"Zahir, in Arabic, means visible, present, incapable of going unnoticed"-Faubourg Saint-Peres, Encyclopedia of the Fantastic 1953
May 17, 2014
Welcome! Sdravstuvyte! Bonjour! As-salam alaykom! Ni hao! Selamat!
My name is Polina. Discussing politics can be a drag, a bore, and even frustrating. To make it clear, I am not here to put out "I'm right you are wrong" or "if I believe it then it must be true for everyone else" type of attitude. I believe we have enough of that in the world for me to be yet another person who doesn't want to be open minded, understanding, and rational. This site is a dedication to not only being tolerant, but wanting to learn, express, and appreciate the differences that we all have to offer to each other. Tolerance doesn't mean respect. It simply means that you are able to put up with the person enough to not despise them. Being welcoming and understanding others is entirely different. This site will be factual, posing hypothetical questions or rhetorical ones, or my take on any given situation. You are more than welcome to send emails and I will respond back answering or reflecting on any given comment within my next post. Posts will be done on weekly basis.
My first topic concerns nuclear power. The news has recently discussed how talks with Iran have ended in set backs. Throughout my studies I have come to the conclusion that despite the nuclear bombs that were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, our world doesn't seem to have learned it's lesson fully. What is the point of continuing harvesting or developing stronger nuclear power if we all know that nobody wants it to be used against humans? Unless of course we do have someone evil enough to want to actually utilize that power in the next war. We have seen the dire consequences, so why do we keep on posing threats between countries of making new missiles, new bombs, etc? If that power would be used as a means of energy for our use in daily lives, that would be an entirely different issue. Instead of electricity, if a city loses all of its power, we would use nuclear power as means of light, what then?
Recently, I had a conversation with a friend of mine about North Korea. The main question I asked myself and my friend was even though it is a dictatorship, is it beneficial for the people to an extent that they are secluded and live in their own world apart from the rest of humanity? The media, internet, even the news about other countries is all controlled by Kim Jong-un. Yes their freedom is taken away, yes their daily life is constantly monitored, but are there benefits to living in a secluded society to the extent that at least you aren't brainwashed or have to deal with the issues that the rest of us have to face? Of course one could argue that they are brainwashed by their government as well, so what's the difference? From a positive point of view, I see that there are benefits to not having to deal with typical pressures that the rest of the world deals with. At the same time it's fascinating to see that Kim Jong-un constantly threatens using nuclear power and conducts tests that are on the border of South Korea. It all seems to tie down to the concept of attention. While he is the supreme leader for his country and controls everything, stating the country wants to be left alone to itself, yet he constantly makes headlines with threats, missile tests, etc. This shows that he is still human and regardless of what he might want his people to believe, in reality his actions clearly indicate that being secluded isn't what he really wants.
Switching to more of a business type of thinking, I decided to touch base about taxes. One of the observations I've noted to myself is that you see either someone winning a lottery, or stars splurging on huge purchases for houses, cars, etc. and then not ever paying taxes or having the money to do so. Number one rule when it comes to expensive purchases, be able to afford the taxes that follow it. If you purchase a $3 million dollar home, how do you not think ahead of the property taxes that house will have on it? That always intrigues me when I read in the news that some celebrity is now filing for bankruptcy because they have no money and owe thousands if not millions in back taxes. Don't purchase assets that you can't afford taxes on, that's all there is to it. In addition, if you win a lot of money or make it big with NBA players, movie stars, etc. it doesn't mean that all of that money has to be spent to show off how expensive something is. It's easier to spend it all right away and then be broke then to spend some or make smart purchases, but keep the rest or invest it.
This week I wanted to talk about huge corporations. Studying everything from Wal-Mart, Exxon, to Enron and BP, a lot of people have a very negative outlook about such corporations and their conduct. There is no argument that with each one of the mentioned companies there were tremendous scandals that has tarnished their image. However, one question I'd pose to the public would be if there were no huge corporations would the US economy have thrived or grown to the size and power it has if those corporations wouldn't exist at all? It's easy to sit and discuss everything bad that all of them have done to the country, but let's say for the hypothetical purpose they would not ever exist, what then? Would the United States economy have emerged as one of the top in the world, or would it just be full of small businesses struggling to survive in a capitalistic market? It's important to not forget that there are always two sides to any argument, and while it might not eliminate or justify that the negative actions are right, it also shouldn't erase the fact that it is because of such corporations that business in general has evolved to what it is now. It is true that corporations have been given a lot of power, and it continues to grow, but isn't it also true that it is due to the people who are in the government that pass measures which in turn increase that power in the first place. While numerous legislation has been passed to enforce tougher penalties, increasing tougher penalties does not mean that acts such as cheating, lying, and stealing can be entirely eliminated. People will be people, whether good or bad.
The World Cup is on! What a wonderful and amazing sport soccer is! I actually used to play it myself way back in elementary school. I've always admired and thought it was interesting that despite all the conflict that rages on in the world, when it comes to such events as the Olympics, regardless of whether they are Summer or Winter ones, people stop and entirely forget their differences and enjoy the event for what it is. The only Olympics that actually had to be put on hold were in 1937 and 1940 due to WWII. There is still something to be said about the topic though. I find it strange that if we as humans are able to come together and support each other in such events as sports, then how is it politics wise we are unable to sit down and have a rational discussion? Yes, everyone comes from different cultures, backgrounds, beliefs, etc. but if we all forget about the differences for these events, then how is it that we can't or don't even wish to comprehend the other persons' point of view for more serious matters? It's hard to believe that out on the field because it's such a big event everyone is solely focused on the game. As soon as the World Cup will end though, for countries that are in conflict among each other, they will return to the same state once more. I hope that one day we won't need to have just sporting events to be able to accept each other regardless of faith, culture, and languages.
What makes a business successful? Is it outstanding customer service? Is it leading marketing tools? Is it the type of the service the business provides? No single business can do every segment perfectly and be on top without having to worry about competitors. Thus, to me a successful business is one that focuses on several or few segments it can be a leader and progress in those. It is a business that knows not only its strengths, but also weaknesses. A business that keeps up to date with its competitors not just within one particular segment, but the entire industry as a whole. A lot of mistakes are made because of overconfidence and having the attitude that once there is a stable profit coming in, nothing else really would shake or alter that could cause losses. It is important to remember that there can always be someone better, more efficient, and stronger business that could overtake yours. This thought shouldn't be a constant fear, but a reality check that when things are going well, it is important to not forget that unless you are prepared to see competition, then it won't be a shock if something does occur. No one can predict the future one hundred percent, but to be able to have several key scenarios in mind, keeps you on your toes, and makes your business not just more efficient, but also aware and prepared. Given that in today's world there are millions of businesses, unless you have an edge over your competitors, then you will get trampled down really fast.
Studying immigration, and having a personal experience with this subject, there seems to be a lot of hypocrisy about this in the United States. The nation is known for being a "melting pot", full of different cultures, religions, beliefs, music. etc. It just doesn't seem right when people are ignorant and don't even acknowledge that at some point even their ancestors were immigrants. There has been a big debate going on about immigration and protecting the US border, however, I am amazed that most "Americans" don't even realize or stop to think how this country even came to be. It is not like there was one group of people centuries ago and that's it. Englishmen came to a land that was filled with various tribes of Indians. Throughout the 19th and 20th centuries thousands of immigrants migrated to the United States. There were even specific time frames or decades where it was solely groups of Germans, Polish, and Europeans, and then Chinese, Vietnamese, and others. So to me to see that instead of studying how much of an impact immigrants make on society, for "pure Americans" to criticize and have such a negative outlook on immigrants only shows hypocrisy, ignorance, and who knows maybe even jealousy. I understand we don't have to like every single person we meet, but there is a difference between acknowledging that you simply don't want to really talk with someone, versus being blandly rude or even discriminate solely because someone is from a different culture. Should we now deport those who have any roots of immigrants dating back to 1900s? That would be ridiculous, so why would the sole solution to the issue now be: deportation?
Since the day that Edward Snowden had released a lot of information about NASA collecting data from US citizens, I'm sure a lot of us have been even more skeptical about the information that we are asked to provide. Regardless of whether it is in an email, on some type of a form, or even on the phone, I personally have always been very skeptical about giving out personal information to someone that I don't find credible. I also see that in regards to Snowden himself there is a fine line between national security and putting the entire country at risk ,versus being transparent with its own citizens. Where do we draw that line is hard to say. I do believe that when it comes to certain facts, information, etc. there is a reason why top officials have clearance for it and every other person doesn't. The average public wouldn't know what to do with all that information, and in addition it's not for the faint of heart to just give out everything right and left. Some things are really not meant to be known by every citizen, regardless of what country you live in. At the same time, to hide or to collect data on citizens without them really aware of it is crossing the boundaries of privacy. Where do we draw the line of how much is too much? Some might argue that as long as the country is safe, then they would be willing to provide personal information, after all they "have nothing to hide", while others argue that it is a breach of privacy. This question doesn't even seem to have a right or a wrong answer, at least not in my eyes.
Israel and Palestine have been fighting against each other for centuries. What amazes me is that even in today's more modern world, and with civilization growing so much, we still have people that are so engulfed in their own culture they do not wish to understand or compromise with anyone else. There is a difference between disagreeing and acknowledging that the opinions or stances on certain situations won't change, but you "agree to disagree". And then there is the willing to kill, die, and sacrifice everything the country and the people have as long as the point is proven. Life doesn't seem to matter nor is there a reason to think that being rational is somehow a legitimate solution. It does become harder however, when the conflict is over where to draw a border for a physical location of a country. At the same time, again, regardless of the issue, we all should be able to find a compromise that does not involve death. So even if the issue is where to draw boundaries between countries, at some point there needs to be a way of dividing the territory that does not involve slaughtering of people. This isn't 2nd or 3rd century where people only were developing skills. We all could do much better than fighting physically. That is the most easiest way of handling any type of conflict.
I decided to take a break from writing on here for a while. Seeing that a lot of issues have arisen throughout this month. The first thought that comes to my head is the concept of guns and humans. Despite the different rights that each country possesses when it comes to firearms, I find it absolutely ridiculous that parents do not teach their children the actual and potential dangers of guns. It doesn't matter how old you are, but the fact that while one country has parents worried about having kids that bring guns to schools, the other one is fighting a war where kids of the same age are using weapons just to protect their villages. It all depends on the situation/circumstance of the country. Even if the laws are different, the notion of what the weapon does to another human being is an entirely different concept.It is sad to see that not enough people teach each other let alone their kids that this isn't a toy. AGAIN, GUNS are not toys just to "play round." Somehow, the public doesn't grasp that. It seems that just by simply having an argument over the entire issue is enough to "shortly convince" some that they are. However, what does it accomplish in the long run? As humans we will always have our differences, but to be willing to kill each other over those differences is what ultimately should be the main concern. Not just the regulations over the arms, but why do we as humans feel the need to kill each other over opinions, over territory, over anything? Yes, territory is crucial, yes even animals fight over it..but we aren't animals..we are given a brain and intelligence that animals don't posses specifically because we have reasoning to be able to think through our decisions. Yet, how does us killing each other over the same things over and over again make us any different from animals?
When it comes to doing business in different countries every country has it's own regulations, laws, etc. It is only when you begin to conduct business within a certain area or region that you realize what obstacles lie within it. Even though some countries might be welcoming for tourists, when it comes to business, they can be much more harsh and stubborn to deal with. For example, since US does not support or engages in bribery, meanwhile most countries overseas do, how do you go about establishing a business/opening a new office abroad without having to pay bribes? It is easy to sit here and state that simply by not paying the money that is all there is to it, however such is not the case. Let's say Company A wants to open a new location in Latin America, specifically in Argentina. (Note, this an example and is not meant to portray this country in any mean way). It so happens that in order to push the paperwork to the top of the list, or to get any approved signatures Argentinian officials demand an extra $1,000 to be included in the cost of the fees for the paperwork. As US officials/company, this would be considered a bribe. However, this no longer is a matter of simply we shouldn't pay the bribe. Without this fee, the paperwork not only won't be pushed through, but the chances of it being even looked at could take up to 5 years. Company A does not have 5 years, it only has one year as its maximum time frame to have this paperwork completed. What should Company A do? It is situations like these that make it much more complicated and cause us to stop and think how DO we conduct ourselves on an international level? And it all stemmed from one simple issue of paying a fee for paperwork that any given company needed to complete in order to expand overseas. Bribery is only one example of how conducting business is not so simple as it might seem from the first glance.
It has been a while since I've written on here yet again. There are several conversations that are in the news lately about businesses and international politics. For the most part everyone is concerned about the Ebola virus outbreak. What is the government doing to ensure our safety and what is the realistic threat it possesses? Well, for starters the media does a wonderful job of ensuring that the public is in a panic and never ceasing worry about the virus. Then there is the very intelligent move on the government's part to not leave those who have contracted the virus over seas, over seas, but instead bring them back to the United States therefore providing a better guarantee that the virus will spread, and treat the patients in the US. That doesn't sound sketchy at all..If you think about it, why would any smart and common sense person want to bring the patient here, if there is talk about isolating the virus and ensuring it doesn't spread around the world? Wouldn't it make more sense to quarantine the infected person wherever they are, not allow them to travel back home and treat them at the location they were diagnosed/discovered to be sick? No, of course not, that would be too easy and too rational. It makes me beg the question what is the real issue at hand/what is the realistic plan behind all of this? Just to draw the focus away from what is really happening in the world or another move that is part of a bigger agenda? Most of the issues that occur could be solved with a more realistic and no nonsense approach, however, that does not happen very often. It is important to understand that the virus isn't a joke, it has caused deaths, however, before any of us continue to "panic" we should be weary and do our own research on the details of it all.
As much controversy as there has been over abuse of power, I can't help but think where do we draw the line of governance? What is too much power and what is medium amount or balanced? A part of this entails what I find intriguing in the balance of power within the United States Constitution and democracy. Sure the triangle between the three branches might seem confusing, but to create such a concept takes a lot more than just intelligence. It takes concept of justice, of free will, of balance and by balance I mean true balance, unshakable desire for freedom and equality for a group of men to write up a document so detailed and yet so vague at the same time that it can still be of use 200 years later. So while we sit and "judge"or speculate about who is abusing power today, maybe we should stop and think how even over a century ago there was a legal document that was created that can still govern us today. Maybe our solution to balancing power isn't about restricting it entirely, but finding a balance for the rest of the world to function, regardless of culture, language, and history. Think about it, if we were to come up with different variations or one that would work for all the rest of the countries to govern, and it would satisfy the world, then how different would our planet be? This is of course, idealistic, but at the same time no other country has come up with a government system that would be able to progress from century to century and still be one of the best systems for the modern world. There are a lot of types of government that might be great on paper, but in reality once implemented would destroy any hope of equality. Democracy, however, and the way that the Constitution was written has been able to achieve that.
Unless I write otherwise, this might be the last post of this year.I have to say that despite all the ridiculous news, most of the public would find it surprising that Gone With the Wind movie main character Scarlett was actually English. While it might be not the typical topic to discuss, it is also quite intriguing. The movie was filmed during WWII using English actors, and yet it is a story about the American Civil War. How ironic, and yet the producer was so set on Vivien Leigh that he did not disclose who the true actress of the character was until the very last minute, knowing there would be controversy. This brings me to the point of us following our dreams. Despite the international conflict, Victor Fleming didn't cease his search for the perfect actress. It took him over two years by the way. And at the very last minute, he found the most astonishing actress, who wasn't even local! If this scream "I DON'T CARE, I WILL PICK ANY PERSON WHO SUITES THE ROLE, REGARDLESS OF THE BACKGROUND" then I don't know what else does. One of the most famous movies in the industry, and yet how few know about this detail. So the next time someone decides to talk negative about someone being from a various background, just bring up an example of this, let alone a producer who is willing to take a risk and go beyond nationality, but actual talent. Which by the way, does not entail years of school will make someone an expert. You can study all you want to, and still not be the right fit. Heritage does not mean that you are guaranteed a job. Remember that next time you bring up that issue as your "card".
