Hey MYLP and Bridgers (and anyone else who stumbled onto this blog). I posted up some advice based on conversations I kept having with many of you over and over again. I wanted to share this with all of you and leave it to you to take away what you find of interest. I personally thought Meg was on point!
Archive for the ‘Education’ Category
Tags: entertainment, music
So I am a good month and a half into my Spanish 101 class and I am excited to share the news that I am going to be able to sing a Spanish love song of epic proportions by the time I finish the first semester! Its going to woo my soon to be wifey where ever she is.
Tags: afghan security forces, army, cultural competency, incompetence, NATO, Taliban, WSJ
“Many of the confrontations occur because of [coalition] ignorance of, or lack of empathy for, Muslim and/or Afghan cultural norms, resulting in a violent reaction from the [Afghan security force] member” according to the draft handbook prepared by Army researchers in a 75 page manual that will be given to troops heading over to this theater of war and was reviewed by the WSJ.
Basically the reports central argument is that cultural insensitivity is driving insider attacks by Afghan security forces. I don’t buy it. I believe that the Afghan Taliban has strategically infiltrated the state security forces in order to tactically attack and hurt NATO forces. And it works in their favor because the US is just starving for Afghans to step up to the plate and take over security roles. Worse, how are we supposed to know who is standing up for what? How do you vet Afghans when Afghans recommend others to be part of the forces?
This is also working in the favor of the Taliban in that their people infiltrating these forces will have access to weapons and sensitive places but worse, they are getting trained by the US on how to fight. When we pull out the Taliban will be best placed to take the fight to the Afghan civilian government.
Though the WSJ reported that a military study of 600 Afghan security personal and 200 American soldiers interviewed about the underlying problems and the rise in the Afghan security internal attacks “painted a grim portrait of opposing cultures with simmering disdain for their counterparts.”
American troops were suggesting that “Afghan forces engage in thievery are ‘gutless in combat,’ are ‘basically stupid,’ ‘profoundly dishonest,’ and engage in ‘treasonous collusion and alliances with enemy forces.’”
All of which I believe about Afghan troops and I would go further and say this precisely depicts the Pakistani soldiers as well. Pakistani army being engaged in the politics of Pakistan have reduced them to this status in my eyes.
But in going back to the conclusion found in the manual, I think generally speaking outside of the Afghan-NATO troop interactions, the advice is point on. Americans in general have this idea of superiority that borders arrogance. Our pride can have a horrible affect in how we related to people whose cultures are not similar to ours. If we want to engage the world, we need to understanding that the world will not engage with us if we apply our assumptions and stereotypes. Its good to stop and step back from those things.
Tags: big agriculture, corn, Earl Butz, farm policies, industrial farming, industrial revolution, vegetables
The human biology by 10k years ago was finely tuned to live a hunter gatherer society. When we killed something we gorged on it because of food scarcity, we turned off the trigger in our head that told us that we were full because it simply was not the right thing to do in an environment were we didn’t have security in food supply the next day or down the week. But the human population couldn’t take on that sort of life style in the long run because of our population growth. That lead to the development of an agricultural society where villages and farming became central to survival.
Thats how society was up until the end of the 19th century. The US was at a turning point in history where we had to start coming up with the means to deal with food scarcity, how will we ensure that there is a secure way to maintain the availability of food for the entire population? Thats when the process being applied in the industrial revolution began to appear in agriculture, giving us industrial agriculture.
We go modern agriculture out of this industrial revolution. We needed to be stronger militarily but we needed food security. The government began subsidizing farmers, supporting research and scientific development. We immediately saw this impact the per acre yield of farms, by nearly 20 times. An acre that would once eek out 20 bushels was now giving up upwards of 200 bushels. This abundance of grains results in a new problem- lots of extra grains that we don’t know what to do with.
So the government began selling it abroad and farmers were now involved in what developed as a commodity. The grain was no longer staple food source, but rather the raw product that government scientist with added industry application had created from the raw grain ingredients. The prices fluctuated and various government policies development until 1973 when the Secretary of the Department of Agriculture, Earl Butz, demanded that farmers either get big or get out. With that a new stage in agriculture began, one that continues to this day: Big Agriculture and the demise of the family farm, that farm that is idealized or romanticized in our current food marketing environment.
