Saturday, July 28, 2012

Pankration

By Julie Rahm

I love the Olympics. I feel inspired sitting in front of the television, a bowl of hot buttered popcorn in my lap, watching men and women who have mastered their bodies and minds reach new heights of human possibility.
The exact origins of the Olympics are unclear. Records indicate they began around 776 BC in Olympia, Greece. The games were usually held every four years. During a celebration of the games, an Olympic Truce was enacted so athletes could travel from their city-states to the games in safety.
At first, the Olympic Games lasted only one day, but eventually grew to five days. The Olympic Games originally contained one event: a short sprint measuring up to 790 feet, or the length of the stadium. A second race was introduced in 724 BC, during the 14th Olympic Games. The race was a single lap of the stadium, approximately 1,300 ft. A third foot race was introduced in 720 BC. The length of this race was 24 stadium laps, or about three miles. The event was run similarly to modern marathons. The runners began and ended their event in the stadium. But, the race course would wind its way through the Olympic grounds. Another event added to the ancient Olympics was the "Hoplite race" introduced in 520 BC. (A Hoplite was a Greek soldier.) The race was traditionally run as the last race of the Olympic Games. The runners would run approximately 800 yards in full or partial armor, carrying a shield and wearing a helmet. As the armor weighed about 60 pounds, the “Hoplite race” emulated the speed and stamina needed for warfare. Also, the athletes usually competed nude because the festival was meant to celebrate the achievements of the human body. My husband, John, still thinks this is good idea!
Over the years, more events were added: boxing, wrestling and pankration. Pankration mixed wrestling and boxing and is the root of modern day Mixed Martial Arts. Other events included chariot racing, and a pentathlon, consisting of wrestling, long jump, javelin throw, and discus throw.
Boxing became increasingly brutal over the centuries. Initially, soft leather covered the boxer’s fingers. But eventually, hard leather weighted with metal was sometimes used. The fights had no rest periods and no rules against hitting a man while he was down. Bouts continued until one man either surrendered or died. However, killing an opponent wasn't a good thing, as the dead boxer was automatically declared the winner!
Compare these ancient games with the spectacle occurring this week in London, England. In London, there will be 35 sports, 400 events, 17,000 athletes, 20,000 journalists, and 205 countries represented. Ticket sales will top nine million. Eighteen million meals will be prepared using 25,000 loaves of bread, 82 tons of seafood, 19 tons of eggs, 100 tons of meat, 21 tons of cheese and 330 tons of fruit and vegetables! The games will grow the economy of England by 80 billion dollars. Now you know!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Prisoner's Dilemma


By Julie Rahm                      
           Surprising to some, my educational background is in physics. And, in order to do the mind-blowing math required for a physics degree, a degree in math was also required. My math studies gave me a broad understanding of statistics and game theory.  The corner stone of game theory is a simple concept or game called prisoner’s dilemma.
           In prisoner’s dilemma, two men are arrested with not enough evidence to convict either. The two are separated. The police offer each prisoner the same deal. If one testifies against the other, and the other remains silent, the betrayer goes free and the silent prisoner gets the full one-year sentence. If both remain silent, both are sentenced to one month. However, if each betrays the other, both receive a six-month sentence. What should the prisoners do?
           The dilemma becomes a game where the two may either betray or assist each other. In the game, the sole worry of the prisoners seems to be increasing their own reward. If one prisoner testifies and the other doesn’t, the testifying prisoner goes free. The interesting symmetry of this problem is that the rational decision leads each to betray the other. Yet, the outcome obtained when both testify against one another is worse for each than the outcome they would have obtained had both remained silent.
The common view is that the dilemma illustrates a conflict between individual and group interests. A group whose members pursue rational self-interest may all end up worse off than a group whose members act contrary to rational self-interest.
A slightly different interpretation takes the game to represent a choice between selfish behavior and socially desirable altruism. The move corresponding to testifying benefits the prisoner, no matter what the other does, while the move corresponding to silence benefits the other prisoner no matter what that prisoner does. Benefiting oneself is not always wrong. Benefiting others at the expense of oneself is not always morally required. The paradox in the prisoner's dilemma game is that the altruistic cooperative outcome is better for everyone involved. Most game theory experts use prisoner's dilemma to reveal the nature of morality. Once you recognize it, examples of the prisoner’s dilemma are evident everywhere.
The Fulcher/Town of Oriental waterfront land swap is a classic case of game theory and the prisoner’s dilemma. Is Mr. Fulcher the betrayer increasing his own reward at the expense of the Town? Or is town of Oriental the betrayer to the detriment of Mr. Fulcher? When both the Town and Mr. Fulcher make altruistic choices and avoid self interest, the outcome will be better for both. Achieving cooperation in the prisoner’s dilemma proves to be a difficult and relevant problem.
Prisoner’s dilemma situations arise frequently in life. You have likely played the game. In some cases, you found a way to cooperate. In other cases, one of you betrayed the other. Think of examples from your own life and ask yourself: What made the difference? Then, comment on my blog at http://www.AmericasMindsetMechanic.com.


