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Archive for January, 2008

Attributes of Highly Effective Programmers

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Once I was more interested in the Java programming language than I am now. I joined the Java Lobby so as to keep up with developments. I never learned to write Java code, but I still keep my Java Lobby newsletter coming. Sometimes there is something powerful in it. Like this past issue, which pointed me to The Philosophical Geek‘s article on the Top 5 Attributes of Highly Effective Programmers:

  • Humility
  • Love of Learning
  • Detail-orientedness
  • Adaptability
  • Passion

Please don’t just read the list and think you’re done. The article is wonderful. I especially enjoyed the part about humility… what it is and is not. Go read it all.

Written by Michael DeBusk

January 30th, 2008 at 3:33 am

Posted in Programming,Values

Brain Basics

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Written by Michael DeBusk

January 30th, 2008 at 3:18 am

Posted in Neuro

What would your mother say?

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The Emergency Department called me because there was an aggressive and intoxicated psychiatric patient causing some problems. When I got there, I heard him yelling at the staff. He was demanding to be allowed to leave so he could go somewhere and kill himself. His wife was leaving him for someone else, he said, so he had nothing to live for. Of course, the staff was shouting at him too, but only so they could be heard above his shouting.

Before I got to the room, I met his wife, with whom I happened to be acquainted. (No, I wasn’t the guy for whom she was leaving her husband.) She was concerned for him and embarrassed. I asked her if what he was saying was true, and she said it was. I don’t think she foresaw how he would react when she dropped that bomb on him. I’d never met the guy, but I could have told her what he’d do.

The more I heard of the shouting — both from him and from the staff — the more it sounded like an argument. He refused to listen to anyone, and the staff refused to let him leave. “Let me out of here!” he’d say, and they’d respond with “Mister Johnson, we can’t do that, we’re here to help you!” (His name wasn’t Johnson, but let’s call him Robert Johnson for the sake of this article.)

I turned to his wife and asked, “What did his mother used to call him?”

“Huh?” she said. “Why do you need to know that?”

“I want to try something,” I told her.

“She called him ‘Bobby'”.

I walked into the room and adopted the demeanor of someone who was surprised to see an old friend in a hospital. “Bobby!” I said. “What’s going on?”

The transformation actually shocked me. He changed instantly from a drunk guy spoiling for a fight to a ten-year-old kid leveling with his best buddy. He started telling me all about what was going on, and I said, “Hey, while we’re talking, let these good folks do their jobs. Now, go on. You were at home, minding your own business, and then what?”

He sat there and told me the whole story, and the staff got what they needed (blood samples, IV line started, and so on) without a problem. Anything I wanted him to do, he did it. Anyone else tried to get him to do something, he’d look at me and ask me if he should do it. And when it came time for me to leave the room, he was calm and grateful that someone heard him out.

This was several years ago. I still don’t know him, and wouldn’t recognize him today. He probably wouldn’t recognize me, either, because he was pretty drunk at the time. But we were childhood buddies for a little while.

Written by Michael DeBusk

January 28th, 2008 at 4:39 pm

Jamie Smart has a blog!

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Did you know about Jamie Smart’s Real World NLP & Hypnosis Blog? I didn’t until just now.

Written by Michael DeBusk

January 26th, 2008 at 3:24 am

Posted in Web sites

Tagged with

Brain Views Aggression As A Reward

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I admit it. I like martial arts movies. Even the cheesy ones from China. But I can stop any time I want to.

No wonder there’s so much violence in the world. Scientists have found evidence that aggression rewards the brain in much the same way as sex, food and drugs.

Brain Views Aggression As A Reward

Written by Michael DeBusk

January 26th, 2008 at 1:08 am

Posted in Neuro,Psych

Bribe me with cookies

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By way of Boing Boing we find an article in Science Daily which explains how it’s possible to “prime” people with compelling scents.