Farmers kept producing an over abundance of subsidized grains that inundated the market to which the government and industry kept looking for new ways to use. Because the grain was cheap and high in sugar it began to be used to feed livestock. We wanted to keep food prices cheap and very stable. We built a food economy around this idea of surplus.
While all of this was happening around the way we approached food, other technological advances were changing other parts of our lives. Quite simply technology was all about connivence. We now live in places where we are car dependent, which has cut off our ability to burn calories. We don’t bike, we don’t walk we don’t do physical activity because we have engineered it out of our lives. our work as adults has become sedentary. We are an automated society that is eating food that is cheap and heavy in calories.
The food environment itself is now hostile to healthy eating because we are bombarded by queues through marketing that tell us to eat fast food, food that provides convenience, things that hurt us in the long run because we don’t have a lifestyle or a community living environment that is conducive to burning off all those sugars, fat and rich calorie foods.
Its not that there are evil corporations, incompetent government and an American population that is driven by a lack of self control. The current reality we live in was rooted in a real human problem, has grown in the context of sociological challenge of providing food (at one point 45% of an American households expenditure) for cheap. The government pays farmers $45 billion every five years to over produce soy, corn, dairy and wheat as commodity crops not as staple foods. The foods that contain these products is cheaper because the government is paying you to buy it through the money that they pay Big Agriculture.
Good example is soft drinks and raw fruits. In the past 20 years the price of Soda went up 20% whereas the price of raw fruits (healthy stuff) went up 117%. Soda’s main ingredient is high fructose corn syrup, made from the overly abundantly corn grown in America. Surprisingly enough, fruit and vegetable growers don’t get government subsidies.
These abundant and cheap ingredients have stimulated the growth of a food industry with a financial incentive to use corn and soy products (such as high fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated oils, modified corn starches, etc.) to produce a huge quantity and variety of highly processed foods and not vegetable and fruits. The reason is that corn and soy have, over the century of industrializing agriculture, were found to be the product that lent itself best to the industrial process, not broccoli or squash or sweet peas.
Our farm policies are driving farmers to overproduce exactly the types of foods that are driving obesity in this country while our desire to have the greatest degree of convenience (i.e. freedom) in our lives especially the degree to which we can spend money on “other” items rather then on food. In the end though, our indulgence in eating is producing obesity, but this national pastime has not developed outside of a historical context.
Tags: climate, current-events, politics
So ideas are supposed to be powerful and change society. Really excited because TED provides some amazing people the microphone to get their ideas out to the world. There is so much excitement when I listen to these lectures, that its sort of become a ritual where over the course of three months I favorite the lectures that sound interesting and then I sit down at one time, two or three hours, listening to all these wonderful people.
I decided that I want to share the ones that I am most moved by. You will notice that the law, politics and psychology (relationship building, connecting with people, self improvement) seem to carry lots of weight for me. But this most recent batch there is a new concern that is taking over my thoughts, that concern involves the food we eat, the health of America and the health of the planet. While I am not a full blown tree-hugger, I am now comfortable to say that I am on my way to becoming one in some form or fashion.
I am all about evaluating our ideas about the places we live in and where we get our food from.
The following three lectures explore that nexus and build on the idea that a capitalist economy with its focus on specialization of skills and labor doesn’t mean that we provide the best life for individuals, a community or the overall society. Pam Warhurst challenges this notion and builds on the idea that we don’t need government to do whats right and that a local economy can be invigorated by growing local, buying local and eating local.
Tristram Stuart hits on another aspect of the modern economy dealing with agriculture and food- waste, the large quantities of food that is grown and never makes it to the mouths of people, but rather gets incinerated and thrown away. We must address this food waste when it comes to not just going back to growing food locally and eating locally culture.
To build on that we need to realize that the way our cities are developing its not sustainable and to make life worthy of living we need to reconfigure our idea of how to design the spaces we live in, work in and exist in. Kent Larson is amazing and his talk “Brilliant designs to fit more people in every city” is great endeavor in thinking how to move forward with the a cityscape design that promotes locality.
