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Quarrels would not last long if the fault were only on one side - François de la Rochefoucauld

>> 10 December 2007

The works for the extension of our house are almost finished. Thank I don't know who for that. What a hassle construction works can be. I must say however that the big works of the beginning (digging, construction etc) went quite smoothly compared to the finishing touches of the end.

The problem is when you have different trades that need to work hand in hand. Say for example you have a large bay window installed that needs electric blinds. To start with, the window company outsources the blinds to the blinds company. The blinds company needs the the electrician to provide the connection cable from the indoor switch. The electrician installs this cable. The blinds company comes to install the boxes containing the blinds and considers that the electricity cable is not at the right location (i.e. in the -net yet installed- blinds box) and informs me that the electrician will connect the blinds. In the meantime, the insulation, frontage and paint coats are added to the outside of the house - enclosing the cable. The electrician comes and does not want to damage the newly made frontage for fear of having to pay reparation works. Oh and it's not his responsibility to connect the blinds but that of the blinds people.

Today the electrician and the blinds company were here and none of them recognized a fault in the whole story. As diplomatically as a pregnant woman is able to, I told them that I don't give a rat's ass whose fault it is, I just want it fixed. But none of the two wants to do it : it's not their fault or responsibility so it's not their job. They have both made the journey out here in order to quibble about it but not to fix the problem.

The architect arrives and participates in the argument. It is finally decided (by the blinds people) that the electrician will do it with supervision of the blinds guy and that one hour will be invoiced to the blinds people.

During the entire process of connecting the thing (which took no more than 15 minutes) they continued to argue about whose fault and responsibility it was and their reasons for not doing it etc. I couldn't believe my ears and had already proposed to connect the thing myself if they only told me what I needed to do.
The most unbelievable point is that they were both there on company time ready to leave again without having solved anything. Noone in this business wants to think a bit further than their own trade. I find that very deplorable.

Anyhow... we still have a minor issue to solve between the electrician and the heating guys and I think I will immediately propose to do it myself (remember I am pregnant) in order to get them going... :-)

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If your daily life seems poor, do not blame it; blame yourself, tell yourself that you are not poet enough to call forth its riches - Rainer M. Rilke

>> 3 December 2007

My daily life is far from poor. Any woman pregnant with number two can confirm that.


My son is sleeping and I was looking for something at The Clearing Space to take my mind off daily stress and hormones. This post triggered below story.

Today I was sitting on the couch having a bowl of cereal when my son absolutely insisted on sitting on my lap. Of course he was at the same time pulling the bowl out of my hand. Imagine cereal, (cold!) milk and fruit all over me, my son and the couch. What do you do first? Clean yourself? your son? the couch? As I got up, all the cereal that was glued to me by the milk fell to the floor and couch making the mess territory even bigger.
That's when I couldn't handle it anymore. Being pregnant, my tolerance level is lowered by silly things called hormones. And I do get irritated and discouraged a lot easier. I would have gladly handed the whole picture over to my other half (which is what I sometimes do lately when I can't seem to manage anymore), but he was at work. My son immediately felt that something was up and my tears only made him queasy. So I swallowed my tears and started undressing (no use in taking the mess elsewhere in around house) myself and son quickly (we are in the middle of works for an extension of our house and curtains have not yet been delivered...) and dashed into the bedroom to put on my sweat suit.

I grabbed the vacuum cleaner (when you're in the middle of construction works, it's never far away) and started by vacuuming all the cereal bits from couch, floor and clothing. My son loves the vacuum cleaner and I handed it to him to complete the task (well...keep him busy) and started cleaning the milk and fruit stains from couch and floor. You have to imagine me doing this with a big belly that at this point just gets in the way of EVERYthing.

OK. Done. It took me about 20 minutes (pregnant women are slower at everything) and I was exhausted afterwards. Of course, my son then did not want to let go of the vacum cleaner and threw a fit :-) But I had already spilled all my hormones and energy and couldn't be bothered by that. I put him to bed for his afternoon nap which he accepted, if under protest.
Now I feel calm again. I know this or similar events happen to all of us every day. It wasn't even bad as noone got hurt. I just thought it interesting how easy we can become overwhelmed by the small things that happen to us (even when we're not pregnant). I guess if it weren't for my son, I'd have given into a crying fit, conquered. But I didn't and I am proud of that.

Daily life is full of little victories and satisfactions :-)

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There are many little ways to enlarge your child's world. Love of books is the best of all - Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis

>> 29 November 2007

Or - how to write a children's book...

Our son is starting to get into books :-)


He is 18 months old and yesterday he sat next to me on the couch actually listening to the entire story of the little mole who doesn't want to go to bed.

The reason might be that little mole has a teddy or blancky that looks just like our son's Rufus (a little lion with blue and white striped pants) and that I have adapted the storytelling accordingly.

This triggered of course an extensive research on the internet for more books of that sort: books with a little story that tell a little lesson, with nice pictures that babies his age can relate to. He is not done yet with the books that have just pictures (he loves his big truck book - although I find it too American looking - and books with Nijntje), but he seems to start the phase where he wants to be read to.

I have often thought about writing and drawing children's books. The big question is of course: where do I start? I have lots of stories, there are lots of sites with good advice. The problem seems to be my overcrowded mind :-)

So I want to throw two questions at you:

  1. If you bought just ONE book for your child (age group 1,5 to 3) which one would it be?
  2. If you could decide on the content/story of the book yourself, what would it be about, what would it look like, what would it definitely NOT have?

Oh and any other tips in that direction are of course welcome.

Many thanks.

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The book thief by Markus Zusak

>> 28 November 2007

I have just finished reading The Book Thief by Markus Zusak.

I stumbled upon a review at Books4breakfast and luckily the local bookshop had it. I finished it within a few days and would like to give it a great thumbs up.

The narrator is Death himsel telling the story of a young German girl, Liesel, growing up in a small town near Munich during WW II. But don't let that throw you off. At times, the narrator even becomes a likeable character.

Liesel cannot read but steals her first book when her little brother dies on the road to her new foster family. Together with her accordion-playing foster father she slowly learns to read and her interest in books, and stealing them, grows. When the family hides a Jewish man, son of the one who saved her foster father's life, Liesel builds a heart-warming relationship with him and becomes his eyes to the outside world he no longer sees from the basement.

Words are of utmost importance during the entire book. Hitler fights and controls with words. Liesel learns words everyday. Words have different meanings on different days or to different people. The author is able to mix the words into a story that will keep you clinging to the book. His descriptions and metaphores catapult you right into the setting and you are there, stealing apples and books with Liesel, you are wasting away in the basement with the Jew, you are accompanying death while he is collecting dead souls, you are part of Himmelstrasse during the read and all characters become very much alive and real.
And they remain with you after you have closed the book.