February 23, 2015
I know I haven't written on here for a while, but happy new year to everyone! Wal-Mart recently announced that they are increasing the minimum wage from $7.50 to $9/$10 an hour. Thousands of Americans have been waiting for this news for years, and those who have been leading protests in regards to this matter can now breathe a sigh of relief. However, the discussion of minimum wage is far from being over. The one key concept that a lot of people tend to miss is that cost of living and inflation have also risen throughout the years. This is a basic concept of economics. We simply can't continue to live our daily lives without acknowledging that our economy is not what it was forty to fifty years ago. Although I have heard a few comparisons of gas dropping lower to what it might have been back in the 1960's and 1970's, the issue still stands. While from a corporations' perspective it is in their best interest to continue saving money, cutting cost, and paying the lowest wages they are able to, it is also irrational to believe that this tactic will last. It had to happen at some point, and it finally did. The cost of living doesn't just fluctuate throughout the years, but also within the country itself. The average price for an apartment on the east coast, is not the same as the average price in the south or even on the west coast. That is simply another part of economics. Thus, for any business to believe that they can continue to function without adjusting to the current economic standards is simply foolish. It didn't work post the Great Depression and it won't work today. There is a reason why there are specific coined terms in economics such as GDP, CPI, and even GNP. For those who are not familiar with such terms, you can look it up online, but the point is that these terms don't simply exist just for "fun." It also proves that as we continue evolving, so do our economies. Without adjusting to the changes that surround us, we simply are failing to learn from the past and move into the future.
Although some of my posts have been more rare, the international community still continues to have news everyday. With the new Apple IWatch releasing soon, and having almost a million pre-orders that have been made I have had several discussions with my friends about technology. The company's history is known well to many, a competitor of Microsoft and with little promise for a future, it has grown to be a huge publicly traded corporation today. What sparks my curiosity is that despite the watch running on an 18-hour charge, not 24 hours that are in a day, people are still desperate to buy it. The marketing campaign that Apple has put in place has worked its magic. Yes, while we do not use a watch 24 hours because realistically we would take it off for various reasons, including sleep, where we aren't awake for those hours, the argument of it not running for 24 hours is plausible. However, I find the fact that people are flocking to buy it that badly a bit odd. The watch can run the same/similar apps that an Iphone has, and would use smaller amount of memory, thus making the applications more efficient. It would also be able to store music, sync to your car, and other devices. However, because those of us who have had an Iphone know how fast the charge begins to die as we begin to charge the phone more frequently, my argument with the Iwatch is the same. Once a person begins to charge it more frequently, and let's say the phone dies in middle of the day or in the morning post waking up, how inconvenient would that be for that person. Additionally, I am certain with newer versions the charging chords would also become different, thus demanding customers to buy a separate charging device for the watch. To me it just defeats the purpose of what a watch stands for. Unless the battery does die, which in regular watches does not happen that often; once it does begin to deteriorate you notice the time displayed begins to become inaccurate; then the Iwatch is just the next "it" thing that the company has worked on developing to cater to its customers. It isn't an entirely brand new concept if you really think about it. Combining the power of a watch and a smart phone. It simply is the next step of our technology progressing. At the same time, you do have to applaud Apple for jumping at the chance and being the first company that uses this new development to its advantage. Without a doubt when it comes to global companies they have been around long enough to adjust to the market demands accordingly.
(One year anniversary!)
The recent Philadelphia train derailment that happened on May 12, which as of currently left 7 people dead and over 150 injured made me question not just the safety of the railroad system in the US, but also the concept of care of humanity as a whole. While the engineer is still under investigation, I ask myself there are numerous other factors that play a role in the collision apart from the driver. For instance, in what condition were the rails themselves? As of the latest information, they recently are lacking in repair and upkeep...which makes me question as to why on earth would the railroad commission or anyone in charge of maintenance not ensure that at any given point and time the rails are replaced and fixed if needed to be...at some point we have to stop pointing fingers at every other person and take responsibility for our own actions and wrong doings..thus, if there numerous factors at play in this situation, and there are plenty of people that made up excuses instead of doing their job and ensuring that the entire rail system is safe...in that case it is not solely the engineers fault. Yes, the man should not have been going double the speed limit especially on a such a steep curve, and given he isn't in a car, but a train, he should know better, however, at this point I would also have to ask why do we as humans become so careless about our jobs that we forget that in certain positions we carry so much responsibility for others? This isn't some cartoon where when Bugs Bunny gets shot, he'll get up again and run away...in reality, when people die, they die. There is no second life...and that to me is just what makes me wonder, we all have our faults, we all can be careless, but as long as you are responsible for other peoples' lives as part of your job and duty, at no point and time should it become some type of a joke. If there is some tragedy going on in the employee's life, maintain some type of a communication system with your coworkers or boss to be able to express that you are not able to carry out your duties at 100% capacity. Don't be silent or just pretend that nothing is wrong or you can "go through it" and not be effected by something. It is better to let others know and take a day or two or even a week off, rather than risk something so tragic happen.
At this point I'm certain that the FIFA scandal has reached most of the world enough to be able know vaguely what is going on with the organization. For one I didn't find the news to be something extremely shocking. Some of the allegations/corruption issues have been surfacing throughout the years are not that much of a revelation. Other concepts, such as who gets to host the World Cup, at some point and time we should realize money will be a big factor whether we would like to admit to it or not. To me, having to study business on an international level, which includes studying of how to do business/start a business in any given country and the corruption index around the world, is something I should predict and thoroughly understand. The main point I would emphasize is one being aware of different culture standards and regulations, and additionally, not just knowing the laws, but understanding of how regular business is conducted in any given country. What seems to be the norm for one, might be the most offensive action in another. Does that mean that we should stand by and allow it to continue? Certainly not. However, I have seen it first hand that to fight an entire system is not as easy as it might seem from an outside perspective. The sad truth about money and power is that in the end it seems to rule regardless of how good we might strive to be. I hope that each one of us wishes that at some point we will come together and be able to curb corruption, but the reality and truth about us as humans is that we will always have the downfall of wanting more. In this particular example it means having more money and power. Regardless of how much we wish for others to understand be satisfied with having what they do, overall we won't ever be able to control or teach EVERY SINGLE person on the planet to realize that, and work on being happy with what we have. We can certainly strive to be better, by no means should that ever stop, but at the same time we should be able to understand what realistically goes on in the world.
Recently, as I talked to an acquaintance of mine about my interests, passions, etc. it dawned on me that unless we follow specific interests and continue to grow and educating ourselves, we end up being stuck in an endless circle, or just "dumbing down" to everyone else's standards. For me to be able to share my experiences and allow others to learn from them, is what makes the world a better place. However, if we don't share our knowledge with others and just let it "sit in ourselves" what is the point? Since I have such a unique background, I continue following international news and business issues. However, an average American unless is well traveled, has a varied family background, or friends, doesn't follow any of that. That is the reality of it all. Sadly, that is why unless as a society we learn to be accepting of intelligence and awareness of other cultures, beliefs, etc. nothing else will change. It is refreshing when I talk to someone and although they might not know much about a certain culture or concept, they also have no problem being honest and asking questions if they don't understand something. Being judgmental and commenting on how horrible someone or something is can always be done in a split second. It is much harder to have a rational debate or conversation with actually attempting or wanting to understand the issue. That is why I hope that my readers not only keep up with a variety of news and interests but actually do learn to be more open minded and accepting. As far as where the news and facts come from, that is an entirely different issue. The main point I want to make and emphasize is it absolutely alright to acknowledge we don't know something and want to learn more about it. And it is absolutely wonderful to meet new people and become friends with them when you see they are just as open and wanting to expand their knowledge instead of simply making an inaccurate judgment. Maybe that is something that as a society as a whole we should strive towards.
Studying the crisis that is going on in Greece it definitely becomes a very complex issue at the core of the argument. My main thought about all of this is should the EU be lenient and allow exceptions for not even Greece, but let's say any country that wants to enter into the union, or should it stick strictly to the regulations it has written? The troubled started when Greece was failing meet its financial standards to be accepted into the EU. The union members and the board decided to extend/alter/tweak the minimum requirements in order for Greece to join. Although it wasn't a big difference, they did lower the standards just so that Greece would barely pass the mark. What does this teach other countries? Let alone, while the immediate affect might be something worth to "celebrate for" in the long scheme of things this only paves the way for more problems. As time went on, Greece devalued its currency to curb the debt that it acquired. The problem with this is, that means that you are adjusting the value to fit the current needs, not really taking into account that the market will not stay the same, people still need to continue living their day to day lives, and concepts such as trade and taxes don't just disappear into thin air. From one side Greece took a plausible approach to solve the problem. From the other side, however, economists/ government officials that understood what they were doing, should have been able to foresee at least top 5 outcomes in the long term as a result of this. The other interesting concept that stands out is that since the EU is the only zone that uses the same currency, the rate of inflation, prices, cost of living, etc are all varied from one country to the next are also eliminated or pretend to be of no importance in what are the basic concepts of economics.
A girlfriend of mine just recently returned from a trip to France she took to visit another mutual friend of ours. Discussing the trip and the French culture got me thinking that it's hard to fully grasp the differences between cultures unless you are physically around it. Despite the fact that I have studied various cultures, I learned some new things about France, and it's nice to be able to have those in depth conversations with your friends. I do find that what might be perceived as weird or unusual in one culture is very typical or the norm in another. At the same time, while we were discussing some of the things she found a tad strange, I thought to myself what about common sense and just thinking with your head regardless of what culture you are in? I do believe that some things shouldn't be taken as an insult or even a cultural concept, but rather it makes logical sense and thus should be a common sense type of concept. For example, if someone is thirsty they'd drink some water, let's say that a particular culture doesn't typically have water sitting on the table in restaurants. Does that mean that if you notice a person has a glass of water, that all of sudden you would find it an insult to your culture or appalling that they have it sitting on the table? At what point do we use our heads and see that maybe this person is very parched or they might need to drink water for medical reasons and thus it shouldn't matter what the culture perceives it to be. That is just one example, there are thousands of such things that I can list, but I hope that this example proves the point. While I respect that various cultures have different understandings and norms, we are also human, not robots, and should be able to understand that not everything is cultural. Some things are simply what makes us human. If it makes life easier, then why should it be just a cultural concept? Yet it is strange that there are so many of these type of scenarios that would be considered an insult to those that still while grasping the issue would disagree and say we don't do that. Hopefully as our generations continue evolving, we will start using our brains more so than relying on beliefs.
Although I typically don't post mid-week, i decided that since several new issues have been in the news, it's very plausible to write. Iran and the United States just came to an agreement about nuclear powers. Recall my first post when I started this site I discussed about nuclear power and its potential. Obama came on a TV show that is ending in a couple weeks called The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, on which they did talk about the recent deal as well as how the media has been portraying it. First of all, Obama mentioned how diplomacy does work, and entirely eliminating the nuclear arms would not work with Iran officials. Secondly, he stated that in order for the public to understand what is going on, they need to study the topics well enough to gain all the knowledge of the situation. Both points are good, however, it begs the question what on earth would realistically happen if those bombs were set off? Despite the compromise, i hardly doubt that anyone in the world would honestly wish to have our planet destroyed to the bone. I agree that diplomacy works, and clearly there is a reason why there is a concept of international relations, however, does not mean that everyone thinks on the same page and is willing to budge even on the most serious issues.This is what we all should come to the terms with, that unless we look at issues such as nuclear power as something from a general point of view, humanity, not really arguing over culture, background, etc. but life itself, then the world will know how to compromise.
Over the weekend, I met someone who teaches a course in International Finance, specifically in the energy industry focusing on investments. This person has recently traveled to Vietnam, which you don't hear much discussion about these days. It got me thinking, how little we pay attention to countries that used to play such a big role in history. It's amazing that Vietnam went from being scrutinized and trash talked to having it's own stock exchange. Yes, to other's shock and disbelief they do have that now. My thought of the week is one why is it that as humans in general, and as much as we have advanced we don't share knowledge as much as we could? We have yet to reach our full potential. And given that what's in the past is in the past, and times have changed, it amazes me that some countries are in the news 24/7, while others are hardly mentioned, when in reality they are the ones who we really should be discussing. Does it matter whether it was a negative or a positive historical issue? At this point, it really should not. By no means am i discrediting that, but we should be able to look past the history, and accept that even those countries that were once our enemies are now either our allies, or are competition given the resources and the advantages they possess. That is what we should be discussing, not some rumor or petty detail that in a big scheme of things really doesn't matter at all. And the second thought i had was really we should start including these countries in our textbooks for our children to learn and continue progressing. If not now then when? If we don't do it, then someone else will.
With some of the tragic news about shootings, i decided to talk about the 2nd Amendment in the U.S. Constitution. Having studied it, I understand why it exists, but what i believe most people refuse to acknowledge and understand is that just because you have the right to do something doesn't mean you absolutely should. The 2nd Amendment was written specifically because during the British invasion, the soldiers would not only take over towns, but abuse wives, children, and the husbands would not be able to protect their own families. That is the major reason why the right to bear arms came into existence. To be able to protect your land and loved ones without having to be imprisoned for doing so. However, fast forward to our time, and instead of using our brains to the best of our abilities we have dumbed down to thinking that simply because the Constitution allows it, everyone needs to have a gun. No you don't. This fascination with guns is beyond any rational thinking. Tell me, what other country has any similar type of a government and the public wants to go to bars, restaurants, and movie theaters and show off their guns? If you really think about it, where in Europe, or Asia or South America do you see people just dying to have documents/permits to carry a gun, and go to bars and show it off to everyone? That is something that i really sincerely hope that the next generations will grow up and consider seriously. Doesn't mean that the right needs to be eliminated, because that is always the first conclusion someone who gets offended jumps to. "Oh, so you want to get rid of the 2nd Amendment?" No...no one is saying that is what needs to happen. But common sense is out the door when it comes to grasping as to why you even have that provision in the first place. Before anyone decides to point fingers, just think about what it has done to the country, and answer the question of this fascination towards it, before continuing on with any other details.
These last couple of weeks have been interesting. Talking to several of my friends, I thought about a few general ideas. This doesn't necessarily fall under business or international relations, but rather humanity as a whole. I recently met a very interesting woman, who has traveled to several different countries, lived in Germany for ten years or so, and has had quite some adventures to say the least. I thought about how without travel and without learning about other cultures, traditions, etc. life and people become mundane and boring to us. That is why we should strive to never stop growing and learning. It was very refreshing to talk to someone who is well traveled, open minded, and intriguing. Those are the type of people we need more of in this world. Talking to her was such a joy and entertaining. It is not only just the education, it's also the experiences that changes your perspective about life and that is why such people are really interesting. Broadening our horizons shouldn't be something we need to reiterate, it should be like second nature to us. After all civilizations have emerged, grown, and fallen all because of striving for progress. That is my short but good point for this week.
This week the second presidential debate for the Republican candidates was held for the United States. Amidst all the issues that were discussed, i found it interesting that for once a lot of the comments/platforms were very rational. Sure there were some moments of arguing back and forth and circling around an issue, but for the most part, this was one of the most rational and well presented debates. I thought to myself that if we all would be able to set aside our emotions, and just put yourself in that persons' shoes, you would understand where it is that they are coming from. Given the background of each and everyone of them, the proposed plans/platforms that they discussed made sense. To me it seems that it's so easy for all the rest of the nation to sit and judge and comment on whether they agree or disagree. However, how many of us actually know the economic terms that were discussed? Or how many of us actually understand what would happen if taxes would be eliminated in one sector but raised in another? These are the questions that we should think about, not the bickering of "I can't believe he just said that"...it doesn't matter what someone says, at the end of it all, the country will want to see actual results/actions taken, not just words spoken. But in the meantime, it doesn't hurt anyone to continue learning more about what can actually be done to solve the issues presented.
