4 years, 10 months, and 14 days. Happy Thanksgiving, my sons.

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My dearest Shosh and Jaialai:

I hope you will have a wonderful Thanksgiving Day, surrounded by family and loved ones.  At the very least, you have each other.

Everyday, I am thankful for you two.  You are the best of me.  You are bright, inquisitive, funny, witty, well-mannered, and handsome.  You are amazing!  Don’t ever forget who you are.

Circumstances are difficult now because we cannot be together.  But, that too shall pass.

For now, be thankful for what you have: each other, cousins who love you, aunts and uncles who love you (but are kept away by your greedy, vicious, and spiteful mother), your health, your intelligence, a safe home to protect you from the cold, food to fill your stomach, clean water,  clean air, warm clothes, a warm bed, shoes, etc.

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I want you to take time today to think of all the things for which you are grateful.  Research has repeatedly shown that gratitude brings a lot of health benefits, including helping you become more patient, improving your relationships, improving self-care, helping you sleep, stopping over-eating, easing depression, and giving you lasting happiness.  http://time.com/5026174/health-benefits-of-gratitude/.

In Praise of Gratitude

Expressing thanks may be one of the simplest ways to feel better.

The Thanksgiving holiday began, as the name implies, when the colonists gave thanks for their survival and for a good harvest. So perhaps November is a good time to review the mental health benefits of gratitude — and to consider some advice about how to cultivate this state of mind.

The word gratitude is derived from the Latin word gratia, which means grace, graciousness, or gratefulness (depending on the context). In some ways gratitude encompasses all of these meanings. Gratitude is a thankful appreciation for what an individual receives, whether tangible or intangible. With gratitude, people acknowledge the goodness in their lives. In the process, people usually recognize that the source of that goodness lies at least partially outside themselves. As a result, gratitude also helps people connect to something larger than themselves as individuals — whether to other people, nature, or a higher power.

In positive psychology research, gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness. Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships.

People feel and express gratitude in multiple ways. They can apply it to the past (retrieving positive memories and being thankful for elements of childhood or past blessings), the present (not taking good fortune for granted as it comes), and the future (maintaining a hopeful and optimistic attitude). Regardless of the inherent or current level of someone’s gratitude, it’s a quality that individuals can successfully cultivate further.

Research on gratitude

Two psychologists, Dr. Robert A. Emmons of the University of California, Davis, and Dr. Michael E. McCullough of the University of Miami, have done much of the research on gratitude. In one study, they asked all participants to write a few sentences each week, focusing on particular topics.

One group wrote about things they were grateful for that had occurred during the week. A second group wrote about daily irritations or things that had displeased them, and the third wrote about events that had affected them (with no emphasis on them being positive or negative). After 10 weeks, those who wrote about gratitude were more optimistic and felt better about their lives. Surprisingly, they also exercised more and had fewer visits to physicians than those who focused on sources of aggravation.

Another leading researcher in this field, Dr. Martin E. P. Seligman, a psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania, tested the impact of various positive psychology interventions on 411 people, each compared with a control assignment of writing about early memories. When their week’s assignment was to write and personally deliver a letter of gratitude to someone who had never been properly thanked for his or her kindness, participants immediately exhibited a huge increase in happiness scores. This impact was greater than that from any other intervention, with benefits lasting for a month.

Of course, studies such as this one cannot prove cause and effect. But most of the studies published on this topic support an association between gratitude and an individual’s well-being.

Other studies have looked at how gratitude can improve relationships. For example, a study of couples found that individuals who took time to express gratitude for their partner not only felt more positive toward the other person but also felt more comfortable expressing concerns about their relationship.

Managers who remember to say “thank you” to people who work for them may find that those employees feel motivated to work harder. Researchers at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania randomly divided university fund-raisers into two groups. One group made phone calls to solicit alumni donations in the same way they always had. The second group — assigned to work on a different day — received a pep talk from the director of annual giving, who told the fund-raisers she was grateful for their efforts. During the following week, the university employees who heard her message of gratitude made 50% more fund-raising calls than those who did not.

There are some notable exceptions to the generally positive results in research on gratitude. One study found that middle-aged divorced women who kept gratitude journals were no more satisfied with their lives than those who did not. Another study found that children and adolescents who wrote and delivered a thank-you letter to someone who made a difference in their lives may have made the other person happier — but did not improve their own well-being. This finding suggests that gratitude is an attainment associated with emotional maturity.

Ways to cultivate gratitude

Gratitude is a way for people to appreciate what they have instead of always reaching for something new in the hopes it will make them happier, or thinking they can’t feel satisfied until every physical and material need is met. Gratitude helps people refocus on what they have instead of what they lack. And, although it may feel contrived at first, this mental state grows stronger with use and practice.

Here are some ways to cultivate gratitude on a regular basis.

Write a thank-you note. You can make yourself happier and nurture your relationship with another person by writing a thank-you letter expressing your enjoyment and appreciation of that person’s impact on your life. Send it, or better yet, deliver and read it in person if possible. Make a habit of sending at least one gratitude letter a month. Once in a while, write one to yourself.

Thank someone mentally. No time to write? It may help just to think about someone who has done something nice for you, and mentally thank the individual.

Keep a gratitude journal. Make it a habit to write down or share with a loved one thoughts about the gifts you’ve received each day.

Count your blessings. Pick a time every week to sit down and write about your blessings — reflecting on what went right or what you are grateful for. Sometimes it helps to pick a number — such as three to five things — that you will identify each week. As you write, be specific and think about the sensations you felt when something good happened to you.

Pray. People who are religious can use prayer to cultivate gratitude.

