rolade's blog

Preventing Strokes

A stroke occurs when brain cells die because of lack of oxygen impacting on the person’s mental and physical abilities. This happens when: a) blood clot blocks an artery carrying blood from the heart to the body; or b) blood vessel breaks interrupting the flow of the blood to the brain. Its effect on the patient depends on which part of the brain the stroke takes place and how much damage has been done. Those with a small stroke have minor problems and recover completely. Serious strokes can lead to disability or death.

According to www.medicalnewstoday.com (seen on 26/7/13), the risk factors of stroke are: over 55 years old, middle-aged women with clinical depression, male, family history, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking cigarettes, diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease, high levels of amino acid in the blood, cocaine use, birth control or use of hormone therapy, heavy use of alcohol; men from divorced families have a higher chance.

The prevention of stroke is based on a healthy lifestyle. Studies have shown that walking for at least 30 minutes each day reduce the risk of stroke for women. The food known to help fight against stroke are: tomatoes and other antioxidant fruits and vegetables, beans, oats, almonds, soy, salmon and other fatty fish, and those rich in potassium (e.g. bananas, potatoes, prunes, raisins) and magnesium (e.g. barley and cornmeal). Meanwhile, the bad triggers are processed food with fatty or unhealthy ingredients in the form of preservatives and colourings.

...selected paragraphs from BRolade Societal Blog - roladesocietalblog.com

Our world is indivisible

It’s supposed to be summer here in France but last week it felt like 10°C, there was a severe flooding in the south-west and it’s overcast most days. Summer heat waves in Australia have increased over the last 50 years. The world’s average temperature is now 8°C warmer than a century ago and such increase can lead to even more extreme climatic events, such as very hot days with bushfires and substantial storms and rainfalls.

The Earth is wrapped in a layer of greenhouse gases which makes conditions right for life (for us to live) by keeping our planet warm and protecting it from cold (known as greenhouse effect). Carbon dioxide (CO2) is the main actor of the greenhouse effect. When excessive amount of CO2 is released in the atmosphere through the burning of fossil fuels (coal, oil and natural gas) for our energy use, climate change occurs; and inefficient use of this energy damages our planet.

On 17th June 2013 I went to a public meeting on climate and energy. The speaker, Mr. Pierre Radanne, spoke about ‘transition energétique’: the reconstruction in 1996, the petrol crisis in 1973 and the current situation (i.e. global obligation, national responsibility and individual action).

He emphasised that we’re paying for the ignorance and behaviours of previous generations, and this should stop. In France, for example, the consumption of energy are: residential comfort (e.g. heating) – 27%, food 18%, information & education 8% and leisure 8%. How can we reduce these figures? Someone from the audience divulged how her school managed to reduce its energy consumption by 50% by changing heaters and appliances.

Global education on First-Third World divide

Last week when I was tidying up our computer room, I noticed that our son’s Year 7 (5ème in France) History and Geography textbook was opened on pages with articles on health and education in Mali and Finland. There were statistics on income, life expectancy and literacy rate (i.e. 15-24 years old in Mali it’s 36% for men and 23% for women whereas in Finland it’s 100% for both groups).

I thought it was an opportunity to expand the subject, but why question on the reasons for such differences was met with resistance expressed in these phrases: "We’ve not learnt that yet," "It’s not included in our lesson" and "Our test won’t be on that."

Formal education (school) should not only be about learning by heart facts and figures and passing exams, but applications and making connections. Three billion people, which is almost half of the world’s population of 7 billion, live on less than 2 Euros (US $2.55)/day and many of them don’t have adequate education, shelter, safe water for drinking, and access to health and social services. Since most of us in developed (First World) countries don’t belong to this group, why should we bother, especially that we also have our own problems? It’s because we live in a globalised Earth and are both part of the problems and solutions.

In one of my previous articles, I discussed poverty in developing and Third World nations and their high birth rate due to the necessity to have children who can help provide and care for families (children are social and welfare insurances, especially during old age); historical and political experiences (e.g. colonisation, wars and conflicts, natural disasters, poor governance and corruption); and global realities (e.g. unfair trading, policies and practices in rich First World countries. Thus, there’s no need to repeat it here.

Ethnicity and Crime

The media have reported, and continue to focus, on two “ethnic Chechen” brothers, who have lived legally in America for 10 years, as perpetrators of the Boston Marathon bombing that killed three persons and injured about 200 people last April 14.

The emphasis and interest on their “ethnic origin” has brought back memories of my PhD thesis. Based on survey of public perception, content analysis of newspaper articles and examination of police and prison statistics in Queensland, Australia in the 80s, I concluded that:

Newspaper reports on Asian criminality reflect public perception more than the official records (police and prison data) and that Asian-born migrants had lower crime rate than the Pacific Islander-born and the general Australian population.

