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Posts Tagged ‘Nobel Prize’

Oktoberfest ended with a little rain and a lot of dachshunds! And since our friend Eli was visiting with her son Leo, we all met the Bride’s family for the Annual Dachshund Derby in Germantown. Leo decided that Nashville should be renamed “Dogland,” since dogs of every variety strolled through the park with their beer drinking masters in lederhosen. Still, watching those wiener dogs race was hilarious. http://thenashvilleoktoberfest.com/dogtoberfest/

Ms Bean was delighted to sit on the front porch and watch the canine parade go by  behind the cover of a maple tree. She has staked out her territory thankfully, and the sidewalk is safe for most breeds. Corgi puppies and Great Danes stroll right by without looking up to see her eyeing them suspiciously. After all, she is a rescue mutt, origins unknown, and she’s proud of it! She doesn’t need some set of AKC papers to know she is a prey-driven lover girl!

Unlike certain people, who require validation in order to feel good about themselves. It’s not enough to be a professional for some, your pedigree must include only “The Best” schools, “The Finest” clerkships or residencies. These are the silent judges in our midst; constantly ranking others according to some inner calculation, one they are only slightly aware of and would never admit. It’s still a Dog and Pony Show world it would seem, no matter where you go.

You can usually sniff them out, the pretentious co-mingling of class and money. It’s a primal thing I suppose, as territorial as Ms Bean and my friendly mailman. Great Grandma Ada would call this person a “Noodge.” ie Someone who is a pest, an annoying critic of your every move. It’s exactly what we are currently trying to teach the Love Bug’s toddler brother to avoid – not to whine! “You’re not whining are you?” I’ll ask him. The etymology is probably Slavic, and:

likely from Yiddish נודיען nudyen ‘to bore, pester’, נודניק nudnik ‘bore, pest’, influenced by English “nudge”  http://www.jewish-languages.org/jewish-english-lexicon/words/417

Some people become lifetime complainers; their shoulders are burdened by a ton of self-generated worry. I’m sure Freud would tell us they got stuck at that two year old developmental stage, but the latest winner of the Nobel Prize for Economics may have a different answer. Richard Thaler started applying smaller psychological theories of human behavior to influence larger changes in public policy with his “Nudge Theory!”

How do we get someone to make good decisions? Bob explained Thaler’s theory to me this way – if his company offered employees the opportunity to sign up for a 401K, he would get a small minority signing up. BUT if he automatically signed everyone up for a 401K, and told them they would have to opt out if they didn’t want to save for retirement, the large majority would participate! I guess the human species is just lazy and we all need a little “nudge” in the right direction, to avoid being a “noodge!”

As for us, the rain dampened the number of people walking into lamp posts and spilling their steins of beer. Bob only had to pick up an occasional St Pauli Girl can every morning off our stoop. Things are getting back to normal in Germantown.

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Months ago, a friend’s daughter mentioned that she had stopped taking Adderal, a drug that was prescribed years earlier for Attention Deficit (ADD). She was proud of weaning herself off this stimulant and started looking at the world, and her career differently. I was happy for her, since as y’all know I am NOT a pill person – well except for vitamins – and I recommended she read this book, “Thinking Fast and Slow,” by Daniel Kahneman who won the Nobel Prize in 2002 for Economics, even though he is a psychologist.

A therapist friend recommended this book to me, and Bob just finished reading it on our Kindle App, so now it’s my turn. It’s easy enough to say that men are from Mars, but this non-fiction book doesn’t try to explain male vs female minds. In fact, gender has nothing to with it. Instead we find out that our instinctual, fast assessment of any situation is the hero of our cognitive world, and the slower, analytical mind is rather lazy!

System 2, in Kahneman’s scheme, is our slow, deliberate, analytical and consciously effortful mode of reasoning about the world. System 1, by contrast, is our fast, automatic, intuitive and largely unconscious mode. It is System 1 that detects hostility in a voice and effortlessly completes the phrase “bread and. . . . ” It is System 2 that swings into action when we have to fill out a tax form or park a car in a narrow space. (As Kahneman and others have found, there is an easy way to tell how engaged a person’s System 2 is during a task: just look into his or her eyes and note how dilated the pupils are.)  http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/27/books/review/thinking-fast-and-slow-by-daniel-kahneman-book-review.html

When we speak about the “tone” of a conversation, as we have been doing about Mr T’s recent attempts at a Press Conference, we are engaging System 1. It is the nuanced way we communicate with others, the reason we may meet someone and feel an immediate kinship. I was actually thinking that System 1 may be a higher evolutionary adaptation to an increasingly complex and interconnected technological world. Making a diagnosis of ADD more of a plus, than a minus.

