Author Archives: Photos, Hodgepodge, and Miscellany
Children Fascinate More Than Adults
— • —
When you’re sitting at a meeting, and at stake are big results,
The CEO demands to know with whom you did consult;
But your dreaming of the treasure from an ancient Mayan cult—
’Cause those who dream like children fascinate more than adults.
When you find yourself at tea time with a dozen dolls in dress,
And a gaggle of young girlies who demand a short address,
On the need for courtly manners, you will not be found at fault,
For the children of your household fascinate more than adults.
Grown-ups see their unmown grass as a project not completed;
Children see your jungle lawn as a kingdom undefeated.
It’s a difference in perspective of what’s best to exalt,
’Cause those who dream with children fascinate more than adults.
There’s something truly tragic when adult hearts grow cold,
To the beauty and simplicity of the stories they were told.
Some spend a lifetime hoping that someday they can recover
The dream-like sense of wonder, from the books once read by Mother.
It’s childlike faith, not childishness, which captures our devotion;
The preciousness, the purity and power of their emotion.
They prove an antidote of hopefulness to trials and tumult,
’Cause those with faith like children, fascinate more than adults.
There’s time enough for grown-up things like bank account and bills.
Why miss an opportunity for tea time with your girls,
Or fighting Nazis with your boys-producing great gestalt?
’Cause the children of your household fascinate more than adults.
There’s a wisdom found in boyhood that comes from chasing rabbits,
Unencumbered by the worries of a thousand grown-up habits.
Like fearing, faking, fawning, frowning, and foiling the day
That could be filled with lovely things that children do at play.
Don’t get me wrong: I recognize the need for grown-up themes,
And putting aside milky treats to chew on meaty dreams.
Adulthood clearly is the goal; our end maturity,
But notice please that this is what our children aim to be.
The boy who cuts up worms today, tomorrow is a doctor.
And the patriot girl sewing flags, tomorrow is a mother
Who’ll teach the generation next to know their history,
And through her joyful play today, sew seeds of liberty.
It’s the childhood dreams of little girls and little boys at play
That make for truly visionary kings and queens some day.
So don’t be too dismayed or take this as insult:
But the children of your household fascinate more than adults.
— • —
Where Can I Fly?
The new American Airlines will offer more than 6,700 flights daily to 336 destinations in 56 countries around the world, including Brazil, China, Japan, Spain and many others, while bolstering its industry-leading position in Latin America and the Caribbean.
The combined airline will be equipped to offer our customers an expanded global network, providing greater access that will increase domestic and international travel options and benefits for customers.
Don’t hire a radiologist to catch a gorilla
More than four out of five radiologists in a study failed to spot an image of a gorilla inserted into a lung scan that they scrutinized for signs of cancer. The finding highlights people’s tendency to ignore unexpected data when focusing their attention on tough challenges, researchers say. National Public Radio/Shots blog (2/11)
Why Even Radiologists Can Miss A Gorilla Hiding In Plain Sight
by ALIX SPIEGEL
February 11, 2013 3:33 AM
4 min 36 sec
Notice anything unusual about this lung scan? Harvard researchers found that 83 percent of radiologists didn’t notice the gorilla in the top right portion of this image.
Trafton Drew and Jeremy Wolfe
This story begins with a group of people who are expert at looking: the professional searchers known as radiologists.
"If you watch radiologists do what they do, [you're] absolutely convinced that they are like superhuman," says Trafton Drew, an attention researcher at Harvard Medical School.
About three years ago, Drew started visiting the dark, cavelike "reading rooms" where radiologists do their work. For hours he would stand watching them, in awe that they could so easily see in the images before them things that to Drew were simply invisible.
"These tiny little nodules that I can’t even see when people point to them — they’re just in a different world when it comes to finding this very, very hard-to-find thing," Drew says.
In the Invisible Gorilla study, subjects have to count how many times the people in white shirts pass the basketball. By focusing their attention on the ball, they tend to not notice when a guy in a gorilla suit shows up.
But radiologists still sometimes fail to see important things, and Drew wanted to understand more. Because of his line of work, he was naturally familiar with one of the most famous studies in the field of attention research, the Invisible Gorilla study.
In that groundbreaking study, research subjects are shown a video of two teams of kids — one team wears white; the other wears black — passing two basketballs back and forth between players as they dodge and weave around each other. Before it begins, viewers are told their responsibility is to do one thing and one thing only: count how many times the players wearing white pass the ball to each other.
This task isn’t easy. Because the players are constantly moving around, viewers really have to concentrate to count the throws.
Then, about a half-minute into the video, a large man in a gorilla suit walks on screen, directly to the middle of the circle of kids. He stops momentarily in the center of the circle, looks straight ahead, beats his chest, and then casually strolls off the screen.
