Monthly Archives: December 2012

16 Habits You Should Do Every Day [Taken from Kratos Guide]

This is an excerpt from a post titled ’16 Habits You Should Do Every Day’ as taken from Kratosguide.com. The full article is quite wonderful. A must read. Please click here to read the full article.

III. The 16 Daily Rituals

1. Exercise – Exercise is essential; I briefly touched on what happens to you in the short term but consider also the long term effects of regular exercise. As you maintain a regiment of exercise your body fat percentage drops, your flexibility and strength increase (less chance of injury) your lifespan extends, your immune system is bolstered, you maintain your youth longer, you carry over a sustained vigor to other parts of your life, your resting heart rate goes down, and you have a general feeling of well being. Pretty sweet. Clearly exercising is very important; given both its short and long term benefits.

But do you have to do this every day? That seems strenuous. Try expanding your definition – You don’t give it your 100% every day. Some days may be 10 minutes of simple light stretching, just to keep the habit. Other days may be 2.5 hour monster gym sessions.

I use this habit to help me accomplish two other things very important to me, meditation and getting into nature. Often times my physical exertion is a one hour walk through the park or along the water front. Practicing a walking meditation is a great way to center yourself and help carry the skill over to everyday life. Being in nature has a similar balancing effect on your well being.

But you don’t need me to tell you to work out. The benefits are all clearly documented by scientists and people. There are networks and resources for support and endless sources of inspiration to motivate you.

2. Meditation – This habit is invaluable. You need to meditate. Think about what part of the human experience spirituality addresses – the ego and fear – two concepts that would benefit you SO much to control. I think a lot of people get messed up here because the benefits are very intangible at first. The “S curve” of Mastery that I described above has a very looong period of ‘sucking shit’. If you’re not experienced then your image of what meditation should be like is wrong. Fighting your expectations will be a constant battle as you learn to meditate. Here are some resources to help you learn.

Reddit Article – Very concise introduction to meditation • Mindfulness in Plain English – Amazing book that covers the topic clearly and in depth • Meditation Retreat – 10 day intensive mediation retreat • Binaural Beats – Beats that can help induce a meditative state (great training wheels, also make sure you are using good quality headphones) • Self Transformation Through Meditation – Another article on this site you can check out

Practice – Start meditating everyday. The evidence is in by a landslide, both anecdotally and empirically. Meditation will change your life so start today, any reason you may have for not trying is an excuse.

Once you get the hang of it you will leave your meditation sessions feeling centered, calm, and relaxed. It has an ego-lessening effect and awareness increasing effect that spills over to your everyday life. If you keep up the practice you’ll notice that your focus and attention span increases dramatically, as does your sight and sound sensitivity (think of the most visceral things you do – sex, eating, sports etc.) Brain regions associated with attention, interoception and sensory processing will literally become thicker.

In the long term, meditation offers a ‘profound transformation of how you experience reality’ It will bring you joy, peace, and happiness. This is real and you need to be doing it.

3. Reading – If you read the right books you will be moved, inspired, and motivated.

Think about what you expose yourself to. There’s a million shitty blogs on the internet written by whoever. But then there’s books out there that will change your life. Books that the most gifted human beings on earth have spent years writing. A lifetime of experiences, insights, and lessons learned given to you in a nice handheld easily digestible form.

I started this habit at a half hour a day. Recently I’ve started reading about an hour a day and am burning through books. With a constant flow of information in, you increase your ability for information to flow out (applying knowledge to your life)

Reading is an easy habit to put off and you need to make it a priority. If you’re not regularly reading then you may start to fall asleep as you pick up a book. Your mind is not conditioned properly and you need to force yourself through that period. Your reading speed and comprehension do pick up over time – just stick to it.

If you have no idea where to begin, the recommended reading section is a good place to start.

4. Creative Recreation – People are going to approach this one very differently but if there is something you can sit down and do purely for your enjoyment than that’s awesome. Think of a flow state activity that you can put your full expression into. For me it’s playing an instrument. If you’ve ever seen someone play the guitar or piano at an extremely high level in a non performance setting then you’ll know what I’m talking about. The “S” curve of learning an instrument is very, very, very long. But you get out what you put in. Your amusements will leave you feeling rejuvenated and can often break up and lighten the day. As you invest in your hobbies you will get more and more out of them

I generalized this habit as ‘creative recreation’ because I want to emphasize the fact that recreation is not a spectator sport. Vegetating on the couch watching commercials is not recreation.