This week I want to talk about euthanasia. A very tough subject for all cultures, regardless of what anyone states. I've actually had to discuss this subject in class before, and let me say this, that no matter what anyone states that they "know" what decision they'll make, they don't! You ask me, or anyone making that statement as to why, let me say this, do any of us know what will happen if a gun is put to our head? Did any of the American's know what they'd be asked in Oregon? For those of you who don't know, look it up, I'm sure Google will provide enough information for you. As far as I'm concerned, this is a "test of a lifetime" that not a single person will AND I WILL REPEAT, THIS, EVER BE ABLE TO ANSWER THE QUESTION TO, UNLESS YOU ACTUALLY ARE HAVING TO FACE THE SITUATION! And the reason I put this in caps, is because, every single person on earth will be quiet, when they sit and think about making a decision about pulling a plug on their brother, father, mother, grandparent, friend. etc. anyone that you consider close to yourself, and have the audacity to come and say that it is "easy" or "you know exactly" what you would do, unless you have actually have had to face it. Until we have faced a certain/specific situation, we won't ever "know" what it means. So regardless of what country, culture, religion, etc. all I ask is really?! Either you are a human being or you are not, and by that I mean you either accept that we will have differences and we will have very hard decisions to make, or you really do believe we aren't human, because one, we do make mistakes, and two, if you don't accept that we will disagree on certain decisions then you don't deserve to talk. People who can't and WILL NOT accept different opinions are the ones who should think twice about what it is they are saying.
Over the weekend I had an interesting conversation with a newer acquitenance of mine about different cultures and view of thinking about life. It occurred to me that while some people might think that it's relatively easy to converse with someone from a different background, it is not so. Unless you have studied a vast amount about how each culture differs or resembles another one, diversity of religions, foods, and traditions, then it is harder to grasp as to how one statement can impact/offend another culture. To me it shows disrespect and lack of open mindedness if you are not willing to at least want to understand why a person might think one way over another. Or what exactly is it/what lies at the root of it that offends that person/culture. When we come to accept that not every view point will be right versus wrong, then the world will be an entirely different place. Its not just who is right and who is wrong, it is also about gaining understanding and appreciating diversity and people. If we can't even appreciate that another culture from ours differs on religious beliefs, then how do we expect to conduct any business, establish life-long lasting friendships/relationships, etc.? This led me to think next about what is going on in the world today. The simple statement, "if you are not with me, you are against me" type of mentality. Why does it have to be so extreme? We don't tell each other that simply because our friend didn't eat chicken for dinner instead of beef, that they are no longer are our friends or we want nothing to do with them. And yet, when it comes to accepting that we might differ on other views is somehow so "impossible" to grasp. Although this is a very simplified comparison, next time we watch the news or read another article that tends to lean towards a biased view, think about this.
I thought since I haven't discussed any issues pertaining to currency, that for this week I would talk about international currencies, specifically the euro. Back before the Greek crisis was even an issue, I thought to myself what would happen if the euro would collapse? If you stop and think about it, while it is convenient for the Union to have one single currency, it has its pitfalls just as well. If inflation rises, then it rises all over those countries in regards to currency that is. If the value of the euro drops, then it would be also have an impact. If you run out (physically out of paper notes), which actually did happen in Greece, then what? How do you replace what we call "money"? Apart from the fact that the Greek crisis was one of the worst in history, it also is not a well known fact that back when Greece was applying to be a part of the Union, it initially was denied entrance, due to already a for-seeing possibility it wouldn't be able to keep up with the economic demands to maintain the euro. Greece was already in deficit, and in addition didn't even qualify for the minimum standards to join. Yet, it persuaded the EU officials that it would come up with the money it's lacking by tourism. Fast forward five to seven years later and nothing had changed. This shows that despite what any given country might state and believe it will make a positive impact, there should be boundaries set, if you can't meet the basic criteria, no excuses. That is the mistake that EU made with Greece, being too soft when it should have stood its ground.
No matter what culture we come from, no matter what our beliefs are, November 13th will now be a historical moment for all of us. Let us not forget that we are all human and despite our differences we should not stoop so low as to entirely lose respect for human life. It really is stunning that when it comes to doing business on an international level, people are willing to sacrifice, ignore, or tolerate one another in sole purpose of gaining money or customers. Yet, when it comes to religion it is as though that same concept doesn't exist. It's simply not feasible. Let this be a step forward to achieve that goal.
China recently stated that the yuan would most likely be added to the IMF. US was supposed to vote whether or not to include the yuan (also known as renminbi) as the fifth member of the "special drawing rights currency basket". The interesting part is that since China controls its currency and keeps it as specific rate so curb inflation, does that really make it a reliable currency to enter into the basket? While no currency is really "safe"from any economic downturns, should the IMF really be allowing a currency that is "stable" only due to factitious reasons be allowed to play such a major role in the international community? According to some experts the effect would not be felt until Q3 of 2016. While this should increase the interest of investors, it also seems to me that one should be cautious to tread into these waters and join the bandwagon if you will simply because it's the popular thing to do for the short time. Although it's been stable, is there a possibility of yet another Greek crisis?
First of all, as the year is drawing to a close, I would like to say HAPPY NEW YEARS! S NOVIM GODOM! Bonne année! Sal no mobarak! Sawasdee Pii Mai Krab!
As the year is ending, there are a lot of different issues that have arisen throughout this year. I felt like actually discussing more holidays and how they vary from culture to culture. For example, a new year for China or Iran calendar wise, is not celebrated on December 31/January 1. Instead, the Persian New Year is celebrated in March, while the Chinese New Year is celebrated at the end of January into almost end of February. This got me thinking as to how throughout the years classmates, friends, and even strangers have asked me how holidays in Russia are different from the United States. Can you imagine if New Years is entirely different for a couple of the countries I mentioned, how drastically different is it for any other holiday? Here is a food for thought, Thanksgiving, is a US traditional holiday, due to Columbus discovering the Americas. No, other countries don't have this holiday obviously, but there are numerous other holidays that are celebrated throughout the year that that each country has while the next one doesn't. I find it fascinating that it is during happy and sad times the world comes together. While my earlier post discussed very tragic events, this one also has something that brings all of us together. Celebration and joy! The entire world comes together when a new year begins, whether it officially starts on January 1st, or another day, it still brings all of us together.Women's International Day is March 8. But how many countries actually celebrate that? I know for me growing up in Moscow, even young girls were always praised on this day. When I came to the United States, a lot of my classmates had no clue what that meant. This makes me wonder what other countries have holidays that I or thousands of other people haven't ever heard of?
Corruption; we all know it exists despite us wanting to turn our heads the other way a lot of times. The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act of 1977 which was implemented in the US requires transparency and prohibits from bribing foreign officials. A lot of issues arise when conducting business with the US, because of this legislation. While the rest of the world functions on bribes and money circulating around officials, security, etc. the United States is one of the few countries that actually has strict regulations that outlaw such acts. So my main question is how beneficial is it and does it really prevent bribery or merely a roadblock of conducting business? From an international stand point, while it is great to lead by a positive example, it really does hinder a lot of potential transactions when other countries conduct business in one manner, and the way they've always known, and yet US steps in and says but not here! I do agree it is a tough subject to discuss, because there really isn't a right or wrong answer. If the entire country functions in one manner, can we honestly say that it is wrong/if it works for them and it is efficient, what right do we have as another country to say no, that is not how it should be done. On other hand, corruption leads to greed and power, thus there really doesn't seem to be that many positive points that outweigh the negatives to say yes corruption is great. I do see that let's say for countries in Africa, a lot of bribery occurs in that region, but what happens if a company from the US wants to open a location in that region, however, it outright refuses to participate/carry on business that involves corruption. On one hand the company doesn't have to expand to that region, if it already knows that's the main issue and there isn't much else to be said. On the other hand, at what point does a company or companies continue to limit themselves and refuse to notice potential long-term goals outweigh the short-term bribery/it hinders it's own future? It's definitely a hard topic, however, realistically how much of the world will be shut off if US decides that simply because they implemented this legislation the rest of the world has to agree/alter how other countries run? It's a great moral example yes, but until other parts of the world decide to alter their views on bribery, you really can't force them to understand yours/follow yours.
Given that there are a lot of issues that are going on in the world right now, I want to pose a question for those who follow this blog. If terrorism is what everyone is very concerned and afraid about, then why is it that no single country has come up to the plate and stated that it doesn't matter what religion it is, terrorism is a concept of its own? Before anyone decides to talk negatively about anything else, has anyone actually studied Islam? Has anyone actually studied Buddhism? Has anyone actually studied Hinduism? Before anyone makes any comments about how they can't stand a specific religion, I would strongly advise learning about it While there is no denial that a specific religion might play a role, at what point do we ask ourselves that it could be any given religion? Christianity was forced upon the Native Americans in the now United States, while India saw the bhakti movement. So, what difference does it make between religions if we refuse to even learn the basics about each one, before we judge? At this point wouldn't it be sensible to state that no religion is susceptible to terrorism? I know I have trailed off from a business perspective, however, that is part of what international business/relations is about. You learn about different religions, cultures, foods, customs, etc. and you don't judge. You evaluate and learn to understand what not to do and do in the countries you visit. Whether it is something you believe in, disagree on, or follow, it doesn't matter. You respect each country's point of view, culture, and laws, and if you do't like them, then do something about it. Complaining about something, but not really solving the issue at hand is called whining. And unless we all realize that different religions do exist, and they aren't going away, then you might as well state that you refuse to eat food. It doesn't make sense right? That is how each country views other country's perspective/ demand on why they should change.
As this month is ending I have been doing research on various subjects and made me want to talk about cyber security. The recent article I read stated that only a quarter of businesses are aware that they lack measures to prevent hacks, and then less than a quarter actually believe that they are prone to a potential attack. My first thought is more of are you kidding me and how foolish do those businesses have to be in our technologically advanced world to not even protect yourself thoroughly? Although this is an entirely different topic, it does tie into the international relations/business concept overall without a doubt. The main concept I would take away from this is that we are all interconnected. We have cell phones that give us access to the internet in an instant. We can make phone calls and send messages in seconds, and can talk to someone from literally across the world. It's amazing, and yet we should be aware that being safe and aware doesn't have boundaries or borders. This concept goes for everyone. What amazes me is that if you are an international corporation, your priority should be awareness and security of your company's information. Excuses do not justify the problems that you end up dealing with or the explanations you present to your clients. In this day and age there could only be real risks that are harder to eliminate and entirely prevent, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't strive to be better at detecting them. I found it a surprising number, however, let's hope that as time continues it will be lower not higher.
What are the benefits of tariffs? On one hand you have more control over the products that are coming into the country, and therefore are more aware of what goes in and out. On the other hand, how many of us want to pay extra money additionally on top of the cost of the item? A very positive side to this issue is the fact that specific countries and parts of the world have created trade agreements between each other thus eliminating those tariffs. For example, ASEA (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) is one of such agreements. Countries in this area include Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand. Vietnam actually joined in 1995. And a couple other countries joined later as well. This means that as long as products flow within these countries are free from tariffs that would be typically imposed. This also creates more competition and attracts foreign investments. Although as I've stated no one likes to have an extra additional cost, the benefits of these agreements outweigh the costs, at least for these countries. United States is part of a trade agreement called NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement). It's also interesting that since multiple agreements exist, countries can work on better rates between each part of the world due to having partnerships and being outside of one agreement, but being part of another.
The cost of living in each country is different, naturally due to the economic status of that country. While Europe is dealing with its Euro issue, Asia is having to deal with its pollution. What i find interesting is that to a certain degree we as humans have the ability to control certain factors to ensure a better life for everyone. There will always be people that oppose lowering prices, maybe even losing some money, if in the end the entire country would be better off, rationally we should acknowledge that could be one of the options in order to solve the problem. With pollution, naturally cutting down on production or halting the construction of factories would be an option. Since the turn over rate of the workers is high, it really isn't in the best of interests of those factories to shut down. Le alone the amount of products that get shipped out is so high, it is better to lose a few hundred here and there, instead of shutting down several of the factories. With the Euro, currency is a bit more complex to discuss since it dives into economic concepts/multiple factors play a role in how the currency functions. I've discussed currency in my earlier posts, however, in this case currency is part of the GDP and depending on how it fluctuates could either cause the country to be in a depression or in a boom. As an end note I want to emphasize just because a country is expensive to live in, doesn't mean that its that simple of an answer as some might think.
I'm sure that by now a lot of the world knows about what is being called "Panama Papers." Recall I have discussed corruption before. The fact that these papers uncover just how complex relationships between countries are, should answer the question as to how is this possible. I actually have studied offshore banking, and understand that it's not as simple of a subject to grasp as some might think. As some of the articles have uncovered, offshore banking isn't illegal. The question that comes into play is how or can one prove that the account was created to directly avoid paying taxes. If a person who has been paying his/her taxes all of his life happens to open a business or an account offshore, does that automatically categorize him/her as guilty of avoiding payment? No. There has to be proof that by opening the account, it was done so specifically to avoid paying a tax on the business or businesses. However, simply by having an offshore account doesn't constitute it so. The problem lies with the fact of having evidence and proving that the sole purpose of opening these accounts is to avoid tax payments. While no one argues that clearly there is an issue with this, I also do hope that my readers research more about this issue before taking a stance on this issue. We should really understand that at the core we all have the right and freedom to open accounts in any country or part of the world we want to. It is only if there is evidence and proof that these accounts are created in order to avoid paying taxes, or to shelter a company from having to pay full amount it owes does it become an issue. If anything this debate sparks a bigger issue of how do we as the world deal with corruption and ensure that those who create or continue to ignore it will be held responsible?
Today is Russian Independence Day, however it is not the standard independence day that everyone would think of. I have always found it very interesting when anyone I talk to whether it's friends, classmates, or anyone else I encounter by what do I mean it's different? US celebrates its independence from Great Britain, when it actually became it's own country. Russia, however, was already an established country and May 9 commemorates the end of WWII and victory over Adolf Hitler. It's not really the independence day that one would think of establishing a brand new state, but instead victory over an enemy that was attempting to overthrow the country. Thus, it's more of an acknowledgement of the sacrifice the people made in order to save their homeland. The parade is held at the Red Square and all the veterans who are fully dressed in uniform with their medals hanging on their chests are in attendance. The day is filled with festivities and a commencement speech is usually given at the end of it all. On the other hand,France celebrates its independence day July 14, which is actually only ten days later after US's. China celebrates its October 1. Meanwhile Australia celebrates its January 1, give and take of how one views the New Year, literally what most of the countries celebrate as the New Year. It's always unique to hear that the way cultures celebrate even common holidays in such a variety of ways. Maybe we should strive to learn more of such facts instead of making judgments as to why it's so unusual.
Over the weekend we lost a great legend, one that is world known-Muhammad Ali. He was not only one of the greatest boxers ever known, but a very generous and caring man. Just to quote something of his: "Champions aren't made in gyms. Champions are made from something they have deep inside them-a desire, a dream, a vision. They have to have the skill, and the will. But the will must be stronger than the skill."Just those words alone are powerful and speak on his behalf of how he viewed life. Never give up! There is a lot to take away from his life. The main concept I want to stress is despite his career in boxing, he was such a peaceful and honorable man. He traveled to Iraq during the Gulf War, he carried the torch during the 1996 Summer Olympics, he visited Ennis, County Clare, Ireland which was home to his great-grandfather who immigrated to the US in 1860's. Those are just some of the examples, which prove that apart from doing what he loved he was one of the international legends that actively sought to make this world more understanding. All of us can learn something from his experiences. Not all of us want to be a boxer, but we can certainly learn that even someone who rose from the very bottom had respect for other cultures and traditions that we don't seem to discuss enough. Leading by example-that should be our goal, to strive to show not just talk but show with our actions as to how countries from all over the world can unite and live in harmony. May he rest in peace and may we all take this man's words and actions as a stepping stone to move forward.
