Archive for August, 2008

My dear friend Helena pointed me to a post on EcoSpace that talks about introversion in a world that favours group-oriented personalities (the discussion threads following that article are quite interesting too, talking for example about the relationship between introversion in relation to activist groups, Aspergers or the lack of community).

Humans are social animals, so the cliche goes, yet according to Michael Lopez’ post maybe 25% of the Western population might lack the quality of group-orientation. That does not mean equal distribution throughout social groupings; I could imagine that artists, philosophers or political activists would have a larger share of introverts than let’s say CEOs of large organisations. As an overall figure though a quarter of the Western populace is a sizable minority.

In terms of understanding group and non-group oriented people, looking at language helps. Social and individual attitudes, behaviours and expectations are expressed in and reinforced by language: ‘outgoing’ and ‘sociable’ versus ‘shy’ and ‘anti-social’, ‘overbearing’ and ‘shallow’ versus ‘thoughtful’ and ‘personable’. Such ‘meaning’ contributes greatly to maintaining the structural imbalance between the majority of extroverts and socially oriented people and the minority of introverts who in one form or another experience devaluation, marginalisation and silencing.

People caught in the latter group often react with passive resistance, self-exclusion and/or feelings of coerced adaptation of group-type behaviour patterns. The problem with adaptation is that people do not take on the real qualities of mimicked personality type but play out what they think is this type, an assumption that often is negative (eg ‘shallow’ and ‘overbearing’). Adaptation in these cases will not lead to real change and growth but instead to exhausting and resentful copying, reinforcong the negative image the introvert has in his/her mind about the extrovert.

This reinforcement most likely will be enhanced by the feeling of having been coerced into adaptation in the first place because the majority socialiser culture does not recognise and respect the space the minority introverts occupy; it’s the alienation, discomfort, or dissatisfaction they experience that forces the non-group oriented people to adapt.

All of this suggests an obvious even though potentially idealistic solution: mutual acceptance. Societies and their sub-groups and communities need to create spaces for both forms of personality types to interact – spaces that are being regarded as equally valid. One-to-one interactions (the introvert’s preferred form of social interaction) would be seen as equally relevant, important, functional, productive and creative as the gatherings of the highly extrovert social. And where both personality types come together, space needs to be made for each to be able to unfold and to learn from one other.

Of course, the probability is low that either will be able to comfortably become the other, but learning, amongst other things, is about expanding one’s skill set and therefore adapting in the true sense of the word: by openly embracing challenges as seeds for personal growth. For the introvert learning to some extend what it feels to be an extrovert and vice versa for the extrovert will be enriching for the individual and our species in general.

One strategy for supporting us to become more respectful of ‘the other’ and to learn to integrate some of his/her personality traits into our own is to become more aware of ourselves, of ‘my self’. How? By beginning to be right here and now, observing oneself in every moment, or as Helena said: ” … focusing on being present to this particular moment at hand and responding from that place of presence. That’s all. Anything else other than being present is just extraneous mind chatter.” It’s a way not so much of introspection but of centredness. It gives us a choice to respond naturally to our environment, a choice ascending from a calm self-confidence, without hubris or fear, and it opens us up to let in other forms of expression and being. Simply being in the moment beats all other strategies of change, from from cognitive-behavioural to socio-political. It’s not easy to achieve that state of equilibrium but it probably is the most succesful way for us grow, to mature and to build a world in which difference becomes appreciated as an ingredient to enrich life and therefore our own selves.

A small clip from Animals are beautiful people. Directed and written by Jamie Uys. He made this before The Gods Must be Crazy. A funny anthropocentric view of the relationship between the marula tree and the animal kingdom.  I found it on my mate Harry’s Facebook site under the rubric “been there, done that”.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about “Mozilla Ubiquity: use common language…“, posted with vodpod

My friend Harry just mailed me a link to Mozilla Lab’s latest experiment called Ubiquity. With Ubiquity you can use common language to get your browser do the work for you. For example, without having to be a web developer, you can create an email mashup containing words of inviting a friend to a cafe, include a map how to get there, add a review of the place and add the whole date to your calendar – all by using simple language commands. No more separate searching for web pages and copying and pasting links on the senders side and visiting lots of different pages on the receivers.

Ubiquity allows utililising the vast resources of the Web through simple common language instructions; it could make it possible for everyone to do common Web tasks more quickly and easily. Would be great for mobile devices which don’t provide the space and scope of desktop or laptop resources (eg keyboard, mouse, large screen). Even on a small mobile phone it doesn’t take much to type a word to tell your browser what you want it to do; just type ‘map’ and the name of the restaurant while in gmail, hit enter and the browser not only looked for the map but also entered it into your mail. Brilliant stuff.


Posted: August 30, 2008 in creativity
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She is just sosososo cute and so loveable :-*:-*:-*

I always have been suspicious about the influence drug companies exert on doctors. We know of perks for the already over-privileged medico class, from paid-for conference attendances to get-away holidays and personal gimmicky gifts (see image above). Now Choice published an article detailing what is happening behind the scenes in you GP practice.

Pharmaceuticals are big business. Drug companies in Australia had a turnover of $18 billion in 2006-07. Developing new drugs and conducting the various clinical trials required before they can be brought to market is expensive, so there’s clear incentive for drug companies to market their drugs aggressively.

