Is your name scrabbled? Do you have a mind-scrabbling name? See what your name say about you!

I have a few Polish friends whose names stand out as exceptional point scores for Scrabble. At least, that is, if you can find a way to throw in a few extra zzz’s into your word. My own name (N Minter Dial) is rather uninteresting from a Scrabble perspective in that it is, for the most part, full of letters with a score of 1!  I have one 3 (M) and one 2 (D).  It is a run of the mill. Nonetheless, I struggled to come up with a long word from those 11 characters. Thanks to the handy online scrabblefinder app, I was able to discover that I have four 9-letter words that can be made out of my name.

Meaning behind a name?

Most of the words are beyond my vocabulary knowledge (ouch and a reminder that there are many unknown words among the 500,000 in the English language).

There was, however, one word that caught my attention: mainliner.

Scrabble finder, The mYndset digital marketing and brand strategy

Some of you might know that my mother’s family comes from St David’s, Pennsylvania, aka the Mainline. I thought that it was rather revealing.  As Proust wrote in Du Cote de Chez Swann, the signs are the signs.  (“Les signes sont dans les cignes” is the exact quote, but I spell out the double entendre).  I also enjoyed the airline word (a good deal more than ailment!)

The question I have for you is: what does your name say about you?

V for Victory or V for V Painful? Obama and Michelle see things differently….

Obama and Michelle watching Judo at White House 2009

This photograph from the UK’s Guardian newspaper (17 Sept 2009) caught my attention initially for the curious position, in the foreground, of the unfortunate person on the receiving end of a flip in a judo exhibition. Then I zeroed in on President Obama and Michelle Obama’s expressions, framed between the outstretched legs.

The photo is a jewel for those of us observing the difference between the archetypal feminine and masculine reaction to an event. You have Obama’s smile juxtaposed against his wife’s aghast expression. On the one hand, you have a man appreciating the athletic effort of the ‘victor,’ while, on the other, the woman is feeling the effects of the loser landing on his head. Is it V for Victory or V for Very Painful? In either case, watching sports brings out our emotions and, per this photo at least, the experience is very different according to your point of view (and I’m not just talking the team you support).

Do you have another view on this photo? And how different is the experience for men and women (or the masculine and feminine viewpoint) when observing the same sporting event?

Tetris helps in trauma therapy — But what about kids’ memories?

Tetris Video Game

Via Sciences Humaines, a very insightful and thorough French magazine, I read [this article in the aug-sept 2009 issue] about how the video game, Tetris, has been identified as helping trauma victims recover. A study* by scientists at the University of Oxford discovered that Tetris might have a preventive action in helping to efface a [bad] recent memory. The study, published in January 2009, evaluated the memory of people who had just watched a scary [i.e. traumatic] movie and then played at least 10 minutes of Tetris. The theory more or less goes that, in the process of playing tetris, the memory bank is forced to do some gymnastics that effectively wipe out the ability to retain the traumatic events in the scary film. So, is the moral of the story, if you have just watched a scary movie with the kids, to allow them to play 10 minutes of a docile video game, such as Tetris, before going to bed? I imagine not. Whatever the therapeutic nature for medical purposes — and I surely hope that Tetris may be a useful solution — I think that a further study would also be worthwhile if directed at the impact on children’s memory banks.

My feeling is that, if you evaluate the effects of video games played right after doing homework, you will likely have the same type of phenomenon going on! I believe that the visual stimulation, however docile or violent, will likely have a similar “anaesthetising” effect on the child’s capacity to retain information learned in homework. There has been ample work on the impact of playing one game over and over again, as well as the obvious influence of violent games. But, what of docile games?

Anyone have empirical evidence on the impact of even docile video games on children’s memories right after doing homework?


*The study is entitled: “Can Playing the Computer Game “Tetris” Reduce the Build-Up of Flashbacks for Trauma? A Proposal from Cognitive Science.” by Emily A. Holmes*, Ella L. James, Thomas Coode-Bate, Catherine Deeprose, Department of Psychiatry, University of Oxford, Oxford, United Kingdom

Available for reading here via Plos One.

Did you ever consider…

Below is a collection of random thoughts. Some are my own, others come from various emails in circulation. Scroll down and peruse. And if you feel so inclined, add to the fray!