5. Nutrition – As you build a productive life your ability to stay focused and have energy becomes very important. What you eat has a big effect on how you feel. If you eat right you can avoid energy crashes, fight off sickness, and generally just feel ‘good’.

I know that I’m definitely not the best person to give nutrition advice but the resources are out there. It should be obvious that what you put in your body is very important. Do yourself a favor and learn how your body works.

For me, I don’t eat sugar or processed food. I drink 1.5L of water a day and I make an extra effort to eat more plant based foods. I supplement my diet with fish oil etc. I think what’s most important though is that you proactively decide what you put in your body. Make the time to cook your meals, keep your fridge stocked, and don’t buy convenience food.

6. Reasonable Spending – Like nutrition, this habit is more of a choice you make rather than an active investment of your time. Its pretty straight forward, every day I try to manage my money reasonably.

Apply the concept of reactivity/proactively to your spending and you have an excellent framework for managing your money. Did you plan on making this purchase? If not then don’t do it. The nature of planning a purchase is that it is in line with your goals and budget. The nature of making an impulsive/reactive purchase is quite the opposite, ‘it is right here and will satisfy me right now’ (mostly consumer/convenience items)

7. Brain Buster + Current Events – Part of my morning routine is to check out the economist, my local news site, or the new york times and read two or three articles. Given my background and where I want to go in life it is going to serve me well to be informed and have the ability to notice trends and understand the complexity of global issues.

I also work very hard to develop my critical and lateral thinking. Every day I challenge myself to solve one extremely difficult problem. Actually I only figure them out about 30% of the time. On my computer I have a repository of IQ, Mensa, brain buster type books that would take a lifetime to work through. Some problems I solve in five minutes others take me thirty until I break down and look at the solution.

If you run a business or are any kind of decision making authority (or eventually want to be in that position) then I can’t vouch enough for this habit. You need to be sharp and informed. Period.

8. Social – Every day I make an effort to advance my social skills. Your ability to communicate effectively with human beings has so many implications in your personal and professional life. I’ve gone through experiments with this habit and I think the less your around people the more you need to make it a priority (my lifestyle right now has me around new people ALL the time, but there have been other times in my life when I actively had to make that happen)

I’ve tried a few different things. For a while I really focused on listening to people with the intent to understand, pushing the urge to get my point across aside and giving other people the floor when they were expressing themselves. I’ve done different experiments with eye contact and physicality while communicating as well. Regardless, going out and just talking to people trumps all when it comes to developing your social skills.

9. Personal Management – This is the easiest of all habits to implement. Just 10 minutes a day and your bachelor pad is looking clean and fresh. Not many long term benefits here except maybe you don’t lose your possessions as often and they have and increased lifespan. In the short term doing your laundry, not letting your dishes pile up, and making your bed can offer you a peace of mind and allow you to work unfettered on other projects.

10. Project 1, 2 or more times a week – For me I set aside a two hour block twice a week to work on a personal project. This could be fleshing out a business feasibility plan, recreating my weightlifting routine, catching up on some reading, creating a budget, doing research, or writing this mega post.

At the beginning of each week I choose what two projects I plan to work on and within the week I find time to fit them in. Use this habit as a way of revitalizing old projects that are collecting dust or to begin something new that you’ve been thinking about but haven’t got around to.

The effects this habit has on your short and long term productivity are enormous.

11. Podcast/TED Talk/University Lecture – If you’re a thinking human being with a desire for knowledge then you should be listening to podcasts, watching ted talks and viewing the thousands of lectures professors and researchers have on the internet.

This is a habit I integrated for both its short term and long term benefits. In the short term I find it interesting to learn about new topics. A lot of times it’s on a subject I’m interested in at the time, other times its something completely new. Either way I’m exposing myself to the best and brightest minds of today and expanding my understanding of the world.

If you engaged yourself with this material every day, what would the long term effects be? Besides a vast and varied wealth of knowledge you would begin to draw disciplines together. Your understanding and awareness would grow so large that the value and wisdom you could offer other people would be incredible.