Meditate. Mindfulness meditation involves focusing on the present moment without judgment. Although people often focus on a word or phrase (such as “peace”), it is also possible to focus on what you’re grateful for (the warmth of the sun, a pleasant sound, etc.).

Emmons RA, et al. “Counting Blessings Versus Burdens: An Experimental Investigation of Gratitude and Subjective Well-Being in Daily Life,” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (Feb. 2003): Vol. 84, No. 2, pp. 377–89.

Grant AM, et al. “A Little Thanks Goes a Long Way: Explaining Why Gratitude Expressions Motivate Prosocial Behavior,” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (June 2010): Vol. 98, No. 6, pp. 946–55.

Lambert NM, et al. “Expressing Gratitude to a Partner Leads to More Relationship Maintenance Behavior,” Emotion (Feb. 2011): Vol. 11, No. 1, pp. 52–60.

Sansone RA, et al. “Gratitude and Well Being: The Benefits of Appreciation,” Psychiatry (Nov. 2010): Vol. 7, No. 11, pp. 18–22.

Seligman MEP, et al. “Empirical Validation of Interventions,” American Psychologist (July–Aug. 2005): Vol. 60, No. 1, pp. 410–21.

https://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletter_article/in-praise-of-gratitude

Learn to live a life of gratitude, my sons.  It will make you happier human beings.  The ungrateful and the entitled are but miserable shits.  They are takers (not givers), and life is all about them.  Don’t be like them.  In fact, stay away from the likes of such.

All my love, always,

Dad

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4 years, 10 months, and 12 days. A person’s past acts are the best predictor of his/her future acts. Foster good habits.

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My dearest Shosh and Jaialai:

The above is simply a useful rule of thumb.  By no means is it infallible.  But, simply because it is not a perfect tool doesn’t render it useless.

We are creatures of habit.  You would do well to pay attention to the habits of others — as they relate to you — and how those habits guide their actions in certain circumstances.  For example, your cousin B, on your mother’s side, used to lie about his three Nintendo DS game consoles being “broken” or uncharged in order to not let you play with them, pocket your toys when you’re not watching then lie about it when caught, etc.  I suspect his lying and thieving ways haven’t changed much and have only grown in dimensions as he’s gotten older.  Be wary of him.  His older brother has a felony drug conviction because he “happened to be” hanging out with friends who were dealers.  Regardless of the veracity of his claim, the damage is done: he is a convicted felon, and that criminal record will make it hard — if not impossible — for him to get good jobs, secure loans at good rates, etc.  Watch the behaviors of those around you, and choose your company wisely.

Note: the caution about our tendency to follow our habits applies equally to you as well.  Develop good habits.  Shosh, you know what I mean about the nail biting, right?  I hope you’ve kicked that nasty habit.

Continuous incremental improvement, remember.  Don’t worry about perfection and reaching those distant goals.  Break them down into baby steps and try to achieve one of those baby step each day.  In time, you’ll look back and recognize how far you’ve gone with those baby steps.

I want you to use that same approach to get into top colleges in the U.S. as I did.  Getting into good colleges will put you on the road towards success.  Again, graduation from a top college doesn’t guarantee success, but it will significantly help.  A top college will give you good first opportunities and open doors for you.  It is then up to you to work hard and make a name for yourself.

Start now.  Create good study habits.

Learn to study more effectively. Learn to read more efficiently so that you understand more and remember more.  Don’t bother to read every single word as you were taught to do when you were 3 or 4 years old.  That’s how children read, and you are ready to leave your childish ways of reading behind.

Reading Techniques

Strategies for improving reading rate and comprehension.

SQ3R Method for Thorough Study

  • Step 1: Survey
    • Skim through the book and read topical/sub-topical headings and sentences. Read summaries at the end of chapters and books. Try to anticipate what the author is going to say. Write these notes on paper, then look it over to get an overall idea.
  • Step 2: Questions
    • Turn paragraph headings into questions (e.g. “Basic Concepts of Reading” to “What are the Basic Concepts of Reading?”). Write these questions out.
  • Step 3: Read
    • Read with alertness to answer the questions you came up with. Write notes, in your own words, under each question.
  • Step 4: Recall
    • Without looking at your books or notes, mentally visualize, in your own words, the high points of the material immediately upon completing the reading
    • ** More time should be spent on recall then reading
  • Step 5: Review
    • Look at your questions, answers, notes and book to see how well you did recall. Finish up with a mental picture of the WHOLE

Adapted from F.P. Robinson. Effective Study. New York: Harper and Bros. 1948. Chapter II

Steps to Follow in Skimming for the Main Ideas

  • Read the title of the selection carefully. Determine what clues it gives you as to what the selection is about. Watch for key words like “causes,” “results,” “effects,” etc., and do not overlook signal words such as those suggesting controversy (“versus”, “pros and cons”), which indicate that the author is planning to present both sides of an argument.
  • Look carefully at the headings and other organizational clues. These tip you off to the main points that the author wants you to learn. You may be accustomed to overlooking boldface headings and titles which are the obvious clues to the most important ideas

Vary Your Reading Rate

A few broad suggestions may help you to select your rate(s) within the particular article:

Decrease speed when you find the following:

  1. An unfamiliar word not made clear by the sentence. Try to understand it from the way it’s used; then read on and return to it later.
  2. Long and uninvolved sentence and paragraph structure. Slow down enough to enable you to untangle them and get an accurate idea of what the passage says.
  3. Unfamiliar or abstract ideas. Look for applications or examples which will give them meaning. Demand that an idea “make sense.” Never give up until you understand, because it will be that much easier the next time. Find someone to help you if necessary.
  4. Detailed, technical material. This includes complicated directions, abstract principles, materials on which you have scant background.
  5. Material on which you want detailed retention. The key to memory is organization and recitation. Speed should not be a consideration here.