By now everyone around the world has heard of Britain voting in a referendum to leave the EU or what was called by the media "Brexit". Amidst all the different articles that followed the news, one caught my attention more so. The article was written by a professor of EU and Human Rights Law at the University of Essex. In it, Professor Steve Peers analyzes what is next for Britain, how does Article 50 of the Treaty of European Union apply to Britain's exit and the future relationship between UK and EU. I found it to be intriguing that amidst all the economic impacts this will have on the other countries, not that many people took the time to really ask more thorough questions such as this professor had. Everyone understands that the stock markets felt the impact, that value of the currencies felt the impact, that trade will now be altered. However, no one really bothered to dive into the legal aspect of the all the treaties and laws that will now be amended. Article 50 of the Treaty of European Union provides a withdrawal process which in this case is a two-year period after which Britain will officially have left the EU. It is up to the UK to notify the EU, and the time frame can be shorter. The article doesn't provide any concrete regulations on whether the decision to withdraw can be pulled once it is made. According to Peers's outlook for UK's future the best option is for them to remain under the European Economic Area which is an agreement between the EU, Norway, Iceland, and Liechtenstein. Since they will have to create a new treaty to establish regulations/laws between other countries, for the short term this is the best option. I do find this to be a very efficient and logical step to take. While every decade, century, and millennia has had its own historical events, this is one of those moments for ours.
Seems that my posts have become a more once a month type, which is entirely fine. With election season upon US, hope that my readers have kept up with some of it. The main concept I've been thinking about is while US is a young country for sure, it's also amazing to think about the Constitution and how it's been written by men that not only were very intelligent and educated, but could for see and think about the future so ahead to write laws that would tramp time, in other words timeless. It takes a specific type of a person/attitude to be able to write something that doesn't just pertain to the current life/society and still looks ahead tramping any beliefs, or biases, and wants the world to be a better place/sees that there are certain rights not just legally speaking, but humane wise that we all deserve. That is not something most people even think twice about discussing. I meant think about it, if we gathered a group of legislators, writers, scientists, etc. what would they come up with for centuries down the road that would build everybody up or create a type of a system that regardless of anyone's beliefs or culture would create a system that continues on. That is what should be appreciated, not whether one detail of an amendment should be continuously fought in court or taking your personal beliefs and shoving an agenda that benefits you or your colleagues for a short time frame.
The Summer Olympics began this week. I specifically do not want to discuss the controversy that surrounds them, but instead focus on the positive that hardly anyone thinks about. Watching the last part of the Opening Ceremony with the carrying of the Olympic flag proceeded by the lighting of the torch made me think of what the term international really means. For a short time frame, regardless of what disagreements, arguments, or differences there might be, the entire world comes together for the games. That to me is true beauty! If we had more events that were on such a grand scale, I truly believe the entire planet would be better off. Although this year I didn't get to see the procession of each country coming into the stadium, I do recall it four years ago, and just generally the feeling I personally got from seeing the smiling faces and the true care of everyone just for one short moment focusing on the amazing talent brought together. Recall that the Greeks were the first who started the Olympic games in Olympia (hence the name) tracing as far back as 776 B.C. The original games were more of a religious ceremony dedicated to the Greek gods and Zeus. Interestingly enough they were held every 4 years, and we as humanity have preserved that rule. It was also part of their belief that during these games all conflicts between the city-states would be postponed until the end of the games. That to me speaks volumes. This in itself shows honor, respect, and not just a standard but true human capacity for understanding one another. For once everyone agreed that during these games, there was no room for arguing and bickering. So that makes me wonder, if we are capable to set all of our differences aside just for a short time frame, can we not strive/challenge one another to do the same outside of the games? Is it then not feasible to say that world peace is possible if only we would realize our full capacity to truly appreciate our differences? If we are able to postpone any issues for a short time frame, why not come to a rational understanding of it without a time limit? Let that sink in as the games continue.
This week was the International Peace Day which got me thinking about an earlier post I had written a while back about peace in the world. I don't believe that realistically it's something that we shouldn't strive for, but given the nature of humans, it still comes down to greed and desire for power. My main thought for this week is what is the point of having these international holidays, do they actually help humanity strive to be better? Apart from the title/name of them, do we actually pay attention and strive to make the world a better place? One of the articles I read was discussing the ICC (International Chamber of Commerce) nominating businesses for the 2017 Oslo Business for Peace Awards. It continued to elaborate about businesses that have combined both its mission statement and ethics to go above and beyond making communities and people's lives better, then they have made the world a better place. I agree. Although it is not discussed often, there are businesses that combine both the concept of making a profit, while at the same time also having a positive influence morally and ethically. The perfect words I want to leave my readers with were said by the 2015 Business for Peace Honouree CEO of Unilever Paul Polman,"If you are not here to improve the world, then why are you here?"
This week i want discuss the topic of cyber bullying Although this isn't so much a cultural topic, and yet at the same time it is. Cyber bullying tramps all cultures, all religions, any political views, etc. It doesn't matter what your views are, it is not ever okay or right to target and humiliate someone over their opinions. Although there's numerous discussions over this issue, it seems to me that it is not discussed enough. Just a couple weeks ago I read an article about a 14 year old boy dying as a result of being bullied online for quite some time and his mother was speaking out . While I understand that not all of us are able to ignore other's opinions whom we don't know, or don't respect, or ignore any negative talk, for some of us that doesn't come so easy. And for those of us who are able to help, should do so. What puzzles me is are there any statistics on how many people whether young or old are cyber bullied, and if so, the numbers by the country? Would the numbers be higher or lower in US versus Europe? Would they be relevant or even exist for other parts of the world? That is something that made me stop and think. And yet recall I noted in the beginning that it tramps all cultures, etc. It's a juxtaposition if you will, on one side it doesn't matter, but on another if we are to actively do something to change the world, we need to know the numbers and target the areas in the country, in other countries where it's the strongest. Thus I find this topic relevant as to more in depth questions about particular cultures, view points, physical characteristics, and so on so forth. If we are to really understand the reasoning behind cyber bullying, we need to realistically know both quantitative and qualitative data.
I thought I would discuss a topic that tramps all cultures. What does it mean to be ethical and honest? I have discussed before as far businesses being both ethically and morally responsible. However, this stems into more of how does each country view conducting business on an ethical level? What might be entirely acceptable and a standard with one country, might not stand with another. I find that the topic of ethics tramps cultures on a lot of different levels, however, it also is one of those topics that isn't as black and white as we paint it to be. If a culture accepts exaggeration as a norm and let's say that it's generally something one can observe that stories are embellished even if there is no rational reason behind it, then you learn to observe that to be a relative norm within that particular culture. If however, another culture finds bluntness to be the basic underlying behind how they carry themselves, embellishing even a simple story only disrespects them. Thus, by default regardless whether or not you agree with one or the other you begin to see the potential disrespect that could occur. Then we can stem into what does being honest mean? That also dives into different cultures, while one can handle brutal honesty and saying hey, this can be done better, this can look cleaner, the next one would find it rude and inappropriate if you were to directly say for instance "Your report is wrong, fix it." In cultures that are collective it is better to phrase yourself as to how to better improve next time, or how to work on better communication to accomplish the end goal together, instead of focusing on what one person did specifically wrong. As my readers can see, it is not so simple after all. All cultures have a way of handling misunderstandings, mistakes, and owning up to them. Whether something is ethical or not is not just a matter because that is the "norm." We should keep in mind that ethics should not ever be disregarded, but being culturally aware of how they differentiate matters.
As the calendar year comes to an end, where did it even go?!! I decided I would end my posts for it on this interesting point. The US had its elections last month, and Trump is now the president-elect until January 20th when he is sworn into the office. The very next day after the election was over, November 9, the stock markets plummeted and the business world was in turmoil. My point is this, given that global and international corporations have hundreds of offices and locations around the world, why would even those companies panic? Unless you are an American based company that was founded/started in the US, I don't see a reason as to how panicking benefits or really solves any uncertainty. The global companies if they find themselves that unstable can always shut down their operations, plants, offices, etc. in the country they are most uncertain about. I am not saying that this wouldn't be an issue on the financial side, on the losing employees, so on so forth, but from a business perspective, if the company is that concerned about its future and let's say the market it reaches in the US isn't even that big to begin with, it really would be easier to leave that country, focus on your other markets and other parts of the world, rather than jump in on the chaos and panic with everyone else. That is what international business is about. If you are a global company your concerns aren't just focused on one set area, you have to oversee and plan accordingly to each part of the world. If the company isn't doing so well in let's say Europe, than maybe they need to focus their efforts and goals on Central Asia and if the results will help in the bigger scheme of things, they could end up having to close their offices in Europe. That is part of the business. This of course given the fact that the company is not American based, but if it is, even then while I understand very well the concept of uncertainty any possible policies, regulations, so on so forth would not all a sudden halt the entire world's trade and conducting business. That is just the extreme notion. So instead of panicking, the companies should sit still, maybe think on a strategic level as to what could be predicted in the foreseeable future and be prepared to adjust accordingly, but no one can know for sure all of the problems that could arise, that is the reality. Therefore, before panicking the businesses should realistically evaluate how they would be impacted and what would change, not just jump to a conclusion oh, everyone else is freaking out, we should too. As I said, unless it's a US based company, the global companies whose markets and emphasis isn't even a priority in US, have no reason to jump to such drastic conclusions. Yes, trade and economic development have the potential to be affected, but that's a given and until the person takes office, what good does panicking do? I hope this makes some people consider that not everything is as easy as it seems from the first glance.
As the year comes to a close I decided to write about one of the most influential aspects of our modern time-the internet. Let's face it, without it we are like little kids demanding chocolate, when our parents tell us we need to eat dinner first. The vast amount of connections it has brought in each one of our lives is just one of the key advantages that it has brought into our lives. A friend of mine recently noted that Canada recently has made it a requirement to have internet available to anyone and everyone as a basic necessity for life. That doesn't surprise me whatsoever. Let's go back to how we have evolved as humanity throughout centuries. We can easily stem back as far as even when electricity was discovered. After all without it, none of this would be possible in the first place. At first there were candles, then there was a shift to kerosene lamps, and before you know the very first electric light bulb was invented. Naturally the same happened with cars. At first there were just horses, then carriages, submarines, steamboats, railroads, and finally what evolved into modern day cars. As we can see as a society we have continued evolving throughout time on a variety of levels. It makes sense that the internet has integrated into our lives so much as the basic necessity of electricity and running water. Ask yourself how many businesses would shut down without it? That in itself should show how much of an influence it has in our daily lives. Without it, I wouldn't even be writing this post right now. Thus, the main conclusion we can draw from this is that we can only hope that all other countries come to such an understanding that it's the natural evolving process of our technological advancement. We have so much potential to do good, and technology is at the very core of it. To all a HAPPY NEW YEAR! C NOVIM GODOM, S NOVIM SCHASTIEM!
"Change"-that is what the United States President Barack Obama's slogan was for his campaign eight years ago when he first ran for office. It is exactly what he ended on for his farewell speech this past week. If you think about it, there were a lot of changes in the country. For one, the economy was at its poorest since the Great Depression and yet Obama did improve for it to rise again. Gay and lesbian marriage became legal when no one thought it was realistic, and additionally the country saw the passage of what is known as the Affordable Care Act for the health insurance reform across the entire nation. Change; one word, and yet so much depth to it. In fact it is the only constant we can rely on, that life will continue changing. I do find the words and the whole concept inspiring. We as humans regardless of cultures, beliefs, governments, should strive to embrace change. It doesn't mean it's always going to be easy or in the manner we wish it to be, but if all of us would seek to go with the flow change then life becomes easier on a lot of different levels. Historically humans fear change because of the uncertainty that comes with it. Interestingly enough this actually ties into the term itself, as I have studied the correlation between cultures and their way of handling uncertainty. Some do strive to embrace it, while others do poorly, which also shows that we have the capacity to alter our attitudes at any point and time. Change; neither good nor bad, but just is. Yes, a lot has changed with US, reestablishing Cuban relations is another example that can very well be attributed to Obama. Whether some of us agree or disagree on positive versus negative aspects, it still is change. So instead of being cynical and throwing negativity let's strive to desire that change.
My birthday weekend; feels a bit different. I'm going to do something entirely different for this post. As much controversy as there has been on immigration in the US, I want to take the moment to not inform my readers of anything new, but to thank those who read this blog, even those who are not aware it exists, for being aware that ignorance exists teaches people. At the end of the day, we are all human. And the one thing that studying different cultures has taught me is that you become more accepting and appreciative of all the differences that exist. Not everything that I have written on here, or anything anyone believes is always going to be met at one hundred percent, but it doesn't matter. What matters is that we as humans have the capacity to change the world. Whether we acknowledge it or not, there is always room for growth. This doesn't have to be something negative, but in fact can be spun towards something positive. So here is my challenge to my readers, go out and do something new that is not part of your routine. This doesn't have to be something new culturally wise, as much as that would be interesting, not really the point. Do something this week that you have never done before, whether it's visiting a place, a person, participating in an activity, whatever the case might be, do something that might feel uncomfortable. That is where growth lies. That is where understanding about life begins.
Spring is here! Let's start off with something fresh and unique. International marketing-how many of you are aware of what that term means? We all are aware of what marketing in itself means, commercials, ads, targeting audience members based on age, demographics, etc. but did you know that international marketing not only includes all of the above, but also cultural differences, space and time concepts, as well as religious beliefs? Unlike just general marketing, which in this case, I'll use the term to mean within the United States borders, international marketing has to consider all of the differences I mentioned above, and even more. I had to do a marketing project with a group in one of my courses, and to our surprise trying to create a marketing plan to bring a US product into Argentina turned out to be not so simple. In fact, the sauce that chose not only did not exist in Argentinian culture, but they were not familiar, nor would they understand what the ingredients were or what they would use the sauce for. We chose a steak sauce, and as we continued researching we found out that the concept of a steak sauce does not exist in Argentina. Their ethnic food already has a variety of spices, and the closest resembling product is used on a variety of dishes, thus it didn't even make sense to bring in a separate sauce that no one has ever heard of. So we had to come up with a different approach as to how we would market it. That my readers is an example of how unique international marketing is. Not only do the teams /companies have to design a plan that caters to the country, city, culture, etc. but they also have to consider how does that region operate, what are the nuances of that particular culture, likes, dislikes, do they have a similar product, would they understand the translation, and don't forget the language barrier. What one phrase means in one language, might not necessarily mean the same in another. International marketing has to not only cater to the physical region its focusing on, but also the subtle parts of the culture. Global companies have a lot more work and research that is required to market in different countries. That is something that we all should appreciate, studying and analyzing differences in the world is not easy.
