Sunday, October 30, 2005

Oddest thing...

...happened to me on the way to school on Friday morning. I was walking with two other friends, both to my right, when a guy and girl passed me on my left. She was adjacent to me as she passed. At about four steps distance between us, she spoke and kept talking while turning her head to me as she passed. She actually said, "K, you're hot. Are you gay? Can I f*ck you?"

Justifiably confused and with little time to thoroughly examine her face, I couldn't ascertain her motivation/cognitive state. She didn't look like she was fully joking, but didn't seem entirely serious. Possibly, she was under the influence of various substances.

Regardles, "Whaaaa?"

(My joke was, "Well, at least she was direct. She gave positive reinforcement, inquired as to my sexual orientation, and regardless of the answer, expressed the desire for intimacy."
Obviously, I was 7 minutes late for class.)

Thursday, October 27, 2005

For the immature psychologists...

(Click it for a bigger image)

Picture Challenge

There are three differences between two photos. Most can get two, but can you find the third? Look closely. Click here for the pictures. Good luck.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

The sociocomedic highlight of my day

Setting: Dalhousie Psychology Department, 3rd floor, lounge/waiting area. Approximately noon.
Characters: Stephanie (RA),Splewis (friend, fellow grad student) and Darren (me).
Scene begins: Darren approaches Stephanie and Splewis. They greet and talk. Soon they begin joking around about getting into a fight with each other.

Stephanie: We'd take you down!
Me: Maybe you'd take me out... to dinner.
(All three laugh)
Stephanie: Well, I'm have heels *looks at shoes*, which are technically weapons.
Me: Well, I have guns *flexes arms*, which are technically loaded.
(All three explode with laughter)

Yes, it doesn't work as well reading it as opposed to experiencing it in the moment. And, yes, it is a stupid joke to begin with... but it was Oh So Good. :D
(hell, it's still funny to me now)



Popping a water ballon in microgravity - cool!

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Condi's good for a laugh

(from a CBC article describing Rice's visit to discuss softwood lumber)
When asked how Washington's refusal to accept the NAFTA ruling will affect its credibility in the international community, Rice said the U.S. track record is solid.
"The word of the U.S. has been as good as gold in international dealings and agreements," said Rice.
(I actually laughed out loud. Feel free to make your own joke.)

Monday, October 24, 2005

The Relativity of Compassion

"A human being is a part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feeling as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty."
-Albert Einstein

Sunday, October 23, 2005

The other half of the variance

When people introspect about who they are and how they came to be, they often think back to significant events in their childhood, adolescence and various other formative years. These events are usually of a social or emotional nature and people seemingly cannot help but wonder "What if my parents treated me differently?" or "What if she said yes?" or "What if I had different friends?" or "What if I lived somewhere else?"

People usually fail to ask about the differential gene expression of CMRF35 antigen precursor or Zif268 or hepatocyte nuclear factor 4 alpha.

Neglecting biology will lead to insufficient conclusions.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Chomsky - The world's top public intellectual?

Prospect magazine recently released a poll naming Chomsky as the top public intellectual. You can read some pro/con here and the limitations of the poll here.
In last month's issue, there was an interesting article by Dawkins (#3).
An excerpt:
"Medium doses of Gerin oil, though not in themselves dangerous, can distort perceptions of reality. Beliefs that have no basis in fact are immunised, by the drug's own direct effects on the nervous system, against evidence from the real world. Oil-heads can be heard talking to thin air or muttering to themselves, apparently in the belief that private wishes so expressed will come true, even at the cost of mild violation of the laws of physics. This autolocutory disorder is often accompanied by weird tics, hand gestures or other stereotypies, for example rhythmic head-nodding towards a wall."

Milhouse Van Houten

"The House always wins."

"See you in the car,
Milhouse" *waves*

*crying* "Why doesn't she love me? Is it because of my small calves? Everyone knows that's the hardest place to add mass."

"Look Bart, Alf pogs! Remember Alf? He's back... in pog form."

I happily invite you to share your own fav Milhouse quotation (or correct the ones I've posted)

Slow Motion

(I've love this song. Only upon looking up the lyrics did I realize their repetition and paucity, things that would make me inclined to dislike a song. Consequently, this must be great music and beautifully sung.)

