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

Posted on October 6, 2012 on Being Intelligent Gifted

  • “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.

Peaceful solution to the disputed Diaoyu-Senkaku islands

Yesterday I (Japanese woman) went to two Chinese grocery stores in Luxembourg to buy a bag of Japanese rice from California, Korean seasoned seaweed, imperial-dragon gyoza wrappers, and Taiwan highland (gao shan) oolong tea.

In Mexico and Spain, people mistook me as a local resident and asked me directions in Spanish. Similarly, Chinese and Korean people often talk to me in their languages. Happily, I try to make conversation with them, using some words which I have learned from Chinese, Taiwan, and Korean friends over the years (i.e., hello, 1, 2, 3,..., delicious, so-so, it doesn't matter, thank you, see you, I love you, etc).

Maybe, it was just a figment of my imagination, but yesterday one of the Chinese owners was slightly distant, not as cheerful as usual. Though, later I realized that she put two extra oranges in my plastic bag for free. Then, I thought of the ongoing dispute over the islands among countries.

Today I was reading two articles by Gavan McCormack who presents background information about the territorial disputes (The first article is translated into 中文, 한국어, and 日本語): "Small Islands – Big Problem: Senkaku/Diaoyu and the Weight of History and Geography in China-Japan Relations".

Right to water

Nice documentary film recommended. Watch below:
www.bottledlifefilm.com/index.php/the-story.html

As a citizen, it is time to ask oneself if it is worth or simply feasible to fight against international corporates and local industries for the human right to good-quality, drinkable, and affordable water.

...and of course, the excellent film of Annie Leonard and her team:
"Story of stuff: Story of bottled water"

Also, you may be interested in:
"Challenge corporate control over water: think outside the bottle!"

...and this: "Public water works!"

...and this: http://warisacrime.org/node/40335

人権としての水へのアクセス。水をめぐる争奪ドキュメンタリー

最近、すぐれたドキュメンタリー映画を立て続けに見ました。その一つが“Bottled Life”です。配給会社が後でいい日本語タイトルをつけるでしょうが。無理やり日本語にすると、「ペットボトルに入れられた命、生活、暮らし」とでもいいましょうか。

ペリエ、サンペレグリノ、ヴィッテルなど、70品目以上のミネラルウォーターを幅広く手がける世界最大の食品メーカ・ネスレ(Nestlé)をめぐるドキュメンタリーです。スイス人ジャーナリストRes Gehrigerが、本社、アメリカ・メイン州、パキスタン、ナイジェリアなどを取材し、ボトルウォーター・ビジネスの戦略・実態にメスを入れてます。自国スイスに本部をおく巨大多国籍企業のひずみを、スイス人が告発し複数の映画賞を受賞した労作です。

メイン州では、当企業による商用用途としての水資源の(無制限)利用確保とその拡大、地域住民との水をめぐる攻防、水源の荒廃、地元の女性活動家たちの活躍などを描写。

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).

Tailor-made curriculum to address students' insecurity and distress

Tuition, quality of education, choice of school/university and institutional policies (e.g. funding/resources, pedagogy – online & blended instruction) are some of the education issues often discussed in most European countries as the school year starts in September. The beginning of the school year can be exciting or worrying depending on where you live and your individual situation: In Greece, for example, some university students have dropped out of their studies due to lack of adequate finance. In Spain, families who never passed on used school bags and supplies to other siblings have done it this year. In Germany, however, parents enthusiastically file at the checkouts with trolleys filled with school paraphernalia and items to help their children have a good academic year.