(Media reporting should be socio-culturally sensitive, non-discriminatory and not contribute to negative stereotyping, prejudice and victimisation of law-abiding immigrants and refugees).

In the USA, there’s an over representation of African-and Spanish-Americans in the criminal justice system. There are economic, psychological and ideological reasons why an individual commits a crime. Members of immigrant and ethnic groups may not be more criminal than the majority in the population; however since they are more visible, they attract more police attention and their deviancy or criminality becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Are you emotionally gifted?

Are you emotionally gifted?

Last week, in our Business English class, we had a role play on hiring the best person for a middle level position, i.e. choosing one of these 2 job applicants: A) a qualified person with little experience but is more likely to integrate well in the workplace; B) a highly experienced and technically savvy individual. Without hesitation, my 3 students explained why they would choose applicant A, who they described as “the more emotionally intelligent of the two.” When I asked for further explanation regarding emotional intelligence, they spoke vehemently about good interpersonal skills, ability to manage emotions, resilience, foresight, quick thinking, effective decision making and optimism – a cocktail of personality traits and cognitive & emotional intelligence.

Personality is one piece of the human triangle that defines us as a unique individual. It is made up of patterns of feelings, thoughts and behaviours that remain stable throughout our lives. Like personality, cognitive intelligence (Intelligence Quotient – IQ) doesn’t change. In my book “Intelligence, Giftedness: Pre-cradle to Post-grave” I explored the subject of IQ as ability and potential - the brain. In this article, I concentrate on the third side of the triangle known as emotional intelligence/quotient (EQ) - which is about awareness and 'touch'.

Horse meat and lies on our plates

Indians eat snakes, Thais - insects (such as crickets), Japanese - sharks, Chinese - dogs and cats, Filipinos - balut (fertilized chicken embryo) and bagoong (putrid-smelling fermented fish or shrimps). So, what’s the fuss about horse meat?

About a kilometer from where we live there used to be a butcher that specialised on horse meat. Coming from Australia, I thought it was weird to think of horse as “la viande”. I supposed this butcher shop closed down because of declining consumption and competition from less expensive meat products. This lean source of protein and iron was from horses bred and killed in France for human consumption. As we know, with globalisation anything can find its way from and to any parts of the world. For example, between the Romanian abattoir and the French supermarket, there are: food brand Findus, food manufacturer Comigel, meat processor Spanghero and a Dutch trader.

As well, with the economic crises some companies look for supply chain opportunities that may include unethical practices. Accordingly, it is vital to impose international food labelling standard that provides a level playing field for food producers and sellers, and for consumers (wherever they are) to get information about their food that is clear (i.e. easy to understand, legible and visible) and not misleading.

Lying vs Optimism

There have been fascinating comments, especially through Facebook, on my previous article on lying to others, e.g. lying doesn’t equate to absence of love, many parents lie to make their children behave better, and men find it more difficult to deal with lying and liars than women (about 75% of men apply for divorce due to their partners' extra-marital affairs; 75% of women forgive their unfaithful husbands and stay married).

We have excuses for lying to others (refer to previous article), but why do we lie to ourselves (Psychologists call this self-deception)? Self-deception, i.e. not acknowledging the truth about ourselves, can be conscious or unconscious. For example, an employee is consciously lying to himself when he takes a day’s sick leave once a month and stays at home in his pyjama behaving like he has colds (he has convinced himself that he doesn’t lie to his employer and that he has the right to these 10 days/year sick leave). Some managers lie to themselves unconsciously to boost self-esteem and self-confidence; for instance, they believe they are more skilled and knowledgeable than what they really are in order to be respected and admired.

Last month, our family doctor reminded me that I should have a regular physical activity (in addition to sufficient calcium and Vitamin D) to prevent osteoporosis later on. I told her that I do an hour of Zumba every Thursday and another 3 hours of gym exercises per week (in which I added the almost one hour of walking to/fro). I didn’t lie to her as walking is a form of exercise, but I felt like did to myself because I would like to be in the gym for 3 hours per week but couldn’t due to other commitments. Meanwhile, I’ve a friend who maintains that she has only coffee for breakfast, doesn’t snack and blames her extra weight solely on genetics instead of admitting the truth that she has always have a second serving of food for lunch and dinner.

Philosophy of Lying to Others

After lying for many years, on 18th January 2013, Lance Armstrong (7 times winner of Tour de France) admitted taking performance-enhancing drugs.

