Friday, December 2

Bishops show their usual perspicacity

So the bishops are upset, eh?

Eighteen Church of England bishops have signed an open letter, criticising the government's proposed welfare reforms. In the letter, in The Observer, the bishops express concerns about plans to limit the amount any household can claim in benefits to £500 a week. The bishops say the cap could be "profoundly unjust" to children in the poorest families and that they have a "moral obligation to speak up for those who have no voice".

It is estimated the cap, which would apply to the combined income from benefits such as jobseekers' allowance, housing benefit and council tax benefit, could result in about 50,000 families being about £93 a week worse off. London is expected to be one of the worst affected areas, because of the high cost of renting in the capital. Earlier this week a study, on behalf of London Councils, said about 133,000 households in London would be unable to afford their rent if the proposed changes go ahead.

So let me see what’s the problem? Why is the government doing this? The government is saying (not that the BBC will report it) that its unfair that a household should get in benefits more than what an average family gets in wages. Now, that sounds fair to me, doesn't it? Nobody said that my taxes have to support you having to live in the middle of Chelsea or in London. Its not like you are working anyway, are you? So what’s the point? Or are you expecting me to pay my taxes so that you have a nice social life with your neighbours? Nice one.

Also notice that these blessed bishops didn't say anything about the millions of below average households who are going to have to pay more to keep these people at an income level higher than they themselves are in. Good for you, rob peter to pay Paul and then these bishops will be supporting Paul. Truly they are irrelevant in today’s life, no wonder nobody is going to church, specially with muppets like this. Bah. What happened to the Protestant work ethic? The fact that they have to go out and work? God Helps those who help themselves? And the proud tradition of working that made western Christendom proud? Unbelievable.

Thursday, December 1

What can we learn from the happiest people?

First the abstract:

Flourishing—a state of optimal mental health—has been linked to a host of benefits for the individual and society, including fewer workdays lost and the lowest incidence of chronic physical conditions. The aim of this paper was to investigate whether and how routine activities promote flourishing. The authors proposed that flourishers thrive because they capitalize on the processes featured in the broaden-and-build theory of positive emotions, specifically by experiencing greater positive emotional reactivity to pleasant events and building more resources over time. To test these hypotheses, the Day Reconstruction Method (DRM) was administered to a prescreened community sample of adults (n = 208), and they were recontacted two to three months later. Results showed that relative to those who did not flourish or were depressed, people who flourish generally responded with bigger “boosts” in positive emotions in response to everyday, pleasant events (helping, interacting, playing, learning, spiritual activity), and this greater positive emotional reactivity, over time, predicted higher levels of two facets of the cognitive resource of mindfulness. In turn, these higher levels of mindfulness were positively associated with higher levels of flourishing at the end of study, controlling for initial levels of flourishing. These results suggest that the promotion of well-being may be fueled by small, yet consequential differences in individuals' emotional experience of pleasant everyday events. Additionally, these results underscore the utility of the broaden-and-build theory in understanding the processes by which flourishing is promoted and provide support for a positive potentiation perspective.

Source: "A Tuesday in the Life of a Flourisher: The Role of Positive Emotional Reactivity in Optimal Mental Health" from Emotion, Volume 11, Issue 4, August 2011, Pages 938-950

Makes sense, eh? stay positive and keep on having small amounts of fun all the time, biting, hugging, having a biscuit, sniffing a flower, call somebody to say hello and smile at a child.

Wednesday, November 30

Beware of priests, sheikhs, gurus and other assorted people

Religious chaps who promise heaven on the payment of monies are dangerous. Anybody who has to pay to learn to be with God or be with God is a muppet anyway. But interestingly enough, here’s an interesting poem

The Golden Key


from Futility Closet by Greg Ross

A monk was standing at a convent gate,
With sanctimonious phiz, and shaven pate,
Promising, with solemn cant,
To all that listen’d to his rant,
A full and perfect absolution,
With half-a-dozen hallowed benedictions,
If they would give some contribution,
Some large donation supererogatory,
To ransom fifty murder’d christians,
And free their precious souls from purgatory:
When (he asserted) they would gain
A passport from the realms of pain,
And find a speedy passage to the skies.
A knight was riding by, and heard these lies;
He stopp’d his horse, “Salve,” the parson cried;
And “Benedicite” the youth replied.
“Most reverend father,” quoth the knight,
Who, it appears, was sharp and witty,
“These martyr’d christians’ wretched plight
Believe me, I sincerely pity:
Nay, more–their sufferings to relieve,
I will these fifty ducats give.”
This was no sooner said than done;
The priest pronounc’d his benison.
“Now, I presume,” the soldier said,
“The spirits of these christians dead
Have reach’d their final place of rest?”
“Most true,” replied the rev’rend friar,
“(Unless Saint Francis is a liar;)
And, to reward the pious action
Of this most christian benefaction,
You will, no doubt, eternally be blest.”
“Well, then,” exclaim’d the soldier-youth,
“If what you say indeed be truth,
And these same pieces that I’ve given,
Have snatch’d their souls from purgatory’s pains,
And bought them a snug place in heaven,
No further use for them remains.”
He said thus much to prove, at least,
He was as cunning as the priest:
Then put the ducats in his poke
And rode off, laughing at the joke.