Anywhere in the world, the education playing field is not level and students are not homogenous. About 2% of the student population are gifted and talented, about 5% of them are from high-income families; and there are bipolar, autistic, slightly impaired and emotionally fragile among them. With our globalised world, it’s fairly common to find more than one religion, culture and language in every classroom. With the divorce rate of 40-50% and advent of other kinds of family arrangement (single parents, same-sex couples, restructured families), children face different challenges at school. There are many happy families but there are also those whose routine includes: couples disputing on subjects that range from money to infidelity, children experiencing abuse and intolerance, etc. As well, due to the financial crises and current volatile economic condition, many parents have lost their jobs, others may have the same fate soon, while some have been forced to move to other places and transferred their children to a new school. These circumstances impact on the children’s behaviour and their capacity to learn and perform at school.

原発に偏執する日本。そしてエネルギー転換に出遅れる日本

Solar Windmill Boat3.11以来、どこの国でも政府の助成なしには、不安定な原子力産業をささえるのは、いよいよむずかしくなってきている。

World Nuclear Industry Status Report 2012は、原発の建設費は推定費をはるかに上まわり、建設工事も大幅に遅延する傾向にあると報告している。

ちなみに、フィンランドのオルキルオト原子力発電所三号機の建設は5年遅れで、必要費は100〜120%予算超過(60〜66億ユーロ)。フランスでは、2007年にフラマンヴィル原子力発電所三号機の建設開始、2012年に商業運転開始の予定が、竣工は2016年に延期となり超過額はすでに60億ユーロにのぼっている(World Nuclear Industry Status Report 2012、34ページ)。莫大な予算超過分は、当然、国民にはねかえってくる。

原発は商業的にも技術的にも、もう時代遅れの技術であることを周知している先進国は、風力、水力、太陽光、波力、潮力、地熱等々、再生可能エネルギーの開発をアグレッシブに進めている。唯一、日本とフランスが大いに出おくれた感がある。しかし、原発大国のフランスでさえ、確実に変わろうとしている。

野田政権や「原子力ムラ」の人たち、いつの時代に生きているんですか。もっと勉強してほしい。

写真(横)は、ご近所。船のお家

(下)パリ市内の公営の電気自動車貸出制度「オートリブ(Autolib)」

eco.nikkeibp.co.jp/article/column/20111011/108720/

Modeling human well-being and societal progress

For those who already read our article "Towards International and Interdisciplinary Research Collaboration for the Measurements of Quality of Life" in Social Indicators Research and have become interested in modeling, you may want to watch Tony Buzan's video on Mind Mapping. It may give you an idea of modeling as I think that modeling and his mapping are closely connected.

And, the book Semantic Web for the Working Ontologist (Second Edition - link to Morgan-Kaufmann Publishers) by Allemang and Hendler is very nice, very progressive and pedagogic to learn about modeling.

www.youtube.com/watch?v=MlabrWv25qQ

Multipurpose summer holiday: intensive courses, sporting competitions, family, friends, charity, networking

Séjours linguistiques (language trainings), intensive courses in subjects that range from mathematics to personal development and sporting activities (close to 1 million visitors to London during the Olympics Games of which about 300,000 from overseas + 5.5 million day trippers + 10,500 athletes and 7,500 officials) are some of this year’s summer holiday interests.

My acquaintance and her husband plan their annual summer holiday around chess tournaments. They visit beautiful towns in France and nearby European cities while their 15 year-old-son collects trophies. Gone are the days when the sole destination was the beach, mountain, touristic spots or entertainment park to relax and have fun. Consciously, or otherwise, we engage in a multipurpose holiday, e.g. our travel luggage includes a laptop, net/notebook, iPod, Nintendo, headsets and other electronic gadgets. Do we really need these gadgets when our main goal is to have a nice break from work, school or a routine activity (especially strenuous one)?

Here in France, friends (sometimes even strangers) constantly ask each other these questions “When are you going on holiday?” “Where will you spend your summer vacation?”-- which are not easy to answer when you’re going nowhere. As well, these are always followed by further questions and comments, such as “Are you working all summer?” as if you’ve been punished for being inefficient; “Your children will be bored for 2 months” as if they didn’t have parents, siblings, toys, nearby parks and local activities to keep them busy. Sometimes it’s not enough to mention a place; it has to be abroad – such as England, Spain and other top country destinations!

