Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Ten dating mistakes that men always make

Eighteen months ago, I was a long-term singleton. I’d decided that my taste in men had become a little too stringent and restrictive (i.e. I always dated the same sort of guy and was left feeling bemused when they kept showing themselves to be scoundrels). So, I was set a challenge by my friends, in hope of changing the status quo – I was to join a dating site and I HAD TO accept every date I was asked on over the next six weeks.
A month and a half later I’d been on nearly 60 first dates (and can confirm that it is truly exhausting having to represent only the most palatable aspects of your personality over a prolonged period, I don’t know how the Duchess of Cambridge does it). I dated every type of man you could possibly think of, from every possible profession and background, ranging from 23 to 65 years old. I learned quite a lot about humanity, I like to think.
Natasha Devon in The Telegraph

I also noticed a few common dating faux pas nearly all men make. That’s not to say that aren’t totally understandable……But they’re also massive turn-offs (hence why the sixty first dates only resulted in one second date). So, here they are, my gift to you, single men of Britain:
1. Not having a plan. 
 It doesn’t matter how feminist and independent you believe your date to be, we love a man who is good at decision making. Please do not arrange to meet us at the Tube station and then say, “so, where do you fancy going?” This question fills us with dread. We spent three hours getting ready for this thing. We’ve done our bit. We just want to be taken somewhere nice, please.
Bonus points if you say something like “I was thinking about going here as I’ve heard it’s great, unless you had somewhere in mind you’d prefer?” This shows you are decisive AND flatters our feminist sensibilities. We will swoon.
2. Saying “so why is a beautiful girl like you single?”
This is a stupid question on a couple of levels. First of all it makes us think you’re the sort of bloke who believes the dating game is just one long queue of girls, all of whom are DESPERATE for a boyfriend and are standing in order of physical attractiveness, waiting for the next man to walk past. Life is not the television show Take Me Out and we don’t want to go out with a man who thinks it is. Secondly, it immediately makes us wonder why YOU’RE single, before concluding that you’re probably either a serial killer, one of those guys that has a house full of "love dolls" or secretly married.
We know you’re trying to pay us a compliment and that’s lovely, but just telling us we look nice is fine.
3. Admitting you’re nervous.
This is the sort of admission that should only ever happen in retrospect. If it’s five years hence, you’re married and you’re having all your other married friends over for dinner one evening then by all means say “you know the first time I took Sarah out I was SO nervous I had to dash to the toilet seven times in the half hour I was waiting for her to arrive”*. This will seem sweet when we know and love you. Before that, however, it’s just a bit weird.
*This example assumes that your partner is called Sarah. Toilet-based anecdotes about girls you dated who aren’t your present girlfriend/wife are almost never acceptable.
4. Acting like you don’t care.
Having said the above, behaving as though we are utterly disposable and as though this is the sort of thing you do every night isn’t very attractive either. Even if you DO go on dates with different women every night, making us feel special, unique and cherished is the cornerstone of every healthy relationship and also, more short term, the non-negotiable key to getting into our knickers. Things that will make us think you aren’t giving the date sufficient gravitas include yawning, playing with your phone* and turning up in any sort of sportswear.
5. *Playing with your phone
Put. The. Phone. Away. PLEASE.
6. Asking a question then looking really disinterested as soon as the answer comes.
Sounds really obvious, but you’d be surprised how many guys do this. It’s as though they’re actually there purely to soak up the ambience of the pub and their date’s company has been requested solely so they don’t look like a Billy No Mates. Do not ask us something, then glance lazily around (especially not at other girls in the vicinity) as soon as we open our mouths to respond. This is not how a conversation is supposed to go and however subtle you think you’re being, we always notice.
Call us demanding, but in addition to expressing a verbal interest in our lives, we expect you to stick around in the conversation long enough to hear our response.
7. Saying ‘tell me something about you no one else knows’.
Right, first of all, we are women and by our nature confessional – there’s virtually nothing that, between them, our Mum, best friend and most trusted work colleague don’t know about us. Secondly, even if there was, we’re hardly likely to share this scintillating fact with someone who was, 14 minutes ago, a complete stranger. Thirdly, this then puts us on the spot to recall something really unusual and ‘zany’ about ourselves, at which point every zany and unusual thing we have ever thought or done will immediately evaporate from our memory and there will be a cavernous, awkward silence during which we will both wish we were dead.
8. Doing the ‘mid-point date assessment’.
If there is one sentence guaranteed to kill any sort of spark it’s “so, how do you think it’s going?”. We do not wish to analyse this date halfway through it, with you, thank you. We wish to analyse it with our best girlfriends – initially via the medium of text whilst you are in the loo and then further the next evening over several glasses of Pinot Grigio.
9. Bad-mouthing other dates you have been on.
This is the dating equivalent of being the office gossip who spend their days spreading spurious personal information from desk-to-desk and then wonders why they aren’t invited to the pub at six o'clock. Your dating horror stories are fascinating and we will be enthusiastic because we really, really want to hear them. But we’ll also then immediately be on our guard, wondering if this date is a future anecdote for another date you might go on.
If you’re interested in watching in horror as someone second-guesses each word that comes out of their face in case it’s used to incriminate them at a further juncture, may I suggest instead watching Question Time.
10. Talking about your ex/Asking about her ex
Ah, the holy grail. We all know we shouldn’t do it. Every magazine article, dating manual and wise older person has warned us against this particular pitfall for as long as we can remember. Yet for some reason I was asked about my ex on approximately 80% of the dates I went on and, as a direct consequence, I actually ended up missing my ex a little bit.
To be avoided. At all costs.
And here’s some "dos":
- SMILE! - It doesn’t cost anything and it makes you look sexy.
- Insist on paying - A controversial one, this. We’re always happy to go halves or even to pay for the whole thing BUT if you absolutely insist we’ll assume you’re having deeply loving feelings towards us.
- Walk us to the station/put us in a cab/in some way show that you are bothered about what might befall us during our journey home.
- Text immediately you get in to say what a lovely night you had - Even if it’s a lie. It’s just British good manners.
Et voila. Happy dating, fellas!

