rolade's blog

Connecting politics, economy and individual responsibility

I'm watching the French news right now and it has just been announced that there's going to be a debate between 2 Socialist candidates afterwards. I used to enjoy political debates but tonight I'm going to opt out because I believe there'll be nothing new. Elections are important and I actually wanted to write a blog about it but since most of what I would like to say are already included in my other article (roladesocietalblog.com), I decided to copy it here.

"In my work, I encounter people of many different nationalities. Some of them moved to Luxembourg because they no longer felt a part of their country's economic life, especially with politicians and bankers putting their personal needs at the forefront to the expense of middle and working classes. They couldn't stand the cuttings of government expenditures (especially in health and education that contribute to the country's deteriorating living standards), introduction of more taxes, prolongation of retirement age and the widening gap between the haves and have-nots. Whose faults are these? Are the culprits the same as in year 2008? Who and what else are responsible for the shrinking of the middle & working classes and bloating of the underclass?

A lot of wisdom, friendship and kindness out there

If you’re reading this article, it’s probably because you believe in the power of wisdom, that friendship ceases when sharing ends or the greatest joy comes from helping others.

For quite a while I debated on whether or not to have a website; finally, I did it last weekend. Being a web debutante and not so gifted electronically, my new site is simple and basic. Nevertheless, my friends – who are already battling with their home and professional duties, promptly visited roladesocietalblog.com and offered me words of wisdom to make it a success.

Sachie and Raynald, amid their hectic schedule managing projects and finishing a book, perused my website with diligence and emailed me information on how to protect my folder and improve the homepage.

Friends from Down Under were so generous with their words of congratulations. One of them suggested I should limit the use of gifted because it is a confusing word. A friend, who’s a caring and devoted father and husband, dedicated teacher and talented artist, has posted a page of comment. Another friend, who has successfully made his way in the global finance operating from Singapore, emailed me his pragmatic views on intelligence, career, parenting, sports and happiness. Whereas, a French acquaintance managed to review it during her rare brief breaks from a demanding job and busy husband and 2 active daughters. She writes, “I have just read your website and I find it very interesting (I have read it in English first, then the translation, then both together, pieces to pieces)."

I’m so touched by my friends’ and acquaintances’ generosity - an act that shows we can have a more caring society and ‘global village mentality’ rather than individualism and materialism.

Food For Thought!

For a long time, I debated on the pros and cons of having a website, and this week I succumbed to the temptation and finally finished it last night

roladesocietalblog.com

My brother-in-law in Australia has just asked me if it's a good time to refinance his loan considering that the global economy is really in a bad shape and interest rate is low. My immediate advice was yes because the European Union is bailing out Greece and the Euro Zone will soon climb back, as in the USA. After I had hung up, I wondered "Are very intelligent people more able to deal with the financial crisis?", a question that became the title of my debut article.

Two weeks ago, my 9.5yo son started junior high while many European pupils resumed schools. According to available statistics, about 2% of high school students are intellectually gifted, and I believe the majority of them are starting university this year (e.g. September in France and October in England). Parenting is not a piece of cake, especially when you're combining it with a paid employment or it involves very intelligent children - why? I discuss this issue in my second article.

For a while now, Italian media materials are saturated with money and sex involving its top politician. Recently, the interview with ex-IMF head attracted most TV viewers in France. Every day, we're informed of our decision makers' failure to uphold society's moral values, so my next article will be on government and leadership.

roladesocietalblog.com is my first website and I rely on your comments to improve it.

Thank you.
Gracias.
Merci.
Salamat.
Shukran.
M goi.
Arigato.
Dankon.
Grazie ...

Inspiring Our Young People and Students

Last month, I made a surprise visit to my high school Alma Mater and since my former teachers were so delighted to see me and they were having a Nutrition Week assembly, I was asked to give a speech. One good thing about an unprepared speech is that you speak from the heart of issues that you strongly believe in; and for me, these are hard work, honesty, generosity and simplicity. Coincidentally, two days ago, there was a Writer's Digest weekly writing prompt on being an inspirational keynote speaker in a graduation ceremony. I participated focusing on the same issues and here's my entry:

When I was 16 years old like most of you and wearing that same uniform, my Dad announced I got a scholarship. I had a mixed feeling: happy because I could go to college but sad to leave my family and friends. As a condition of the scholarship, I had to do a degree I hadn’t heard of in a province where I didn’t speak the local dialect. I wouldn’t be standing here in front of you if I refused that scholarship. Having no regular income, my parents asked help from their relatives for our traveling expenses. Dad didn’t have money to stay even just for a night, so he left me with less than a dollar until my stipend arrived a fortnight’s later. I survived through the generosity of other students.

