Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Merci

I must say that i am pretty much heartened by the fact that my first baby steps in blogging have been supported by about 4 hits worldwide in about 9 days.

Now what would make a guy/gal roughly north of New York, somewhere in Slovenia (or Austria), in Mumbai and in the Macau / Hongkong area, trip on my blogsite is something that makes me wonder. So to all of my nameless / faceless co-spiders trawling on the Web, I must offer my profoundest thanks.

I'd probably give my right arm for a meaningful comment on any of my blogs though.

One lives on hope........................

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Book Review: blink: The Power of Thinking by Malcolm Gladwell

'blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking' by Malcolm Gladwell

An event at J. Paul Getty Museum in California. An ancient Greek statue was offered for sale. A geologists report was favourable and Getty was satisfied.

But……………it didn’t look right. An Italian art historian found himself staring at the statue’s fingernails and thinking something was wrong…….something he couldn’t really articulate. Another lady, one of the worlds foremost authorities on Greek sculptures on her first look at the statue had an instinctive sense that something was wrong. Another felt an “intuitive repulsion”. Eventually the statue was found to be an ancient forgery

This book ‘blink’ is about those first 2 (or first few) seconds when intuitively you go to the essence of the matter and understand it.

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The card experiment

-A group of scientists at Univ. of Iowa did an experiment
-They placed 4 decks of cards, 2 red and 2 blue, in front of a group of gamblers
-Each card in the 4 decks wins or costs you a sum of money
-The gamblers had to turn the cards one at a time to maximize their winnings
-What they didn’t know was that the red cards made you lose money
-The question was how long would it take for the gamblers to figure it out that the red cards were the minefield
-The gamblers were hooked up to a machine to measure the activity of their sweat glands which respond to stress and temperature
-The gamblers started generating a response to the red decks from the 10th card
40 cards before they were able to say that they had a hunch what was wrong with the 2 red decks
-And the moment their palms started sweating they automatically started favoring the blue cards over the red
-The gamblers figured the game out before they realized they had figured the game out
-They were making the necessary adjustments before they were consciously aware of what adjustments they were supposed to be making
-This experiment is a powerful illustration of how our mind works

-The conscious strategy thinks logical and eventually comes up with the answer. But it takes 80 cards to get there

-The 2nd strategy operates more quickly, by around the 10th card, its smart but it operates entirely below the surface of consciousness. It sends its message through weirdly indirect channels like the sweat glands in our palms. Its when our brain reaches conclusions without telling us that its reaching conclusions

-At that time do we know why we know? Not at all. But we know.


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The book explores the thought that the mind operates more efficiently by relegating a good deal of high-level sophisticated thinking to the unconscious and those blink ‘snap judgements’ can be very perceptive.

‘blink’ explores the theory that decisions made very quickly can be every bit as good (or even better) as decisions made cautiously and deliberately. And that sometimes our snap judgements and first impressions can offer a much better means of making sense of the world.

But its also the case that sometimes our unconscious is also distracted and can be thrown off-track. Is that when our instinctive reactions have to compete with all other kinds of interests, emotions and sentiments? So when should we trust our instincts and when should we be wary of them


The love lab

Psychologist John Gottman experimented on studying more than 3000 couples. Each couple was videotaped and analysed according to all conceivable emotions that they expressed during conversations; by reading every emotional nuance in the facial expressions and interpreting ambiguous bits of dialogue

-At then end now if Gottman analyses an hour of a conversation he is now able to predict with 95% accuracy whether the couple will be married 15 years or later.
-If he watches for 15 minutes the rate is 90%
-Even at 3 minutes exposure, his team was able to predict with a fairly impressive accuracy

‘Thin-slicing’ refers to the ability of our unconscious to find patterns in situations and behavior based on very narrow slices of experience. When we are engaging in thin-slicing we are doing an automated, accelerated version of what Gottman does with his videotapes and equations

When we leap to a decision or have a hunch, our unconscious is sifting through the situation in front of us and zeroing in on what really matters. Our unconscious is really good at this and thin-slicing often delivers a better answer than more deliberate


Listening to Doctors

Suppose you are insuring doctors against medical malpractice protection and you want to figure out who is most likely to be sued. You have 2 choices: One is to study and analyse the physicians records and the other is to listen to brief snippets of conversation between the doctor and his patients.

It was discovered in a study that the risk of being sued for malpractice has very little to do with the mistakes a doctor makes. There are a lot of highly skilled doctors who get sued a lot while there are also doctors who make a lot of mistakes and never get sued. A researcher did some thin-slicing on snippets of conversation judging on qualities such as warmth, hostility, dominance and anxiousness and found that she could predict the ones who got sued and the ones who didn’t. Did the researcher have to sample the entire history of the patient and the doctor to predict that? No, she thin-sliced

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In military parlance, brilliant generals are said to possess “coup d’oeil” which means “power of the glance”; the ability to immediately see and make sense of the battlefield

In basketball, the player who can take in and comprehend all that is happening around him is said to have ‘court sense’.

