Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Interpersonal Communication: Social Conformity

From the pages of the NY Times, A new study at Emory University in Atlanta goes to the root of social conformity:

"The researchers found that social conformity showed up in the brain as activity in regions that are entirely devoted to perception. But independence of judgment - standing up for one's beliefs - showed up as activity in brain areas involved in emotion, the study found, suggesting that there is a cost for going against the group.

'We like to think that seeing is believing,' said Dr. Gregory Berns, a psychiatrist and neuroscientist at Emory University in Atlanta who led the study.

But the study's findings, he said, show that seeing is believing what the group tells you to believe. "

The study used MRI to measure brain activity in the test subject. Each subject was shown a pickture of two objects and was asked to mentally rotate the objects to determine if they were the same or different. They were placed in a group (of actors) who would voice their opinions first. Sometimes the actors would choose the correct answer, and other times the incorrect one. In fact, subjects went along with the wrong answer 41% of the time due to good old fashioned peer pressure.

From an evolutionary point of view, this makes sense. If you live in a small community where you rely on those around you for your basic needs then going along with the group can be a matter of life or death.

In modern society however, there are some problems with this. Our justice system and government rely on group decisions because we assume that group decisions are more intelligent than individual ones. If people have a negative emotional reaction to speaking out against a group then the entire assumption becomes suspect. Group decision making becomes more about who speaks up first and loudest, rather than a weighing of everyones ideas in favour of the best one.

I would like to see this study taken a step further. I am interested in finding out what would happen if the subjects of the study were amoungst colleagues instead of strangers. In an environment where people have some familiarity do they hen aquire the comfort level needed to speak up? If not, we may have to re-think things

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

What's Wrong With This Picture?

From the BBC News:

"Former US President Ronald Reagan has been voted the "greatest American" of all time by his fellow citizens.
Mr Reagan, who died last year aged 93, topped a list of 10 contenders, which featured six former presidents.
He edged out Abraham Lincoln, who abolished slavery, and civil rights leader Martin Luther King.
Some of the most notable names of US history such as Albert Einstein and Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the Moon, did not make the top 10.
Talk show host Oprah Winfrey is the highest ranked female contender at ninth place, making her the greatest American woman. "

Is anyone else shaking their heads at this?

I think the reason why Ronald Regan topped the list had little to do with his greatness as a human being. Instead, I propose that the reason why President Regan as voted #1 was because he was incredibly media-savvy.

The Poll itself is suspect, it was organized by the Discovery Channel and AOL (part of media giants themselves, so voters may not be fully representative of the american population.) But let's suppose, for arguments sake that they were able to poll a large section of the Country and get a moderately accurate representation of their feelings on this matter. The list is as follows:

Top 10 greatest Americans
1 Ronald Reagan
2 Abraham Lincoln
3 Martin Luther King
4 George Washington
5 Benjamin Franklin
6 George W Bush
7 Bill Clinton
8 Elvis Presley
9 Oprah Winfrey
10 Franklin D Roosevelt

Excluding the fact that America is a young country, I feel a disproportionate number of people in the top 10 rose to public life within the age of mass media. This then, may not be a list of the greatest American per se, but rather a list of the most popular Americans. After all, it would take work to actually find the greatest American not represented in the media, and who has time for that these days?

Monday, June 27, 2005

My Parents’ Clowder of Two

As I pulled into the driveway of my parents’ house, Friday evening, I thought – “why am I continuing to look in on their cats every weekend? This is becoming a make work effort and I should be staying in the city, at my place, and getting my affairs in…well…order. Just because I feel guilty that these two pampered pets are left alone for an extended period while my parents are away is no reason to blow off my own responsibilities or down time. The elderly neighbors are feeding them and that will have to be enough.”

And then I stepped into the downstairs rec room and saw the blood. A large rusty patch on the floor that trailed around the desk and spatter on the wall.

Cats are said to be "the perfect carnivores", having highly specialized teeth and a digestive tract suitable to the digestion of meat. The premolar and first molar together comprise the carnassial pair on each side of the mouth, which efficiently functions to shear meat like a pair of scissors. While this is present in canines, it is highly developed in felines. The cat's tongue has sharp spines, or papillae, designed to retain and rip flesh from a carcass. These papillae are small backward-facing hooks which contain keratin and also assist in their grooming. Unlike most carnivores, cats eat almost no vegetable matter. Whereas bears and dogs commonly supplement their diet of meat with fruits, berries, roots, and honey when they can get them, cats feed exclusively on meat, usually freshly killed. In captivity cats cannot be adapted to a vegetarian diet because they cannot synthesise all the amino acids they need from plant material; this contrasts with domesticated dogs, which commonly are fed a mixture of meat and vegetable products and have been adapted in some cases to a completely vegetarian diet. Contrary to popular belief, cats should not be fed cow's milk because it is difficult for them to digest (Wikipedia).

