October 31, 2014

Mudita

mudita

Muditā [moo-dee-tah] means ‘joy’ in sanskrit, especially sympathetic or vicarious joy. it is the pleasure that comes from delighting in other people’s well-being rather than begrudging it. The traditional paradigmatic example of this mind-state is the attitude of a parent observing a growing child’s successes, but it is not to be confounded with pride as the person feeling mudita must not have any interest or direct income from the accomplishments of the other. Its antonym is the German word ‘schadenfreude’ (‘pleasure derived from the misfortunes of others’).

Many Buddhist teachers interpret joy more broadly as an inner spring of infinite joy that is available to everyone at all times, regardless of circumstances. The more deeply one drinks of this spring, the more secure one becomes in one’s own abundant happiness, and the easier it then becomes to relish the joy of other people as well. Joy is also traditionally regarded as the most difficult to cultivate of the four immeasurables (the ‘four sublime attitudes’). To show joy is to celebrate happiness and achievement in others even when we are facing tragedy ourselves.

October 30, 2014

Maraschino Cherry

Maraschino Cherry

maraska

In the US, a maraschino [mar-uh-skee-noh] cherry is a preserved, sweetened cherry, typically made from light-colored sweet cherries such as the Royal Ann, Rainier, or Gold varieties. In their modern form, the cherries are first preserved in a brine solution usually containing sulfur dioxide and calcium chloride to bleach the fruit, then soaked in a suspension of food coloring (usually Red 40), sugar syrup, and other components.

Maraschino cherries are an ingredient in many cocktails, giving them the nickname: ‘Cocktail cherries.’ As a garnish, they often are used to decorate frozen yogurt, baked ham, cakes, pastry, parfaits, milkshakes, ice cream sundaes, and ice cream sodas. They are frequently included in canned fruit cocktail. They are also used as an accompaniment to sweet paan (an Indian preparation of herbs for chewing), and sometimes, along with some of the maraschino “‘juice,’ put into a glass of Coca-Cola to make an old-fashioned or homemade ‘Cherry Coke.’ Continue reading

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October 29, 2014

Nitrogen Narcosis

narcosis

Nitrogen narcosis [nahr-koh-sis] (also known as ‘raptures of the deep’ and the ‘Martini effect’) is a reversible alteration in consciousness that occurs while diving at depth. It is caused by the anesthetic effect of certain gases at high pressure. The Greek word ‘narcosis’ is derived from ‘narke,’ ‘temporary decline or loss of senses and movement, numbness,’ a term used by Homer and Hippocrates. Narcosis produces a state similar to intoxication caused by drinking alcohol or inhaling nitrous oxide. It can occur during shallow dives, but usually becomes noticeable at depths greater than 30 meters (100 ft).

Except for helium and probably neon, all gases that can be breathed have a narcotic effect, although widely varying in degree. The effect is consistently greater for gases with a higher lipid solubility (the ability to diffuse directly through the fatty part of a cell membrane), and there is good evidence that the two properties are mechanistically related. As depth increases, the mental impairment may become hazardous. Divers can learn to cope with some of the effects of narcosis, but it is impossible to develop a tolerance. Narcosis affects all divers, although susceptibility varies widely from dive to dive, and between individuals. Continue reading

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October 28, 2014

Narcissistic Defenses

no exit

Narcissistic defenses are coping techniques that preserve idealized aspects of the self while repressing limitations. They tend to be rigid and totalistic, and are often driven by feelings of shame and guilt, conscious or unconscious. Narcissistic variants are among the earliest defense mechanisms to emerge, and include denial, distortion, and projection. Splitting is also common- seeing people and situations in black and white terms, either as all bad or all good. A narcissistic defense, with the narcissist’s typical over-valuation of the self, can come to the fore at any stage of development.

The narcissist typically runs through a sequence of defenses to discharge painful feelings until he or she finds one that works: unconscious repression, conscious denial, distortion (including exaggeration and minimization) and lies, psychological projection (blaming someone else), and finally, enlisting the help of one or more of his or her codependent friends who will support his or her distorted view.

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October 27, 2014

Red Pill and Blue Pill

rabbit hole

Allegory of the Cave

The red pill and its counterpart, the blue pill, are popular culture symbols representing the choice between embracing the sometimes painful truth of reality (red pill) and the blissful ignorance of illusion (blue pill).

