Thursday, April 29, 2010
Monday, April 26, 2010
Translation: only one week of reading period and then three finals between now and summer.
The culinary highlight of the day—obviously the most important kind of peak in my life—was the delicious meal my Portuguese class enjoyed in the afternoon. We feasted on feijoada, a traditional Brazilian black bean and salted pork stew served over rice. Side dishes included fried collard greens, roasted coarse cassava flour, and orange slices. For dessert, we had pudim de leite.
Before saying goodbye, the class sang a final song, "No Dia Em Que Eu Saí De Casa" by Zezé di Camargo e Luciano:
« No dia em que eu saí de casa
Minha mãe me disse filho vem cá
Passou a mão em meus cabelos,
Olhou em meus olhos começou falar:
Por onde você for eu sigo
Com meu pensamento sempre onde estiver
Em minhas orações eu vou pedir a Deus
Que ilumine os passos seus.
Eu sei que ela nunca compreendeu
Os meus motivos de sair de lá
Mas ela sabe que depois que cresce
O filho vira passarinho e quer voar.
Eu bem queria continuar ali
Mas o destino quis me contrariar
E o olhar de minha mãe na porta
Eu deixei chorando a me abençoar.
A minha mãe naquele dia
Me falou do mundo como ele é
Parece que ela conhecia
Cada pedra que eu iria por o pé.
E sempre ao lado do meu pai
Da pequena cidade ela jamais saiu
Ela me disse assim, meu filho vá com Deus
Que este mundo inteiro é seu. »
Saturday, April 24, 2010
Friday, April 23, 2010
After class this morning, Erica, Allison, Shiv and I walked over to Ibiza for lunch. We ordered from today's set menu, and I thoroughly enjoyed the skate fish suquet with mussels and butternut squash. And a large, large ramekin of crema catalana.
Since lunch, my day has consisted of TD DTTD Day, Havaianas, iced green tea, Continental Airlines representatives, Davenport Courtyard, and 개인의 취향 (Personal Preference), a hilarious Korean drama about an architect who pretends to be homosexual in order to move in with a woman who wants to live with a gay male friend.
Thursday, April 22, 2010
(Random note: Arbeit is the root of the Japanese word アルバイト and the Korean 아르바이트.)
Here's an excerpt about Kurzarbeit from the New York Times's Economix blog:
Germany's Secrets for a Steadier Job Market (Jack Ewing)
« The German labor market has been surprisingly bulletproof during the economic downturn, outperforming the United States and already beginning to tick downward, falling to 8.5 percent in March from 8.7 percent a year earlier.
Two recent reports help explain why. The reports offer some lessons that could be applicable in the United States and other countries.
One big reason Germany has kept a lid on unemployment, already well known, is the widespread use of so-called short work — “Kurzarbeit” in German. The scheme allows companies to cut workers’ hours, with the government making up some of the lost wages.
During the first quarter of 2010, 22 percent of firms surveyed by the Ifo Institute, a Munich research organization, said they were using Kurzarbeit. Among manufacturers, 39 percent were taking advantage of it.
One reason Kurzarbeit is so popular with companies is that it allows them to hang on to skilled workers. As the Commerzbank economist Eckart Tuchtfeld points out in a note issued Wednesday, Germany’s highly specialized companies have found during previous upswings that their growth was held back by lack of highly trained people. (Germany is chronically short of engineers.)
Kurzarbeit has allowed companies to keep their work forces intact, suggesting that the German economy could be poised to snap back pretty quickly as demand recovers.
According to the Ifo survey, 34 percent of companies that are using Kurzarbeit plan to start reducing it, while only 14 percent plan to expand its use. Companies such as the automaker Daimler have already begun increasing working hours again. »
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
Tuesday, April 20, 2010
From Psychology (Schacter, Gilbert, Wegner):
« Leon Festinger called cognitive dissonance "an unpleasant state that arises when a person recognizes the inconsistency of his or her actions, attitudes, or beliefs." Festinger made many major contributions to the field of social psychology, one of which started with this simple observation: When people experience the unplesasant state of cognitive dissonance, they naturally try to alleviate it, and one way to alleviate cognitive dissonance is to change one's actions, attitudes, or beliefs in order to restore consistency among them.