I guess I’ll be checking in most weekends while my parents are away.

I guess I will now always see those cute little furry babies as the sociopaths they really are…sociopaths in Ewok suits.

And maybe I need to look in to investing in some cat bibs from Wild Arc.

Hobbit Lawsuits?

In the New York Times: Peter Jackson is suing New Line Cinema, saying essentially that they used the multiple companies of their media conglomerate to make profit without having to pay Jackson his full share. Now I know he's already made a ton of money on this franchise - more than many people will see in their lifetimes, but I am biased on the side of Jackson because the studio certainly did not need to make any additional money through dubious business practices.

"The suit charges that the company used pre-emptive bidding (meaning a process closed to external parties) rather than open bidding for subsidiary rights to such things as "Lord of the Rings" books, DVD's and merchandise. Therefore, New Line received far less than market value for these rights, the suit says.
Most of those rights went to other companies in the New Line family or under the Time Warner corporate umbrella, like Warner Brothers International, Warner Records and Warner Books. So while the deals would not hurt Time Warner's bottom line, they would lower the overall gross revenues related to the film, which is the figure Mr. Jackson's percentage is based on. "

But I think that this case is particularily interesting in light of "small is the new big" thinking. Here we have a very large media conglomerate (AOL Time Warner) and Peter Jackson, who was a relatively small director made big by the same company. Peter Jackson is now big enough to carry some major clout in Hollywood. If this lawsuit goes through, it will strike a blow to the media conglomerates and could impact how they choose to business in the future. I don't think this will bring the big companies down, but they do have alot more at stake in this lawsuit than the few dollars that they saved. If on the other hand New Line wins. It will set a precedent that will cement the power of the large Media conglomerates in the name of free market. It will give the large companies free reign to do whatever it takes to maximize profits. This is one case that I think everybody who is interested in the erosion of choice due to corporate media takeovers will be watching with much interest

Friday, June 24, 2005

A Diversion:

For those of you who are sick of hearing about communication theories I present:

How To Make A Prosthetic Make-up:

I know you have all secretly wanted the premium Hallowe'en or costume party idea. Well, with these simple steps you can amaze your friends by giving yourself the make up that can turn you into Frankenstein, Pinnochio or any other weird face creature open to your imagination. Oh, and by the way, use these instructions at your own risk - all these materials are quite safe, but if you do not read the instructions properly and misuse them, you alone are responsible for what happens...

1) (If you are designing this make-up for yourself, somebody else has to do this bit) You must make a mold of your subjects face. For this you need:

a) Plaster Bandages (from craft store)
b) Water (from the tap)
c) A smock for yourself and your subject (it gets messy)
d) A bald cap for your subject (from a costume shop, to cover their hair)
e) Vaseline
f) Alginate Powder (You can get it from dental supply shops in Canada, In the States, order it
g) A hair dryer (not compulsary, but recommended)
h) Casting plaster

Sit your subject down, and MAKE SURE HE/SHE IS NOT CLAUSTROPHOBIC!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Put on the smock, and make sure your subject is wearing the bald cap. Smear the vaseline on any facial hair that remains after the bald cap is worn (upper lip, eyebrows, sideburns.)

Mix the alginate with water according to directions. Alginate is thick and gooey, but dries to a rubbery cosistency. You don't have much time from when you mix it until hen it dries (only about 2 - 5 minutes) so the next bit is tricky. You have to quickly cover your subjects entire face from chin to forehead with the alginate and YOU MUST LEAVE NOSE HOLES!!!!!!!! If you don't you will have a dead subject, and nobody will ever let you take a mold of their face again.

Now your subject is covered in goo, but the goo is fragile even after it dries, so the next step is to cover their face with the plaster bandages (dipped in water) Don't forget to still leave nose holes. At some point during this your subject is going to look a bit like "the mummy" so if you brought your camera, it's fun to take a picture at this point (hee hee) The plaster bandages will dry nice and hard over the alginate, but the drying process takes a little while, so you can speed it up using a hair dryer.