Increase speed when you find the following:

  1. Simple material with few ideas new to you. Move rapidly over the familiar.
  2. Unnecessary examples and illustrations. These are included to clarify ideas. If not needed, move over them rapidly.
  3. Detailed explanation and elaboration which you do not need.
  4. Broad, generalized ideas. These can be rapidly grasped, even with scan techniques

Skip that material which is not suitable for your purpose. While the author may have thought particular information was relevant, his/her reason for writing was not necessarily the same as your reason for reading. Remember to keep your reading attack flexible.

Shift gears from selection to selection. Use low gear when the going is steep; shift into high when you get to the smooth parts. Remember to adjust your rate within a given article according to the type of road you are traveling and to your purposes in traveling it. Most important, remember: You must practice these techniques until a flexible reading rate becomes second nature to you

The Pivotal Words

No words are as helpful while reading as the prepositions and conjunctions that guide your mind along the pathways of the author’s ideas. Master these words and phrases and you will almost immediately become a better reader. Here’s what they are and what they say:

  • Additive words: “Here’s more of the same coming up. It’s just as important as what we have already said.”
    • Also, further, moreover, and, furthermore, too, besides, in addition
  • Equivalent words: “It does what I have just said, but it does this too.”
    • As well as, at the same time, similarly, equally important, likewise
  • Amplification words: “I want to be sure that you understand my idea; so here’s a specific instance.”
    • For example (e.g.), specifically, as ,for instance, such as, like
  • Alternative words: “Sometimes there is a choice; other times there isn’t.”
    • Either/or, other than, neither/nor, otherwise
  • Repetitive words: “I said it once, but I’m going to say it again in case you missed it the first time.”
    • Again, in other words, to repeat, that is (i.e.)
  • Contrast and Change words: “So far I’ve given you only one side of the story; now let’s take a look at the other side.”
    • But, on the contrary, still, conversely, on the other hand, though, despite, instead of, yet, however, rather than, regardless, nevertheless, even though, whereas, in spite of, notwithstanding
  • Cause and effect words: “All this has happened; now I’ll tell you why.”
    • Accordingly, since, then, because, so, thus, consequently, hence, therefore, for this reason
  • Qualifying words: “Here is what we can expect. These are the conditions we are working under.”
    • If, although, unless, providing, whenever
  • Concession words: “Okay! We agree on this much.”
    • accepting the data, granted that, of course
  • Emphasizing words: “Wake up and take notice!”
    • above all, more important, indeed
  • Order words: “You keep your mind on reading: I’ll keep the numbers straight.”
    • Finally, second, then, first, next, last
  • Time words: “Let’s keep the record straight on who said what and especially when.”
    • Afterwards, meanwhile, now, before, subsequently, presently, formerly, ultimately, previously, later
  • Summarizing words: “We’ve said many things so far. Let’s stop here and pull them together.”
    • for these reasons, in brief, in conclusion, to sum up

https://students.dartmouth.edu/academic-skills/learning-resources/learning-strategies/reading-techniques

 

Likewise, learn to take good notes.  Use the Cornell notes method and study system.  There are many different note-taking systems out there; find one that works best for you.  See, e.g.,

The underlying theme of both the reading lesson and note-taking lesson is active engagement.  Actively participate in the learning process.  Don’t simply read mindlessly or write down words mindlessly.  Think!  You should spend half your time thinking about what you’re reading or writing.  Your recall and grades will improve as you actively engage more in your studies.

Spend an extra few minutes each night reviewing your notes.  This keeps those memories and synaptic connections fresh.  If you don’t, you’ll end up having to spend more time later relearning the material.  You’ve already made the huge investment of time and energy to learn it the first time: spend the little energy necessary for upkeep.

Last, but not least, don’t fear failure.  Those are learning opportunities.  The man who has never failed has never tried his hands at anything worthwhile.  All worthwhile things are difficult.  Aim high, then try and try again until you succeed.

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Be well, my sons.  Be happy.

All my love, always,

Dad

 

 

 

 

4 years, 10 months, and 10 days. Looking out for #1 … isn’t necessarily a good thing. Learn to be grateful for others make you happier and healthier.

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Why gratitude is good for youth

Although gratitude, as a social emotion, has long been considered a powerful ingredient of health and well-being for both individuals and societies, for a long time no systematic attempt had ever been made to deeply explore its development in youth.

However, initial research demonstrated that, when compared with their less grateful (and more materialistic) peers, grateful youth are happier and more satisfied with their lives, friends, family, neighborhood, and selves. They also report more hope, greater engagement with their hobbies, higher GPAs—and less envy and depression….

How gratitude builds relationships

In describing the design of his curriculum, Bono writes, “Gratitude interventions…should let students appreciate the different benefits and benefactors in their lives for themselves. Let’s go beyond lists and dry journals. When people ‘get’ us and help us through tough times, gratitude grows.”

As students learn gratitude, they are also learning about the concepts of intention and benefit: how others deliberately take actions that make our lives better, inspiring us to feel grateful. As Bono and gratitude researcher Jeffrey Froh explain:

  • Acts of kindness that inspire gratitude are usually done on purpose, with intention. Someone has noticed us, thought about what we need, and chosen to do something to meet that need. Reflecting on the intentions behind these acts deepens our sense of gratitude.
  • Each act of kindness has a cost to the person who performs it. The cost may include time, effort, or something that was given up, as well as any financial cost. When we understand those costs, we gain a deeper appreciation of the person who acted in a caring way.
  • Others’ acts of kindness benefit us personally in ways that may be material, emotional, or social. Noticing and acknowledging the ways we benefit from others’ actions enhances our gratitude.