March (Unknown date)
Twenty-first century, we are on a move to establishing life on Mars. What does that mean for the international community? Everyone at this point who keeps up with my posts is aware and knows what the Cold War was about-the Space Race. What I want to touch base on is the overall concept of community. We have so much potential to work together on an international level, hence the International Space Station, we should be progressing to not just the concept of equality, but general global understanding of what it means to work in a group dynamic that incorporates all cultures, all beliefs, etc.-GLOBAL! This got me thinking as far as international business on a very broad level, how do we work as a team when it comes to something so massive. This is beyond just doing business of another company that wants to work overseas. This is about humanity. So how do we come together and unite? It starts with small steps, what is our goal as humanity? Per Musk, he wants to have a living colony on Mars. That is what our goal should be, not focusing on what each country believes, implements, or regulates, but rather what can achieve together? Do we want to strive and dare make history? If we do, then we should all have one goal-to make it happen! That at the core should be the underlining core of everything that is done from this point forward. Both SpaceX and Blue Origin have similar goals, but they are now competitors. Do we want to continue creating more of competition, or do we want to work as one and achieve the ultimate goal of establishing life on Mars? If that is the goal, then I do believe at some point people realize the actual achievement they become a part of, and go from there. No one is saying that every little detail will go smoothly, but if we all decide that doing something that changes history for the better is far more crucial than our differences, that is when real change will come into place.
Lately I've been thinking, customer service is something that is provided regardless of what business you are in. Whether it is international or not, every business still has customers, clients, etc. that they provide services or products to. So what distinguishes excellent customer service from just O.K.? First of all it is not only the business's mission statement, but also what clientele they attract. You get customers that are constantly rude, and don't appreciate the service you provide, then it will continue to be that way. Now if there is a serious issue and the business is trying its best to handle the situation, then the customers that are rude, could be annoyed, but need to understand that not all problems can be solved right away. Sure there will be frustrated people, some don't know how to be polite but firm, but it is up to the business to handle the situation to reassure its customers that everything will be taken care of. On an international level, one has to consider the difference of cultures. For example, if you ask someone from an Asian country if there is a problem, they will come back to say there isn't one. You have to know how to phrase yourself to relate the actual issue at hand. This is because at the core of it if they were to admit there is a problem that would cause them to "lose face", something that is frowned upon in that culture. In Europe, however, one can be more direct in conveying if there is a problem. Therefore, customer service is not so clear cut as one might think when conducting international business. It is always a good idea to show respect, politeness, and genuine interest in trying to solve or fix any customer service problem that might have arisen. Language is the key. Learn the culture you are wanting to do business with, learn the country's standards, and then you can focus on providing the best customer service possible.
For today's post I am going to copy and paste a link to a poll I'm conducting in regards to my book I'm publishing this fall. Please take a look and participate!
What does the term "global" mean? As our technology has expanded and we have become so interconnected that this word is at intertwined from food to products to clothes. Yet, how many of us stop to think of what the term really implies? A global company or a global business is not the same as conducting global business. While a global business means that that particular company conducts business around the world, when referring to the term as an action conducting global business refers to international trade around the globe. The two are similar in nature, global business can be traced back even to the roots of the Silk Road. The Silk Road ran from Eurasia, connecting East to West, stretching to the Korean Peninsula and Japan to the Mediterranean sea. The term was coined after the silk and horses that were exchanged through an extensive network of trade routes. Centuries ago, and yet what we now describe as global was already something the world did that long ago. Today, if I were to ask everyone around the room we would all name at least top five companies we know that are considered global. The interesting part is that even though our ways of doing business have changed, overall we need each other to continue living on this planet. We have nuts and fruit that come from southern regions that are not available up north. Yet, we have vegetables and other crops that thrive in northern climates that would not survive the heat. I find it fascinating that people at any point and time might have considered globalism to not be something we should study or pay attention to. For thousands of years that is how relationships, connections, and trade has been established. Let us not forget that despite our differences we still need each other for living a sustainable life.
It has been a while since I have written a post. Taking some experience from my work environment I wanted to discuss the concept of knowing different languages. While I do speak two different languages, and understand the third one on a basic level, I do find it amazing and even up-lifting when I hear others say they can speak a language I do not speak. I also find myself wanting to learn even more languages and to be able to communicate with others in their native tongue. It is such a gift to be able to speak multiple languages and relate to other cultures. I do hope that all of those who read my blog will not stop at striving to continue learning, continuing to grow, and strive to push yourself to want to speak to others in their native tongue. Language is a very fascinating topic. Apart from the vast amount we have in the world, we also have individual dialects that exist. You can travel from one part of the country to another and find where one phrase is used another one is not. If language is the only barrier we have in conducting business, in truly understanding one another, then we are certainly limiting ourselves on a level that is much easier to study and fix than anything else. It does not come easy, and it does require work. However, if men have fallen in love with a woman and have dedicated their lives to learn her native tongue to understand her better, shouldn't we as a world strive to do the same to be able to carry on our daily activities more efficiently? How much easier would the international community work if people made an effort to actively learn at least the basic phrases to be able to communicate with one another the next time they see each other? You don't know a language, find a friend, a coworker, a stranger, and ask for their help to learn at least one or two common phrases that will help you in life.
I am writing not on a typical day that I usually do. There are a lot of news that happened from my last post, and yet, there are also a lot of thoughts. The world seems to fee it's in a disarray, and yet here we are. How about we take humanity back? Dinosaurs? I remember the first time I ever saw a skeleton of one. It was fascinating. I didn't even understand what it was. How do we tell our children that these creatures existed? They walked the same land we are stepping feet on? The huge creatures that could both fly and walk? I was astonished by what I saw. I will keep this one short. If we can still find historical evidence of creatures that are that big, why are we questioning history?
As this year is ending, I have to say thank you to all of you who have been actively reading my blog. It has been an incredible year for sure! Although life can be crazy and we all have our differences, let's take the time to be thankful for the wonderful memories this year has brought to all of us. As I've written before, New Year's is an interesting time for a variety of cultures. Not all of us celebrate it as the actual calendar year ends. Not every culture even fully follows the Gregorian calendar either. I have had several topics that were suggested for my newest posts. However, I want to focus on an interesting topic-bitcoin. It has recently been in the news for the rise of its price. Cryptocurrency has been a fascinating topic that has grown as a wide interest. Not only has it been something that the financial industry has had a watchful eye on, but also one that is changing the way we do business. Financial transactions are no longer made just through paper. We are in an age where everything is digital. Some believe that since the price of bitcoin fluctuates so drastically, it is still not worthwhile. Others think that it's going to continue growing and will become a replacement of how financial transactions are done. What do my readers think? Is bitcoin woerth it, or have we simply gotten used to everything being "instant" and "electronic"so much, that even our basic purchase power has to be at our fingertips? Some cyber security experts argue that bitcoin is still too new and can be taken advantage of for those who want to commit fraud. It can also become a leeway for even more dangerous threats for any future attacks. Where will 2018 take us?
I am writing on not my typical time frame, however, something caught my interest. Some people compare Elon Musk to Henry Ford. From SpaceX to Tesla, the man has been called a genius of our times. What I find intriguing is that all of us should strive to make the world a better place. We need a man like him to push our society to do better, but that does not mean we are not capable of things ourselves. It takes a team to win a match. Even in tennis, there is still a team of people that support that one single player. Think about the enormous amount of people that Elon has behind him. Did that all get built in a day? Of course not! What we could learn from a man like him is not just efficiency, but also to truly make the world a better place. An electric car? Who could have thought about that concept fifty, or even thirty years ago? We all have something we dream about to come true. Make it happen! It takes your friends, family, even strangers to make some of those dreams come true. People that push society to be better don't always think they are right, nor do they ever give up. Henry Ford believed in something that was beyond astonishing to the rest of the world. Model T is one of the most fascinating concepts to me. Shouldn't we continue to astonish ourselves?
https://www.stedwards.edu/business/polina-anastassieva. Please go visit and read the article. I am proud to be part of this community and again a thank you for all the support to my family, friends, and everyone involved in this.
While it has been a while since I have written something on here, I am going to venture off and ask my readers to please visit my LinkedIn page, and message me with suggestions with what might be a good topic to discuss, or what strikes your interest that isn't discussed often.
This past week I was in a car accident. Thankfully I am alright, and so is the other driver. This got me thinking, I don't believe this subject is discussed often-driving laws and driving standards in other countries. In Europe for instance, the drivers seat is located on the right side of the vehicle, as opposed to the left in the US. I remember even as a child when I would see that in various cars in Moscow it would strike me as interesting and unusual. Has anyone ever wondered why Japan has such small vehicles? It's due to the limited space and such high population that they have to account for. I watched a video for one of my classes where one of the locals was actually explaining how they are taught to parallel park the cars in a manner that would take up the least amount of space possible. At what age do most people begin driving in US? It used to be 16, I know Texas has discussed changing it to 18. For Germany, you have to be 17 with supervision. For Bahrain you have to be 18. As you can see, although it varies within a couple of years, for the most part the driving age is relatively the same across the world. The type of cars also varies from one country to the next. There is a Russian term used for describing the type of cars that are "foreign", and thus when I moved here I was constantly telling my family there are so many of them! My family had to explain to me that it was just a different standard and in US that was the norm. If you think about all the different regulations that each country implements, while the concept of driving still remains the same, there are little nuances that vary and distinguish each one of them.
For this week's post I am going to say thank you to everyone who has been supportive of my writing. While there are a lot of things going on in the news, there is a time to rest and there is a time to write. Appreciating what we have living in such a high paced world is something we do not reflect on enough. I will challenge my readers to look up something new about a religion or a culture they are not familiar with and find something that might change your life.
I had a couple of ideas what to discuss for this week, however, in the wake of the news I want to dedicate this post in the memory of Anthony Bourdain. I want everyone to truly think about how many lives this man has touched and influenced. When I think about international business, and throughout watching his show I would think to myself this man understands what acceptance means. He was always wanting and willing to learn something new. To be able to be not just want to experience new things, but to also truly want to understand different cultures, ideas, cuisine, etc. that is what makes it different. We all have our faults, but I cannot even begin to state how much we all should aspire to be that open and thrive off the unknown. He traveled throughout the world leaving his footprints wherever he went. The thousands of lives he has touched will now be more loving, aware, and inspired to live a better life. Food and drink will always bring people together. It doesn't matter whether it's one culture or another. Politics, businesses, all of that set aside, to have the desire to understand why a certain culture has its beliefs and values, but to also be able to share a meal as the quote states, is growth. I know that apart from admiration, he is a respected man. Let that sink in. We should want that towards everyone. Respect and willingness to learn, always. I am ending this with another quote by him, "Without experimentation, a willingness to ask questions and try new things, we shall surely become static, repetitive, and moribund."-Anthony Bourdain.
For this week I want to focus on a topic that is something people within the business world would be more aware about. Does anyone know what states are the easiest to incorporate a business in? They are Delaware, Nevada, and Wyoming. I decided to research the difference between incorporating a business in the US versus other countries such as Japan. In order for you to incorporate your business in Japan, one must find a representative or a third party to manage the capital. Once the articles of incorporation have been established and notarized, you actually have to use the investor's personal bank account before registration is complete. Something that would most likely cause a sense of uneasiness if done in US. If you are a non-Japanese director, you have to apply for a visa fora status of residency. Another country that I found interesting is Australia. To my surprise, I found out that when incorporating a business there are some words you cannot use without the government's approval, such as "bank, trust, royal, and incorporated." This leads to a limit for the type of businesses one wants to operate. As it means that if you are wanting to be in the financial sector, you have to be aware to not use the term bank unless you become one. The business is required to show its liability status. "If a company's members' liability is limited to the amount unpaid on their shares, the name must end with 'Proprietary Limited'" (ASIC). I find that such factors play a key role when establishing any type of business, or even expanding one and opening a new office in a different country.
First of all I must say congratulations to Russia to winning today's match in the World Cup and advancing into the quarter finals!!!!!! POZDRAVLAU!!! What an amazing game and truly that is what I consider international competition at it's best! It is a privilege to be able to have both the American and the Russian cultures in my life. There were a couple of other topics I wanted to discuss for this week, one of which involves electricity. However, since the World Cup is going on right now, and we only have a couple more weeks left until the finals, I am going to focus my attention on this. I have written about the Olympics before, and how the world comes together to participate in sports, and just for a moment every quarrel, every war is forgotten. I believe it is similar when it comes to the World Cup. Countries from all over the world have fought to be in the spots they are now to make it to the top. As I was watching the game, I noticed such sportsmanship and such true respect between the opposing teams, it is truly a sight to see. It makes me proud to know that even despite competition and playing a sport, these teams still have such high respect for one another that they still hold out a hand to help one another up off the field. They still shake hands for a match well played, and well deserved win. They still act with dignity. That is what all of us should strive to do. Despite whatever disappointments, or differences, to be able to walk away knowing you did your best and you are proud of whoever you competed against, that I truly admire. Thank you to everyone who continues reading these posts, please continue watching the matches!
Thomas Edison invented the light bulb, but does anyone know how why there is such a difference of voltage standards among countries? Most of European countries have a standard between 220 and 240 volts. Whereas, Japan and most of the Americas are half of that within the range of 100 and 127 volts. It was actually Nikola Tesla who created a system of three-phase alternating current electrical generation and distribution. Tesla concluded that 60 Hertz was the best frequency for the alternating current. His preference was for 240 volts, and that put him at odds with Edison. Edison's direct currents were at 110 volts. "When the German company AEG built the first European generating facility, its engineers decided to fix the frequency at 50 Hz, because the number 60 did not fit the metric standard unit sequence. At that time, AEG had a virtual monopoly and their standard spread to the rest of the continent. In Britain, differing frequencies proliferated, and only after World War II the 50-cycle standard was established. At the time the US also wanted to change but because of the cost involved to replace all electric appliances, they decided not to...the average US household already had a fridge, a washing-machine, etc., but not in Europe."(worldstandards.eu). As a result light bulbs would burn out rather quickly, with too high of voltage or not enough of it. The solution was to supply 240 volts splitting it in half at 120 between all the houses combined. This is why when traveling to Europe you should use a converter if the appliances are from the Americas. Japan and Brazil are actually a couple of exceptions with varied standards throughout different regions of the country.
In my undergraduate program, for one of my speech courses I did a speech on the Egyptian Book of the Dead. I always found the Egyptian culture and history very fascinating. Even before I moved to the US, one of my first grade classmates went to Egypt for a summer vacation, and brought back souvenirs for our family. As a kid I began thinking on this subject, to build such pyramids that withstand all the sandstorms and all the weather conditions for centuries is amazing. Then when I moved to the US, I actually learned how to draw hieroglyphics in one of my art classes. Absolutely loved it! We have buildings that get blown away by storms, tornadoes, hurricanes, so on, so forth. Yet, despite all the extreme weather that you see in the dessert, these pyramids have withstood all this time. I find not a lot of people really discuss Egypt often. I have several friends who are from Egypt, and I have to say such a warm people. I have grown to enjoy having very honest and in-depth conversations with them. Family oriented culture, love their tea, and are very kind. Apart from the history, I also find that if anyone ever gets a chance to talk with someone with the Egyptian background, please ask as many questions as possible when it comes to the culture and history. Those who have immigrated from Egypt to the US have so much to tell. The mummies are a subject of it's own, and I might touch base on the Egyptian Book of the Dead later on, but for now I want people to just sit on what incredible history comes from there.
For this week's post I decided to write about coffee. During my undergraduate program, I took several elective courses of my own choosing. In one of the cultural courses I picked we read a book titled A History of the World in 6 Glasses written by Tom Standage. Coffee is believed to have originated from Ethiopia around the 15th century. By 16th century it spread to the Middle East, India, Persia, Turkey, and parts of Africa. "The word "coffee" entered the English language in 1582 via the Dutch koffie, borrowed from the Ottoman Turkish kahve, in turn borrowed from the Arabic qahwah" (The Irish Times). It was introduced in Europe through slavery in the 16th century. Amidst doing some more thorough research on this, I found out that coffee was brought over in various ways for each country. For example, it was first introduced by the Dutch in Indonesia in the 17th century. "After several years coffee was planted on Indonesia Archipelago. Many coffee specialties are from the Indonesian Archipelago. The colloquial name for coffee, Java, comes from the time when most of Europe and America's coffee was grown in Java. It came to Poland primarily through merchants trading with the Ottomans. The first coffeehouse in Austria opened in Vienna in 1683 after the Battle of Vienna, by using supplies from the spoils obtained after defeating the Turks."(History of coffee). It really is quite fascinating to read about each country's story. We also know that it became a major trading commodity as time passed. Coffee can also be used a median to cleanse your palate. I have had Turkish coffee before, and in comparison to other types I have tried, it is one of the strongest.