In such events, the person is able to catch the essence of a situation.

In speed-dating events, essentially the participants are thin-slicing
********


When thin-slicing fails

Its also a fact that in some circumstances thin-slicing can lead us astray. Is it when our prejudices (innate conditionings) come into play? The book puts forward the argument that perhaps a simple commitment to equality (equanimity? equipoise?) can help avoid that situation.

To conclude

Truly successful decision-making relies on a balance between deliberate and instinctive thinking: Intuiting as well knowing when to apply the brakes and consciously resisting snap judgements. Most of us, under pressure get too aroused and past a certain point, our bodies begin shutting down so many sources of information that we start getting useless. That is one instance when snap judgement can be fatal.

In good decision-making, frugality matters. In picking up patterns, less is more. Overloading decision makers with information makes picking the signature harder, not easier.

With practice and experience we can learn to better interpret and decode what lies behind our snap judgements and first impressions

When we have something that we are good at – something we care about – that experience and passion fundamentally change the nature of our first experience. And for experiences outside of our areas of passion and experience, does that mean that our reactions are wrong. No, it just means that they are shallow, hard to explain, easily disrupted, not grounded in real understanding


Resources

http://www.gladwell.com/
http://www.paulekman.com

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Book Review: timepass by Protima Bedi

Books are interesting. Arguably not the best way to start a paragraph. But even the dullest books can be interesting. Fat, small, verbose, brief, any genre.....blah blah blah. Books are interesting, ashte!!!

Take this book that I just finished reading: 'timepass: the memoirs of Protima Bedi'. The lady in question is of course the ex-wife of Kabir Bedi + one of the most famous of modern Indian classical dancers (of the Odissi style).

A woman who
· Was born into a dysfunctional family (aren’t we all) (and incidentally went on to create her own; dysfunctional family I mean)
· Was repeatedly raped by a cousin at the age of 9
· Had a mildly rebellious childhood
· Gave full rein to her sexuality once it sprouted
· Slept with countless men
· Turned to modelling (on the sly, away from her parents traditional gaze)
· Met Kabir bedi, ran away from home and started a live-in relationship with him, Slept with other men, Married Kabir Bedi, Slept with some other men, Divorced Kabir Bedi, Slept with still other men
· Found a purpose (?) in life when she met her guru, Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra and fell in love with the Odissi style of classical Indian dancing
· Became one of the most acclaimed Indian Classical Odissi dancers within a surprisingly short time
· Raised a unique dancing school, Nrityagram teaching multiple dancing disciplines and made it into a premier institution
· Paid scarce attention to the feelings of families when she slept with the man of the house (or is this oversimplifying it)?
· took sanyas (not exactly in the traditional way).
· Died in a landslide in the arms of the Himalayas while on a pilgrimage……….the body was never recovered.
· And incidentally, (as a sort of fill-in-the-blanks) along the way raised 2 kids, a girl and a boy. Sadly, the boy Siddharth became schizophrenic as a youngster and committed suicide

Truly, how many lifetimes has this lady lived within this lifetime!! It would have been tough to have this lady as a mother, as a wife, daughter, lover, colleague and all that. But I salute this lady’s spirit.

And to her daughter’s (Pooja Bedi Ebrahim) spirit too. A daughter who in her moment of lucidity had remarked to her mother “Why are you always running away? You ran away from your mother and father, you ran away from your husband, then you ran away from us, your children, and now you’re running away to Nrityagram. Why?” And she happened to run away from Nrityagram too.


Siddharth’s touching suicide note read

Well, this is it.

Please don’t feel any ‘guilt’ at this. Its my way of taking control and opting out and, strange as it may seem, I’m going happy, not sad.

I did not get to explore the other side. If there is a rebirth, I hope I come back with the faculties to be a technical genius. The times that we live in are so exciting.

I’m sure there’ll be some anger on your sides…but I hope it passes soon.

Booie, keep smiling…huska huska huska…good luck with the baby.

Mum, I love you the most of all…big kisses on your fat cheeks…please don’t be angry.

Love to all.

Siddharth

Technicalities:
There’s a check for $1,000 for death-related expenses.

I don’t want to be buried in India-bury me here, cremate me here or cremate me in India but don’t bury me in India. Something in my sensibility doesn’t want my body to be lying in India.

Resources

http://www.nrityagram.org/index.htm seems to be a delightful website

Monday, April 2, 2007

Bloody Wide Awake (or Eyes Wide Open)

2.46 in the morning doesnt seem to be an auspicious time to start a blog. Or is it?? Especially not when i am Desperately Seeking my Evasive Sleep.

I dont expect this to turn into a major literary endeavour but the world is full of miracles............that keep happening to other people.

So here goes..........