Cream of the crop received medals and netbooks

I was at Sorbonne University yesterday because our son was one of the recipients of the Concours Général presided by France's Minister of Education, Mr. Luc Chatel. I'm not a stranger to awarding ceremonies but this one is really awesome: the prestige and history attached to this public recognition of excellence that goes back in 1747 with a list that includes Louis Pasteur, Victor Hugo and Georges Pompidou; the grandeur of Sorbonne with words of wisdom engraved on the walls and beautiful chandeliers on high ceilings of its amphitheater; the exclusiveness of the occasion allowing only 2 family members, 1 teacher & school principal of each laureate; engraved medals and netbooks as prizes; and cocktail, etc.

E coli Infections

Escherichia (E) Coli Infections.

Every Saturday there’s a fruit and vegetable market a few steps away from our downtown apartment in the north of France. For a fortnight now, I’ve been spending more time inquiring about the origin of tomatoes, bean sprouts & cucumbers than actually buying them. To date, 33 people in Europe have died of E coli infections - the majority of them were Germans. Since we live less than an hour drive from Germany, we don’t take risks – we peel fruits & vegetables and wash hands before eating. Apart from this apparently preventative measure, Governments and the media haven’t disclosed explanatory and reassuring information.

E coli bacterium grows in soil and intestines of mammals, including those of human beings. Most E coli strains are not harmful: in fact, some of them help the body to digest nutrients and food. Some of them, however, cause infections and poisoning, such as those reported in Europe, especially in Germany (what a coincidence - Escherichia Coli is named after its discoverer Theodor Escherich, a German pediatrician and bacteriologist in the late 1880s). The implications of this health crisis are enormous (e.g. 6 Million Euros per week is lost in France due to decline in the consumption of tomatoes and cucumbers – according to Radio 106.8 FM this morning), and so it’s not surprising that Russia and Germany are having a summit today to discuss import ban and related business issues.

According to tonight’s news reports, the source of these infections were sprouted grains, however, it’s not known how they were contaminated with E coli bacteria. There are research studies on E coli that have global importance. For instance, Dr. Cobbold, Senior Lecturer in Veterinary Public Health at the School of Veterinary Science (University of Queensland, Australia), and his team are involved in a project that endeavours to develop a vaccine for use in cattle that, hopefully, will reduce their colonisation with Shigatoxigenic E. Coli and diminish the potential for food-borne diseases to spread to humans. This project is still in relatively early stages; however, Dr. Cobbold has kindly shared with us this section of his presentation.

Constant in Societal Evolution

Our society has evolved and many things have changed: tribes have become nation states; our world has developed into a highly technological global village; pure capitalism has gone out of vogue while social entrepreneurship and green market have become buzz words; a more democratic system of government has replaced oligarchy and dictatorship in several countries, etc. There is no doubt that our society is more sophisticated and advanced than ever before.

Innovative developments are evident in business, economics, communications, sports, health services, welfare system, transportation, housing and education. There are hundreds of issues that can be written about on each of these subjects; however, since we’re nearing the end of the school year, I would like to share with you my views on education. Amid progress in pedagogies and policies, the mandatory high school final examinations have remained unchanged in many countries. As in the beginning of the1800s, today’s examinations are used as filters. Good results are required for entrance to tertiary education, access other professional qualifications, obtain a certified training and get a paid job. These examinations are so common and part of our society that their short-, medium- and long-term effects are often neglected in public debate.

Aging: First-Third World Connection

She sends money to her aging father in the Philippines every month especially to compensate for her absence. She’s one of the many immigrants in developed countries who financially contribute to the well-being of elderly parents and relatives.

Catastrophe, Accident and Environment

Iodide and go Down Under

About 5 years ago, my family was given by our local Chemist a free box of iodide (iodure de potassium) as part of the French government preventative measure in case of a nuclear plant accident. I thought this was an overreaction to the situation, so I put the iodide box in the cupboard for reserved medicines and bits and pieces. I have since moved this box to our kitchen drawer together with the emergency/health kit because the iodure de potassium has to be taken immediately once you have received the contamination alert because its effectiveness reduces as time passes by.

The advice is 2 tablets for adults, 1 tablet for 36 months – 12 years old, half for under 36 months old, and less for newborn infants. We live 10km from the ‘Centrale Nucléaire de Cattenom’ operated by Electricité de France (EDF). In 2001, there was an accident in this plant which resulted in the evacuation of more than a hundred people. Fortunately, according to the ASN, the organization in charge of nuclear safety, there was no radioactive emission and no one was contaminated.

