Response#1: Are you a monochron, polychron, or balanced?

Amanda’s blog post about multitasking reminded me of a class about management styles I had at Georgetown University’s Intensive English Course last Fall. Dr. Sigrun Biesenbach-Lucas, my English professor, assigned us an article from our textbook, and the article explained that, according to Dr. Lindquist, from Western University, there are three types of management styles: monochrons, polychrons, and balanced. While monochrons are good at doing one task at a time, polychrons tend to multitask, and balanced people fit “in the middle”.

There are careers best suited to each type of management style. For instance, monochrons can succeed as book editors, scientific researchers, or doctors while polychrons are likely to be competent lawyers, stock market operators, or journalists, and balanced people may be good as clinical psychologists, teachers, and promoters. So, if you are often rattled by interruptions and overwhelmed by the amount of tasks you have to handle at work, you might be a monochron in the wrong position. On the contrary, if you are bored working in a quiet room with lots of methodical people, just grab you things and move out; you might be a polychron surrounded by monochrons. What a nightmare!

Monochrons are extremely organized, planned, and detailed. For instance, a book editor can spend days over a single book because it’s necessary to read it carefully in order to correct formatting errors, grammar mistakes, and unclear structures that could be improved (would a monochron volunteer to proofread this blog?). Thus, monochrons are likely to succeed in careers that require organization, precision, and concentration.

Polychrons, though, are multitaskers who perform well under pressure. Lawyers, as well as stock market operators and journalists, are polychrons because they’re often switching attention and dealing with lots of information. As a journalist, I guess I’m a polychron. Journalists usually have under their responsibility two or more reports to write in a short period of time. Besides having to meet short deadlines, journalists must read newspapers, news websites, and weekly magazines in order to keep themselves updated and able to find other topics to write about.

Finally balanced people can be either monochrons or polychrons depending on the task. A clinical psychologist must be organized in order to follow the schedule of patients, one at a time. On the other hand, psychologists see several patients during the day and must be able to switch gears when one goes out and the other comes in.

As students, we need to be multitaskers; there’s no choice, whether you’re a full-time student taking three courses, or a part-time student who also works. You might say, “if you’ve planned, you wouldn’t be multitasking”, but this is just not real for most people. Sometimes procrastination, or a break, is needed for us to keep going. Good luck for all as the semester gets to the end and multitasking gets to its peak…

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Personal#3: Rio’s war against drug trafficking

As we dive into wars in this course, I’ll tell you about the war we, “cariocas” (natives of Rio de Janeiro), have learned to deal with in our daily lives. If you’ve been following the world news, you’ve probably read about or heard of what is going on in Rio de Janeiro right now.

To provide you with a brief context, Rio de Janeiro has around 1,000 slums, called “favelas”, and they’re located both in the suburbs and within rich neighborhoods, such as Leblon, Ipanema, and São Conrado, among others. Drug traffickers live in slums – as well as poor, innocent people – and they keep their drug traffic headquarters equipped with war weapons, such as grenades and Russian rifles. The BOPE (Squad for Special Operations) also has these type of armament, but, while BOPE has 100 rifles, traffickers have, only in Complexo do Alemão, the most dangerous slum, 300 rifles shooting 150 bullets per minute (data from 2007).

Rio’s current war, in which several cars and buses were burned, is happening in the suburbs, but drug traffickers have planned terror actions throughout the city, sending out messages for people not leave their homes. As if ruling slums were not enough, drug traffickers want to take over the city, and this is when BOPE, the Elite Squad, comes into play. Last Sunday was a milestone in Rio de Janeiro’s history. It was the day BOPE, together with the National Army, invaded the Complexo do Alemão after two decades of unsuccessful attempts. They seized tons of drugs, arrested some of the traffickers, and killed others. BOPE will remain in Complexo do Alemão for almost one year.

Rio’s drama against drug trafficking was featured on the screen in City of God (2002), a film by Fernando Meirelles and Kátia Lund. City of God received four Academy Award nominations in 2004. In 2007, José Padilha launched The Elite Squad (Tropa de Elite), about the history of BOPE, which was awarded a Golden Bear at the 2008 Berlin International Film Festival, among others. The Elite Squad is going to be a trilogy, and the number two is playing now in Brazilian theaters. I strongly recommend these movies.

This is a topic that obviously upsets me because I’ve lived my life afraid of being robbed and hurt, and every time I face my city’s scary reality I get sad and worried about my mom, relatives, and friends there. Here in the U.S. at least I feel safe and happy to be away from that chaos. I’m not optimistic in regards to Rio de Janeiro’s challenges, but I can’t stop hoping that this war will be over someday.

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Weekly#11: Djibouti, nice to meet you

There’s a long time since I don’t hear about Djibouti; the last time was probably at school, and this is why I chose this tiny African country to explore. A former French colony, Djibouti is a Muslim country located in the Northeast of Africa, between Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia, and the Red Sea. According to Wikipedia, Djibouti is one of the least populous countries in Africa and its population consists of Somalis and Afars. People in Djibouti speak French, Arab, Somali, and Afar. Armed with this basic information, I started to dig into Global Voices.

