Monthly Archives: April 2010

Mozart and His Little Effect.

This is another essay I have to write for my English Course hope you like it. As usual feedback is appreciated

After many years of research, psychologist Dr. Rausher and neurologist Dr. Shaw revealed to the unsuspecting world that Mozart’s music had positive effects on children, teenagers, and adults. Mozart’s Music is perfect for its phrases, periods, and movements result in balanced, nimble, and crystal-clear pieces which are recognized throughout the world; for instance, his Sonata for piano #24 and his Lacrimosa in his unfinished Requiem. These pieces, with their melodies, harmonies and counterpoints, significantly improve children’s motor skills and help them focus on their studies for a short period of time. Mozart left us with a beautiful legacy from which the human mind can benefit thanks to its perfect harmonies, logic, and genius.

“The Magic Flute,” “Don Giovanni,” “Cosí fan tutte” and “Eine kleine Nachtmusik” are examples of the prodigy that was Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Whether improvising on the harpsichord or on the violin at the tender age of eight, Mozart wrote his first work of art- a symphony; when his father saw this, he dedicated his life to teaching his son music. Mozart played concerts through London and Europe when he was fifteen years old; powerful, humble, mesmerizing, and beautiful were his melodies that the great composers and musicians of the era called him a prodigy. Consequently, the critics craved for more and even though Mozart’s genius gave us pieces such as “Ave Verum Corpus,” one of his most recognized choral pieces; unfortunately, he died at age thirty-five when he was just finishing his Requiem, the Mass for the Dead. But what is this Mozart Effect people are talking about?

In 1993 in the University of California some human test subjects, 36 high school students, became part of the Mozart Effect experiment, in which after the heard Mozart’s Sonatas these students were given a standardized test. The result of this test showed an increase in the temporal spatial levels among other results. Dr. Tomatis, in 1997, wrote that whether or not his patients liked Mozart’s music, they were more relaxed and made them express themselves more easily and openly to him; thus his conclusion was that Mozart’s music has the ability to heal the patient’s heart and clear their brain. As a result of both Shaw’s and Tomatis publication, The Mozart Effect gained worldwide attention in a matter of minutes, for many teachers, professors, and parents adapted said effect onto their students and children respectively. This effect is lasts in periods of five to ten minutes.

The Mozart Effect on children is highly effective, especially with those students from kindergarten to third grade. My sister, a Second grade teacher, did a little experiment where she gave the first test of the semester with a “normal” ambiance (without music) and her students received average grades; however, on the second test she administrated a math test where the students heard Mozart’s Piano Sonata #21, the students who got a C or C+ on their first test received a B, B+, or A on their second test. From that day on my sister, Mrs. Clavell, administers all of her tests with classical music. Parents and teachers alike misunderstand the concept of the Mozart Effect, for they believe that if they don’t have Mozart’s music, the effect won’t work and they are sadly mistaken; for example, you can use Beethoven, Vivaldi, or Pachelbel’s Canon and still observe the same results. Children, who are exposed to this kind of music, as commented before, improve their IQ, focus, and motor skills.

The Mozart Effect is an area that unites pedagogy, parenting, music, and psychology. Mozart is one of the greatest composers of our time, for his nimble, humble, and mesmerizing melodies that captivate our hearts and clearly our brains. Mozart and his effect clearly has had a positive impact on us; hence the studies continue to grow and the testimonials of parents and teachers alike of how this effect works. So greatly is the impact of this effect that Disney has used this effect in marketing, with its most popular infant and toddler merchandise called “Baby Einstein.” These DVDs and CDs use classical music with colorful stories and toys to capture toddlers’ attention and with games they start to recognize musical patterns, rhythms, vowels, and words. Mozart shall live on in our lives and in many years to come, new scientists and musicologists will still try to unlock the mystery behind Mozart’s music.

If You’re So Smart, Why is Your Life Still a Mess? = guest post from Scott H Young’s Blog

Is intelligence your downfall?

Normally, more intelligence is a good thing. Yes, we all know examples of the anxious overthinker or the scholastic introvert who can’t get a date. But, for the most part, being smarter helps in life.

However, I’ve noticed one problem that mostly strikes really smart people. The smarter you are, the more likely you are to suffer from this problem. Worse, this problem is often the very reason many smart people fail miserably at improving their lives.