Although the book is categorized as 'Young adults' it spans its wings much wider. I recommend it.

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One of the greatest disservices you can do a man is to lend him money that he can't pay back - Jesse Holman Jones

>> 26 November 2007

Well, here's an occasion, where someone you lend money to CAN pay you back.


Kiva lets you connect with and loan money to unique small businesses in the developing world. By choosing a business on Kiva.org (this is the Kiva blog), you can "sponsor a business" and help the world's working poor make great strides towards economic independence. Throughout the course of the loan (usually 6-12 months), you can receive email journal updates from the business you've sponsored. As loans are repaid, you get your loan money back.

The founders were recently featured on the Oprah show, NBC's Today Show and in Bill Clinton's book Giving. Apparently the effect of this promotion was so overwhelming that all open loans were covered within a few days. So they really don't need me to make them known...
But then again, when I first heard about this idea I thought it just wonderful. It is in line with Bangladeshi economist Muhammad Yunus and the Grameen Bank he created who won the Nobel Peace Prize last year. Microcredits are such a simple idea that I wonder why it took so long to grow.

I find stories about people helping people with small means and efforts much more inspiring than say the big Unicefs or the likes. Don't get me wrong, they need to exist too and Kiva too will probably grow to become a major help organisation one day. With the difference that here people are connected with people, get feedback on the help they provided and that just makes it all much more real. It's like really being there with the needy person and handing him the money and advice.

That is why, whenever I donate money, I tend to favour causes that are small, local, where I know someone or where I know where the money is going to.

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You must stick to your conviction, but be ready to abandon your assumptions - Denis Waitley

>> 14 November 2007

I have abandoned a few assumptions this week. I assumed I could be pregnant (i.e. deal with all the hormones and prepare for this new life coming), take care of our 17 months old boy, my other half and study for a degree at the same time.

I had to admit I was wrong. The strain of having to juggle so many things at the same time when all I wanted to do was take care of myself, read, buy baby clothes, hug my boy and man, was making me iffy and moody. I became angry at myself and the world. I started to doubt myself and my choices. I started to become seriously stressed and letting it out on the ones around me. And all these emotions were not good for the baby either.


Why could I not handle this?


I started analysing the situation. The reason why I chose these classes was so that I could obtain this degree. A degree which would not have advanced me in my current job. It would only allow me to possibly follow some other courses in order to possibly make a career change into education. And education was something I had picked out as being an ideal field to work in when you have to raise two children.

I realised that I would have to catch up on 3 years of education to get this degree - which would probably have taken me more than 3 years in distance learning. After that, it was not sure whether I could actually get into the career path I'd chosen.


What was I to do? Give up?


At first I felt like a failure. I was raised to finish and succeed in everything I started. But this was not doing me or my family any good. After a lengthly and tearful discussion with my other half, I came to see that I had to set my priorities. I had to abandon my assumptions. My other half made it clear to me that that is not the same as giving up your conviction.

I am still confident that I will find the best possible working solution in order to raise my kids the way I intend to. It might just not be a career in education and I might not have the same free time as my children. But there are other solutions and I will strive to find the suitable ones to my situation in due time.
I let go.
It felt like such a relief. I felt light again, undone of a burden. I felt happy again. I was thrilled at the prospect of going shopping for ideas to make the perfect baby card. The thought of being able to lie on the couch and just read for a few hours made me joyful.
Carol Shields was taking the words out of my mouth when she wrote:

Go for long walks,
indulge in hot baths,
question your assumptions,
be kind to yourself,
live for the moment,
loosen up,
scream,
curse the world,
count your blessings,
just let go,
just be.

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Desiderata - Max Ehrmann

>> 9 November 2007

Go placidly amid the noise and haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible without surrender
be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
and listen to others,
even the dull and the ignorant;
they too have their story.

Avoid loud and aggressive persons,
they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain and bitter;
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.

Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.
Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs;
for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals;
and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself.
Especially, do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love;
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment
it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years,
gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline,
be gentle with yourself.

You are a child of the universe,
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God,
whatever you conceive Him to be,
and whatever your labors and aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful.
Strive to be happy.

Max Ehrmann, Desiderata, Copyright 1952.

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Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed on and digested - Francis Bacon

Some years ago I read 'A year by the sea' by Joan Anderson.

The book really inspired me and some lessons learned are:

  • Silence can be a good friend.
  • Believing in yourself isn't everything, but you can't begin to live unless you do.
  • Joy comes from the capacity to appreciate all things elemental.
  • Be at home in your body.
  • The four necessary steps to finding yourself are the four R's: Retreat, Repair, Regenerate and Renew.
  • Put your relationship with yourself first.

I always find it interesting to read about what I call 'Wonderful Women'. If you go to My Library you will find lots more of the same kind.

If you have any books in the same spirit that you'd recommend, I'd be glad to hear about them.

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Why do we have a preference in what we want to learn?

>> 7 November 2007

We learn more by looking for the answer to a question and not finding it than we do from learning the answer itself - Lloyd Alexander


Today I am wondering why it is that we have a preference in what we like to learn and thus most of the time find easy to learn.


Why do I find reading about and learning the English language or geography easier than say mathematics (the current three subjects I am more or less struggling with at the moment)?

I'm sure a scientist will find a very scientific answer to that. But since I don't have a preference for math, I don't particularly like sciences in general either and so his opinion does not interest me :-)

I am convinced that one can learn or learn to do just about anything. I am convinced that I can learn math (yes I can!), even understand it and be able to explain it to someone. However, I will not have acquired this knowledge with pleasure and ease. And I firmly believe that pleasure and ease play a big role in how well we learn and are thus able to keep that knowledge alive.

The cornerstone of education is guiding children in the right direction to learn certain things but above all teach them to enjoy learning them.

When I went to school (we're talking primary and secondary) learning was not presented as fun. It was something you had to do - like a chore. No wonder most kids found school to be a drag. I quite enjoyed the fact that I was learning something. I was quite proud to have acquired a new knowledge and would let everyone around me know it too :-)

I realise however that most of the everyday things I learned, I learned without realising I was learning them: my mother tongue and local language, how to walk, use scissors, cut my bread, play with others, stand up for myself, buy ice cream, plant a tree, name all the animals, swim etc. And those are the things that stick.

I do agree that we have to learn certain general things in order to function in this world (math and accounting do help when you have to do your yearly tax declaration - although I guess you could pay someone to do that and be done with it too...) and have a basis to survive (get a job, cook a meal) and 'make it'.

One might even discover something new to like. I went to a drawing class once with my other half. Because he likes drawing and I wanted to be with him. The teacher taught us how to draw with the right side of the brain. And guess what? I liked it. I always thought I couldn't draw and in one short lesson I was proven wrong because someone used a different method to teach which clicked with me. It was like someone was telling me 'you can do it, you have talent, you are creative, pursue'.