While I was watching you did a slow dissolve
While I was watching you did a slow dissolve
While I was watching you did a slow dissolve

Did I imagine or do the walls have eyes
Did I imagine they held us hypnotized
Did I imagine or do the walls have eyes

Life in slow motion somehow it don'’t feel real
Life in slow motion somehow it don'’t feel real
Life in slow motion somehow it don'’t feel real
Snowflakes are falling I'll catch them in my hands
Snowflakes are falling I'll catch them in my hands
Snowflakes are falling now you'’re my long lost friend

-David Gray

Friday, October 21, 2005

My 'actual' life

Today, a paper that I was working on with colleagues was submitted to the Canadian Journal of Experimental Psychology. The title is "Reflexive orienting to gaze cues: Will returning attention to fixation reveal inhibition of return?"
Though my name has been on published work once before, this is the first time I've done a significant amount of the writing and work, so I'm quite pleased.
(see, I don't just read books ;)

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Round Here

Step out the front door like a ghost into the fog where no one notices the contrast of white on white. And in between the moon and you, angels get a better view of the crumbling difference between wrong and right. Well, I walk in the air, between the rain, through myself and back again, Where? I don't know. Maria says she's dying. Through the door, I hear her crying. Why? I don't know.
-Counting Crows

Monday, October 17, 2005

Some of Al's thoughts...

(some Einstein quotations)
"It seems to me that the idea of a personal God is an anthropological concept which I cannot take seriously. I also cannot imagine some will or goal outside the human sphere. My views are near those of Spinoza: admiration for the beauty of and belief in the logical simplicity of the order and harmony of the universe which we can grasp humbly and only imperfectly. I believe that we have to content ourselves with our imperfect knowledge and understanding and treat values and moral obligations as a purely human problem--the most important of all human problems."

"A man's ethical behavior should be based effectually on sympathy, education, and social ties; no religious basis is necessary. Man would indeed be in a poor way if he had to be restrained by fear of punishment and hope of reward after death."

Murder Capital

(from a Globe&Mail article)
According to a report by Statistics Canada, Canada's homicide rate jumped in 2004 after reaching a 30 year low in 2003. Five of the nation's largest census metropolitan areas accounted for the majority of last year's increase. Winnipeg has the highest per-capita murder rate among the county's nine largest urban areas. Homicides by census metropolitan area per 100,000 population.

Edmonton 3.39
Vancouver 2.58
Montreal 1.73
Hamilton 1.30

*refers to the Ontario part of Ottawa-Gatineau census metropolitan area

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Godel, Escher Bach: an Eternal Golden Braid

(An actual post about A metaphorical fugue... in the spirit of Douglas Hofstadter)

I just finished one of the smartest books I will ever read. Intellectually sprawling, impressively creative, wonderfully educational and deeply delectable.

Godel, Escher, Bach is truly an Exquisite Grand Book.

Thank you Douglas Hofstadter.

(I hope this is a Good Enough Blog to receive worthwhile comments)


I thought America's "Learn Geography Through Bombing" was working. It doesn't seem to be.

In documentary form?

Monday, October 10, 2005

That which survives, survives

The following is from "Is there an Artificial God?" Douglas Adams' speech at Digital Biota 2, Cambridge U.K. September 1998 (It's too long to blog the whole thing, but you should still read it. It's great.)

"I was fascinated by Larry (again), talking about tautology, because there’s an argument that I remember being stumped by once, to which I couldn’t come up with a reply, because I was so puzzled by the challenge and couldn’t quite figure it out. A guy said to me, ‘yes, but the whole theory of evolution is based on a tautology: that which survives, survives’ This is tautological, therefore it doesn’t mean anything. I thought about that for a while and it finally occurred to me that a tautology is something that if it means nothing, not only that no information has gone into it but that no consequence has come out of it. So, we may have accidentally stumbled upon the ultimate answer; it’s the only thing, the only force, arguably the most powerful of which we are aware, which requires no other input, no other support from any other place, is self evident, hence tautological, but nevertheless astonishingly powerful in its effects. It’s hard to find anything that corresponds to that and I therefore put it at the beginning of one of my books. I reduced it to what I thought were the bare essentials, which are very similar to the ones you came up with earlier, which were “anything that happens happens, anything that in happening causes something else to happen causes something else to happen and anything that in happening causes itself to happen again, happens again”. In fact you don’t even need the second two because they flow from the first one, which is self-evident and there’s nothing else you need to say; everything else flows from that. So, I think we have in our grasp here a fundamental, ultimate truth, against which there is no gain-saying. It was spotted by the guy who said this is a tautology. Yes, it is, but it’s a unique tautology in that it requires no information to go in but an infinite amount of information comes out of it. So I think that it is arguably therefore the prime cause of everything in the Universe."
"There are some oddities in the perspective with which we see the world. The fact that we live at the bottom of a deep gravity well, on the surface of a gas covered planet going around a nuclear fireball 90 million miles away and think this to be normal is obviously some indication of how skewed our perspective tends to be, but we have done various things over intellectual history to slowly correct some of our misapprehensions."