Smart People Like Tricky Problems (Even if Most are Actually Simple)

The problem is that smart people like solving complicated problems. When faced with a problem that is difficult, but doesn’t have a complex answer, they invent complexity. Instead of focusing on the essentials and making progress, they become trapped in irrelevant details.

Take your health, for example. Health advice isn’t complicated. Michael Pollan summarized the some of the best nutritional advice I’ve ever read into only seven words: eat food, not too much, mostly plants.

Why do Smart People Make Health Advice So Confusing?

Health advice is simple, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. Eating less junk food, having a regular exercise routine, and eating the side of broccoli instead of that third cheeseburger. All of these things are well-known by almost every reasonably intelligent person, but it takes a lot of patience and effort to succeed.

But is this what most smart people do? No. Instead, they invent complexity, purposely making the task less simplistic, even when there is no good reason for the added confusion.

Ben Goldacre writes in the book Bad Science, about the abysmal state of nutritional information. He points out many of the reported claims of fish-oil and supplements are based on flawed research. In The China Study, T. Colin Campbell, points out that many vitamin and mineral pills don’t result in better overall health.

Despite this, how often do you see someone arguing about Omega-3 or the immunological benefits of garlic, when they don’t exercise regularly? Or someone who argues whether anaerobic training is better than running, but they still have a cupboard full of junk food?

Is Money Really that Complicated?

The problem goes way deeper than nutrition. As Ramit writes about personal finance:

“Nothing is more infuriating than someone telling me I’m ‘throwing away money on rent’ when they haven’t spent even 2 hours running the numbers.

“Or someone who proudly proclaims that they found a higher interest rate on a new bank, which is giving them 2%!!! When you politely say, Wow! How much is that worth? they get very very quiet…because (1) they never thought about it, and (2) you know that an extra 1% is only worth $8/month for a $10,000 balance.”

Personal finance isn’t terribly complicated. Yes, there is the underlying complexity of portfolio theory, CAPM, arbitrage and a whole host of other formulas you’d need a PhD in physics to understand. Beneath that, though, for most individuals, personal finance breaks down to:

  1. Spending less than you earn.
  2. Save and invest a portion of your income.

If you’re doing those two things, you’re probably well ahead of most people, and probably still ahead of the many “smart” people Ramit mentions who lecture you on the merits of home ownership and getting the extra tenth of a percent interest rate.

Is Learning a Foreign Language Complicated?

The same thing happens in language learning. I’ve heard from people that are quick to correct me on the nuances of a particular word in French. Even when these people don’t invest the time practicing to speak and reading frequently, so they can’t hold up a conversation.

Read, listen, speak. Difficult, but fairly simple.

Same thing happens in blogging. Nothing irritates me more than bloggers who debate about where to put their subscription button, but haven’t written regularly in the last three months.

Write regularly, share with other bloggers. It’s not easy, but that doesn’t mean it’s complex.

Imagined complexity

Complexophilia – Why You’re Life Can Be a Mess, Even if You’re Smart

Complexophilia – n. The love of making things complicated.

Many smart people are raging complexophiles. They look for complexity, and when the correct answers are too simple, they invent more complicated versions of them.

There is a logic to it, and the mentality goes something like this:

Problem A is incredibly difficult (losing weight, starting a business or teaching yourself a foreign language).

The successful approach to A is, unfortunately, relatively simple. (eat less, create value, start reading and speaking)

Because the problem is difficult, it will require a lot of effort and patience to succeed. But, because the problem is simple, it doesn’t require all the incredible brainpower and abstract reasoning that smart people are so good at.

At this point, the complexophile comes up with an alternative: Maybe that successful approach to A is simple, but I can probably come up with one that is more complicated (which is why stupider people haven’t found it) and also easier.

So they invent or stumble upon an alternative strategy that requires them to understand the nuances of free-radicals, short-selling or linguistic theory, and makes the problem more complex. These people can then stroke their ego for being so much more clever than everyone else.

Unfortunately, as a consequence of them taking up the needlessly complicated approach, they forget the basics. If they focused on free-radicals while maintaining their focus on overall healthy eating and exercise, that would be fine. But more likely, this new complicated focus replaces the more simplistic, successful approach.