The same happened with singing. I joined the local church choir like every girl in primary school. It was led by the same teacher who already wasn't good at instilling the pleasure side of learning in class. For him, every young girl was a soprano. Hence the immediate conclusion that I couldn' sing because as soon as the songs went above a certain note my voice just went mute :-) I am a definite alto I found out much later when I learned that my voice is an instrument I just needed to learn how to play.

So I am all for trying new things from time to time. And I have found gratitude in finishing a math exercise because I finally 'got it'. But pleasure and fun are not the same. Why do I continue? I am looking at the goal that's at the end of it. I know that this is just the road that I need to travel and get behind me in order to reach that goal that will (hopefully) give me that satisfaction and fun that I am looking for. I hope not to get discouraged and stranded on the way. I try to focus on the road as well and see the beauty of it (there are sometimes flowers growing on the side of each road) instead of just looking ahead at tomorrow and maybe missing something that have been fun after all.

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Read the best books first, or you may not have a chance to read them all - H.D. Thoreau

>> 30 October 2007


  • Do you love reading?
  • Do you think that the books you read say a lot about the person you are?
  • Do you rush to the end of the book to find out how it finishes?
  • Or do you slow down towards the end of a good book because you don't want it to finish?
  • Do you love choosing a new book to read?
  • Or does it stress you out to have to pick one for a trip because you might not like it and have nothing else to read?
  • Do you think there is a moment when you are ready for a certain book?
  • Do you wish you'd read certain books because they are classics and have thus become 'must-reads'?
  • Do you feel bad because you haven't read certain books and feel that as a booklover you should have?
Are you able to name your 3 favorite books?
The 'love currently' and/or 'all-time-favorites'?
Go on then... Post them in comments for me.
Thanks.
MM



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Life is a zoo in a jungle - Peter de Vries

>> 29 October 2007


Recently I read about a charity which I thought was a very worthy cause. It helps single parents with a lifesthreatening disease. Single parents already have a tough time getting by when things are rosy. A lifethreatening or terminal disease can however very quickly swing a person out of its wellorganised hinges and it seems that the support is not sufficient at all. All the money goes into the treatment and no money is left to turn the few 'normal' moments with the kids into blissful memories.

When I first read about it, the initiative touched me greatly. I am not a single parent, but I can imagine what you go through as a couple if something like cancer for example happens to you. As a single parent you have to fight this alone and worry about your kids three times as much.

I wanted to support the cause - but as it happens so often, you go to bed and things are forgotten the next morning.

Yesterday I read the same weekly magazine and come across some sad news about the charity: the founder has died. Tears sprung to my eyes and I immediately wondered what was going to happen to her children.
When you have children yourself such stories obviously hit home and you wonder what if...
My other half left for a two-week business trip this morning and I hate it. I know planes are safer than cars or crossing the road, but still. What if...
So hug your loved ones all the time, tell them you love them even if you are going to see them again tonight. Just in case you might not.
And today I will wire some money to the charity before I go to sleep and forget about it.
The charity is called WONDERFONDS and the site is in Dutch only. But I am sure if you write an email to them in English they'd be happy for any kind of support.

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You will never find time for anything. If you want time you must make it - Charles Buxton

>> 17 October 2007

I have recently taken up my studies again. I quit school at the age of 17. I wanted to see the world, travel, earn my own money and independance and not spend years at school when I didn't really know what I wanted to become. My parents did not push me to go to university. Getting a decent job was already a big achievement for them. I got a decent job and I have worked my way up the corporate ladder ever since.

As I mentioned, being independant at a young age was an advantage to me at that time. I was living on my own in Paris when most of my friends were still living with their parents. I had money (albeit litte) and was free to do all the silly things and mistakes one has to do to grow up. I learned by doing, on the job, in real life. I had to deal with finding someone on the weekend to replace my apartment door wrecked by burglars. I had to handle a berserk neighbour knocking on my door every so often threatening to harm me. I had to get rid of a stalker. I had to learn how to fill in my first tax declaration in a foreign country. I am not sure university teaches you this kind of things.

Now that I am (still :-) thirty-something and my life is blissfully settled, I discover regret at never having studied something. For the knowledge I missed, for the experience of having to sit through 4 years of hard work, for the diploma and the doors it opens.

It is not easy to change your career. Most women come to such a point in their lives when they have children and their entire life is turned upside down and with it the priorites they had set themselves. I don't necessarily need to have a fast-moving career anymore. This does not mean that I am not ambitious anymore. I just want to find a job that satisfies me, that allows me to do what I like to do and that is flexible with the life I lead and the needs I have.
Let me tell you that such a job probably doesn't exist. Job flexibility is so hard to find. I figured I could find a job in education. That would at least put me on the same schedule as the children. But as I do not have the necessary qualification for it (being a mother alone does not count for anything) I wanted to do the necessary courses to attend that goal. Well, it seems that in order to be allowed in those courses you first need to have finished your secondary school diploma - which is what I lack since I left school at the age of 17. So now I find myself distance learning to catch up with my baccalaureate.

There are a few major problems I have encountered so far:



  1. getting your brain back into studying mode is a challenge

  2. knowledge gained on subjects such as maths, physics, geography, biology is so far gone that you have to start from scratch

  3. finding the time to study

I want to elaborate on the last point as it gives me the most headaches.


How is one supposed to find time??? after:


  • full time job,

  • feeding hungry kid,

  • putting kid in bath and bed,

  • making and having dinner for partner and self,

  • cleaning up kitchen and other mess

  • catch up on mail, pay invoices

  • catch up with partner's day

After above list is checked off, it's 9 or 10 pm most of the time. Then I have to switch on the pc (which takes about 5 minutes because of too many crap softwares...), read my distance learning mail, find one of the online modules that I have chosen to learn over the next 8 weeks, read online what it is again I need to do or print it because online reading gives your head a buzz after a while. After one or two hours of reading about meteorological previsions and what makes up a climate or doing maths exercices and equations I drag my tired old feet to bed.

Obviously I am horribly off schedule. I have chosen 3 subjects for the first 8 week period (Maths, Geography and English). The only one I am not so worried about it English as I use it every day. But Maths and Geography are decades (I am not kidding) away. I find myself getting frustrated because I just can't seem to get a simple





into my head.

And yesterday I gave up with:








Can you blame me??? :-)


I suppose that planning is the solution to this of course. But even with minute planning, the schedule of my day still looks the same and I end up having no time to do all the things that need to be done.


Does anyone have a magic trick or just good advice for me?

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Poverty is the mother of crime - Marcus Aurelius

>> 8 October 2007

US man faces potential 30-year prison sentence for stealing a doughnut.