The fact that we often alleviate cognitive dissonance by changing our actions, attitudes, or beliefs can leave us vulnerable to other people's efforts to change them for us. In one study, female college students applied to join a weekly discussion on "the psychology of sex." Women in the control group were allowed to join the discussion, but women in the experimental group were allowed to join the discussion only after first passing an embarrassing test that involved reading pornographic fiction to a strange man. Although the carefully staged discussion was as dull as possible, the researchers found that women in the experimental group found it more interesting than did women in the control group (Aronson & Mills, 1958). Women in the experimental group knew that they had paid a steep price to join the group ("I read all that lurid pornography out loud!"), but that belief was inconsistent with the belief that the discussion was worthless ("This discussion isn't interesting at all..."). As such, the women experienced cognitive dissonance, which they alleviated by changing their beliefs about the value of the discussion. We normally think that people pay for things because they value them, but as this study shows, people sometimes value things because they've paid for them. It is little wonder that some fraternities use hazing to breed loyalty, that some religions require their adherents to make large personal or monetary sacrifices, that some gourmet restaurants charge outrageous amounts to keep their patrons coming back, or that some men and women play hard to get to maintain their suitors' interest.
We desire consistency, but there are inevitably occasions when we just can't help but be unconsistent—for example, when we tell a friend that her new hairstype is "unusually trendy" when it actually resembles a wet skunk after an unfortunate encounter with a blender. Why don't we experience cognitive dissonance under such circumstances and come to believe our own lies? Because telling a friend that her hairstyle is trendy is inconsistent with the belief that her hairstyle is hideous, but it is perfectly consistent with the belief that one should be nice to one's friends. When small inconsistencies are justified by large consistencies, cognitive dissonance does not occur.
For example, participants in one study were asked to perform a dull task that involved turning knobs one way, then the other, and then back again. After the participants were sufficiently bored, the experimenter explained that he desparately needed a few more people to volunteer for the study, and he asked the participants to go into the hallway, find anothe rperson, and tell that person that the knob-turning task was great fun. The experimenter offered some participants $1 to tell this lie, and he offered other participants $20. All the participants agreed to tell the lie, and after they did so, they were asked to report their true enjoyment of the knob-turning task. The results showed that participants liked the task more when they were paid $1 than $20 to lie about it (Festinger & Carlsmith, 1959). Why? Because the belief that "the knob-turning task was dull" was inconsistent with the belief that "I recommended the task to that person in the hallway," but the latter belief was perfectly consistent with the belief that "$20 is a lot of money." For some participants, the large payment justified the lie, so only those people who received the small payment experienced cognitive dissonance. As such, only the participants who received $1 felt the need to restore consistency by changing their beliefs about the enjoyableness of the task. »
Sunday, April 18, 2010
But it's ok.
Because, sometimes, we're reminded of the stunning potential of human talent. Here's soprano Sumi Jo, whose voice was described by renowned conductor Herbert von Karajan as "a gift from God."
Friday, April 16, 2010
It little profits that an idle king,
By this still hearth, among these barren crags,
Match’d with an aged wife, I mete and dole
Unequal laws unto a savage race,
That hoard, and sleep, and feed, and know not me.
I cannot rest from travel: I will drink
Life to the lees: All times I have enjoy’d
Greatly, have suffer’d greatly, both with those
That loved me, and alone, on shore, and when
Thro’ scudding drifts the rainy Hyades
Vext the dim sea: I am become a name;
For always roaming with a hungry heart
Much have I seen and known; cities of men
And manners, climates, councils, governments,
Myself not least, but honour’d of them all;
And drunk delight of battle with my peers,
Far on the ringing plains of windy Troy.
I am a part of all that I have met;
Yet all experience is an arch wherethro’
Gleams that untravell’d world whose margin fades
For ever and forever when I move.
How dull it is to pause, to make an end,
To rust unburnish’d, not to shine in use!
