Where did it all go wrong for…the weather?

first_imgRemember the last two weeks of April? Remember the cricket, the punting, and the blissful sunshine spilling out all over the quads? Remember the Met Office blithely telling us that it was the driest April since records began in 1659? Flash-forward to May, the only one of the summer months that falls entirely in Full Term, and gaze disconsolately over a stunning vista of grey on grey. That is, if you can see it at all through the driving rain and forbidding clouds. The only people more miserable than the punters, picnickers and cricketers, are the global warming theorists. Where did it all go wrong, indeed? There is, of course, an interesting point to be made here about how our expectations change. A British summer is the worst kind of oxymoron – the type that provokes wry laughter from foreigners and indeed, most natives. Whole years drifting by without a real cause for short sleeves haven’t exactly been unheard of. I think it’s only been the last couple of years when we’ve not only had real hot weather, but a lot of it. So rather than dropping everything and rushing out at the first rays of sun, we’ve gone steadily on in libraries and workplaces, safe in the knowledge that it will still be there at the end of the day. And that’s why, I suppose, people have been stomping around the streets of Oxford taking the rain as a very personal insult. “How dare you be raining?”, we ask the sky. Never mind that it’s early May in Britain, where’s the sun? This is perhaps compounded by the fact that the clothes people choose to wear always seem to depend on yesterday’s weather, rather than today’s. If it was sunny yesterday, people will be wearing T-shirts and shorts, cotton skirts and flip-flops, in scant disregard of the puddles. It always seems to take a couple of days before it really sinks into the collective consciousness that wellies are the way to go. It’s hard to be Little Miss Sunshine when you’re wearing a miniskirt while it’s five degrees.And, of course, Oxford is so very nice in the summer time. There are the traditional pursuits, already mentioned, of cricket, eating strawberries and cream and messing about on the river. But the simple, day-to-day course of life is also immeasurably better. It’s all in the details: the scent of flowers after dark, the intense colour of the sky, cobblestones baking in the sunshine warming your feet. It’s an old cliché, but it’s true, everyone really is much more cheerful. Total strangers smile at you and hold doors open. Even the people drifting past in sub fusc seem a tiny bit more serene. The only real disadvantage is that hot weather brings the tourists out en masse – hands up who’s had to dodge a Japanese-language tour taking up most of Broad Street – but it’s perhaps not too steep a price to pay for the glorious weather. Still, there are probably wonderful things to be said about rain, although it must be said that right at this moment I am at a loss beyond the decidedly Aristotelian “it makes the plants grow”. Perhaps there is some moody poetic beauty about the dreaming spires seen through a blurring mask of rain. Still, I’m not convinced. Any beauty there is palls after ten solid days of thick grey clouds and endless downpour. There’s only so far you can go to wring literary significance out of stormy weather. Ultimately, it all comes down to the decidedly unromantic feel of rainwater down your neck, cars whooshing past through six inches of dirty water, and a sudden need for paracetamol and cough syrup. In short, there’s nothing like rain for making everybody miserable.So I shall hurry to look on the bright side – no pun intended – and remind us all that it might just be improving. No longer must I run down Holywell Street with the Cambridge New History of India on my head because the heavens are opening in cacophonous fashion above. It’s been a gradual process. At the beginning of the week, the sun came out for twenty whole minutes and rumour has it that there were people seen engaging in sporting activity. Later on, this was followed by whole days of sun, and again, a renewed hope that maybe this time we could trust it would stay. I’m particularly enjoying the nights, at the moment. The heat of the day lingers, becomes deliciously cool and still, and it’s a joy to sit outside reading or having a picnic. Let’s hope that it stays, if not for good, or even long enough to develop an even tan, but long enough to dry out my umbrella and eat ice-cream without excessive need for self-justification. And, of course, long enough for the general mood of soporific misery to leave the city with the fog.But perhaps I have been a little too scathing about the rain. If we pause to consider the even brighter side, fifty years from now, whilst we all roll in battered wheelchairs across the dried, arid sands of the Greater South-eastern Deserts of England and Wales, watching salamanders loll in the baking sun, we can look back to the good old days at Oxford, when temperatures were not hot enough to melt lead, and occasionally, water even fell from the sky. Take your comfort where you can find it is the moral of the story, I guess. More importantly, take an umbrella, and sing in the rain while it lasts.Iona Sharmalast_img read more

