Archive for December, 2013

Gazing into the Future

Posted: December 31, 2013 in General Rants

It is the first day of a new year.  As people awake with aching heads and cotton mouths, resolutions in abundance, I am left wondering why this single day in our multi-year existence carries so much weight.  I’ve been warned to be careful what I do on New Years Day – never ever do laundry – because what you do on this day will set the stage for the whole year.  If this was true, then a lot more people would stick with their resolutions. 2014 is really just a continuation of the life I’ve been living for 43 years. Realistically, the most noteworthy point of today is that it is the last of my days off.

Yet while I know this day is really nothing special in the greater scheme of things, it feels like it is a natural point to demarcate different phases of my life and this compels me to look forward to what may be for the next 365 days.

What better way to do this than looking at horoscopes!  Let me make it clear, I do not believe in horoscopes and teach about the Barnum Effect in my courses, but I am still intrigued by their existence.  I think one of the reasons horoscopes persevere is that no one ever really checks up on their accuracy. Even those who read them in their morning paper probably forget what they say by the time they’ve cleaned up the breakfast dishes. When we do remember, it is probably due to something actually coming to pass and the rarity of this occurrence puts it on our radar. The problem is, we notice and remember the rare but not the common. So when looking back over time, we will remember the times that were accurate, but not the times that weren’t, giving the illusion that horoscopes were accurate far more frequently than they actually were.

Also, in general horoscopes are worded to be sufficiently vague that they could be interpreted in multiple ways. This then makes it more difficult to say if something did or did not come to pass. If we truly want to believe that our horoscopes were accurate, then we can simply interpret the predictions to fit the outcomes.

Having said this, I’m going to note some of the predictions for 2014  from a few different sources and return to this at the end of the year evaluate just how accurate they were.

Western Horoscope – Libra

” If change is what you want, change is what you will jolly well get!” – But what if change isn’t wanted? This one is quite tricky. If at the end of the year I see that nothing has really changed, I could interpret this prediction as accurate by saying that I didn’t really want change.

“relationships take ridiculously high precedence in 2014” – This is another curious one.  What is ridiculously high? What relationships?

“You’re still being drawn to people with a slightly mad edge so, of course, that brings its own adventures!” – hahahaha Drawn to or scientifically curious about?

“Life is about to feel infinitely sweeter in 2014” – what does sweet feel like? Clearly open to interpretation.

“Jupiter continues to bring luck and bounty to your career zone during the first half of the year, so take full advantage of this fortunate influence while its hot.”  – Hmmmmm first half of the year. The promotions round is in October.  Dang.

“Lucky Jupiter started bringing you the goods for success, opportunities galore and perhaps even a bit of fame.” – Oooooo I could take some fame. But how much is a bit? How many people have to know my name before I become famous.  Luria is a very famous neuroscientist, but I suspect very few people outside of the field know who he is!

“you are totally starting to see how important it is to create a budget and stick to it in order to take your dreams and goals to the next notch” – I would prefer something with the words treasure trove or windfall. Totally.

Chinese Zodiac – The Dog

“There are horoscope signs to suggest Dog individuals will seek other options in employment and be very successful in attaining new positions.” – Considering I’ve only been in my current position for 6 months, I’m not sure how to take this. I know I am vulnerable to wanderlust, but 6 months is pretty short, even for me!

“Careful budgeting and self-sacrifice will be needed to re-establish structure and order.” – Damn, still no prediction of independent wealth. I am actually very careful with my money and don’t tend to spend more than I have. Does this mean I’ll have to be even more conservative? ugh.

“Those of the Chinese Dog are advised to be careful of minor accidents in 2014 which could cause them to become immobilised for a short period of time. ” – Anyone who has met me knows that I am extremely clumsy, and if there is a chance for me to trip and fall, I probably will.  I do tend to be quite cautious and avoid danger, so hopefully 2014 will come and go without becoming immobilised , even for a short period of time.

Well, there it is, my upcoming year predicted.  Good for relationships, excellent for my career, mediocre for money and the risk of minor accidents.  Now I just have 1 year to wait to look back and evaluate the veracity of these predictions.

I wish everyone the best of their predictions, and hope any inaccuracies are in the bad bits.

2013

Posted: December 31, 2013 in Uncategorized

Well. There it was. I have 12 hours left of 2013 and it is time to reflect on what has been quite an action packed year.