Picture this: a guy tries to steal a doughnut - probably because he is poor and hungry and just wants to eat. On his way out the shopkeeper tries to hold him back and maybe he pushes her a bit trying to get past her.
Turns out that the push is now being treated as minor assault, which transforms a misdemeanor shoplifting charge into a strong-armed robbery with a potential prison term of five to 15 years. Given the hungry guy's past criminal record, prosecutors could boost that sentence to 30 years to life.
30 years of imprisonment for stealing a doughnut? Because of the principle that 'a crime is a crime', 'everyt crime should be treated equally' and 'it's not the doughnut, it's the assault'?
So the guy has a past: he has been arrested more than a dozen times for crimes ranging from shoplifting to drug possession to torching a car for insurance fraud. He has done time in prison for these crimes. Not 30 years but the allocated time for crimes such as these.
Has anyone ever asked him why he keeps committing 'minor' crimes? I assume he is not rich, probably has a drug habit. He is trying to get by with the little he has and seems to be caught up in a vicious circle.
Don't get me wrong, I do not tolerate nor agree with his crimes. I am just saying that a stolen doughnut is not enough crime to deserve 30 years of imprisonment. And even if he did go to jail for 30 years. What happens when he comes out? He still has no money, his addiction has probably worsened (don't tell me they don't do drugs in jail) and where will he go from there? Probably to another store to steal something to eat.
It is clear that in order to eradicate crime, we need to address the root causes. These include, but are not limited to, greed, inadequate corporate oversight, poverty, lack of education, homelessness, drug addiction, racial hatred, and lax gun laws.
I agree with you that some of these causes are harder to eliminate than others. But without helping (or trying to help) criminals to get back on the right track before they get out again, they are doomed to just get straight back into the same downwards spiral.
In Pollsmoor, a harsh prison in Capetown (South Africa) of which Nelson Mandela was the most famous inmate, is filled with the most dangerous criminals and known for it's gangsterism. It is in this prison that an astonishing experiment took place, led by Joanna Thomas (from Cape Town's Centre for Conflict Resolution), to find out whether these criminals can change. The goal of these workshops is to transform the prison from a militaristic culture to a culture of learning, growth and development, where human rights are respected and people are treated with dignity and respect in order to achieve a reduction in the rate of crime and recidivism.
The goal is to come to a certain 'awakening' where one becomes conscious of things that seemed invisible before.
A prison is like a pressure cooker where everyone keeps everything (thoughts and emotions) to himself. And even if couples, gangs or fraternities are formed, everyone lives for himself, the indiviual must be very strong, contain everything and provide for everything. When you sit down in a circle with these inmates, talk to them and show them sincere interest you will very quickly get a catharsis effect.
Let them listen to some Verdi as sung by Pavarotti and something happens - an inmate maybe suddenly understands what the word empathy means. It might sound kitsch, but these men have very kitsch emotional reactions. They pass from toughness to tears without transition or intermediate state. Things are white or black, they are there or not. In most of the cases, this emotional infantilism comes from a blocked affectiveness development during childhood provoked by a mistreatment, often sexual, often at a very young age.
A big part of Joanna's work consisted in creating bridges between the white and the black, the good and the evil, the wound and the causes. She does not control the catharsis that this 'awakening' brings but she knows that she provokes it and knows the techniques that lead there.
The impact, if spectacular, is not always comprehensible. For us, letting ourselves fall down into the arms of colleagues is already difficult, even if it animates team motivation seminars. How to measure the emotional shock by the same exercise of this visibly troubled inmate who, for the first time in his life, has had a physical contact other than violent or forced? And throwing balls in a group obliges to have eye contact for something completely different than defiance, aggression or submission exchanged usually.
The instantaneous and impressive physical aspect of the process can be explained by the fact that if they were abused and beaten as children (something which the mind cannot comprehend without therapy), it is with the body that they attempt to make sense of things; the body becoming their thinking organ.
When I saw this documentary, I was impressed with the results. You saw these die hards talking about the people and inmates they have abused and killed and once they went to the workshop they were crying because their father had never loved them.
And that is what I mean by attacking the root causes...
So instead of incarcerating the doughnut thief for 30 years and sending him to a prison where his behaviour will only get worse, one should set him down and talk to him as one would to a child who stole a doughnut and ask him why he did it and take it from there. Life would be a better place if we treated everyone like that.
Sources
Press article on doughnut thief
Killers don't cry article in French

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Everyone must take time to sit and watch the leaves turn - Elizabeth Lawrence

>> 2 October 2007

It is October but it feels like spring. It's about 20 deg. C outside, the birds are singing, the bugs are buzzing, the sun pushes the morning fog away and renders everything hazy. The yellow and brown leaves tell me however that it's autumn.

As Albert Camus puts it:

Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a
flower.

Autumn days...
Smell of fallen leaves, of mushrooms and moss.
Indian summer days
before the cold and the fog take over
and the winter becomes dark and wet.
Going for a walk,
stir up leaves with my feet.


Isn't nature just spectacular?
In autumn there is not enough light and water for photosynthesis. The green chlorophyll disappears and makes room for all the other colours that were hidden underneath. Whether a leaf turns red or brown depends on the type of tree. A maple will turn red because of the glucose in the leaves. An oak will turn brown because of wastes left in the leaves. Not very romantic when you analyse it but how poetic it is to the eye!

Go to Google images, type in autumn and look at the display of colours!

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Anorexia is just another word for nothing left to lose - Joy Behar

>> 27 September 2007

Today I saw a shocking newsflash (in French) which brings the sadness and desperation of anorexia to the frontline.
A controversial ad compaign was launched during the Milan Fashion Week. The ads are aimed at raising awareness about eating disorders and show Isabelle Caro a 27 year old woman weighing only 31 kilos.
The ads were shot for clothing breand NO.l.ita by photographer Oliviero Toscani (known for his controversial photos taken for Benetton) who wanted "to use that naked body to show everyone the reality of this illness, caused in most cases by the stereotypes imposed by the world of fashion."

I think this campaign is very brave and find it difficult to look at. The woman reminds me of pictures of starving kids in Africa. If it can raise awareness about the seriousness of this illness, fine. Will it cure it? I doubt it. I do believe though that today's fashion, media and showbusiness have all contributed to the fact that today's girls want to be skinny. Although it is true that even people who take no notice of fashion get anorexia, it is the overall image of what a woman should look like that is given to young girls that is the cause here.

What do you think? Would such a campaign be allowed in the USA?

I much prefer campaigns that are less shocking but still very much to the point such as the Dove Evolution film. I admit that this is (also) a smart and sneaky way to do marketing, but at least it's telling the truth as it is and showing us real women.