In thinking about locality, cityscapes and energy our big challenge is how to make our processes closed circuits. I love this talk about Jonathan Trent about taking our waste products (poop and pee) to get rid of it but also make use of it so that it doesnt kill the environment or kill us. This is a great talk that shows how thinking outside the box is critical, but one of the most demoralizing aspects of the talk is that government bureaucracy prevents us from initiating the whole innovate technology.
Shifting gears on the economy theme, there is an entire economy that exists supposedly underground, for the West anyway its underground, but totally above ground to folks who travel to the developing world. Robert Neuwirth does an amazing, and entertaining, lecture on the informal economy.
What gets me is that part of citizens taking up action and working outside the system stems from the very premise that government and the capitalism weren’t doing what everyone kept telling us it was supposed to do. Rory Stewart is a MP in the UK, who walked across Afghanistan after 9/11, talking with citizens and warlords about democracy. Now, a decade later, he asks: Why are Western and coalition forces still fighting there? But he turns toward the idea that while in the West Democracy is seen as something less then perfect, politicians as being something less then genuine and the process of democracy as being something less then serving the interests of the people, why are people in the furthest reaches, backwaters of Afghanistan calling for the opportunity to pick its leaders?
I then point toward what folks believe are the underlying problems with our democracy, its not that democracy is flawed, rather it is flawed but its possible to make it work for the people by the people if, according to the two speakers, we have means for citizen participatory mechanism in legislating as well as transparency.
Clay Shirky explores how Linux, open source operating system, approach to open platform editing of the program for everyone, can in essence transform the government in how citizens participate, really amazing piece:
Sanjay Pradhan on the other hand talks about how open data, available and accessible by all, is going to make a government that can be held accountable especially in budgeting and use of international development aid. Pradhan tells the story in a compelling personal history of his fathers struggle with corruption and government bribery in the Indian state of Bihar, one of the most corrupt systems in India:
Finally, I finish the politics with Ivan Krastev. Everything the other speakers presents sound amazing, then Ivan comes on stage with his pessimistic view of the world and crushes your nodding into a full blown “oh shit, he’s right how naive of us.” Basically Ivan argues that without trust there is no democracy and all these measures we talk about are great, however, it reduces trust and makes politics into the very thing we are trying to prevent it from becoming. Listen, you know, its better that you just listen to how he puts it because I am doing his message a disservice:
Since you made it this far, reward yourself with this final lecture by Brene Brown on the power of vulnerability. I explore a key concept during my Ramadan series, specifically in this post about Rahma. I actually got Brown’s lecture recommended to me when I got several responses to my posts about my TED binge, so I am a bit happy that I was hitting on some of the themes on vulnerability when talking about having Rahma in our lives before I actually watched Brene talk about vulnerability being a key ingredient to being happy, confident and fulfilled in life.
Tags: networking, professional networking, sdwtc, simon vetter, speaker series
“Great another networking event!” The fact that being inebriated makes you less conscious of your behavior, thus making the tedious task of “small talk socializing” at the event easier makes for an attractive reason to drink (sip here won’t hurt!). But if you choose to stick to the halal/haram distinction (the sunnah and Quranic mandate) then you can’t get your liquor on.
Being drunk also won’t make the situation easier, nor will it be beneficial to you in your personal life or for you career. I think lots of folks feel that “networking” is just a useless term that lacks any credible real world translation. Its fake, so people there are fake, and the conversations there are shallow and ultimately its what you do if you are in the world of business, of any sorts. Working at a non-profit I got to go to my fair share of these “networking” events. They come in a variety of window dressings but ultimately its a means for people to meet other people and get something out of it.
If you are like me, you probably found yourself going toward the corners of the room and finding a group to “nest” with because its safe. But as the years went on I learned to challenge myself and some of the greatest collaborations I had the opportunity to work on came from meeting people in these situations.
If you don’t believe me then just pick up a networking book, anyone, and the statistics are all laid bare. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 70 percent of jobs are found through networking. All my internship during college, my college jobs as well as my career at CAIR came through networking.