As tho’ to breathe were life! Life piled on life
Were all too little, and of one to me
Little remains: but every hour is saved
From that eternal silence, something more,
A bringer of new things; and vile it were
For some three suns to store and hoard myself,
And this gray spirit yearning in desire
To follow knowledge like a sinking star,
Beyond the utmost bound of human thought.
This is my son, mine own Telemachus,
To whom I leave the sceptre and the isle,—
Well-loved of me, discerning to fulfil
This labour, by slow prudence to make mild
A rugged people, and thro’ soft degrees
Subdue them to the useful and the good.
Most blameless is he, centred in the sphere
Of common duties, decent not to fail
In offices of tenderness, and pay
Meet adoration to my household gods,
When I am gone. He works his work, I mine.
There lies the port; the vessel puffs her sail:
There gloom the dark, broad seas. My mariners,
Souls that have toil’d, and wrought, and thought with me—
That ever with a frolic welcome took
The thunder and the sunshine, and opposed
Free hearts, free foreheads—you and I are old;
Old age hath yet his honour and his toil;
Death closes all: but something ere the end,
Some work of noble note, may yet be done,
Not unbecoming men that strove with Gods.
The lights begin to twinkle from the rocks:
The long day wanes: the slow moon climbs: the deep
Moans round with many voices. Come, my friends,
’Tis not too late to seek a newer world.
Push off, and sitting well in order smite
The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds
To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
Of all the western stars, until I die.
It may be that the gulfs will wash us down:
It may be we shall touch the Happy Isles,
And see the great Achilles, whom we knew.
Tho’ much is taken, much abides; and tho’
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.
- Alfred Lord Tennyson
Wednesday, April 14, 2010
I don't have emotions, conveniently, so this should be easy. Unfortunately, Professor Chun showed us in class today that emotional responses are a critical element of cognition and intelligence. Cognitive scientists today understand that passion and reason are not antithetical.
"The emotions are of quite extraordinary importance in the total economy of living organisms and do not deserve being put into opposition with 'intelligence.' The emotions are, it seems, themselves a high order of intelligence."
- Orval H. Mowrer
On the flip side, learning about the importance of emotions did make me consider the disadvantages of my heartlessness—perhaps there is some hope, after all.
Monday, April 12, 2010
One component of the final term paper for Prof. Lockhart's Psychology and the Law class requires observation of an actual trial. So at 9:30 this morning, SC and I crossed the New Haven Green to visit the courthouse. Not realizing that the state courthouse, where we originally wanted to go, is located just behind the federal courthouse, we accidentally walked up the steps of the Richard C. Lee U.S. Courthouse.
I wish I could have taken a picture, but the security guards confiscated our cell phones at the entrance. Below is a description from the General Services Administration website.
« James Gamble Rogers designed the building, which was constructed between 1913 and 1919. Rogers was also the architect for structures at Yale University, his alma mater. The building was the last to be designed under the auspices of the Tarsney Act, which allowed the Treasury Department to hire private architects rather than use only designers employed by the federal government. A cornerstone dedication ceremony was held in 1914. Former President William Howard Taft, then a professor at Yale Law School, spoke at the event, and the text of his speech was placed in the cornerstone, along with other mementos.
Established in 1638 and one of the earliest European urban planning efforts in the american colonies, the New Haven Green has long been a location for important civic buildings. In 1910, landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted and architect Cass Gilbert, two of the most prominent designers working in America at the time, produced a city planning document for New Haven. They advised that the style, materials, and scale of the new courthouse and post office should respect the character of existing public buildings around the Green, and Rogers achieved these goals.
Important citizens in New Haven's history inspired the inscriptions on the exterior. The frieze contains words from a sermon delivered by Reverend John Davenport in 1639: "Wisdom hath builded her house; she hath hewn out her seven pillars." Davenport was referring to the seven men who were selected to serve as the first General Court, and their names are inscribed on the building. The upper walls of the interior light court were incised with the names of five other prominent New Haven citizens and three military heroes. A carved band tops the building and includes coquillage.