The kids keep playing, and then the video ends and a series of questions appear, including: "Did you see the gorilla?"
"Sounds ridiculous, right?" says Drew. "There’s a gorilla on the screen — of course you’re going to see it! But 50 percent of people miss the gorilla."
This is because when you ask someone to perform a challenging task, without realizing it, their attention narrows and blocks out other things. So, often, they literally can’t see even a huge, hairy gorilla that appears directly in front of them.
That effect is called "inattentional blindness" — which brings us back to the expert lookers, the radiologists.
Drew wondered if somehow being so well-trained in searching would make them immune to missing large, hairy gorillas. "You might expect that because they’re experts, they would notice if something unusual was there," he says.
He took a picture of a man in a gorilla suit shaking his fist, and he superimposed that image on a series of slides that radiologists typically look at when they’re searching for cancer. He then asked a bunch of radiologists to review the slides of lungs for cancerous nodules. He wanted to see if they would notice a gorilla the size of a matchbook glaring angrily at them from inside the slide.
But they didn’t: 83 percent of the radiologists missed it, Drew says.
This wasn’t because the eyes of the radiologists didn’t happen to fall on the large, angry gorilla. Instead, the problem was in the way their brains had framed what they were doing. They were looking for cancer nodules, not gorillas, so "they look right at it, but because they’re not looking for a gorilla, they don’t see that it’s a gorilla."
In other words, what we’re thinking about — what we’re focused on — filters the world around us so aggressively that it literally shapes what we see. So, Drew says, we need to think carefully about the instructions we give to professional searchers like radiologists or people looking for terrorist activity, because what we tell them to look for will in part determine what they see and don’t see.
Drew and his co-author Jeremy Wolfe are doing more studies, looking at how to help radiologists see both visually and cognitively the things that hide, sometimes in plain sight.
“We have had our last chance. If we do not now devise some greater and more equitable system, Armageddon will be at our door.The problem is basically theological…It must be of the spirit if we are to save the flesh.”“History fails to record a single precedent in which nations subject to moral decay have not passed into political and economic decline.
There has been either a spiritual awakening to overcome the moral lapse, or a progressive deterioration leading to ultimate national disaster.”
-General Douglas MacArthur, Supreme Commander in the Southwest Pacific, to officers on deck, September 2, 1945, as he received Japan’s surrender on the USS Missouri.
Three Years Ago, The World Pledged to Fix Haiti—We Failed.
A new book by the only full-time American correspondent in Haiti tells why a $16 billion recovery effort has badly missed the mark.
When the Haitian earthquake struck on January 12, 2010, Jonathan Katz, a 29-year-old reporting for the Associated Press, was the only full-time American correspondent left in the country. His home was destroyed. "It was a shove, it was another shove, the walls started collapsing and separating in front of me, people were carrying their injured relatives in front of me, people were dazed, people were screaming…." he describes in a shot a year later.
His new book, The Big Truck That Went By: How The World Came to Save Haiti And Left Behind A Disaster, is a scathing tale of good intentions and where they too often lead–of the blend of paternalism, celebrity madness, ADD, and absurdity that all too often characterize modern philanthropy.
"I wanted to write this book to understand how a massive humanitarian effort, led by the most powerful nation in the world–my country–could cause so much harm and heartache in another that wanted its help so badly," Katz wrote.
The deck was stacked against self-determination from the outset: A high–Katz says exaggerated–level of concern about corruption led to money being directed away from the Haitian government and towards NGOs like the Red Cross that weren’t prepared or focused on long-term reconstruction. Celebrities like Bill Clinton, Sean Penn, and Wyclef Jean flew in and on to the next disaster without doing much for local institutions. The United Nations’ own soldiers added a cholera epidemic to Haiti’s ills. Of $2.43 billion given to earthquake relief by the end of 2010, according to Katz’s estimate, just 7% actually made its way to Haiti.
As natural disasters become more common, Katz writes, we need to update our collective wisdom about what to do next, getting rid of "The hoary, illogical clichés that gird disaster response. For instance, that people will panic, riot, or turn on each other after a disaster; typically, they don’t. Or that in fashioning solutions to disasters, doing something is always better than doing nothing, no matter how poorly thought-out it is; it’s not. And, for anyone who gave money to a major aid group, that they were going to be able to spend your $20 donation."
The "good" news is that as the rich world experiences more of its own natural disasters, it may root out these cliches. For example, millions of people in the New York City area affected by Hurricane Sandy discovered that neighbors were more inclined to help than to turn on each other; that neighborhood-level aid groups, even ad hoc, were often better equipped to respond than the Red Cross or FEMA; and that most people, even disaster victims, prefer to keep making as many of their own decisions as possible.