Exposure to something that whets the appetite, such as a picture of a mouthwatering dessert, can make a person more impulsive with unrelated purchases, finds a study from the February 2008 issue of the Journal of Consumer Research. For example, the researchers reveal in one experiment that the aroma of chocolate chip cookies can prompt women on a tight budget to splurge on a new item of clothing.

I’ve wondered for years why women like to wear food-scented lotions. Now I know… it’s a trap! 😉

Aroma Of Chocolate Chip Cookies Prompts Splurging On Expensive Sweaters

Written by Michael DeBusk

January 26th, 2008 at 1:07 am

Posted in Neuro,Persuasion

The Hit Song You Wrote

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Scott Adams, over in The Dilbert Blog, recently asked his readers for nonsense. He considered the idea that most song lyrics today are nonsense, and he wanted his readers to write a hit song.

Looks like it worked.

Next time you’re creating an induction, remember this.

Written by Michael DeBusk

January 24th, 2008 at 7:13 pm

The quest for Self-Esteeeeeeem is questionable

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I’ve long questioned the value of pursuing and cultivating “self-esteeeeeeem”. My take on it is pretty much the same as that of author Jane Haddam: “In my day, we didn’t have self-esteem. We had self-respect, and no more of it than we had earned.”

I’d expand on this, but the blog “Violent Acres” recently did a much better job:

Remember when the hippy dippy girl with the dreads was the only one dashing off to Indonesia to ‘find herself?’ Now everyone under 30 is off searching for themselves in some misguided attempt to discover inner peace and the results are nothing to write home about. Usually, when people ‘find themselves,’ the only thing they really discover is more things to hate.

The reason for this is simple: If you’re spending all your time focusing inward, it’s pretty impossible to make a positive impact anywhere else. Self fulfillment never comes after looking in the mirror and finally realizing you’re a raging narcissist.

Go read Learning to Love Yourself is a Pointless Waste of Time at the very funny and insightful blog, Violent Acres.

Incidentally, some years back I developed a process for improving one’s self-respect. It’s really a method by which it’s discovered… that is to say, we’ve earned it and don’t realize it. I really must write it down sometime.

Written by Michael DeBusk

January 24th, 2008 at 7:07 pm

He said he was sorry

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I always want to know when a victim of assault and/or battery is in my Emergency Department. It’s not unheard-of for an assailant to come to a hospital to try to finish the job they started. One night, a nurse called me about a woman whose live-in boyfriend had tried to run her over with his car. He’d missed, but had caught her arm with a side mirror or something.

I went to her room to chat with her, mostly to find out how likely she thought it was that he’d show. I try my best to appear “soft on the outside, hard on the inside” with victims of domestic violence because I never know what sort of generalizations they’ve made about men. I want them to know that I’m no threat to them, but that if the guy shows up, I’ll definitely be a threat to him. I found out what I needed to know, but I didn’t leave. She had the look about her of someone who wanted to talk. So I let her.

Before I go any further, you should probably see something. I got the following image from a Web page of the State’s Attorney’s Office in Harford County, Maryland. It’s a decent visual representation of the pattern that couples follow when they do the domestic violence thing.

Cycle of Violence

Essentially, things get tense over a period of time, then he beats her up. After he beats her up, he starts to think about what might happen if someone finds out, so he treats her really nice for a while. Then the whole thing starts over.

Now, this definitely isn’t politically correct, but I’ve never been accused of such atrocities as political correctness, so here we go: much of the time, when someone is a victim of a crime, it’s likely that they have participated in some way in their own victimization. That is not to say that they wanted it or asked for it or that it’s their fault in any way; it’s only to say that something they did, whether or not they realized it, contributed in some way to the problem. Most people will correct those behaviors if someone cares enough to point out the problem to them, and we NLPers know that if we interrupt a pattern it’s far more likely that we’ll get a different result.

