Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Value of Face to Face Meetings

Recently, I was having a discussion about virtual communication - phone, Skype, text, etc. My opinion was that such communication is never as good as a face to face meeting - especially when trying to brainstorm ideas or do something creative together.

One team project I participated in at UC was done through Google docs. People were writing over each other's work and it turned out to be a big mess. As a result, we decided to schedule more in person meetings.

There was a class I took at us in which the professor would lecture to a group .We would get the live video broadcast and he would see us on his screen also. Somehow, it was not nearly as productive as an actual in person lecture. Why? I am not sure, perhaps he was not able to gauge as quickly when students were not understanding the information he presented.

Digital communication is, of course, much better than no communication. People can still share their stories, connect, collaborate. But there is something which is missing when there is no face-to-face meeting.

What is your opinion on digital communication? What components are necessary to make it work well?  

Monday, June 2, 2014

The Culture of BUSY

Thinking about recent events, I realized that our (Russian and American) education system is so focused on producing intellectually capable individuals, that often the most important foundation is forgotten - coping with stress, handling strong emotions, and time management.

Such a slew of problems in our society could be mitigated if everyone mastered these three skills, and yet only 2 hours (if that) are dedicated to this, compared to the tens of hours of DARE and other non-effective programs. Instead of telling kids to not drink, to not do drugs, give them an alternative way to handle stress, boredom, social situations, and they will be much happier and productive individuals.

Instead, children are taught that academic success is everything, that it doesn't matter how fulfilled you feel in life, only how much you have achieved. At about high school age, (earlier for some) there begins this culture of 'busy'. Must not be idle. Must not relax. If you are not stressed, it means you are not doing enough. This persists into adulthood and leads to burned-out, unhappy people, which leads to a big chunk of society's problems.

So I ask you: Why are these skills not taught earlier and not reviewed more often? Why is the focus strictly academic achievement and not a genuine happy life?

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Meaningful gifts

The most meaningful gifts I have received were not fancy or expensive. They were gifts which made me think of the person fondly each time I saw them. 

A camper, drawing a picture for me, my grandmother putting strawberry candies on our strawberry plants to surprise me, a friend writing a note saying how much she appreciates me. Most times, these are much more meaningful than something expensive bought at a fancy store. 

The main component , to me, is that the gift is personal and is given genuinely by a person who cares.

What is the most meaningful gift you have received and what made it special?

Saturday, October 5, 2013

The Inconvenience of Nature, the Grand Canyon, and Navajo Dancers

We live in a time when we hardly notice nature, unless it causes us discomfort. I was recently on a trip the Grand Canyon, and every single day of the week we were there it rained. I realized that most of the time I take having nice weather for granted.

For most things I do, I do not need to go outside, and usually I hardly notice the rain. During weeks like that one, however, I was reminded just how much nature is still a force in our lives, how much it affects us. We had to wait until the rain stopped every day  to go hiking, and it was not quite as fun going around to the museums in the morning instead of seeing the breathtaking vistas, but it made me pay more attention to the whims of nature.

In between the rain and the hiking, I was able to see some wonderful Navajo performers. It was very unique, something I had not experienced before.

The canyon itself was amazingly beautiful. A camera cannot quite do it justice.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The Man Who Was Thursday

G K Chesterton was quite an astute observer and writer.

One of my favorite books is "The Man Who Was Thursday" . It is a metaphysical thriller, with a quite a lot of philosophical under tones, and ideas relevant to today. Read it here

Syme sprang to his feet, shaking from head to foot.
"I see everything," he cried, "everything that there is. Why does each thing on the earth war against each other thing? Why does each small thing in the world have to fight against the world itself? Why does a fly have to fight the whole universe? Why does a dandelion have to fight the whole universe? For the same reason that I had to be alone in the dreadful Council of the Days. So that each thing that obeys law may have the glory and isolation of the anarchist. So that each man fighting for order may be as brave and good a man as the dynamiter. So that the real lie of Satan may be flung back in the face of this blasphemer, so that by tears and torture we may earn the right to say to this man, 'You lie!' No agonies can be too great to buy the right to say to this accuser, 'We also have suffered.""

