2016 Rio Summer Olympics Recap

Olympics-Rio

As the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro come to close tonight, it’s time to look back at what, in my opinion, were the most significant parts of this summer’s Olympic Games.

 

Controversy leading up to Olympics

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Mosquito sucking blood on a human hand

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There was no shortage of concern for Olympic athletes in the months leading up to Rio. Several notable athletes dropped out of the Olympics over concern about the Zika epidemic raging across Brazil and Southern America. Team USA basketball even decided to live on their own personal mega yacht during the Games rather than stay in the Olympic village, in what was one of the biggest power moves of all time. The other major concern during these Olympics was the safety of the players, which is illustrated perfectly by the picture above of protesters greeting athletes at the airport. Despite these major concerns, there were fortunately no major incidents that harmed any of the participants.

 

USA Swimming Dominance

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Between the men’s and women’s teams, the United States racked up 33 medals, including 16 gold, in swimming alone. Australia was the next closest with 10 swimming medals (3 gold). Of course, the two biggest stories were Michael Phelps and Katie Ledecky. Phelps, 31 years old and playing in his 5th Olympics, added six more medals this summer, including five gold, to bring his record-breaking totals up to 28 career medals and 23 golds. My favorite Phelps race was the 200m Butterfly Final, in which he avenged a previous Olympic loss by winning gold and destroying rival Chad Le Clos who failed to even medal at the event. Ledecky was arguably more dominant this Olympics, racking up 4 golds and 1 silver by destroying not only the competition, but the record books. This was never more obvious during her performance in the 800m freestyle, in which she won by an absurd 12 seconds over the silver medalist while smashing the world record.

 

USA Women’s Gymnastics

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Out of all the Olympic events, gymnastics will always be the one I’m most impressed with. The USA women’s gymnastics team set out to dominate again, this time led by a record breaking performance from 19 year old Simone Biles. I’m pretty sure my bones almost broke just by watching her floor exercise routine. That amount of athleticism and coordination is mind-boggling. She took home five medals this Olympics and became the first gymnast in US history to win 4 gold medals at a single Olympics. Fellow American, and Massachusetts native, Aly Raisman added 3 more medals to her total in her second Olympic stint following London in 2012.

 

Usain Bolt’s Triple Three-peat

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Usain Bolt can run 100 meters before I even finish typing this sentence. The Jamaican once again established his dominance by winning the 100m, 200m, and 4 x 100 relay for an unprecedented 3rd straight Olympics. He finished with a world-record breaking 9.58 seconds in the 100m this time. Just to put that in perspective, 100 meters in 9.58 seconds translates to TWENTY-TWO AND A HALF miles per hour. Usain Bolt can literally run faster than I can bike. He will go down as the fastest man on earth.

 

Team USA dominates basketball

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My favorite thing to watch in the Olympics every year is the USA Men’s basketball team. Team USA had its struggles with some games early on in group play, but when it mattered most they came through led by Kevin Durant’s 30 points in a 30 point blow out win over Serbia for the USA’s third straight Olympic gold medal and record-breaking 76th consecutive win in international play. It will be the end of an era for Coach K, the only coach to win 3 gold medals, and Carmelo Anthony, the only player to win 3 straight gold medals. On the women’s side, Team USA was able to capture it’s 6th straight gold medal by dominating Spain in the gold medal game.

 

FINAL MEDAL COUNT

medal count

 

Let me know your favorite moments from the 2016 Rio Olympics in the comments down below.

Thanks for reading,

Jeff

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Looking Glass Self theory: Are we who we think people think we are?

I’ve written about identity in several blog posts in the past, but I recently came across a very interesting theory that I had not heard before. The Looking Glass Self theory was coined by sociologist Charles Cooley and refers to the idea that our identity is shaped by social interactions with other people. What we believe about other people’s perception of us shapes who we really are, and how we observe others’ perception of ourselves comes about through social interactions. This happens in three steps: we come to a conclusion about how we appear to others, then we determine what judgments others are making about us based on appearance, and finally we imagine what others feel about us based on those judgments. Our behavior then changes to reflect what we think others feel about us.

looking glass 2

So how does this psychological phenomenon actually manifest itself in real life? Let’s say your a student and your teacher is really encouraging and always tells you that you are doing a good job. It doesn’t matter if you are actually doing a good job. It doesn’t matter if your teacher thinks you are doing a good job. What matters is that you think your teacher thinks you are doing a good job, and as a result you will view yourself as smart or successful. Another example could be when you tell a joke to your friends and they laugh.  You might not have thought the joke was that funny, maybe you were just trying to break the silence. Your friends might not have thought the joke was funny, maybe they were just being polite. However, if you perceive that your friends laughter was genuine then you will identify yourself as being funny regardless of whether  or not anyone thought it was funny.