Recently I visited an old friend of mine who is now a pastor. He has three children and a successful ministry. But within a few minutes of being in his home, I realized that something wasn’t right. One of the children was in her room playing a computer game, while another was in the den playing another computer game. The third child, sitting next to me, was texting away, without even acknowledging my presence. My friend was totally oblivious to this apparent breakdown in social skills and common courtesy. It seems to me that these children are growing up in a virtual unreality that is crippling their ability to think and carry on a meaningful conversation.
In the must-read book, Amusing Ourselves to Death, author Neil Postman warns parents that media keeps families in a trance-like state, literally brainwashing our children. It is interesting that the word "amuse" comes from a root word meaning "to muse." To muse means "to think." When you put the negative prefix "a-" on a word, it negates the original meaning. Thus, to "amuse" means "not to think." Our technology and media have become amusements that sedate us into a hypnotic state, crippling our ability to think.
But there’s hope and help. One of the most powerful books I have ever read that will inspire and motivate any reader to overcome the amusement trap of our day is Sir Knight of the Splendid Way. When I first read this book, I couldn’t put it down and found it even more powerful than Pilgrim’s Progress. Sir Knight is on a quest to see the king, but in order to do so he must travel the treacherous road and keep his armor on at all costs. His comrades, reveling in their amusements, try to lure him to remove his armor, claiming that there’s no longer a battle to be fought. Seeing the enemy looming over the city he tries to awaken them out of their drunken stupor, but only those who wear the armor can see the enemy…and only those with a pure in heart, can wear the armor. –Mark Hamby
Another interesting article along similar lines:
WHAT WE LOVE CAN RUIN US
In Amusing Ourselves to Death Neil Postman offers similar thoughts about the effects of television on American society. He suggests that, “our bottomless appetite for TV will make content so abundantly available… that we’ll be overwhelmed by ‘information glut’ until what is truly meaningful is lost and we no longer care what we’ve lost as long as we’re being amused.” Incrementally increase the sugar in your coffee enough and you’ll be drinking syrup before you know it.
Postman begins by contrasting two books written in the first half of the twentieth century which paint dystopian pictures of the future but in very different ways: In Nineteen Eighty-Four, George Orwell imagines a world in which the individual is completely subject to a totalitarian state; a world in which the government is able to suppress and manipulate the people through a complex system of surveillance and mind control. In Brave New World, Aldous Huxley imagines a world far worse – where that mind control and suppression comes from within. It is a world that Christopher Hitchens describes as characterized by hedonistic nihilism – “painless, amusement-sodden, and stress-free.” Postman draws this conclusion:
“Contrary to common belief even among the educated, Huxley and Orwell did not prophesy the same thing. Orwell warns that we will be overcome by an externally imposed oppression. But in Huxley’s vision, no Big Brother is required to deprive people of their autonomy, maturity and history. As he saw it, people will come to love their oppression, to adore the technologies that undo their capacities to think. What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one. Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism. Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance. Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture.”
It is Postman’s argument that Huxley was right, not Orwell.
He goes on to imply that at both a governmental and societal level, North America has historically maintained an unhealthy obsession with totalitarianism. Perhaps their World War II experience fuelled their paranoia that a totalitarian state in which no one was allowed to think for themselves was frighteningly immanent. Whatever the source, Postman’s suggestion is that while they were maintaining that paranoid preoccupation, television had the same effect of dumbing the population down, but from the inside out. “As Huxley remarked in Brave New World Revisited, the civil libertarians and rationalists who are ever on the alert to oppose tyranny ‘failed to take into account man’s almost infinite appetite for distractions.’”
Postman argues that most people think what we hate will ruin us. His fear is much worse – that our almost infinite appetite for distractions means that what we love will ruin us.
CHURCHING OURSELVES TO DEATH
So what does all this have to do with church? Well, without wanting to sound hysterical, I believe the Christian church has followed a similar path to that which Postman predicted for society. We too have had an unhealthy obsession with the potential impact and influence that secular culture may have on our sacred way of life. To mix some Scriptural metaphors, we have been on the lookout for the evil of principalities and powers, readying ourselves to defend against the roaring lion – convinced, to the point of paranoia, that the government and media is constantly seeking to diminish and demean everything that we hold dear. And all the while we have completely missed the fact that the changes we so fear, are already taking place – and they are also happening from the inside out. No-one has had to ban us from doing those things which are most profitable for our souls such as prayer, meditation on Scripture, and discipleship. We have willingly surrendered them. Just like Neil Postman predicted society would, so I think the church has “failed to take into account our almost infinite appetite for distractions.”
And I am not alone. Listen to opening lines of the introduction to Richard Foster’s Celebration of Discipline, by David Watson:
“It is commonplace today to speak of the battle … between Islam, Marxism and Third World Christianity. Western Christianity is on the whole too flabby to do anything about it. … We have neglected our prayer life; we have stopped listening to God; we have been caught by the covetous spirit of our affluent society, and worshipped the false god of materialism. We have exchanged our knowledge of God for heady disputes about theological words, or for religious or social activism. We have forgotten how to be still before God, how to meditate, trapped as we are in the vortex of modern life.