Now Bob’s opinion of an ADD diagnosis is that your environment isn’t sufficiently stimulating. As the student who sat in front of him in French class in the 60s, I know this to be true – his legs were always moving behind my desk, so much so that I felt as if I was on a Disney ride. I am positive he would have been medicated as a child. And our son had a similar level of energy in high school, similar to a race horse in the gate, one very hard to contain in a “normal” classroom. I can already see this fast level of relating to the world in the Love Bug. I can almost see her mind racing to keep up with us; at the age of two she was asking us to teach her how to read!

So the inner-linguist-in-me was delighted to read this morning that in fact, our thoughts may have been shaped by the kind of crops our ancestors grew! http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20170118-how-east-and-west-think-in-profoundly-different-ways

 

Growing rice requires far greater cooperation: it is labour-intensive and requires complex irrigation systems spanning many different farms. Wheat farming, by contrast, takes about half the amount of work and depends on rainfall rather than irrigation, meaning that farmers don’t need to collaborate with their neighbours and can focus on tending their own crops.

This BBC article explains how so many social science experiments are biased toward the Western world, more specifically American graduate students who participate in these studies. The idea of Western thought being more frontier in nature, valuing the individual, John Wayne, self-directed approach, as differentiated from Eastern thought which values the whole, group achievement, socialist model over the individual is a narrative based in reality, and not alternative facts.  “…our social environment moulds our minds. From the broad differences between East and West, to subtle variation between US states, it is becoming increasingly clear that history, geography and culture can change how we all think in subtle and surprising ways – right down to our visual perception.”

And I would add Red and Blue states to this mix. I once asked a group of women knitting together in a room if in fact every US citizen didn’t deserve to have health care. This was early on, when President Obama was being blocked by every single Republican legislator from passing health insurance reform. And the one Republican knitter in the room said very defiantly “Absolutely not!” She was thinking like a pioneer, and not like someone on the Titanic.

The Flapper loved everything Eastern, including Buddhism, and believed in mindfulness before it was ever trending. Since I received the results of my Ancestry DNA, I realize that my cells are all Irish, with unfortunately no Asian influence. But ever since I was a girl, wearing my Catholic school uniform, my environment taught me to share and think collectively…and maybe now we need to think faster than ever. We need to be the first Jedi.

“All that we are is the result of what we have thought. The mind is everything. What we think we become.”

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I’m living in a small sky blue speck, in a sea of blood red.

The Old Dominion voted for Hillary Clinton, as did most of the big cities and states on both coasts. But Trump’s clarion call swayed the majority of our electoral college, surprising my Democratic family and friends. Shocking me into a dystopian fugue state. Yesterday I actually felt like a zombie, which is to say I didn’t feel much. Great Grandma Ada asked me to explain it, and I had no words. My niece Lucia asked me what she should tell her daughters, and I had no words.

Whenever I am at a loss for words, I look to poetry, and so Bob Dylan came to mind given his recent Nobel Prize. I want to buy all his albums, in vinyl, and play them on an old fashioned record player, with a needle that gets stuck sometimes so you have to pick it up and put it down again. Because he spoke of the great divide, of the power elite who could send our boys to a swamp in Asia because our government, our country, thought we had God on our side. He called attention to the swath of red states, to the working class who today are called the vanishing middle class.

All those White people with no college degree, going nowhere, feeling left behind in the Rust Belt. One third of the Latinos who voted the GOP line, because they didn’t want anymore workers coming over here for free, taking their jobs. All those Evangelical Christians, who voted for the least Christ-like candidate our country ever saw fit to nominate. All those old men who could just never trust a woman to do a so-called man’s job protecting this country. All that free-floating fear and anger, don’t matter if he pops some Tic Tacs and kisses the hell outta you.

Many are brandishing their firearms, wishing the liberal elites take the next plane to Canada. Making false distinctions between love of country and government. I wonder how long it will take them to hate the new GOP government. Feeling self-righteous, they know not what they have done. But while our country is divided, the power players are smiling and gracious, talking about our democracy.