The interior retains many original features and rich finishes. Marble floors and pilasters are found in the ornate entrance lobby. The coffered ceiling is intricately detailed with rosettes. The interior wall contains an elaborate bronze screen that led to the original postal workroom. Other original features that remain include writing desks, radiator grilles, and pendant light fixtures, which were specially designed by Rogers.
The walls of the main stair and elevator lobbies are clad in the same Tennessee marble as the exterior. However, the marble was finished to reveal more pink tones. Ceilings in this area are vaulted plaster overlaid with gold leaf. Ornate bronze elevator fronts and grilles remain.
On the second floor, the courtroom lobby is lined with twenty monolithic, Tennessee marble columns with bronze scrolled Ionic capitals. Marble flooring, wainscot, and benches contribute to the opulent finishes. A plaster cornice and coffered ceiling are painted in tones derived from the marble.
In a 1919 article featured in Architectural Forum, the courtroom was described as a "dignified, sumptuous room of perfect acoustic qualities." The lavish wall treatments combine fluted pilasters and paneling in quarter-sawn white oak that was stained a light olive color. The ornate plaster cornice and ceiling beams are finished to resemble the oak walls and highlighted with gold leaf. »
Sunday, April 11, 2010
Saturday, April 10, 2010
Honestly, I don't think college visits are particularly useful for prospective students. During my senior year of high school, my parents and I visited three schools during a weeklong overdose of admissions offices, overenthusiastic guides, and glossy pamphlets on topics ranging from ethnic diversity and academic regulations to campus safety. I've heard many friends declare that they discovered a campus felt "just right" for them during a tour, or that they could suddenly picture themselves at ______ for the next four years. This might work for some, and if it results in optimistic, well-adjusted freshman classes, all the better, but I wonder if high schoolers should really base their college decisions on landscaping budgets and architecture and student tour guides and admissions office cookies.
Back to the Beinecke Plaza tourists. In addition to the stressed high school seniors taking careful notes, there are the confused eight-year-olds, who must wonder why their parents are dragging them from building to building, and, naturally, the Asian tourists. Sometimes I try to guess which country a group is from (with a 87.4% accuracy rate).
Once, a nice Chinese family asked me to take their picture, and I obliged, of course. They then asked to take my picture, which required a bit of vigorous gesticulation for me to understand. Actually, I still don't quite understand.
Friday, April 9, 2010
« A Organização das Nações Unidas resolveu fazer uma pesquisa em todo o mundo. Enviou uma carta para o representante de cada país com a pergunta: "Por favor, diga honestamente qual é a sua opinião sobre a escassez de alimentos no resto do mundo".
A pesquisa foi um grande fracasso. Sabe por quê?
Todos os países europeus não entenderam o que era "escassez".
Os africanos não sabiam o que era "alimento".
Os cubanos estranharam e pediram maiores explicações sobre o que era "opinião".
Os argentinos mal sabem o significado de "por favor".
Os norte-americanos nem imaginam o que significa "resto do mundo".
E o congresso brasileiro está até agora debatendo o que é "honestamente". »
Thursday, April 8, 2010
« [Korea's] economy is practically as big as India’s even with a population less than one-twentieth the size. It exports more goods than the UK, a statistic admittedly more surprising to those who are aware that Britain still makes things. Samsung overhauled Hewlett-Packard last year to become the world’s biggest technology company by sales. This year, it should make more money than the top 15 Japanese electronics groups combined.
South Korea has had a good crisis. While most other countries fell into recession or staved off collapse by putting themselves in hock, it is already back to robust growth. After treading water in 2009, the economy is expected to expand this year by 4.7 per cent, with a budget deficit of just 2 per cent of output, positively parsimonious in these Keynesian times. Urbanised, sophisticated, wired-up and with a per capita income in purchasing-power terms of some $28,000 – only $5,000 behind arch-rival Japan.