*For a practical tip, throw a queue of talks you’re interested in on your iPod and listen while exercising.

12. Language – Every day I spend thirty minutes learning a new language. This is an ongoing task that I struggled to integrate. You realize almost no immediate benefit and that makes it exceptionally difficult to do every day. The “S” curve of mastery is very, very long (years).

But alas, the benefits in the long term must be exceptionally rewarding. I can only speculate as I currently only speak one language, but from my time studying in Italy I can tell you I would have got a lot more out of the experience had I spoke the language. Coming from a business perspective being bi/multi-lingual would likely be a huge advantage.

For me, I intend to spend a large part of my life travelling. If you expect to live another 50/60 years of life on this earth then imagine the lifetime of opportunities and experiences other languages may open you up to. Don’t cut yourself off.

For some practical advice getting started I recommend the Rosetta stone. It’s a visual program that is a great way for getting you started. Listen to talk radio (via internet) and get a language book with exercises to help you practice. Get a woman your seeing to join in. It accelerates the process so much if you have someone to practice speaking with.

We are the first generation with ready access to the internet. The resources to help you pick up a language are out there and they are free – use them.

13. Plan the next day – This is so crucial.

Note that there is a small learning curve to this as you figure out a system that works for you. Maybe you like to manage your timetable through your phone, or maybe you just pencil out what you do on a list. Whatever the method it must satisfy two requirements: 1) The document must be easily accessible to you throughout the day, and 2) it must specify approximate times when you will complete each task.

It’s pretty simple. When you have some time to think with a clear mind you plan out what you want your next day to look like you do it. The time you know you have to yourself (mornings usually) you can set a more ridged structure than the times where there are many variables as to what you may be doing.

The plan is your servant, not your master. Never get upset if things don’t go the way you thought – it’s just a guideline to keep you on track. Lost time, interferences, failing to execute out of laziness or apathy, unforeseen events, all of this will happen. Don’t be worried, the element of proactivity you introduce into your life by planning your days out already places you way ahead.

 

– Alpha

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Newtown kids v Yemenis and Pakistanis: what explains the disparate reactions? [Guardian Article]

This is one of the more insightful journalistic commentry I have read in a while.  Glen Greenwald has done an excellent job in describing the lack of attention from media and public with killings of equal horrific nature in Pakistan and Yemen. The article is fully reproduced here under. Please refer to the Guardian Website for the original piece here.

 

Over the last several days, numerous commentators have lamented the vastly different reactions in the US to the heinous shooting of children in Newtown, Connecticut as compared to the continuous killing of (far more) children and innocent adults by the US government in Pakistan and Yemen, among other places. The blogger Atrios this week succinctly observed:

“I do wish more people who manage to fully comprehend the broad trauma a mass shooting can have on our country would consider the consequences of a decade of war.”

My Guardian colleague George Monbiot has a powerful and eloquent column this week provocatively entitled: “In the US, mass child killings are tragedies. In Pakistan, mere bug splats”. He points out all the ways that Obama has made lethal US attacks in these predominantly Muslim countries not only more frequent but also more indiscriminate – “signature strikes” and “double-tap” attacks on rescuers and funerals – and then argues:

“Most of the world’s media, which has rightly commemorated the children of Newtown, either ignores Obama’s murders or accepts the official version that all those killed are ‘militants’. The children of north-west Pakistan, it seems, are not like our children. They have no names, no pictures, no memorials of candles and flowers and teddy bears. They belong to the other: to the non-human world of bugs and grass and tissue.

“‘Are we,’ Obama asked on Sunday, ‘prepared to say that such violence visited on our children year after year after year is somehow the price of our freedom?’ It’s a valid question. He should apply it to the violence he is visiting on the children of Pakistan.”

Political philosophy professor Falguni Sheth similarly writes that “the shooting in Newtown, CT is but part and parcel of a culture of shooting children, shooting civilians, shooting innocent adults, that has been waged by the US government since September 12, 2001.” She adds:

“And let there be no mistake: many of ‘us’ have directly felt the impact of that culture: Which ‘us’? Yemeni parents, Pakistani uncles and aunts, Afghan grandparents and cousins, Somali brothers and sisters, Filipino cousins have experienced the impact of the culture of killing children. Families of children who live in countries that are routinely droned by the US [government]. Families of children whose villages are raided nightly in Afghanistan and Iraq.”