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My dearest Shosh and Jaialai:

On days when I’m heart-heavy, like today, I turn to music and Greater Good Magazine to help lift me out of my funk.  Self-care is important.  Do what it take to survive and fight another day.

This may seem at at odds with the title of this post, but it is not.  It is complementary.  If you are down in the dumps, you are no good to anyone — including yourself.  Take care of your physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health first.

But, in the course of that effort, you will find that being grateful and helping others go a very long way in making you happier and healthier, and lifting your spirits.  It’s counter-intuitive, but it’s true.

And, don’t forget to listen to good and meaningful music.

Five Ways Music Can Make You a Better Person

Can listening to music change your behavior for the better?

People in the United States spend an average of 32 hours listening to music each week, an increase of five and a half hours over last year. That’s a lot of time—more than ever before. Has this influenced your behavior or the behavior of those around you?

Some people certainly think it can have a negative impact—remember Tipper Gore’s crusade against swear words and “the indecent liberties some entertainers take with [our] children”? However, studies have also explored possible relationships between music and positive social behaviors.

In particular, research suggests that three aspects of music—its emotional resonance, its lyrical content, and its unique way of synchronizing groups of people—may have the power to invoke good deeds. Here’s a list of the research-tested ways music can have a positive impact on you and your world.

1. Listening to uplifting music may make you happier—and possibly more generous

We’ve all felt strong emotions listening to music. Sad songs may bring us to tears, while joyful music can make us feel euphoric. While melancholy music can move us in fascinating ways, there is power in that second category, too. Indeed, one way music may make us better people is by making us happier—and therefore more likely to give of ourselves.

In a study by Adrian North, Mark Tarrant, and David Hargreaves, over 600 users of a university gym listened to either uplifting, top-20 singles or annoying avant-garde computer music while they worked out. They were later asked either to sign a petition in support of a charity (an easy task) or to distribute leaflets for the charity (a more demanding task).

While almost all participants from both groups signed the petition, significantly more of the participants from the up-tempo music group agreed to help distribute leaflets, suggesting that some music may make you more willing to expend energy and time to help others.

Other research shows that there is a feedback loop between happiness and generosity—feeling happier makes people more likely to give and vice versa. So, while more studies are needed to confirm the relationship, the results from the gym study suggest not only that music may be a good way to make people feel happier but also that this increased happiness may make people more generous.

2. Songs with “prosocial” lyrics may make you more helpful and empathic

Happy lyrics from upbeat songs may not have as much of an impact on people’s behavior as “prosocial” lyrics advocating kindness and helpfulness—think Michael Jackson’s “Heal the World.” While sometimes these lyrics may seem sappy or saccharine, they also may have the ability to change the way we think and act—at least in the short term.

For example, one study by Tobias Greitemeyer found that people who had listened to music with prosocial lyrics (such as “peace on earth to everyone that you meet”) were significantly more likely to think prosocial thoughts compared to those who had listened to songs with neutral lyrics. If a person was presented with the cue “g_____e,” they were more likely to suggest a positive word such as “give” over a neutral word like “guide” if they had listened to a song with prosocial lyrics. The impact went beyond word associations: The people who heard prosocial lyrics were also more likely to donate money they earned from participating in the experiment.

In another study by Greitemeyer, people who had listened to music with prosocial lyrics picked up more pencils for an experimenter who pretended to spill them accidentally, were more likely to agree to do further unpaid experiments and spent more time doing them, and gave more money away in an economic game when compared with people who had listened to music with neutral lyrics. Further analysis found that this effect was due to increased interpersonal empathy in the people who had listened to the prosocial lyrics.

When you tell someone to heal the world through song lyrics, it appears as if they’re actually more likely to try.

While both of these studies were limited in that they looked only at the short-term effect of listening to songs with positive lyrics, Greitemeyer suggests that repeated exposure to prosocial media might prove to have profound effects.

“Repeated encounters with prosocial media may yield long-term changes in personality through the development and construction of knowledge structures,” writes Greitemeyer. In other words, “when people may repeatedly listen to prosocial songs, the positive effects on prosocial behavior might be even more pronounced.”

3. Listening to prosocial songs may change how you spend your money

In one experiment, almost 800 French restaurant customers ate lunch or dinner while listening to music with prosocial lyrics or music with neutral lyrics—or music not selected for its lyrical content. Restaurant patrons who had listened to the prosocial music were significantly more likely to leave a tip—and their tips were bigger than the others’.

However, a more recent study by Nicolas Ruth found that guests who visited a German café while listening to music with prosocial lyrics tipped the same amount as those who listened to songs with neutral lyrics. That said, Ruth observed a different positive behavior: Guests who listened to the prosocial lyrics were significantly more likely to buy organic fair trade coffee.

In his paper, Ruth suggests a couple of possibilities for why this experiment failed to see an increase in tipping: Maybe it’s because tipping is viewed differently in Germany, or perhaps the prosocial impulse led people to choose to support fair trade coffee farmers and the environment, when given the option.

4. Song lyrics may change your attitude towards people different from you

Indeed, listening to these songs may make us less aggressive, more accepting of differences, and even—yes, for real—more likely to respect women.

A study by Ruth and colleagues, for example, found that participants who had listened to Bruno Mars’s “Count on Me”—a song with prosocial lyrics—had fewer aggressive thoughts (but not fewer aggressive feelings) compared to those who listened to Mars’s “The Lazy Song,” which is more neutral.

