Thursday, February 28, 2008

Kiva

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Today I learned about a very interesting website named Kiva where people can loan money to entrepreneurs in developing countries. Really beautiful work and definitely a better way to pull these people out of the poverty than giving money away in assistencialist welfare programs.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Suicide rate in the US

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Just listened on the radio:

- 1 suicide attempt every minute in the US
- Someone dies from suicide every 16 minutes

Really surprising, but when you check the list of all countries with their suicide rate (there is a list from World Health Organization as well), you find out that places like Lithuania or Belarus are on the top of the list. More surprising still.

On the other side, though, one can see that countries like Egypt, Iran, Honduras or Jordan have rates of 0 (yes, zero) or close to zero suicides.

The question that comes naturally to mind after a quick analysis is why, in general, do richer countries have higher suicide rates? Actually, one interesting question is what are the reasons for a person to commit suicide or even why would someone keep living, in spite of every difficulties these people go through in life?

Apparently the common cause for suicide attempt is depression, and it is skyrocketing in the last years. One organization in the US works on the prevention and treatment of depression to reduce these suicide rates. It is called Save.

Finally, out of curiosity, the suicide rates in the US are 3 times higher than the rates in Brazil.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Emotions from Buddhist point of view

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"Fundamentally, a destructive emotion - which is also referred to as an 'obscuring' or 'afflictive' mental factor - is something that prevents the mind from ascertaining reality as it is. With a destructive emotion, there will always be a gap between the way things appear and the way things are.

"Excessive attachment - desire, for instance - will not let us see a balance between the pleasant and the unpleasant, constructive and destructive, qualities in something or someone, and causes us to see it for a while as being one hundred percent attractive - and therefore makes us want it. Aversion will blind us to some positive qualities of the object, making us one hundred percent negative toward that object, wishing to repel, destroy, or run away from it.

"Such emotional states impair one's jugdment, the ability to make a correct assessment of the nature of things. That is why we say it's obscuring: It obscures the way things are.[...]"


Destructive Emotions, by Daniel Goleman
Pages 75-76

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Livio about Friendships

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My friend Livio commented on the previous post about Friendships in the US and I think it deserves a post of its own.

Hi Rodrigo,

You do have a point about not many immigrants sharing their cultural pains. In fact, I was thinking exactly about cultural differences the last few months. As you know, I have been in Canada for the last 3 years. Here, I get to observe a lot of different immigrants and their reactions to living a different culture.

It seems that one important aspect that influences (the lack of) sharing cultural shock is the conflict between expectations of living abroad versus reality. Let me clarify. There is an inherent expectation from _both_ immigrants and their family/friends who stay behind, that life in the country X should be much better. While this may be true for many aspects of life, it is certainly not true for others.

Friendships, and other intrinsic cultural issues are certainly among the more difficult aspect of living abroad. However, discussing these issues seems to antagonize the wildly held expectation of an improved life.

I have heard stories, from multiple immigrants, about the lack of understanding their families and friends have towards their situation and hardships they face. Sometimes the expectation is also financial. However, explaining financial hardships in North America is often met with disbelief and/or disappointment.

These situations motivate immigrants to minimize discussing their hardships, or even worse, creating the image/illusion that their situation is, in fact, coherent with the expectations.

A second aspect (and sorry to make this post so long), is that of communication. I have seen that it is very hard for immigrants to communicate some of their different experiences to people "back home". Sometimes, it is just plain simply hard to describe the struggles of having to speak a second language daily. The experience is more acute then the verbalization of the experience. Also, it is sometimes very hard for people to relate to some of the experiences immigrants face. As such, the perception of the experiences felt by the immigrant can be far from accurate.

Of course, as with most things, it is a matter of personality. There are quite some number of people blogging about their experiences as immigrants. But, somehow, I don't think it is the common practise.

My 2 cents,

Livio

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Friendships in the US

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The nature of cultural social relations must be understood. For example, foreigners adapting to the United States should learn that Americans are more likely to form more superficial friendships than is typical in many countries (Stewart, 1972). Immigrants may be bitterly disappointed when they discover that Americans typically do not expect or accept the strong commitments and obligations frequently associated with friendship in other cultures.

From a very interesting study by Arizona State University about cultural shock posted by a friend on his blog.

What do I think of it being in the US for 4 months? True in my case so far, although I never expected to find a country friendlier than Brazil. Not that all friendships are actually deep, but the feeling of being welcome and warmness may be hard to find somewhere else.

One curious thing that I would like to avoid when facing the cultural shock is the "[...] isolation, for example, living in an ethnic enclave and avoiding substantial learning about the new culture, a typical lifetime reaction of many first-generation immigrants."

Whenever I saw other friends abroad, we never know what they go through. Rarely you see them writing or sharing their hard times in the new culture.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Career Decisions...

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It is Mid-Year Career Discussion time at Microsoft. And I must figure out what I would like my career to be and create plan to achieve these goals. After a career assessment, that is one of the main results I got:

Basing career decisions on what you're good at, even if you're not all that interested in it. Your interests, not your abilities, are your long-term competitive advantage -- and they're the "energy" that powers your career. If you're not really interested in the work, the people who are will ultimately pass you by.

I think that we all lean towards what we are good at, that is almost inevitable, and the long the time goes by, the trickier to do something different and take those inherent risks. And I wonder if sometimes what attracts some people (including me) is exactly an specific area or some particular aspect potentially transversal to all areas. Although not sure, the latter makes more sense to me.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Still about Vista...

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Yes, it crashed here while watching some TV. But before thinking that I will blame Vista for it, it restarted and, when I logged in, I got a window with the following title: "Problem Reports and Solutions". It explains that the crash was caused by the NVIDIA driver and shows the direct link to NVIDIA driver site. I didn't see this coming and was pleasantly surprised to see this after a crash. Nice work here.

Good thing about Vista...

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Today I found something I really like when it is compared to XP: when you make a file copy in the same directory, it does not use that "Copy of <filename>" file scheme, but rather a "<filename> - copy". I always hater the former, especially after reordering your files, because copies do not stay with the original files. And I also thought to myself that an option like the latter (or .bak, whatever) would be way better. It seems the Windows team paid attention to it and took their time to fix this behavior.