Meanwhile, University of Michigan professor Juan Cole, at the peak of mourning over Newtown, simply urged: “Let’s also Remember the 178 children Killed by US Drones“. He detailed the various ways that children and other innocents have had their lives extinguished by President Obama’s policies, and then posted this powerful (and warning: graphic) one-and-a-half-minute video from a new documentary on drones by filmmaker Robert Greenwald (no relation):

Finally, the Yemeni blogger Noon Arabia posted a moving plea on Monday: “Our children’s blood is not cheaper than American blood and the pain of loosing [sic] them is just as devastating. Our children matter too, Mr. President! These tragedies ‘also’ must end and to end them ‘YOU’ must change!”

There’s just no denying that many of the same people understandably expressing such grief and horror over the children who were killed in Newtown steadfastly overlook, if not outright support, the equally violent killing of Yemeni and Pakistani children. Consider this irony: Monday was the three-year anniversary of President Obama’s cruise missile and cluster-bomb attack on al-Majala in Southern Yemen that ended the lives of 14 women and 21 children: one more child than was killed by the Newtown gunman. In the US, that mass slaughter received not even a small fraction of the attention commanded by Newtown, and prompted almost no objections (in predominantly Muslim nations, by contrast, it received ample attention and anger).

It is well worth asking what accounts for this radically different reaction to the killing of children and other innocents. Relatedly, why is the US media so devoted to covering in depth every last detail of the children killed in the Newtown attack, but so indifferent to the children killed by its own government?

To ask this question is not – repeat: is not – to equate the Newtown attack with US government attacks. There are, one should grant, obvious and important differences.

To begin with, it is a natural and probably universal human inclination to care more about violence that seems to threaten us personally than violence that does not. Every American parent sends their children to schools of the type attacked in Newtown and empathy with the victims is thus automatic. Few American parents fear having their children attacked by US drones, cruise missiles and cluster bombs in remote regions in Pakistan and Yemen, and empathy with those victims is thus easier to avoid, more difficult to establish.

One should strive to see the world and prioritize injustices free of pure self-interest – caring about grave abuses that are unlikely to affect us personally is a hallmark of a civilized person – but we are all constructed to regard imminent dangers to ourselves and our loved ones with greater urgency than those that appear more remote. Ignoble though it is, that’s just part of being human – though our capacity to liberate ourselves from pure self-interest means that it does not excuse this indifference.

Then there’s the issue of perceived justification. Nobody can offer, let alone embrace, any rationale for the Newtown assault: it was random, indiscriminate, senseless and deliberate slaughter of innocents. Those who support Obama’s continuous attacks, or flamboyantly display their tortured “ambivalence” as a means of avoiding criticizing him, can at least invoke a Cheneyite slogan along with a McVeigh-taught-military-term to pretend that there’s some purpose to these killings: We Have To Kill The Terrorists, and these dead kids are just Collateral Damage. This rationale is deeply dishonest, ignorant, jingoistic, propagandistic, and sociopathic, but its existence means one cannot equate it to the Newtown killing.

But there are nonetheless two key issues highlighted by the intense grief for the Newtown victims compared to the utter indifference to the victims of Obama’s militarism. The first is that it underscores how potent and effective the last decade’s anti-Muslim dehumanization campaign has been.

Every war – particularly protracted ones like the “War on Terror” – demands sustained dehumanization campaigns against the targets of the violence. Few populations will tolerate continuous killings if they have to confront the humanity of those who are being killed. The humanity of the victims must be hidden and denied. That’s the only way this constant extinguishing of life by their government can be justified or at least ignored. That was the key point made in the extraordinarily brave speech given by then-MSNBC reporter Ashleigh Banfield in 2003 after she returned from Iraq, before she was demoted and then fired: that US media coverage of US violence is designed to conceal the identity and fate of its victims.

