Friday, June 22, 2007

New trend? Think again

This morning someone called our surgery asking about how to 'glue' thing to tooth without using light. Turns out, it's to glue diamond to the tooth. You'd have thought it's a modern trend. Well you are wrong.

In the ancient Mayan kingdom of Copan (500-900AD) such adornment was used by privileged people. Last year, an anonymous sender sent a packet of two jaws adorned with jade to Honduran embassy in the Netherlands. The technique of putting those tiny jade was superb, no nerve was damaged from the process. Remember, it was done when there was no tiny drill, etchant or cement like they use when applying braces in our time.

I am always amaze with the technology that ancient civilization use back then, and wonder how it would have been like if their knowledge was preserved.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Polish, any one?

No wonder people oppose immigration. Look at this headline in the UK.

The British workers denied jobs 'because they can't speak Polish'

Friday, June 08, 2007

Everyone's A Little Bit Racist

When I told D that I am a little racist, he looked at me strangely. I know most people would deny that they have prejudices, let alone admitting they are racist. However, I believe each and everyone of us are a little racist. Go on, admit it. No, not racist in the sense you are into hate crime or anything, however, we consciously or unconsciously have our prejudices about others. Our unconscious attitude may be 180 degrees different than our conscious values. It is because our surrounding influenced the way we think & feel which are important in things like prejudice and discrimination.

Remember about the dolls experiment? It shows that as young as 4-5 years old, children have (racial) biased thoughts. In most societies lighter skinned is considered as more beautiful or simply better. You don't choose to make positive associations to lighter skinned, but you see it everywhere that groups is 'reflecting' good things. It is sad, but real.

At Harvard Uni, Anthony Greenwald, Mahzarin Banaji, and Brian Nozek created the Implicit Association Test (AIT) which is based on observation. We are forever making connections of ideas in our mind. Sarah - Female, John - Male, Laundry - Family, Merchant-Career. How about putting words into categories? It feels uneasy for me to put a word like 'Laundry' into 'Family' category when 'Family' was paired with 'Female' or when I put 'Merchant' into 'Career' when 'Career' was paired with 'Male'. But it took me a while when the categories were reversed.

According to the study, our attitude toward things like gender & race is not straight forward. On conscious level, we operate deliberately in accordance with our values. However, our unconsciousness, the one that AIT measured, reflects our automatics associations before we've even had time to think. The formation of it came from the experiences we've had, people we've met, books we've read. This can also predict how we act in certain situations. If you have a strong preference towards white people, chances are you are behaving differently in the presence of black person. You might not be aware of it, but you'll probably smile less, keeping more distance, hesitate. And those unconscious behaviors do matter. That person will pick up your behavior and feels uncertain about himself, which in turn give you the wrong impression about him. Imagine if it happened on interview. The chance of that person getting that job is just diminish.

Interestingly, even though I think I am a little racist, my AIT result suggest I have little to no automatic preference between European American and African American. I was surprised, I thought with all those Hollywood movies I've been watching, living in the predominantly white neighborhood, my result would suggest a moderate automatic preference for white.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

A lesson in discrimination

Tonight the Belgium tv Een screened a documentary of an experiment that took place at Annie Leblanc's homogeneous classroom at primary school of Saint-Valérien-of-Milton, in Montérégie, Quebec, Canada. Each year there's always a scapegoat in her 3rd year classroom. This year it is Pierre-Luc who is obese.

So what a teacher can do...

She used the segregation experiment done by Jane Elliot back in 1968 in her classroom. The experiment took place in two days. On the first day, She told her pupils that the smaller (under1.34m) children were intelligent, faster, wiser and more creative. In short, they were better. On the second day it was the bigger children who were better. Very soon the children adapted to the roles. At the end of the day both Jane Elliot's & Anne Leblanc's pupils were all behaving like 'victims and torturers'.

The good news is, after 3 weeks, the film crew went back to the school, and it seems the lesson has been learned. The pupils learn about discrimination and the effect of it and also the connection between encouragements and the self-esteem. They treat Pierre-Luc differently, they even stood up for him.

I found this experiment very interesting and powerful, seeing how quick and easy discriminating behavior can emerge in children. I wish my elementary school did this. I can recall one incident on the 3rd grade, when a new girl just got transfered to our midst. One boy refused to be in the same class with her because she has different religion belief than the rest of the pupils. I was furious with his behavior. In the end both stayed in the same class, but I can't recall they really talked to each other. I cant blame her, he was an a**e.

To see Jane Elliot's blue eyes v. brown eyes experiment you can click here, for the transcript click here
To see Anne Leblanc's you can click here (in French)

Friday, June 01, 2007

The Big Donor Show

When I first heard about Endemol's de grote Donorshow I thought it's another shocking show from BNN, Dutch tv station that gave us programme such as 'Neuken doe je zo!' (This is how you ****) and 'Spuiten of slikken' (Injected or swallow) a programme where the presenters use LSD, heroin & opium to send out message about the danger of using substance.

Lisa who has inoperable brain tumor would donate one of her kidneys to one of the three kidney patients within 1.5 months. During the show the audience could advice Lisa via SMS to whom she should donate her kidney. However, the lucky winner was still chosen by Lisa.

The show is not only generating discussions in NL, but also all over the world. Most people find it tasteless, unethical, and even macabre. Others, such as Dutch Kidney Foundation Director Paul Beerkens is pleased with the publicity about the lack of Dutch donors. Although he said, "The form BNN has chosen, would definitely not be ours. I personally think it goes too far."

Tonight, by chance, I saw the last half and hour of the show. It's like watching a train wrecks. After each candidates, Esther Claire (she's Ambonese, by the way), Vincent and Charlotte, told their stories, Lisa asked each of them one question. Before Lisa chose the winner, each candidate had 30 seconds air time to convince Lisa that she or he is the right person to get a new kidney.

First, The oldest candidate lost the race, Lisa thought she is not the person who needed the kidney the most. Then, before Lisa announced who's going to have kidney surgery in 1.5 months, the show stopped. Patrick Lodiers, the presenter, revealed that tonight the show wasn't going to give away any kidney. The show was not real. A brilliant hoax. Very Bart, the founder of BNN who was a kidney patient himself. Lisa is actually an actrice. However the three candidates are real kidney patients and still needing new kidneys.

Lodiers urged the audience to fill in the donor registration form, because there's a huge shortage of donor in NL. Well, actually in whole Europe. In fact, yesterday the European Union's health chief, Markos Kyprianou, presented his proposal to increase organ donations and transplants in the 27-nation EU.

There are at this moment 40 000 Europeans on the transplant waiting list, some of them have been waiting for years. About 10 patients die each day due to the shortage of donor. Apparently, donor of minority background is even rarer.

So, would you consider becoming a donor?

update June 2nd 12:46 PM: within hours there were 12000 registration forms filled. They supposed to do it back in 1998 when everyone in the country received the form like I did. I guess people need to be shocked to do something about it.