Sunday, January 29, 2006
Penguins maintain their box-office power. Warner Brothers Studios will release Happy Feet in November. According to IMDB, it is a movie about a tapdancing Emperor penguin. The trailer, available here, combines on the only two good parts of Madagascar: the penguins and the dance number done by the lemurs. On the plus side, the animation includes several different, recognizable penguin species. Since the animators were nice enough to do that, we'll overlook that they mix Adelies and Rockhoppers, which nest on the ice-free coastal areas, with the Emperors, which nest on the fast ice.
"Gay cowboys are the new penguin."
I have to go now and find something--anything--else to think about. If I let that sentence rattle around in my head much longer, my brain is going to explode and leak out my ears.
Friday, January 27, 2006
The Implicit Association Test gets around that by operating on the basic principle that your mind works faster when you are doing less mentally straining tasks. On the surface, these tests are all one task: sorting words or phrases into two groups, and to make it even easier, they tell you the groups up front. For example, the test for skin tone preference has you sorting drawings of light-skinned faces from dark-skinned faces, and positive words like "happy" and "laughter" from negative words like "hate" and "pain." If you end up sorting faster when asked to put light-skinned faces in the same column as positive words than when asked to put dark-skinned faces with positive words, you have an implicit bias toward lighter skin because your brain has to think a little more to pair up dark and good. It's very hard to fool the test.
On the ones I have done so far, I show a strong preference to women being in the home and men in the workplace, am pro-Semitic, and show a slight preference for lighter skin tones. No real surprises there, except that I didn't think my housewife bias was as strong as it apparently is. More telling than anything are the tests I am reluctant to try because I'm not sure I want to confirm what I suspect are the results.
Thursday, January 26, 2006
My house was built in 1981, and I am beginning to think it has that same problem. The parking brake works, but as soon as I fix one thing, something else breaks. Yesterday afternoon, I finally figured out that whole retaining nut thing and got my bathroom sink drain cleared. Yesterday evening, as I was washing dishes, the sink sprayer snapped off in my hand. If I didn't need my kitchen sink, I would hesitate to fix that, as I fear what will go next.
Wednesday, January 25, 2006
Shortly before the last Presidential election, researchers plunked committed Democrats and Republicans in fMRI machines to record brain activity as it happens. They then fed them statements from George W. Bush, John Kerry, and neutral male figures like Tom Hanks, and asked the study participants to mentally resolve obvious discrepancies in several statements made by each man.
What they found:
Another finding in the study shows this occurs outside conscious awareness. For some reason, I do not find that comforting.
"We did not see any increased activation of the parts of the brain normally engaged during reasoning," says Drew Westen, director of clinical psychology at Emory who led the study. "What we saw instead was a network of emotion circuits lighting up, including circuits hypothesized to be involved in regulating emotion, and circuits known to be involved in resolving conflicts." Westen and his colleagues will present their findings at the Annual Conference of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology Jan. 28.
Once partisans had come to completely biased conclusions -- essentially finding ways to ignore information that could not be rationally discounted -- not only did circuits that mediate negative emotions like sadness and disgust turn off, but subjects got a blast of activation in circuits involved in reward -- similar to what addicts receive when they get their fix, Westen explains....
Behavioral data showed a pattern of emotionally biased reasoning: partisans denied obvious contradictions for their own candidate that they had no difficulty detecting in the opposing candidate. Importantly, in both their behavioral and neural responses, Republicans and Democrats did not differ in the way they responded to contradictions for the neutral control targets, such as Hanks, but Democrats responded to Kerry as Republicans responded to Bush.
While reasoning about apparent contradictions for their own candidate, partisans showed activations throughout the orbital frontal cortex, indicating emotional processing and presumably emotion regulation strategies. There also were activations in areas of the brain associated with the experience of unpleasant emotions, the processing of emotion and conflict, and judgments of forgiveness and moral accountability.
Tuesday, January 24, 2006
The keepers at Amazon World have given up hope that Toga will be found alive. The reward is still out there for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the heartless penguin-nappers who would steal a chick right out from under his parents.