The violence and rights abridgments of the Bush and Obama administrations have been applied almost exclusively to Muslims. It is, therefore, Muslims who have been systematically dehumanized. Americans virtually never hear about the Muslims killed by their government’s violence. They’re never profiled. The New York Times doesn’t put powerful graphics showing their names and ages on its front page. Their funerals are never covered. President Obama never delivers teary sermons about how these Muslim children “had their entire lives ahead of them – birthdays, graduations, weddings, kids of their own.” That’s what dehumanization is: their humanity is disappeared so that we don’t have to face it.

But this dehumanization is about more than simply hiding and thus denying the personhood of Muslim victims of US violence. It is worse than that: it is based on the implicit, and sometimes overtly stated, premise that Muslims generally, even those guilty of nothing, deserve what the US does to them, or are at least presumed to carry blame.

Just a few months ago, the New York Times reported that the Obama administration has re-defined the term “militant” to mean: “all military-age males in a strike zone” – the ultimate expression of the rancid dehumanizing view that Muslims are inherently guilty of being Terrorists unless proven otherwise. When Obama’s campaign surrogate and former Press Secretary Robert Gibbs was asked about the US killing by drone strike of 16-year-old American citizen Abdulrahman Awlaki two weeks after his father was killed, Gibbs unleashed one of the most repulsive statements heard in some time: that Abdulrahman should have “had a more responsible father”. Even when innocent Muslim teenagers are killed by US violence, it is their fault, and not the fault of the US and its leaders.

All of this has led to rhetoric and behavior that is nothing short of deranged when it comes to discussing the Muslim children and other innocents killed by US violence. I literally have never witnessed mockery over dead children like that which is spewed from some of Obama’s hard-core progressive supporters whenever I mention the child-victims of Obama’s drone attacks. Jokes like that are automatic. In this case at least, the fish rots from the head: recall President Obama’s jovial jokes at a glamorous media dinner about his use of drones to kill teeangers (sanctioned by the very same political faction that found Bush’s jokes about his militarism – delivered at the same media banquet several years earlier – so offensive). Just as is true of Gibbs’ deranged and callous rationale, jokes like that are possible only when you have denied the humanity of those who are killed. Would Newtown jokes be tolerated by anyone?

Dehumanization of Muslims is often overt, by necessity, in US military culture. The Guardian headline to Monbiot’s column refers to the term which Rolling Stones’ Michael Hastings reported is used for drone victims: “bug splat”. And consider this passage from an amazing story this week in Der Spiegel (but not, notably, in US media) on a US drone pilot, Brandon Bryant, who had to quit because he could no longer cope with the huge amount of civilian deaths he was witnessing and helping to cause:

“Bryant and his coworkers sat in front of 14 computer monitors and four keyboards. When Bryant pressed a button in New Mexico, someone died on the other side of the world. . . .

“[H]e remembers one incident very clearly when a Predator drone was circling in a figure-eight pattern in the sky above Afghanistan, more than 10,000 kilometers (6,250 miles) away. There was a flat-roofed house made of mud, with a shed used to hold goats in the crosshairs, as Bryant recalls. When he received the order to fire, he pressed a button with his left hand and marked the roof with a laser. The pilot sitting next to him pressed the trigger on a joystick, causing the drone to launch a Hellfire missile. There were 16 seconds left until impact. . . .

“With seven seconds left to go, there was no one to be seen on the ground. Bryant could still have diverted the missile at that point. Then it was down to three seconds. Bryant felt as if he had to count each individual pixel on the monitor. Suddenly a child walked around the corner, he says.

“Second zero was the moment in which Bryant’s digital world collided with the real one in a village between Baghlan and Mazar-e-Sharif.

“Bryant saw a flash on the screen: the explosion. Parts of the building collapsed. The child had disappeared. Bryant had a sick feeling in his stomach.

“‘Did we just kill a kid?’ he asked the man sitting next to him.

“‘Yeah, I guess that was a kid,’ the pilot replied.

“‘Was that a kid?’ they wrote into a chat window on the monitor.

“Then, someone they didn’t know answered, someone sitting in a military command center somewhere in the world who had observed their attack. ‘No. That was a dog,’ the person wrote.

“They reviewed the scene on video. A dog on two legs?”

 

Seeing Muslim children literally as dogs: few images more perfectly express the sustained dehumanization at the heart of US militarism and aggression over the last decade.