As I watched a plane fly by this week, I thought to myself about international travel, and how does traveling around the world affect your own culture? First of all, traveling anywhere will open your mind up and allow you to grow mentally, emotionally, and even spiritually as you encounter new experiences. Secondly, people are drawn to the unknown. I have an aunt who traveled to India to study yoga more thoroughly. She eventually turned to switch her careers and is now teaching psychology and healthy diet techniques. All it took was her interest in yoga and religion. You never know how one single trip might affect a person. In her case, it transformed her view on her lifestyle. It's also important to note that those who are not maybe as grounded in their own culture would be more prone to take on a new one which resonates better with them. Traveling also allows you to meet a lot of new people who can teach you so much. Whether it's a simple fact, or maybe even a new language, it still changes your attitude about the world. I grew up with a few Lebanese friends, and that is how I picked up Arabic music and dances. I might have not traveled to Lebanon, but I enjoyed learning about my friends' culture, cuisine, and outlook on life, that I grew to appreciate. The food is delicious, and the music is so upbeat that you can't help but want to dance. I read once that when you travel you take a piece of you everywhere you go, and you bring a new piece of you back home once you return. I believe it is true. You create memories with people, form new friendships and partnerships, and even can learn a new skill. Overall travel helps us grow into our full potential, and sightseeing shows us what humanity is capable of.
For all of those who follow my blog, starting this week I am doing a three part series on a subject I studied in one of my cultural courses for my undergraduate degree. For the next three weeks I will be discussing three different types of sculpture structure, the different culture it comes from, its influence of how it came into existence, and the time period it is associated with. Please keep in mind, there is an overlap of architecture styles in this as well, however, I am focusing more on the sculpture aspect. To start this off, my first pick is the British culture, which has a Christian/Judaic influence. Interestingly enough, because the architecture plays such a significant role in this overlap, you will find that the styles merge between Gothic architecture and the influence of religion in structures such as Wells Cathedral. A lot of the influence came from abroad, starting in the 1730's the Roman empire played a significant role in the UK's sculpture. Britain however, took on a more conservative approach to Neoclassicism. You will find examples in a lot of public structures throughout the country. An example of this can be seen in The Death of Germanicus, eradicated i 1774, action is kept parallel to the front plane, in the tradition of the Roman antique. It wasn't until the 20th century that sculptors broke free of the norms, and took a more personal approach to carving. In 1998 the largest sculpture ever executed in Britain was unveiled—Angel of the North, created by Antony Gormley (Encyclopedia Britannica). There are a lot of other details, but the main takeaway from this particular time period and influence is the religious aspect you will find in the early sculptures.
For my second part series I am focusing on the Greek culture and a couple of sculptural styles it has brought about. During the Hellenic Age, also known as Classical Age, most of the sculpture focused on act of motion and movement, which the Greeks viewed as a way to freeze time and celebrate an ideal human body. An example of this style can be seen in Doryphoros, which means "Spearbearer," constructed in 440 BCE by Polykleitos. "The figure is squarely built and stands in a relaxed contrapposto position, weight on right leg, left hand bent backward to hold a spear shaft over his shoulder. (This came from the essay I wrote on this time era). The second type of art form dates back to the Hellenistic Period. During this time, the emphasis was still on the Greeks, but also incorporated Persian and other Mediterranean cultures. This can be viewed an in-between Greek and Roman periods. An example of this can be seen in Aphrodite of Melos, created in late third century BCE. "The statue, it is argued, was set up within the civic gymnasium of Melos. There, it was on display for everyone to not only admire but also serve as a reminder of the infamous Trojan War...not only was it appropriate for display within a gymnasium but indeed exemplifies a critical aspect of that institution's role during the Hellenistic period: the creation of a standardized and highly selective vision of the past to serve as a model for the present" (Kousser). I always found Greek culture intriguing in regards to mythology, and as you can see the Greeks had an emotional attachment to it beyond just storytelling.
For my third and final series I decided to discuss African sculpture. Many painters have been influenced by African art. Specifically, tribal art played a heavy emphasis in European Art. Imagery of wild game, carnivorous animals, zoomorphic creatures, stylized demonic like figures and hunters were common depictions. South Africans created terracotta figurines and wood carvings. As early as first and second century very complex and sophisticated casting techniques were used by metallurgists. Akan goldweights are another example of small metal sculptures produced over the period from 1400 to 1900. Some represent proverbs, contributing a narrative element rare in African sculpture. In Central Africa, however, the main distinguishing characteristics include heart-shaped faces that are curved inward and display patterns of circles and dots. Overall, the work emphasized beliefs, religion, and status within society. Researching different parts of Africa, geographical location had its own influences. In the early nineteenth and twentieth centuries European Modernist art was influenced by African sculpture.
As this year is wrapping up, I wanted to say thank you to all of my readers for following my posts. I hope that this years has brought everyone not just growth but also value. I also hope that you learned something new with what I had an opportunity to share throughout this year. A coworker of mine shared a very interesting link with me called SnackCrate. The website features a subscription you can sign up for to receive international snacks from all over the world on a monthly basis. Each month is a different country and a variety snacks come in the package. It can range from salty to sweets and the company's slogan is "most interesting snacks from around the world." I found this service to be fascinating. Prior to our discussion I had never heard of this website, and if anything I find it should be promoted more! This is international business at it's best! I hope that some of you get a chance to sign up and try it! If you don't have an opportunity to travel over seas, at least you can taste the culture in this manner. The best part is that while you might not a lot about each country, you still get a chance to understand what their packaging is like, what flavors they prefer, and what would be commonly found in their stores. With this being said, I am going to end 2018 on a new experience, a new year, I look forward to what 2019 will bring. Have a wonderful new year everyone! S NOVIM GODOM! S NOVIM SCHASTIYEM!
Welcome to 2019! I decided to start off this year with a bit of a different twist. I just recently came back from skiing in Colorado. As I was reading a book for a course that I currently am enrolled in, I thought to myself, why not pose the same question to my readers that I'll be discussing in class? After all, I haven't discussed airlines before. How many of us know or have heard of Southwest Airlines? In fact, how many of you consider it to be one of your favorite airlines? It was founded in 1966 by Herbert Kelleher and Rollin King. What's interesting is that the business model for the company was structured in such a manner, that initially Herbert refused to expand flights to other states. When the company began, the focus was to provide fast, affordable, and friendly flights in Texas. Herbert's vision wasn't to try to compete with the entire industry, and even when expansion occurred, he still kept a baseline that still stands today. Regardless of economic downturns, or crises, or any catastrophic events, Southwest still makes a profit. In 2001, they were the only airline company in the industry that made a profit, while everyone else suffered losses. That is what sets this company apart from other airlines. We made 5 billion in revenue this year, great; we aren't aiming for 10 billion next year though. We are aiming to make one, but do better in how we treat customers, in what our mission is, in how we continue moving forward. That is what the company strives for. This led me to conclude that when you don't even think of competition as a roadblock, but instead focus on being the best version of your self you can be, all roads are open! Flying specifically, is phenomenal, if you think about the invention itself. To have a company that has such a positive morale, such work ethic, and such a core that is steadfast is why I decided to discuss Southwest in today's post. Business strategies might be easier to create, but it is much harder to continuously carry them out.
For my second post of the year, I decided to discuss coffee and its origin. In one of my classes I read a book titled A History of the World in 6 Glasses, by Tom Standage. In it, Standage describes the six most popular drinks of the world, one of which is coffee. The origins of coffee date back all the way to 15th century, if not earlier, in Ethiopia. It then spread to Mecca and Cairo. "The word "coffOED, s.v. "Coffeee" entered the English language in 1582 via the Dutch koffie, borrowed from the Ottoman Turkish kahve, in turn borrowed from the Arabic qahwah" (OED, s.v. "Coffee). Coffee beans were exported from Ethiopia to Yemen. In Europe, coffee was first introduced in the 16th century on the island of Malta through slavery. The Dutch also transported the plants to the East Indies s well as to the Americas. The very first coffee house was opened in Venice in 1645. In India, coffee came way before the East India Company, the very first record of it shows to be around 1670. Overall, the history of coffee is very rich, but I just wanted to touch base on some key points of it. Since it is considered to be one of the main drinks of the world, it is fascinating how each country adopted the term within its linguistics, and integrated it into their cuisine. Interestingly, in Japan, the first coffee house opened in 1888, and closed four years later. Seeing that Asian cultures put more emphasis on tea, it wouldn't be too much of a surprise it would take time for coffee to become a staple. Consider Starbucks, now one of the most commonly known coffee shops in the United States. Next time you are in one, take a look at the ungrounded coffee beans they sell, where are they from?
Happy St. Patrick's Day everyone! Music speaks to each one of us in a unique way. What better topic than an Argentine tango! I love to dance, and thought it would be an intriguing topic for this week. The dance originated at the end of 19th century in Buenos Aires and Montevideo. Very little is known of the true origins of this dance, but it was very common in the working class neighborhoods. The lyrics usually contain nostalgia, sadness, and an element of lost love. A very specific addition of an accordion called the bandoneon distinguishes this particular style. Flamenco-style tangos have roots from Spain and Cuba. Typically the dance consists of a strong embrace, where one of the dancers is a leader, while the other is the follower. The dance can vary from very closed to very open, all depending on the manner in which it is done. Most of the dance is walking. One has to feel the music, not just hear the rhythm. Argentine tango relies heavily on improvisation, therefore it does not have a basic step. Yet, there have been instructors in recent years who have coined "basico" as the key elements in teaching the movements. It is danced counterclockwise. The key elements are the caminar (walk), cruce (cross), ochos (figure-eight), ganchos (leg hooks), giros (turns), contragiros (turns in other direction), sacadas (displacements), boleos (a term used in balls attached to a spear to hunt animals), llevadas de pie (moving by foot), cortes (cuts), and quebradas breaks). Argentine tango is a very bold and strong dance. I hope that each one of you will see it at least once.
Cuba, Havana. I have friends from Cuba who have immigrated to USA. What do we really know about Cuba? The Cuban Missle Crisis? What I find interesting is that not many people know enough. Not only enough that, but to have a an entire country cut off without resources that other countries rely on, and yet for decades to have your cars function excluding typical parts? That is not just skill, that is art. We do not see this in other cultures. You work with what you have That is what we can take away with this culture. The culture didn't thrive because it had everything that it needed thrive, it thrived because of the people. Forget about the cigars, about what we know as a typical in the news throws at us, it is about a life of its own. I could dive in typical current situation between US and Cuba, I wont. People should stop and think about non-typical things, such as my friend's family seek a better life via a boat those are the stories you won't hear in the news. While Cuba has been on the list of banned countries, it's also a country that has flourished. There was no Iphone, there was No Spectrum, there was no was Wal-Mart, there was Cuba and its intellect. There was human capacity to do better, to be better, to utilize the things that the people were given. That is what we are capable of. None of us would want to be in that position, but this country not only thrived they have surpassed what the entire world thought was not possible.
For this week, I am inserting an excerpt from my memoir, titled From Moscow With Love that I am working on publishing. I hope my readers enjoy it! "Culture and interests are some of the characteristics that some might not consider as one of the strengths. Just because you do not drink, eat, or participate in something, does not mean you should not possess knowledge about it. For example, you do not know how to play the guitar, while you might not learn how to play it; it does not hurt you to know something about guitars in general to be able to carry on a conversation. None of us know what might be useful down the road in our lives, thus if the topic of guitars ever came up in a conversation, at least you would be able to have a conversation on that topic. Another example, let’s say you do not know how to cook, it does not mean you can’t know about certain recipes or something interesting about a particular ingredient. While you might not know how to cook, you might spark an interest in someone else or even come up with a new dish without even realizing it."
To continue with sharing my memoir, for this week I am diverging away from some of the topics I have been discussing and instead doing a more of self-reflective post. "Push yourself past your own limits. Personally, I am not okay with mediocrity. Some people seem to live just by that. If they pass a class, if they do the minimum requirements for anything, it’s fine. Why should they try to do better if they can manage to get things done decently? But my question to those people is why would you want to just do the minimum? After all it would only benefit you in the end to strive to do better. Think about this: if you don’t push yourself then who else will? No one else will be there behind your back telling you c’mon do this, do that. Maybe as kids it’s the parents job to teach us, but even then, at one point you will come to a part of your life where your parents will no longer be telling you that you should do more than the minimum requirements. It certainly does have to do with your upbringing, since family and friends also influence how you perceive life. If my family would have raised me differently, I imagine I would have had completely different goals in my life. However, I had to entirely start a brand-new life from scratch. Given that concept, my family didn’t work so hard on building a life here just to have it be “O.K.” or fine. They wanted it to be the best it could be, and that is what I intend to continue doing." I hope that my readers will take time to analyze what is it that they want out of their lives.
Happy Easter! Xristos voskres! Vo istinu voskres! I have always found it interesting how different parts of the world have different native fruit, vegetables, plants, etc. I remember the very first time I tried star fruit from a local grocery store here in Texas. It was fascinating. If anyone has ever had it, its very sweet, but tart. When you cut into it, it actually is shaped in a form of a star. It's formal name is Carambola. The Portuguese word carambola, first known use 1598, was taken from Marathi karambal derived from Sanskrit karmaphala. In Spanish, it is known as carambola. The carambola is called "star fruit" in English. The tree the fruit grows on is native to Indonesia, the Philippines, and parts of Malesia. It is usually known to be eaten in Southeast Asia, South Pacific, Micronesia, as well as parts of East Asia The fruit turns yellow to dark yellow when it is ripe. There are two kinds of star fruit. One is small and sour, the other large and sweet. It is known for its high oxalic acid content. Even its waxy skin is edible. It's texture highly resembles that of grapes. The juice of the fruit can be used for cleaning rust and tarnished metal, such as brass. Additionally, it can be used in dyeing.
Feliz Cinco de Mayo! Ever since I began learning English, language as a whole has fascinated me. Especially when you are conducting business over seas. A simple phrase as "sit down" can be said in so many ways, and while one can be polite, another one can be extremely rude. It is very important to not only know the tone and specific phrasing that is used in what parts of the country, but also for you to actually understand why would a particular group or culture find something offensive, demeaning, or rude. Once you learn the why, it becomes easier to view things more objectively. People want to be understood and related to. Regardless of what country you are in, regardless of what language you speak, that stands true. I have found Russian language to have a lot of synonyms and complexity to say one phrase in many ways. The Chinese have thousands of characters, and on average basis most of the public doesn't even use half of them. There are multiple ways you can say "Hello!" in Spanish . All of that being said, I would challenge those of you who follow my posts to learn at least one new phrase or word that you are not familiar with in your residing region. If we begin to develop an approach of empathy towards different beliefs, views, etc., we will be able to learn so much from each other. After all, generally speaking you do want a person to ask you to "Please, sit down," instead of "Sit the hell down!"
This week I had the privilege to be part of presentation where the speaker discussed Pomeneria. No, it is not the breed of the dog. This region exists. For all of those who have Alexa, it originally started in this region. The initial name behind Alexa was a common Polish name that the founding engineers decided on. Upon further study, they uncovered "Alexa" was a better suited name. Not many people are familiar with the region, nor do people know much about it. Located in the Baltic area, home to Fredric Chopin, it is also known for it's history in WW2. The overlap of German and Polish roots history is what makes its culture fascinating. The root of the name means "by the sea" or "on the sea." While I am keeping this post short, I highly urge my readers to research more about this part of the world.