International Women's Day: Women and Their Intellectual Giftedness

This is my contribution to tomorrow's International Women's Day (8/03/11) ...

"Gone are the days when we thought of women as less intelligent than men because of their smaller brains. The fact that Einstein's brain is known to be 10% less in volume than that of an average person (Montlahuc, 2006) has aided in putting this debate in the cupboard. However, gender continues to be a significant issue in any discussion about intellectual performance.

Cohen disclosed in 2007 that three-quarters of applicants to read maths and 90% for computer sciences degree at Cambridge University were males. He also posed the question as to why in over 100 years of Field Medal's ( Maths Nobel Prize) existence, none of the winners has been a woman. Similarly, Zeidner, et al. (2004) reiterated that Western studies find adolescent boys to be usually better in spatial and numerical abilities whereas girls are superior in verbal abilities. Hormonal difference is believed to be the reason for this: oestrogen enhances reading capacity, which is attributed to women being more gifted in communication and languages than men while testosterone improves performance related to space, which explains why men are better in giving and applying directions than women. There are no concrete explanations, however, why there are more high IQ possessors among boys than girls. Some researchers and academics, though, think that the type of questions asked is to be blamed for this difference. For instance, there might be more questions about cars and mode of transportation than housekeeping and fashion. On the other hand, there are those who insist that really there is no consistent evidence on the difference in IQ scores due to gender.

In France, it is reported that girls have better academic results than boys but succeed less in admission to prestigious universities ‘grandes écoles’ because they suffer from a competitive environment ‘environmental concurrential’ (Jacqué, 2009). According to Jacqué, on average, the performance of men and women is similar. However, women are concentrated in the average (not many have very good and very bad results) while the men are dispersed – i.e. many with very good results but also many with very bad results. Consequently, when you choose the top candidates you get more men. As well, men are generally more competitive than women, particularly in patriarchal societies in both developed and developing countries.

Philosphy lesson from a 15yo

Last night on our way home from the motor show in Geneva, my son & husband and I had a sudden discussion about philosophy, which was ignited by my expression of pride that the former has been chosen to represent his school in the national high school competition in philosophy. My statement "philosophy is an explanation, literature is a fascination while sociology is finding solutions" led to arguments on what's philosophy and when it's not. We debated on the role of religion, difference between faith & confidence, knowledge & wisdom, and scientific & non-scientific proof. I was humbly reminded by our son's brief history of philosophy, i.e. Greece ... before the birth of Christ... Socrates, Plato, Aristotle... and he even mentioned Feng Youlan. He recommends the book, "Sophie's World". Just before we parked our car, we all agreed that when talking about philosophy, the method or process is primordial. We live in a planet where there are always questions and without answers to these questions, there's no knowledge - which is the basis of our actions.

Culture, Leisure, Literature

I’m writing this in the balcony of a charming chalet in Courchevel, France’s famous ski resort, with a scenic view during a blue bird day. Snow skiing is definitely part of a western culture. I’ve been going to the slopes every day and haven’t yet seen Asian- or African-looking skiers. Obviously, skiing is a sport and leisure for the Haves considering the prices of equipment (either purchase or rent), ski outfit, lift tickets, accommodation, food, travel, etc.

Politics, Economics and Social Justice - Interdependence of Peoples and Nations

Asia, Middle East… and where’s the next manifestation of people’s power? Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain, Yemen, Morocco, Libya, and where next? We witnessed recently an unprecedented 'people's power' in the Middle East that had led to the ousting of long-term rulers. Right now, there are still demonstrations and protests in this part of our planet that cause uncertainty and insecurity. Ordinary citizens risk their lives for political and economic changes. 'People's power' was first globally popularized in 1986, in the Philippines where its President was forced to relinquish power.

Cross-cultural couples, children and custody

Roland Buerk's article on children, custody and foreign fathers in Japan, which was recently published by BBC News, is an excellent reminder on the need to address globally administrative and legal issues arising from personal misfortunes and family tragedies.

Tragedy and Development

I had a happy, fulfilling university life living in a dormitory which was situated between a scenic mountain and an enticing sea with clear water above a blue sky. I have positive memories during this period except one afternoon. During the break between Chemistry and Biology classes, a fellow student told me that a farmer who was living nearby had committed suicide because there was nothing he could do to prevent the expansion of our educational institution to his land. I was saddened by this story, particularly thinking of his wife and children, so I mentioned it to whoever wanted to listen and one of them was our campus gardener. Though he couldn't confirm this incident, he revealed distressing stories of farmers who became lowly-paid construction workers and women who abandoned their role as mother and wife to be merchants and professional cooks for students and staff.

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