Debunking the Myers-Briggs personality test

By Anthony Zurcher Editor, Echo Chambers 

The popular Myers-Briggs personality test is a joke, writes Vox's Joseph Stromberg. While it might be a fun way to pass the time, he says, it has about as much insight and validity as a Buzzfeed quiz.
The test, taken by an estimated 2 million people each year, has been around since the 1940s and is based on the observations of psychologist Carl Jung. Through a battery of 93 questions, it classifies test-takers into one of 16 personality types based on four sets of binary characteristics: introvert/extrovert, intuitive/sensory, feeling/thinking and judging/perceiving.
"Several analyses have shown the test is totally ineffective at predicting people's success in various jobs, and that about half of the people who take it twice get different results each time," Stromberg writes.
Stromberg says one of the key flaws to the test is that it relies on "limited binaries". Most humans, he says, fall along a spectrum and are not easily classified into opposite choices. People aren't exclusively extroverts or introverts - and where they fall on the spectrum can fluctuate widely based on how they are feeling at the moment.
Most psychologists have long since abandoned Myers-Briggs, if they ever gave it any credence at all, Stromberg continues.
Instead, he says, Myers-Briggs lives on as a revenue generator for CPP, the company that owns the rights to the test. It makes an estimated $20m (£11.6m) a year by charging people $15 to $40 to take the survey and certifying test administrators for $1,700.
Stromberg explains why people are willing to pay such a steep fee to get the official Myers-Briggs imprimatur:
"Once you have that title, you can sell your services as a career coach to both people looking for work and the thousands of major companies - such as McKinsey & Co., General Motors, and a reported 89 of the Fortune 100 - that use the test to separate employees and potential hires into 'types' and assign them appropriate training programs and responsibilities."
Even the US government, including the state department and the Central Intelligence Agency, uses Myers-Briggs - a waste of taxpayer money, Stromberg says.
He concludes:
"It's 2014. Thousands of professional psychologists have evaluated the century-old Myers-Briggs, found it to be inaccurate and arbitrary, and devised better systems for evaluating personality. Let's stop using this outdated measure - which has about as much scientific validity as your astrological sign - and move on to something else."
In a statement provided to the BBC, CPP president Jeffrey Hayes defends the test's validity.
"It's the world's most popular personality assessment largely because people find it useful and empowering, and much criticism of it stems from misunderstanding regarding its purpose and design," he says. "It is not, and was never intended to be predictive, and should never be used for hiring, screening or to dictate life decisions."
He says that organisations rely on the test "for its practical benefits in career development, conflict-handling, team building and leadership development".