African blogs are mostly cultural and political. Topics discussed are: African diaspora literature, migration to Europe, homosexuality, dissolution of borders between African countries, and abolition of slavery. None of these, though, referred specifically to Djibouti. Seeking information on Djibouti’s blogosphere, I was surprised by the lack of information. Only two out of twelve posts related to Djibouti on Global Voices actually mention Djibouti. The most recent, published in February 2008, states that the only U.S. military base in Africa is located in Djibouti. In the other one, published in January 2006, the Nigerian blogger Chippla Vandu says: “… With a population of less than half a million, this French and Arabic speaking nation appears to be hardly ever mentioned in the blogosphere. However, Djibouti recently decided to take France to the International Court of Justice… All of a sudden, this bonsai African nation made the waves in the blogosphere. Djibouti had finally arrived!”

Djibouti arrived to the blogosphere in 2006, but it hasn’t established territory, at least not in English. What I’ve found were the following blogs: Djibouti Jones, about an American family from Minneapolis living in Djibouti and documenting their experience; My Intrepid Travels: Djibouti 2010, by a Canadian lawyer working for the United Nations in Djibouti; and Tommy in Seminole Heights, by an Iraq veteran from Florida who works as an international security consultant and might have spent some time in Djibouti. Last May, Tommy wrote about food instability, hunger among refugees, and a tourist’s view of Djibouti.

I was looking for a Djiboutian blogger, and on Global Voices Chippla Vandu mentioned the existence of Djiboutian bloggers blogging in French. I got excited to practice my French, but didn’t find any on Google search. Eventually, I haven’t met Djibouti at all.

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Weekly#10: Devotee of Saint Zuckerberg

I know Zuckerberg is Jewish, and this blog title doesn’t make any sense (sorry, dude!), but this is how I feel; this guy (not Orkut, although I’m a Google lover too) should be idolized, and I’ll be thankful to him for the rest of my life. Thank you, Zuckerberg, for being such a nerd and for having provided the world with the Facebook experience!

Google has, undoubtedly, changed my life too, and I’m also thankful for its existence. Before Google, I had to search for info on books, magazines, printed encyclopedias, or Encarta digital encyclopedia, using my very-cool-at-the-time Compaq Presario, and any search could take hours. So, Google was, of course, a blessing for everyone! Today, three of the 12 most accessed websites on my computer are Google websites – the Search, the Translator, and the Sites. But Wikipedia and Facebook are also among these 12, and Facebook certainly beats all of them.

No other website has ever had the impact Facebook has in my life, and this is so especially because I’m living abroad – and alone. I’ve never thought I would be so dependent on a social networking website in order to keep in touch with family and friends, who are spread across Brazil and the world. Facebook becomes even more important because my VoIP phone doesn’t work (by the way, I hate Broadvoice), and my mobile doesn’t make international calls (this is what living on a student budget is).

Through Facebook I can keep in touch with my father, who is 82 and lives in Atibaia, in the state of São Paulo; with my sisters, brother, nephews, cousins, and friends from the city of São Paulo; with friends who live in Brasília, the Brazilian capital; with relatives from Rio de Janeiro, my beloved city; and with friends living abroad, in countries such as Australia, Sweden, Switzerland, and Cape Verde. Through Facebook, I can see my friends’ sons and daughters growing, my friends’ and relatives’ birthday celebrations and weddings that I missed, and even my goddaughter’s first teeth. Through Facebook I can tap my friends’ and relatives’ shoulders once in a while as if we’ve never been apart, and this is why I love Facebook. May it live forever. Amen.

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Weekly#9: Knocked down by Tetris

Video gaming is part of one of those controversial activities – or products, such as coffee, or sweetener – that people keep discussing if it’s good or bad for health. Some people say gaming makes players dumb, increase aggressive behavior, and sedentary lifestyle, leading to obesity (well, and so does TV). Others – the US Department of Defense included – believe the opposite: video gaming improves the ability to reason and solve problems. I agree with the latter.

I used to love video gaming, but I don’t play it anymore because there’s little time left and so much to do and enjoy that video game would never be a priority nowadays. When I have free time, I’d rather get out of my place and socialize, go to the movies, or to a bar with friends. Also, the last time I played, I fainted! This is ridiculous, I know. It happened two years ago. I was at my place, seated on a couch, playing Tetris in a Blackberry. I had been playing it for a long time and, when I got to a very advanced level, in which pieces fall really fast, my brain asked for a break and went out of service; I fainted and I “came back” with my ex-husband in panic shaking me. It was weird and a little traumatic. After this episode, I haven’t played again.