Interesting read on the subject:
The Beauty Myth by Naomi Wolf

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10 questions with MindFul MiMi

>> 19 September 2007


BlogsWeLuv have quite an interesting concept of promoting blogs 'that deserve a little love'. They ask you 10 thoughtful questions.
To see mine, visit their site.

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Delay gratification in the short term and enjoy greater rewards in the long term

>> 17 September 2007

The ability to discipline yourself to delay gratification in the short term in order to enjoy greater rewards in the long term is the indispensable pre-requisite for success - Brian Tracy


If you put a marshmallow in front of your 4-year old and said that he could eat it immediately or wait until you returned and he'd get another one, what would he do?

My son is not 4 years old yet - but maybe I will do the test with him to find out what his behaviour tells me about his possible future.
Walter Mischel did this test with several hundreds of 4-year olds. They videotaped the kid's reactions. Some of them gobbled up the marshmallow immediately; some looked at it, smelled it, touched it but didn't eat it. Others started walking around, humming songs to distract themselves. One even licked the space on the table surrounding the marshmallow.
Fourteen years later, these kids are grown and the findings are quite dramatic.
  • Kids who did not eat the marshmallow immediately but waited for the tester to return (and were thus gratified with a second marshmallow) seemed to show many more skills that make for success. They had many of the "habits of successful people": confidence, persistence, capacity to cope with frustration. The "waiters" were more socially competent and self-assertive, trustworthy, dependable and more academically successful.
  • On the other hand, the kids who gobbled the treat immediately showed trouble subordinating immediate impulses to achieve long-range goals. When it was time to study for the big test, they tended to get distracted into listening to a favourite TV programs.
So what are "marshmallows" in our professional and personal lives? They are the activities which give us immediate gratification but undermine longer-range benefits. The desire to please everyone is a big "marshmallow".

It seems that the ability to delay gratification is a master skill, a triumph of the reasoning brain over the impulsive one. It is a sign, in short, of emotional intelligence (Definition according to Mayer, J.D. & Salovey, P. (1997): "The ability to perceive emotion, integrate emotion to facilitate thought, understand emotions, and to regulate emotions to promote personal growth").
And it doesn't show up on an IQ test.

Take the Emotional IQ test.

If there is a cornerstone to emotional intelligence on which most other emotional skills depend, it is a sense of self-awareness, of being smart about what we feel. Scientists refer to "metamood," the ability to pull back and recognize that "what I'm feeling is anger," or sorrow, or shame.

Metamood is a difficult skill because most of the time our emotions appear in disguise (the mourner is sad but may also be angry at the person for dying - the parent of a child who ran across the street is angry at the child for disobedience but may also experience fear of what could have happened).

Self-awareness is perhaps the most crucial ability because it allows us to exercise some self-control. The idea is not to repress feeling but rather to do what Aristotle considered the hard work of the will. As he puts it in the Nicomachean Ethics : "Anyone can become angry - that is easy. But to be angry with the right person, to the right degree, at the right time, for the right purpose, and in the right way - this is not easy."

Some impulses are easier to overcome than others. Anger, not surprisingly, is one of the hardest, perhaps because of its evolutionary value in priming people to action. The more stressed one is, the lower the threshold for release. Anxiety is another typical one.

Given sufficient self-awareness, people develop coping mechanisms. Sadness and discouragement, for instance, are "low arousal" states. If you go out for a run you are triggering a high arousal state that is incompatible with staying blue. Relaxation works better for high-energy moods like anger or anxiety.

Either way,
Be an optimist : When an optimist fails, he attributes the failure to something he can change, not some innate weakness that he is helpless to overcome.

The most visible emotional skills, the ones we recognize most readily, are the "people skills" like empathy, graciousness, the ability to read a social situation. Researchers believe that about 90% of emotional communication is nonverbal.
If you have a good ability to read emotional cues, you most likely tend to be more successful in your work and relationships.

In the corporate world, according to personnel executives, IQ gets you hired, but EQ gets you promoted.

So next time someone wiggles a marshmallow in front of your nose (or a carrot, or a special deal,...), think about it twice, breathe,...


Links
Time Reports - Understanding Psychology
Self-awareness
Non-verbal communication

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On raising bilingual children

When I was pregnant with our first baby an important question popped up. How do we raise our kid language-wise. I am a native Dutch speaker, my other half is a native French speaker. Together we speak French and we live in a country that has another, third language: Luxembourgish.

After some research and reading of books, I came to the conclusion that information contained on the web and in books is helpful but that each situation is different and particular. Hence, there is no one-solution-fit-all.

I was born and raised in Luxembourg but up until the age of 4 only spoke Dutch at home. Getting to Kindergarten I did not understand a word of what the kids were saying. Back then (early seventies) the community was much less international than it is now, so I was the minority. I do not remember feeling left out for long though. I do not remember having any difficulty language-wise.

The particularity about Luxembourg is that Luxembourgish is only an official language since the 80ies and that French and German are the norm when it comes to written language. Our schoolbooks were in German, so after learning to speak Luxembourgish, German was the next (at age 6) and French shortly thereafter (at age 7). I had no problem with German, as all the books were in German, Luxembourgish (in which I was by then fluent) is very close to it and most television was in German. I had a bit more difficulties with French, but so did everyone else. Eventually English was added (at age 13) with which I had very few problems compared to my fellow students. Later, during my career, I also came to learn Italian and Spanish.

When asked which language is my mothertongue I have a hard time choosing between Dutch and Luxembourgish. Dutch because it was my first language - but I never poperly learned how to write it and being a kid of expatriats, the language the parent's speak is not always up to date. Luxembourgish because it is the language I was most immersed in during childhood (I count and most of the time think in Luxembourgish) but it was never taught in writing and there is hardly what can be called literature available in that language.

Over the years my brain has gotten so used to all the languages that switching from one to the other is not a big deal. I speak much more English and French nowadays than I do Luxembourgish so I find myself thinking in the language I speak.

We have decided to raise our son with the OPOL method: One Parent, One Language. I speak Dutch to him, my other half French. My parents, who watch him a lot too speak Dutch to him as well which means that currently his most strong language is Dutch and his first words (he is almost 16 months now) are mainly Dutch. But he understands my other half perfectly and the daycare speaks French to him too so the first French words are coming as well. When he goes to school (at the age of 3) he will be immersed into the Luxembourgish environment (as I was when I was little) and will learn Germand in primary school. He will already have perfect knowledge of French by the time his friends are starting to learn it - so that's one less to worry about.

What we do still not know is how we deal with education after primary school. Luxembourg has a variety of schools on offer (European School, International School, French School) - all of which are far away from where we live. So logistically it would be a drag. Financially they are also quite a burden. And to top it, these schools are hard to get into because priority is given to European Community workers, French Nationals etc.

We do think however, that higher education focused more on one language (French for example), with books, teachers, literature in that language (instead of German and French and English etc) would be an advantage.