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2021-05-03

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Joke your way to success

first_img Related “It’s such a fine line between stupid and clever.”— “This is Spinal Tap” (1984)After “attractive,” few compliments are more universally welcomed than “funny.” But being deemed hilarious or witty is more than just a personality trait that can win you more friends. If used successfully, humor also can boost your status at work, persuading others that you’re both more confident and more competent than you may actually be, according to forthcoming research into the connection between status and humor.“If you are brave enough to tell the joke that you want to tell, whether it succeeds or not, people ascribe confidence to you because they see you as efficacious” for taking such a risk with all the ways a joke can potentially fail, said Alison Wood Brooks, assistant professor at Harvard Business School and the paper’s co-author. “To tell a successful joke does, in fact, take quite a lot of competence and not just general intelligence, but emotional intelligence, to figure out all those variables.”Humor is often viewed as superfluous or ancillary behavior and hasn’t been thought of as something that affects relationships and hierarchy within organizations and in daily life.“We do a lot of things to increase our status. We try to work really hard. We try to demonstrate that we’re really smart. We work hard at developing our status in an organization, and what we’re showing is that humor is one of those tools,” said Professor Maurice Schweitzer of the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania and a paper co-author, along with Brad Bitterly, a Wharton doctoral student.Make no mistake: Using humor is definitely risky. If a joke bombs because it is inappropriate or boring or just not funny, it can diminish status by causing people to see you as less competent for failing to pull off the aside. And if a joke really goes beyond the pale, it may even get you fired.What makes something funny? One prevailing theory posits that humor is a violation of some social norm or expectation that’s done in a benign way.“If the violation is too severe — if I’m making jokes about 9/11 — that crosses a line, it’s too much of a violation. But if I’m making jokes about the War of 1812, there’s so much distance that’s passed, it doesn’t feel as raw, and so that can feel more benign,” said Schweitzer.Bitterly and Brooks were prompted to explore the relationship between humor and status after noticing how people with less standing, like graduate students and young adults just entering the workforce, often deliberately muffle their full personalities at work for fear of looking bad and perhaps diminishing their career options.They “often feel trapped in a prison of silence where they can’t make their jokes because they know that it’s risky. They know that if they voice their jokes and they don’t land, people are going to think they’re dumb and inappropriate and unprofessional,” said Brooks. “And all of that stuff is really damaging.”Because humor is so context-dependent, little academic research has been done into how trying to be funny, and either succeeding or failing, influences interpersonal perceptions, cognitive behaviors, and relationships inside and outside of work organizations, the authors said. Research uncovers creative benefits — yes, benefits — in using sarcasm when people trust each other Go ahead, be sarcastic What could be funny in an industry like the restaurant business might not get a laugh with dentists; within a company, the folks in accounting might find something hilarious that goes right by the human resources department; and what amuses an executive assistant may not do much for the boss. Cultural, linguistic, and socioeconomic differences also affect what is perceived as funny.“So to study it properly, not only do you need to use an enormous array of different jokes, but also different scenarios or contexts,” said Brooks.After testing hundreds of jokes to identify a representative selection of remarks that were universally seen as either funny, not funny, work-appropriate, or not work-appropriate, the authors ran eight experiments asking respondents to rate jokes on how funny, how boring, and how appropriate they were under various situations.Later, the respondents were asked to rate the confidence and competence of someone who had told a funny and appropriate joke. Those who made funny and appropriate remarks or jokes were rated highest in confidence and competence. Those who told appropriate but unfunny or boring jokes were still rated highly confident, but were seen as less competent, and thus lost status, for failing to make people laugh. Joke tellers who told inappropriate jokes but got people laughing were not penalized for going over the line. But people who told inappropriate and unfunny jokes were perceived as having low competence and therefore accorded less status.“We did anticipate that if someone said something massively inappropriate, people are going to think, ‘What an idiot, I can’t believe that person said that,’ and it would harm status,” said Bitterly. “Something that was more surprising was when we looked at appropriate jokes, if they didn’t land … the overall effect on status wasn’t that detrimental” because the person was still seen as confident and the hit to their perceived competence “was relatively small.”The key takeaway, the authors say, is that given how effective humor can be in advancing a person’s status at work, employees should use humor more deliberately and strategically, while businesses should consider humor as a key dimension during management hiring and training. Prior studies have shown that having a good sense of humor brings levity to a workplace, which contributes positively to work culture, helping keep employees engaged and happy to come to work each day.And while there are many ways that a joke can go wrong — and certainly it’s essential to be mindful of potential pitfalls — being too cautious is not a good strategy because that removes a powerful and effective tool for getting ahead, particularly for low-ranking employees trying to advance.“Just as we want to develop our spreadsheet skills, our communication skills, or our negotiation skills, we should develop our humor skills,” said Schweitzer. “We need to create impressions at work, we need to communicate effectively, we need to stick up for ourselves, [and] this is part of that skill set.”last_img read more