But I would say in my childhood I’ve played enough for my entire life. I was five years old and used to spend weekends at my best friend’s place playing Atari 2600. I loved that primitive tennis game in which there were one-dimensional straw players – the blue and the pink – and a squared ball. Enduro was, of course, a classic! Unforgettable! I remember the colors of the horizon changing according to the time of the day… And what to say about Pac-Man? My favorite! I also enjoyed playing River Raid, Skiing, Donkey Kong, and Pitfall, all of which seem stupid even for five-year-old kids but were challenging and exciting twenty-five years ago.

Then, when Nintendo (NES) was released, my father gave me one. I used to play Zelda, Double Dragon, and all Super Mario games. I also had a Game Boy, in which I played Tetris and Paperboy, among others. Now, away from this gaming life, I couldn’t even try Second Life. I was afraid of the terms of service, and gave it up. I know terms of service are like medicine leaflets – we should not read them too carefully, but, anyway, gaming has changed a lot; it mingled with reality, and people are taking it too seriously. Or maybe I’m just too old for them.

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Weekly#8: Anyone can be a Journalist

After last class, I got a little more respect for Wikipedia. While modern encyclopedias carry an innovative approach and an attractive freshness in terms of content, traditional encyclopedias – made with greater diligence – carry an aura of ultimate knowledge, but can no longer compete with the diversity, interaction, real-time updates, and popularity of the wikis.

Wikipedia’s anyone-can-edit philosophy is not as chaotic as I thought and also not as democratic as I imagined. The concept of “encyclopedia” has changed over the years due to changes in the way content is produced and delivered. Now, anyone can publish information about current events as soon as they happen, and this makes modern encyclopedias, such as Wikipedia, very much like media outlets’ breaking news.

For instance, as we saw in class, the entry 7 July 2005 London bombings was created soon after the detonation of bombs occurred, and people immediately started to add information to it – which is a never-ending process (most recent update was done today, November 10!). Wikipedia is an encyclopedia being written at the same time History happens, and due to its nature it’s understandable that the quality of Wikipedia’s entries varies a lot and depends on 1) the entry being a recent event, or not (recent events are more likely to be incomplete or poor, but they have potential to be improved); and on 2) having experts who would share their knowledge and kindly add information to the entries.

As soon as an event happen, journalists may know as little as Wikipedia contributors, but, as the story develops, media outlets are more effective because journalists are very well connected to credible sources of information, and they have credentials (for example, being a NYTimes reporter), or a solid professional reputation, which helps them to access and provide accurate information.

I like the idea of giving “voice” to people share information on Wikipedia. The problem is that Wikipedia works best exactly as a community of people who share knowledge (without going into the merit of the accuracy of knowledge) than as an encyclopedia, or accurate source of information. Wikipedia is more focused on the means (creating and sharing content) than on the outcomes (providing accurate information). And accuracy is essential when it comes to information; inaccurate information has no value.

Thus, the disadvantage of an open source of information is that it tends to be shallow: quantity (number of entries) and growing horizontally prevails over quality and growing vertically. This relates to the fact that today we have the opportunity – and the demand – to create and distribute content faster than the available time to inquiry and verify information. It’s true that this also affects media outlets, but they usually have more effective techniques to verify information within a short period of time than Wikipedia’s contributors do.

Quick note: On July 7, 2009, the Brazilian Supreme Court waived the requirement that someone must have a college degree in Journalism in order to be allowed to work as a journalist (by the way, poor me). Literally, in Brazil anyone can be a journalist.

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Weekly#7: Published encyclopedia or Wikipedia?

In “The Book Stops Here”, published in Wired, Daniel H. Pink said it all: “Encyclopedias aspire to be infallible. But Wikipedia requires that the perfect never be the enemy of the good. Citizen editors don’t need to make an entry flawless. They just need to make it better.” This is exactly why I trust scholars with years of dedication to the study of a specific field of knowledge (the traditional encyclopedias’ writers) more than I trust a group of curious, smart online contributors.

I’m skeptical about Wikipedia’s contributors because 1) we don’t know who they really are (real names are not required) and what their background is (how can we trust unknown sources?); 2) they can be very passionate about a subject and full of good intentions, but not accurate; 3) the Web war of vanities may lead contributors to start a poorly written entry just to be “the one” who created it, and it’s weird that an encyclopedia offers less than perfect information to its users (so, when do we know an entry is complete and accurate? Will it ever be? Will we ever know?)

I’ll never really trust Wikipedia; I’m attached to traditional encyclopedias because I’ve spent my life using grandma’s encyclopedias for school work and I respect them so much. Traditional encyclopedias could take “ages” to be produced and published; they were very expensive, featured only subjects that had been already widely studied for generations and would only change if a new scientific discovery were made, which was rare because things used to happen in a slower pace. They were produced to last years on shelves as an updated source of information, and I like this idea of bastion of truth.

Although I trust traditional encyclopedias more than I trust Wikipedia, I do search for information on Wikipedia more frequently than I do on encyclopedias nowadays, but I use Wikipedia only as a first source of information; Wikipedia’s content should be validated by credible sources, such as academic ones.

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