The successes of corporate Korea are being matched by a new diplomatic swagger. Washington’s relations with Japan are rockier than normal because of disagreements over military bases. US-Sino ties are being tested by disputes over arms sales to Taiwan and cyber-security. That leaves South Korea as Washington’s new best friend in the region, a factor that has helped bolster its credentials as this year’s president of the Group of 20. »
« Helped in part by a cheap won, exports of cars, ships, electronics, and semiconductors are soaring, while China has yet to pose a credible threat to Korean products. Instead, the Chinese are now mostly seen as customers, not rivals. Korea's exports to China jumped almost fivefold from 2000 to 2009, to $86.7 billion. "There's a consensus that China represents more of an opportunity than a threat," says Im Sang Hyug, senior researcher at the Federation of Korean Industries. Thanks partly to the healthy China trade, many companies, including LG, Hyundai, and Kia Motors, posted record profits last year. "Korea is the first country to stage a full V-shaped recovery," says Jeroen Plag, Korea manager for Dutch bank ING Group.
These big home runs have changed the mood in Korea. "I hear from a lot of people saying, 'Korea is on the rise. We have a lot of hope,'" President Lee Myung Bak told the nation in a recent radio address.
The Middle East is already enjoying the benefits of Korean foresight. Seoul has been urging Korean construction companies to increase their presence in the Persian Gulf. In 2009, Korean companies priced so aggressively that they won half of all contracts handed out for oil and gas projects in Abu Dhabi, some $30 billion in all, says the International Contractors Association of Korea. A consortium led by state-controlled utility Korea Electric Power snagged Korea's first-ever overseas nuclear contract, beating France's Areva and a joint venture between General Electric and Hitachi for a project to build four plants in the United Arab Emirates. Soon, Korean companies will be "competing head to head with U.S. and European companies across the world," predicts Kim Kyeho, executive vice president for Samsung C&T in Dubai. Samsung was primary contractor for Dubai's 162-story Burj Khalifa tower, the world's tallest skyscraper.
Korea's central planners want the chaebol to entertain even bigger ambitions. Led by President Lee, the cabinet last year launched a plan to expand Korea's economic base by promoting robotics, health care, biotechnology, green transportation, renewable energy, and other next-generation ventures, some 17 in all. The goal is to double exports in these areas, to $434 billion, by 2013; create a million jobs; and reduce the economy's dependence on info tech, shipbuilding, and autos. To spur this change, the government plans to spend $22 billion by 2013 to finance R&D.
In robotics, for example, Seoul has already doled out $500 million in R&D and is underwriting pilot projects to test education, entertainment, and disaster-fighting robots. Korea, which saw its robot exports jump 10.5% in 2009, to $809 million, aims to become one of the top three industrial robot manufacturers. It currently is No. 5 behind Japan, the U.S., Germany, and Italy.
For green technology, Lee's cabinet will focus on developing innovations for solar and nuclear, expanding the use of LEDs and stepping up renewable energy mandates across the country. The government will actively promote the convergence of the broadcasting and telecom industries and offer low-cost loans to help develop content for this emerging hybrid business. »
This month's Monocle:
« Seoulites are hard at work making their capital a more attractive place to live and work. It's a project unfolding at an extraordinary speed. From the Han River clean-up and new landmarks, such as Dongdaemun Design Plaza, to rooftop parks and a new media city, Seoul is shedding its image as a gridlocked concrete jungle.
Seoul's ambitious mayor, Oh Se-hoon, is spearheading the design drive while the city's giant tech firms and upcoming G20 summit have also been instrumental in making South Korea's capital raise its game. The city's transport boom is also at the forefront of the transformation: the first locally made bullet train departed from Seoul Station early this year, Incheon International Airport is expanding and the country's national carrier is recording double-digit growth.
Seoul's sign-less back alleys may be tricky to navigate (something that is being rectified) but its inhabitants are putting the city on the map as an accessible and playful metropolis with their lively restaurants, bars, cafés and 24-hour shops.