Monday, 14 July 2014

The Measure of Success

Ed Smith in Cricinfo

One of the rare pleasures of playing sport is deep concentration: back in that zone, the number of empty seats becomes an irrelevance © Getty Images

A chance conversation about motivation leads me to reflect on the nature of ambition. What is ambition, properly understood? Must it mean climbing the ladder to the top? Or is it the feeling that your life has a sense of purpose and meaning, even during those days that end in disappointment?
The initial question put to me was simple: "How do you stay motivated in county cricket, even if you never get back in contention for the Test team?" In trying to provide an answer, I ended up trying to work out what matters - in cricket, in writing, or in any career.
In one respect, I was exactly the right person to ask. Not because I always succeeded but because I often failed. Only now, six years after admitting defeat, do I think I am ready explicitly to analyse why. Between being dropped by England (aged 26) and retiring from cricket (at 31), I averaged about 45 in first-class cricket. It's not phoney modesty when I confess that isn't good enough. In your late 20s, as a mature batsman who knows his game, secure in your place and comfortable in your environment, you ought to average more like 55 or 60.
As Michael Vaughan often correctly points out, the biggest difference between Test and first-class cricket is not the balls that are bowled at you but the environment in which the match is played. International cricket has a sense of event - crowd, media, cameras and constant scrutiny - that county cricket often lacks. The mood of a Test match is an intoxicating experience. When all that is suddenly withdrawn, the short-term danger is feeling that other cricket - the cricket that got you there in the first place - is somehow unexciting. This is obviously a huge error, but an understandable one.
When a player is trying to break into international cricket, a county match - an essential step on a lifelong journey - is filled with hope and energy. After he has been dropped, the same county ground can feel lifeless and depressing. You can catch yourself making a fatal miscalculation: I've performed so often in this environment that I can turn it on again when it really matters.
But, sadly, form does not take orders from your surly ego. How quickly you forget that you did not coast to success in the first place, but committed to it wholeheartedly. In failing to do the same now, you are effectively asking yourself to play better than ever while kicking away the foundations.
From the vantage point of retirement, you realise that the most enviable careers are not always the most successful in objective terms
There is, however, a healthier way of looking at a career (any career). Instead of seeing it as only a ladder that must be climbed - and resenting any reversals along the way - your career can be viewed as a sphere of experience. After all, life is really an accumulated store of experiences. And today - this ground, this match, this innings - offers the only experience available to us. We cannot play in matches taking place on other grounds, however much we want to.
Instead of seeing success only as an outcome - wearing a particular shirt, or playing in front of a certain number of spectators - success can be recast as a search for meaningful experience. How good can I be? How much can I give of myself? Can I enjoy the fact of caring deeply, even when it leads to disappointment? How unsparing can I be in the expectations I place on myself?
Let me use an analogy from my life now, as a writer. I write both books and articles (for different publications and outlets), so my work is published and distributed in a wide range of different formats. Sometimes the life of writer seems glamorous (a shiny new book or a cover story for magazine), other times it all feels very workaday. But the experience that matters - writing the words that I feel to be true, with the most clarity and honesty I can manage - remains entirely unchanged. It is my decision. I can choose to focus on the essence of the experience (the words) or the surface effects (the rewards).
So it is with cricketers and their stage. Instead of expecting the by-products to provide meaning, we can look for it in the experience itself. Whatever the level of the match, your job is the same: to respond to the ball. The method, too, remains unchanged: to achieve the right mixture of readiness and yet relaxation, the balance of hunger and indifference, the optimal blend of narrow focus and yet openness to the day, the middle ground between asserting conscious willpower and yet allowing it to happen.
Get into that space and you will rediscover the primacy of experience and the insignificance of surface effects. One of the rare pleasures of playing sport is deep concentration: back in that zone, the number of empty seats becomes an irrelevance. From the vantage point of retirement, you realise that the most enviable careers are not always the most successful in objective terms.
A career that is fatally hitched to external validation is doomed to disappointment: there will always be someone better than you, performing on a bigger stage, garnering greater reviews. But if they are looking over their shoulder, wondering if the world could give them still more prizes, while you are absorbed entirely in today's experience, then tell me: who is the more successful man?