As a result, you have people swallowing fish-oil pills who haven’t exercised in months, and people buying penny stocks who aren’t even matching their employer’s 401k contribution. The complexity doesn’t add to the successful simplicity, it overwrites the successful simplicity.

Problems Can be Difficult Without Being Complicated

Saying that the secret to health is just eating less junk and more greens does health a disservice. Mostly because people confuse simple answers with easy answers. In fact, for smart people, simple answers are often the most difficult, because there are fewer loopholes to get out of putting in the effort.

Running a marathon is simple. You put one foot after the other and repeat for 26 miles. But that doesn’t mean running one is easy.

Recognizing that there are a large class of life problems that (a) have simple answers, yet (b) are still really difficult, is important.

It’s okay to say to yourself, “I know what to do, but it’s still very hard.” Accepting the simplicity/difficulty conjunction allows you to put your focus on it, instead of fantasizing about Omega-3’s and syntactical oddities that don’t solve the core problem.

Basics first

Putting in the Grueling Effort on the Absolute Basics

If you’re like me, and see yourself as being someone with complexophilic tendencies, there is a solution: commit to putting in the grueling effort on the absolute basics, first.

That is, you know what the #1 step you should be taking for success. Before you debate minutia, you make sure you’re putting in the effort on step #1.

This means not opening a book on different workout routines until you’re going to the gym every day. Stop reading the sites on dating advice if you’re not going out and socializing with people regularly. Forget step #15 when you still haven’t mastered step #1.

I find it helps to know what my #1 thing is for any area of my life:

  • Fitness -> Going to the gym at least 4x per week.
  • Health -> Not eating junk food.
  • Blogging -> Sticking to my writing schedule.
  • School -> Showing up to every class.
  • Languages -> Speaking and reading, every day.
  • Money -> Spending less than I earn.
  • Social Life -> Meeting with friends a few times per week.

Is the #1 step enough to succeed? Usually not. But I know that if I’m not following through on step #1, I don’t need to look further if I’m not reaching my goals.

Be the Absolute Best at Step #1

A long time ago, I heard a story about a famous basketball coach. When he would have a new team member, he would ask them to do a simple lay-up. He would then tell them to practice that every day, since it would be the shot they make the most.

Being able to shoot 3-pointers doesn’t matter if you haven’t mastered the lay-up. This coach understood that greatness started by being the best at the bare essentials.

Figuring out exactly what your #1 is can take some time. For some areas there might be a few items tied for first place. But picking which step is first only takes an hour or two. Becoming the absolute best at it takes years of hard work.

6 Ways For Teens to Avoid Distractions and Finish Homework

From zen habits blog

Stay focused.
Editor’s note: This is a guest post written by my eldest daughter, Chloe Babauta. She’s 17 and a junior in high school, and spent the day with me on Take Your Daughter to Work Day. You can follow her on Twitter.

With all the distractions we’re presented with from the Internet and other forms of media these days, it can be very difficult for teens to focus on schoolwork.
It is so convenient to tweet what you’re doing, text your friends, watch Davedays on YouTube, or to do an infinite number of things when you’re supposed to be researching for an essay.
I’ll admit that just during the time it took to write this post, I’ve taken several breaks just to go on Facebook to see what everyone’s up to. Don’t worry – everyone will still be there after you’re done doing your work, so close Firefox/Chrome/Safari and get down to business.

Here are a few ways to increase your productivity and try to break away from distractions:

