Archive for May, 2009

Learn from baboons how to make friends

May 26, 2009

 Izzy Kalman teaches  how to make friends. Check out his blog

“Now, let me teach you about baboons. Baboons are apes that live in the plains of Africa, and in many ways, they are like human beings. Like our ancestors, they live in tribes. But they are also extremely strong and dangerous. A human being would stand no chance in a fight with a baboon, and if they fight with each other, they can be deadly.

Male baboons don’t live forever in the same tribe. When a male baboons grows up, he leaves the safety of his own tribe and looks for another tribe to join, and he’ll probably live there for the rest of his life. But the young male baboon can’t just walk into the middle of a strange tribe and say, “Hey, I’m here to join. Where do I sign up?” He is a stranger to them, and they don’t need him. They’ve been getting along fine before he came along. They would see him as a dangerous enemy if he suddenly intruded into their tightly knit tribal group, and they would tear him to pieces. In order to accept him, they must first trust him and then get to like him.

So you know what the baboon does? It’s really quite amazing. He sits himself down far away from the tribe, but in a place where they can easily see him. Since he is far away and not acting in a threatening manner, they are not very scared of him. And then he just sits and waits. He waits days, weeks, and sometimes even months. His patience is really amazing. Can you imagine sitting for months near a group of people and having no real contact with them?! But that’s exactly what the baboon does. Little by little, he sits closer. They start getting used to him being there, and they lose fear of him. Then the children, who are by nature curious and adventurous, start going near him. They play with him, and he plays with them. Then some of the young women get curious, too, because they are as interested in meeting new guys as he is interested in meeting new girls. And eventually, he is inside the group. They have gotten used to him, they have gotten to like him, and he belongs.

You, too, can learn from the baboons. It will work the same way. Find the group you like, but don’t work hard. Do not try to force your way in, because they may push you out. Just hang out near them, and relax. If one of them notices you and starts up a conversation, then that’s wonderful, and you’ll probably be inside quicker. But if they don’t, don’t despair. Look around and find a group member who interests you and looks friendly, and start talking to him. What if you can’t think of anything? The easiest way to start a conversation is to pay him a compliment. Make it genuine. Think of something you believe the person would really enjoy being complimented about. He will probably be so grateful to you for noticing that he will tell you all about it, and before you realize it, you’ll have a new friend. That friend will be your key into the group.

The important thing is to have patience. Remember the baboon sitting quietly in the distance, and try to be like him. The kids will end up accepting your presence and will even forget that you were once not part of them. And the good thing is that people are quicker to accept others than baboons are. It won’t take months to belong. Members of the group will gradually start talking to you, and things will move quicker and quicker. It will probably be a matter of days, or a couple of weeks at the most, till you are considered to be part of the group. Just remember to be calm and to be yourself. Tell yourself, “I don’t care if they don’t accept me,” and they will end up accepting you more quickly. You’ll know how successful you are by how much fun you’re having. If you are enjoying being with them, you can be sure they are enjoying being with you in return.”


Thug Congress

May 21, 2009

If this doesn’t give you a chill up your spine, I am not sure what will.  A recent Diddly  post  mentioned how knee-jerk moral outrage really has really detracted from the quality of the political discourse around national security issues.  I think we ought to have an exception – we all ought to be outraged when a citizen can’t express an opinion to a journalist without being worried about being hauled before a congressional committee.  From   Read below.


Short version: A hedge fund manager thought it was unfair that mortgages were being arbitrarily rewritten by Congress to his disadvantage. He told the New York Times this. After the story ran, six liberal members of Congress sent him this letter:

We were outraged to read in today’s New york Times that you are actively opposing our efforts to achieve a diminution in foreclosures by voluntary efforts. Your decision is a serious threat to our efforts to respond to the current economic crisis, and we strongly urge you to reverse it. Given the importance of this to the economy and to what it means for future regulatory efforts, we have set a hearing for November 12, and we invite you to now testify. We believe it is essential for our policymaking function for you to appear at such a hearing, and if this can not be arranged on a vountary basis, then we will pursue further steps.