Another study by Greitemeyer found that German participants who listened to neutral lyrics were significantly more likely to help a student with a German-sounding name pass out pamphlets for a project than a student with a Turkish-sounding name, whereas participants who had listened to pro-integration lyrics were equally likely to help both.

In a similar vein, another study by Greitemeyer and colleagues found that participants who had listened to songs with pro-equality lyrics—such as “Respect” by Aretha Franklin—showed evidence of more positive attitudes and behavior toward women compared to those who had listened to neutral lyrics.

It is important to note that these studies have limitations. Most used small numbers of college students as their participants, tested only a few songs, and looked only at short-term effects. Thus, it’s unclear whether these results are due to priming, which might affect short-term decisions without influencing how people see the world in general. Even so, it is possible that listening to more prosocial songs could lead to long-term changes in attitudes and behavior for the better.

5. Making and moving to music may boost cooperation and connection

It’s not just listening to music that can change our behavior for the better—moving to music helps, too. But it’s not the movement of dancing itself that inspires kindness and helpfulness (although it might contribute). Instead, it’s the way music helps to synchronize us with other people.

There are several studies that suggest dancing to music with others (as well as jointly making or listening to music) can boost prosocial behavior. In one study by Sebastian Kirschner and Michael Tomasello, four-year-old children behaved more cooperatively and prosocially after making music together compared to children who were engaged in another activity with similar levels of social and linguistic interaction.

Another study by Laura Cirelli, Stephanie Wan, and Laurel Trainor found that even younger children—14-month-olds—were significantly more likely to help an experimenter after bouncing synchronously with her to the Beatles song “Twist and Shout” than after bouncing asynchronously (an effect achieved by the experimenter listening to a sped-up track on headphones).

This increased cooperation isn’t limited to children. Studies have found that adults who did synchronous singing cooperated more in an economic game, and that people who participated in synchronized drumming were more likely than others to pick up pencils for an experimenter who had dropped them.

A recent study by Jan Stupacher and colleagues suggests that just viewing synchronized movements can influence how we see others. In this study, adult participants watched videos of two people figures walking side by side and imagined that they were one of the people. When music accompanied the videos, participants were more inclined to see the two figures as close and they liked the other one better, compared to when a metronome or silence accompanied the video. Why? Perhaps the music made them happier (as in the gym experiment), suggest the researchers—or maybe music plays a unique role in social bonding.

Interestingly, messing with the synchrony between the music and the figures changed people’s impressions. In some versions of the experiment, the two figures moved out of sync with one another. When the other figure was moving out of phase with the music, but the figure the participant was pretending to be was moving in phase, participants rated the other figure as less likeable compared to the opposite situation (other-figure in phase and self-figure out of phase). Could this mean that moving to the beat could help you find a new friend at a party? Further research is needed.

So, music can do plenty of good, it seems—but can it really “Heal the World?” It’s hard to say, given that research into the prosocial impacts of music is still in its infancy. But this smattering of studies suggests that there are ways music may indeed help.

https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/five_ways_music_can_make_you_a_better_person#

All my love, always,

Dad

 

 

 

4 years, 10 months, and 6 days. The Internet is but a tool. Use it! Don’t let it use you!

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The Movement of #MeToo

How a hashtag got its power

About 10 years ago, after I’d graduated college but when I was still waitressing full-time, I attended an empowerment seminar. It was the kind of nebulous weekend-long event sold as helping people discover their dreams and unburden themselves from past trauma through honesty exercises and the encouragement to “be present.” But there was one moment I’ve never forgotten. The group leader, a man in his 40s, asked anyone in the room of 200 or so people who’d been sexually or physically abused to raise their hands. Six or seven hands tentatively went up. The leader instructed us to close our eyes, and asked the question again. Then he told us to open our eyes. Almost every hand in the room was raised.

For a long time, most women defined their own sexual harassment and assault in this way: as something unspoken, something private, something to be ashamed of acknowledging. Silence, although understandable, has its cost. A decade ago, I couldn’t have conceived of the fact that so many women had experienced sexual coercion or intimidation; now, I’d be surprised if I could find a single one who hadn’t. On Sunday afternoon, the actress Alyssa Milano used her Twitter account to encourage women who’d been sexually harassed or assaulted to tweet the words #MeToo. In the last 24 hours, a spokesperson from Twitter confirmed, the hashtag had been tweeted nearly half a million times.

#MeToo wasn’t just mushrooming on Twitter—when I checked Facebook Monday morning, my feed was filled with friends and acquaintances acknowledging publicly that they, too, had experienced harassment or assault. Some shared their stories, some simply posted the hashtag to add their voices to the fray. And it wasn’t just women: Men also spoke up about their experiences with assault. Actors including Anna Paquin, Debra Messing, Rosario Dawson, Gabrielle Union, and Evan Rachel Wood joined in. The writer Alexis Benveniste used it to remind people that the messages they were seeing were only the tip of the iceberg. For every woman stating her own experiences out loud, there were likely just as many choosing not to do so.

https://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2017/10/the-movement-of-metoo/542979/ (emphasis added)

 

 

The Most Downvoted Comment in Reddit History Is the Perfect Example of How Not to Respond to Customer Complaints

Video game company EA Sports responds to gamer complaints in an overly-corporate and disingenuous way…and its new game, Star Wars Battlefront II, pays the price.

One of the features of the soon to be released Star Wars-based video game Battlefront II is an in-game economy that allows players to earn credits to unlock items within the game.

The game is a single-person campaign that takes place after the Return of the Jedi film. The online multiplayer mode lets you battle as a soldier for either the Empire or the rebels, earning perks like better weapons or boosts along the way…

…Plus, playable characters like Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker.