Have you ever considered why it is that we write Anno Domini (A.D.) in Latin for the “modern era” and when it comes to the “olden times“, we write the term Before Christ (B.C.) in plain old English.

Can you cry or sweat under water?

Shouldn’t the O in XO (kiss & hug) be related to the O that is love in tennis scoring?

Why do you have to ‘put your two cents in’… but it’s only a ‘penny for your thoughts’? Where’s that extra penny going to?

If money doesn’t grow on trees then why do banks have branches?
Chiffre Number 7 Seven

What did the number 7 ever do that it needed to be crossed (in mainland Europe)? If it’s because the number one has a pedastal, then what’s so great about number 1?

How important does a person have to be before they are considered assassinated instead of just murdered?

How is that if a murderer gets life, a mass murderer gets multiple life sentences, but a person who kills millions of people just gets house arrest (Pol Pot)?

Why are you IN a movie, but you’re ON TV?

Why is ‘bra’ singular and ‘panties’ plural?

Why do toasters always have a setting that burns the toast to a horrible crisp, which no decent human being would eat?

If electricity comes from electrons, does morality come from morons?

Did you ever notice that when you blow in a dog’s face, he gets mad at you, but when you take him for a car ride, he sticks his head out the window?

Brain Game – How old are you?

Or how old is your brain?

Here’s a little game that will drive you nuts, especially if you have a competitive streak in you. The site instructions are in Japanese, so before clicking on this link, read below!

  1. Touch ‘start’
  2. Wait for 3, 2, 1.
  3. Memorize the number’s position on the screen, and then click the circle from the smallest number to the biggest number.
  4. At the end of game, the computer will tell you the age of your brain.
I scored 25 years old…But, in total transparency, I gained 14 years on my second effort. Somehow, I felt that the effort was quite worthwhile.

Nota Bene: The quiz does not take into consideration children. It’s rather disturbing for children to play in fact (unless you tell them that the higher the score the better!). Somewhere in the small print, perhaps, the game indicates the target audience.

The Timing of Recessions

Macro and Micro Consequences of When A Recession Begins

Down Arrow - Recession Sign

In a recession, timing plays an absolutely vital part at the macro level.  Much of the debate about when the current recession will end is related to when it actually began.  The “reality” of a recession — as defined by the numbers as opposed to perception or sentiment — is subject to much variation, interpretation and retroactive restating.  As we continue lower and deeper into the current recession, and as the various governments (USA, Germany, France, Spain, UK…) worsen their economic forecasts, there is growing evidence to believe that the recession began earlier than previously thought.  And, at the very same time, the [US] stock market has started to show signs of life and confidence metres are bouncing off the very low levels.

Timing CalendarYet, if the duration of the recession is related to the timing of the start on a macro level, there is also an interesting phenomenon of timing on the micro level.  When the existence — or indeed the potential existence — of the recession sinks in, people and companies get into battle stations.  Common wisdom says that the companies that react most quickly (cutting costs and focusing on the essential business drivers, etc.) are those likely to do best.  This is especially true these days because, over the last 25 years, the recessions have tended to be rather short.  Three of the last four recessions in the US lasted on average 7 months (the school book definition states a minimum of two quarters is necessary).  The other one, 1981-1982, lasted 16 months.   (See here A History of Recessions from CNBC).

There is much written about how companies ought to respond.  I am not going to add to that catalogue.  The point that I want to raise here is the importance of the month(s) of the year when the recession is perceived as starting (as opposed to when it is post-factum marked as officially beginning).  The nature of the timing is more than psychological.  If the moment when people perceive the recession is at the end of the year, as opposed to the beginning or the middle of a year, there are logical consequences as to how the following year will be planned and budgeted.

RecessionThe effects are almost mechanical.  Here is a typical scenario if the recession is identified in the autumn (i.e. the fall, the last quarter of the year).  Budgets for the new year are created in an environment of uncertainty.  According to the dose of reality, for the companies who have recognized the recession, contingency reserves are bolstered, hiring freezes are imposed, costs are constrained and forecasts are trimmed.  Heading into the first months of the calendar year (assuming a calendar fiscal year), the company faces comparisons against the healthier first quarter of the year before.  And, if the effects of the recession are under-evaluated, the cutting of costs is accelerated and marketing budgets are further trimmed.  However, since much of the first half of the year’s expenses are already engaged, investments to drive the second half of the year are most affected.  With forecasts falling, unit volume decreases putting pressure on cost of goods further crimping profits.  Quite the vicious circle and one that suggests that the quicker a company realizes and reacts to the recession — to take the painful decisions quickly — the more prepared that company will be to see itself through.

