyrics, video, Wiki-1Wiki-2). The Sounds of Silence are everywhere, if and when you listen. Nowadays, the most beautiful sound of silence to me is the wind touching the leaves of the trees. It's like a story being told but only to the ones who are listening.

I am not alone in this thought. Psychology Today: "Yet I have a suspicion. Perhaps we, society as a whole, are afraid of silence. We may have the terror of silence, because silence reminds us of solitude and death. So we protect ourselves from it with many and varied sounds. But, as any decent therapist who is not just fooling around would suggest, how about facing the fear? We might find out that, instead of fearing silence, we enjoy it". Note: italic markings by PT.

In fact, silence makes me appreciate sounds - and especially music - even more. It's like work and vacation. Vacation only means a lot to you when you are working. When you are not working, every single day is a vacation day. The word vacation then becomes meaningless - a blur.

Depeche Mode - Enjoy the Silence (1990) - artists, lyrics, video, Wiki-1, Wiki-2


Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Consciousness - an introduction

In my 10 June 2016 blog - What is the purpose of death? (2) - I mentioned the word consciousness. It's a topic well beyond my usual scope and one of which I hardly know anything. I think that I can feel the presence of my own consciousness somewhere inside my head, but the question remains on my mind: what is consciousness really??

"I think, therefore I am" is the English translation of the original phrase "je pense, donc je suis" by French philosopher René Descartes. As Descartes explained, "[W]e cannot doubt of our existence while we doubt … ." or: "I doubt, therefore I think, therefore I am" (Wiki). This phrase represents the heart of consciousness - from a philosophical point of view.

The Atlantic, June 2016: "Ever since Charles Darwin published On the Origin of Species in 1859, evolution has been the grand unifying theory of biology. Yet one of our most important biological traits, consciousness, is rarely studied in the context of evolution. Theories of consciousness come from religion, from philosophy, from cognitive science, but not so much from evolutionary biology. Maybe that’s why so few theories have been able to tackle basic questions such as: What is the adaptive value of consciousness? When did it evolve and what animals have it?".

The Atlantic: "The Attention Schema Theory [by Professor Michael Graziano], [] suggests that consciousness arises as a solution to one of the most fundamental problems facing any nervous system: Too much information constantly flows in to be fully processed. The brain evolved increasingly sophisticated mechanisms for deeply processing a few select signals at the expense of others, and in the AST, consciousness is the ultimate result of that evolutionary sequence. If the theory is right—and that has yet to be determined—then consciousness evolved gradually over the past half billion years and is present in a range of vertebrate species".

The Atlantic: "If AST is correct, 300 million years of reptilian, avian, and mammalian evolution have allowed the self-model and the social model to evolve in tandem, each influencing the other. We understand other people by projecting ourselves onto them. But we also understand ourselves by considering the way other people might see us".

The Atlantic: "Language is perhaps the most recent big leap in the evolution of consciousness. Nobody knows when human language first evolved. Certainly we had it by 70 thousand years ago when people began to disperse around the world, since all dispersed groups have a sophisticated language. The relationship between language and consciousness is often debated, but we can be sure of at least this much: once we developed language, we could talk about consciousness and compare notes". Also see my blogs on the origin of language (part 1 and part 2) and human evolution since several million years, including the Technological Revolution (1800-2100)

The consciousness in animals is well described in a recent Scientific American article on a study published in the journal Intelligence by British psychologists Rosalind Arden and Mark Adams on the general intelligence factor in dogs. Another (forthcoming) study in the Animal Behaviour journal revealed that dogs avoid people who behave negatively to their owner. Kazuo Fujita, a professor of comparative cognition at Kyoto University: “We discovered for the first time that dogs make social and emotional evaluations of people regardless of their direct interest.” (eg, Phys, TIME)

Telegraph, May 2016: "Marcus du Sautoy, Professor for the Public Understanding of Science at Oxford University, said it's now possible to measure consciousness and, in the future, technology could be deemed to be ‘alive’. Most scientists believe that computers are close to getting to a point where they begin to develop their own intelligence and no longer need to be programmed, an event dubbed the ‘technological singularity.’ 

Telegraph: "Currently scientists conduct an experiment known as the ‘Turing Test’ to assess a machine’s ability to exhibit intelligent behaviour which is indistinguishable from a human. If a human cannot tell the difference between a computer’s response and a person’s it is said to pass the test". Also see my 13 August 2015 blog on the SciFi movie Bicentennial Man (IMDb).

Telegraph: “Philosophers will say that doesn’t guarantee that that thing is really feeling anything and really has a sense of self. It might be just saying all the things that make us think it’s alive. But then even in humans we can’t know that what a person is saying is real".

Perhaps the ultimate difference is doubt. I doubt, therefore I think, therefore I am.

Twenty One Pilots - Doubt (2015) - artistslyrics, video, Wiki-1, Wiki-2

Scared of my own image, scared of my own immaturity,
Scared of my own ceiling, scared I'll die of uncertainty,
Fear might be the death of me, fear leads to anxiety,
Don't know what's inside of me.