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”?

Aider les personnes atteintes de démences de type Alzheimer - RECHERCHE DE SPONSORS et FORMATION

Dans le cadre du projet GRAND AGE SNOEZELEN, l’association « MÉMOIRE QUI FLANCHE »

  • recherche des sponsors pour la mise en action du projet (dossier du projet en pièce jointe ci-dessous);
  • organise la formation d'intervenant(e)s aux pratiques « Snoezelen » (dossier de candidature en pièce jointe ci-dessous).

Si vous avez les moyens d'agir et de nous aider, ou que vous vous sentiez simplement concernés, n'hésitez pas à nous contacter.

Présentation de l’association « MÉMOIRE QUI FLANCHE »

L’association est née en décembre 2012 de la rencontre de Fabiola De Falco, Pauline Delattre et de Florence Davrout.

Un des buts de l’association est :
- l’accès aux espaces « Snoezelen » pour les personnes âgées qui vivent à leur domicile et qui sont atteintes de démences de type Alzheimer (DTA).

SNOEZELEN vient des deux mots néerlandais suivants :

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.



翌朝のラジオ(France Info) が伝えた主なニュースは、オバマ大統領が小学校乱射事件の追悼会で銃規制の強化を訴えたこと、エジプトの国民投票、フランス内政、重税をのがれようとベルギー国籍取得に動きだした俳優ジェラール・ドパルデュー、アフガニスタンの話題、そして最後に天気予報。





Eco-friendly Christmas Decor

We posted the blog on the christmas markets in Strasbourg last Thursday.  But, of course, I wish the Christmas lights were powered by renewable energy.

If those markets have existed since Medieval times when there was no nuclear power, we can certainly make fabulous Christmas decorations without wasting too much energy.

Necessity is the mother of invention....  See the photo (with my folding bike).


What a Wonderful World...

I would like one of my last blogs this year to be something hopeful and positive (although I am not happy at all with the current political situation of Japan).

Here are nice photos of the Christmas Markets in Strasbourg taken by our French friend, Cyril Hazotte. He kindly shares the photos under a Creative Commons license. Cyril has captured the spirit and the charm of the Christkindelsmärik there: all kinds of colorful gifts and ornaments; smells of hot wine, choucroute, and chocolates; all kinds of regional and foreign accents; dazzling lights; and a festive atmosphere.

The Christmas markets in Strasbourg were far nicer and more enchanting than I ever expected. I think they are nice for all ages: magical for kids, romantic for the couples, friendly and welcoming to the tourists and families, and appetizing to their dogs.

Now I am determined to learn to say “Hot wine, please” in German to visit Nuremberg's Christmas markets in the future!

Of course, we can use the title above with heavy sarcasm. For those who are interested to learn about the current Japanese issues, see below, for example:

... click here to read more ...

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 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”.

【京都雑感】 愛情の振り子・時代祭り・日本とヨーロッパ、どっちも好き

Japan women manifestation1.「何がなんでも、日本に帰るんじゃないよ。」



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 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:

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:

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