*Note - During this process it's good to have a signal - since your subject cannot speak. This signal means "I'm not ok, please get me out of here and is used if they feel uncomfortable or unable to breathe" IF THEY GIVE YOU A SIGNAL - ABORT!*

Still with me? Good. After the plaster bandages have dried get your subject to lean forward, and wiggle their face. This will loosen the alginate and allow you to gently remove alginate and plaster. Voila! you have a negative of your subject's face - well done! Now fill the negative with casting plaster, and when the plaster dries your subjects face will be looking back at you (when you remove it from it's alginate mold that is) Neato!

2) Sculpt your creature face on top of your plaster face. For this you need oil based clay. Go nutty! Extend the nose, create eyebrow ridges, whatever strikes your fancy. Then

3) Cast a negative of your sculpted face with casting plaster. But first, coat your mold in more vaseline, or better yet, a mold release agent, or else you plaster bits will stick together and you'll be annoyed, and have to start all over again.

5) Fill your negative with liquid latex (from here) or gelatine (also from here, or make it yourself, this guy has a recipe)

Wait until it hardens (over night is good)

Then - Give yourself a pat on the back, you're done!

I recommend that you follow instructions from here for a better step by step with pictures. I also recommend that you buy at least one book before starting. I have one that I learned how to make molds from, and I stand by doing your research before you start this stuff. Buy books here.

Remember. Be safe, Use common sense, and know your materials before you use them. I advise casting your own hand or foot before you cast somebody else's face. Anyway, have fun, and happy costuming!

Kick in the Pants

Thus we see that intellect alone is not sufficient to make happy human beings...We need feelings and emotions. The power of reason is not enough. We have to grasp our problems with our hearts...Be brave and go forward. - Shirin Ebadi (Iranian, Muslim humand rights activist and 2003 Nobel laureate)

Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Only engage and the mind grows heated; begin and the task wil be completed. - Goethe

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Guess what I'm still struggling with...

From Steve Pavlina care of Rosa Say...

Similarly, if you want to increase your self-discipline, you must know where you stand right now. How strong is your discipline at this moment? Which challenges are easy for you, and which are virtually impossible for you?

Here’s a list of challenges to get you thinking about where you stand right now (in no particular order):

*Do you shower/bathe every day?
*Do you get up at the same time every morning? Including weekends?
*Are you overweight?
*Do you have any addictions (caffeine, nicotine, sugar, etc.) you’d like to break but haven’t?
*Is your email inbox empty right now?
*Is your office neat and well organized?
*Is your home neat and well organized?
*How much time do you waste in a typical day? On a weekend?
*If you make a promise to someone, what’s the percentage chance you’ll keep it?
*If you make a promise to yourself, what’s the percentage chance you’ll keep it?
*Could you fast for one day?
*How well organized is your computer’s hard drive?
*How often do you exercise?
*What’s the greatest physical challenge you’ve ever faced, and how long ago was it?
*How many hours of focused work do you complete in a typical workday?
*How many items on your to do list are older than 90 days?
*Do you have clear, written goals? Do you have written plans to achieve them?
*If you lost your job, how much time would you spend each day looking for a new one, and how long would you maintain that level of effort?
*How much TV do you currently watch? Could you give up TV for 30 days?
*How do you look right now? What does your appearance say about your level of discipline (clothes, grooming, etc)?
*Do you primarily select foods to eat based on health considerations or on taste/satiety?
*When was the last time you consciously adopted a positive new habit? Discontinued a bad habit?
*Are you in debt? Do you consider this debt an investment or a mistake?
*Did you decide in advance to be reading this blog right now, or did it just happen?
*Can you tell me what you’ll be doing tomorrow? Next weekend?
*On a scale of 1-10, how would you rate your overall level of self-discipline?
*What more could you accomplish if you could answer that last question with a 9 or 10?

Just as there are different muscle groups which you train with different exercises, there are different areas of self-discipline: disciplined sleep, disciplined diet, disciplined work habits, disciplined communication, etc. It takes different exercises to build discipline in each area.

My advice is to identify an area where your discipline is weakest, assess where you stand right now, acknowledge and accept your starting point, and design a training program for yourself to improve in this area. Start out with some easy exercises you know you can do, and gradually progress to greater challenges.


