US – Iran Like Worst Exes

Iran and the United States managed to swap prisoners and make some positive steps in the nuclear deal while taking a step back with sanctions on a nuclear test. Listening to the news this morning, they were talking about the “relationship” the these two have at the moment. My thoughts were, “This is no relationship. This is a later stage of a really bad breakup.” (Yes, I know this is a gross oversimplification, but that is pretty much the point.)

Secretary Kerry, Joined By Baroness Ashton of the European Union, Speaks With Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif Before Resuming Three-Way Nuclear Talks in Vienna

See, back in the time of the Shah, the United States had an extremely cozy relationship with Iran. Like boyfriend and girlfriend, they were lovey-dovey. Sickening to watch, really. Think how the USA is with Saudi Arabia now. (Too soon? Naw.) Iran was out favorite girl in the region. The Shah could do no wrong in the USA’s eyes. Which, might be part of why he was overthrown.

When that happened, Iran broke up with the USA. Like messy break ups, tears were shed, photos burned, and screaming about whatever was said made other countries uncomfortable at parties with them to the point people kept the two apart. Over the years, the two sides have become… Not reasonable but less than eye roll crazy. They can be in the same room without it becoming a scene. Time will tell if they can really be allowed to attend the same parties. But the signs are ever so slightly promising.

The “relationship” is that of exes who have seen the light that no one else sees the other as the crazy one. Both of them are know they better act like adults if they wish to be respected. Neither particularly likes this situation but grudgingly behave as though they do. Both are looking for any sign to point out the other is still the worst evil that ever existed. Both know the other seeks that, so they will behave better so as to not give the other the opportunity to make them look like the bad one.

 

Book Review: Single & Happy: The Party of Ones

Single & Happy: The Party of OnesSingle & Happy: The Party of Ones by J. Victoria Sanders

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Back in late 2011, I ran across the Single & Happy blog. WordPress.com had drawn me in, but I started looking at various tags including dating. Lots were people talking about current dates and especially the horror that is online dating web sites. Single & Happy was a better, maturer different.

My only other experiences with blog writers who publish a book is to collect the best blog posts, give them to an editor, maybe expand a bit upon them, and publish the collection. Instead we get an actual book influenced by prior work and so something new and exciting.

While not a single black woman, I am single and almost black. I strongly sympathize with the plight of attempting online dating. The dating stories seem eerily familiar. And the advice Victoria gives on being a friend to yourself is good advice. It happens I a friend posted on Facebook on why she hates the question, “Why are you single?” so I referenced a quote from this book.

Somehow after decades of being single, I think I am happy. Well, happy-ish. There is room for improvement. It is good to know there are others out there working on the same issues willing to talk about the challenges.

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TED Talk: I Share Therefore I Am

Human relationships are rich and they are messy and they are demanding and we clean them up with technology.
— Sherry Tuckle

Technology is the great deceiver. We can use it to craft how we present ourselves to others.

Unfortunately, we lose the connections. As a university campus webmaster, I most preferred meeting in person. Phone was second best. Email only was least. At the time, I thought it a James Borg thing that 93% of communication is non-verbal (words). Email only interactions usually suffered from misunderstandings. People with whom I had single meeting were more understanding and less problematic.

Now days, I think oxytocin generating trust is responsible. Email is just text and misunderstandings happen when the reader has assumptions to mistrust the writer. That meeting in person creates the necessary trust.

Technology does enhance our relationships when used to augment in person interactions not replace them.

If the above video does not work, then try Connected, but alone?

Community

Are people in the United States more insular? Is technology getting in the way of us being able to communicate? Why is technology breaking up marriages according to NPR? The line which stood out to me is:

But opportunity is a key predictor of infidelity, and social media have increased opportunity exponentially.

Just 10 minutes before this aired on NPR, I was talking to George about my Dorm, Major, or Race post. The biggest factor as to the friends we make is opportunity. Kids going to a public K-12 school become friends with those in their neighborhood because that is who they are around all the time. Kids going to a college where they are unlikely to have easy access to high school friends means the kids become friends with those people they are around all the time. I proposed to George changes in who people consider their friends has more to do with where people spend time than a decrease in the need to be social.

Those of us who spend most of our time online will be friends with those people interact with online. Those of us who spend large amounts of time in coffee shops, bars, restaurants, or grocery stores get to know the other regulars and employees approximating friendship. Hobbyists getting together become friends precisely because they  spend so much time. Humans are social creatures so we spend time with others wherever we spend time. Even those isolated from the general public in prison develop ties with the other prisoners around them. Wherever we spend our time is the source of our new friends.

Every time we choose to spend time with specific people we choose to strengthen neural connections with those people. Physical contact like a hug which triggers the neurotransmitter oxytocin making us feel bonds to that person. Seeing *hug* or /hug may not deliver the same effect, but I suspect it delivers something similar. It may be just enough that we like the feeling.

Compared to hanging out in the neighborhood, social media provide richer opportunities. Being “friends” through social media result a win-win effects without taking as much effort on both parties. The risks are also lower for social media friends. Your friend across the street might judge you for the embarrassing thing you did out in the street, but your Facebook friends only know if someone blabs about it. So much easier to make and hold these relationships compared to what we go through locally.

Knowing the people who live in nearby buildings is useful. Positive social bonds means in ambiguous situations the assumptions will be positive rather than negative. The more neighbors who think positively about me, the less likely they will assume bad things about me. (Like that I look like a scary Muslim.)  As a knowledge worker I often put too much value on the person with ideas I like over the physical body to help me accomplish actions. I do occasionally need help doing things I cannot think my way through.