Since I have not really written much on entertainment, this week's topic will be how the film industry alters endings for its new releases according to the region that the film is released in. For example, let's take the franchise of the Harry Potter movies. While in US the ending is one level, in China, Hong Kong, or even Europe it is another. This does not mean that the endings are "right" or "wrong," but rather are culture driven. The norm in the Asian culture and what the general public prefers is not the same as it is in the US. It makes sense then, that if a particular culture is more action based, you would understand that in order for a movie to generate the kind of revenue you anticipate, an alternate ending would need to be made for that particular region. This also does not mean that the endings are so vastly different that the movie loses its entire concept. Sometimes they can be different yes, but it is only to reflect the demand of the people in that area. A collectivist culture versus an individualistic one would not appreciate a character who does not have respect for his community. Whereas, in a more individualistic culture, freedom and independence play of much higher importance. It is common for a film production company to create a list of several potential endings, and then decide in the final stages which one will be best suited for the actual release. Having said that, consider how much translation plays a role in conveying the message to the audience. To take a simple greeting as "Hello!" and use it in formal or informal manner can mean quite a lot in different languages. It still is a greeting, but to some it can be a friendly gesture, to others, a sign of respect, and still to the third a polite means of starting a conversation. Just the same, endings for films matter on a variety of levels to each part of the world.
I had a very interesting conversation with an acquaintance yesterday. The topic was aerospace engineering. He works for a company that builds rockets, and his job is to find justification for what materials are purchased and used in the launches. This led me to think about some of the simulations I have done for my recent classes. Balancing research and development with the financial investments and where the funding is allocated. Given his stance, I entirely understand that his motivation is on a financial scale. However, I brought up the point about those who are concerned about the actual findings and research and progressing to do better. It does bring up a valid point. How does a company allocate funds to specific departments and what is the overall goal behind operating in the first place? If a scientist is concerned in making the fastest rocket possible, he is not thinking about the cost of all the materials matters to him. Of course, he might be aware of it, but his drive is to ensure that all the materials used create the fastest rocket possible. Whereas, you have those in finance, and/or investors whose main concern is why is the money being spent, where is it going, and can anything be substituted or eliminated in order to save that money? This led me to think of the true nature behind space exploration. Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos are not simply doing this because they have the money. They actually want to progress society into something new and different. Those who are innovators are not thinking if the materials that are required are really expensive, or whether cheaper material is needed. Their drive is exploration and discovery. Those who are invested financially don't really bother with what inventions come about. They just want to know what happens with their money and if any of it can be used less. In addition, it could also be justifying whether a project in itself is worthwhile to undertake. I do find that financial requirements limit innovation in a company. If the end goal is not mutual, there will continuously be issues with both sides.
I am currently in a class that has been a lot of self-reflection in how one manages teams and understanding the work culture and environment you are in. For this week I am not going to write about a particular topic. Instead, I am going to ask my readers to do actively participate in some type of an activity where you learn more about either your company's culture or someone else's culture that you have never heard of. Appreciate the differences. Take the time to learn whom you actually work with.
This week I attended a networking event where I spoke to an owner of an antique shop who regularly attends and has done antique trade shows. This is a very fascinating topic. There are so many intricacies when it comes to setting up, dealing with the vendors, the judges, as well as marketing your products. Since I have never been, I asked him to elaborate a bit more in-depth about this experience. Not only do you have businesses from all over the world that can attend such shows, but the regulations are very strict. Depending on what the time frame is, you have one day to set up, and one day to take everything down. This means that if your products are heavy, you have to roll them out on specific wheel-based stands. The vendors have set requirements, and if they don't like how your presentation looks, they can request for you to take specific items out of the show. This also overlaps if the products are similar in nature to theirs, or to anyone else's for that matter, and it could potentially create confusion or disinterest for the buyers. The judging itself also incorporates your presentation, not just the items themselves, but how well everything is put together. The size of the products can also vary. You can have one business focus just on small pocket size items, while another could have sculptures or life-size paintings. Keep in mind, all of this has to be set up in less than a day. When it comes to VIP clients, they get priority in viewing the items prior to the rest of the show being open to the public. If you get a chance to ever attend one, please do so!
Throughout this week, I have asked around about why is it that French is considered to be the "business language in the world?" I received various responses in regard to this question. History has shown that France colonized Africa in the 1600s. We also know colonization spread to the Americas, as well as Asia for the, where the famous French East India Company was formed. It is no wonder then, that the French language is so prominent throughout various parts of the world. Dating back centuries ago, the "baseline" if you will, was established back then. Although, it is true that English has grown to be widely accepted as a more common language, French still continues to dominate on a professional level. When you call a Canadian bank, you will most likely be greeted in French. Think about it, how many languages do you see on a tag on your clothing with instructions on how to properly wash the item? French will definitely be on there. If you are attempting to assemble a piece of furniture, the instructions will most likely contain French. Business contracts between international companies, will also contain options in different languages. Next time you are in a store shopping, glance at the next item you are considering on purchasing. What are the chances that the French language will be on there?
I love Greek mythology. There is something intriguing in how the stories are formed into metaphors, and as a result an entire belief emerged. For some it might not be of that relevance, or of importance. I first began reading Greek mythology when I was in Moscow long before immigrating to the US. I found it interesting that the stories had both good and evil battles, while also having that overlap of extraordinary powers that humans don't possess. It probably also matters to add that I would watch Hercules with Kevin Sorbo on TV every week. That in itself already presented a visual image that I could then use to continue building onto. We all could use a refresher on how this can be applied in our daily lives. While believing that all the sorrow, pain, and death might not be in a literal box (Pandora's Box), we can also use that analogy to understand how to better cope with tragic events. Let's also look at the Trojan War. Legend has it that the city of Troy was sieged and conquered as a result of Helen of Troy (queen of Sparta) being stolen. In real history the Trojan War took place during the Bronze Age. A conflict between the Mycenaeans and Hittites may well have occurred. The literary works such as the Iliad describe and portray such events in order for us to gain a better understanding of what occurred. Out of all of this, we know it is evident thanks to the architecture, sculptures, as well as pottery that have been uncovered with the depicted battle scenes. The famous Trojan Horse is believed to be a real tactic (siege machine) that was used to gain access into the city, however, whether the horse is a merely a depiction of the time, or the equipment used actually depicted a horse-like structure remains under speculation. Historians of that time could only go off oral descriptions, as they were not present on the battle field.
For this week, I decided to focus on the Byzantine Empire or otherwise known as Byzantium. It is also known as the "Roman Empire." For those of you who are not familiar its capital was Constantinople, modern day Istanbul. During Constantine's reign, he reorganized the empire, legalized Christianity, as well as made Constantinople the capital city. "The term “Byzantine” derives from Byzantium, an ancient Greek colony founded by a man named Byzas. Located on the European side of the Bosporus (the strait linking the Black Sea to the Mediterranean), the site of Byzantium was ideally located to serve as a transit and trade point between Europe and Asia" (History.com). An interesting fact that few know is that it was one of the longest organized states west of China to have survived into the beginning of modern age. Given its location, the eastern part of the empire was harder to breach, while also being very stable in its internal political stability. It was because of these factors the empire was able to survive after the fall of Rome. The official language was Latin, but Greek was also widely spoken, as students received lessons in Greek history, literature, and culture. Justinian I was the first great ruler of the empire. Many monuments were built during his reign, "including the spectacular domed Church of Holy Wisdom, or Hagia Sophia. Justinian also reformed and codified Roman law, establishing a Byzantine legal code that would endure for centuries and help shape the modern concept of the state" (History.com). During the 10th and 11 centuries, under the Macedonian dynasty, the empire was under a golden age. It was during this time period that the Byzantine art flourished, including the now highly cherished Byzantine mosaics. While the history behind the empire is very rich, I hope this small portion has taught my readers something new.
Earlier this week I was thinking of cultural folklore and legends. How do legends start and form and get passed throughout thousands of generations? The term folklore integrates a culture's traditions, stories, rituals, as well as tales, and jokes. "To fully understand folklore, it is helpful to clarify its component parts: the terms folk and lore. It is well-documented that the term was coined in 1846 by the Englishman William Thoms. He fabricated it to replace the contemporary terminology of "popular antiquities" or "popular literature". The second half of the compound word, lore, proves easier to define as its meaning has stayed relatively stable over the last two centuries. Coming from Old English lār 'instruction,' and with German and Dutch cognates, it is the knowledge and traditions of a particular group, frequently passed along by word of mouth (Wikipedia). The term folk is meant to describe more of rural type of people, those who are poor and illiterate. In America, Paul Bunyan is a prominent tale. He is a huge lumberjack, who is usually accompanied by Babe, a blue ox. The tales told of his superhuman strength and height. Most of the tales focused on harsh climate conditions, and being a lumberjack the creatures he encountered. In Africa, Shaka Zulu was known to be a great leader. He conquered most of the continent, designing weapons and implementing better strategies than the kings before him. He was very charismatic and the public adored him. He nearly fought off the English, but was eventually overthrown due to ammunition. In China, the Great Race, describes how the zodiac calendar was created. An emperor wanted to select 12 animals to be his guards. He sent an immortal being into man's world to spread the message that the earlier one went through the Heavenly Gate, the better the rank one would have. Overall, I find it intriguing that centuries pass, and yet folklore is still alive. Not all of the stories have to believed fully, however, there is something to them when it comes to evaluating their depth.
For this week, I am going to keep it short, as I have an event this upcoming week I am looking forward to discussing later on. In the meantime, here's some food for thought. How do international communities cooperate together during natural disasters in order to help one another out? Additionally, what kind of communication would they require in order to achieve a common goal?
As I noted in my last post, I attended an event this week. Karl Matthias Klause, Head of the Economic Section for the German Embassy in Washington was the speaker. Despite Germany's size in Europe, Karl discussed the misconception that because of Germany's size it has a strong influence in the rest of EU's economic decisions. Even though Germany's economy greatly impacts the rest of the region, it is not the only factor that matters. Additionally, I learned that apart from the automobile industry, Germany is also known for its IT and medical equipment development sectors. We all know and have heard of BMW and Volkswagen vehicles, however, there are far more other interests that are not discussed as often. For example, we forget that Deutsche Bank greatly impacts the financial sector in Germany. For manufacturing we have Siemens. For health care we have Bayer. We have SAP SE for enterprise software development. All of these examples illustrate how many benefits there are for a variety of sectors without us really taking the time to analyze this in more detail. It is important to understand how other cultures and countries benefit the global economy as a whole, and not just the obstacles we might face moving forward. Thank you to the World Affairs Council as well as BBVA Compass for hosting this event.
I chose to elaborate more about Bonsai trees for this week. I always found them to be fascinating and ornate. This form of art originated from the Chinese practice of penjing, or in other words, depicting artistically formed trees, other plants, and landscapes in miniature. From the 6th century onward, Imperial embassy personnel and Buddhist students from Japan visited and returned from mainland China. They brought back many Chinese ideas and goods, including container plantings. Over time, these container plantings began to appear in Japanese writings and representative art. In the medieval period, recognizable bonsai were portrayed in handscroll paintings such as in Ippen shonin eden around 1299. By 1351, dwarf trees were displayed on short poles in scrolls. Throughout 14th century, the term for dwarf potted trees was "the bowl's tree." The difference was the usage of a deeper pot, versus a more shallow one that eventually came to be known for bonsai. By 1800, bonsai began to move from being the esoteric practice of a few specialists to becoming a widely popular art form and hobby. In Itami, Hyōgo (near Osaka), Japanese scholars of Chinese arts gathered in the early 19th century to discuss recent styles in the art of miniature trees. On October 13, 1868, the Meiji Emperor moved to his new capital in Tokyo. Bonsai were displayed both inside and outside Meiji Palace, and those placed in the grand setting of the Imperial Palace had to be "Giant Bonsai", large enough to fill the grand space. New books, magazines, and public exhibitions made bonsai more accessible to the Japanese populace. An Artistic Bonsai Concours was held in Tokyo in 1892, followed by publication of a three-volume commemorative picture book. Bonsai shaping aesthetics, techniques, and tools became increasingly sophisticated as bonsai's popularity grew in Japan. In 1910, shaping with wire rather than the older string, rope, and burlap techniques, appeared in the Sanyu-en Bonsai-Dan (History of Bonsai in the Sanyu nursery). Zinc-galvanized steel wire was initially used. Expensive copper wire was used only for selected trees that had real potential.In the 1920s and 1930s, Toolsmith Masakuni I helped design and produce the first steel tools specifically made for the developing requirements of bonsai styling. These included the concave cutter, a branch cutter designed to leave a shallow indentation on the trunk when a branch was removed. The First World Bonsai Convention was held in Osaka during the World Bonsai and Suiseki Exhibition in 1980. Nine years later, the first World Bonsai Convention was held in Omiya and the World Bonsai Friendship Federation (WBFF) was inaugurated. Today, there are over twelve hundred books on bonsai and the related arts in at least twenty-six languages available in over ninety countries and territories (Bonsai History).
For this week, I have been thinking about music. A friend of mine introduced me to watching Tomorrowland and TomorrowWorld on Youtube. Tomorrowland is an annual festival held in Belgium at a big outdoor park. If any of my readers get a chance look up some of the clips. A mix of DJ's come in and each year is its own theme, so the state and decorations are usually set up according to the theme. My favorites are Tiesto and Armin van Buuren. There is also an EDC concert held in Vegas that is similar in nature and is in the US. I was thinking of what resonated with me about all of this that I wanted to share on here. One word: expression. It's the love of the music, the bond between people that all come together regardless of what origin or what beliefs they have and just enjoy the art of music. The freedom and energy you feel just watching the videos is incredible. You can see how much work went into setting everything up, but you can also see how vibrant and ecstatic everyone is when the DJ takes the stage. While this type of music is not for everyone, it still is a magnificent scene. It led me to realize that apart from the Olympics, this is the next event that when everything and everyone stops and focuses on the here and now. It is incredible that we are more than capable of being understanding and caring, but we allow so much negativity dictate how we actually treat others. Just for that short time frame, it doesn't matter what your background is, what your career is, what material things you possess or don't, everyone comes together to celebrate and appreciate music. If we acted like that on a daily basis, just think how much more positivity and amazing things would be accomplished in life. I encourage all of my readers to check out some of the clips when you get a chance, and challenge yourself to be better.
E-commerce, the way we now conduct business has changed drastically in comparison to twenty years ago. From eBay to Amazon, the two main platforms are leading the e-commerce industry in such a manner, that even university programs are starting to implement coursework in regards to this. While it is a complex subject, I wanted to touch base about it to point out how much of a positive impact it has had on the global trade. We are now able to reach millions of people from all over the world solely with a click of a button. Instead of having to be concerned about how a certain product will be marketed in different countries, it is simply offered on a major platform, where thousands upon thousands of shoppers can access these goods daily. This of course comes with a hefty price, as Amazon charges its clients anywhere from 6-20% of a referral fee as a percentage of the sale price. It goes up to 45% for Amazon devices. That's excluding membership fees, or any other requirements of minimum items sold on a monthly basis. Ebay charges its clients anywhere from 2-10%, breaking down between two differentiating type of fees: one for your listing, and one for the final value after the item sells. Yet, when you see an item being sold by the hundreds, surely the cost the seller incurs is rather small in comparison to what their revenue must be. At least we would like to think that it is. We often tend to forget that the other side to this is the concept of cost and expenses a business must bear in order to thrive on such a platform. While there are plenty of issues arising from these platforms, let us also take into consideration how much more operations are able to be conducted as a result of such growth.