What is lying? It involves giving information you know is untrue for the purpose of misleading or deceiving someone or an organisation. Why do people lie? Some of the reasons why we lie are: to save one’s reputation; to try to salvage a situation; to minimise consequences of bad decisions or actions; due to a low self-esteem and psychological-related issues, such an unhappy childhood; to hide unacceptable behaviour or an embarrassment; and to exploit someone’s trust in order to achieve a selfish end.

Is there such a thing as lying for a good reason, like “White lie”, -- not intended to harm the person being lied to but instead to do the opposite, which is to make him/her feel good or save her/him from a forthcoming emotional catastrophe?

We all have heard about “big and small” lies, and that the former (e.g. case of L. Armstrong) is wrong but the latter is not. An example of a small lie is a parent telling his child that there’s no more chocolate when in fact there are some in the cupboard. Why doesn’t a parent say “You’ve enough and can’t have more because eating too much chocolate is not good for your health”?

Opinion and Decision Making

I’m writing this at La Bresse, a skiing town in the north-east of France, while waiting for my husband and sons to descend from the slopes so that we can have a late lunch together. From time to time I glance at the constant queue of skiers at the automatic machine and “caisse” (where you pay your half or day pass). An hour ago, a male staff came and advised the waiting men and women that there’s another automatic machine at the other side of the building next to the restaurant. No one moved and it’s because either they didn’t believe him or thought that the situation next to the resto could change any minute and the queue would even be longer.

Why did they decide not to go to the other automatic machine which didn’t have a queue? Every day we decide on food, clothes, words, what to do with whom, where and when, etc. We make decisions on matters that range from simple routine to usually significant issue. Generally, our decision making is a product of our intuition (what we feel and believe is right at the moment), experience (heuristic approach) or knowledge (acquired from learning, objective information from experts and experience).

For nearly a month now, the French media have been having a party reporting on the immigration of its world-famous actor, Mr. Gerard Depardieu, to Belgium where taxes are lower than in France. Some French nationals have the opinion that Mr. Depardieu should be strapped of his citizenship as it’s unpatriotic to deprive your country of its needed financial resource at the time when it needs it most. Such an opinion is subjective with moral and philosophical dimensions, which is not shared by the majority of the residents.

Environmental and economic factors contribute to racism and xenophobia

«You told us Australians are cool, considerate, welcoming and simply easy-go-lucky. Have you seen today’s newspaper L’essentiel?” my Belgian student said while taking off his jacket. After he had sat down, he added, “You will be shy, as an Australian, of what they did to the French tourists.” (I suggested the word “embarrass” instead of shy).

Right after leaving his company, I rushed to get the copy of L’essentiel, the most read newspaper in Luxembourg because it’s free and easily accessible (it’s in stands and distributors in strategic places, such as bus stops, train stations, airports, shopping centres and supermarkets). Page 2 of its 23/11/12 issue had an article about the verbal harassment of xenophobic nature against a young French woman by bus passengers in Melbourne. It had a photo with this caption, “La video de cette aggression sur www.insultes.lessentiel.lu. I did watch this video and, in the beginning, felt embarrass. As the video was coming to an end, however, I started to reminisce on positive Aussie qualities and multiculturalism. I salute the fellow who filmed the incident! Xenophobia (fear of people who are different from the majority in the population) exists Down Under, but it’s not widespread and not tolerated by the general Australian population.

The last 4 years of my public service job in Australia, before moving to Europe, were spent participating in many working parties, policy development, debates and activities geared towards eradicating racism and discrimination. Though governments and many Australians endeavour to have a just, fair and tolerant society, there’s still a lot that can be done.

Appraisal, Performance Review, Bonus and Rewards

November and December are appraisal months, and I was not surprise to receive an email from our Director of Studies about my face-to-face, one-to-one, formal appraisal tomorrow afternoon. Yesterday, an acquaintance complained how his manager waited for the yearly appraisal to tell him that he can only take smoking breaks twice a day instead of thrice. The day before, I was invited to lunch by a friend who spent an hour talking about her disappointment in getting a C in her appraisal. Hoping for a B, she was even more disenchanted when her manager said, “80% of the staff got C”. She thought her boss considered her as a valuable employee belonging to 10% of the efficient and loyal personnel.

As the day turned to night, I heard more appraisal-related stories. For instance, one of my trainees reported his manager saying, “It’s going to be the same for everybody — no promise of a bonus and no negative feedback”.

Most employers use appraisal (annually, semi-annually or quarterly) to assess performance, give employees the opportunity to discuss work-related issues in confidence and motivate them to link their performance to their organisation’s objectives and goals. Some companies use appraisal outcomes to reward financially or promote employees. Some employees use the positive results when applying for a job or promotion.