– “C.J.D.,” in The Mirror of Literature, Amusement, and Instruction, 1824

Tuesday, November 29

10 fascinating facts about beauty:

Dear Son
I hope the math exam went well.
here's something on the side to think about. People keep on saying that beauty is only skin deep but frankly we are all victims of our own upbringing and senses. Given a choice, a good looking person will always win over somebody who isn't that good looking, other things being equal. That's a D'oh statement but its important to recognise this. From both your incoming and outgoing perspectives. How you react to beautiful people will be important for you. Try to delve underneath that beauty, son. Not saying that its a factor, but beautiful people can make you forget to judge properly. So you might agree on a deal with a good looking person whereas the deal might not really be good enough. Why do you think most of the sales are done by beautiful women and men? they are the attractors, they attract people who then forget to judge other elements such as price or quality or delivery times or what have you.
The second element is how you appear to others, your business people, your friends, etc. etc. I am not saying that you have to become a metrosexual and primp and preen to be beautiful, but a certain element of smartness and well put togetherness is required. Smartly shined shoes, sharp haircut, no straggly beard, good body posture, etc. etc. will help. Your skin colour is obviously a handicap to a certain extent but that cant be helped. So always be on the lookout to ensure that your business and social dealings are handled on the basis that somebody better looking than you can have an advantage over you. You are quite handsome and smart, I have to admit and I am not saying that because you are my son. Well, perhaps I am, but still, have this in the back of your mind, your reactions to beauty and others reactions to your beauty are going to be a factor in your life, son.

And remember the old quote, “people say beauty is only skin deep, its deep enough, what do you want? An adorable pancreas?”


10 fascinating facts about beauty:
via Barking up the wrong tree on 9/22/11

HNR has a well researched piece about attractiveness. Ten points worth noting:

  • On measures of affect and mood, physically attractive people score higher than less physically attractive people.
  • People perceive physically attractive people as smarter, more successful, more sociable, more dominant, sexually warmer, mentally healthier and higher in self-esteem than their physically unattractive counterparts. While this 'beauty is good' effect is moderately strong, studies show that attractive people are neither more nor less intelligent than less attractive people.
  • Physically attractive people are more relaxed and socially adept and less socially anxious and lonely than less physically attractive people.
  • We are more likely to divulge personal information about ourselves to physically attractive people than we are to divulge less physically attractive people.
  • We are more likely to help a physically attractive person than we are a physically unattractive person.
  • If we are presented with a group of people and asked to use non-physical cues to identify who has psychopathology, we are more likely identify physically unattractive people as we are to identify more physically attractive people.
  • Physically attractive people with psychological disturbance are judged to be more maladjusted and to have a poorer prognosis than less physically attractive people with the same psychological disturbance.
  • A physically attractive person charged with the same crime as a less attractive person is more likely to be found not guilty of that crime. Physically attractive individuals found guilty of a particular crime are more likely to receive more lenient sentences than less attractive defendants. In court cases in which the crime is sex-related, physically unattractive defendants are considered to be more dangerous than better-looking offenders. This effect is often independent of the actual grooming or attire of the defendant.
  • Good-looking faces trigger the same kinds of brain networks that are activated when people become addicted to cocaine and gambling.
  • There appears to be a universal, cross-cultural undesirability for people with facial disfigurements and other flaws. Even babies seem to prefer physically attractive faces to physically unattractive ones.

Monday, November 28

Swedes are actually inviting Russians

I nearly fell out of the chair when I read about this story. I quote:

Sorsele municipality, in northern Sweden, are overjoyed in the continued interest in the area, after receiving over 900 applications from enthusiastic Russian families keen to move there.
As The Local reported in 2010, within the next five or six years, over 350 locally employed public sector employees will retire from Sorsele municipality, in the county of Västerbotten.
That's 30 percent of their workforce and it was feared that Sorsele wouldn't be able to find anyone to fill the positions.
The local authorities therefore decided to market themselves to their Russian neighbours, with the aim of boosting dwindling population figures and to ensure an influx of foreign labour.
However, there is no guarantee that the job openings will be filled by the Russians. According to Wikström, they will be competing about the jobs with everyone else.
As part of the project, which will cost about six million kronor ($891,000), the idea is that the Russians would learn Swedish before their arrival to Sweden.
The council is hoping for funding from the EU. According to them, there's plenty of housing but fewer jobs.
So far, the council reports a massive interest.
And according to the local authorities, among the 900 applicants are doctors, teachers, veterinary surgeons and engineers.
Despite one aim of the project being boosting population figures, Wikström told SVT that it isn't necessarily women of child bearing age that they especially welcome.
”Absolutely not. We want whole families with children as every community need young people,” said Wikström to SVT.
However, local authorities stressed that money from the EU is essential to make the project work.
The first Russians could then be arriving in the county of Västerbotten in a year's time.

Sweden and Russian have been fighting for a fair few centuries now although there hasn't been one for about 200 years now. Still, for Sweden to actually invite Russians into the cold frigid north is interesting. Second one was obviously the fact that the Swedish local authorities need to borrow money from my taxes to pay for this. Welcome to the wonderland of EU.

Sunday, November 27

Can staring into someone's eyes make them fall in love with you?

Here’s an interesting survey.

In two studies, subjects induced to exchange mutual unbroken gaze for 2 min with a stranger of the opposite sex reported increased feelings of passionate love for each other. In Study I, 96 subjects were run in the four combinations of gazing at the other's hands or eyes, or in a fifth condition in which the subject was asked to count the other's eye blinks. Subjects who were gazing at their partner's eyes, and whose partner was gazing back reported significantly higher feelings of affection than subjects in any other condition. They also reported greater liking than all subjects except those in the eye blink counting condition. In Study II, with 72 subjects, those who engaged in mutual gaze increased significantly their feelings of passionate love, dispositional love, and liking for their partner. This effect occurred only for subjects who were identified on a separate task as more likely to rely on cues from their own behaviour in defining their attributes.

Source: "Looking and loving: The effects of mutual gaze on feelings of romantic love" from Journal of research in personality, Vol. 23, No. 2. (June 1989), pp. 145-161.

So keep staring into a person’s eyes and if you can get them to look back at you, then you can have a greater chance of getting the person to like you if not more. Nice…