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Active Listening

4 min read

 

Here are some tips I thought were useful from the Active Listening course on highbrow.

Prejudice

Being an active listener requires a certain internal attitude that will allow us to go beyond our own impressions and expectations. More concretely, it is an openness that allows us to recognize value in others.

However, first of all, it naturally requires…silence. That means no judge, teacher, victim, avenger, moralist, or any other voices that our own prejudices usually manifest as in our heads. And this is what tomorrow’s lesson is all about! 

“Prejudice is a burden that confuses the past, threatens the future, and renders the present inaccessible.”

-Maya Angelou

Silence

Become aware of the breath that flows in and out of your body. Now pay attention to your mind and make the following affirmations: 

  • I want to know myself beyond my body, my mind, and my emotions
  • I am my own master
  • I am peace and freedom
  • I am not guilty of anything
  • I forgive everything
  • I am silence

Observe how the stream of your thoughts becomes thinner and eventually stops. Whenever a new thought comes, just say “I forgive this thought” and let it pass. Remain in the silence that you are for a few minutes.

Do you have a sense of deep relaxation and freedom? Perhaps even a feeling of joy that has no cause? When we bring this state into our day-to-day lives, it becomes the attitude of openness that is necessary for active listening. We will discuss more about this in our next lesson tomorrow. 

“You are beneath the thinker. You are the stillness beneath the mental noise.”

-Eckhart Tolle

Curiosity

Take a look at the piece of furniture in front of you. If you don’t have furniture available, look at a person nearby. How tall are they?

Please note that there is only one answer that is absolutely correct. This answer is:

“I don’t know.” 

Notice the feeling of recognition and freedom when you allow yourself to admit that you don’t know. There is no feeling of doubt, nor any pressure to defend a certain answer, and no desire to convince others of your truth. You are honest and therefore free.

I don’t know is where learning starts. It is also where real listening starts. You will never be a good listener if you think you already know the person you are talking to or the topic you are discussing. 

We can call it curiosity, and we can describe it like this: “I don’t know, but I want to find out.” Finding out is dynamic, while knowing is static and requires a certain kind of mental blindness.

“I know only that I don’t know anything.” 

-Socrates

We are All One of a Kind

Active listening therefore requires acceptance of our own uniqueness and respect for others’. It challenges us to “first seek to understand, then to be understood,” as Stephen Covey puts it. Constructive communication fails when we try to imprint our own unique measurement onto another’s. This tendency to imprint manifests when we start believing that another’s uniqueness is a personal threat to ours. 

The main purpose of active listening is to discover what uniqueness the interlocutor can bring to the world, how we can encourage them to bring it out, and what we can learn from it. We respect their fingerprint on the world in order to complement our own, thus contributing to and enhancing the bigger picture.

“I dreamed of being special then awoke to be unique.”

-Brian Spellman

The Journalism Game

  • What can you learn from or about them?
  • What makes each person you meet unique?
  • What has worked about the way you asked questions, and what has not?
  • What sort of questions have been most efficient?
  • Were you aware of your own tendencies to judge, generalize, or assume, and how did you deal with them? 

1. Ask open-ended questions

2. Go deeper

When they give a general answer, ask them what that particular thing means to them or for an example of a time when they personally experienced it or failed to experience it. Can you get a story that is theirs and theirs alone? 

“He who asks a question is a fool for five minutes; he who does not ask a question remains a fool forever.”

 

-Chinese proverb

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Here's that AA Gill article in full #voteremain

Brexit: AA Gill argues for ‘In’.
We all know what “getting our country back” means. It’s snorting a line of that most pernicious and debilitating Little English drug, nostalgia

AA Gill
June 12 2016, 12:01am, 
The Sunday Times

It was the woman on Question Time that really did it for me. She was so familiar. There is someone like her in every queue, every coffee shop, outside every school in every parish council in the country. Middle-aged, middle-class, middle-brow, over-made-up, with her National Health face and weatherproof English expression of hurt righteousness, she’s Britannia’s mother-in-law. The camera closed in on her and she shouted: “All I want is my country back. Give me my country back.”