On the other hand, if the recession were to be identified in the spring, the budget of the current year is put out of commission.  Companies have to scramble into battle stations and start to cut back according to the speed at which they identify the challenges.  As results deteriorate, the planning phase in the autumn for the following year’s budget is also very precarious, but at least it is created in fuller knowledge of the poor macroeconomic environment. 

Recession 2001Looking at the 2001 recession, the curious aspect was that, only with 9/11 did economists start clarioning about recession.  It turned out that the recession began in March 2001 and ended in November.  However, companies only started to react truly after September 11th.  As a result, budgets for 2002 were tossed up and around like straw in a hurricane.  And yet, the economy was actually rebounding as the new year rolled in.

It strikes me that, even if the length and depth of the recession ends up being longer than usual, the way a recession is experienced does vary according to the timing in the year of the perceived beginning.  I would be curious to know if studies have ever been done to see if companies with non calendar year fiscal years have a markedly different experience to those who have calendar year fiscal years.  What do you think? 

If, as they say, timing is everything, does it make any material difference when in the year people identify that a recession has begun?

In case you didn’t know about the Woman with the Longest Nails in the World

Lee Redmond Longest Nails in the WorldA woman, named Lee Redmond, with longest nails in the world suffered a bad car accident over the weekend and lost all her nails.  It is hard to imagine, but she had not cut her nails since 1979.  The combined total length was nearly 9 metres, with the longest a thumb nail at 90cm.  The Guinness Book of World Records will need to find her successor.  (The GBWR site doesn’t allow you to search for more details).

Apparently, Ms Redmond was not the only Salt Lake City long nailed woman.  Here is another “famous” SLN (Salt Lake Nail, as opposed to SNL) case:  Barbara Wing Long Nails.  And there is quite an underworld in the long nail community — whose existence had completely skipped my attention previously.  Read here for more of the famous women, long in the nail.

Not sure that Chanel is ready to switch ad campaigns just yet, but points for originality.  All the same, I hope that Ms Redmond has a speedy recovery.  I am sure that the trauma of having normal-length nails will be hard to contend with: imagine the world of unexplored opportunities that will lie ahead of her, such as dialing the telephone herself, putting her fingers through the coffee mug handle, and so on…

SMS & Healthy Loving Relationships

After getting drummed into our heads that using mobile phones may be carcinogenic, I am increasingly encouraged by recent studies saying that using the text (SMS) function is good for you! For its immediacy, the acceptance of shorthand (and errors) as well as the language of emoticons, SMS and Instant Messaging (IM) communication is a very real way of communicating.  Technology and the human touch is a topic I have addressed previously in a blog post.

So, if you text a lot AND you use the word “I” when you IM or text your soulmate, chances are that you are experiencing a healthy relationship, so says this latest study in US News. With a little imagination, the study would seem to reinforce the notion that you need to love yourself in order to be able to love someone else properly.

And, an article I found on the BBC says that, with the help of SMS / text reminders, a group of people suffering from SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder*) in the UK will be reminded daily to sit in front of their light box to give a little light to their gloomy conditions in the midst of the dark, short days of winter.

Finally, knowing the number of emoticons that are included in the TXT messages, it is no surprise that there is an emotional impact from the messages emanating from our handy mobiles. On another note, I have also heard more and more about the abuse of SMS between teenagers and the notion of sextext (as yet an unofficial term according to Urban Dictionary). Something to watch out for. Meanwhile, below is a table of TXT speak in case you need a refresher, but an easier resource is here at, what claims to be, the Largest List of Text Message Abbreviations. But, whatever you do, don’t forget to use the “I” when addressing your loved one.

*SAD affects around 2% of UK citizens and between 1.5-9% of US citizens depending on the state in which they live. According to the wikipedia entry, 20% of the Irish (2007 study) were said to suffer from SAD and 10% of the Dutch.