And therein lies the problem. Imagine you just spent $60 to buy the game–and then you find out that you have to spend tens of hours actually playing the game in order to earn the right to use the most popular characters.

Or if you don’t want to put in that kind of time, you have to spend even more money to unlock them.

To many gamers, that’s like buying a car and then finding out you need to pay extra to get a steering wheel. And since many will play the online version, that economy creates a pay-to-play dynamic where players who spend money can gain a greater advantage by gaining access to better weapons and perks more quickly.

According to estimates made by early users, players who aren’t willing to spend more money on a $60 game would need to spend 40 hours of grinding to unlock playable characters like Chewbacca and Palpatine, and 60 hours–each–to unlock Luke or Darth Vader.

But what if you’re a highly skilled player? Doesn’t matter: One person determined that in its current state, Battlefront II gives out credits based on time spent playing and not on skill. That means no matter how good you are…you would still have to grind. A lot.

So naturally gamers complained.

And here’s how EA responded on the gaming r/subreddit, the ninth most popular subreddit with over 17 million subscribers:

With well over 600,000 downvotes, that comment is now the most downvoted comment in Reddit history by a substantial margin….

Following the backlash, EA announced changes to how it incentivizes players to unlock key content within the game. In a statement posted on EA’s website, John Wasilczyk said the company will reduce the number of credits required to unlock classic saga heroes by 75 percent.

https://www.inc.com/jeff-haden/the-most-downvoted-comment-in-reddit-history-is-perfect-example-of-how-not-to-respond-to-customer-complaints.html (emphasis added)

My dearest Shosh and Jaialai:

The internet is a powerful tool.  Use it wisely, and it can change the world.  For example, it is giving a voice to women who have long been preyed upon by the powerful and ugly (inside and/or out).

But, remember that it is also a tool for those with bad intentions.  These include people, on one end of the spectrum, who want you to waste time and money on whatever they are selling — this includes “free” sites and games where the site gets money from advertisers as you while away precious moments of your lives and lose your health to the sedentary lifestyle they inspire.  On the other end of the spectrum lies the nastier netizens who hack laptop cameras and microphones to get nude photos or compromising information to blackmail users, who download viruses onto laptops to steal users’ bank and credit card account information, who hack power stations and damns to endanger the lives of people, etc.

How hackers can switch on your webcam and control your computer

A malicious virus known as Remote Administration Tools (RATs) can be used by hackers to switch on your webcam and control the machine without your knowledge. Andrew McMillen reports.

http://www.smh.com.au/digital-life/consumer-security/how-hackers-can-switch-on-your-webcam-and-control-your-computer-20130328-2gvwv.html

Bank Hackers Steal Millions via Malware

Russian Hackers Shut Down Ukraine’s Power Grid

http://www.newsweek.com/russian-hackers-shut-ukraine-power-grid-415751

As with all things in life, it is your responsibility to use the item wisely, and to take control of it and not let it take control of you.  Think.  Be purposeful in your actions.  If you need to unwind for a bit and watching YouTube or playing video games helps you unwind, then, by all means, do that.  But, control yourself and the tool.  Limit your use of it.

Don’t let it take over your lives.  Video game addiction is a problem.  In addition to all the bad physical things that results from you spending hours in front of a TV (muscle weakness, poor eyesight, poor cardio-vascular health, etc.), your social skills and life would also suffer.

Gaming ‘addict’ who played Xbox 16 hours a day sought counselling after struggling to talk to real people

James Callis sought help when he struggled to connect with real people and missed out on university

http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/gaming-addict-who-played-xbox-11470536

 

Man Dies From Blood Clot After Marathon Gaming

The family of a 20-year-old British man who died as a result of a blood clot that formed after playing video games for up to 12 hours a day is speaking out about the health risks obsessive gaming can pose.

David Staniforth told The Sun that his son, Chris, spent most of his days playing the online game Halo and was accepted into a game design program at Leicester University.

“He lived for his Xbox. I never dreamed he was in any danger,” Staniforth said.

The young man died in May from a deep vein thrombosis, the coroner told The Sun. The night before he died, his father told the BBC he was probably up all night on his computer.

http://abcnews.go.com/Health/extreme-gamer-dies-pulmonary-embolism/story?id=14212015

 

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Those that spend more than four hours a day looking at a screen are particularly vulnerable to mental illnesses, according to the study

Children who spend large amounts of time glued to a computer risk developing mental health problems such as loneliness, depression and anxiety, government health advisers have warned.

In a hard-hitting paper, Public Health England, which advises the NHS and government, makes a clear link between the overuse of the internet and social networking sites and lower self-esteem.

Those that spend more than four hours a day looking at a screen are particularly vulnerable to mental illnesses, the report says.

http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/health-news/the-internet-can-be-bad-for-children-s-mental-health-9381551.html

Learn to use technology for good, my sons.  Don’t let it use you and lead you down dark paths that don’t serve you.

As always, put away electronic devices.  Limit them to no more than two hours.  Go outside. Take a walk.  Play in the park.  Enjoy nature.  Hang out with your neighbors and friends.  Be real.

All my love, always,

Dad

 

 

4 years, 10 months, and 5 days. Learn to be a team player. Life is not all about you.

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My dearest Shosh and Jaialai:

History is replete with tales of those too smart for their own good.  Too often, people use their natural talents to elevate themselves at the expense of others, of their teams, of their communities, of their countries.  (Sadly, this is true also of those without talents, but who think they possess such attributes.)  The results are predictable.  Calamity ensues.  The news is replete with such stories, and books and movies have made much of such.  Yet, the lesson is frequently forgotten.

