2 Corinthians 12:9-10

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

My thoughts on school

Radio silence the past week owing to tons of projects. 2 down (marketing; accounting information systems), 2 to go (managerial accounting; management information systems). I have to admit though that projects can be a whole lot of fun if you’re with the right people. Maybe I’m unconsciously making a comparison with military and working life, but university has been wonderful. There’s so much less of the ugly stuff  I used to have to deal with. I’d probably choose to stay in school for a long, long time if I had my way.

That said, I dislike tests and exams just as much as anyone else. It can be great fun to learn, but not when scoring marks becomes the focus. Some of the school’s policies baffle me, such as not returning marked scripts and question papers after the exams. How effective can learning be if we’re denied the opportunity to learn from our mistakes?

Faith

Faith is the art of holding on to things your reason has once accepted in spite of your changing moods.

C.S. Lewis

This, I need more than anything.

The Spread of Goodness

I like Jonah Lehrer’s writing. Here’s a recent post on how altruism could spread, based on research by Nicholas Christakis and James Fowler, authors of Connected: The Surprising Power of Our Social Networks and How They Shape Our Lives.

There’s something strange about watching life unfold as a social network. It’s easy to forget that every link is a human relationship and every circle a waistline. The messy melodrama of life–all the failed diets and fading friendships–becomes a sterile cartoon.

In their latest paper, published this week in PNAS, Christakis and Fowler re-analyzed an earlier set of experiments led by Ernst Fehr and Simon Gachter, which investigated “altruistic punishment,” or why we’re willing to punish others even at a cost to ourselves.

Christakis and Fowler demonstrate that, when one of the students gave money to help someone else – they were cooperating – the recipients of that cash then became more likely to give their own money away in the next round. (Every unit of money shared in round 1 led to an extra 0.19 units being shared in round 2, and 0.05 units in round 3.) This leads, of course, to a cascade of generosity, in which the itch to cooperate spreads first to three people and then to the nine people that those three people interact with, and then to the remaining individuals in subsequent waves of the experiment.

The paper itself is filled with optimistic sentences, but it’s worth pointing out that 1) selfishness is also contagious and 2) there’s a big difference between lab experiments played with strangers and the messy social networks of real life. That said, altruistic cascades like this make me happy:

We report a chain of 10 kidney transplantations, initiated in July 2007 by a single altruistic donor (i.e., a donor without a designated recipient) and coordinated over a period of 8 months by two large paired-donation registries. These transplantations involved six transplantation centers in five states. In the case of five of the transplantations, the donors and their coregistered recipients underwent surgery simultaneously. In the other five cases, “bridge donors” continued the chain as many as 5 months after the coregistered recipients in their own pairs had received transplants. This report of a chain of paired kidney donations, in which the transplantations were not necessarily performed simultaneously, illustrates the potential of this strategy.

Narcolepsy

Perfectly diagnosed by clara:)

Narcolepsy is a chronic sleep disorder, or dyssomnia. The condition is characterized by excessive daytime sleepiness (EDS) in which a person experiences extreme fatigue and possibly falls asleep at inappropriate times, such as while at work or at school. A narcoleptic will most likely experience disturbed nocturnal sleep and also abnormal daytime sleep pattern, which is often confused with insomnia. When a person with narcolepsy falls asleep they will generally experience the REM stage of sleep within 10 minutes; whereas most people do not experience REM sleep until after 30 minutes.

In narcolepsy, the order and length of NREM and REM sleep periods are disturbed, with REM sleep occurring at sleep onset instead of after a period of NREM sleep. Thus, narcolepsy is a disorder in which REM sleep appears at an abnormal time. Also, some of the aspects of REM sleep that normally occur only during sleep — lack of muscular control, sleep paralysis, and vivid dreams — occur at other times in people with narcolepsy. For example, the lack of muscular control can occur during wakefulness in a cataplexy episode; it is said that there is intrusion of REM atonia during wakefulness. Sleep paralysis and vivid dreams can occur while falling asleep or waking up. Simply put, the brain does not pass through the normal stages of dozing and deep sleep but goes directly into (and out of) rapid eye movement (REM) sleep.

This has several consequences. Night time sleep does not include as much deep sleep, so the brain tries to “catch up” during the day, hence EDS. People with narcolepsy may visibly fall asleep at unpredicted moments (such motions as head bobbing are common). People with narcolepsy fall quickly into what appears to be very deep sleep, and they wake up suddenly and can be disoriented when they do (dizziness is a common occurrence). They have very vivid dreams, which they often remember in great detail. People with narcolepsy may dream even when they only fall asleep for a few seconds.