Monthly Archives: October 2009

Stress

Stress seems to be a ubiquitous terms these days. What is it?  Is it really on the increase? Why might it be rising?

Quoting from Irish Jobs a useful definition of stress comes from the late Dr Anthony Claire; stress is what we experience when there is a significant lack of balance between the resources we possess and the demands made on us”. What kinds of resources are these? Possibilities are time, money, quality friends, a better half, moral support, a strong code of personal ethics, ipods and laptops, the positive energy of doing a good deed or job, etc, etc.  What kinds of demands might be made of us?  Possibilities: pressure to work longer hours for less money, consequent pressure to work harder to justify the same ends, increased multi-tasking and multi-jobbing with the consequent squeeze on other aspects of life.

The result is being out-of-whack. The balance is off-kilter. The resources aren’t matching up with the demands placed on them.

This is arguably a typical output of recessionary times with financial crises all around us. It’s enhanced by news of resource squandering of public servants who are supposed to have citizens interests at heart.

What about our students?  Has their stress level gone up or down? On the surface of it, there’s no reason why it should be greater or lesser than in previous years. Courses don’t change dramatically from year to year. The volume and depth of coursework doesn’t change dramatically either. Yet, there is a report in todays Irish Times claiming that tcd is reporting a significant increase in students seeking mental health services.  It is possible that the mental health service is advertising its services more widely and so more students are availing of it. Also possible is that tcd is enrolling more students who are prone to “Asperger’s syndrome, attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and bipolar disorder”.

Yet, it would be fool-hardy to assume that students aren’t under pressure. Prospects for graduates are grim at the moment. The thought of spending several years of your young life acquiring an education and then not having a job to exploit it in must be a signficant stress-inducer.  Meanwhile, coursework has to be completed, classes attended, time spent in the library and exams prepared for and sat. Resources are being invested with no guarantee of a return as immediate as originally envisaged.

Is stress management really just a case of re-adjusting our mindsets? A good college education stands to any student regardless of whether the resulting job is the original one planned. It might happen that the resulting job is a better and more fulfilling one even if not found immediately. Maybe its a case of rolling with the punches and trying to put right the squandering of resources as we go so that a balance of sorts can be maintained.

If only there could be a fast way to do this!

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Intelligence – females vs. males

Which is the superior gender? Are we gals better than guys or do they have the edge on us in some regards?

These questions come to the fore every now and again in various guises. A grey / white brain matter example comes from Science Daily. SD also tell us that men and women handle stress differently, with different parts of the brain coming into play to handle the stress. Men are more likely to have physiological reaction, turning to drink. Women take a more psychological turn.

The debate about intelligence differences between the genders is more complex. On the one hand, is it merely another variation on the brain differences?  On the other hand, is there a nature /nurture debate?   Is the fact that females are catching up on males in terms of state exam results on the nature or the nurture side?  Will we ever know?

Here’s a fun game to add to the debate – http://www.trivialpursuitexperiment.com/index.php. You tell the program whether you’re male or female. Your incorrect and correct answers to the trivial pursuit questions are then used to make up the overall total for males and females. At the moment, the obviously superior of the species are ahead!

It’s not perfect. Online, no-one know you are a dog. If you lie and say you are the other gender the computer is not going to know. Nor do we get a break-down on the male / female scores for the categories.

It’s good fun, a nice way to while away an hour on a rainy saturday afternoon. It doesn’t tell you the correct answer to questions you answer incorrectly though. If you don’t know what the first usage of genetic fingerprinting was, you’ll have to google (or Bing) the answer. The same applies for deciding which sport is called the “sweet science”, or the record time for solving the Rubix Cube. There is a counter so you can’t cheat and Google / Bing mid-question.

Happy trivial pursuing.

rEvolutionary Ideas cause a lengthy stir

On very rare occasions an idea or fact is unveiled that causes such an upset of the pre-existing status quo that it continues to have tongues wagging long after its originator has passed on. One such example is Charles Darwin’s On The Origin Of The Species. It’s celebrating its 150 year publication anniversary.  It was 200 years ago this year that Darwin himself was born.

There are lots of things Darwin in the news at the moment. Channel 4 is running a series celebrating the genius of Charles Darwin. There seems to be a comment on the great man’s works in many notable media publications:  the Guardian, a blog about a new book celebrating the anniversary, an Irish site on the topic, and coverage from the prestigious Scientific American.

The one that really caught my attention, however, is on the silver screen.  The interestingly-titled Creation tells of the personal struggle Darwin had in the run up to the writing of the famous book. We are so used to hearing about the theories, but we hear little about the person. This movie changes all that. We see the person behind the work.  We see the human who battled with his own religious upbringing and his wife’s more entrenched religiosity. But more than that, it captured Darwin the parent, Darwin the father.

His bond with his beloved daughter Annie was to prove instrumental in his decision to write the book. Despite her tender years and pre-mature death (she died aged only 10 years), she understood what her father’s work was about.  She was able to reflect it back to him with the clarity and simplicity of a child’s thinking. In one particular scene, Darwin took his (at the time) 4 children out into nature, to observe a fox catching rabbit dinner.   One daughter is upset at this barbaric side of nature, but Annie intervenes with a comment that it has to happen like that, it keeps the balance. Astounding.

Creation is a beautifully filmed piece of work. The cinematography is stunning. The beautiful way we hear about the life and demise of Jenny-the-Orangutang who died prematurely in conjunction with Annie is ….  I defy anyone to watch that and not shed a tear.

Equally impressive is the website.  It’s on my list of “sites whose design reflect their content” examples for my e-business students.  It’s also my new home page, popping up on my screen each time I load Firefox. I’m a country gal who is now living in the city. Like many such people, I miss the sound effect of the countryside. If I close my eyes I might just kid myself into thinking I’m back in good old rural Ireland again.