The most important lesson in life, my sons, is to be a part of something good and greater than yourselves.  The enigma is that service for others will bring you greater joy and happiness than the dogged and selfish pursuit of your own happiness.  As discussed earlier, we are wired to be bottomless pits.  We are built to adapt; thus, what joy a new acquisition gives you will soon fade and the need for another, newer acquisition will start you on the endless chase.

But, the critical terms here are “good and greater than yourselves”.  Beware of false promises and outright lies.  (I do not intend to imply mal-intent here; sometimes, people do not intend to be bad but become blinded to the truth because of their tunnel visions.)

https://i1.wp.com/www.incareofdad.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/theres-no-I-in-team.png

https://image.slidesharecdn.com/jonestownmassacre-120214084504-phpapp02/95/jonestown-massacre-3-728.jpg?cb=1329209217

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(Yes, Jim Jones claimed to be God and Buddha on occasions, yet he forced his followers to kill their children and themselves.  False prophets are many.  Beware of them.)

Use your head.  Think, always.  Assess the validity of what is presented to you.  What are the motives of the speaker?  What does he/she have to gain?  Is the information reliable and supported by data, studies, logic, etc.?  What is being omitted?  What are the counterarguments?

Always think.  Explore and find out for yourselves what you believe in, what projects you can invest yourselves in, and how you can help the less fortunate and make your community a better place.

My one regret with you boys is to not have involved you guys in my volunteer work.  I thought you were too young.  I was wrong.  It would have done you good, and exposed you to the harsh realities of the lives of many others.

My hope is you will find good people and good projects to engage with.  The joy that comes from team work and helping others cannot be overstated.  I want that for you.

All my love, always,

Dad

4 years, 10 months, and 3 days. Don’t every lose your sense of wonder about the world. Stay curious!

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These crabs can grow up to 3 feet — and hunt birds, a biologist’s video proves

There’s a theory that giant crabs overwhelmed Amelia Earhart, dismembered her and carried her bones underground.

Speculative, at best. Sounds crazy, we know.

But so has almost every other horrifying rumor about the so-called coconut crabs — until science inevitably proves them true.

They grow to the size of dogs. They climb trees, and tear through solid matter with claws nearly as strong as a lion’s jaws.

And now, finally, we have video evidence that the crabs — thousands strong on one island — can scale trees and hunt full-grown birds in their nests.

“It would at first be thought quite impossible for a crab to open a strong cocoa-nut,” Charles Darwin once wrote, as that father of evolutionary biology recounted stories of a “monstrous” arthropod said to roam an island in the Indian Ocean.

“The crab begins by tearing the husk, fibre by fibre, and always from that end under which the three eye-holes are situated,” Darwin wrote. “When this is completed, the crab commences hammering with its heavy claws on one of the eye-holes till an opening is made.”

But Darwin would go no further than that. The genius who championed life’s endless forms gave no credence to reports that these fierce giant crabs could also climb trees.

In the decades to come, coconut crabs would be photographed not only climbing trees but hanging from them like enormous hard-shell spiders. Researchers in our own century once left them a small pig carcass to see what would happen, Smithsonian Magazine wrote.

The crabs quickly disappeared the pig.

Now we know they are the largest invertebrate to walk the earth — more than three feet long, pincer to pincer, with claws so strong that a researcher once tried to measure the force, and described it as “eternal hell” after a coconut crab caught his hand.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/speaking-of-science/wp/2017/11/11/these-crabs-can-grow-up-to-3-feet-and-hunt-birds-a-biologists-video-proves/?utm_term=.5d3735ffbdf1

My dearest Shosh and Jaialai:

Shosh, do you remember seeing one of these crabs at the aquarium in Okinawa?  It was so strange and cool, wasn’t it?  Now, they’ve got a video of it eating a bird.  Cool, huh?

(Yes, it’s probably not so cool from the perspective of the bird, but such is the circle of life.  Life is what it is.  It is neither good nor bad.  Don’t make the mistake of attributing human values to animals.  They live and are guided by their instincts, and it is not up to us to “judge” them.  A scorpion, in and of itself, is neither better nor worse than a chicken.  [Of course, if we are speaking of them in terms of a food source, then the analysis differs.])

Stay curious about nature and all of her amazing feats, my sons.  Studies show that being mindful of and connected to nature improves our health, happiness, and well-being.  So, stay connected to nature.  Go for walks often, as we did through our neighborhood in the day.  Keep an eye out for the awesome and the curious.

All my love, always,

Dad

 

4 years, 9 months, and 28 days. Money is but a means to a comfortable life. Don’t chase after it. Live right.

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Saudi Arabia Arrests 11 Princes, Including Billionaire Alwaleed bin Talal

Saudi Arabia announced the arrest on Saturday night of the prominent billionaire investor Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, plus at least 10 other princes, four ministers and tens of former ministers.

The announcement of the arrests was made over Al Arabiya, the Saudi-owned satellite network whose broadcasts are officially approved. Prince Alwaleed’s arrest is sure to send shock waves both through the kingdom and the world’s major financial centers.

He controls the investment firm Kingdom Holding and is one of the world’s richest men, owning or having owned major stakes in 21st Century Fox, Citigroup, Apple, Twitter and many other well-known companies. The prince also controls satellite television networks watched across the Arab world.

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My dearest Shosh and Jaialai:

This is the Age of the Fallen.  Recent stories of the mighty who have fallen includes Prince Alwaleed bin Talal of Saudi Arabia, President Park of South Korea, President Rousseff of Brazil, President Lula of Brazil, Senator Menendez of New Jersey, National Security Advisor  Flynn, the head of Samsung, and numerous others.