As the year comes to end, I have to say it has been a hard 2019. All around, there have been a lot of things that have gone on around the world as well as within the US that makes this year difficult. I want to say thank you for all of those who follow my blog. 2020 is a new decade!!!! What are we bringing to it? I know on my end I am going to keep this post short, but also say that I am proud to be able to teach those around me something new. To share the knowledge I have gained through classes as well as through all the other people I have met and continue to. Never stop learning is what we should aim for. Let the new decade begin with positivity and ambition to strive to do better, be better, and surround yourself with those who make a great impact in this world. As much as negativity that exists, there is that much light. Thank you to my friends who always are there to remind me of that! Do something new in these last two weeks of 2019 that you haven't done before!
Happy upcoming New Year, New Decade!!!! For my last post of this year and this decade, I wanted to share some interesting facts that I have learned from a friend of mine. I recently had an insightful conversation with a friend as well as a classmate of mine from our MBA program. He has already finished his. As the last part of the program before graduation you have to take a course called Capstone, which is basically a dissertation course. In the MBA program you have the option to choose to do the project domestically or internationally. My friend chose to do the international option. Their group traveled to Berlin for a week, where they were helping a consulting firm with an immigration and asylum issue. From his experience he learned that since Germany is part of the EU, any immigration policies that Germany wants to implement have to be first approved by the EU as a whole. The firm my friend was helping out with was trying to find a solution such as being able to grant asylum to the immigrants, or having some type of a policy in place that doesn't require EU's approval or such a lengthy process. Our conversation then turned towards the question of why Germany? Given that there are other European countries that would be an easier access point if we are discussing someone who is fleeing for safety, Germany is further up north in comparison to Italy, or Greece. Given that the immigrants are coming from the east, geographically speaking, Turkey would be the first option that would make sense. My friend explained to me that given Germany's economy, and the stability it has maintained, unlike some of the other countries in the EU, that is why it has become one of the top choices. Part of the solution also entailed creating some form of training and education that Germany would provide to the countries seeking help, thus restoring their society and helping them grow. I found this to be a very interesting topic, and I hope my readers have learned something new from this. HAPPY NEW YEAR! HAPPY NEW DECADE! S NOVIM GODOM, S NOVIM DECYATELETEEM!
January 5, 2020
Happy 2020!!! It's less than a full week into the new year, and there's already a lot of commotion around the world. To start off this new year, I thought I would pose a question to my readers. Do you think sanctions of any kind (economic, diplomatic, military, or even sport) harm, benefit, or protect the country(s) implementing them and the country(s) being affected by them?
I recently had a friend of mine travel to Puerto Rico for a vacation. Upon returning, he shared with me about an annual tradition that I would like to share with my readers. Every year, Puerto Rico celebrates San Sebastian Festival. San Sebastian Street Festival, or also known as San Se is usually held in Old San Juan. It is a four-day event, that begins on the third Thursday of January, and ends that Sunday. The festival honors Saint Sebastian, whom the Catholic Church celebrates on January 20. More than 200,000 people participate in this festival, making it recognized internationally. Father Juan Manuel Madrazo, the priest of the San José Church in the 1950’s, was the first person who organized the festival. When Father Juan was moved out, the festival ended. It wasn't until 1970 when a historian and anthropologist named Ricardo Alegría proposed to Rafaela Balladares de Brito, a resident of San Sebastian street, to revive the tradition. Some Puerto Ricans have continued this tradition in the United States. It can be said to resemble Mardi Gras that is held in New Orleans.
This past week I attended another World Affairs Council event. The guest speaker, Tyler Johnson, an international sales executive, as a well as author of The Way of The Laowai: The Importance of International Self-Awareness for Businesses , shared his insight on having lived in China for a majority of his career as an expat, and then his experience returning to the US. Despite the fact that China has been in the news on not such a positive note recently, I thought it would be beneficial to elaborate a little more about the details that most of us do not know about. For example, did you know that when it comes to opening a bank account in China, due to the regulations, even if you are relocating and leaving the country, you are not allowed to withdraw and take that money with you. During the presentation, Tyler noted that he still had an active bank account in China, as well as owned a variety of Chinese stocks, but despite wishing to transfer that money over to the US, was rejected. The Chinese financial system is so strict, that while you may invest within the country, you may not withdraw your money out. Another interesting fact that Tyler discussed was the amount of time it takes for the Chinese to build their infrastructure. Tyler provided an example of a hospital that he witnessed was fully built and completed within two to three weeks time frame. During my undergraduate years, a classmate and I, (now a dear friend of mine) worked on a group project on China. As part of the assignment, we had to pick a topic to debate about for the rest of the class. Having learned about the Chinese culture, its government, and history, we decided to pick the one-child policy as our topic . Interestingly enough, a year later after our class, in 2015, China abolished that policy. I asked Tyler to elaborate about this. His feedback was that he had plenty of friends who had multiple kids. He noted it wasn't that the policy didn't apply for everyone, but rather for particular regions and villages, served as an educational and medical benefit which families would no longer be eligible for if they didn't abide by the policy. I hope that my readers have learned something new from this week's post.
As the world watches the Coronavirus pandemic, I decided to research the 1918 Spanish flu and its origins. Since not many have heard about the Spanish flu to begin with, I decided for this week's post to elaborate a bit more about it. Interestingly enough, no one actually has a concrete answer to its initial origin. There are several speculations as to three possible locations, but none have actually been confirmed one hundred percent as the true sole originating location. The three main ones thought to be of a possibility are China, a British army base in France, and Kansas in the US. So where does the name the "Spanish flu" come from? "To maintain morale, wartime censors minimized early reports of illness and mortality in Germany, the United Kingdom, France, and the United States. Papers were free to report the epidemic's effects in neutral Spain (such as the grave illness of King Alfonso XIII). These stories created a false impression of Spain as especially hard hit, giving rise to the pandemic's nickname, "Spanish flu"" (History of Spanish flu). The spread of the infection came with close proximity of all of those who were wounded after WWI, as well as poor sanitary conditions during that time. After so much combat, a soldier's immune system was weakened, providing higher risk of contracting the infection. As far as the actual origin of the disease, the relationship between the near-simultaneous outbreaks in humans and swine, have been quite controversial. "One hypothesis is that the virus strain originated at Fort Riley, Kansas, in viruses in poultry and swine which the fort bred for food; the soldiers were then sent from Fort Riley around the world, where they spread the disease" (Research). As of 1991, an estimate of anywhere between 25-39 million people had been killed. By 2005, the estimate had gone up to about 50 million, although it is speculated that a far higher number close to about 100 would be most accurate. Just to point out for my readers, this flu killed more people in about 24 weeks time frame than had HIV/AIDS in 24 years. "The pandemic mostly killed young adults. In 1918–1919, 99% of pandemic influenza deaths in the U.S. occurred in people under 65, and nearly half in young adults 20 to 40 years old. In 1920, the mortality rate among people under 65 had decreased sixfold to half the mortality rate of people over 65, but still, 92% of deaths occurred in people under 65" (Patterns of fatality). Researchers uncovered that the virus was particularly deadly because it triggered a cytokine storm, in other words, an overreaction of the body's immune system. This means that your immune system attacks itself and expedites the spread of the infection.
As we continue to be vigilant with the Coronavirus, I hope this has been a good eye opener for all of us around the world.
As the pandemic has only worsened, I am reminded of how much we all can come together in such dire times. I am actually going to share more of a personal story amidst this chaos, one that might be eye opening to some of my readers. My mom grew up during the USSR. I was born THE year it actually fell apart (1989) and became what we now call as the Russian Federation. I don't particularly recall all the details, simply because I was too young (still a child) to understand what was going on in the country, let alone grasp what it meant on an economic level. My family always made sure that I was fed and clothed, and while they might have struggled to put food on the table, especially post the collapse, I was protected, and taken care of. I can entirely acknowledge, from a family's perspective, protecting my childhood innocence (I was 3-5 years old), as well as simply me not being old enough to understand a lot of things was their rationale behind not disclosing the details. For my mom, on the other hand, the long lines, the fact that grocery stores were out of food and supplies, and not even having any anticipated shipments became the norm. People would show up to the banks to withdraw their money just to realize their doors were locked. No one could do anything about it. Whatever you could find, you would cherish every bit of it. If any of your neighbors were willing to share any meat that they managed to acquire, it was like a holiday celebration. My grandparents actually took milk and eggs for credit from a tenant of theirs at that time, so long as there was something to feed me. So you see, while the long lines at Costco throughout the nation, HEB in Texas, and other supermarkets all over the world might not be a brand new concept to my family, it is a shock to them that this is happening on such a grand scale today. My mom was in utter disbelief seeing all the shelves entirely empty, rows upon rows of them. She just couldn't believe she was reliving it all over again, except that this time it's happening in the US. As my family reminded me of our hardships, I realized that it's time to share all of this with the rest of my readers. The reality is we are living through this pandemic. IT IS REAL, IT IS NOT A DREAM. But we MUST, WE MUST get through this by first and foremost, listening to our leaders and medical professionals who are telling us to distance ourselves from each other. Even if we have to give up our social norms for a short period of time knowing that it will help ALL of us in the long run, then so be it. Secondly, please be supportive of one another. Uplift each other, entertain one another, and take this time to reflect on what a privilege it is to be alive, truly.
For the next several weeks of my posts I have decided to share some excerpts from my written memoir titled From Moscow With Love. I hope this uplifts my readers, and brings some food for thought!
"What is failure and what is success? How do we define the two and who determines what the real definition is? Success, in today’s standards, would most likely be measured by the amount of money someone earns, by the type of car they drive, or by the house they own. However, there are many truly successful people in the world and in history that were never rich or considered themselves to be successful due to their possessions. Leonardo da Vinci, for example, is now considered to be one of the greatest painters, architects, and sculptors of his time. Yet how much dedication did it take for him to be noticed and become someone famous? Did he measure his success based on how much money he got from each one of his works? I doubt it. When his works were rejected or his talent overlooked, I highly doubt that the man sat there and thought how unsuccessful he was. Everyone has their rises and falls in life; without them it would simply be boring. Do not look at how the world measures success and its standards, but on the other hand, look at the greatest people on earth and let them be the inspiration that guides you to become all you have ever wanted to be.
Failure-a strong word, indeed, yet without the failures in our lives, we would never know what the true meaning of achievement would be. There is a famous poem translated into Russian by an English poet, Rudyard Kipling, that I have hanging on the back of my door, it says, “And will be firm in success or failure/ which in relativity both equal/…You are a human.” Realistically it means failure and success are both equal. What is the difference between the two except that they are opposites of each other and complete each other? To not experience one without the other, is to not truly have lived. One cannot have lived all life in success and yet have never experienced failure. On the other hand, one cannot have lived through all failures in life, without experiencing at least some successes. Do not be afraid to fall, because one it is inevitable, and two, once you do, everything can only get better. Once you hit rock bottom, there isn’t any lower you can go, it can only escalate upwards from that moment on. To experience failure, means to have lived a life that is worth mentioning. It means you have possessed the knowledge of both hardships and prosperity, and that my dear readers, is the true meaning of failure and success."
Another excerpt from one of my chapters titled Observe.
"It’s the little things that matter in life that make a difference in each day of our lives. Sometimes all it takes is a simple thank you, a smile, extra syrup added on our coffee, which makes our day seem so much better than it could have been. When we get caught up so much about our daily lives and our busy schedules, we too often forget that we should stop and enjoy life as it is, without worrying whether our next meeting will run smoothly or we won’t mess up. I know I have an incident that occurred to me that made my evening so much better than when it began. I recall it was about nine or ten P.M. one weekday and I was on my way to P.Terry’s (a well-known local hamburger joint in Austin, Texas) to grab some dinner. I had an exhausting day, was in a pretty gloomy mood, and just wanted to get something to eat before they closed. I drove up to the pickup window to pay and get my order, when the employee told me that I was going to get that meal for free. I asked him why, he said that it began a few orders back, someone had accidentally paid forward so the chain reaction continued with one person always receiving their meal free, while the next one would end up paying for the next order. The driver took off, and I didn’t bother asking if they had double checked of what they had paid for. It so happened that the entire scenario ended on my turn. I was the last one to receive that free meal. My readers, you can only begin to imagine how in an instant my mood changed from being frustrated to excited! Yes, it was just a meal. Yes, it was not that big of a deal in a bigger scheme of things, but it mattered. It mattered a lot. For once it made me believe that there is still some good left in humanity. People can and do nice things for each other without any hidden agenda behind it. Just a simple free meal made my evening better. Don’t forget that moments like these matter. "
Excerpt from my chapter titled Black versus White.
"A long-time friend of mine once asked if having the pendulum swing back and forth between positive and negative things occurring in his life is a good thing. My response to him that is the way the world works. Without one there wouldn’t exist the other. For everything to equal itself out there needs to be both good and bad. As much as we don’t want anything bad happening, that is just that the world is structured. I personally believe that if we were to have that, we would take everything for granted. On the other hand, if we were always suffering and there would be no good in our lives at all, that would bring destruction, which we already have as is. It just makes sense just as in the Chinese philosophy there exists Ying and Yang, which if translated is the “dark” and the “light” forces. Even if we all have different beliefs in what we call “good” or “bad,” it’s still the same concept. Imagine an old clock, with a pendulum swinging back and forth as it shows time; if the pendulum stops regardless of whether it will be on the right side, on the left side, or even in the middle, it will still be a broken clock. Such is life. Regardless of whether it swings towards the good, the bad, or just neutral, as though you are awaiting something, it still must have both in order for this world to exist."
Additionally, if you haven't had a chance to listen to tonight's performance by Andrea Bocelli, please go listen-https://youtu.be/huTUOek4LgU.
For this week, I decided to pose a more ethical question to all of my readers. Due to the pandemic, and each country's own regulations on handling it, what is your stance on reopening the economy regardless of what country you are in? I decided on this question for the fact that everyone seems to have a stance on why businesses should reopen or why we should try to regain any sense of normalcy, yet none of the people I have spoken with know how to exactly proceed in a simple manner. The answer is there is no simple solution. Until a vaccine has been developed, there really isn't a one sentence or one phrase answer that solves the dilemma. You can't expect any economy to continue thriving or any businesses to survive without having them reopen and have people interact on some level. Yet at the same time, you can't expect to reopen all the parks, museums, stadiums and other businesses, and not have a spike or any type of concern for the spread of the virus. In other words, you can't have both; you have to choose one over the other. Do we continue the confinement within our homes and suffer a greater economic impact, or do we reopen our countries and try to move forward with going back to our daily lives but knowing we are putting ourselves at risk and a spike in both infections as well as deaths?
Over this week, I had a good friend of mine introduce me to a new form of Chinese meditation, called Falun Dafa. I actually hadn't heard much about it, so I decided to also share this site with my readers-http://www.falunaustin.org/index.html. I also learned that this practice is prohibited in China. As I did some research, I uncovered the scrutiny it faced in the 1990's and despite a governmental crackdown, today it is still found in 70 countries worldwide. The practice originated from "Qigong-a modern term that refers to a variety of practices involving slow movement, meditation, and regulated breathing. Qigong-like exercises have historically been practiced by Buddhist monks, Daoist martial artists, and Confucian scholars as a means of spiritual, moral, and physical refinement. A modern qigong movement emerged in the early 1950s, when Communist cadres embraced the techniques as a way to improve health.The new term was constructed to avoid association with religious practices, which were prone to being labeled as "feudal superstition" and persecuted during the Maoist era. On May 13, 1992, Li Hongzhi gave his first public seminar on Falun Gong (alternatively called Falun Dafa) in the northeastern Chinese city of Changchun. Li presented Falun Gong as part of a "centuries-old tradition of cultivation" and sought to revive the religious and spiritual elements of qigong practice that had been discarded in the earlier Communist era" (Origins). The practice places an emphasis on morality and virtue, rather than physical health. It resembles the Buddhist School (Fojia) but also draws on concepts and language found in Taoism and Confucianism.