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2021-03-01

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RISE-NY adds services to support victims of domestic violence

first_imgWhile the telephone hotline is available 24/7, the online chat service is available during business hours. RISE now has an online chat service, available during business hours for anyone seeking help. RISE-NY Executive Director Nicole Barren says this resource is beneficial, especially because the telephone hotline, which is a core piece of RISE’s service, may provide an extra risk to victims during this time. Additionally, RISE will begin virtual therapeutic group counseling sessions next month. “During COVID, people need that support and it’s helpful to be able to talk to other people who are experiencing similar situations,” said Raymond. “If their abuser can hear a phone conversation or maybe they’re just more comfortable using chat, they can reach out to our advocates that way,” she says. Both Barren and Raymond say providing options like virtual counseling and online chats are beneficial to give survivors an additional way to reach out. (WBNG) — RISE-NY is implementing new resources to victims and survivors of domestic violence, as they may face additional barriers amid the pandemic. Barren says group counseling is an important part of RISE’s program, but the pandemic put in-person meetings on pause. You can access the online chat service by clicking here. The sessions will be led by Machella Raymond, a social worker who just joined RISE. last_img read more

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2020-12-08

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Hepatitis C infections almost tripled over past 5-years

first_imgBy Garth A. RoseAccording to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta, Georgia, over just five years, the number of reported new hepatitis C virus infections has nearly tripled, reaching a 15-year high, according to new preliminary surveillance data.Because hepatitis C has few symptoms, nearly half of people living with the virus don’t know they are infected and most new infections go undiagnosed. Further, limited surveillance resources have led to underreporting, meaning the annual number of hepatitis C virus cases reported to CDC (850 cases in 2010 and 2,436 cases in 2015) does not reflect the true scale of the epidemic. CDC estimates about 34,000 new hepatitis C infections actually occurred in the U.S. in 2015.The Center says Hepatitis C kills more Americans than any other infectious disease reported It. The recently released data indicate that nearly 20,000 Americans died from hepatitis C-related causes in 2015, The majority of deaths were people ages 55 and older.“By testing, curing, and preventing hepatitis C, we can protect generations of Americans from needless suffering and death,” said Dr. Jonathan Mermin, director of CDC’s National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention. “We must reach the hardest-hit communities with a range of prevention and treatment services that can diagnose people with hepatitis C and link them to treatment. This wide range of services can also prevent the misuse of prescription drugs and ultimately stop drug use –which can also prevent others from getting hepatitis C in the first place.”New hepatitis C virus infections are increasing most rapidly among young people, with the highest overall number of new infections among 20- to 29-year-olds. This is primarily a result of increasing injection drug use associated with America’s growing opioid epidemic.However, the majority (three-quarters) of the 3.5 million Americans already living with hepatitis C are people born from 1945 to 1965. The so-called Baby-boomers are six times more likely to be infected with hepatitis C than those in other age groups and are at much greater risk of death from the virus.Recent CDC studies also indicate hepatitis C virus infections are growing among women of childbearing age, putting the youngest generation of Americans at risk. Hepatitis C treatment not only cures the vast majority of people living with the virus but also prevents transmission to their partners and children.The CDC cautions comprehensive approaches are needed to combat the dual epidemics of opioid addiction and injection-related infectious diseases. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has implemented five specific strategies to fight the opioid epidemic and save lives and reduce the impact of injection-related infectious diseases. These strategies are:improving access to treatment and recovery services;promoting the use of overdose-reversing drugs:strengthening our understanding of the opioid epidemic through better public health surveillance:providing support for cutting-edge research on pain and addiction: and advancing better practices for pain management.Comprehensive syringe service programs (SSPs) are one of many tools communities can use to prevent hepatitis and other injection-related infectious diseases. These programs also help link people to treatments to stop drug use, test for infectious diseases that can spread to others, and medical care.However, a recent CDC analyses indicate 80 percent of young people with hepatitis C live over 10 miles from an SSP. Another study finds only a few states have laws that support full access to both comprehensive SSPs and hepatitis C-related treatment and preventive services for people who inject drugs.While new medicines can now cure hepatitis C virus infections in as little as two to three months, many people in need of treatment are not able to get it. HHS recently released the National Viral Hepatitis Action Plan, 2017-2020 that sets goals for improving prevention, care, and treatment of viral hepatitis and puts the nation on a course toward eliminating new hepatitis infections. “Stopping hepatitis C will eliminate an enormous disease and economic burden for all Americans,” said Dr. John Ward, director of CDC’s Division of Viral Hepatitis. “We have a cure for this disease and the tools to prevent new infections. Now we need a substantial, focused, and concerted national effort to implement the National Viral Hepatitis Action Plan and make effective prevention tools and curative treatment available to Americans in needlast_img read more

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2020-08-31

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Less than 10% of Ganta Students Passed WAEC

first_imgThe Ganta School System is said to have performed poorly in the 2016 West Africa Examination Council (WAEC) exams, with a dismal 133 of 1,588 (8.4 percent) 12th graders passing the exams.District Education Officer (DEO) Lynor Martor put the blame on complacency of teachers who are not committed to their duties “because they lacked enhanced learning.”He said most of the public school teachers whose students failed are in the habit of roaming from school to school in order to make money, instead of putting in more time in their respective school assignments. “The failure cannot be put on one factor; and the Liberian government also shares responsibility. The J. W. Pearson, with the highest number of students, does not have a laboratory; and the Ganta Public School, that has a laboratory, does not have the needed equipment,” he said.Mr. Martor, who took over as DEO of the Ganta School District over a year ago, observed that 60 percent of teachers do not have lesson plans and some have plans that are outdated.He explained that some proprietors build schools for profit, not to educate students, as they employ unqualified teachers.There are 15 senior high schools in Ganta – 12 private and three public.DEO Martor said, “Among the 15 senior high schools, J. W. Pearson (government) sent 412 students and out of the number, only three passed; St. Lawrence (Catholic) sent out 206 students and 60 passed; the Ganta United Methodist School sent out 183 students and 31 passed.”DEO Martor said he has started to reshuffle school administrators by replacing some of the weak principals with those who are qualified.“Every teacher will put in his or her allotted time per day by the Ministry of Education, which is at least 6 hours, totaling 40 hours a week,” he said.He added: “This year I will spend two days in the office and the balance three days will be spent on the field to ensure that this kind of mass failure is not repeated.”There is growing concern among parents amid to the mass failures among 12th graders in Ganta schools. The Ganta School System is reported to have lots of unqualified teachers.Meanwhile, the Vice Principal of Karn High School in Karnplay, Joseph Karn, has praised students of Karnplay for doing well in the WAEC exams.He told the Daily Observer that of the 247 Karn High students, 241 (97.6%) passed; while 97 out of 97 students from the Karnplay Inland Academy successfully passed their exams.Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)last_img read more

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2020-01-14

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