We believe that raising a bilingual kid is easy on the homefront but difficult in an international environment where the school system does not have a primary language focus.

I'd be glad to hear your experiences in this area. Email me.

Links:

Raising Bilingual Children by Marsha Rosenberg

FRENCH:



DUTCH:

Schools in Luxembourg:

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GUEST POST: The only thing we have to fear is fear itself - Franklin D. Roosevelt

>> 12 September 2007


Indie from The Synchronicity of Indeterminacy has allowed me to guest post his thoughts on a quote from F.D. Roosevelt. Thanks for your contribution Indie.

If you have a favorite quote and something to say about it, please feel free to submit it for placement as a guest post.


Franklin Delano Roosevelt stated in his 1933 inaugural address "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself." These words were uttered during the height of the Great Depression, a period of intense upheaval and fear. The statement is inspirational because it rejects the easy exploitation of a situation in which people will, out of fear, rally behind anyone offering easy solutions and answers to difficult problems. Whereas Roosevelt called for an intelligent, considered response in reaction to a situation in which we were immobilized by fear, the rise of Hitler and Mussolini represents the opposite type of reaction.

Sane ideas such as these do not repeat themselves in history as often as their antithesis. The period of anti-communist hysteria of the late 1940's and early 1950's (McCarthyism) is a dark example of our inability to deal with fear in an intelligent manner. I have read several books documenting the period of McCarthyism. Needless to say, many innocent people from the left, actors, writers, artists, etc. were destroyed by the unfounded charges against them, and American culture since then has been all the poorer because of it. One of the books I read wonders dryly whether McCarthyism, by some wild coincidence, had actually managed to expose even a single communist among the people it singled out. Norman Corwin in "Trivializing America" (1983) quotes Gore Vidal stating that McCarthyism so weakened the left, that it paved the way for the Viet Nam war in the 1960's.

The processes of fear and how they can lead to destruction were dramatized by Rod Serling in an episode of the Twilight Zone "The Monsters are Due on Maple Street" - in which residents of a typical street in America find themselves in a situation with an unseen, unspecific enemy. They eventually lose control and destroy themselves - which was exactly what the unseen enemy intended. The story was an allegorical retelling of the lessons to be found in history.

It would be grand if there were no contemporary examples of the negative affects of fear, but that is not the case. In 2003, in an e-mail to a friend, I listed some famous quotes by U.S. presidents, the ones I could remember, and matched them with a pseudo-quote by George W. Bush. If there is one underlying theme to Bush's "presidency" it would be the exact reverse of FDR’s quote. We could sum it up as "We have to fear."

Bush and his neoconservative supporters have manipulated and prolonged the fear arising out of the events of September 11th, 2001. In the immediate aftermath, the cynically named Patriot Act began the demontation of the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights, a surrender of liberties in exchange for "safety." Over the years we have been reminded of what we must fear: weapons of mass destruction, homemade atomic bombs destroying American cities, and general alerts warning of unspecific attacks of unspecific nature. We see attempts to label patriotic acts of protest and activism as the actions of traitors and terrorists, labels which bear in them the seeds of fear. Or these patriots are accused of directly supporting Al Quaida with their actions. From Bush's point of view, this climate of fear is necessary. There are still enough legal protections to prevent Bush from acting openly against those voices which speak out against him. But there is little that can be done against a terrified mob reacting to fear, trampling the voices of sanity.

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Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime - Chinese proverb

>> 6 September 2007

Today I guess is the day I need to talk about wonderful women. After the tractor journey to the South Pole, here is the story of another initiative. A colleague of mine told me about his daughter Mirjam's (founder of the Tara Initiative) travel to Nepal to start work with local orphanages. Tara's initiative is special because it does not simply build an orphanage, but goes furher toward the root of the problem.

Now you can't change the country, but you can change the people and by building a training center to teach orphanage personnel in areas such as hygiene, financial management and pedagogy, the Tara Initiative makes sure that typical problems of local orphanages can be dealt with by the local personnel.

Research in Katmandu's orphanages showed that:

  • On average there are 27 children in an orphanage and 3-4 adults work there who are on average 27 years old
  • In 80% of the orphanages there is no running water - in 96% there is no shower. No orphanage has sufficient toilets and beds.
  • The orphanages have few medecines at their disposal and medical knowledge and administration are minimal.
  • 93% of respondents say that they would like to follow a training - a mere 3% say they can pay for it.
  • 81% says they have a need for exchange of experience with other orphanage workers and another 36% say they would like to meet people from other orphanages.

The Tara Initiative tries to improve the situation of the orphanage workers who will in turn be more capable of helping the children in need.

And as the Chinese proverb says, teaching someone something, instead of just giving it to him, gets a lifetime reward.

Links:

Tara Initiative

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On a tractor to the South Pole

So one day you wake up with a plan to make a journey. To the end of the world. And where would that be? The South Pole. And to do things completely out of the ordinary, why not make this journey on a tractor?

Manon Ossevoort has done it. She started her journey in the summer of 2005 leaving The Netherlands and has since travelled all the way to Africa from where, after a short break, she will resume her journey at the beginning of October.

Besides the fun (?) of driving around in a tractor, Manon's goal is also to give attention to special projects of Non Governmental Organisations such as War Child, Unicef and small local initiatives which deserve attention because they show faith, courage, endurance and love. With her journey Manon wants to involve and inspire and generate a lot of positive engery.

On her way she collects dreams and wishes of people she meets which she plans on planting in the belly of a big snowman at the South Pole.


Links:

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You can never have enough of nature!

>> 4 September 2007

Although people are part of nature:

  1. On average, members of contemporary society spend over 95% of their time indoors, separated from nature.
  2. How we think and feel shapes our destiny. During our lifetime, on average, over 99% of our sensing, thinking and feeling is disconnected from nature and its balancing, restorative powers.
Are you nature-deprived? Answer these questions to find out.

The challenge of TOO MUCH:
  • too much to do
  • too much to cope with
  • too much distraction
  • too much noise
  • too much demanding our attention
Typical responses to this are stress, panic, overwork, disillusionment and distraction.

First it was necessary to civilize man in relation to man. Now it is
necessary to civilize man in relation to nature and the animals. - Victor Hugo

RECREATION: play amusement, entertainment, diversion, fun, sport
The word recreation comes from root words meaning 'to restore to health', 'to refresh' and 'to create anew'. Sometimes we need to refresh and restore ourselves. Reflection doesn't have to be a serious endeavour. It can be recreative, in the most original sense of this word, and fun.
The best way for some people to reflect is to immerse themselves in a recreative activity - something that will refresh and renew the mind, body and spirit. Whatever type of recreation you choose, it should be enjoyable to you.
What kinds of recreation to do you enjoy?