The concept was popularized by the 1999 film ‘The Matrix,’ in which the protagonist is offered the choice of remaining in the fabricated reality of a computer simulation, living the ‘ignorance of illusion,’ or the freedom to live the ‘truth of reality’ even though it is a harsher, more difficult life. Continue reading

October 24, 2014

Give ‘em the razor; sell ‘em the blades

cuecat

hp no5

Freebie marketing, also known as the ‘razor and blades’ business model, is a business model wherein one item is sold at a low price (or given away for free) in order to increase sales of a complementary good, such as supplies. For example, inkjet printers require ink cartridges, ‘Swiffers’ require cloths and cleaning fluid, mobile phones require service contracts, and game consoles require accessories and software. It is distinct from a loss leader (an inexpensive product sold at a loss to stimulate sales of more profitable ones) and free sample marketing, which do not depend on complementarity of products or services.

Although the concept and its proverbial example ‘Give ‘em the razor; sell ‘em the blades’ are widely credited to King Camp Gillette, the inventor of the disposable safety razor, he did not originate this model. The usual story about Gillette is that he realized that a disposable blade would not only be convenient, but also generate a continuous revenue stream. To foster that stream, he sold razors at an artificially low price to create the market for the blades. However, Gillette razors were expensive when they were first introduced, and the price only went down after his 1901 patent expired: it was his competitors who invented the razors-and-blades model.

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October 23, 2014

There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch

tanstaafl

‘There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch’ (TANSTAAFL) is a popular adage communicating the idea that it is impossible to get something for nothing. The phrase dates to the 1930s and 1940s, but its first appearance is unknown. The ‘free lunch’ in the saying refers to the nineteenth-century practice in American bars of offering a ‘free lunch’ in order to entice drinking customers.

The phrase and the acronym are central to Robert Heinlein’s 1966 science-fiction novel ‘The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress,’ about the revolt of a lunar colony and the installation of a libertarian regime. Free-market economist Milton Friedman used it as the title of a 1975 book, and it is often mentioned in economics literature to describe opportunity cost (the value of the next best thing you give up whenever you make a decision). Macroeconomist Campbell McConnell writes that the idea is ‘at the core of economics.’ Continue reading

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October 22, 2014

Slacktivism

kony 2012

ice bucket challenge

Slacktivism (‘slacker activism’) is a sometimes pejorative term that describes ‘feel-good’ measures, in support of an issue or social cause, that have little or no practical effect other than to make the person doing it take satisfaction from having contributed. The underlying assumption being promoted by the term is that these low cost efforts substitute for more substantive actions rather than supplementing them, although this assumption has not been borne out by research.

Proponents argue that slacktivism plays a significant role in repressive and authoritarian regimes. Journalist Courtney C. Radsch argues that low level engagement was an important form of activism for Arab youth during the Arab Spring because it was an outlet for free speech and sparked mainstream media coverage. She contends that when a hashtag becomes ‘a trending topic [it] helps generate media attention, even as it helps organize information. The power of social media to help shape the international news agenda is one of the ways in which they subvert state authority and power.’ Continue reading

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October 21, 2014

Zeigarnik Effect

Zeigarnik recall

Bluma Zeigarnik (1901 – 1988) was a Soviet psychologist and psychiatrist who discovered the Zeigarnik [zy-gar-nikeffect, which states that people remember uncompleted or interrupted tasks better than completed tasks. She first studied the phenomenon after her professor, Gestalt psychologist Kurt Lewin, noticed that a waiter had better recollections of still unpaid orders. However, after the completion of the task – after everyone had paid – he was unable to remember any more details of the orders.

The advantage of remembrance can be explained by looking at Lewin’s field theory (a framework which examines patterns of interaction between the individual and the total field, or environment): a task that has already been started establishes a task-specific tension, which improves cognitive accessibility of the relevant contents. Task completion alleviates the tension. In case of task interruption the reduction of tension is impeded. Through continuous tension the content is easier accessible and it can be easily remembered. Continue reading

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October 20, 2014

Behavioral Immune System

rachel herz

The behavioral immune system is a phrase coined by psychologist Mark Schaller of the University of British Columbia to refer to a suite of psychological mechanisms that allow individual organisms to detect the potential presence of disease-causing parasites in their immediate environment, and to engage in behaviors that prevent contact with those objects and individuals (or remediate their effects).

These mechanisms include sensory processes through which cues connoting the presence of parasitic infections are perceived (e.g., the smell of a foul odor, the sight of pox or pustules), as well as stimulus–response systems through which these sensory cues trigger a cascade of aversive affective, cognitive, and behavioral reactions (e.g., arousal of disgust, automatic activation of cognitions that connote the threat of disease, behavioral avoidance). Continue reading

October 19, 2014

Jordan Peterson

maps of meaning

Jordan B. Peterson is a tenured research and clinical PhD psychologist at the University of Toronto. He frequently appears on TVO (an Ontario television network) to speak about his research interests including, self-deception, mythology, religion, narrative, neuroscience, personality, deception, creativity, intelligence and motivation. In student surveys his courses are regularly described as ‘life-changing.’