Friday, October 07, 2005

Fatty fat

Prefer to be fat? Truly prefer? I don't think so. And look where he's coming from.

Choice Blindness, Being 'Momentoed' and Parroting Absence

Three interesting links:
(1) Research investigating choice blindness
(2) Podcast/article about memory, ECT, happiness, the self...
(3) Birds know nothing?

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Underwear goes Inside the Pants

We're in one of the richest countries in the world,
but the minimum wage is lower than it was thirty five years ago.
There are homeless people everywhere.
This homeless guy asked me for money the other day.
I was about to give it to him and then I thought he was going to use it on drugs or alcohol.
And then I thought, that's what I'm going to use it on.
Why am I judging this poor bastard.
People love to judge homeless guys. Like if you give them money they're just going to waste it.
Well, he lives in a box, what do you want him to do? Save it up and buy a wall unit?
Take a little run to the store for a throw rug and a CD rack? He's homeless.
I walked behind this guy the other day.
A homeless guy asked him for money.
He looks right at the homeless guy and says why don't you go get a job you bum.
People always say that to homeless guys like it is so easy.
This homeless guy was wearing his underwear outside his pants.
Outside his pants. I'm guessing his resume isn't all up to date.
I'm predicting some problems during the interview process.
I'm pretty sure even McDonalds has a "underwear goes inside the pants" policy.
Not that they enforce it really strictly, but technically I'm sure it is on the books.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005


"I do not know what I may appear to the world, but to myself I seem to have been only a boy playing on the sea-shore, and diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me."

Monday, October 03, 2005

Here's one for ya (updated)

What 7-letter word contains the letters YZ next to each other in that order?

Well the answer was 'not-musingly' stated in the comment section, but I'll still describe my musings.

(1) When I first read the question, I stood there, trying to think of what word it could be. I soon found that I was thinking of words with the letters in the order ZY. (2) I left it and then went to do something else, soon after I came up with (3) syzygy and syzygies (some of my fav words) but both of them do not fulfill the letter length requirement. Nothing else came to mind and I left it for awhile.
(4)Then a week or so later, I was lying in bed and the question popped into my head once again. Here is my putative stream of thoughts:
"7 letters... YZ... Byzant (too short)... byzantine (too long)... Byzantine is like Babylon, [something like] axlxla...babylize... analyze. oh, that's it." (then I actually thought "Interesting! I should blog that.")

Now there are several things to mention here. The first of which is the assumption that we can trust my observation of my own thoughts to not only be accurate, but also accurately remembered. While this may or may not be true, we shall assume it is for interesting purposes. Onto the others...

When I first read the question(1), I had the feeling that I 'asked' my brain to try to find the answer. I stood there, simply waiting for something to pop into my consciousness... and nothing did. I left it(2), but my subconscious still worked on it and came up with two false answers(3). I left it again, and (seemingly) before my brain started working on it again, I was aware of it when I started to think about the question again(4).

There were various operations occuring, only some of which 'I' am aware. The word "Byzant" pops 'into' my head, another quick counting operation (which I feel I did mostly consciously) told me it was "6 not 7, wrong" and similarly, quickly realizing the adjective form was too long. Then a semantic connection (accurate or not) between 'Byzantine' and 'Babylon', then some odd 'space' of something that would sound like 'alaxa' but isn't close to a word, then re-entrance of the earlier 'Babylon' and mixing it with the nonword, and then analyze pops 'in.' And I got the answer.

Of course, where did these words come from? Somewhere in my brain obviously, but in one place? In many? In one place and many? How did my brain know to do all these things and what did 'I' have to do with it? Any thoughts?

Examining the last question, it is likely fallacious to say "my brain" because I am my brain (and body and surrounding environment that stimulates the organism 'Darren.') The "Darren system" immediately took action after the stimulus of the question was presented. It tried several times, but any final outputs were inaccurate. One week later, the system resumed the question with greater resources and eventually found the correct answer.