One touch of nature makes the whole world kin. - William Shakespeare

WHY?
  • to reconnect with nature
  • to reduce stress
  • to prevent burnout, fatigue and chronic illnesses
  • to improve relationships
  • to tap your inner wisdom and intuition
  • to identify with life priorities
  • to cultivate mindfulness
  • to improve focus and concentration
  • to enhance productivity
  • to spark your creativity
  • to improve confidence and inner strength
  • to restore balance
  • to enjoy and appreciate life to its fullest

I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to
have my senses put in order. - John Burroughs

CHANGE FROM

Complicated to diversified
Cultural to natural
Nervous to calm
Emotional to sensual
Individual to attuned
Weak to strong
Glorified to self-assured
Confused to understanding
Trapped to adaptable
Self-absorbed to fair
Apathetic to effective
Materialistic to easily pleased
Despondent to resilient
Fearful of snakes and spiders to fascination
Surrounded by ugliness to beauty
Indecisive to instinctive
Serious to joking
Bad to mistaken
Intolerant to gracious
Stressed to healthy
Competitive to helpful
Convinced to sceptical
Fashionable to ecological
Exploiter to protector


Slow down. Stop. Relx. Still. Center. Be mindfully present.
Look. Listen. Smell. Taste. Touch.

Links (for more links on this subject, please send me an email and I will forward you a longer list):
Discover the wonder of nature: http://www.greenhour.org/
Walking - an essay by Henry David Thoreau
Ecoliving Center
Forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair - Khalil Gibran

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Name the 10 little things that really bother you in daily life.

>> 31 August 2007


The secret of being miserable is to have the leisure to bother about whether you are happy or not. The cure is occupation. 
-- George Bernard Shaw

(not in any particular order of annoyance level):
  1. Men in sandals with socks (I bet a lot of women agree with this one).

  2. Toilet paper in public toilets - especially the one hidden in these big round boxes where you have to go sit on your keens to look up into the drum, roll the thing left and right to find the beginning of it).
  3. Trying on bathing suits or underwear in a shop - especially in winter. The lights are too bright, the mirror shows you every little flaw and you break out in a sweat from trying to get clothes on and off.

  4. Vacuum packaging of thick, hard plastic with which everything is nowadays wrapped and which is just impossible to get open.

  5. Telephone cords that always manage to wrap themselves in a ball - and when the phone rings you have to move your head to the phoneset because the cord won't budge.

  6. Restaurants without baby chairs - how do they expect us to enjoy our meal when the little one, despite the offered pillow, does not reach above the table (i.e. his dinner makes it everywhere but his mouth) and will start running off and around the restaurant in no time (bothering couples during their romantic dinner, breaking glasses and saying hi to the kitchen staff) because there are no straps to hold him down?

  7. Drivers who like who glue themselves to your rear bumper because you are driving at the speed limit and they would like to pass you but can't (because it's a windy road or because their rusty old thing will not make it above the speed limit). Worse are the ones that do pass you - and two more cars - just before a bend or while a car in the other lane is speeding in your direction and you have to hit the breaks with your full weight to let them get in front of you instead of hitting the oncoming car (or bus) and killing all of you.

  8. Reaching the cashier in the supermarket with a full caddy and realising that you left all the plastic bags one is supposed to bring nowadays at home.

  9. The battery of your camera bleeps to tell you it's empty just when your baby is doing something amazing like smiling for the first time.

  10. People complaining about all the things that bother them all the time :-)

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To live anywhere in the world today and be against equality because of race or color is like living in Alaska and being against snow -William Faulkner

>> 22 August 2007



Today I feel like writing about equality.

I had first chosen a funnier quote (by Maureen Reagan:
I will feel equality has arrived when we can elect to office women who are as incompetent as some of the men who are already there.)
but actually think the subject serious enough not to joke about it - at least not today.

Definition of Gender Equality:
Gender equality means an equal visibility, empowerment and participation of both sexes in all spheres of public and private life.

Defintion of pay-gap:
The pay gap measures the relative difference in the average gross hourly earnings of women
and men within the economy as a whole.

Some facts:

  • For equal occupation, women still earn less than their male counterparts (in general 15% less)
  • The gender pay gap increases with experience, age and education.
  • Almost 40% of women work in health, education and public administration,
    compared to 20% of men. Moreover, women are mainly employed as administrative
    assistants, shop assistants or low-skilled or unskilled workers — these occupations accounting for almost half of the female workforce. Conversely, only a third of managers are women in companies within the EU.
  • Part-time work is more prevalent among women (over 30% of women work part time compared to less than 10% of men).
My personal experience has given me the following reasons (in no particular order):
  • Work experience is worth less than a degree
  • Female work experience is paid less than male work experience
  • Classification and valuation of jobs is not equal for men and women (for example, more value can be attributed to physical strength than to interpersonal skills, or more value can be attached to responsibility for capital than to responsibility for people).
  • It is assumed that women will work less due to maternity and childcare leave
  • Part-time work is generally less well paid (than full-time work) and is often marginalised within the organisation (fewer prospects for career advancement and limited access to training)
  • Leadership skills are often identified with 'masculine' characteristics
  • Women's job choices are often in lower paying sectors (see facts above)

I do not want to go into what actions should be taken to reduce this gap. I just wanted to know from you what your experiences in this field are. Have you experienced this in your work, sector and country? How?

Thanks for your comments.


Resources:
Tackling the pay gap between women and men
Best and Worst State Economies for Women - 2006
EU gender pay gap 'not narrowing'
Council of Europe - Equality

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The test of democracy is freedom of criticism - David Ben-Gurion

>> 16 August 2007

In 2003, while touring Europe, the Dixie Chicks announced they were 'ashamed the President of the United States is from Texas'. They had not expected the media firestorm, ban from radio stations and protests this created. Last year they were still not making nice and calling Bush a dumb f..k. And this year they were even shortlisted in a public contest to become the theme song for Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign (Celine Dion's You and I finally won).

I must say I find it terrible that one cannot freely speak one's mind without any repercussions. By now and because of this post, my blog probably figures on Bush's mile-long black list - but what the heck. What I meant to say is that here in Europe, people bash politicians all the time and it does not create a hullabaloo.
Take France for example: there is a site full of anti-Sarkozy songs and postings. Now I know those exist for Bush as well (he even has his own bumper stickers, something we don't have in Europe...) but when people (famous or not) speak out openly against Sarkozy, all they get is an animated political discussion on television - if that.

So in what way are we different from Americans? And why?
Your comments are welcome!

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Choices are luxuries - or are they?

>> 7 August 2007


Strolling through the aisles of the supermarket, I like to have a large choice of jams or teas. New and exotic flavors tingle my curiosity in experiencing something new on my bread in the morning. I choose with pleasure.