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So what’s the point of this theory? What can we learn? I think the first takeaway is that, whether we realize it or not, we all care about what other people think about us to the point that we project ourselves as a reflection of we think they view us. I’ve often thought that I do a good job of not letting other people’s opinions of me change who I really am, but I hadn’t considered that this could be happening subconsciously anyway. This reinforces the importance of surrounding yourself with positive influences wherever you can, because everyone you interact with is impacting your identity in some way, even if it’s just a tiny bit.

looking glass 3

I think another implication of this theory is its support for the “nurture” argument in the nature vs nurture battle regarding which impacts our identity more. My personal opinion is that identity is 80-85% shaped by nurture, or in other words our environment and interactions with those around us. We may be born with certain innate qualities, but according to this theory you are a completely different person if you grow up and live in one community or culture as opposed to another. Our brains are very fluid and designed to constantly change and adapt based on what we perceive and experience, so it only makes sense that our perceptions would change based on changes in the views of other people and the environment around us.

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Finally, the last takeaway I have from this theory is looking at it from the outside perspective. We are able to shape who others think they are based on acting towards them in a manner that changes how they view what we think of them. For example, if I want someone to think that they are smart, I can tell them they are smart and consistently act like their achievements are impressive or their study habits are great, etc. It may seem obvious that what we tell other people can influence what they think of themselves, but what’s more important and probably more influential is the non-verbal ways in which we communicate with people. Let’s say I start avoiding someone I normally see or start acting differently in front of someone. These are the types of behaviors that start to impact what we think of ourselves, and are harder to ignore than just words that someone says to you.

As referenced in the title of this blog post, the Looking Glass Self theory can best be summarized by a single quote: “I am not who I think I am. I am not who you think I am. I am who I think you think I am.”

Thanks to everyone who read the post. Please like the post and leave feedback in the comments below!

Thanks,
Jeff

Sources/Additional Reading: http://www.popularsocialscience.com/2013/05/27/the-looking-glass-self-how-our-self-image-is-shaped-by-society/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Looking_glass_self

http://calldrmatt.com/LookingGlassSelf.htm

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Song Analysis: Take On Me by A-ha (1984)

 

This is an interesting song because I think it perfectly describes an all too familiar scenario that many of us have gone through: liking someone and not knowing how to tell them. Logic would say to just be honest and straightforward with that person, but the reality is that humans are complex emotional beings. While that often presents many obstacles for how we connect with others around us, it’s also what makes relationships so special in the first place. This song demonstrates the emotional battle that a guy is going through in trying to communicate his feelings in a way that will lead to a happy ending.

At the beginning of the song, he admits that he doesn’t know what to say but he still wants to talk to this girl anyway because he really likes her. The chorus “Take on me,
Take me on, I’ll be gone, In a day or two” is him hoping that she will take a risk and give him a chance, because sooner or later he won’t be able to handle it anymore and have to move on. This is again reiterated in the second verse when he says It’s no better to be safe than sorry.” It’s a constant battle between him deciding how to tell her vs. him waiting to see if she feels the same way about him.

I think one of the key parts of this song comes in the final verse: “The things that you say, is it live or just to play my worries away?” For me these words indicate that the two already have a close friendship, and he wants to know whether she is only interested in being friends or if she wants something more. Is this something real or is just casual flirting as friends? I personally think this is one of the toughest things to interpret. Sometimes you really can’t tell if someone likes you or if they are just being nice. It becomes a guessing game and that’s what the guy in this song is struggling over. Is it worth telling someone you’re close to that you like them as more than a friend and risk ruining a good friendship?

As someone who tries to approach everything from a logical and analytical perspective, I am always fascinated by these complex emotional dilemmas that people experience. My brain is wired to think that there’s a logical way to solve every problem that we face, but when it comes to friendships and relationships, it really can be just a guessing game and weighing of subjective opinions. As I said in the beginning, maybe that’s what makes it special to begin with. When things don’t work out it leads to heartbreak, but when we do make that connection than there’s no better feeling in the world and no logic to explain it.

Thanks  to everyone who read this post. Please like the post and leave feedback in the comments down below.

Thanks,

Jeff

 

 

 

 

 

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Song Analysis: The Kill by 30 Seconds to Mars (2005)

 

It’s been a long time (December 2013) since I wrote a song analysis blog but for some reason those posts have been my most viewed to this day so I’m bringing back the segment with one of my favorite songs from 30 Seconds to Mars. The Kill is a powerful song about the identity crisis that most of us go through at some point in our lives. I think our identity is dynamic and always changing, which makes it so difficult sometimes to figure out who we really are. With this song in particular, we can see the battle that goes on inside the mind: Who we are vs. who we want to be.