  1. Turn off your wireless/Internet connection.

I know, it sounds crazy to deliberately cut off your connection to the outside world, but just do it. It eliminates your ability to easily open up your Internet browser and will help you to focus on what you really should be doing.
2. Set aside a specific time for using social networking/other recreational websites.
I’ve allotted myself some time to use the computer from 5:30-6:30 in the evening. I know that if I don’t give myself any limits, I’m capable of staying on Facebook and “becoming a fan” of fifty more pages instead of writing an essay or doing my math homework. I’m sure many people experience this problem too, so make sure to set aside about an hour (or whatever works for you) for leisure time.
3. Take short breaks.
After reading my American History book for too long, I tend to waste about half an hour by taking a nap. So to save myself from becoming insanely bored, I take little breaks by checking MySpace for a few minutes or getting a snack. I suggest that you do your homework or read for about ten to fifteen minutes at a time, then take a two to five minute break to maintain your sanity.
4. Do your work NOW rather than later.
I am a seasoned procrastinator. I’m guilty of wasting hours on end watching or making YouTube videos, chatting on instant messengers, or just daydreaming. I’ve learned the hard way that procrastination is not very rewarding and almost always results in bags under your eyes and B minuses (though there are several cases in which I’ve gotten exceptionally good grades for papers I had written at midnight). Do yourself a favor in advance, and start your work ahead of time.
5. Prioritize!
Ten years from now, do you want to look back at your life and realize that you spent a greater portion of your teen years sitting down in front of a laptop, rather than doing things that actually matter? Spend some time with your family or go outside and take a walk. Read a book, or do something with yourself that doesn’t involve a computer. (This is something I really need to work on too.)
6. Spend less time reading blogs like these about how to help yourself and get right to work! NOW!
The only way to really live productively is to go out and start actually living! After you’ve read up on how to become more productive, put your newly obtained knowledge to use.

Time traveling with music

This is one of the many assignments I have done this semester in my English 224: Grammar and English Writing with our Professor Dr. Ana Montero. She is wicked awesome and truly knows her grammar and English history. What can I say… she has a PhD in LINGUISTICS. I hope you like it. Its supposed to be an Classification Essay and I wrote about people memories and places I have been at. Feedback is wonderful as usual.

How can a song from a certain decade make you remember an experience or feeling from your past? Why do these songs, through their lyrics or harmonies, stay on society’s mind and are guarded with such care? Maybe it’s because they have influenced your decision-making or train of thought on a particular subject. The songs we listened in class made me reflect on places I have visited, the people I have met, and some of the best memories of my life.

When I heard “Let’s twist again” by Checker it reminded me of “Surfing USA” by the Beach boys, and for a moment, I re-lived the vacation I had with my family in Culebra, and all the music I heard on the beach. When we went to Flamenco beach, one of the songs we heard was “It’s my party” by L. Gore which everybody was chatting about the “good old days” and how the world’s situation was at that time. Looking back on this vacation, I remember the peace, tranquility, and fondness I had at night which reminds me of “Can’t take my eyes of you” by F. Valli & 4 Seasons which makes me want to go Culebra again.

After the audio excerpts, I automatically thought of three people in my life who are part of the university choir: Sheila Cruz, Aledra Rodriguez, and Yaletza Peralta. You may ask yourself “why”? The answer is because they are fans of the following songs “Bad Girls” by D. Summer, “Mama Mia” by ABBA, and “The way you look tonight” by T. Bennet. Since they know these lyrics by heart at any given moment on any given day, they will (by a force of unknown magic) harmonize these songs in such a creative way that after five minutes you’ve experienced these songs with a whole new arrangement.

“Killing me softly” completely re-awoke some of the best memories in my life. When I started to study music seven years ago; in my first semester my choir teacher gave me a solo, and I felt just like R. Flack.On the day I had to sing, I thought it was going to be awful, but it went surprisingly went very well. All of those feelings of wanting to die with what felt like a lead ball in my stomach paid off because the song sounded well, and everybody liked it. Also “Un-break my heart” reminded me of the time in my senior year when I had to choose between singing and playing in my last concert in the Institute or going to my high school graduation; this was the hardest decision I had to make in my 20 years on this Earth. After careful consideration, I chose to go to my high school graduation because my Alma Mater is very important for me, for it is where I have spent 14 or more years. And I knew it would not be the last concert I would participate in my life. Furthermore, I won’t forget during that senior year when I directed the String Ensemble on the last activity of the semester. That experience made me realize what I wanted to do with my life: to conduct, direct and compose for Ensembles and choirs.

Places, people, and memories are some of the things you will carry in your life forever. Based on that premise is what an individual must have in mind every day. All of the experiences we will have in your life, for better or worse, will teach you a lesson in which you must try to practice each day. Whether it’s classical or popular music, music will consequently make you remember your past experiences and thus make you reflect in life itself.


Sorry I haven’t posted in a while I’ve been very busy with a lot of college work. The life of a music major is not easy specially when the juries/recitals/concerts are near. Ill post in this week, I hope. God bless and stay tuned!

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