I had planned to concentrate on doing my weekly blog post first thing this morning. Not to become diverted by any other chores. However, it is now two hours later, and I have not yet started on my noble intention.

Some Diversions

Checking up on Croquet Result

Against my better judgement, I took a sneak preview of my inbox. No, I would not open any emails, but I would just check in case there is something personal requiring an urgent response. My goodness me – here are the results from the Croquet Tournament I participated in on Sunday morning. I must just check in here quickly.

This competition takes place over four months – one session happening on the last Sunday morning of the month from June to September. It is crucial for me to take a sneak preview of how the 16 competitors fared in the 90 matches which have been played thus far. Results have come in for the three sessions that have now taken place.

How am I doing? Unfortunately, not too well! There seems to be an error here, so just a quick email to Judy to check she has added all the results correctly! And, a double check I have not misinterpreted her score table. I had better make a print out of this complicated score sheet.  It will make it easier for me to study these multiple recorded scores.

What does Ellen Want

Then I must just find out what this woman Ellen is all about. Her name caught my attention when I snatched a quick review of incoming emails. Yes, she had sent me 3 free PDF’s – instructions about how to become a better blogger. She is now telling me that if I read them, let her know which is the most useful to me, I will then get a free consultation worth $97! I am so tempted to go and skim them. But no, I will restrain myself.

The Phone now Interrupts

Now there is a phone call. “Can I come and fill in at a bridge game this afternoon,” queries the caller. “Sorry,” I respond, “I have a commitment with my granddaughter this afternoon.” “Oh,” says my inviter, “I was just phoning anybody because someone dropped out of the bridge game this morning.”

Now I am really distressed. What does she mean by ‘anybody?’ I always thought I was ‘somebody’ and now I am being told I am ‘anybody’. Do I need to respond to this unconscious derogatory judgement from my caller?   Maybe I will let it pass.

Back to Blogging

I have been exploring the blogging scene for the past six months. No great results. Nothing too bad, either. I am trying to master Facebook in order to grow my following and have roped in my daughter’s young administrative assistant, to teach me how to integrate the Social Media into my repertoire of skills. Whew! It is quite a journey.

Facebook Challenges

How do people just pick up these skills and this knowledge?   Is it by trial and error? For me, it is far from intuitive. If truth were told, it is quite a slog. But then, this is all part of my aspirational lifestyle. I cannot preach the story about taking on new challenges if I personally shirk those opportunities. As a result of this blogging venture, I now have not only a personal Facebook page but A Mind of Grace page on Facebook, as well.  According to my teacher, I need to update these pages every day with enticing material. I need to like a whole bunch of new people. I have to respond to comments. I must comment on the blogs of other contributors. I need to update my profile. I must check up what people in my niche are doing. And, I thought this was going to be fun!

And Instagram as Well!

Now, my teacher wants me to become Instagram enabled, as well. Is it not enough that I use WhatsApp, and Facebook, and Blog? “No,” she says, “You need to use Instagram. That is where you need to be.” To use Instagram, you need to upload pictures from your cellphone. Now, that is a new activity for me. I can upload pictures from my computer, but for this social medium, I need to send them from my cellphone to the computer.

Skills New and Old

While I learned to touch-type 60 years ago, and can probably do about 40 words a minute on the keyboard, on the tiny cellphone, I can only input about 10 words a minute. This is excruciatingly painful. It is one thing to practice my croquet shots in order to improve my game, but do I now have to practice inputting data on my cellphone with my two thumbs? I suppose that is something for me to practice when I am in the bank waiting for my number to be called!

This is what Keeps me Going

Looking on the bright side, something exciting happened at 9pm last night. When checking my emails, I learned that the experimental blog I sent to Thrive Global has been accepted. So there I saw my piece on the prestigious site which is run by Adrianna Huffington.

My mamma may not be impressed, and my dadda may not be impressed, but I was pretty excited with this news. This exhilaration was because having been featured on Thrive Global I was being offered the facility to link my post on WhatsApp to my multiple contacts. Now, that was going to be fun. While it is not so great transferring data from WhatsApp to the computer, the reverse procedure was sure worthwhile. And, all I had to do was to follow the instructions sent by Thrive Global which were detailed on my screen.

Sometimes I become Over-excited!

