Dodgy Dopamine

Dopamine is thought of as the pleasure and reward neurotransmitter. New research is revealing that it is not quite a simple as pleasure drug: 

In the emerging view, discussed in part at the Society for Neuroscience meeting last week in Chicago, dopamine is less about pleasure and reward than about drive and motivation, about figuring out what you have to do to survive and then doing it. “When you can’t breathe, and you’re gasping for air, would you call that pleasurable?” said Nora D. Volkow, a dopamine researcher and director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Or when you’re so hungry that you eat something disgusting, is that pleasurable?”

In both responses, Dr. Volkow said, the gasping for oxygen and the wolfing down of something you would ordinarily spurn, the dopamine pathways of the brain are at full throttle. “The whole brain is of one mindset,” she said. “The intense drive to get you out of a state of deprivation and keep you alive.”

Dopamine is also part of the brain’s salience filter, its get-a-load-of-this device. “You can’t pay attention to everything, but you want to be adept as an organism at recognizing things that are novel,” Dr. Volkow said. “You might not notice a fly in the room, but if that fly was fluorescent, your dopamine cells would fire.”

In addition, our dopamine-driven salience detector will focus on familiar objects that we have imbued with high value, both positive and negative: objects we want and objects we fear. If we love chocolate, our dopamine neurons will most likely start to fire at the sight of a pert little chocolate bean lying on the counter. But if we fear cockroaches, those same neurons may fire even harder when we notice that the “bean” has six legs. The pleasurable taste of chocolate per se, however, or the anxiety of cockroach phobia, may well be the handiwork of other signaling molecules, like opiates or stress hormones. Dopamine simply makes a relevant object almost impossible to ignore.

Should the brain want to ignore what it might otherwise notice, dopamine must be muzzled.

From: A Molecule of Motivation, Dopamine Excels at Its Task – NYTimes.com

Chronicles vs annals vs logs vs records

many similar words. Subtly different meanings. All definitions via onelook.com

Log
noun:  a written record of events on a voyage (of a ship or plane)
noun:  a written record of messages sent or received
verb:  enter into a log, as on ships and planes

Chronicle
noun:  a record or narrative description of past events
verb:  record in chronological order; make a historical record

Annals
noun:  a chronological account of events in successive years
noun:  reports of the work of a society or learned body etc

Record
noun: a compilation of the known facts regarding something or someone
noun:  anything (such as a document or a phonograph record or a photograph) providing permanent evidence of or information about past events

Diary
noun:  a personal journal (as a physical object)
noun:  a daily written record of (usually personal) experiences and observations

Journal
noun:  a daily written record of (usually personal) experiences and observations
noun:  a ledger in which transactions have been recorded as they occurred

Calendar
Noun: a list or register of events (appointments or social events or court cases etc

Timetable
noun:  a schedule of times of arrivals and departures
noun:  a schedule listing events and the times at which they will take place

History:
noun:  a record or narrative description of past events

Featherbedding

“Featherbedding is a pejorative term for the practice of hiring more workers than are needed to perform a given job, or to adopt work procedures which appear pointless, complex and time-consuming merely to employ additional workers. The term “make-work” is sometimes used as a synonym for featherbedding.

The term “featherbedding” is usually used by management to describe behaviors and rules sought by workers. But featherbedding has also been occasionally used to describe rent-seeking behavior by corporations in response to economic regulation. The term may equally apply to mid- and upper-level management, particularly in regard to top-heavy and “bloated” levels of middle- and upper-level management.”

Featherbedding – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Rough Guide to Serbia’s Law on Foreigners

I have finally uploaded the “Rough Guide to Serbia’s Law on Foreigners”.

It can be downloaded from here:

http://www.belgradefvc.com/files/Rough_Guide_To_Law_on_Foreigners.pdf

The document is should be called the”Very Rough Draft Guide to the Law on Foreigners”, but its a start.

The intention is to refine it into the authoritative guide to the legal requirements that foreigners and their hosts/employers must obey in Serbia.

I would very much appreciate any comments and feedback. Please bear in mind it is a first draft, but to make it into something useful and excellent, we will need harsh criticism and frank appraisals.

Email addresses for feedback are in the document, or feel free to comment here.

With friends like Russia, who needs enemies?

A shiny new ambulance parked in Belgrade, Serbia, one of dozens donated to Serbia by the EU as part of the billions of euros invested, given and donated to the country by the EU over the last few years.