They rose to power and fortune through nebulous means, and their wayward ways eventually caught up to them.  Don’t be like them!

Money is but a means to an end — a means to securing a comfortable life.  It is not the end-all.  It does not buy you happiness because it brings its own baggage.

Miseries of the Rich and Famous

Would $25 million make you happy?

Not if you’re a member of the ultra-rich.

In a survey titled “Joys and Dilemma of Wealth” by Boston College, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Calibre Wealth Management, the wealthiest set revealed they are an unhappy bunch — worried about appearing ungrateful, rearing bratty children and failing to meet expectations.

The report, obtained by The Atlantic, gives a glimpse of the wealth and fulfillment level of 160 households, of which 120 had amassed fortunes of at least $25 million. The findings: Despite great wealth, many seem miserable.

One of the gems from the survey: “I feel extremely lucky, but it’s hard to get other, non-wealthy people to believe it’s not more significant than that … The novelty of money has worn off.”

So is it better to live life without money? “Being very poor is very miserable,” says Dan Ariely, a professor at Duke University. “But it turns out money doesn’t buy as much happiness as people think it would buy.”

http://abcnews.go.com/Business/concerns-super-rich-wealth-bring-happiness/story?id=13167578

 

 

Money can’t buy happiness

Extremely wealthy people have their own set of concerns: anxiety about their children, uncertainty over their relationships and fears of isolation, finds research by Robert Kenny.

Most of what we think we know about people with a lot of money comes from television, movies and beach novels — and a lot of it is inaccurate, says Robert Kenny, EdD.

In an effort to remedy that, Kenny, a developmental psychologist and senior advisor at the Center on Wealth and Philanthropy at Boston College, is co-leading a research project on the aspirations, dilemmas and personal philosophies of people worth $25 million or more. Kenny and his colleagues surveyed approximately 165 households via an anonymous online survey and were surprised to find that while money eased many aspects of these people’s lives, it made other aspects more difficult….

What did you find?

People consistently said that their greatest aspiration in life was to be a good parent — not exactly the stereotype some might expect. When asked whether their money helps with that, they answered with all the obvious: good schools, travel, security, varied experiences. But when we asked how their money gets in the way, that was a payload. We received response after response on how money is not always helpful. They mentioned very specific concerns, such as the way their children would be treated by others and stereotyped as rich kids or trust fund babies, they wondered if their children would know if people really loved them or their money, whether they’d know if their achievements were because of their own skills, knowledge and talent or because they have a lot of money.

Some were concerned about motivation. They worried that if their children have enough money and don’t have to worry about covering the mortgage, what will motivate them? How will they lead meaningful lives? This is where the money might get in the way and make things confusing, not necessarily better. Very few said they hoped their children made a lot of money, and not many said they were going to give all the money to charity and let their kids fend for themselves. They were, however, really interested in helping their children figure out how they could live a meaningful life. Even though they did not have to “make a living,” they did need to make a life.

As for the respondents’ aspirations for the world, they focused, once again, on how to help the youth in the world live healthy, meaningful and impactful lives. Their answers were consistently youth-focused: They were concerned about being good parents, they were concerned about their children and they were concerned about the children of the world in general. We found that to be very interesting, and even surprising because it runs contrary to so many of the stereotypes about this population.

http://www.apa.org/monitor/2012/07-08/money.aspx

We were not super-rich by any means, but we were rich enough to experience some of their struggles.  Your aunts and uncle and I always worried about how best to provide for our children without spoiling you guys, without enabling you to take things for granted.  There is value in hard work.  Never shy away from it.

You know, during most of my career, I worked hard to establish myself and earn a good living to support you boys.  For most of my career, I had four weeks of paid vacation.  Yet, during all my years working for large firms and organizations, I knew of only one colleague who was able to take the full vacation time off and enjoy it with his family.  The rest of us barely had time for family, much less vacation.  Most years, I was able to take one week off.  One year, we spent two weeks in Hawaii, but I spent one of those weeks holed up in the hotel, sitting in front of my work-issued laptop.

I should have taken more vacations and should have spent each and every second of the time off with you.  That’s my regret.

Most of my colleagues and I knew of someone, or has heard about someone, who died at the office.  We spend so much of our lives there.  Yes, the money and the recognition was nice, but at the end of the day, they don’t mean much.  I have never heard of anyone who, on his deathbed, wished he’d spent more time at the office.

Live within your means.  Take time to enjoy life, each other, and nature.  Those things — not money — help you live a long and meaningful life.

All my love, always,

Dad

Ex-NFL player who lived on $25,000 a year shares his key to saving money

When John Urschel retired from the NFL at age 26 in 2017, he had earned an impressive $1.8 million over just three seasons with the Baltimore Ravens.

His salary was as high as $600,000 in 2016, but you wouldn’t know it from his lifestyle: The offensive lineman, who drives a used Nissan Versa that he bought for $9,000, chose to live on less than $25,000 a year.

That means Urschel was living off of just 4 percent of his salary in 2016. In other words, he was saving about 96 percent of what he made.

 He didn’t live on a modest $25,000 a year and drive a used car “because I’m frugal or trying to save for some big purchase,” Urschel said. “It’s because the things I love the most in this world (reading math, doing research, playing chess) are very, very inexpensive.”

Former NFL player John Urschel

Nicole Craine | Getty Images
Former NFL player John Urschel

Urschel, who is currently pursuing his doctorate at MIT, chooses to spend on what makes him happy and not waste money on things that aren’t important to him.

https://www.cnbc.com/2017/11/03/nfls-john-urschel-lived-on-25000-a-year-explains-how-to-save-money.html?yptr=yahoo?src=rss