Communication theorist Jesse Delia argues that:

"People who are cognitively complex in their perceptions of others have a communication advantage over those with less developed mental structures" - Em Griffin, 2003

Essentially, what constuctivism theorists consider to be the kind of cognitive complexity outlined above is relative to how a person perceives others. If a person is primarily "black and white" in their assessment of other people, they would be considered less cognitively complex. If a person sees more "shades of grey" they would be correspondingly more cognitively complex. Have I lost you yet?
The reason why this gives people a communication advantage is due to the fact that a person who is cognitively complex in their perceptions of others can "anticipate how different individuals may respond to a message, and ajust his or her communication accordingly" (- Griffin 2003)

Why is this important? Beverly Sypher from the University of Kansas and Theodore Zorn from the University of North Carolina conducted a four-year study of white collar workers at a large Eastern Insurance company. This study indicated that cognitively complex workers moved up faster in the ranks of their company, and were given higher paying jobs than their colleagues who demonstrated less cognitive complexity. Furthermore, Jesse Delia amoung others, has determined that Cognitive complexity is a culturally transmitted trait "passed down from parents to their children through complex messages of nurture and discipline." (Griffin, 2003) Parents from more advantaged socioeconomic background are more likely than their underpriviledged counterparts to pass this kind of cognition on to their children. Result, cognitively as well as materially, the rich keep getting richer.

It is possible to increase the "shades of grey" thinking of a child, by using reflective communication: statements that encourage the child to see things from the point of view of others. The question is, is this another job that we leave to an already overburded school system, or is there another way to level the playing field, maybe through mass media or new media?

I think we could all benefit from striving to become better communicators, but you knew that already! We are lucky to be amoung those in the world encouraged to write and speak freely. It's a gift.

Monday, June 20, 2005

The Pen is Mightier?

Question: Do you think in words, or pictures?

I think in both, and I've noticed while conciously trying to monitor my thoughts over the last few days that I have a tendency to think in words more often than average.

Both are symbols - at the very heart - meaning we don't even think in absolute terms.

Some communications theorists maintain that society, culture, and even our very environment are created by our language - the words we choose to use and pass on to the next generation. For example, in some Native Americain cultures there is no word for green. They have yellow, and blue, but not green. One could argue that in these cultures, green simply does not exist. It's not a race of colourblind people, it's a difference in language.

I had a friend who was multilingual, and when he spent enough time in another country, he would begin to think in the language of that country, instead of his native tongue. I think that he experienced a broader outlook on the world for having the unique perspective of one who can think in multiple language. I am sure his reality is different from mine.

But here's where it gets interesting: if we create our reality through our language, then what kind of situations are we creating for ourselves every day? Of course this relates to "self talk" and how you view yourself, but it also extends (of course) to interpersonal relationships and (gasp!) the workplace. In my work we have a phrase that we like to reference: "Beware the downward Spiral." In it's simplest terms, the downward spiral is when one person starts complaining, and then two more join in, and then suddenly work is miserable and morale is low because everybody got washed away by a wave of negativity. I've noticed that often it's the staff who have been aroung the longest who tend to get caught up in the spiral. Although I have myself engaged in less that positive language on more than one occasion. Unfortunately, some companies foster environments for it.

So do what you can. You alone cannot change an entire work environment by using positive language. You can however, commit yourself to not getting caught up in other peoples negativity, and you can try to create your own positive environment in small ways around you. If we think in words, and our experience is created and shaped by our thoughts, what else can we do if we are to be happy in this life?

Friday, June 17, 2005

Father's Day Weekend!

Happy Father's Day to all you Dad's out there (in advance, because I don't often post on weekends)

I would like to touch on two Fathers who have shaped my life:

First of all, my biological father: I never knew him. I know of him. I know little things about him. For example, he was an antique dealer and an horologist, he used to live in England - that is where my mother met him, he met my family a few times in Canada, he used to send me antique teddy bears and piggy banks, once he sent me an antique clock: it was engraved, from Papa in England. He was from Austria, and I heard that his father had been a great conductor. He was a spectre to me. I think he must have loved me, because why send gifts? I think he must have felt cut off because one day when I was about two the gifts stopped. He was a myth then, a legend to me. This shaped my life because I grew up never knowing. Always wondering, does he ever think of me and wonder too?