Some of his essays are:

Heretics (1905)
"A man cannot be wise enough to be a great artist without being wise enough to wish to be a philosopher. A man cannot have the energy to produce good art without having the energy to wish to pass beyond it. A small artist is content with art; a great artist is content with nothing except everything"

"The modern world is filled with men who hold dogmas so strongly that they do not even know that they are dogmas. It may be said even that the modern world, as a corporate body, holds certain dogmas so strongly that it does not know that they are dogmas."

Charles Dickens (1906)
"When some English moralists write about the importance of having character, they appear to mean only the importance of having a dull character"

What's Wrong With The World (1910)
"“No man demands what he desires; each man demands what he fancies he can get. Soon people forget what the man really wanted first; and after a successful and vigorous political life, he forgets it himself. The whole is an extravagant riot of second bests, a pandemonium of pis-aller.”

Utopia of Usurers (1917)
"Employers will give time to eat, time to sleep; they are in terror of a time to think."

"A fairly clear line separated advertisement from art. ... The first effect of the triumph of the capitalist (if we allow him to triumph) will be that that line of demarcation will entirely disappear. There will be no art that might not just as well be advertisement."

The Superstition of Divorce (1920)
“The obvious effect of frivolous divorce will be frivolous marriage. If people can be separated for no reason they will feel it all the easier to be united for no reason.”

What I Saw in America (1922)
"The truth is that prohibitions might have done far less harm as prohibitions, if a vague association had not arisen, on some dark day of human unreason, between prohibition and progress. And it was the progress that did the harm, not the prohibition. Men can enjoy life under considerable limitations, if they can be sure of their limited enjoyments; but under Progressive Puritanism we can never be sure of anything. The curse of it is not limitation; it is unlimited limitation. The evil is not in the restriction; but in the fact that nothing can ever restrict the restriction. The prohibitions are bound to progress point by point; more and more human rights and pleasures must of necessity be taken away;"

The Everlasting Man (1925)
"Indeed the Book of Job avowedly only answers mystery with mystery. Job is comforted with riddles; but he is comforted. Herein is indeed a type, in the sense of a prophecy, of things speaking with authority. For when he who doubts can only say 'I do not understand,' it is true that he who knows can only reply or repeat 'You do not understand.' And under that rebuke there is always a sudden hope in the heart; and the sense of something that would be worth understanding."

Sunday, July 28, 2013


"It's the sense of touch. In any real city, you walk, you know? You brush past people, people bump into you. In L.A., nobody touches you. We're always behind this metal and glass. I think we miss that touch so much, that we crash into each other, just so we can feel something." - The movie Crash

Many people will do almost anything to avoid feeling lonely - that gnawing feeling that humanity doesn't love you, doesn't embrace you as one of its own. One can  be just as lonely in a crowded room as on a deserted island. It is being connected, being a part of something bigger, which we seek, or at least an imitation of such a connection.

Sometimes this feeling can cause negative consequences - people do things they normally would not do when they are craving connection, love, and do not receive it. Peer pressure thrives on being afraid of loneliness. 

So how to cope with loneliness in a positive and constructive way?

Take Time to Work on Friendships/Relationships
Feeling a real connection with someone means allowing oneself to be vulnerable. One cannot have a real conversation if the topics are limited to sports, food, and the weather. It also means being willing to do something for that person, being kind and honest, being a good friend, and a good listener.

Meet New People
The more people one meets, the greater the chance that one will make a real friend, or at least have a moment of genuine connection with another person. Volunteering. Joining a photography club. Something positive which will allow one to meet people with common interests.

I find that when I am out in nature, even by myself, I am never lonely. There are birds, animals, trees ... immeasurable beauty. 

New Skills/Hobbies
When I am learning something new, I am happy that I am bettering myself, that I will have a new skill to my name, and there is no room to be lonely.

When spending time with a pet, I see how genuinely they love life, how excited they are about every single minute of the day, and that makes me appreciate life even more than I do already. They give unconditional love and can be a great comfort in any situation. One can talk to them and they will listen patiently and not judge.