At the beginning of the song he is asking himself what would happen if he just gave in to the person he really is. I think this is very interesting because it’s something I personally think about all the time. Is it better to just fit in to society, be normal, and have people like you even though that’s not your real self? Or is it better to give in to yourself knowing that certain aspects of who you really are will damage relationships and make life more difficult? The chorus “Come break me down, Bury me, bury me, I am finished with you” illustrates this breaking point so perfectly. You reach a level of where you’re tired of being who you are and you just want to break down and start over again.

In the third verse he says the following:

“I tried to be someone else
But nothing seemed to change
I know now, this is who I really am inside
I’ve finally found myself
Fighting for a chance
I know now, this is who I really am”

I think these words are really powerful because it sums up the identity crisis so well. We all try to be somebody we’re not at one point or another for many different reasons – maybe it’s societal pressure, maybe it’s to impress someone you’re in love with, maybe it’s to get a job, maybe it’s so people don’t look at you as weird or different, maybe it’s religious or cultural expectations. I know that, at least for me, all of these factors have come into play and it took awhile for me to figure out and accept who I am as a person, and even now that job isn’t finished.

It’s just so difficult to accept ourselves sometimes because nobody is perfect and there will always be thoughts inside our own heads that bring doubt about who we really are. The reality is that who we really are will never, ever please 100% of the people we know and care about, because we’ll always have negative aspects about us that we want to hide and repress. It’s the people that can look at those negative aspects, and not only not judge us for them, but understand them and try to help make us better, that are the people we need to surround ourselves with.

Something that I often forget, or at least don’t want to admit, is that I can’t do it all on my own. Sometimes we just need to take that risk and give in to who we really are, because at the end of the day that is the first step to becoming a better person, and that will help you know who the most important people in your life are.

Thanks to everyone who read the blog. Please like the post and comment with your own thoughts and opinions. Also recommend another song that you would like me to interpret.

Thanks,

Jeff

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Heterotopia: Designing our Minds for the Future

 

This concept of heterotopia is among the most fascinating and complex ideas that I have come across as I continue to explore how our minds work and how we relate to the world around us. Since it was introduced by French philosopher Michel Foucault in the 1960s, many experts still continue to debate different interpretations of the idea up until this very day. As you saw in the video above, one definition of heterotopia is “a social space of otherness, at once physical and interpsychic.” Another definition is “spaces that have more layers of meaning or relationships to other places than immediately meet the eye.”

UtopiaCity3

I think the best way to introduce this concept is by starting with the idea of utopia. Most people are familiar with a utopia is: a type of perfect society that does not exist in reality. Heterotopia is not necessarily anti-utopia, but rather a deviation from it. Utopias are spaces that don’t exist, whereas heterotopias are spaces that simultaneously exist and do not exist, but are based off an inverted reality. The  best example of a heterotopia is the  mirror. The person we see in the mirror exists because the mirror is showing something that is real. However, the image we see in the mirror itself is not a real person. It does not exist on its own without an actual person for it to deviate from.

mirror-reflection

Another example of a heterotopia that exists in society is the cemetery. The cemetery is a space where people simultaneously exist (as bodies in the ground) and no longer exist (as living human beings), but it is a space that reflects a part of society. Cemeteries would not exist without something real to begin with. When we die we cross over to another space that is no longer part of society, while simultaneously representing a physical space in society through our gravestone. It is both physical and interpsychic, to tie it back to the video at the beginning of this blog. But the real reason I became fascinated with this concept is not necessarily how it operates as a space in society, but how it operates as a space in our  minds.

Mobile-Marketing-Coming-to-Virtual-Reality

Perhaps the most interesting example of heterotopia in today’s society is the rapidly emerging industry of virtual and augmented reality. Similar to the mirror example, when we experience virtual reality we are seeing a space in which images of physical things exist, but the space itself does not exist in reality – it is virtual. However, unlike the mirror, we now have the ability to design these virtual spaces. We can create our own heterotopias, our own constructions of places that we can experience while not physically being at that place. As Jason Silva says, we can design our mindscapes. We can create worlds that are a reflection of society but do not operate under the hegemonic conditions of society.

heterotopia

What’s even better is that we can share these creative spaces with others. Anyone can enter these spaces and each person will have their own unique experiences. In this way, we can design our minds for the future. We may not be able to create utopia, but we can connect with other individuals in these heterotopias, these spaces that exist as both physical and interpsychic, and I think harnessing the power of the human brain in this way opens up the door to endless possibilities regarding how society advances in the future.