Then there's the person I call Dad. My stepfather. We didn't always like each other: I thought he was coming to take my mother away from me, he thought I was a brat (I was, really.) He taught me many things: how to appreciate good music, how to be honest, how to be self disciplined. He taught me that joy can be found in many places, and that it's ok to always try new things. He taught me that it doesn't matter who you are related to, your family is in your heart. He treated me like his own - better maybe. I think we needed each other. I know he saved me. When I was fourteen I was led astray by a much older man who was most certainly a predator. I ran away from home to be with him, and my step dad found me and brought me home. He was so angry, he smashed in the headlight of the guy's car. He was a little angry at me too, but when we had worked through the pain of that event, and learned to forgive each other, there was a bond between us that will always be there. My Stepdad walked me down the aisle when I got married last year. He looked great in his tuxedo. I don't know if he knows what his love has meant to me - what it meant to me that he chose to be my father, even though there were so many times he could have given up on me.

Happy Fathers day Dad! Your presence in my life has been a blessing.


As I am sure was evident from last night's post, I am in a 'thoughful' place right now...good or bad, I am not sure, but I do feel certain that taking time to look around ourselves is never wasted time. Through a link at I found much to give me pause...

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Second Thoughts

I should have invited the man sitting on the sidewalk to lunch. But I wanted to read a document in preparation for what I would be writing this afternoon. Irony (?): having lunch alone to gather my thoughts for an assignment that would result in a "deliverable" that would aid two parties reach an agreement that (in an ideal world) would help many Aboriginal people OR buy the Aboriginal man sitting on the sidewalk a lunch and help one person in a very real way. So, I passed on the opportunity to immediately help an individual believing the time would be better spent working on helping a group. I think I made a mistake. I think it is really about helping from the sidewalk up...

More reasons to be a great communicator:

Building relationships with people is good for you!

In BBC News today:

"Good friends promise to be there for you, and their presence can actually help you live longer, researchers say. "

They did a study of how a range of social, health and lifestyle factors affected the survival rates of people over fifty. Researchers determined that while family connections seemed to have very little effect on life expectancy, friendships "have important positive effects on survival"

They postulate that this effect is due to the fact that we choose our friends, as opposed to family members.

So, hold on to your friends, they may be more important to you than you know.

I would also like to take this moment to thank all my friends for continuing to put up with me - you know who you are, and you are very much appreciated.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005


"n. 1. the act of transmitting 2. a) a giving or exchanging of information, signals or messages by talk, gestures, writing, etc. b) the information, message, etc. 3. close, sympathetic relationship. 4. a means of communicating; specif., a) [pl.] a system for sending and receiving messages, as by telephone, telegraph, radio, etc. b) [pl.] a system as of routes for moving troops and material c) a passage or way of getting from one place to another 5. [often pl. with sing. v.] a) the art of expressing ideas, esp. in speech and writing b) the science of transmitting information, esp. in symbols." - Webster's New World Dictionary, 2nd College Edition

2.a) a giving or exchanging of information, signals or messages. or 4.b) a system as of routes for moving troops and material.

So, if a truck carrying goods drives down the highway and drops off it's goods at the next town, communication has happened twice: once as part of the highway system, and once with the truck moves the goods from one town to another. (please see Tutorial, A Study Tour of Communication for more info)

If you walk outside on a rainy day, and raindrops hit your head so you raise your umbrella, communication has happened. If somebody sees you do it through their window and so declines to go outside, communication has happened at least twice.

Each one of these words I am typing are only symbols for the thoughts that I have in my head right now. Even through reading them, you will never know exactly what thoughts were in my head, and as succinct as I can be, I am trapped using symbols to try to convey what I am feeling. As a result, I can never be 100% accurate or clear in my message.

Think about this for a second in the context of human relationships.
1) We are competing with many forms of human and non-human communication for the attention of our listeners/readers.
2) We can never fully convey what we are thinking, nor can we fully understand what anyone else is thinking.

All the more reason to develop further our listening skills, and sensitivity.

I think that no system could exist without rudimentary forms of human and non-human communication, but think also how our human systems and communities could grow and benefit from better communication.

I just sat through a meeting where the speaker managed to say nothing for an hour. I think his secret was using really big words that didn't really mean anything (typical business speak, I know you've all been through this.) I wonder what would have happened if he had been forced to come out from his hiding place behind the big words and speak like a real person. I think it would have been surprising but entirely positive.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Please Welcome American North!