I think I may have overdone it as the link was sent to all and sundry. Yes, the life of a blogger is not lacking in incident. The disappointment of not growing my list as fast as I would like to. The knowledge that I have so much to learn and master to be a ‘successful’ blogger. I need to create sales funnels, free offers, and lessons, and do surveys. The list does not end.

Completion

But, I have now written my morning blog! I have my first piece up on a prestigious website. So I am off to see the physiotherapist for treatment of my upper arm. This is an injury that has kept me off the tennis court for the past month. But, I will be back playing tennis soon as long as I am up-to-date with my blogging time-table!

A serendipitous viewing of this fascinating debate between Jonathan Sachs and Jonathan Haidt led me to pursue the evolving change in communication habits which influence our contemporary value systems.  The subject addressed by the two eloquent debaters examined the The Moral Dilemmas Created by Today’s Social Media.

Electronic Media

“Electronic media has not only linked us to many more people it has divorced verbal communication from human presence,” said Rabbi Sachs.   He went on to reference the anthropological work of Bronowski who did research with the Trobriand Islanders at the beginning of the 20th century.   His observation drew attention to the profound fact that islanders’ communication was more about bonding than the exchange of information.   An acute reminder of the change of emphasis found within today’s society often billed as the Information Age.

Tablet Magazine

Soon after watching this discussion, my inbox received further information from Tablet Magazine of Haidt’s work.   When listening to his discussion with Rabbi Sachs, I had assumed he was a moral philosopher.   However, I was soon to learn that he is not only an academic Social Psychologist but is very actively promoting the introspection of changing social norms which he considers a danger to western liberal thought.

I was fascinated to learn about the work he is doing on American University Campuses.   These are the very space which should be a bastion of free speech.  However, they very often become a place where visitors who promote unwelcome ideas are not allowed to express their views.

Asteroid Club

Have you heard of an Asteroid Club? Whether it is a friend with whom you have a clash of values, a co-worker who views life from a different perspective or a friend with a dissimilar viewpoint, membership of this club will guide you on how to go about creating a safe space for a positive discussion.   Meetings under the auspices of the Asteroid Club are conducted with specific guide lines.   The aim is to enrich one’s resources and perspectives on current controversial subjects be they politics, religion or sexual orientation.

Certain guidelines have been suggested to assist the discussion when people with varying outlooks engage in dialogue.   Members are made aware of the evolutionary predisposition of humanity to form groups of like minded people.   Contributors are made aware that the aim of the discussion is not to convert others to their side, but rather to widen their knowledge of different points of view

While this social experiment would start with a core group of 8 – 10 people who represent different viewpoints, as the group develops the numbers of participants may grow.   The discussants are encouraged to provide food and drink as a lubricant for social interactions.   So if you believe that civic discourse should be more open than it is today, you can form your own Asteroids Club!

Heterodox Academy

Another practical initiative initiated by Jonathan Haidt, is his Heterodox Academy which is a collaborative of more than 2500 professors, administrators and graduate students who are committed to promoting open inquiry, viewpoint diversity and constructive disagreement in institutions of higher learning.

It is felt that in many fields of research, important question and ideas may be overlooked because of the traditional perspective of that particular institution.   The academics who participate in the Heterodox Academy are attempting to regain the traditional open debate, which ideally should take place in any institution of higher learning.

Freedom of Expression

Many students on American university campuses complain today that they are frightened to make their voices heard, thus undermining the most essential raison d’etre of this learning establishment.   Even administrators and staff are censored regarding the views they can express.  The retention of viewpoint diversity needs to be strictly guarded at all institutions of higher learning

OpenMind

OpenMind is a psychology-based educational platform designed to depolarize campuses, companies, organizations, and communities. With this initiative, Haidt and his colleagues foster intellectual humility and mutual understanding.   At the same time, students are equipped with the essential cognitive skills to strengthen their ability to engage constructively across differences.

Concluding Thoughts

I have a strong belief that in everyday life the mutual exchange of opinions acts as an essential check on our own personal growth, ensuring we do not become entrenched in outmoded beliefs despite the changes taking place in the world around us.  We are helped to see things from the standpoint of the other, thus widening our vision.