This blog comes nowhere near exploring the full history, interpretations, and applications of heterotopia that have been developed since the term was originally coined. For more background and additional information on this topic, refer to the links below.

Thank you to everyone who read this post, please like the post and leave feedback in the comments below.

-Jeff

Sources and additional reading:

http://web.mit.edu/allanmc/www/foucault1.pdf

http://www.heterotopiastudies.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/Interpretations-of-Heterotopia-pdf.pdf

http://www.heterotopiastudies.com/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heterotopia_(space)#Heterotopia_in_Foucault

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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2016 NBA Playoff Predictions

nba playoffs

It’s that time of year in the NBA. 16 teams will battle it out for the 2016 Larry O’Brien trophy starting today. Here are my predictions for this year’s NBA Playoffs.

EASTERN CONFERENCE QUARTERFINALS

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#1 Cleveland Cavaliers vs. #8 Detroit Pistons

The first round is a mere formality for Lebron James at this point. Drummond and Reggie Jackson will put on a show to steal Game 3 but Cavs close it out in 5.

#2 Toronto Raptors vs. #7 Indiana Pacers

The Raptors look to finally win a playoff series, but they will have to do so against a revitalized Paul George and veteran Indiana team with Eastern Conference Finals experience. This one is a battle until the end, where Toronto pulls off a Game 7 win.

#3 Miami Heat vs. #6 Charlotte Hornets

The Heat enter the playoffs without Chris Bosh but playoff veteran Dwayne Wade has been great this season for Miami. However, a healthy Charlotte team with Nicolas Batum and Al Jefferson healthy in the front court will cause problems for Miami. Whiteside will be in foul trouble constantly and Kemba Walker will be clutch in this series. Hornets in 6.

#4 Atlanta Hawks vs. #5 Boston Celtics

The Hawks have given the Celtics trouble this season, but Boston has shown it has the capability to beat anybody, home or away. Isaiah Thomas will help make this a close series for the Celtics but Horford and Millsap will be too much for Boston’s front court to handle. Atlanta wins series in 7 games.

 

WESTERN CONFERENCE QUARTERFINALS

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#1 Golden State Warriors vs. #8 Houston Rockets

A rematch of last year’s Western Conference Finals, but this year’s will not be as close. Harden will score 45 in Game 4 but the Warriors will do their thing and win in 5 games.

#2 San Antonio Spurs vs. #7 Memphis Grizzlies

Memphis has been decimated by injuries this season, and can finally be put out of their misery against San Antonio. A balanced offensive attack and solid team defense led by Kawhi Leonard will help the Spurs sweep this series.

#3 Oklahoma City Thunder vs. #6 Dallas Mavericks

Overshadowed by the Warriors and Spurs, the Thunder still have the best duo in the NBA in Westbrook and Durant. Dallas surprised many by making the playoffs this year, but Dirk won’t have enough left in the tank to push Dallas into the next round. Thunder sweep the series.

#4 Los Angeles Clippers vs. #5 Portland Trail Blazers

Something about the Clippers seems off this year. They still have the talent led by Chris Paul but have been dysfunctional at times, while the backcourt of Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum have helped the Trail Blazers exceed all expectations. Portland wins this series in 6 games.

 

EASTERN CONFERENCE SEMIFINALS

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#1 Cleveland Cavaliers vs. #4 Atlanta Hawks

The Cavs swept the top-seeded Hawks in last year’s Eastern Conference Finals, and although the Hawks aren’t any better this year, Cleveland has been vulnerable times so I’ll give Atlanta a game and say Cavs in 5.

#2 Toronto Raptors vs. #6 Charlotte Hornets

With a playoff series finally under their belt, the Raptors start to play to their potential. The Hornets will be feisty in this series but Toronto will vanquish them in 6 games.

 

WESTERN CONFERENCE SEMIFINALS

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#1 Golden State Warriors vs. #5 Portland Trail Blazers

The Blazers turned some heads by annihilating the Warriors shortly after the All-Star Break, but Steve Kerr won’t let Damian Lillard catch him off guard again. Golden State overpowers Portland on their way to a sweep.

#2 San Antonio Spurs vs. #3 Oklahoma City Thunder

The Spurs have been invincible at home this year, but the Thunder only need to take one to have a shot in this series. I think Westbrook and Durant will once again be dominant and the Thunder seize their opportunity to clinch the series at home in Game 6.