New to the blogosphere, please let me present to you American North. So far there is only one post, but this blog looks to be funny and smart, as it explores the differences between Canadians and Americans, among other things.

Join me in checking out this new effort, so that maybe Jape (jay-P) for the uninitiated) will write more for us. I like the way the first post examines the alphabet song. Who knew something so simple could be the grounds for a rousing debate?

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Speaking up for those who can't squeak for themselves:

Today in the BBC: There are a whole bunch of rats out there, in your homes, your gardens, under your feet and visiting your favorite restaurants. Gives some people the willies, I know.

But you know what I say? Good for them. Any animal smart enough and tenacious enough to "share with us the title of most successful mammal on the planet" deserves my respect. Rats don't maliciously invade our homes, they are intelligent enough to think "hey, there's a warm place, with holes to hide in and lots of food lying around - I want to live there" kinda like us. And the truth is, if most of us cleaned properly, and didn't leave so much food lying around, then there wouldn't be much incentive for the ratty friends to come and live with us.

Everybody thinks that the bubonic plague was caused by rats, it wasn't. First of all, it was caused by people: throwing their feces and garbage out the window, living too close to one another - a nice environment to spread disease. Secondly, if you really want to blame an animal, blame the flea. It was the fleas on the rats (and the humans, and the dogs) that actually carried the disease. The rat was just the messenger, a flea mode of transportation if you will, but then again so were we.

So I fail to understand why people are so afraid of rats. They are just smart little animals with a poor reputation. We actually owe alot to these little creatures. They are subjects in trial after trial for scientific experiments (because they are so much like us.) Most modern medicines, and theories of behavior/psychology would not have been possible without rat help. Now, personally I am against animal testing, but if for no other reason, this one is a good way to illustrate how rats have actually helped humans.

Bottom line is, I think we should respect all creatures great and small. We may not understand why an animal is here on the planet with us, but that doesn't really give us the right to do away with it. I think we can learn a great deal about ourselves from watching the world around us. Even those bits that some people may find unpleasant.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Taking My Cue From Rosa...Again

Congratulations Rosa on Post # 300!
Rosa’s writing this month on de-cluttering one’s life (‘Ōpala ‘ole ) has been meaningful to me, especially in light of my current state of being overwhelmed at work (project overload) and home (the houseguest learning curve). In particular, I quote the following:

Self-reflection on what you consider your own responsibilities to be, can be a big help to you in discarding some of your clutter.

When you consider all you do in your life, exactly what do [you] feel strongest about, in that you feel it is your responsibility and no one else’s?

That last phrase, “and no one else’s” is the key. Ask yourself very honestly: what are you doing that is someone else’s responsibility?

Here’s another question. Why are you still doing it?

Do you have to clarify it and decide on your next action? Do you have to train someone else in it, and coach them? Or do you have to just let it go, and cut your own emotional ties to it? Will you allow someone else to take it from you?

There’s something else I want you to keep in mind here: you don’t have to give away what you don’t want to. I’ve written before on my belief that instinctive wanting is a good thing.

This last paragraph made me want to cry…we can truly be our own worst enemies.

The above quote’s thesis was a continuation from a post Rosa wrote March 15 – Jay noted it on our blog around that time – but I feel this point is worth highlighting again and again and again:

…people feel drained when they are called upon to do things that they simply have no desire to do: There seems to be this instinctive natural selection process we are born with — it’s called wanting. Strengths are best defined as predictable patterns of behavior you gravitate toward because it’s natural for you. It’s kind of nice to know that one of the best things you can do for yourself is listen to that inner voice telling you what you want to do, for no other intellectual, logical, pragmatic, or perfectly sensible reason other than that you WANT to be doing it.

Emotional, gut level instincts are rich sources of water.

Problem is, we’re continually trained by others — our parents, our teachers, our bosses — to stifle those feelings, buck up, and be an adult — to try harder. Try harder at something you just don’t want to do, and you can bet you’ll feel drained.

If others are confusing you about what you should want for yourself, don’t listen to them. Trust yourself. Let your instincts guide you: succumb to those emotional feelings about what you want to do. Believe that your wants are your natural selection process aligned with your innate strengths.

Wanting is a good thing.

If Rosa says it is a "good thing," as opposed to a selfish practice, then I will trust that she knows what she is talking about... and follow her very good advice.

In the News today:

1) Ronald Macdonald gets a make over, apparently he is now "super fit healthy eating guy" um... whatever.