However, it is with much less pleasure, let alone curiosity, that I choose my laundry detergent from the large offer on the shelves. I usually go by price and ecology label.

The same goes for restaurants: I enjoy choosing from a smartly chosen list of courses but I hate going through a 20 page menu in a Chinese restaurant where you order a number instead of the name of the plate.

And when my company changed from a default (e.g. safe) pension investment plan to one where I could actually choose where to invest my money (and what level of risk to take), my initial choice was to stay with the default for lack of knowledge of the other options and fear of making a mistake or taking a risk and 'wasting' the money.

So when is it good to have a choice? And how many alternatives are healthy for the human mind to tackle?

If one has a choice of 20 jams, does one buy more than one? If yes, is it out of (positive?) frustration?

The problem surely has to do with deciding what your preferences are. If out of the 20 jams you are unable to say which ONE you like best (because there are at least 2 or 3 you like a lot), frustration is around the corner.

Now, I agree that choosing a jam, even out of a selection of 20 on display, is not that hard and it doesn't affect your wallet all that much either. However, when I suddenly had to choose my pension investment plan, the possibilities left me flummoxed.

Don't get me wrong: I thought it was a good idea to get a choice. I am pro choice. To me it means (although it doesn't necessarily equal) more freedom. But one is only able to make an intelligent choice if one has all the necessary information and views on possible effects of the different outcomes in order to be able to analyse it properly.

Sometimes however, thinking too much about possible outcomes or having too much information can be harming in the sense that it overloads your brain and prevents it from making a clear-headed decision. Sometimes it is good to get other people's opinions. Sometimes it is good to just follow your gut feeling.

I guess the most important thing about having choices is that they are indeed luxuries because they mean a certain freedom. Choice makes you more indepedent and responsible for your future.

So next time you have a hard time choosing something, think about the many people who do not have that luxury. Would you rather be in their shoes?

Here's a related poem:

Make Your Choice
Sometimes you wait for destiny's touch
to help pick your choices, decisions and such
change all your maybe's into yes's or no's
direct your own path that you should have chose

But waiting allows your goals to be tweaked
by weakened decisions preferred by the meek
your roads will be handpicked by unknown fate
and then comes regret, and by then it's too late

Your decisions and choices are easy to make
but your excuses are many, and reasons all fake
step up and stand tall, announce your decision
don't ever look back with mirrored revision.

Poem by Michael Charles Messineo
http://www.authorsden.com/visit/viewpoetry.asp?id=106177


Related read:

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Feminization of the male

>> 2 August 2007



The estrogen hormon is one of many gland produced hormones that regulate the function of major organs and other physiological systems. Such hormones can become endocrine disruptors: an external agent that interferes in some way with the role of natural hormones in the body.

Picture this:

Woman takes birth control pill containing estrogen. Woman goes to toilet. Estrogen in urine is not filtered out and goes into waste water. Hormone is released into waterways.

Fish start reproducing less. Male fish are found to contain eggs or had other female reproductive characteristics.

There's hence growing evidence to suggest that estrogen is linked to the "feminization" of male - at least the male bass tested in West Virginia.

So researchers seem to believe that a special toilet which seperates feces from urine would be the solution to this problem before it becomes too threatening.
Sounds like an valid idea to me. I do believe however that first priority should be to avoid flushing down nice and clean drinkable water down our toilets in order to preserve our water reserves.

What do you think?
Sources:

http://sports.espn.go.com/outdoors/bassmaster/news/story?page=b_fea_bt_0412_news_pollution_girly_bass
http://labmet.ugent.be/easycms/staff/ir._Bram_Pauwels
http://www.novaquatis.eawag.ch/index and http://www.novaquatis.eawag.ch/tool/nomix121d/nomix.html

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Enthusiasm is the engine of action.

>> 30 May 2007


Enthusiasm gives you the energy to do something. Obviously enthusiasm is greater the more you like to do something. If for example you like to read, it seems clear that you become more active and creative when it comes to doing something that has to do with books, writing, reading. Now if you hate (i.e. completely lack enthusiasm) to do the dishes, chances are high that pots and plates are piling up in your sink, that your kitchen starts looking like a war zone after a while and that you run out of clean plates which will be the ultimate push to finally start doing the dishes. On the other hand, the pile of dishes could convert into a great enthusiasm to go out and buy a dishwasher.


At work action is always required but enthusiasm is often hard to create. If your boss ask you to crunch some numbers - because he can, is the boss, must feel superior, is too lazy to do it himself - you will most likely take longer to do it than if he'd explained to you what exciting project those numbers are for, how important they and your contribution are and how he wants you to get highly involved in this project.

Then again, maybe you just love number crunching...

But you would have to agree that any communication that involves some sort of conveyed emotion such as enthusiasm, energy, excitement, probably gets a more positive result.

Thomas John Watson, Sr. was the founder of IBM, and he said,

"The great accomplishments of man have resulted from the transmission of ideas
of enthusiasm."
How hard is it to convey messages with enthusiasm? Not that hard believe me. Unless of course one is not enthusiastic or passionate about or does not believe in the message. How many bosses, leaders, politicians just cannot seem to get it right, are just boring, hard to listen to, hard to understand? And why is that? Do they believe in their own message? If they are all excited, then they probably do. If they are just listless speakers in front of a half asleep audience, they probably just pass on something they were told.

“The most powerful engine of success is enthusiasm. When you do a thing, do it with all your might. Put your whole soul into it. Stamp it with your own personality. Be active, be energetic, be enthusiastic and faithful, and you will accomplish your mission. Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.” says American essayist and poet Ralph Waldo Emerson.

I agree that is is difficult to bring up the energy to do (or try to do) everything with all your might and soul.

But just think: enthusiasm, like laughter, is contagious and it energizes. And energy is important for performance and learning.

Look around you: who are the 'energizers' around you?

People’s position in the energy network is a much higher and more consistent predictor of performance than the ability to get information from networks and/or impersonal sources.

Furthermore, people are much more likely to turn to and learn from energizers than de-energizers.

Energizing interactions: 1) are focused on a compelling vision; 2) unfold in ways that allow parties to contribute meaningfully; 3) capture the full engagement of participants; 4) are marked by progress and 5) create a context in which hope and enthusiasm are generated.

So by being enthusiastic one creates enthusiasm, and energy, and hope, and progress, and meaningful contributions, and full engagement...



Life begets life. Energy creates energy. It is by spending
oneself that one becomes rich. - Sarah Bernhardt (1844-1923


So how come so few people are really enthusiastic about things? Why don't people just stick to only doing the things that excites them, that they are passionate about?

I agree that there are certain things that one has to do that are not exciting. But one should make it a goal in life to reduce those things to a minimum. The world would be a much happier place.

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>> 1 May 2007



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