A negative connotation

toothbrush-toothpaste-dental-care-clean-40798Cavity suggests a negative connotation. Whenever you think about cavity an image or an issue presents itself. The first image includes dental visits. Particularly when I was younger. Back then the drills were run by steel cables. Very Kafkaesque.

Other cavities suggest returning from opium countries. Planes. Searches.

Another major time you think about cavities would be where your organs reside. Normally they resemble a good next door tenant. Quiet, restful,  innocuous. The moment you have to take them aside and tell them to quiet down, well the good relationship starts to deteriorate.

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Source: pixabay.com

via Daily Prompt: Cavity

Biking Cambodia-Hanoi Stopover

Brent and I are just in the process of looking over the courtyard to the entrance of the National University.

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We grab one more photo at the entrance to the University.IMG_3762

We leave the grounds and start walking back to our hotel. You can see that the University is completely enclosed by stone walls. We must have looked like we knew what we were doing since we were stopped by other tourists looking for a way in to the University.

Scooter transporst is really the way the majority of people get around in Hanoi. Don’t forget. Don’t show any fear.

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Here is an interior shot of the mall I had described earlier. There are numerous car dealerships inside. The pockets of wealth are amazing considering the poverty you see everywhere else.

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Stifled Life

Stifle just suggests preventing a natural part of being. Stifling a laugh seems to be the proper thing to do when laughing out loud would be inappropriate. But when you move to stifling growth, it seems to be inappropriate. You move along to stifling your own life, well that seems to be something that we all do but now we are just used to it.

We need to think that we are stifling our lives as if we are stifling laugher. Just think what that would be like if we lived unstifled!

via Daily Prompt: Stifle

Smart Phone Dopamine Doping

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I fondly remember the first cell-phones. And by cell-phones I mean the old brick sized cell phones that would come with their own power supply the size of a car battery. I would constantly check my voice mail to see if anyone left me a voice message. I became thrilled if someone left me an electronic message and asked me to do something. I also became disappointed if there were no messages, especially after loading up my briefcase to haul this monstrosity of communications device around.

 

Of course with continued miniaturization, you could finally fit your phone into your pocket without having to carry a briefcase. But as the phones got smaller, the larger their impact on your overall life. When the phones finally developed the most miniature of screens, this was like mana from heaven. Texting was pointless for me when you had to type a button three times to get the proper letter to form a word. No wonder the WTF abbreviations finally started and formed part of our lexicon. Writing, became another art form slowly being lost.

A lot of people believe that the precursor of the end of civilization as we know it came with the advent of smartphones. Now you really can communicate with anyone in the world and at the same time lose the ability to relate to everyone else.

 

Of course, the end of civilization was to end with television, and before that radio, and before that the telegraph, printed books etc. Even Aristotle opposed writing somewhat since then his students didn’t really learn something if they didn’t have to memorize it. This little bit of wisdom may still apply today since you can search the world’s knowledge whenever you want to and you don’t really have to understand it. The context of everything then becomes a little bit more lost.

The intellectual train comes with a bunch of preliminary cars such as facts, information, knowledge, wisdom and finally you get to the locomotive we all want to reach, enlightenment. But with our attention span fallen below 8 seconds, which is lower than the common goldfish, enlightenment may only come as a result of a search engine.

 

We are so anxious to get our little dopamine fix. I used to play Black Jack a fair bit. This was the one game where you could get closest to beating the house. Rest assured, you think you can beat them over the very long-term, but you can’t. That’s why they have such great hotels in Vegas. Any money leakage is quickly squashed. I had a fairly simple system of knowing all the odds and pressing the advantage whenever the cards starting going my way. It paid for a couple of trips, but I got out when the going was good since the long game always favors the house. But I remember the chemical effects. You can feel the dopamine pouring through your system whenever a good card was laid out. You win just enough to keep you completely engaged. And you can now feel this same effect whenever you agree to push notifications from your favorite social media.

 

I had my computer bing whenever a new email came in. I would drop, electronically, whatever email I was working on in order to read the new email. My concentration was slowly being eaten away as I agreed to the new hormonal influx from the new email. It would take me a minute or two to get properly focused on whatever I was doing before however.

 

Now you can get notifications whenever something new is posted, or new comments on that post, or if someone comments on your post, or if someone comments on your comments. Time keeps getting chopped up more finely.

After a while it seems that you might have an angry squirrel in your pocket since your phone constantly chitters at you. Begging for a bit more attention. If this is making people happy, then more power to them. But this seems like a short jump to Brave New World when the population turned to Soma instead of facing reality. Attaching electrodes directly to the brain seems to be simpler and faster route than having to go through the smart phone interface.

 

Eventually things got bad enough that I turned off all push notifications from any sort of social media. This recapture of free will became most liberating. I feel that being able to focus on one thing at time increased my creativity as I go through various scenarios. This reduction in dopamine happiness likely had other positive ramifications however.

 

Scientific American provided some research on the difference between happiness and well-being. There appears to be a synergistic effect where one can increase the other but they remain different. One can be happy watching TV even though you would be better off learning something new or completing that homework assignment. By changing your focus from short-term tactical happiness you can then focus on the long-term strategic happiness.