2) Google stock surpasses Time Warner for media stock market value. Wow, Google is now officially an empire. Most of Google's success is said to be based on the revenues from the web page advertisements. This means Congratulations Bloggers! Lets give ourselves a pat on the back for our part in helping google achieve world domination (Nigel, ya wanna switch to typepad? heh heh)

3) And for those of you interested in American politics: John Kerry is reported to have gotten D's at Yale, which makes him possibly a worse student than the current Prez. What does this tell us: You do not have to be good grades to be a good leader (or a bad leader). What your mom told you is wrong: you can be president even if you don't do your homework.

So the moral of the news today is: Eat Healthy food (be like Ronald McDonald) and play on the computer instead of doing your homework because then you will make billions of dollars, and maybe even be president one day.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

First Scholarship = No :(

It was a BIG one too (up to $10,000)- and I lost out on a technicality! Apparently my application was very strong, but I had completed too many credits too be eligible... Sigh...


In other News, Seth Godin has posted some really interesting thoughts lately: He talks about how small is the new big, meaning that the wallmarts and super malls of the world are being threatened by the internet. The theory is (and I believe it to be true) that the internet minimizes the advantage of the economies of scale. With technology, big corporations no longer have a monopoly on what they can produce and how far they can distribute it. The result of this is that the little people, creating something remarkable can reach a very wide audience and be very successful. The big corporations on the other hand, tend to mass produce non-remarkable. Customers no longer have to settle for non-remarkable, and the big gus lose out. I must admit this is music to my little ears!

Seth, of course, says it better:

"One of the implications of the Long Tail is that you don't know what's going to work. That it's easy to launch stuff, hard to figure out where it's going to land. If you don't have to bet the farm on every launch, you're way more likely to launch more, and more randomly, which vastly increases your odds.
So, what do you do if you buy this? Quit.

Don't grow unless it gives you joy.

Dare your employees to become freelancers instead.

Do it on a weekend until it doesn't scare you quite so much.

It's no longer about access to cash. Now it's about choosing the right model and being remarkable."


So do what gives you joy. Chances are if you do you will be much more likely to create something remarkable. If you become remarkable then you are much more likely to become successful. And what could be more satisfying than becoming a success by following your heart? This to me is the most exciting promise of Long Tail thinking.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

A Mental Health Weekend

Lately, I have had alot on my plate. I have been actively fundraising for a not for profit organization that I volunteer for, I have been busy trying to keep my head above water at work, I've been writing scholarship applications (I will get through school stress free with the money I need - this is going to work out) I've been trying to stay physically active three times per week, and I'm also trying to be a devoted wife, and a good friend. As you might imagine, I get tired, and stressed out.

So I took advice from Bren, and decided to take a mental health day (much needed.) I took Friday off, and got some things done that I needed to take care of: yard work, housecleaning etc. I also took some time for myself, made sure I got enough sleep and tried to relax. My mental health day carried over to the rest of the weekend. I've tried to take it easy, and go where my heart takes me - not put too much pressure on myself. I tried to think of things I could do to recharge (see last post) and whenever possible, I did them.

Now I have but one small problem. It's almost Monday, I still have alot on my plate, and though I am more relaxed than I was on Thursday, I can feel the stress creeping back the closer I get to Monday morning. This tells me two things: 1) It is likely that I have taken on too many important commitments, and 2) I am in the wrong job for me. Now number 2 I knew before this weekend, and that is precisely why I decided to go back to school in the first place. Number 1 is a little more difficult for me because I don't feel any of my commitments are really negotiable. The volunteer work is important to my community, and essential for me to be involved in if I have any chance of getting the scholarships I'm going for. I'm going back to school in two months, and as this effects my future, have to do what it takes to prepare for it. Work is allowing me to pay down debt, so that I will feel less stressed out about money later, and so around and around I go. Is it better to leave work earlier, take the extra time to prepare for school, but not know where the money for school is coming from? Is it better to take a break from volunteering just when I feel I am making a real difference? Can I get a temporary job that is fewer hours per week to try to achieve balance? Is it even worth it with only two months to go? Do I just tough it out then? If I tough it out, am I really doing myself or my employer a favour, or should I politely step aside?

These are the questions that go around and around in my head. Only two months to go until a new chapter begins, but why does wrapping up the previous chapter feel so difficult?