It began with my family in Canada. I think I need to go back every once in a while to remind me what winter is all about.  I’ve said it before and I mean it, I’m probably more cold in Australian winters because they are completely in denial of their weather and refuse to acknowledge proper heating and insulation. But there is something about the biting cold in an Albertan winter that is truly unique.  The bracing wind like sandpaper on your skin. The same wind that makes your eyes water. Though lord knows how it would be evolutionarily adaptive to have frozen drops of water on your eyelashes.

Despite the freezing cold, I made my Dad take me to my favourite place on earth – Heritage Park in Calgary. Seriously, it is my favourite place ever. Only to be made better if they banned children. Alas because it was the dead of winter, and only open for a special Christmas event, many of the areas were not open.  The trains are by far the best part of the entire park and they were very sadly not open for viewing. But I did get this amazing view of the Glenmore Reservoir.

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These beautiful winter scenes make the snotcicles almost bearable. This trip I tried to soak up everything I had been missing. This meant a Tim Horton’s double-double every day.  Hawkins Cheesies. And chicken wings that aren’t $4 each. And what is more Canadian that dogsledding!?

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This was an amazing day.  The crisp blue skies with the white dreamy clouds set the perfect stage for the majesty of the mountains. Despite nearly freezing my butt off, it was a truly spectacular day.

The surprise of the day? My guide was Australian. Yep. Australian.

Later that month I returned to North America for job interviews in Maine and Boston.  I really, really wanted the Maine job, but alas it wasn’t meant to be. But the visit wasn’t wasted. I got to experience one of the worst snow storms on record and spent an entire day in a hotel.

While I didn’t land the job in Maine, I did get a new job in Melbourne, the best city in Australia.

I chose my apartment for it’s character. It is an old, Art Deco building with curved walls and an amazing old phone box.

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Alas, character doesn’t keep you warm, and while this place is very cool, it is also very cold. When it is 6 degrees outside, it is 6 degrees in here.  There were even some days when I’m pretty sure it was colder inside that it was outside!

Within weeks of moving in, I hopped on a plane to Barcelona for a conference and foolishly agreed to rent a car and drive to Munich.  I’m pretty sure any other mode of travel would have been easier and cheaper. Seriously.

The highlight of the trip was Zermat, Switzerland. Despite our somewhat confused arrival.  Moments before I noted that the GPS said we had 16kms to go, but that our arrival time would still be an hour away.  Even the worst, windiest, hair raising mountain passes had been faster than that! Suddenly, the GPS announced that we had reached our destination but we struggled to spy our hotel. After circling the block a few times, we decided to park go into a different hotel to ask for directions. We were informed “You can’t drive to Zermat”.  Wha?

Apparently, our “destination” was the train station across the road.  Turns out, the ascent to Zermat is so steep and treacherous that driving is not a good idea.

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The most amazing thing was that we arrived in Zermat exactly when the GPS said we would!  I loved Zermat. It was like going home. The mountains are just so breathtaking and the Matterhorn did not disappoint.

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An unexpected bonus of trekking through the Swiss Alps? You can blame the thin air for gasping and wheezing and having to stop every 20 feet.

When I returned I settled into work and my new life in Melbourne, which has no shortage of amusement.

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Melbourne being a much older city than the one I come from, it has lots of ye olde stuff. Which I like, as you can see by my selection of apartment.

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Excuse me, I need to use the convenience. ahem.

I think it’s very fitting to begin the year in a Canadian winter and to end it with an Australian summer.  A lot has happened this year and I look forward to 2014 with much curiosity.

I wish you all the best for the new year. HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!!

I was trying to be funny. Dammit.

Posted: December 27, 2013 in General Rants

I’m growing more and more concerned that I look stupid. I fear that people out there actually believe, based on something about me, that I’m a complete moron.

An example. I was at work and asked a colleague for some Neurofen (Ibuprofen). I joked, “For as many anti-inflamatories as I take, you’d think I’d be thinner”. Another colleague, passing by, began to explain how anti-inflamatories work and how they couldn’t make a person thinner.

Blink. Blink.

Um, yeah. It was just a joke.

Then, I went to the mall to get the battery replaced in my watch. I handed the watch over and the kid behind the counter said “Come back in about 20 min.”. To which I replied, “You have my watch…”. He actually got quite stroppy and said there were clocks around the mall.