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October 16, 2014

Foil

the odd couple

In fiction, a foil is a character who contrasts with another character (usually the protagonist) in order to highlight particular qualities in their counterpart (the term derives from the practice of backing gems with foil to increase their brilliance). In some cases, a subplot can be used as a foil to the main plot, particularly in metafiction (‘breaking the fourth wall’) and the ‘story within a story’ motif. A foil often differs drastically from the lead character, but can also be extremely similar, with only a key difference setting them apart. Foils generally serve one or more of three broad functions: contrast (‘this is different than X’), exclusion (‘this is not X’), or blame (‘X did this’).

In ‘Frankenstein,’ by Mary Shelley, the two main characters of Dr. Frankenstein and his ‘Adam of your Labors,’ his ‘creature,’ his ‘wretch,’ are both together literary foils. Both are hungry for knowledge, but whereas the doctor is selfish and arrogant, the monster is compassionate and gentle. In ‘Pride and Prejudice,’ Mary’s absorption in her studies places her as a foil to her sister Lydia Bennet’s lively and distracted nature. Similarly, in Shakespeare’s ‘Julius Caesar,’ the naive Brutus has foils in Cassius and Mark Antony, who are ambitious and experienced politicians.

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October 6, 2014

Sidekick

Sancho Panza by Antonio Saura

A sidekick is a close companion who is generally regarded as subordinate to the one he accompanies. Some well-known fictional sidekicks include Don Quixote’s Sancho Panza, Sherlock Holmes’ Doctor Watson, The Lone Ranger’s Tonto, and Batman’s Robin.

The origin of the term is unknown. It was originally ‘side kicker’ (as seen in the short stories of American writer O Henry), having grown from the 1850s term ‘side partner.’ Contrary to popular folk etymology, it is unrelated to the early-20th century British pickpocket slang ‘kick,’ referring to a trouser pocket. One of the earliest recorded sidekicks may be Enkidu, who adopted a sidekick role to Gilgamesh after they became allies in the ‘Epic of Gilgamesh’ (an epic poem from Mesopotamia). Other early examples include Achilles’ Patroclus from the ‘Iliad,’ and Moses’ Aaron from the Bible. Continue reading

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October 3, 2014

Comic Relief

Faustus

Comic relief is the inclusion of a humorous character, scene, or witty dialogue in an otherwise serious work, often to relieve tension. It is a narrative technique that momentarily alleviates the stressful emotions and angst building up in a dramatic story. Comic relief often takes the form of a bumbling, wisecracking sidekick of the hero or villain in a work of fiction. The secondary character will often remark on the absurdity of the hero’s situation and make comments that would be inappropriate for a character who is to be taken seriously. Other characters may use comic relief as a means to irritate others or keep themselves confident.

Comic relief can also occur during dramatic moments in comedies. Greek tragedy does not allow any comic relief. Even the Elizabethan critic Sidney following Horace’s ‘Ars Poetic’ pleaded for the exclusion of comic elements from a tragic drama. But in Renaissance England, Marlowe among the University Wits (a group of late-16th-century English playwrights and pamphleteers who were educated at Oxford or Cambridge) introduced comic relief through the presentation of crude scenes in ‘Doctor Faustus’ following the native tradition of Interlude which was usually introduced between two tragic plays. In fact, in the classical tradition the mingling of the tragic and the comic was not allowed.

October 2, 2014

Jar Jar Binks

The People vs George Lucas

Jar Jar Binks is a fictional character from the Star Wars saga created by George Lucas for his prequel trilogy. He was the first lead computer generated character of the franchise, he was portrayed by Ahmed Best in most of his appearances. Jar Jar’s primary role in ‘Episode I’ was to provide comic relief for the audience, and was generally met with extremely negative comments from both critics and viewers. He is often acknowledged as one of the worst and most hated characters of all time.

Joe Morgenstern of ‘The Wall Street Journal’ described him as a ‘Rastafarian Stepin Fetchit on platform hoofs, crossed annoyingly with Butterfly McQueen.’ Race theorist Patricia J. Williams suggested that many aspects of Jar Jar’s character are reminiscent of blackface minstrelsy, while others have suggested the character is a ‘laid-back clown character’ representing a black Caribbean stereotype. George Lucas has denied any racist implications. Ahmed Best also rejected the allegations, saying that ‘Jar Jar has nothing to do with the Caribbean.’ Continue reading

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