A company holds a patent over a medicine for up to 25 years before generic versions of the same drug can be manufactured by other producers and offered to consumers at a lower price. So it’s in the company’s interest to generate the highest possible return from their product before the patent expires.

Little information is publicly available on the actual amount drug companies spend on marketing drugs, but some estimates suggest it’s more than they spend on research and development.

Pharmaceutical marketing, like all marketing, is used to stimulate demand and increase the bottom line, so if it didn’t work, they wouldn’t do it. Because the information provided isn’t independent it can lead to inappropriate prescribing practices, which expose consumers to unnecessary risk. It can also increase the cost of the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS), which is funded by taxpayers.

But despite strong evidence that pharmaceutical promotion isn’t in the best interest of consumers, the Choice survey of 180 practicing GPs shows that drug companies have a major influence on GPs prescribing drugs, with almost two-thirds of them meeting pharmaceutical representatives an average of seven times a month.

And even though only 24 per cent of doctors trusted the information as much as an independent source, most (81 per cent) would rather receive it because they believe it was often the only way to get timely information on new drugs.

The survey of 180 doctors found that 73 per cent referred to pharmaceutical companies or their representatives for drug information. This made the companies the second-most important source for doctors after clinical evidence.

Drug companies are the main source of information for 16 per cent of doctors when deciding whether to prescribe a new drug, the survey said.

More than half of doctors said there were not enough independent sources of information on new drugs. Only half of the doctors were aware of the independent drugs adviser, the National Prescribing Service. But a spokesman for the service said it had “significant penetration” (which is weasel-speak for saying they don’t do enough).

Choice found that 65 per cent of doctors saw at least seven pharmaceutical representatives on average each month, and a handful said they saw 20 or more in one month. Doctors received an average of 10 promotional mailings a week from drug companies. Forty per cent of doctors were also sponsored by a drug company to attend a conference, seminar or training in Australia – and 3 per cent overseas – in the past 12 months.

Choice said the results showed there was a need for independent monitoring of pharmaceutical promotion beyond the industry-administered code of conduct, which it described as “ineffective”. One in eight GPs were unaware of Medicines Australia code, which did not set specific limits on drug company visits and mailouts, as in the British code, which prohibits a representative from visiting a doctor more than three times a year, it said.

And not surprising, a spokesman for the federal Health Minister, Nicola Roxon, said there were no plans to increase funding to the National Prescribing Service.

By the way: drug companies not only manipulate prescriptions in Australia. Choice provides supporting evidence from a couple of European countries.

  • A UK survey of 1097 practitioners found that GPs who report weekly contact with drug reps are more likely than those who have less frequent contact to prescribe drugs without first checking for published clinical evidence of effectiveness.
  • Another study of 1019 GPs from the Netherlands found that more frequent visits from drug reps were associated with a lower quality of prescribing.

When correctly prescribed, medicines can provide benefits. But used incorrectly or inappropriately, they have the potential to cause significant harm – but that’s not something drug companies are concerned about (as long as regulators and courts cause them grieve).

Source: Sydney Morning Herald

Green Smoothie

Posted: August 29, 2008 in society
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Here’s is a healthy and tasty smoothie that John (Lyster?) Palmer made at the last Raw Food gathering in Melbourne:

  • 1 apple
  • 1/2 to 1 banana depending on ripeness
  • 1/2 to 1 pear – depending on ripeness
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • About same packed volume of spinach, choy sum or any other green in the fridge except iceberg lettuce
  • Mint to taste – the leaves from several stalks
  • Slice or two of chopped ginger
  • Several chopped dates or figs, soaked in hot water for a few minutes to soften
  • Filtered water – probably about 2-4 cups, depending on the amount of produce used

Stick it all in a blender (preferably a powerful bench blender). Serves 2-3 people.

There are many variations, just add whatever is in season, eg berries, stone fruit, etc.. I also substituted the greens with barley grass, which gave a nice flavour as well.

Of course, I don’t know all Sydney councils, but whatever their practices might or might not be, this is just another example how much more sensitive and sophisticated Melbourne is …

(Middle Park, Port Phillip, Melbourne)

Helena Wong: Poetry

Posted: August 27, 2008 in creativity

My friend Helena, whose qualities I have praised before, is also a great poet. I love her notion of poems as dream catchers, and I have been asking her for years to publish at least some of her work on the Net, but with little success so far … maybe that might change now?

anyway, here are a couple of small examples.

and inspired by walking down near Leura Cascades in the Blue Mountains …

Street art in Melbourne

Posted: August 26, 2008 in creativity

Indeed! (Outside Palominos)

Some more on Living Food (Raw Food)

Posted: August 26, 2008 in society
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I would really like to rave in detail about Helena’s wonderful food she made for us (like smoothies, juices, salads, a cold soup, dehydrated crackers, etc.), but unfortunately I did not write down any recipes excepts for a kind of raw muesli (enclosed below). She did recommend though some books which do contain many practical ideas for meals – as well as a lot of background material on food and Living Foods in general (see below too).

Helena’s Breakfast Muesli

Blend one medium green apple, 4 Medjool dates, 1tsp maca powder, 1tbsp soaked chia seeds or soaked flax seeds and the juice of half an orange. Put mix into breakfast bowl, add some sprouted buckwheat, a handul of soaked raisins, 4 soaked figs and 5 soaked walnuts. Stir. Add chopped fresh fruit, almond milk and enjoy a delicious and nutritious meal.

Helena’s book suggestions