I’ve never known a woman to say, “I stay with him because he beats me.” (There may be such women but I’ve never met one.) Usually they tell me they’re staying because they “have to”. What I think is unfortunate is when a woman does get up the courage (and other resources) required to leave the bum and then goes and hooks up with another guy who treats her the same way. It’s a pattern, and one that cries out for interruption.

The lady to whom I was speaking told me what had happened that evening, and then she told me he said he was sorry and that she was going to go back.

My first reaction was visceral. I won’t tell you what I thought, because I want this to be a reasonably friendly blog, but I imagine you can guess. But then I thought, you know, she’s talking to me about it, so she probably wants feedback.

There are three things I’ve observed about women who are in this “battered” pattern:

  • They isolate each incident of battering within its own little time capsule, and therefore never notice the pattern;
  • They have two distinct aspects of their personality — we might call them “parts” if we were so inclined — and each of those “parts” deals with one of the spokes on the above-referenced image; and
  • They don’t have “boundaries”, i.e., they allow most anyone to treat them like a doormat.

So I said to her, “He said he was sorry.” I pointed to a spot in the air right in front of her.

“Yes”, she responded.

“I’m curious. Isn’t that what he said last time?” I pointed to a spot a little to my right, her left, of the spot I had just pointed to.

It took her a second or two, but she remembered. “Yeah.”

“What about the time before that?”

“Yeah, then too.”

“And the time before that?”

With each question I’m pointing to a little spot on a horizontal line in the air in front of me, farther and farther to her left. I didn’t have to ask very many times before her face got grim and her jaw set tight. I let it sink in for a couple of heartbeats, looked off to her left, and asked, “Just how long has this been going on?”

A little angrily, she said, “…A long time.” Then, after another pause, a little quieter: “Too long.”

“You know,” I said, “I’ve noticed something about women in that situation. I’ve noticed that they talk to themselves differently depending on how the guy is treating them.”

She looked at me quizzically.

“When he’s hurting them,”, I say, holding my left hand palm-up, “they’re saying to themselves, ‘If only I’d had dinner on the table on time’ or ‘If only I hadn’t spent money on that new pair of shoes’ or whatever.” She nodded in recognition. “And when he’s saying he’s sorry,” I continued, holding my right hand palm-up, “they’re saying to themselves, ‘Oh, he’s sorry, he bought me flowers, he really loves me, he’ll never do it again.'” She nodded again in recognition. “So over here (shaking my left hand) they’re blaming themselves, and over here (shaking my right hand) they’re blaming him.” Again she agreed.

Bringing my hands together, I said, “I have no idea why these two so rarely get together and talk this thing out.”

She got quiet, as you can well imagine, and very still. I waited until I saw some signs of remembering where she was, told her I’d be around if she needed anything, and took my leave.

A few months later, I saw her again. This time, she was visiting someone who was a patient. She had to remind me who she was because I didn’t recognize her. She looked really different. Happy. At peace. I asked her how things were going.

“Good,” she said. “Really, really good.”

“How’s the guy who tried to run you over?”

“I have no idea. I haven’t talked to him since that night.”

I had to smile. She looked so incredibly good when she said that.

“Are you with anyone now?” I asked.

“Yep!” A little perk in her tone and her facial expression.

“How does he treat you?”

“Good. Really, really good. Like a queen. I’ll never again be with a guy who hurts me.”

I couldn’t have felt better.

Written by Michael DeBusk

January 18th, 2008 at 7:41 pm

Celebrate the lies of your children

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The American Psychological Association has a relatively recent article on lying, and it has an interesting perspective:

As humans, we are as much defined by our economy with the truth as we are by our cooperation. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing, say psychologists. Lying is a cognitive signal that people understand what others are thinking, the important cognitive milestone known as theory of mind.

Read more at Monitor on Psychology – Liar, liar, neurons fire

Written by Michael DeBusk

January 18th, 2008 at 7:35 pm

Posted in Calibration,Psych