Okay, so I shouldn’t have to be selling you on networking, if thats the case this blogpost isn’t for, go over to this post at Yale, do some soul searching there. Below is a how to guide to become a better networker.
I learned to network by watching some amazing networkers, then imitating their style and adapting it to work for myself. There are some basic rules you should remember because networking is a tedious task, its not just simply talking to people, its learning to be efficient in what you talk about. You also have to show a little gumption by presenting yourself as composed an interested in what people have to say even though you might not be. Also, you need to come off as being an interesting person yourself. All of that is an sort of craft, call it acting? This means you can’t have emotional meltdowns, you should stick with the solid rule of leaving religion and politics out of the conversation (a bit hard to to do if you follow certain religious etiquette’s and practices, at which point its the big elephant in the room). Finally, you got to look your best, be presentable because first impressions count.
Like any art its something that through practice and some basic foundational understandings you can make your own. One of the ultimate networkers I have met in my time is a guy who goes by the initials O.G. He’s the ultimate social networking guru. If you know him, you probably can drop his name in any new city you happen to be in and people will know him, or know of him. His style is classic, simple and pretty ingenious. He opens with “So, whats your story.” You feel like he’s there to listen to you and through the first five minutes he’ll get all that makes you the person you are- your name, your brief personal history, why you are at the event, where you are from, what you do, and anything else you drop within that time frame. Then he’s on to the other folks in the room and just like that he’s worked the room where he’s met all the faces he hasn’t been introduced to.
Thats the key though, being introduced. You tell yourself someone is going to introduce you to this person, or that person, but that never happens, what then? Try this activity- give yourself 3 minutes of time without any distractions. Write down “What is your story?” and start the timer. See what you write down. If you want further proof, ask two other people to do the same thing. What I notice is that there is a common thread in the responses people put down to that question, but sometimes there are big holes. Like someone might not put down “why they are at an event” because thats outside the context of the conversation, yet that helps establish a point of relations. In the future people will remember that you were at that particular even for that particular purpose.
At the end of the day you want your networking experience to be beneficial, to give it purpose you need to construct some foundation to work off of. I find that there are some really good questions, and I present them in an order that will make sense later:
- What brings you to the event? how are you connected to the organization?
- Whats your name?
- Where are you from? Where do you live?
- Whats your profession?
- When your not working, what do you like to do?
- Where have you travelled? Or do you have any travel plans in the future?
- Ask any question- except for politics and/or religion- unless the other person brings it up.
- Imagine yourself in a stadium full of people (whatever sporting even you fancy);
- See your name written on the field;
- In the corner of the field you see your house;
- Out of the house- door, window, chimney, whatever- you see a briefcase flying out.
- You keep your eyes locked on the briefcase until it gets pierced by a golf club and falls down;
- At this point you begin to see an airplane flying above the stadium;
- You follow the airplane until you notice it has a green light at the front of it.
Now you tell yourself this ridiculous string of images until you begin to associate the line of questioning in which the stadium reflect the question of “why are you here? How are you associated to this event?” The name on the field is your way of introducing yourself to the person your talking to and getting their name. The house in the corner is the question about “where the person lives and whats their background?” (remember their name, if its Indian, well your names sounds like Indian…) The flying briefcase is connected to the question about the persons profession. The golf club is about what the person does outside of work- they might sit on a non-profit board or be interested in the environment and you happen to know someone who shares that interest. The airplane is the question about traveling, and Mr.Vetter basically said that everyone likes to travel so its a neutral safe question to ask in order to get insight into the person your talking to, who knows they might be speaking at a conference that just might be something you would want to go to in order to advance your professional network? Finally the green light is your opportunity to ask any questions that you feel will help you get to know the person.
Thats networking technique in a nutshell. Go to the mosque or some community event and try it. At the end of the day if you won’t take risks and challenge yourself to talk to people you don’t know, no technique is going to help you. You have to be willing to put yourself out there, this technique is a means of managing the anxiety and awkwardness presented in networking situations. Finally, remember don’t stick to one person, the more you move around the room the comfortable the situation gets. At some point people won’t be strangers, you would have met most of the folks present and the networking situation won’t be as intimidating as it would be had you not mingled.