Sunday, January 22, 2006
Also in the article linked above, Brent Bozell, head of the Parents Television Council called the TV ratings system "an inconsistent, arbitrary, and capricious mess." I have an idea that will solve both our problems. Since the Parents Television Council already sits around watching TV all day and counting the number of times their delicate sensibilities are offended, let's bring them into the process earlier. Let them watch every moment of television programming and every advertisement before it gets put on air, and have a panel of them agree on a rating for each show and ad. They wouldn't get to veto anything, but they would be able to make sure a consistent and non-arbitrary standard is applied to rating the programs in accordance with their Family Values. Given the 500-odd channels available, that should keep them too busy to file carbon-copy complaints to the FCC every time someone says "dick."
Saturday, January 21, 2006
Seriously. Who funds these things? I have some beachfront property I'm looking to get rid of, and I would like to talk to them. The study examined random purchases at Danish supermarkets, categorizing them by the type of alcohol (if any) purchased, and comparing the other items purchased with wine, beer, a combination of wine and beer, or no alcohol. After analyzing 3.5 million purchases, researchers found wine purchases were accompanied by fruits, vegetables, low fat cheese and poultry, whereas beer purchases were more often accompanied by sugar, cold cuts, chips and pork.
I don't suppose anyone thought to just look at chicken marsala versus beer battered--well, so many things can be beer battered and deep fried.
Friday, January 20, 2006
Thursday, January 19, 2006
This was tried in the late 60's and unfortunately not every 18 year old could pass muster. That is why liquor can not be consumed until 21. There were many crazy auto accidents and other stupid acts that resulted in loss of life.I do appreciate the thoughtful comments people leave here, especially the ones I might not wholeheartedly agree with. Post anonymously if you like, or feel free to use a comment pseudonym.
Since the late 60's were about a decade before my time, I will take the author at his or her word about the unfortunate effects of allowing alcohol consumption at age 18. The liquor-soaked bacchanals of many contemporary 21st birthday celebrations are not what I would consider the hallmark of maturity, either. No matter what the age, there will always be some who cannot handle responsibility right off.
I proposed that the age of legal adulthood be set at 18 not as an assessment of maturity. Relative preparedness for responsibility rarely correlates with the minimum legal ages set for it. The voting age was changed to 18 to match the military conscription age, not because 18 year olds are emotionally mature enough to pick a world leader. I chose 18 because my overall proposal is that there be an age where, across the board, someone is considered an adult, and the age limit would apply to every right and responsibility given to an adult. I could have gone with 21, but I doubted many parents would favor a 3-year extension on the time before they can start nudging their offspring out of the nest.
Wednesday, January 18, 2006
Unfortunately, the suggestion to increase the enlistment age to 21 is not likely to fly for several practical reasons. The armed forces are hard up for recruits as is, and 17-18-year-olds are concentrated in convenient mandatory schools where they are accessible and for the most part lack other commitments. My solution to this problem of varying minimum ages would be to unilaterally declare that at age 18 one has all the rights and responsibilities of an adult. People are bound to make mistakes as they transition to adulthood. Sweet Mary, some politicians are claiming "youthful indiscretion" well into middle age. Young adults might drink too much, get into debt over their heads, crack up a car or two, sleep with or even marry someone they later regret, take up smoking, or do any number of unwise things. Making stupid mistakes is simply part of growing up. We do no one any services by stringing out the process by staggering the ages at which they can legally make those mistakes.
Varying minimum ages leads to an odd mix of what young adults can and cannot do. When I visited
- Driving solo and aborting a pregnancy require the same level of maturity (16 for both in most states)
- Depending on the state, casual sex is equal or less cognitively taxing (age of consent is 15-18 depending on the state) than marrying without parental consent (18 nationwide)
- Buying a new car (18) takes less maturity than renting one (25)
- Renting a car is cognitively equivalent to representing a district in the US House of Representatives (both 25)
- Gambling as a day trader in the stock market (18) takes less cognitive ability than gambling at the craps table (21)
Tuesday, January 17, 2006
Saturday, January 14, 2006
I can hear the sound of the collective forehead slap now, and the fevered sound of typing to give me all manner of excellent suggestions about how to get a snowblower home from the repair shop when it doesn't fit in the trunk. I could have used those a half an hour ago.