Thursday, July 19, 2012

Pile Driving


By Julie Rahm

     Our neighborhood has a community pier. It has ten boat slips that are deeded to ten pieces of property. The combination of ground and boat slips makes the property desirable. Unfortunately, the entire dock was destroyed during hurricane Irene. The planking was strewn up and down the creek. Neighbors chain-sawed the remains of the pier into manageable pieces and hauled them to the landfill. Only a skeleton of pilings survived marking the location of what once was a dock. The wreckage stands in place as monument to the storm, until this week.
     On Monday morning, the drone of diesel engines echoed across the creek. Like the cavalry to a fight with the Indians, in rides Bobby Prescott with his marine construction business. The ten-member boat owners association contracted with Bobby to repair the pier. Bobby brought his barge, skiffs and backhoes. Bobby’s guys are busy yanking out the damaged pilings and driving in the replacements. After the pilings are driven, they will construct the decking on top. It is incredibly demanding work performed in demanding conditions. Despite the heat and rain, progress has been remarkable.
     Building things is difficult. Building things in the water is extremely difficult. Most important are the pilings. Extra care is taken to ensure the pilings are straight and located exactly. If the pilings are incorrect, the decking on the pier will be nearly impossible to complete. It occurred to me as I watched Bobby’s crew (expertly) drive the pilings that life can be like building a pier. To achieve the quality life you desire, your pilings must be placed in an exact manner. If your life pilings are mis-driven, your decking will be lopsided and difficult to navigate. What are life pilings you ask?
     The pilings of your life pier are many. Education is a piling of life. Failure to complete school can lead to difficult “decking for your pier” and limited life opportunities. Another piling of life can be your choice of spouse. A poor choice of spouse is surely a crooked piling and will lead to a crooked pier. Another choice, abusing drugs and alcohol, is like intentionally driving a piling in crooked. It will be difficult to construct a proper life with that choice. Financial responsibility is yet another piling for a quality life. Purchasing things you cannot afford is driving a piling into the wrong spot. A characteristic of a quality life is lack of financial burden. Financial pilings must be in the right spot or your decking may not reach.
     So my point this week is, be like Bobby Prescott when driving pilings. Be careful when you are driving the pilings of your life. Place them correctly and drive them straight and deep. With proper pilings, the pier of life you deserve and desire will be easier to build.
     If you need any marine construction improvement, call Bobby Prescott. If your life needs improvement, contact me via my website, http://www.AmericasMindsetMechanic.com.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

The Dog He's Not Getting

By Julie Rahm
Our dog, Tank was born here in Pamlico County at Lisanne Erickson’s Oriental Pet Parlor. Tank is a Yorkshire terrier. He was first born in a litter of seven. Lisanne and I are friends, so she allowed me to visit the new puppies as often as I could. Tank seemed to favor me more than the other puppies. I wanted to adopt Tank and make him part of our family. My husband, John always had dogs when he was younger. But now, he was very opposed to the idea of getting a dog. “No dog” was the mandate from John. John even told our friends he was “not getting this dog”. I was broken-hearted. I really wanted Tank. One by one, the other puppies were adopted. Soon only Tank was left. It seemed no one wanted Tank because he was not a “show Yorkie”. Tank was big and looked more like a Miniature Schnauzer than a Yorkie.
To help socialize Tank, Lisanne allowed me to bring him to our house for play dates. John enjoyed Tank and was both glad and sad to see Tank go home at the end of the day. One play day, around five in the afternoon, John reminded me Tank needed to go home soon. I told John, “Lisanne is not expecting Tank back today”. John was confused and asked if Tank was spending the night. I paused long enough for my perceptive husband to realize a plan was unfolding. “You bought this dog!” he accused. I confessed, “Yes, I bought him.” I defended myself by offering, “If you still don’t want him by the end of the week I will take him back.” John and I both knew there was no way Tank was going to be returned after a week of bonding. Tank worked his magic with John. Now Tank and John are inseparable. The two would be completely inseparable but John closes the bathroom door! Otherwise, the two would be a pair 24/7! If you see John driving our big white truck, chances are there will be a little gray furry head sticking up from the passenger seat.
I knew the two would be this way. I was certain enough to risk damaging my marital relationship. In this case, disregarding John’s desires was the right thing to do. However, I coach my clients not to do things this way! Disregarding your spouse’s desires is fraught with risk. But, there can be great reward by sticking to your guns.
So, my message this week is if you are certain, be assertive. Do not be distracted if you are right. Have courage and be rewarded by a decision well executed. And, when you see Tank around town, give him a scratch behind his ears. He’s the dog John’s not getting!
If you would like help making an important decision, contact me through my website at http://www.AmericasMindsetMechanic.com. I will share my personal decision-making strategy with you.

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