Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The Undercurrent Blog is Online!

The Undercurrent blog is now going full steam. There have been three excellent posts in the past week and a half.

The first was my article about the Super Bowl, and why it is so popular in America. Next, The Undercurrent editorial staff published an article on the silly Saudis outlawing the color red for Valentine's day. Finally, Eric Brunner just posted an article on the inane beliefs of some religious people. Eric notes that some people are crazy enough to believe in "a Jewish zombie who can walk on water." :D

So check out The Undercurrent blog! Comments on the blogs are welcome, and are an excellent form of spiritual support. Also, if you are interested in writing for The Undercurrent (or helping out in some other capacity), you can reach the staff at contact@the-undercurrent.com.

--Dan Edge

Monday, February 11, 2008

The Super Bowl -- "Giants" Among Men

This article was published on The Undercurrent student newspaper blog. I encourage readers to navigate to The Undercurrent website and check out the other excellent articles.
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Almost everyone loves the Super Bowl. Super Bowl Sunday has been an unofficial holiday in the United States for decades, and the Monday following the Super Bowl is the one day of the year employees are most likely to call in sick. On the list of the top 30 most watched television broadcasts of all time, 16 are Super Bowls. What is it about sporting events in general, and the Super Bowl in particular, that captures the heart of so many Americans?

The love of competitive sports has been around in the Western world for milennia. The first Olympics in Ancient Greece was held in 776 B.C. For over 1000 years (until Dark Age Christian rulers outlawed the event), the Olympics captivated tens of thousands in the City-States of Greece every four years — it was their Super Bowl. The Greeks revered the Olympic competitors as shining examples of man’s physical potential. Athletes competed in the nude because the spectators found their muscular figures to be beautiful and heroic. They were giants among men, as close to the gods as humans could come.

I believe that this same spirit — this reverence of man’s potential — is part of what makes the Super Bowl so infectious. The Wide Receivers and Defensive Backs are some of the fastest sprinters alive; the Quarterbacks have to be amazing all-around athletes; and the Linemen are literally giants, even when compared to the other players. Each position requires its own combination of strength, speed, agility, and intelligence. Consequently, the men on the field during the Super Bowl are some of fastest and strongest men on the planet.

The reverence for man’s potential is especially relevant in America, a nation founded on individualism. The Founding Fathers believed that man could only reach his full potential if left free to pursue his dreams. The result: even an immigrant with no education — an “underdog” — can come to America and make a fortune.

Sporting events like the Super Bowl inspire us because they symbolize the pursuit of human excellence. In showing us the great potential of the human body, these spectacles represent the even greater potential of the human spirit. As these giants among men take the field to display their physical skill, they inspire others to charge into life with all the vigor of a professional athlete.

--Dan Edge


Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Open Letter to Google VP David Drummond

In Response to Mr. Drummond's Public Statement about Microsoft's Yahoo! bid

Mr. Drummond,

Your blog post of 2/3/08 regarding Microsoft's bid for Yahoo! is a cowardly statement undeserving of a great organization like Google. Microsoft, Yahoo!, and Google are all successful companies that have thrived because we live in a society that still values free market capitalism. For you to state that Microsoft's actions imply "illegal" and "unfair" intentions is beyond the pale. Microsoft is a business which competes with other businesses to generate a profit.

Your letter makes clear that Google's leadership is afraid of fair (unregulated) competition with Microsoft. Instead, you would encourage the government to force Microsoft out of the search engine market. And this in the name of "openness and innovation." What a cowardly act! In your letter, you are more or less openly advocating government intervention to prevent a strong competitor from entering your market, and you do this in the name of "openness and innovation"? I have to call BULLSHIT on that, Drummond.

Google may be an excellent company now, but with leadership like this, it will never succeed in the long term. If Google's answer to competition is to cry "Monopoly!", fall to its knees, and beg for government intervention, then its history of innovation will rapidly become a legacy of incompetent and cowardly corporate leadership.

--Dan Edge

Meta-communication

According to Wikipedia, Meta-communication is "communicating about communication."  Meta-communication is an indispensable tool for developing one's interpersonal relationships. It is important because people communicate on different levels, and one may not be aware of all the messages he is sending. The actual content of what one says is the obvious form of communication, but there are others: the context in which one says something, the tone and volume of his voice, the look in his eyes, physical posture and position, etc.  Meta-communication can help one ensure that his messages are consistent. It can also help him better understand the messages sent by others.

To illustrate the idea of multiples levels of communication: imagine that, in response to a proposed resolution to a problem, one's lover says, "that's fine." If one considers this response based solely on content, then he will think that his lover his happy with the proposed resolution. But what if the words are said at three times normal speaking volume, interrupting what one is saying, and delivered with a dirty look and a grimace? The message is clearly different. This sort of thing happens all the time.

In the above example, the lover is probably intentionally sending the message that "things are not fine." This is not always the case. One may be intending to send the message that "things are fine," but is unintentionally sending contradictory messages. For instance, using the same example, assume that one's lover is truly amenable to resolving the conflict. She says things are OK, and means it, but the words are still delivered with laser eyes and in a sharp tone. Though she does not intend it, she is communicating that things are both "fine" and "not-fine" at the same time.

When this sort of miscommunication occurs, people often respond to the message opposite of the one intended. If someone is communicating that things are both "OK" and "not-OK", then the net message is that a problem still exists. Couples can continue fighting, forever, without ever identifying the source of the miscommunication. That's where meta-communication comes in.

If one is confused about contradictory messages sent by another, the proper response is not to acknowledge one of those messages and ignore the other. One can simply ask, "What are you trying to say?" (This question is so obvious and so helpful, I have no idea why people fail to use it regularly!) If she responds by identifying her intended message, then one has achieved two victories: 1) he understands what she was actually trying to communicate, and 2) he has identified a possible source of miscommunication, which he can then discuss with her. One can say something like, "when you communicate with me in this way, this is the message I get from you." In this way, two people can hammer out their immediate differences, and also learn to improve the way they communicate with each other in the future.

Meta-communication across the life of a relationship is an inductive process. Individuals must consistently maintain an awareness of how they send messages to one another, always looking out for ways to improve.  There are many optional value judgments regarding the way two people communicate with each other. A distinctive form of bilateral communication is the hallmark of close interpersonal relationships. But this only happens if one puts effort into communicating about communication.

--Dan Edge