It was a heartfelt cry of real distress and the rest of the audience erupted in sympathetic applause, but I thought: “Back from what? Back from where?”

Wanting the country back is the constant mantra of all the outies. Farage slurs it, Gove insinuates it. Of course I know what they mean. We all know what they mean. They mean back from Johnny Foreigner, back from the brink, back from the future, back-to-back, back to bosky hedges and dry stone walls and country lanes and church bells and warm beer and skittles and football rattles and cheery banter and clogs on cobbles. Back to vicars-and-tarts parties and Carry On fart jokes, back to Elgar and fudge and proper weather and herbaceous borders and cars called Morris. Back to victoria sponge and 22 yards to a wicket and 15 hands to a horse and 3ft to a yard and four fingers in a Kit Kat, back to gooseberries not avocados, back to deference and respect, to make do and mend and smiling bravely and biting your lip and suffering in silence and patronising foreigners with pity.

We all know what “getting our country back” means. It’s snorting a line of the most pernicious and debilitating Little English drug, nostalgia. The warm, crumbly, honey-coloured, collective “yesterday” with its fond belief that everything was better back then, that Britain (England, really) is a worse place now than it was at some foggy point in the past where we achieved peak Blighty. It’s the knowledge that the best of us have been and gone, that nothing we can build will be as lovely as a National Trust Georgian country house, no art will be as good as a Turner, no poem as wonderful as If, no writer a touch on Shakespeare or Dickens, nothing will grow as lovely as a cottage garden, no hero greater than Nelson, no politician better than Churchill, no view more throat-catching than the White Cliffs and that we will never manufacture anything as great as a Rolls-Royce or Flying Scotsman again.

The dream of Brexit isn’t that we might be able to make a brighter, new, energetic tomorrow, it’s a desire to shuffle back to a regret-curdled inward-looking yesterday. In the Brexit fantasy, the best we can hope for is to kick out all the work-all-hours foreigners and become caretakers to our own past in this self-congratulatory island of moaning and pomposity.

And if you think that’s an exaggeration of the Brexit position, then just listen to the language they use: “We are a nation of inventors and entrepreneurs, we want to put the great back in Britain, the great engineers, the great manufacturers.” This is all the expression of a sentimental nostalgia. In the Brexiteer’s mind’s eye is the old Pathé newsreel of Donald Campbell, of John Logie Baird with his television, Barnes Wallis and his bouncing bomb, and Robert Baden-Powell inventing boy scouts in his shed.

All we need, their argument goes, is to be free of the humourless Germans and spoilsport French and all their collective liberalism and reality. There is a concomitant hope that if we manage to back out of Europe, then we’ll get back to the bowler-hatted 1950s and the Commonwealth will hold pageants, fireworks displays and beg to be back in the Queen Empress’s good books again. Then New Zealand will sacrifice a thousand lambs, Ghana will ask if it can go back to being called the Gold Coast and Britain will resume hand-making Land Rovers and top hats and Sheffield plate teapots.

There is a reason that most of the people who want to leave the EU are old while those who want to remain are young: it’s because the young aren’t infected with Bisto nostalgia. They don’t recognise half the stuff I’ve mentioned here. They’ve grown up in the EU and at worst it’s been neutral for them.

The under-thirties want to be part of things, not aloof from them. They’re about being joined-up and counted. I imagine a phrase most outies identify with is “women’s liberation has gone too far”. Everything has gone too far for them, from political correctness — well, that’s gone mad, hasn’t it? — to health and safety and gender-neutral lavatories. Those oldies, they don’t know if they’re coming or going, what with those newfangled mobile phones and kids on Tinder and Grindr. What happened to meeting Miss Joan Hunter Dunn at the tennis club? And don’t get them started on electric hand dryers, or something unrecognised in the bagging area, or Indian call centres , or the impertinent computer asking for a password that has both capitals and little letters and numbers and more than eight digits.

Brexit is the fond belief that Britain is worse now than at some point in the foggy past where we achieved peak Blighty
We listen to the Brexit lot talk about the trade deals they’re going to make with Europe after we leave, and the blithe insouciance that what they’re offering instead of EU membership is a divorce where you can still have sex with your ex. They reckon they can get out of the marriage, keep the house, not pay alimony, take the kids out of school, stop the in-laws going to the doctor, get strict with the visiting rights, but, you know, still get a shag at the weekend and, obviously, see other people on the side.