Thursday, June 02, 2005

More on Media:

Recently I've talked about how marketing messages are everywhere, and I've also mentioned how it is so difficult to get unfiltered information from big media conglomerates and large companies. Today I am going to talk about ways to turn off those media messages and listen to what's true: your inner voice. Now I know you have all heard this stuff before so consider this a refresher.

Today Rosa spoke about Stephen Covey's 7 Habits of Highley successful people. Mr Covey himself talks about "Sharpening the Saw" as taking time for self renewal. I think that the process of quieting the competing voices (often from outside sources like the media) is an essential part of self renewal. One way to achieve this is through meditation. It is important to take the time to focus on this moment. How are you breathing? How is your skin feeling? How do you feel in this moment, right now? Sometimes this focus, though it may seem self-obsessed, is the only way to turn off the outside chatter and focus on what is true. Another way to do away with outside clutter is to actually physically go outside. A park or other greenspace is especially nice for this. Essentially what you are looking for is somewhere free from advertising images. A quiet place where your attention is drawn to the moment. I think Scott has found this place while riding his bike :). A third way to do this is to participate in sport, or exercise (Nigel and I like Yoga, but today we're going for a walk to get a little bit of the second way happening for us at the same time.) Again when you are involved in sport or fitness, ideally you are focused on you. How are you feeling? How fast/far do you want to go? Ho can you get that ball into that net? etc. etc. Some people like to create: art, music, baking, whatever. Essentially anything that has you looking internally and focusing on what you need in the moment will do. It seems self centered. It's not. In order to become "highly effective," in order to be there for others, in order to be a complete person, you have to first be there for yourself. This means turning off media chatter, clearing the clutter, and focusing on your little voice.

I think that is where real strength comes from.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Of Deadlines And House Guests...

Stemming the flood of psychological turmoil threatening my drama-lite regime, I have been surfing the web for respite...and I have found the following event surprisingly close (Vancouver, B.C.) to my home:

VIDFEST is for the creators and producers of digital content. It's a chance to meet with peers from all over the world, see their work, develop new partnerships, and engage your mind by listening and talking to people like you who explore and push the boundaries of creativity in digital media.

Heather Armstrong, of "Dooce" fame, will be one of the many panelists giving talks throughout the four-day event (June 15-18).

Date: Thursday, June 16, 2005
2:10PM – 3:20PM

Interactive Design - Reclaiming the Web for Personal Expression

With the advent of blogging, the web has again become a platform for individuals to share their thoughts and experiences with whoever cares to read them. Of course, many companies have also added features to give a more personal face to their corporations and some bloggers have been able to develop a business with their sites. Explore how the resurgence in this type of communication affects our use and understanding of the Web. Learn what is important for interactive designers to know about the Web as a vehicle for personal expression.

Panelists:Heather Armstrong, Blogger, (US), Dr. Ron Burnett, President, Emily Carr Institute / Author, How Images Think (Can), Marc Canter, CEO, Broadband Mechanics (US), Rob McLaughlin, Executive Producer, CBC Radio 3 (Can), Ross Phillips, Head of Interactive, SHOWstudio (UK)

Sponsored by: Switch Interactive


Thought du jour:
Complacency breeds resistance to change and avoidance of risk (BPG).

More Reasons Why We Write...

Did you know that AOL Time Warner owns Netscape, and CNN?

Disney, of course, owns ABC...


Here in Canada, Can West Global owns most of the major news papers and television stations.

What I'm getting at here, is if we are primarily making decisions based on information that we are getting from mass media, can we trust our sources? Do we want to trust that we are getting fully objective, unbiased reporting when major companies unrelated to media own the places we go to for information?

This to me, is what makes blogging all the more important. We write, not for money or fame, but because we have something important to say. When I click on Jeff Jarvis' blog, I usually learn of news before it is posted on mainstream new's sites, and certainly much sooner than I would hear of it if I only relied on television or newspapers. When I read Talking Story or blogs of other members of the online community, I really feel that what I am reading is authentic - not an on-message story drafted to sell me product.

This is why we need to write to stem the tide of subjective media that is everywhere around us. Just think about this: If we all started talking about interesting and important things that were happening in our part of the world, we would all have a good unbiased idea of world events. This would be uninfluenced by advertisers, corporate sponsors or parent companies. The implications are staggering. (please check out Ripples for much better writing than mine about citizen publishing.)

I just have one question to leave ith everyone...

When the big corporations start buying blogger and typepad. Where do we move next?