There are many worthwhile activities during the summer holiday period aside from consuming artificially high-priced accommodation, airline tickets and entertainment. One of my trainees has just left Luxembourg as a participant of a one-month car rally in Mongolia. He’s so delighted that his summer holiday has raised money for charities through sponsorships and donations. In last nights’ news there was a segment about students working for nursing homes as volunteers this summer.

Pleasure and not pressure at work

A paid employment is necessary – it’s an indispensable work as it provides an individual with an income, self identity and social status. Due to some societal changes and the financial crises, the pleasure of being in a paid employment has been replaced with pressure, stress and race for survival. The original idea connected with the Protestant work ethic of independence and saving has disappeared, and what’s left is hard work and competition. Most of us are busy earning money hence we have no or little time for leisure.

Unlike workaholics, we rely on periodic leisure (which is associated with holiday as the British call it; “vacation” American) to spice our employment. I rarely hear of employees raving about having the pleasure of working. It’s not only money that makes our work environment pleasurable. It may not be possible to get pleasure from all our daily tasks, however, we can see the glass half full in times of pressure when we have a good sense of humour and take time to relax. There’s also pleasure, instead of pressure, when we have a shared interest (e.g. sports, entertainment, arts) with our colleagues, update our work station (e.g. new photos on our desk and fosters on the wall), vary our office snacks and meals, dress up differently and change our lunch activities from time to time (e.g. picnic in the nearby park or trip to the swimming pool and a quick sandwich).

As I mentioned in my previous article, I didn’t have internet access for 10 days by choice. I leisurely explored the mountains and lakes in Scotland and played a typical tourist in England. The 12-day holiday with my family was fantastic though I really didn’t need it as a break from my paid employment. A staycation would have been leisurely productive and pleasurably relaxing. This is because I enjoy what I do for a living. We can only have fun with our job when we are passionate about it. Can we instil passion in our work? How can we handle pressure and obtain pleasure when we aren’t passionate about our employment?

Towards International and Interdisciplinary Research Collaboration for the Measurements of Quality of Life

Our paper (with the title above) has been published and is available as "Online First" on SpringerLink now: www.springerlink.com

When we started creating our eLab in 2006-2007, it was probably one of the earliest ones. Now there are many eLabs, especially nice ones in the UK and other universities. Though, I understand that many researchers focus on eScience, while we are more interested in eSocial Science and measuring societal progress.

We have written the earlier versions of this paper for the last three years. And, as the time has passed, we have learned new stuff, and tried to make the paper shorter and less technical. Therefore, quite frankly, the paper is getting outdated as technology advances so quickly. Though, our article provides a general introduction to eSocial Science.

A good news is that we've got a new idea. Although we cannot go into details at this time, what we wish is we make it accessible and useful for as many people as possible.

We hope to update you about progress on this site (by the end of this year, if possible). Also, we will see you at future conferences and meetings! At the moment, we are interested in the 9th IEEE International Conference on e-Science in Beijin, China in 2013: escience2013.csp.escience.cn

あじさい革命雑考 ╾╾ おまわりさん。デモの目的を、わかってらっしゃらない?!

Hydrangea Revolution (Ajisai Kakumei in Japanese) in Japanフランスに住んでいると、デモは日常茶飯事のように見かける。群衆の巨大パーティー、ハレの場という雰囲気が常にあるけど、時には耳をつんざかんばかりのシュプレヒコールが鳴り響き、発煙筒の黄色い煙りが目にしみて、その大混雑から早く立ち去りたくなる場合もある。ヨーロッパには、劣悪な労働条件で働いていた人たちが、デモをして今の社会保障を勝ち取った記憶がまだ生きている。大人も高校生たちも、デモの重要性をよく知っている。