Citizens of a militaristic empire are inexorably trained to adopt the mentality of their armies: just listen to Good Progressive Obama defenders swagger around like they’re decorated, cigar-chomping combat veterans spouting phrases like “war is hell” and “collateral damage” to justify all of this. That is the anti-Muslim dehumanization campaign rearing its toxic head.

There’s one other issue highlighted by this disparate reaction: the question of agency and culpability. It’s easy to express rage over the Newtown shooting because so few of us bear any responsibility for it and – although we can take steps to minimize the impact and make similar attacks less likely – there is ultimately little we can do to stop psychotic individuals from snapping. Fury is easy because it’s easy to tell ourselves that the perpetrator – the shooter – has so little to do with us and our actions.

Exactly the opposite is true for the violence that continuously kills children and other innocent people in the Muslim world. Many of us empowered and cheer for the person responsible for that. US citizens pay for it, enable it, and now under Obama, most at the very least acquiesce to it if not support it. It’s always much more difficult to acknowledge the deaths that we play a role in causing than it is to protest those to which we believe we have no connection. That, too, is a vital factor explaining these differing reactions.

Please spare me the objection that the Newtown shooting should not be used to make a point about the ongoing killing of Muslim children and other innocents by the US. Over the last week, long-time gun control advocates have seized on this school shooting in an attempt to generate support for their political agenda, and they’re perfectly right to do so: when an event commands widespread political attention and engages human emotion, that is exactly when one should attempt to persuade one’s fellow citizens to recognize injustices they typically ignore. That is no more true for gun control than it is the piles of corpses the Obama administration continues to pile up for no good reason – leaving in their wake, all over the Muslim world, one Newtown-like grieving ritual after the next.

As Monbiot observed: “there can scarcely be a person on earth with access to the media who is untouched by the grief of the people” in Newtown. The exact opposite is true for the children and their families continuously killed in the Muslim world by the US government: huge numbers of people, particularly in the countries responsible, remain completely untouched by the grief that is caused in those places. That is by design – to ensure that opposition is muted – and it is brutally effective.

Accolades

President Obama, the recipient of the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize, has just been bestowed by TIME Magazine with the equally prestigious and meaningful accolade of 2012 Person of the Year.

Iceland’s President Explains Why The World Needs To Rethink Its Addiction To Finance

Just read an article with Iceland’s president discussing the banking crisis and his handling of the crisis. Of the most insightful and profound things he has discussed in his interview, I really enjoyed the following:

As everybody knows now, we did not pump public money into the failed banks. We treated them like private companies that went bankrupt, and we let them fail. Some people say we did it because we didn’t have any other option, there is clearly something in that argument, but it does not change the fact that it turned out to be a wise move or whatever reason. Whereas in many other countries, the prevailing orthodoxy is you pump public money into banks and you make taxpayers responsible for the banks in the long run, and somehow treat the banks as if they are holier institutions in the economy than manufacturing companies, commercial companies, IT companies, or whatever. And I have never really understood the argument: why a private bank or financial fund is somehow holier for the well being and future of the economy than the industrial sector, the IT sector, the creative sector, or the manufacturing sector.

But there were other issues at stake as well. What the British and the Dutch were arguing was that somehow the European banking system was such that a private bank would operate anywhere in Europe, and if it succeeded, the bankers got extraordinary benefits, the shareholders got big profits. But if it failed, the bill would simply be sent to ordinary people back home: farmers and fishermen, nurses and teachers, young people and old. And that, I maintain, is a very unhealthy formula for the future of the European banking system. If you sent a signal to the bankers that you can be as irresponsible and daring as you want to be, and if you are lucky, you become very rich, but if you fail, other people will pay.

It is surprising that the country that prides itself on the capitalist nature of itself is the one that is not capitalist at all in its nature (talking about U.S over here!). And Iceland, which is more socialist than the U.S was able to take such step, such as letting the banks fail. Along with the failure, the government should also stand the people responsible for such gross negligence that caused the entire housing mess (i.e sellign MBS, CMOs as AAA when they should have been rated junk).  One of the reasons that might be is the lobbying of these financial institutions, and the immense power such institutions have on the lawmakers.

Now it is your time to think.

Iceland’s President Explains Why The World Needs To Rethink Its Addiction To Finance (BI)

 

 -Alpha