Just teasin’ ya son.

I have an iPhone.

The latest instance was with my dentist.

While cleaning my teeth, my dentist showed me a speck on his glove and informed me this spec was tartar. Now, I suppose what I could have said was “I’ve been going to the dentist at least once a year for all of my life. I’ve been told this before”. What actually came out of my mouth was,

“Oh, I thought that stuff was petrified popcorn husks.”

He actually started to correct me.

Blink. Blink. Blink.

Do I actually look so dim that I would actually believe this? I’m pretty sure I’m not walking around with my mouth gaping.

I may be crazy, but I’m not stupid.

You are only one.

Posted: December 26, 2013 in Tales of Travel and Woe

Being a solo traveler has it pluses and minuses. There is no one to watch your bags at the airport so there is a bit of toilet Tetris to get you and your bags into the stall. There is no one to turn to and say “Look at that!”. There is no one to tell you when you’ve dropped chocolate topping down your front (I don’t even want to know what the people of Barcelona thought that was). And when you’re on a tour, filled with couples, you definitely feel a bit of a 5th, 7th or 9th wheel.

In July 2012 I went to a conference in South Africa.  I was actually travelling with a colleague and her partner, but because they were a couple, I was still an odd number. We decided to go on safari in the Kruger National Park.  If you ever get the chance, solo or otherwise, I wholeheartedly recommend it.  However, if you go in their winter (July) please note. It gets bloody cold at night.

At every turn – checking in, creating a tab, collecting gear, I was questioned “You are only one?”. Yes, I am only one. I was also paying extra to be only one in my own room. This kind of bothers me, but it is better than being stuck sharing with a stranger. Once everyone in the company was aware that I was only one, the question turned to statement. When instructions were given, I often got separate instructions starting with – “You. You are only one”. And then I was told what to do when being eaten by a lion without a buddy to run for help.

I’m kidding of course.

But after a day or so, it became quite the joke, so on our final night when we arrived at our camp out spot laughter ensued with our lovely guide Bernard pointed out that I could tell which platform was mine, because it only had one chair.

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But I had the last laugh on that trip.  Being only one, but staying in rooms designed for two, I had two hot water bottles and twice the bedding that anyone else had. AND on the sleep out, I figured since I am only one, I would like to sleep next to the fire instead of freezing my butt off in tent by myself. There was certainly room for one me.  (That’s not me in the photo).

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When I asked Bernard if I would be allowed to bring my sleeping bag and sleep next to the fire, there may have been a bit of translation lost in his reply – “That is where I sleep. Do you want to sleep with me?”

I can tell you my head almost popped off resisting the urge to say,  “Well, I am only one”.

I had the best and warmest sleep of anyone, except for Bernard who was on the other side of the fire, because I was only one.

Christmas in Australia

Posted: December 25, 2013 in General Rants

Merry Christmas Everyone!

It is a glorious, sunny morning heading to a top of 30 degrees.

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And 7 years on this weather combined with Christmas carols nearly blows a synapse in my brain.

Clad in shorts and sandals, I ventured out to get some photos to illustrate what Christmas in Melbourne looks like.

Christmas trees are still an icon of the season.

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I took advantage of the free trams and trains on Christmas day and went into the city to view the window displays at Myer Department store.  Along the way I was surprised to see just how many people were in the city, and just how many businesses were open. McDonalds was open, but KFC was closed.  Come on, chicken is way more christmassy than burgers.

The city is decorated very much like cities back home. This is Melbourne city hall. Does anyone else see the irony of government being wrapped in red tape?

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I had actually thought that on Christmas morning the city centre would be bare and I would be able to take some clear pictures of the display windows.  Alas, the place was swarming.

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From here I went to St. Kilda. Melbourne’s historic beach.  Nothing says Christmas like a bathing suit and santa hat!

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And someone was spreading the christmas message in the sand.

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I have to say, I don’t know if Christmas will ever feel like Christmas in Australia, but even just as a day off work, touring around Melbourne it’s a pretty good day. And I have fresh mangoes.

And in Australia we have Rockwiz and their christmas specials.  I didn’t make a Christmas CD this year, so here is my music contribution. Enjoy!

(I’m not sure why it isn’t just playing on the page, sorry!)