“We will pursue further steps.” But wait! There’s more!

For the hedge fund industry, which has flourished for much of the past decade, to take steps so actively in opposition to what is currently in the national economic interest is deeply troubling and will clearly have serious implications for the rules by which we operate in the future if this posture of obstruction of our efforts is maintained.

As Conor notes over at the Scene, this is what happens when you empower the government to make the decisions about what is in the economic interest. They use their power to threaten and bully those who don’t comprise their base of power. See: Venezuela under Chavez.

Josie and pushups

May 21, 2009

Every morning I do fifty pushups, usually right before I get dressed for work.

Josie has taken to assuming the push up position after I change her diaper and just before she gets dressed. It doesn’t last long, but she insists.


When I do push ups Josie thinks it is just the greatest thing. She crouches down right near my face as I go up and down and says, “What are you doin’ daddy ?” -over and over until I answer, which I do at some point  between 30 and 40,  “PUSHUPS!”  She responds, “No yell – Daddy.” Then she notices that I am usually grimacing as I exert myself as I get close to 50 , and she says, “I’m sorry , Daddy”. 



And I feel better as I collapse on number 50.

Josie and Xavier

May 18, 2009


I stole this from Reena’s blog –

They are Xavier (11yo) an Josie (2.5y yo) – 2 of my kids.


Obama coulda been better

May 18, 2009

Obama could have had a one-time stimulus, then vowed to balance the budget. He might have praised wind and solar as he asked the carbon industry to ‘get us through.’ He could have politely disagreed with Bush, but framing differences in the tragic notion of no good choices. He might have cooled the overseas apologies, savvy that other nations have more to apologize for than his own. Obama should have established zero-tolerance for tax avoidance at a time of record tax increases. He could have remonstrated with Wall Street, and sought to rein in excess without Europeanizing the financial sector. He could have proactively reformed entitlements with bipartisan support, rather than, as will happen, drastically address them in the 11th hour. But then to do all that would be to assume he never went to Trinity Church, knew no Rev. Wright, Ayers, Khalidi, etc., did not run mysterious campaigns that eliminated opponents before the elections, was not the most partisan Senator in Congress, and avoided rather crude social and racial stereotyping while campaigning. Most who read this will not agree, given the mesmerizing effect of the Obama charisma. But in time, unless there are radical changes, I think the nation will come to learn that such talent was not put in service to our collective welfare.

Victor Davis Hanson

Hoping for a silver lining

May 18, 2009

….the drama over CIA interrogations and Guantanamo will hopefully serve to set the administration on a more serious national security course. And it would be helpful if the American public finally dropped moral outrage as the preferred mode of political argumentation.

Abe Greenwald–bush-15152

Successful family dynamics – John Gottman

May 15, 2009


A marital therapy researcher, Dr. John Gottman  claims he can predict – with 94% accuracy! – which couples will make it and which won’t, based on only a few observable patterns. He was on Oprah, but don’t hold that against him.

Whether or how often a couple fights is not the main factor. What is more important – the key, according to Gottman, to what makes or breaks a marraige – is how those conflicts are resolved, especially whether the resolution leaves people feeling close, safe and caring again. And no matter what style a couple has for dealing with conflict, couples who last have at least five times as many positive as negative moments together. This means that for every negative, painful comment, action, and encounter, each of you needs to experience five positive ones.

Negative Affect Reciprocity – Gottman (1999)  says it is the most consistent discriminator btwn happily and unhappily married couples. It describes the probability that a person’s emotions will be negative (anger, sadness, belligerence, contempt) right after his partner has expressed negativity. Far better measurement than amount of negative affect for determining couple happiness. 

  From Recreating Partnership – Ziegler and Hiller.