Really, that’s their best offer? That’s the plan? To swagger into Brussels with Union Jack pants on and say: “ ’Ello luv, you’re looking nice today. Would you like some?”

When the rest of us ask how that’s really going to work, leavers reply, with Terry-Thomas smirks, that “they’re going to still really fancy us, honest, they’re gagging for us. Possibly not Merkel, but the bosses of Mercedes and those French vintners and cheesemakers, they can’t get enough of old John Bull. Of course they’re going to want to go on making the free market with two backs after we’ve got the decree nisi. Makes sense, doesn’t it?”

Have no doubt, this is a divorce. It’s not just business, it’s not going to be all reason and goodwill. Like all divorces, leaving Europe would be ugly and mean and hurtful, and it would lead to a great deal of poisonous xenophobia and racism, all the niggling personal prejudice that dumped, betrayed and thwarted people are prey to. And the racism and prejudice are, of course, weak points for us. The tortuous renegotiation with lawyers and courts will be bitter and vengeful, because divorces always are and, just in passing, this sovereignty thing we’re supposed to want back so badly, like Frodo’s ring, has nothing to do with you or me. We won’t notice it coming back, because we didn’t notice not having it in the first place.

You won’t wake up on June 24 and think: “Oh my word, my arthritis has gone! My teeth are suddenly whiter! Magically, I seem to know how to make a soufflé and I’m buff with the power of sovereignty.” This is something only politicians care about; it makes not a jot of difference to you or me if the Supreme Court is a bunch of strangely out-of-touch old gits in wigs in Westminster or a load of strangely out-of-touch old gits without wigs in Luxembourg. What matters is that we have as many judges as possible on the side of personal freedom.

Personally, I see nothing about our legislators in the UK that makes me feel I can confidently give them more power. The more checks and balances politicians have, the better for the rest of us. You can’t have too many wise heads and different opinions. If you’re really worried about red tape, by the way, it’s not just a European problem. We’re perfectly capable of coming up with our own rules and regulations and we have no shortage of jobsworths. Red tape may be annoying, but it is also there to protect your and my family from being lied to, poisoned and cheated.

The first “X” I ever put on a voting slip was to say yes to the EU. The first referendum was when I was 20 years old. This one will be in the week of my 62nd birthday. For nearly all my adult life, there hasn’t been a day when I haven’t been pleased and proud to be part of this great collective. If you ask me for my nationality, the truth is I feel more European than anything else. I am part of this culture, this European civilisation. I can walk into any gallery on our continent and completely understand the images and the stories on the walls. These people are my people and they have been for thousands of years. I can read books on subjects from Ancient Greece to Dark Ages Scandinavia, from Renaissance Italy to 19th-century France, and I don’t need the context or the landscape explained to me. The music of Europe, from its scales and its instruments to its rhythms and religion, is my music. The Renaissance, the rococo, the Romantics, the impressionists, gothic, baroque, neoclassicism, realism, expressionism, futurism, fauvism, cubism, dada, surrealism, postmodernism and kitsch were all European movements and none of them belongs to a single nation.

There is a reason why the Chinese are making fake Italian handbags and the Italians aren’t making fake Chinese ones. This European culture, without question or argument, is the greatest, most inventive, subtle, profound, beautiful and powerful genius that was ever contrived anywhere by anyone and it belongs to us. Just look at my day job — food. The change in food culture and pleasure has been enormous since we joined the EU, and that’s no coincidence. What we eat, the ingredients, the recipes, may come from around the world, but it is the collective to and fro of European interests, expertise and imagination that has made it all so very appetising and exciting.

The restaurant was a European invention, naturally. The first one in Paris was called The London Bridge.

Culture works and grows through the constant warp and weft of creators, producers, consumers, intellectuals and instinctive lovers. You can’t dictate or legislate for it, you can just make a place that encourages it and you can truncate it. You can make it harder and more grudging, you can put up barriers and you can build walls, but why on earth would you? This collective culture, this golden civilisation grown on this continent over thousands of years, has made everything we have and everything we are, why would you not want to be part of it?