Friday, January 13, 2006
Best part: they have video (Quicktime file)
Yeah. What sort of idiot takes a snowblower in for repairs between snowstorms? Being prepared is so inconvenient.
Thursday, January 12, 2006
*-That may not seem like a big deal until you put your head through the car window in an accident and don't shred your face. I speak from experience.
Wednesday, January 11, 2006
Note to teachers: if a guest speaker’s bio contains a closed date range immediately after his name, (e.g. “Francis Crick, 1916-2004”), that means he is dead and very likely declining future invitations for speaking engagements.
As snarkiness is unbecoming, I will stop now.
I had to amend the headline when I posted it to an online forum of Mensa members, but the point is that smart people are still just people, and have all the same problems. The article highlights some of the personal problems and foibles of intelligent folks. Einstein ran around on his wife, Isaac Newton hated his stepfather, that sort of thing. I would question whether working on physics lectures in a strip club qualifies as "just like everyone else," but I suppose the point is that Richard Feynman went to such establishments, not what he did there.
I would love to know where the idea came from that highly intelligent people are somehow immune to having normal personalities. Everyone says I'm smart (me, I'm not so sure, but that seems to be the general consensus), yet I do more stupid things than anyone. Probably more than 3 anyones put together. For starters, I once confused the apple cider and the milk in the fridge and ended up mixing apple juice in my coffee.
Tuesday, January 10, 2006
Monday, January 09, 2006
I'm at one of those places in a discussion elsewhere on the internet. The next time I make a mildly off-color comment, you can be sure I will clarify when it is not born of personal experience. There seems to be some confusion on that point, and I'm now at the point described above.
Friday, January 06, 2006
On a completely different subject, the new Energizer battery commercial features penguins.
Thursday, January 05, 2006
Am I the only one seeing some common ground here? Even if it is only the pains of sorting out paperwork over a 3-day weekend, that is something to build on.
Wednesday, January 04, 2006
Which brings me to the other reason this is useful. It requires setting goals with specific endpoints, time frames for completion and objective measures of progress. "Get in shape" is a wishy-washy goal. "Lose x pounds by October 31" is a solid, measurable goal. It also allows a little wiggle room. If I don't write all of my 1,786 words one day, I can still be on track by writing more the next day. The whole goal doesn't fly out the window because of one setback.
Sunday, January 01, 2006
We also watched the TiVoed episode of Deal or No Deal. For a simple game show with no trivia or puzzles, it is oddly engrossing. I am anxious to find more episodes, not because I want to see it played, but because I think I can figure the whole thing out if I have a couple more episodes. They pick one of 26 briefcases presented by a bevy of attractive ladies. Each case has a dollar amount, ranging from $.01 to $1,000,000. The contestant then decides, after opening a number of cases, whether to stick with their original case with the unknown amount or to take an offer by the show's producers. In the episode we caught, the contestant passed up an offer of $138,000 because there was a 1 in 5 chance she could have had $500,000 in her case. She ended up going home with $25,000. That is a nice chunk of change even after taxes, but I imagine her marital bliss will be hampered for a while by arguments over "We could have had $138,000 if only...!"
The player on the episode we saw obviously had the mindset that she still had a chance at the highest value still in play, and any offer she took below that was costing her money. She seemed to forget that to get the largest dollar amount, she would have to play the game all the way out to the last case. I would go in assuming that I had the lowest amount still in play and plot my strategy accordingly. I would say that, depending on how many high dollar amounts are left in play, either the third or fourth offer is the logical stopping place. When the producers make the fourth offer, there are 8 amounts still left in play. Even if 2 of those are the big ones, that is still only a 1 in 4 chance of doing better. I'll take that, even if there is a chance of doing better if I were to play the game out longer. This is why I would make a terrible contestant on the show. The suspense seems to come from contestants who have never listened to Kenny Rogers. They will also need a smattering of contestants willing to go all the way to keep ratings up.