Now, admittedly, he is speaking primarily about some of the more traditional denominations and movements in the UK, and writing in 1978. But when I read Watson’s comments, I do find myself wondering how far they, or we, have come.
In 2007 Willow Creek Community Church – whose founder Bill Hybels has been instrumental in shaping how many evangelicals ‘do’ church – released the results of a multi-year qualitative study. They had set out to assess the effectiveness of their ministry – in particular, which of their programmes and activities were actually helping their congregation to mature. The surprising results were published in a book, Reveal: Where Are You?
Executive Pastor Greg Hawkins outlines the belief that they, and many other churches, held prior to carrying out the research: “Participation is a big deal. We believe the more people participating in these sets of activities, with higher levels of frequency, it will produce disciples of Christ.” This philosophy is what fuelled Willow Creek’s approach to ministry. Create programmes, get people to participate in them, then watch them grow into spiritual maturity. In the book, Hawkins is candid about their historical use of this approach: “I know it might sound crazy but that’s how we do it in churches. We measure levels of participation.”
So you can imagine their unpleasant surprise when the results revealed that there was almost no correlation between a congregant’s participation in church programmes and activities and their spiritual growth. “Increasing levels of participation in these sets of activities does NOT predict whether someone’s becoming more of a disciple of Christ. It does NOT predict whether they love God more or they love people more.”Speaking at the Leadership Summit that year, Hybels summarized the findings this way: “Some of the stuff that we have put millions of dollars into thinking it would really help our people grow and develop spiritually, when the data actually came back, it wasn’t helping people that much. Other things that we didn’t put that much money into and didn’t put much staff against is stuff our people are crying out for.”
That is a stunningly honest admission after thirty years of ministry. Especially when most of those years have been spent growing an enormous church organization and network founded on the very programmes that have just been proven ineffective. It is little wonder that Hybels referred to Reveal as ‘the wake-up call of his adult life.’ “We made a mistake. What we should have done when people crossed the line of faith and become Christians, we should have started telling people and teaching people that they have to take responsibility to become “self feeders.” We should have gotten people, and taught people, how to read their bible between services; how to do the spiritual practices much more aggressively on their own.”
“In other words, spiritual growth doesn’t happen best by becoming dependent on elaborate church programs but through the age-old spiritual practices of prayer, bible reading, and relationships. And, ironically, these basic disciplines do not require multi-million dollar facilities and hundreds of staff to manage.”
There are many dynamics that contribute to a situation like that which Willow Creek was prompted to address. But not least among them is our tendency towards distractibility. We are conditioned to seek out amusement and entertainment. We prefer most of our information and interactions served up that way. And the temptation to do so is just as strong in church as it is anywhere else. If they are not alert to that temptation with real discernment, congregations and church leaders can rush around for many years before they pause for breath and realize, as Willow Creek did, that they have been majoring on some minors whilst neglecting the basic ingredients of discipleship. I admire them for having the courage and the humility to conduct the research and publish it.
Whether it is church programmes or television programmes, it seems like Neil Postman’s warning has something to teach all of us. My only hope is that we’re not too distracted to hear it. If you have read to the bottom of this, may I suggest you take one moment, just one to reflect without clicking onto the next task.
Okay – here’s some sobering statistics. For years I’ve been talking about the limited value of many academic degrees. In the second presidential debate back in October, Governor Romney said 50% of last year’s college graduating class were either unemployed or seriously underemployed. Know any MBAs who are delivering pizzas? Yeah, so do I.
On The Dave Ramsey Show it’s consistently student loan debt that tops the list of crippling factors for people struggling to get by.
The real question employers want to know is – what are your marketable skills? How can you help our company get ahead? They really don’t care about that piece of paper in your hand – whether it’s a resume or a diploma.
Here are some startling figures showing how many highly “educated” people are on welfare or receiving food stamps. In fact, the number of PhDs and Master’s degree holders on welfare more than tripled between 2007 and 2010.
Thanks to our friend Mu Saleem for the informative infographic.
*Credit to OnlineColleges.net
Think carefully about buying that fancy diploma. Will it really give you a return on your investment? Real life success requires more than knowledge.
What skills have you found to be valuable in today’s marketplace?
These are the 13 jobs with measured unemployment rates under 2.0% in both 2011 and 2012, listed by their ’12 rate. Three are types of doctors, and three are types of engineers.
And here are the eight jobs with unemployment rates over 20% in both 2011 and 2012, listed by their ’12 rate. Five are in, or related to, home construction.
Read the rest at The Atlantic