I understand that if we leave we don’t have to hand back our library ticket for European civilisation, but why would we even think about it? In fact, the only ones who would are those old, philistine scared gits. Look at them, too frightened to join in.

Read My Samsung Nexus S Review

7 min read

The Samsung Nexus S is now my preferred mobile phone. Read on to find out why, but be warned, this is a lengthy post!

Before the Nexus S
Nexus S Standby ScreenHaving been a a mac user for over 4 years and previously owning both the iPhone 3G and the 3GS I made the jump to Android last June when I purchased the HTC Desire. During the past 12 months I have discovered that, for me, Android is on a par with iOS devices and actually ahead in some aspects. With that in mind I have now purchased the Samsung Nexus S. For my mind, it is the best example of comparing an Android phone to the iPhone.

The Desire was rooted early on and has run a variety of ROMS over the 12 months, but lately I have been using ROMs that mirror stock Android e.g. Oxygen and DevNull. (As a piece of trivia, I think the Desire is the most hacked phone of all the Android handsets on the market today. The sheer volume of custom ROMs available for it is astonishing.)

As I say goodbye to the Desire, I leave the handset running Android 2.3.4.

My initial impression of the Nexus S
I ordered it from prepaymania for £303 delivered – I have to say that I hadn’t heard of this outfit before, but the phone arrived on schedule, so no complaints.
The box itself was your typical phone box, nice and compact and obviously inspired by Apple.
The Nexus S comes with a separate power cable and data cable which I though was a nice touch (charging and data transfer is by Micro USB). Also in the box was a headset which I have yet to use.
The phone is made from black plastic and is not of the same build quality as the HTC Desire. However, it feels much lighter and sits well in your hand. Let’s not forget that this is a 4” device as opposed to the 3.7” Desire.

In UseNexus S running Android 2.3.4
When I turned the phone on I logged in with my Google account and the phone instantly started syncing my personal data and downloading my apps from the Market. It downloaded most, but not all of my apps. There was no faffing with iTunes or connecting it to a PC to activate – it just worked without fuss. First thing I needed to do however was update the operating system to 2.3.4 as it shipped with 2.3.3.
But you know what? The phone told me I had to update and off it went and started downloading the update.
A word of warning here: installing this update wiped the phone and I had to set the phone up as new again. This was not the case with the Desire, but perhaps I did something wrong.
I had a quick play and I decided that I knew enough about stock Android and that I would be better rooting the phone now rather than later. So that’s what I did. I followed this guide to the letter and it worked great.
I haven’t put a custom ROM on yet as I want to keep to the pure stuff for now, but rooting lets you do simple things like take a screen shot.

Buttons
The Nexus S has no physical menu buttons, but so far these have not caused me any issues. One thing I do miss (although it’s not a big deal) is the trackball which was handy when you need to edit some text.

Is this the best phone I’ve owned?
I think it’s right up there. It’s certainly better than the HTC Desire and the 3GS, which were good phones in their time.
There are several factors that are important to me:
1. Screen size – 4” is probably the biggest size I would want on a phone and the Nexus S has a great screen,
2. Size and weight – it’s big but light, mainly due to the plastic casing. I carry the Nexus S around in a protective pouch, but I also carried the Desire in its own pouch, so I’m used to the bulk.
3. Battery – Even at this stage with the battery not being totally calibrated the Nexus S has a better battery life than the Desire. I should easily expect the Nexus S to last me two days of normal use. My Desire was easily lasting me a day with the DevNull Rom and the latest radio installed. This compares favourably to the iPhone 4 which does not last my girl friend more than 10 hours. She must have a dud. ;-)
4. Apps – people make a big deal about the quality of the apps in the Android Market compared to the Apps Store. Well I’m sorry, the apps I use are the same as the ones I have on my iPad (give or take) and they work fine. I’m a google guy and on Android, google’s apps are better than iOS. Fact!
5. Notifications – I’ve not had a problem with notifications. Scratch that. I did have a problem with notifications (too many!), but I soon learned to only allow certain apps to update themselves in the background. I now get push notifications from SMS, email, ping chat, calendar and everything else I manually update. I feel I am more productive this way.