That is describing the situation from an outside perspective, but experincing it as I did (very much 'inside') it is hard not to separate 'myself' from 'me.' As well, it makes one wonder about the causal powers of consciousness. If physical brain states are synonymous with conscious thoughts, and the physical states cause other physical states (i.e., more conscious thoughts), what do the conscious thoughts do? As I've structured the question, it would seem like they do nothing. But that would make them a superfluous output (epiphenomena one might say).

Perhaps the question was structured improperly and it is best to think of 'levels of consciousness' with some things being 'conscious' and some things being 'not so much conscious.'

Of course, if there are levels of consciousness within an individual, does that mean there could be levels of consciousness between individuals? Hmm... "She's more conscious than he?" or more amusingly, "I'm more conscious than me?"

Any thoughts?

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Religiosity and Societal Health

The Journal of Religion and Society recently published a paper that attempts to examine levels of religiosity and secularism to determine the correlational level regarding societal health.

The publication was covered in the NY times, demonstrating that even in such a newspaper, there is a misunderstanding of the correlation/causation distinction.
(1) Excerpt from the paper:
"This is not an attempt to present a definitive study that establishes cause versus effect between religiosity, secularism and societal health. It is hoped that these original correlations and results will spark future research and debate on the issue."
(2) First line of the NYTimes article:
"Religious belief can cause damage to a society, contributing towards high murder rates, abortion, sexual promiscuity and suicide, according to research published today."
(Such is the sad discrepancy between science and science reporting)

Know that it is a preliminary study and the author does try to point that out several times. I agree with Paul that it provides empirical data illustrating that "
The non-religious, pro-evolution democracies contradict the dictum that a society cannot enjoy good conditions unless most citizens ardently believe in a moral creator." The paper provides falisification for the notion that believing in a God is required for morality.
The figures are not immediately intuitive, but they are useful. I present Figure 5 that shows the correlation between life expectancy and religiosity.

The article is worth reading if only for meta- analyzing it (or if you just want to see how poorly the US does regarding societal health- quite concerning.)

Saturday, October 01, 2005

The Onion (1/10/2005) - my favs

Did you laugh?

Amusing (Is the phonetic similarity supposed to be a hint?)

What does Bush think of them?

Wikiconstitution (cute)

I probably like everything here.


Chomsky - On the Universals of Language and Rights

In a summer issue of the Boston Review, Noam Chomsky wrote an article about the universals of language and human rights called "What We Know." The first half of the essay is about potential universals in linguistics and a brief history of that enterprise. If you find it dense, I sympathize and suggest you move onto the next section about human rights (demarcated by the first use of *** separating two paragraphs). Though not much was new to me about human rights issues as it repeats some of Chomsky's other work, the information presented serves as a reminder to be wary and aware of the world's scary.

A startling excerpt:
"In 1991, the chief economist of the World Bank wrote an internal memo on pollution, in which he demonstrated that the bank should be encouraging migration of polluting industries to the poorest countries. The reason is that “measurement of the costs of health impairing pollution depends on the foregone earnings from increased morbidity and mortality,” so it is rational for “health impairing pollution” to be sent to the poorest countries, where mortality is higher and wages are lowest."
The memo was leaked and elicited a storm of protest, typified by the reaction of Brazil’s secretary of the environment, who wrote him a letter saying that “your reasoning is perfectly logical but totally insane.” The secretary was fired, while the author of the memo became treasury secretary under President Clinton and is now the president of Harvard University."

(Zinn also had a essay in the issue. I've only read part of it at this point, but it's probably worthwhile)

Dawkins on Radio Times

Last week Richard Dawkins was interviewed by Radio Times (American public radio)

An excerpt near the beginning:

RT: [asks about the poll results that I posted here]
Dawkins: ...We do of course have ignorant fools in England as well, but they don't get political power, and I think that is a very important difference.
RT: And you chose that phrase 'ignorant fools' very carefully?
Dawkins: I did.
RT: Is that how you see people who believe in creationism and intelligent design?
Dawkins: Not all of them are fools, but all those who belive in creationism and intelligent design are either ignorant or fools,. It's not a shame to be ignorant, it's no crime to be ignorant, I don't blame people who are ignorant, I'm ignorant of lots of things.... all I'm trying to say is that in order not to believe in evolution you have to be either ignorant or foolish...

(this is great because I just finished reading The Selfish Gene, which I highly recommend despite its age of nearly 30 years)