Appraisal is not only about previous achievements but defining new objectives in the coming year, especially with changes in economic situation, staffing level, market forces, etc. People I have spoken to are either optimistic or cynical about appraisals. Generally, an employee on a trial period, contractual arrangement or in an insecure position takes the appraisal seriously as it is a formal process with documented results that can be used to rehire or fire. However, those who have been in their job for a long time may find it “more of the same” or a “self-fulfilling prophecy”.

Effects of weather, temperature on moods and suicide

Weather, temperature, moods and well-being... It was the last day of October, the temperature was 2°C at 8am and I was freezing but couldn’t go back home to get my gloves as I didn’t want to miss my bus and be late for work. It is supposed to be autumn (US “fall”), but winter has definitely arrived and our heater has been switched on prematurely. According to my Belgian student, the suicide rate in his country is highest in November and this is lower than in December because of the jolly Christmas atmosphere and brightly-lit and colourfully-decorated streets and shops.

The change in season and weather condition (such as rain, duration of daylight & sunlight and humidity) has been considered as contributing factors to suicide. Some studies have tried to prove that suicides are more frequent in hot days because of heat-related behaviours, such as excitability and alcohol drinking. Some researchers, however, suppose that suicides emerge during winter and peak in summer.

Every year, there are about one million individuals who successfully suicide; and there are more men and women in these statistics. The World Health Organisation data reveal that 6 of the top ten countries with high suicide rates are developing nations of Eastern Europe with Lithuania in the first place (42/100,00: 16.1 men and 10.4 women) whereas developing nations with hot weather, such as Philippines and Haiti, have low suicide rates.

Awards and Prizes

Last Thursday, I was invited to the Warwick University (UK) Academic Excellence Award Ceremony. It was much smaller than the similar occasion at Sorbonne University I attended in 2011, but it was just as awesome observing the cream of the crop received their certificate of recognition, listening to the quartet while socialising and drinking, and watching gifted and talented young people interact with each other and wondering what they will become. With a population of about 13, 000 undergraduate students, only 61 from the Faculties of Arts, Science and Social Sciences were publicly congratulated during this annual occasion (about 0.5%). The figure is even less in other educational institutions, and not all gifted students are awarded considering that there are about 2% of them. Is it unfair to give awards to just a few? Should we celebrate students’ excellent achievements?

Though we are accustomed to giving awards and prizes from elementary (e.g. honours) to tertiary education (e.g. scholarships), not all educators agree to this practice, and there’s a growing number of them who think this is a form of elitism. One argument is that this promotes individual success as opposed to group accomplishment or teamwork. They question the impact of this practice to those who don’t get awards even when they work hard?

Gender and friendship: can women and men be close friends?

Posted on October 6, 2012 on BRolade Societal Blog - roladesocietalblog.com

  • “Men and women can’t be real friends,” Pierre, a gentle French man in his late 20s, insisted.
  • “There’s always that sexual dimension that makes male-female friendship impossible,” chimed in Guido, an Italian banker in his early 40s.
  • “I had to cut contact with my close female friend because my wife was jealous of her,” revealed Michael, a Belgian in his mid 30s.
  • “It depends where you live. In my village in the south of Spain, men and women get together and dance as friends, only friends no more,” argued Jose.

(We always start our Business English class with current events. Unusually, last week, my students were more interested in talking about male-female friendship than the economic crisis in the Euro Zone).

Though views on friendship vary from culture to culture, generally, such relationship between men and women is less common and more complex than same-sex friendship.

Friendship between men and women is viewed with suspicion because of cultural social and physiological realities. In films, friends always fall in love or end up in bed, which has either a happy or disastrous ending. Our education and socialisation encourage gender division in terms of physical and emotional needs and ways to attain these. There’s a prevailing belief that men, by biological nature, are more sexual thus more likely to have more than one partner.

Some individuals use friendship as a camouflage to their emotional insecurity and other psychological handicaps. They need a female friend (or friends) other than their partner as they didn’t experience emotional stability while growing up, they never witnessed their parent’s love and devotion to each other, or they were deprived of their mother’s care and attention. Meanwhile, are these not just excuses for a selfish desire that is responsible for some divorces and failed relationships, which have disturbing consequences, especially when children are involved.

Fat-Finger Syndrome

Fat-finger syndrome is work and health issue.

Have you sent an unfinished email?
Have you forwarded a correspondence to the wrong addressee?
Have you accidentally deleted a file?
Have you bought or ordered items that you don’t want?

These mistakes are called fat finger syndrome - errors made by hitting the wrong key or button on a keyboard, which can be inconvenient (e.g. rescheduling a meeting), costly (e.g. trader typing an extra zero to a share to be sold confusing the stock exchange) and even deadly (domestic violence or crime due to a discovered extra-conjugal relationship or lie).

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