What about the Nexus S hardware?
I like the phone! I don’t mind that it feels light and is shiny black plastic. The buttons feel solid and the screen is responsive. There is a satisfying ‘click’ when connecting the charger.
My one gripe is that the headphone jack is on the bottom. I’m struggling to get used to this, but only because (in my head) the volume controls are back to front. I will get used to this though.

Camera: The Nexus S comes with two cameras. I’m on record in several places stating that IMO the iPhone 4 has the best camera of any phone. That is still the case. The Nexus S has a 5 megapixel camera and in good daylight the images are impressive, but like most other camera phones, when the sun goes down so does the quality of image.
The front facing camera is VGA quality and is really there to compete with Apple’s Facetime. Surprisingly using the google talk app video calls work well, even on 3G. This app also lets you make standard VOIP calls to other GTALK users.
Minor gripe: why can’t GTALK and Facetime get along? Those two apps would be very useful if they allowed you to chat to users of both systems.

The back of the Nexus SLoudspeaker: I can’t figure this out. When playing music through the loudspeaker I feel let down, but when using the loudspeaker for phone calls it works really well. So good that I can actually see myself using this more often, something I rarely used on other handsets.

Call quality is good.

I use the swype keyboard, just because I prefer that over a more traditional keyboard, but the standard gingerbread keyboard is a big improvement over the standard HTC keyboard on the Desire.

Display
I have the i9023 model which has the Super LCD instead of the Super AMOLED screen that originally shipped with the handset. A lot has been said of SLCD, but for my eyes the screen is superb even with the brightness turned down. In this respect it compares favourably to the Desire.

Conclusions
It’s difficult to compare like for like so I will end my narrative now. To conclude, the Nexus S is generally a little bit faster at everything compared to the Desire. So this is definitely an incremental upgrade, similar to the iPhone 3G to 3GS upgrade.
So much about mobile phones today is not about the hardware, but about the operating system and the apps. The right hardware will however enhance that experience. Therefore, if you’re considering the Nexus S you will not be disappointed. It’s a snappy phone that multitasks well and will more than meet the needs of most people.

the death of newspapers

3 min read

Michael Connelly has written an article detailing the publishing business' lack of respect for books. Well book reviews to be exact, but this highlights another failure in the newspaper business, that is their failure to embrace online content and to view digital media as a threat. Little odd they don't realise that the Internet can be their friend.
Publishing giants the world over are quaking due to falling paper sales and their failure to grasp the concept of doing business online. Their failure to monetise their online content early on matched with their failure to drive visitors to their sites has left them in unfamiliar territory.

There is a sense of impending doom within the industry. For every times or guardian newspaper website (both of which are excellent) there is a an independent or a newsletter site.

The bbc were quick to spot the potential of the web and backed by licence fee money they deliver what is probably the best media web site in the world. They are constantly at the fore with respect to news, sport and entertainment.
This I suppose is the problem faced by traditional print companies - how do they combat the rise of new media?

The internet is an easy way for new companies to get off the ground. It's relatively cheap, you can garner a global audience and your readers are always up to date with your latest content. This has enabled many new media companies to gain a foothold in this new market.
What traditional publishers failed to realise was that the internet would be easily accessible for most people whether at work, home or mobile. This means they have access to breaking news and all sorts of different content, a diversity that newspapers can't compete with.

All is not lost though. The newspaper industry forget that they have a loyal readership and can use their papers to promote their online business, something they are only just starting to realise. They need to go one step further and fully embrace online news and make it their priority.

Some publishers have seen the potential of ebooks and devices such as the kindle look set to see this trend continue, but newspaper don't need to be left out. Their content can be sent to mobile devices just as easily and many customers will identify those newspapers as being a legitimate source. This in itself gives them an advantage.

These traditional outlets for news have followed the same path that the music business followed, that is they have huffed and puffed, complained about digital content and in the end they have had to embrace it.

The question now is how far can the newspaper and publishing business embrace digital technology and finally move into the digital age?