 

Out of My Whitsundays

Posted: December 23, 2013 in Tales of Travel and Woe

It seemed like a good idea. I was going to Airlie Beach on the train (another post) so I needed to find something to do while I was there instead of just turning around and flying home. So I decided a boat tour was just the thing.  I trolled the internet to find just the right one.  Then I found the site that said “No backpackers and no children” and I was sold.

The novelty of it being an old-fashioned wooden sailboat was an added bonus.

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It really is an amazing boat, The Alexander Stuart. There is a book on board explaining how one family along with a family friend hand-built the boat of a 30 year span. The craftsmanship is exceptional.

I had very specific visions for the trip. I wanted a slow, lazy trip involving a lot of sitting, some reading, a bit of scenic panorama viewing, and absolutely no thinking. When I learned that my friend and I were the only guests on this tour I was both ecstatic and apprehensive. Not liking people, I was very glad to be free of small talk and telling people about the dietary habits of the people of Tepozlan (see About page for explanation). However I was acutely aware that as the sole passengers, we would be unable to fly under the radar.  The staff would be focused on us entirely. This created a sinking suspicion that slow and lazy would be off the menu. (By the way, Sinking Suspicion is what I will name my own yacht when I win the lottery).

Upon boarding we were taken to our cabins. Being the only guests we were upgraded from our shared twin bunk room.  Yay!!  The crew referred to the rooms as staterooms.  I’m not entirely sure what distinguishes a cabin from a stateroom, but on size alone, I’ll go with cabin.  I’m not complaining. I was quite in love with the warm wooden coziness of my tiny space, but I imagine staterooms to be much grander.

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As most boats do, it curves to a point in the front, so too did the bed. The bed was also very short. Again, I’m not complaining because I am also very short, and I enjoyed feeling much taller than I am, when my feet were flat against the wall.  I dreamt of life as a supermodel, reaching top shelves and folding bed sheets without dragging them on the ground.

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But I did wonder how on earth anyone over 5’4” could possibly sleep. Even more, how could two people sleep comfortably since these rooms would typically house couples. What about two tall people?!  I mean, people usually choose to mate with their own species. Yes, I’m referring to tall and short people as different species.  Like Hobbits and Elves.

We then went up to the deck for snacks and a debriefing of what to do in the event of an emergency. This mostly centred around what to do if you fall overboard. So what are you meant to do if you fall overboard? Make as much noise as you can.  Barring a lung-full of sea water I assure you, I will sound like a hundred angry cats being bathed. Should someone else go overboard, my job is to point and make a lot of noise. Yep, point and scream.  Kudos to sailing people to go with the instinctive response of most humans.

The weather called for strong winds for the entire trip. Being a sailboat this was probably a good thing, but it did make for some very rocky seas and insane, untamable hair. Despite the headband and hair tie, I continually found my hair whipping my face like an unresponsive mule.  I tried to wear a hat, but the wind actually blew it off my head, and into the sea.  Luckily, one of the bean bags off the deck snapped its tether and also went over, so my hat was saved in the rescue mission. Making the hair situation worse, I was not allowed to wash my long hair in the shower as it would gum up the works. I was, however, allowed to wash it with a hose on deck.

If I thought the cabin was small, the toilet/shower/sink was positively microscopic.

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Someone pointed out to me that this would not be a good bathroom to be seasick in.  But also, there were 4 men on this boat and men aren’t known for their accuracy on steady ground let alone on rocky, turbulent seas.  Maybe the bathroom is this small to limit the distance that someone could tip over?

The rocky seas made for amusing movements. Every time I walked down the hall to my cabin, I essentially pin-balled the entire way.  Near the end of the trip, it became a kind of game, trying to make my last bounce shoot me into my own cabin.  It was a tough shot, but I nailed it a couple of times.

Unfortunately, my initial fears of being the only guests were founded, and for 3 days we were harangued about not taking part in all of the activities. Hiking during march fly season (horse flies to Canadians) is a recipe for disaster. And I can assure you, no one wants to see me in a neoprene dive suit. No one. 

The other problem with being the only guests, we were required to help with raising and lowering the sails. Danger, Will Robinson.  Now, recall my inability to walk down the hall without bouncing off the walls. Now put me on deck with nothing to hold onto except a wiggly rope. Despite my fervent assertions that I had the upper body strength of a kitten, and my obvious inability to stay upright on the rocking boat, day after day I was tasked with helping to raise and lower the sails while the deckhand barked incomprehensible orders at me.  I’m on holiday!!!!