Women suffer more nightmares than Men, new study shows

Painting of Woman sleeping with dreamsA study out of the University of the West of England in Bristol, tracking 193 women and men over 5 years, found that women suffer more nightmares than men. Moreover, the research determines that men and women have dreams of a different nature, too. A small article from the Daily Telegraph (“Women suffer more nightmares than men“) wrote, “[W]hen asked to record their most recent dream, 19% of male students reported having a nightmare compared with 34% of women.” Overall, that seems to me like quite a high level of nightmares. Jennifer Parker, a psychology lecturer at the University, said “I believe these results show women carry over their waking concerns into their dream life more so than men do.” I have a couple of comments to add, based on my own unscientific observations that are rife with generalisations (and where the word ‘women’ could equally be written as ‘those having feminine characteristics’): 1/ As Parker suggests, I would agree that women develop stronger emotional connections with their waking concerns which provides fertile grounds for a sub-conscious negative reveil during the dreams. 2/ In my experience, women tend to live their dreams more vividly and to recall them more frequently. I, as a sample of one male, rarely recall my dreams, nor give much credence to the stories brought up when I do remember them.

Meanwhile, as I found in this ABC report which is much longer and more articulate about the topic than the Telegraph report, I was interested by the notion, you are what you dream. Rosalind Cartwright, dream research and chairman of psychology at Rush University Medical Center, says many of these variables are easy to understand. “They are the ones you might imagine, anything that makes for distress and disadvantage,” she said. “These include low income, unemployment and other factors.”

And, as the ABC article continues, “…past research reveals some surprises. A July 2001 study by researchers at the University of California, Santa Cruz, suggested that Republicans are nearly three times as likely as Democrats to experience nightmares when they dream.

‘Half of the dreams of Republicans in my study were classified as nightmares, compared to only about 18 percent of the dreams of Democrats,’ said lead study author Kelly Bulkeley in a university-issued press release. ‘My speculation is that people on the right are very attuned to the dangers in the world, and they’re seeking ways to defend themselves against those threats.'”
In any event, beyond nightmares and political affiliations, I assume that women may also have a different relationship with dreams in general and, by extension, with sleep. Beauty sleep is, with dreams included, for an inside-outside beauty.

The Ultimate Way – Doing it in Slow Motion

A Search for the Ultimate “Way” in Sports, Business and Life

Wayne Gretsky, The Great OneWhen people refer to the Great One, MariO or COsby, or then again Michael JOrdan, BjOrn BOrg or Tiger WOOds, one would not be surprised to think that they all share a hidden talent. The hidden or invisible talent? Seeing things in slow motion when, for everyone else, the puck or ball is travelling at the regular speed.

If this is true in sports, I have to believe it can also be true in business. When great business leaders are in the vortex of a crisis, I believe they see things in slow motion, which helps to digest the torrents of complex information, synthesize with precision and decide with crystal vision.

Going a step further, I am inclined to believe that there are also those who actually llive their life in slow motion. While life hurtles by for most of us mortals, some have a special talent that allows them to manage their lives at a different level. Just as the Great One didn’t manage to make the perfect pass on every single occasion, nor did Jack Welch have strokes of strategic genius behind every decision, one cannot expect (nor want) to live a life of perfection. However, for the big decisions and manifest other major dynamic moments, such as what to say in moments of turmoil, some people have the gift, what I would like to call “the gift of O”, the great O, Ω or Omega because of the sense of harmony and equilibrium inherent in that letter. Whether it is knowing what to say to someone in grief, making the impromptu wedding speech or galvanizing support from a bunch of strangers, some people’s energy and mastery of language is just a step above. They manage to size up the situation faster and find the right words quicker. In another sphere, it is the person who grabs the knocked over vase, catches a falling leaf or anticipates the rain. For these people, they seem to be a step ahead as they see life in slow motion. I would characterize the gift as a superior sense of balance, equilibrium & direction, a sense of self, anticipation and a 360˚ vision. Somehow, the gift of O as expressed in Life, as opposed to sports or business, is a much more complete concept.

I started to think about this post when I considered the transferability of the “eyes behind your head” talent that certain great team players have. If you have the genius in one field (sports), how likely is it that you will exhibit the same talent in business or in life? Somehow, I get the feeling that having the gift in one area is as good as it may get. What do you think?

ADDED 22 NOVEMBER:  I was turned on to this NY Times article, “Generation O get its hopes up” (Nov 7) after publishing this post.  It would seem that we are indeed in search for the Gift of O!