So I am guessing that higher postive to negative moment ratios, at least 5 to 1, reduce negative affect reciprocity. I bet this also applies to other familial relationships. If we decrease the number of positive moments we have with our kids, especially as they get older and spend less time with us and they aren’t so into cuddling, than things can deteriorate. If they are out a lot and we are worried about their safety and follwing rules, then when we talk to them we often go to safety first and that often isn’t a positive moment for either party. 

I think this is particularly tough for stepparents who feel obligated to maintain discipline when the bio parent isn’t there, but feel inhibited out of respect for boundaries from showing too much affection.

I think this requires some creative thinking and perhaps some increased willingness to go out of one’s comfort zone.  For example, hold off on discipline moments with older kids until you  get your ‘ratio’ up.




La La Pelosi

May 14, 2009

Click on ‘waffle house’ to get to this clip of the John Stewart Show which I found on TMR’s blog.

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart M – Th 11p / 10c
Waffle House
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Unlearned lessons of Columbine

May 12, 2009

Columbine was in the news a lot a few weeks ago due to the 10 year anniversary. If you read some excerpts from Izzy below you will get an idea of why I am so impressed with his work.


In case you have been oblivious to recent news, the month-and-a-half period preceding the 10th Columbine anniversary had more high profile mass shootings than any six-week period in history. The most horrific took place in the city of Binghamton, New York, where my own son happens to go to college. Without exception, every one of these shootings was committed by someone feeling like a victim…of their ex-spouse, of their boss, of other students, of the economy. Why are so many people going on angry shooting rampages?

Of course the following cannot be the only explanation for these shootings, because each shooter has his own history, constitution and motives, but the massive anti-bully education we have been getting since Columbine can only have served to contribute to people’s anger towards, and desire for revenge against, their perceived bullies. After years of hearing endlessly that bullies are incredibly dangerous, that bullies shouldn’t be tolerated, that bullies should be punished and expelled, and that society must protect us from bullies, is it any wonder that some of us eventually crack when society fails to protect us from bullies, and pick up guns to solve our problems once and for all?….

The anti-bully establishment couldn’t have been happier with this story. The idea that Harris and Klebald are victims has been a thorn in the side of the anti-bully movement. Victims are supposed to be saintly innocents who need protection, and bullies are supposed to be cold, cowardly psychopaths who pick on the weak. But how can victims be angelic when they can commit horrific school shootings? What a relief, then, to discover that these monsters were after all, bullies, and not victims. With this new characterization of the Columbine killers as bullies, we can continue on our anti-bully witch hunt unencumbered by doubt.

The article talks about a new book, Columbine, by Dave Cullen. The book paints the Columbine killers as full of rage; paranoid; cold-blooded, predatory psychopaths; and super-terrorists. This sure makes them sound like bullies.

But paranoia is not a bully feeling. Paranoia, the feeling that everyone is against us, is the ultimate victim feeling. Being a psychopath and feeling like a victim are not mutually exclusive. If a psychopath feels victimized by you, you had better watch out!

Rage is not a bully feeling; we go into a rage when we feel victimized.

Terrorists feel like victims; they want revenge against the great powers that have victimized their people.

No one commits mass shootings and then turns their guns on themselves because they want to bully people. They do it but because they feel like victims.

The article says:

The U.S. Secret Service and U.S. Education Department soon began studying school shooters. In 2002, researchers presented their first findings: School shooters, they said, followed no set profile, but most were depressed and felt persecuted.
“Felt persecuted.” Bully feeling or victim feeling?

How many shootings will it take before we learn that we are most dangerous not when we feel like bullies but when we feel like victims? Will we never learn?

Free speech includes kids swearing

May 12, 2009

Here is another video from Izzy, #3 and the last one I am going to post. It is meant for teachers but I think it is also very relevant for parents.  If you don’t think this is a bunch of horseshit, you definitely will after viewing the video.

How should teachers handle being bullied

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