Working Out
This helps one to accomplish three goals at once - occupy one's time with a positive and enjoyable activity, release positive brain chemicals, and become healthier.

What do you do when feeling lonely? What can we do to create a better sense of community where we live?

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Cincinnati the Beautiful

Recently, when going for a walk I once again realized - Cincinnati has so many beautiful places.
Here are some of those wonderful vistas.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Being Original Challenge

One of my favorite songs says
"It is easy to count stars which have already been discovered
But to discover just one new star is not at all easy...
It is easy to to be very similar to someone else
But to keep your own voice [individuality] is not that simple"

Having a completely original idea, something which has never been voiced before, is not something which is easy to achieve. All the time there are millions of people in the world, who are probably thinking about the same basic things. School often discourages originality, creativity, and stifles curiosity, which is so often found in young children. Society encourages us to conform. People who have positive, truly original, powerful ideas, and the perseverance to put them into action are very few.

The other day I was listening to the radio and realized how unoriginal songs are.
Most fit in about four categories:
1) A person likes someone romantically
2) A person has been hurt by someone they like(d) romantically
3) A person talking about how rich they are
4) About partying and how much fun it is

Yes love songs can be wonderful, but there are so many other things to sing about. Why not write a song about friendship? About parent-child relationships? About nightmares or books or bravery? Just ANYTHING but the same old tired recycled songs.

The same can be said for movies:
1) Superhero [Someone saves the world]
2) Romantic Comedy [Couple fall in love in spite of everything]
3) Horror [Some gross creature comes after you/Person with a saw/knife]
4) Drama [Lots of shooting and running]

The internet is such a great place for sharing ideas - one can publish for free and have a million readers - and it should encourage us to be more creative, more original, less conformist, to break the mold. Unfortunately, it seems like there are only a small percentage of people who are actually striving towards that. There is so much inspiration, so many resources out there. Go out and be ORIGINAL today!

Friday, July 12, 2013

Harming or Helping?

I recently started volunteering at a food pantry, and for the most part it has been a wonderfully rewarding experience. However there were several people who were demanding and rude. This made me think: At what point does helping become enabling and/or harming? It is a fine line. If a person has no children, is able to work but would rather not and one 'helps' them by giving food or money, is that not hurting society in the long run?

I also recently read about a young woman who had a lung transplant and passed away right after. For the past two years her family had been raising money for the operation. The doctors said that if she had gotten the transplant a year ago she would have died then. So that means that if a person donated money, they would have actually been quickening her demise, with the best of intentions.

In a movie I watched the other day, the main character was told by God to allow a serial killer to live. He asked "God, what need have you of this person? He is harming so many people". An angel, who was the messenger, said in reply, "I do not know, but maybe so that he can be a father to his son.". In another scene, a fallen angel says, "In order to orchestrate one small evil deed, I sometimes have to do so much good that I hardly recognize myself.".

When I was tutoring at Hughes High School, there were students who wanted me to do their homework for them. Would that have helped them? No, in the long run, it would have been harmful, because they would not have learned the material.

There were instances in the past where a country is given money as aid and those resources go towards buying weapons to use against the citizens, or simply for the elite to have lavish parties.

It is an interesting question to ponder. One person I know said "You can only help a person as much as they are willing to help themselves.". I think that is a good guideline to go by. If a person is not willing to meet you halfway, they do not deserve help. They have to take that first step themselves.

Comment and let me know what you think!

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Leonardo, Egypt, and Knights in Armor

Since I am fan of Game of Thrones I thought it would be fun to go see some real swords and knight armor at the Hermitage! On the way, I went though the Egyptian section, then some Greek and Roman sculptures. I also saw two paintings by Leonardo Da Vinci, which are a bit overrated, in my opinion, but still wonderful works of art.

First painting by Leonardo
Second painting by Da Vinci - I guess he liked the Madonna and child
And now the knights!

Hunting boar without clothes or weapons might not be the best idea

In a week I will be returning to the States. I am sad to  leave one of my favorite cities, but also excited to see all my friends from Ohio and experience all the adventures which Cincinnati has to offer.