You don’t need a weather man
To know which way the wind blows.

Only time will tell what this “Historic” election means for Women, for the Undocumented, for Muslims, for the Climate. Our system isn’t rigged when a despot can win 279 electoral votes but not the popular vote, right; and the gerrymandering that flooded both houses on the Hill with red shall never be undone. Lobbyists are fleeing DC like rats from a ship.

But hark, the Dow is going up folks, because the Market hates uncertainty, so Wall Street must think they have a friend in this lustful Billionaire. After all, he could shoot someone and get away with it, he’s got God on his side! When President Obama shakes his hand on the White House porch today, I just may lose my lunch.

In a many dark hour
I’ve been thinkin’ about this
That Jesus Christ
Was betrayed by a kiss
But I can’t think for you
You’ll have to decide
Whether Judas Iscariot
Had God on his side.

The Groom told the Love Bug that, “Everybody gets a turn.” And even though we all thought this was Hillary’s turn, the people voted so now it’s Trump’s turn. And I would add the  biggest, loudest bully on the block will need to face Pocahontas, aka Senator Elizabeth Warren in four years, so we better get busy. The Boston Globe reported Warren saying: “I’m intensely frustrated by the apparent likelihood that, for the second time in five elections, a Democratic nominee will have won the popular vote but lost the presidency in the electoral college.” 

And just like Gore, I’m devastated. Just like McGovern and Humphrey, I’m feeling left behind. The wind is blowing brown oak leaves past my aviary window, circling and bobbing to their death, they are being tracked into the house. But the sun came up this morning. And my fingers found words again. img_5313

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It’s that time of year again. No, not carving pumpkins time and trying to find or create a family-friendly Halloween costume. It’s the Nobel Prize announcement time; time to try and figure out just what the Higgs boson particle really is and how it’s responsible for the secrets of life and our universe, and I am not speaking biblically.

But try to find the 2013 recipient of the prize in physics, Peter Higgs, and you’d be out of luck. The elderly Edinburgh scientist left his cell phone behind and like Garbo, would like to be left alone.  Of course, once that Large Hadron Collider at Cern proved that his theory about the “god particle” was correct, Higgs was considered a shoe-in for the Nobel in Physics.

So maybe we’re closer to knowing “how” we got here, two other winners this year help us understand the “why.” A man whose mission is to heal won the Nobel Prize for medicine and physiology. Since I have a few healers in the family, I was interested in this article I found courtesy of my musical great niece: http://www.artsjournal.com/slippeddisc/2013/10/nobel-medicine-winner-says-i-owe-is-all-to-my-bassoon-teacher.html  Dr Thomas Sudhof credits his music teacher with imparting a sense of discipline that helped to forge his “…powers of analysis and concentration.”

I always try to understand everything I encounter—not only in science, but also historical and political events and music and movies—get to grips with the content, meaning, and process. This is immense fun, as strange as that may sound.
Who was your most influential teacher, and why?
My bassoon teacher, Herbert Tauscher, who taught me that the only way to do something right is to practice and listen and practice and listen, hours, and hours, and hours.
Science and art, the interconnections are endless. Next is a woman whose elegantly sparse prose helps us to understand the human condition, along with the roles we all play; an artist who is also part of the faculty here at UVA. Congratulations to Alice Munro, recipient of the Nobel Prize in literature! This 82 year old Canadian writer had her first book of short stories published when she was 37…take heed all you late bloomers! She has only taught the occasional writing class in Mr Jefferson’s Academical Village, and was unavailable when I was studying fiction as a community scholar, unfortunately for me.  She is Queen of the Short Story, and has recently published Dear Life.   
Rumor is she will stop writing now, but I find that hard to believe. Here is what Munro, America’s Chekhov, had to say about her attempt at writing a novel, and I feel her pain:“It didn’t feel right to me, and I thought I would have to abandon it,” she said. “I was very depressed. Then it came to me that what I had to do was pull it apart and put it in story form. Then I could handle it. That’s when I learned I was never going to write a real novel because I could not think that way.”imagesSo that’s my problem. Too many years writing 300-500 word newspaper columns. Thank you Ms Munro, for sharing your knowledge and sense of possibility with us.

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