The Science Delusion by Rupert Sheldrake - A review


We must find a new way of understanding human beings
A dog
Dogs: do they really know when you're coming home? Photograph: Laurie and Charles/Getty Images
The unlucky fact that our current form of mechanistic materialism rests on muddled, outdated notions of matter isn't often mentioned today. It's a mess that can be ignored for everyday scientific purposes, but for our wider thinking it is getting very destructive. We can't approach important mind-body topics such as consciousness or the origins of life while we still treat matter in 17th-century style as if it were dead, inert stuff, incapable of producing life. And we certainly can't go on pretending to believe that our own experience – the source of all our thought – is just an illusion, which it would have to be if that dead, alien stuff were indeed the only reality.
We need a new mind-body paradigm, a map that acknowledges the many kinds of things there are in the world and the continuity of evolution. We must somehow find different, more realistic ways of understanding human beings – and indeed other animals – as the active wholes that they are, rather than pretending to see them as meaningless consignments of chemicals.
Rupert Sheldrake, who has long called for this development, spells out this need forcibly in his new book. He shows how materialism has gradually hardened into a kind of anti-Christian faith, an ideology rather than a scientific principle, claiming authority to dictate theories and to veto inquiries on topics that don't suit it, such as unorthodox medicine, let alone religion. He shows how completely alien this static materialism is to modernphysics, where matter is dynamic. And, to mark the strange dilemmas that this perverse fashion poses for us, he ends each chapter with some very intriguing "Questions for Materialists", questions such as "Have you been programmed to believe in materialism?", "If there are no purposes in nature, how can you have purposes yourself?", "How do you explain the placebo response?" and so on.
In short, he shows just how unworkable the assumptions behind today's fashionable habits have become. The "science delusion" of his title is the current popular confidence in certain fixed assumptions – the exaltation of today's science, not as the busy, constantly changing workshop that it actually is but as a final, infallible oracle preaching a crude kind of materialism.
In trying to replace it he needs, of course, to suggest alternative assumptions. But here the craft of paradigm-building has chronic difficulties. Our ancestors only finally stopped relying on the familiar astrological patterns when they had grown accustomed to machine-imagery instead – first becoming fascinated by the clatter of clockwork and later by the ceaseless buzz of computers, so that they eventually felt sure that they were getting new knowledge. Similarly, if we are told today that a mouse is a survival-machine, or that it has been programmed to act as it does, we may well feel that we have been given a substantial explanation, when all we have really got is one more optional imaginative vision – "you can try looking at it this way".
That is surely the right way to take new suggestions – not as rival theories competing with current ones but as extra angles, signposts towards wider aspects of the truth. Sheldrake's proposal that we should think of natural regularities as habits rather than as laws is not just an arbitrary fantasy. It is a new analogy, brought in to correct what he sees as a chronic exaggeration of regularity in current science. He shows how carefully research conventions are tailored to smooth out the data, obscuring wide variations by averaging many results, and, in general, how readily scientists accept results that fit in with their conception of eternal laws.
He points out too, that the analogy between natural regularities and habit is not actually new. Several distinctly non-negligible thinkers – CS Peirce, Nietzsche, William James,AN Whitehead – have already suggested it because they saw the huge difference between the kind of regularity that is found among living things and the kind that is expected of a clock or a calcium atom.
Whether or no we want to follow Sheldrake's further speculations on topics such asmorphic resonance, his insistence on the need to attend to possible wider ways of thinking is surely right. And he has been applying it lately in fields that might get him an even wider public. He has been making claims about two forms of perception that are widely reported to work but which mechanists hold to be impossible: a person's sense of being looked at by somebody behind them, and the power of animals – dogs, say – to anticipate their owners' return. Do these things really happen?
Sheldrake handles his enquiries soberly. People and animals do, it seems, quite often perform these unexpected feats, and some of them regularly perform them much better than others, which is perhaps not surprising. He simply concludes that we need to think much harder about such things.
Orthodox mechanistic believers might have been expected to say what they think is wrong with this research. In fact, not only have scientists mostly ignored it but, more interestingly still, two professed champions of scientific impartiality, Lewis Wolpert and Richard Dawkins, who did undertake to discuss it, reportedly refused to look at the evidence (see two pages in this book). This might indeed be a good example of what Sheldrake means by the "science delusion".