Organization Relationships

A friend of mine who I used to work with once remarked (2007-ish) the University System of Georgia does not really work like a system so much as a loose confederation fighting over money. Given I have no access to budgets, I would not know. GeorgiaVIEW works remarkably well given there are only a few people running the system and hoards of people administrating it for their campus. There is a mostly correct mix of grassroots and top down pressure.

The Board of Regents Information Technology Services have fostered a culture of “help requests must go through the tickets”. Tickets allow the team to better triage issues. Tickets show leaders we are helpful. The unintended consequence is weakening the relationships we have. Tickets indicate we are too busy to be helpful. Relationships are accountable so an individual shows vulnerability to me by admitting not understanding, breaking, or other problems. My part of the relationship is to console, advise, or fix the problems. Tickets make all this harder because they are less personal.

When I talk with my coworkers, we covet the connections we hold across the system for they are the true value. How do we develop these relationships inside the formality of processes which fail to incentivise them?

We have email lists, instant messages, weekly Wimba sessions, etc., but there is obviously  a problem when the same people who have these things only tell me about things when they see me in person. I’m reminded of the ITS CIO spending time going to campuses to talk to them about their needs. Maybe that should something we do throughout the organization especially at my level? Also, when I was at Valdosta State, my best information about the needs of faculty members and students came from visiting them not the technology I developed to encourage reporting issues.

Technology is not magic. It does make those who are not communicating start. It just shifts the form and potentially makes it more difficult. Ideally the difficulty will be so slight no one will notice. One can make communication easier by going from a more difficult technology to a more easy form. Still… It is not as good as being there with the person.

TED Talk: Is Play More Than Fun?

In the Q&A, Stuart Brown, co-author of Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul, rejects the idea play is a rehersal for adulthood. Stopping an animal from playing doesn’t prevent the animal from being a successful predator. REM sleep provides the rehearsal needed for learning. Play is the next evolutionary step. The video is a little too heavy on repeating the same generic idea over an over with different examples. However, they are amusing examples.

The types of play Brown references usually involves multiple individuals in a social interaction. This play teaches survival skills like socialization, adaptation, flexibility (our selfish genes at work).

The origin of this play research was in identifying the next Charles Whitmore, the University of Texas Tower sniper. In studying mass murderers, he found Charles and others like him consistently grew up in environments where play was not allowed. By not playing these children developed into dysfunctional adults.

I found a particular claim quite interesting. “The opposite of play is not work… It is depression.” That is almost word for word out of his book on page 126, which Google Books has a copy. Later he better explains the part about play and work are not in opposition:

The quality that work and play have in common is creativity. In both we are building our world, creating new relationships, neural connections, objects…. At their best, play and work, when integrated, make sense of our workd and ourselves. (Play, p.127)

This agrees with Adam and Jamie from the Mythbusters to Moira Gunn for the Commonwealth Cluf of California about their work. Just look at Adam’s face before triggering a test on any episode. The complete and total joy is a testament to the power of dopamine.

I think the opposition to depression involves movement which is exercise. Exercise produces serotonin which is crucial to fighting off depression. So my work, sitting in a cube all day long problem solving is good for dopamine but not a producer of serotonin. However, a good game of tag would produce both dopamine in anticipating tagging a playmate and serotonin from the movement. (Why can’t work be more like tag?)

If Dr. Brown is right, then suppressing the rough and tumble playing children enjoy is the best way to place in society malfunctioning adults who are more likely to be violent. Things like recess (just half an hour) during the day will keep our prisons less full 20 years later. <sarcasm>Maybe the No Child Left Behind meant all the children will end up in prison?</sarcasm> More likely children will fit their play in less supervised situations and get their fill.

Blog Crush: Part II

Following up on my blog crush post.

The Internet is a much bigger place than just the blogosphere. My previous comments were solely about blogs and strictly within the definition of “blog crush” provided in the qotd, not any of the many other forms of communication offered by the Internet. I have made lots of companions and even several friends over the Internet. I currenly have more companions and friends from online sources than offline sources (though I am currently working harder to create offline, local relationships).

Its a Straw Man Argument to characterize my lack of enthusiasm about making friends through blogs as because I am not open or trusting.

From the definition of acquaintance:

1. Acquaintance, associate, companion, friend refer to a person with whom one is in contact. An acquaintance is someone recognized by sight or someone known, though not intimately: a casual acquaintance. An associate is a person who is often in one’s company, usually because of some work, enterprise, or pursuit in common: a business associate. A companion is a person who shares one’s activities, fate, or condition: a traveling companion; companion in despair. A friend is a person with whom one is on intimate terms and for whom one feels a warm affection: a trusted friend. 3. familiarity, awareness.

I don’t share the intimate details of my life in blogs. Of course, I don’t share the intimate details of my life with anyone other than a handful of people. From the dozens of personal blogs I’ve read (leaves out the newsies, techies, etc), almost all do the same as I in leaving out the intimate details. Other than George, I don’t think the rest of you care very much for the details of some woman sticking her tongue down my throat, the details of who I find physically attractive, or even for whom I am going to vote. This lack of intimacy on everyone’s part is what prevents the creation of friendships from solely the use of blogs.

So what about warm affection? A good test, I think, would be to suddenly read in the blog post that a friend and family member wrote the blogger died. How would I feel? Would I cry over the loss? Would I want to go to that person’s funeral? With Bernie or George, I would really feel the loss and at least shed a tear. Prema, Porsche, and Briana would get a least some thinking about the great memories for a long time combined with feeling of loss. The others? I would feel a little bad, but I would not be devestated. Sorry, Gina.

Certainly, I have been called a Vulcan or even named Tuvok. My interpretation of what is a friend probably is much stricter than most would use. However, I am very open to making friends online. One can always use another friend.

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