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The crew made my every attempt at perfecting sloth near impossible.  However by the last day they gave up trying to make me into an adventure traveller and we enjoyed a quiet day just sailing around, enjoying the amazing views.

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My favourite picture from the trip. Also illustrating the lilt of the boat.

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All in all? I probably wouldn’t do it again. The focus of these trips appears to be much more on activity than the inactivity I was looking for. And activities that are not particularly appealing to the middle-aged, slightly overweight, book-nerd set. But there were sublime moments of peace and beauty that could only be had from a sailboat.

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The sea will never be my life, my love or my lady, but watching the moonrise through the porthole, then heading to my cabin to be rocked to sleep by the sea herself is something to treasure.

I can’t hear you!

Posted: December 22, 2013 in General Rants

Maybe I’m getting old and losing my hearing.  Maybe I’m getting old and losing my interest in hearing.  Either way I’m finding more and more that I’m missing what people are saying.  It is very frustrating. Possibly frustrating for the people I’m not hearing, but that doesn’t really matter – this blog is about me.

These are a few of my pet peeves.

When I say “Pardon?” and you repeat yourself at the same volume, I probably still can’t hear you. If I then say “I’m sorry, I can’t hear you” and again you repeat yourself at the same volume, then clearly you aren’t hearing me! Seriously, from now on if someone doesn’t speak up on the 3rd try I’m going to respond with something unrelated and possibly nonsensical like “I think carrots would be better” and then walk away.

Please don’t start talking when I leave the room.  Rooms are divided up by these things called walls. They are pretty handy for maintaining privacy and were brilliantly designed to go from the floor all the way up to the ceiling. One of their many benefits is that they buffer sound allowing you to go to bed while someone else is watching telly in the living room and not be bothered by the noise (unless your room-mate is losing their hearing and have the volume up very high).  Anyhoo, if you start talking when I leave the room, the walls will make it difficult for me to hear you. You have a few options.  1) call my name loudly to draw me back into the room you are in and then commence talking, 2) follow me into whatever room I’ve gone into and commence talking or 3) wait until I return of my own volition and then commence talking.

Please don’t start talking just when I turn the tap on, or start the vacuum, or the blender.  These are very noisy objects and will likely drown out the sound of your voice (though never when I actually want to….).

If you say an entire sentence, and I say “what?” I probably missed the whole sentence. Or, if I catch any of it, I probably caught the end when I started paying attention. It is very irritating when you only repeat the last two words.

“Mwa mwa mwa mwa mwa the dog”.

“What?”.

“The dog”.

What dog? What about it? Seriously?

This is why I’m going crazy.

Yes, I am a psychologist. No I will not help you with your problems (but in a pinch I will direct you to someone who can). I have started this blog because I have a lot of ideas and even more opinions and realistically keeping a journal just seems so passé.

It is a curious thing to start a blog.  One presumes that someone will read the entries, but it is quite likely that no one ever will.

I have just spent an agonising hour trying to choose my blog theme and there is a solid chance that no one will ever see it rendering my angst unnecessary.  Funny – the possibility of someone reading this is great enough to compel me to sift through the themes repeatedly, previewing all of the candidates multiple times, but not great enough to compel me to shell out money for a fancy one.

It reminds me of an episode of WKRP in Cincinnati where Johnny Fever calls on listeners to dump their garbage on the steps of city hall in protest of a garbage removal strike. When hundreds of people do so, it is a shock realisation of how many people who actually listen to him.  Please do not dump your garbage on the steps of city hall. However please feel free to comment and let me know you’re reading.

About the name.  When I was in grad school, and coming to the depressing conclusion that psychology is like a deep, drunk conversation, I dreamed of leaving it all behind, moving to Ireland and opening a pub called The Shrinking Head.  Like psychologists, everyone tells their woes to the bartender. The difference being the bartender doesn’t have to actually do anything.  And most importantly, they can read books for fun and drink beer to be serious.

The entries in this blog are my own opinion. Some may be based on psychological or neurological science, but often it will just be my own ramblings about the absurd.  Please do not take the content as fact.  Indeed in psychology there is no such thing as fact – merely supposition until evidence is found that proves us wrong.