Archive for February, 2015

February 9, 2015

Reincarnation in Judaism

The Floating Clouds

Reincarnation is one of the thirteen Principles of Faith of Judaism. It states: ‘I believe with a perfect faith that the Holy One… in the future will bring the dead back to life…’ It is also a core element in the tale of the ‘Ten Martyrs’ in the Yom Kippur liturgy, who were killed by Romans to atone for the souls of the ten brothers of Joseph. Jewish mystical texts (the ‘Kabbalah’), from their classic Medieval canon onwards, teach a belief in ‘Gilgul Neshamot’ (lit. ‘soul cycle’).

It is a common belief in contemporary Hasidic Judaism, which regards the Kabbalah as sacred and authoritative, though unstressed in favor of a more innate psychological mysticism. Kabbalah also teaches that ‘The soul of Moses is reincarnated in every generation.’ Other, Non-Hasidic, Orthodox Jewish groups while not placing a heavy emphasis on reincarnation, do acknowledge it as a valid teaching.

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February 8, 2015

Downwind Faster than the Wind

blackbird

Sailing faster than the wind is the technique by which vehicles that are powered by sails (such as sailboats, iceboats and sand yachts) advance over the surface on which they travel faster than the wind that powers them. Typically, such devices cannot travel faster than the wind when sailing dead downwind using simple square sails that are set perpendicular to the wind. They require sails set at an angle to the wind, which utilizes the lateral resistance of the surface on which they sail (for example the water or the ice) to maintain a course at some other angle to the wind.

For those craft it is impossible to sail dead downwind faster than the wind because the apparent wind will be zero if the speed of the vehicle equals the speed of the wind. However, certain sailing craft (such as ice boats and high performance catamarans) can achieve overall downwind speeds faster than the wind by tacking back and forth across the wind: they do this by using the surface on which they sail to capture the energy of the wind. Similarly, it is possible to sail dead downwind faster than the wind if a mechanical device is used to transfer energy from the surface on which the machine is moving in order to capture the energy of the wind and use it (not through a sail). By using a propeller instead of a conventional sail, and coupling the propeller to its wheels, a land yacht can proceed dead downwind faster than the wind.

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February 6, 2015

Pet Rock

stone soup

Pet Rock was a collectible conceived by advertising executive Gary Dahl. In April 1975, he was in a bar listening to his friends complain about their pets. This gave him the idea for the perfect ‘pet,’ one that would not need to be fed, walked, bathed, or groomed; and would not die, become sick, or be disobedient. His friends thought he was joking, but Dahl bought a load of smooth stones from Mexico’s Rosarito Beach for about a penny a stone. He marketed them like live pets, in custom cardboard boxes, complete with straw and breathing holes for the ‘animal.’ The fad lasted about six months. Dahl sold 1.5 million Pet Rocks for $4 each and became a millionaire.

A 32-page official training manual titled ‘The Care and Training of Your Pet Rock’ was included, which was the real product: it was full of gags, puns and jokes. It contained several commands that could be taught to the new pet. While ‘sit’ and ‘stay’ were effortless to accomplish, ‘roll over’ usually required a little extra help from the trainer (as did ‘attack’). The owners also found that potty-training their pet rocks was easy, given that they were, in fact, rocks. Dahl continued to work in advertising but avoided interviews for years, because ‘a bunch of wackos’ harassed him with lawsuits and threats. He said in 1988, ‘Sometimes I look back and wonder if my life wouldn’t have been simpler if I hadn’t done it.’

February 5, 2015

John Titor

tempus edax rerum

John Titor is the name used on several bulletin boards during 2000 and 2001 by a poster claiming to be a time traveler from 2036. In these posts, Titor made numerous predictions about events in the near future, a number of them vague, but some quite specific, starting with events in 2004. He described a drastically changed future in which the United States had broken into five smaller regions, the environment and infrastructure had been devastated by a nuclear attack, and most other world powers had been destroyed.

In his online postings, Titor claimed to be an American soldier from 2036, based in Tampa in Hillsborough County, Florida, who was assigned to a governmental time-travel project. Purportedly, Titor had been sent back to 1975 to retrieve an IBM 5100 computer which he said was needed to ‘debug’ various legacy computer programs in 2036; a reference to the UNIX year 2038 problem. The IBM 5100 runs the APL and BASIC programming languages. Titor had been selected for this mission specifically, given that his paternal grandfather was directly involved with the assembly and programming of the 5100. Titor claimed to be on a stopover in the year 2000 for ‘personal reasons,’ to collect pictures lost in the (future) civil war and to visit his family, of whom he spoke often.

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February 4, 2015

Assertiveness Training

when i say no

South African psychiatrist Joseph Wolpe originally explored the use of assertiveness in his 1958 book on treating neurosis as a means of ‘reciprocal inhibition’ of anxiety (anxiety being inhibited by a feeling or response that is not compatible with the feeling of anxiety). Wolpe first started using eating as a response to inhibited anxiety in the laboratory cats. He would offer them food while presenting a conditioned fear stimulus. After his experiments in the laboratory he applied reciprocal inhibition to his clients in the form of assertiveness training.

Wolpe’s belief was that a person could not be both assertive and anxious at the same time, and thus being assertive would inhibit anxiety. Assertiveness training proved especially useful for clients who had anxiety about social situations. However, assertiveness training did have a potential flaw in the sense that it could not be applied to other kinds of phobias. Wolpe’s use of reciprocal inhibition led to his discovery of systematic desensitization (graduated exposure therapy). He believed that facing your fears did not always result in overcoming them but rather lead to frustration. According to Wolpe, the key to overcoming fears was ‘by degrees.

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February 2, 2015

Effective Communication

communication barriers

Effective communication occurs when information sharing results in a desired effect, such as eliciting change, generating action, creating understanding, or communicating a certain idea or point of view. This effect also ensures that messages are not distorted during the communication process. When the desired effect is not achieved, factors such as barriers to communication are explored, with the intention being to discover how the communication has been ineffective.

Barriers to effective communication can retard or distort the message and intention of the message being conveyed which may result in failure of the communication process or an effect that is undesirable. They include filtering, selective perception, information overload, emotions, language, silence, communication apprehension, gender differences and political correctness. Another common barrier is a lack of ‘knowledge-appropriate’ communication, which occurs when a person uses ambiguous or complex legal words, medical jargon, or descriptions of a situation or environment that is not understood by the recipient.

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