 

EASTERN CONFERENCE FINALS

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#1 Cleveland Cavaliers vs. #2 Toronto Raptors

Everyone has defaulted the Cavs into the NBA Finals once again, but if there’s a team that has a chance to match up well and play the Cleveland tough, it’s the Raptors. Demare Carroll could be key defensive force on Lebron in this series as he returns to full health. Raptors shock the Cavs in 7.

 

WESTERN CONFERENCE FINALS

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#1 Golden State Warriors vs. #3 Oklahoma City Thunder

If it plays out this way, this series may be the most exciting of the playoffs. Loaded with superstars and talent, OKC will put a valiant effort against Golden State. The Warriors Big 3 will show up for the occasion however, and their depth will be too much for the Thunder to handle. Warriors in 6.

 

NBA FINALS

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#1 Golden State Warriors vs. #2 Toronto Raptors

Stephen Curry and the Warriors get the chance to validate their 73 win season and close out the greatest single season in the history of the NBA with a championship. Warriors sweep the Raptors, and Draymond Green posts a triple-double in Game 4 to take MVP honors.

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LSD and the Potential to Revolutionize how we Understand Human Consciousness

I believe that the most powerful entity that we know of in the universe, aside from whatever created it, is the human brain. It is one of the few things that is so powerful, so complex, and so dynamic that it’s hard to even begin to understand what it is capable of. Everything we’ve ever achieved is ultimately due to the power of the human brain, which is why I think it’s so crucial to continue to learn and explore how it operates. The world of drugs is a fascinating insight into how the brain works, and this week a landmark study on how the brain functions on LSD was published by a group of scientists at Imperial College London.

Handout shows the brains of subjects lying awake with their eyes closed, under a placebo and the drug LSD, when being examined using functional MRI

The brains of subjects lying awake with their eyes closed, under a placebo (L) and the drug LSD (R), are seen when being examined using functional MRI, in this handout image from Imperial College London and The Beckley Foundation. Scientists have for the first time scanned the brains of people using LSD and found the psychedelic drug frees the brain to become less compartmentalised and more like the mind of a baby. REUTERS/Imperial College London-The Beckley Foundation/Handout via Reuters

One of the researchers in this study stated:

Normally our brain consists of independent networks that perform separate specialized functions, such as vision, movement and hearing — as well as more complex things like attention. However, under LSD, the separateness of these networks breaks down and instead you see a more integrated or unified brain. In many ways, the brain in the LSD state resembles the state our brains were in when we were infants: free and unconstrained.”

LSD essentially creates a more fluid and interconnected brain that breaks down barriers in the way we perceive ourselves and the environment and allows us to be more open-minded and see the big picture. It essentially changes us from rigid, cynical, narrow-minded adults to creative, imaginative, and open-minded children. It opens up so many possibilities for unleashing human consciousness to its full potential. If we were able to harness the full abilities of the brain by unifying all of its different systems, without overstimulating the emotional functions that cause hallucinations, the possibilities would be endless. As one scientist put it, “Consciousness is everything we’ve got; everything we perceive, feel, and ‘what it’s like’ to be ourselves is mediated by our consciousness. Since we’ve all got one, and it’s so important, it is reasonable that we try to find out how it works.”

brain scan 2

One tangible use for LSD and other psychedelic drugs is it’s potential to combat mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety. Studies have shown that LSD-assisted psychotherapy may have the potential to treat depression, addiction, and end-of-life anxiety. By breaking down the barriers of the different compartments in our brain, LSD has the power to disrupt negative thought processes entrenched in our brain as we are able to better perceive ourselves on the whole. Dr. David Nutt, a professor of neuropsychopharmacology at Imperial and the study’s lead author said “We ultimately would like to see LSD deployed as a therapeutic tool.”

There’s no question that drugs such as LSD and other psychedelics have the power to help us understand the brain and lead to improvements in the way we think and operate as human beings. We need to get away from the mindset that all drugs are bad and will make you do crazy things or kill you, and start to look at the powerful potential some of these drugs have to do positive things. As I said in the beginning, I think the human brain is the most powerful entity that we know of in the universe, so why not experiment and research with substances that can help us understand it more and even improve it?

Sources: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/lsd-brain-scans-effects_us_570e5e8ae4b03d8b7b9ef83c

http://www.theverge.com/2016/4/13/11420488/brain-scan-reveals-how-lds-makes-you-lose-your-sense-of-self-

http://www.reuters.com/article/us-science-psychedelic-idUSKCN0X82B2

Thanks to everyone who took the time to read this article. Please like the post if you enjoyed reading and leave feedback in the comments down below.

-Jeff

 

 

 

 

 

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