It's from the cosy neighbourhoods of Bukchon, Apgujeong, Garosu-kil and Hongdae that Seoul is taking on the world by eporting its K-pop artists, product designers, technology innovators and chefs. It's a city that's preparing for a bright future. As the locals say, eoseo oseyo, come on in. »
Tuesday, April 6, 2010
It sounds a bit silly, right? Facebook is associated more with birthday parties, campus charity events and late-night stalking than with serious reflection (for good reason). But today, combing through my profile, I was overcome by an unusual combination of amazement, amusement, and nostalgia. Below are some of the changes I made today.
Majors: Cognitive Science, International Studies
- Those of you who knew me in high school understand that if anyone had predicted then that I would be pursuing a major with the word "science" in the name, I would probably have laughed. Until last fall, I had hoped and expected to major in Ethics, Politics, and Economics. In fact, the EP&E major was one of the main reasons I was attracted to Yale. Part of me wishes I had taken more cognitive science-related classes last year instead of Ethics, Political Philosophy, and Economics, but perhaps Professor Shelly Kagan's one-man crusade against grade inflation somehow made me a more ethical human being.
- Cognitive Science 110: the reason I gave up EP&E (and bank bonuses). This is a course every Yalie should take at some point, regardless of major. Thank you, Professor Scholl, for giving me a fighting chance to have a soul.
- Old habits die hard. Despite the shift in my academic interests, I'm still taking 6.5 credits.
- Deleted the whole list. There's just way too much.
- Relatively obsolete: DJ Ötzi, Cascada, Green Day
- Relative newcomers might have included Vampire Weekend, Zac Brown Band, Bon Iver, Sondre Lerche, Nell, and Chico Buarque.
- Perennial faves that start with the letter "b": Bach, Backstreet Boys, Bartók, Basshunter, Beatles, Bob Dylan, Brad Paisley, Bruch
"baking, barbeque, behavior, black, blau, business, dialogue, enchiladas, February, Gaudi, goals, goats, green, languages, lasso skills, mangos, memory, music, music, music, real estate, rules, sushi, skiing, Skype, snow, squash, tea, Texas, transportation, violin, vitamins, yoga, water, whipped cream"
- Again, far too many, but notable newcomers include behavior, February, memory, Skype, and transportation.
- Deleted: sleep deprivation. Andover was a great place for many things, but sleep was not among them.
What surprises me is that I still don't feel that I've changed terribly much over the past two years. Sure, I now get more sleep, read less poetry, talk to my grandmother more often, drink spinach smoothies, and am not part of any musical ensemble (since deciding not to re-audition for the Yale Symphony Orchestra this year). And although I'll always miss the sound of Elgar in Woolsey Hall, I'm content with most of the changes. After all, never again will I be able to look at a squash—or squash ball—in the same way.
Sunday, April 4, 2010
Saturday, April 3, 2010
I've been taking advantage of the splendid weather, of course, by burrowing down in a corner of the library and previewing class materials for the next two weeks. Or not. Actually, there hasn't been much need to—I'm somewhat unexpectedly ahead of schedule for schoolwork. There's nothing quite like a week of gloomy, wet weather for minimizing any motivation to leave the dorm. Fresh loads of laundry have been folded and put away, and even the floor has been Swiffered—twice.
And thus, in the name of world peace and vitamin D, I've been using every excuse to leave my room and enjoy the abundant sunshine outside. On Thursday, for example, several friends and I walked to the local movie theater to watch Mother, a film by Korean director Bong Joon-ho. Amy Biancolli of the Houston Chronicle describes the movie as, "an alluring piece of work, an artful whodunit that melds shrewd plotting with resourceful camera work and sympathetic characters that are fascinatingly, morbidly off." A review by the Chicago Sun-Times reads, "The film is labyrinthine and deceptive, and not in a way we anticipate. It becomes a pleasure for the mind."
On Friday evening, I went to watch "Para Ti," the spring show by Oye, Yale's Latino spoken word group. I honestly don't think any other student performance has had a greater immediate emotional impact on me. Confession: I left during intermission, not because any element of the show was poor, but because I was somewhat stunned by how heartfelt and powerful spoken word could be. I realize that may sound selfish, especially considering the amount of hard work the performers had clearly invested in the show, but at least I became a new convert.