An invitation

Do follow some of the links I have offered in this post, and let me know if you would like to be part of my forthcoming research community for Open Minded Seniors!

 

 

 

Professor John Webb of the University of Cape Town has done much pioneering work in the teaching of maths and has been active in organising Maths Olympiads in South Africa.   Today I was fortunate to be able to listen to him address the University of the Third Age on “Maths in the Media: how Newspapers Handle Maths Stories”

The audience, who only needed a knowledge of High School Maths to appreciate the nuances of these factual blunders, were entertained by the lecturer’s examples of mathematical ignorance or sloppiness demonstrated by newspaper journalists writing for both specialist and general publications.

Fun with Numbers

I have been attending a monthly meeting offered by our local U3A entitled “Fun with Numbers.”   A small group of enthusiasts who are fascinated by the intricacies of mathematical logic have been meeting on a monthly basis for the past 6 years.   Our collection is headed by a retired maths teacher named Alison Kitto who has the capacity to engage us in fascinating puzzles around the intricacies of numbers, so this was a talk in which I was definitely interested in attending.

Journalism and Maths

Professor Webb introduced us to the topic by quoting an oft admitted shortcoming confessed by journalists who may self-effacingly state, “I was never very good at maths.”   This naive statement was amply demonstrated many times during his presentation.   No journalist would be able to get away with similar gaffs were they made within the grammatical rules of the English language.   The lack of general awareness among the public of these omnipresent inaccuracies, seems to imply that most people who casually read numbers do not actually attend to their significance.

Different Currencies

“The price that Elvis Presley payed for his home of Graceland was about R731237,”   read an announcement in The Times, 17 August 2010.   A somewhat innocuous sum of money, but meaningless when you consider that South African currency was not quoted in Rands in that era, but in Pounds. The country introduced decimalisation only in 1961, which was when the Pound became the Rand.  In addition when a six digit figure is quoted it is somewhat meaningless to prefix it with the description of ‘about!’, as was done in this example.

So let’s try and work out what the logic may have been to reach the sum quoted above.    We know that he pound value of Graceland in 1957 was £36 600.   When South Africa decimalised its currency in 1961 the South African Pound became two Rands.  Multiplying 36 600 by two we get 73 000.   It seems this must have been the logic behind the figure – however the calculation remains incorrect by a factor of ten!

Drinking Straws

There has been much publicity recently about the accumulation of plastic drinking straws which have collected in the depths of the oceans.   So much so that any restaurateur who has a minimal conscience about pollution would be offering his customers paper straws by now.  The statement quoted claimed that, “A person uses 38,000 straws in his life-time.   Let us look at this figure a little more closely.   Say you live to the age of 100.    There are 365 days in the year, so if you were to use 1 straw a day you would use 365 x 100 = 36500 straws in your lifetime.    That requires a dedication to drinking through a straw once a day every day of your life. You still have 1500 extra straws to use during the year!

Language Errors

The Pan African Mathematics Olympiad hosts many countries which are French Speaking, for example Morocco, Tunisia, Senegal and Ivory Coast.    It is interesting to note the extent that Africa was colonised by the French. The French language is spoken by an estimated 120 million people in Africa, and these francophone countries are spread amongst across Africa’s 24 different political entities.   Instructions for the local Olympiad are therefore translated into French leading the words “Pan African” to be translated as ‘casserole’

Future Projections of Age

This one was particularly intriguing for me as I am so often reading about the projections for the number of people who will be suffering from Alzheimer’s in the future.   In a 2013 publication it was estimated that, “By 2025 more than 1.2 million people in the world will be older than 120 years of age.”   A pretty innocuous projection until you look at the statement a little more closely.   People who are 120 years old in 2025, would need to be 108 in 2013.   However if you look up the statistics of world population figures, there were only 10 people alive in 2013 who were 108 years old. Most people reading this exaggerated statement would not stop long enough to think about its inaccuracy.

Climate Change Denialism

It makes me wonder how many statistics about Climate Change would be contrived inaccurately to create the impression the writer wished to present.    Those who promoting the Denialism of Climate Change could well be reading the type of reports where figures are being quoted with no logical basis.   The naïve can be so readily influenced by sloppy journalism and could be quoting figures with no factual basis to support their non-scientific perspective. Maybe this is something about which I could do some research!