[Update 20th Nov: As expected, the “gift” from Russia turns out to be nothing if the sort. It is reported today that Serbia will not get a penny before 2010, and what they do get is heavily laden with “conditions” that the Serbia side does not like. In addition the “the loan itself should be paid back within ten years, with a grace period of a “year or two”. See B92 “Russian loan not before 2010“]

As a European foreigner in Serbia I continue to be amazed at the persistence of the myth that Russia is Serbia’s “friend”; that they are reliable Slavic brothers allied with Serbs against the US and EU oppressors. Serbia even has a pro-Russian party, the only such party outside of the former Soviet Union.

This week as President Medvedev of Russia visited Belgrade, much local airtime and printer ink was devoted to praising Russia’s “billion Euro loan to Serbia”, which was presented as an act of kindness and generosity from the Russians, and touted by Nationalists as evidence of their goodwill (and Serbia’s importance to Russia).

It is in reality a deeply cynical move from a resurgent Russia attempting to re-establish its “sphere of influence” and more importantly, snap up bargains from cash starved Serbia.

The loan was initially supposed to be a billion euros. Then it was downgraded to a billion US dollars. Finally it was downgraded to “to be determined” (a billion Dinars? A billion pesos?). All we know is that the 200 million will be given to the Serbian government and the rest will be used to hire Russian companies to carry out projects in Serbia. It is a sort of stimulus package for Russian companies disguised as “kindness” to Serbia.

In addition to arranging the (self-)stimulus package, the Russians were consolidating their hold on their new bargain acquisitions from Serbia’s privatisation process. NIS (state oil company) was “sold” to them for a bargain price last year. In fact it was practically given to them. NIS was valued at €2.2 billion and sold to Russia’s Gazprom for €1.2 billion. Now we can see where the Russians gor the 1 billion for their “loan”!

The Russian loan is also designed to guarantee that they will have the first grab at the upcoming sell-offs of EPS (the state electrical company) and maybe even Telecom Serbia (state Telecom monopoly).

Its a great racket. You lend money in exchange for acquiring state assets that are worth much more than the loans. You also get to have your loan reinvested back into your own companies, and you get political influence in the country too. And do they hate you for this exploitation and thievery? Hell no! Remember Russians and Serbs are Slavic brothers and sisters. The Serbs are grateful for their fiscal and political rape at the hands of the Russians. After all, the Russians support Serbia on Kosovo and are allied against the real enemy: The decadent US and EU.

Meanwhile,  here is some news you will barely hear about in the Serbian media: EU to donate billion euros to Serbia.

The European Union would donate a total of one billion euros (1.5 billion U.S. dollars) to Serbia over the next five years, the EU representative in Serbia said on Wednesday.

The donation will be earmarked for various sectors, ranging from agriculture, infrastructure and energy to the reform of the state administration.

Yes, a BILLION euros donated. It is not a loan. There are no “conditions”. There is no looting of Serbian state assets and no insistence on pipeline deals.  The EU has quietly pouring effort and money into Serbia for a decade, yet most of the the people Serbia still think it is the Russians who are their friends and the EU who exploit them!

History and realism dictate that the Russian do not and have never given a damn about Serbs and Serbia. When you look beyond the rhetoric and you see who is really trying to help this country, we see the overwhelming bulk of aid and help coming from the EU. Other European countries like Norway also donates tens of millions of Euros to Serbia every year. Germany last week committed to giving Serbia €120 million in aid.   Even Japan (€200 million) and America (€400 million) have donated vast sums to Serbia since 2001.

People here have no idea of the extent of foreign, in particular EU,  sponsored investment and effort in Serbia. And the leader of the EU are not stupid. They cannot accept Serbia trying to play the Yugoslav game of milking the West and Russians simultaneously. Neither will the Russians.

There will be a reckoning when Serbia is forced to choose sides. That time is closer than the government of Serbia expects. No one is fooled by their posturing, least of all the EU.

An old saying in Serbia goes “God is high above, and Russia is far away” (“Bog visoko, a Rusija daleko”). Russia is further away than ever, and the EU is next door. Does Serbia really want to be an isolated Russian whore-state surrounded on all sides by EU states? Do the people of Serbia really want to voluntarily rejoin a new Eastern Bloc? I don’t think so.

The government is playing a silly and dangerous game and it is allowed to do so because ignorance of reality leads the people to believe the Russians are Serbia’s friends. They are not. As the old saying goes, “Watch what people do, not what they say”. Russia says “We are friends” then exploits cash starved Serbia with ludicrously exploitative loan conditions and deals. They say “We support you on Kosovo” then they undermine Serbia by recognising South Ossetia and Abkhazia. They say “We are your Slavic brothers” but supplied arms to Croatia and Bosnia throughout the 90’s.

With friends like Russia…