 

 

Biking Cambodia-Hanoi Stopover

Brent and I continued our tour of the National Museum in Hanoi. Some of the ancient texts are shown below.

The courtyard holds displays of various graduates. The Plaque show below describes how they retained the dedication steles of some of the oldest graduates. These were erected on turtles. One of the four holy creatures.

 

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The Dragon was a great attraction. I attempted to find out a bit mroe about the urn. But you can see the dragon relief on top of the building in the background. The dragon is one of the countries four holy creatures.

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My Code of Conduct is wordier than your Code of Conduct.

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“Moral as well as legal obligations will be fulfilled openly, promptly, and in a manner which will reflect pride on the Company’s name.”

These words form the basis of a very fine code of conduct. Unfortunately, this code did not prevent Enron’s problems when it finally collapsed upon itself. So legislators passed Sarbanes-Oxley to fix the problem. The problem still grew resulting in almost the collapse of the financial system in 2008. The more regulations you pass to address the problem seem to magnify the next series of problems.

Various professional organizations provide for very comprehensive codes of conduct. Some groups expanded their codes to now include such things as principles for diversity. Just about everyone agrees that these constitute fine statements for people to aspire. Some disagree that they should not be forced to sign such principles. Others disagree that the principles do not go far enough.

If anyone needs to be reminded to simply act as a decent human being, then yes, the codes do not go far enough. But do fine statements actually work? Do people needing to change their behaviours actually change their behaviours based on something written down on a website, PDF, piece of paper, scroll or basalt? The last refers to the Code of Hammurabi of eye for an eye fame which we saw in the Louvre. A replica would make a fine reminder in any office lobby of the possibility of retribution for nefarious acts.

The various societies of Professional Biologists developed a pithy one page Code of ethics outlining responsibilities to the public, employer or client and within the profession. Membership requires adherence to the various codes listed, but these societies do not appear to govern the ability to practice as a biologist. You become a biologist when someone else calls you a biologist. I am not aware of any society that handles complaints, even if there were any. The biologists in breach rarely get into the paper.

The code of ethics for engineers begins to look more like a brochure. The code requires the highest standards of honesty and integrity. Engineers are expected to perform under a standard of professional behaviours that requires adherence to the highest principles of ethical conduct. Over the past four years the Ontario society may have averaged 6 complaints per year. They seem to be doing relatively well ethics wise.

We begin to enter a serious stage with the Code of Ethics for Professional Accountants. At 114 pages, the code does go into greater detail as to how one should serve not only the client but the greater public interest. The fundamental principles include integrity, objectivity, professional competence, confidentiality and professional behaviours.  The Ontario CPA decisions list over 600 case over the past 30 years. Interesting, and perhaps indicative of accounting behaviour, the cases are listed by rule infraction instead of by year. The discipline journal of cases resembles a tax code.

The various law societies also come in around 113 pages, but have expanded this with some useful commentary and handy indexes found in the back and something that is not found in other codes of conduct, namely definitions. These are found at the beginning of each section. The essence of the code holds out integrity, competence, quality of service, confidentially and conflicts as some of the main pillars. In Ontario there appears to be a steady increase of complaints since in 2008 there were 132 decisions and 199 decisions in 2017. An almost 50% increase over a decade.

 

For comparison purposes, we might look at the Canadian Curling association’s Code of Ethics of 6 bullet points and Fair Play of 5 bullet points which would easily fit on a beer label. This would at least keep it top of mind. Infractions never seem to make the paper unless it occurs at some national level. To avoid the most common infraction, some rinks use a detector if a curling stone is released after crossing the hog line.

So, more regulation does not appear to be solving ethical infractions. An argument could be made that the problem would have been worse, but it’s always hard to prove how many icebergs you really did miss. People only remember the one you didn’t miss.

What appears to be missing from the paper code of conduct solutions would be an ethical culture and an overall ethical program. An ethical culture must originate from management. The various governing societies can help visualize what the tone should sound like, but management must be the one singing it. An ethical program requires more than just a well-defined code of conduct. You also need guidance, a system for obtaining advice and ethical training.

Some of this necessary infrastructure appears to be lacking in a number of governing societies. Compulsory Professional Development can cover some ethical training, but 1 ½ hours of required training a year may be far too low to effect meaningful change. Even a day a year would be insufficient to change some groups reticent to let go of old paradigms.

A system should also be put in place to ensure others can ask questions if necessary. The most effective way to impact change would be to add sufficient transparency to what is occurring prior to any problems arising. Attempting to resolve an issue is far more difficult than trying to prevent the problem from arising in the first place. Reporting of problems after they have occurred can be problematic as people can be reluctant to report issues for fear of direct or far more likely, indirect reprisals.

Studies have shown that people act more honestly and ethically if they perceive that they are being watched. For example, people are far more inclined to contribute towards the coffee fund if a poster containing a pair of eyes is set up on the wall. The same effect could be had by filling in reports on levels of diversity or other steps taken by firm to minimize or otherwise address ethical issues.

Adding a reporting requirement may increase regulatory requirement, but this is actually different from simply adding another page to the code of conduct that may have no effect. Adding a process that increases transparency could have a beneficial impact on changing the corporate culture and address other systemic society issues.  Making small process changes can nudge various organizations and the people within them to make better ethical choices.

 

 

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