Youtubeで、6月29日の首相官邸前デモの様子を見た(下ブログ)。なんと警官が「シュプレヒコールをやめてください」と叫んで群衆を制している。誰にも聞こえないような静かなデモをして、どうするんですか(大笑い)。

デモの趣旨は、人々が公の場で声を極限まであげて、憤りや抗議や政治的な主張を訴えることである。そういう示威行為の音量は大きければ、大きいほどよい。あんなに、ごみもつくらず、暴動にもならない秩序を保ちながらの大規模デモ。日本の国民は冷静に怒っているのだ。その怒号や叫び、「人々の声」を聞くのが民主政というものだし、本来ならば、官邸前に20万人が結集した事実を報道するのも、(民主主義の)マス・メディアの責務である。

Hydrangea Revolution (Ajisai Kakumei in Japanese)

Anti-nuclear protests are flourishing in Japan like hydrangeas that are in bloom everywhere now. A recent wave of protests is now called Ajisai Kakumei, or Hydrangea Revolution. I do not know who has started to call it, but it is nice as it reflects Japan's ikebana culture. More importantly, I believe that ajisai symbolizes tenacity, and the protesters are as hardy and prolific as ajisai flowers.

Reportedly, 200,000 people gathered outside Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda's official residence in Tokyo on June 29, protesting against the restart of a nuclear power plant. It was one of the largest public protests since 1960s. Also, many more people protested in other big cities.

For example:

See 1) the video: people are shouting "Saikadou Hantai, or No Restart (the reactors at the Ohi nuclear power plant in Fukui Prefecture)" and "Noda Koso Yamero, or Noda Quit (It is Noda who have to quit)." www.youtube.com/watch?v=UfyFZ_yk7qQ

Enfin, c'est pas trop tôt! (as French people say).

Finally, same-sex marriage (in French, "le mariage homosexuel") to be legalized in France.

This is good news for my gay friends and also a good progress for a democratic country with the motto of "Liberté, égalité, fraternité" (Liberty, equality, fraternity or brotherhood/sisterhood).

According to France Info (radio) this morning, the new Socialist government will propose a bill to legalize same-sex marriage.  If the French government will pass the law in 2013, same-sex married couples will receive the same rights and benefits as other married couples.

Thus, by 2013 France will join the eleven countries that legally allow same-sex couples to marry: the Netherlands (2000), Belgium (2003), Spain (2005), Canada (2005), South Africa (2006), Norway (2008), Sweden (2009), Portugal (2010), Iceland (2010), Argentina (2010), and Denmark (2012).

Actually, my hero Coluche, very popular French comedian and the founder of "Les Restos du Coeur" (Restaurants du Coeur - Restaurants of the Heart), who also protested against racism, already supported marriage equality in 1985.  Watch the video!

Why do you work? Are you happy in your job?

Worthiness of employment (job) and work “Que gagne-t-on en travaillant?” was one of the philosophy questions in last Monday’s Baccalaureate (high school diploma) French exam.

When I was in Australia, I often heard people whinging about neighbours and acquaintances who received unemployment benefits from the government but were too lazy to work (known as dole bludgers). Some people enjoy working but dislike their job. Working is not synonymous with employment (job). Work is any activity involving the use of effort to achieve a goal, such as to repaint the house or to earn money. A work may not be a job but a job requires working.

Job, e.g. teaching or bus driving, is specific referring to a particular employment. Repainting your house during your free time is work but not your job (employment), which can give you satisfaction and joy. Work can sometimes be un-enjoyable also that’s why we often describe it as the opposite of play, e.g. cleaning toilets at home.

Back to the French philosophy question: what do you gain by working? by having a job? I hope that our French high school graduating students, after 4 hours of writing about this topic under the watchful eyes of Education Departmental staff and detectors, acquired a more positive attitude and behavior towards work and employment in the midst of a bleak economic reality. What happened to our ‘Right to Work’ philosophy, “Just Wage for Fair Work” ethics and socially-responsible business model?

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