Archive for the ‘General Rants’ Category

All or Nothing Thinking

Posted: May 16, 2017 in General Rants

I was just on Facebook, as one is, and was reading about the powerful retaliation against Leonardo DiCaprio’s stance on the environment. The argument goes something like “How can he claim he cares about the environment when he flies a jet which has a big carbon footprint?”.

I think this is a big part of why people deny climate change theory – or parts thereof. The human brain cannot reconcile two seemingly opposing ideas, and most people engage in at least some behaviours that are not environmentally friendly.  For example, I love road trips and driving for the sake of driving. I also know that the carbon emissions from doing so are contributing to the climate problems we are facing.

How can I justify my behaviours if I acknowledge the damage it does to our environment.  This is called cognitive dissonance. Our brains don’t like when our behaviours don’t match our beliefs compelling us to change our behaviours, or change our beliefs.

One of the early psychological experiments on cognitive dissonance is one of my all time favourite psychological experiments.  A group of participants was brought in to the lab and asked to eat a cracker with a tiny fleck of fecal matter on it – yep, that means poo.  In reality it was a tiny crumb of a chocolate brownie, so don’t freak out, but the participants were told it was poo.

Now here’s the important part.  Half of the participants were given $10 for their participation and the other half were not given anything.

After the poo eating, participants rated how disgusting it was.  Those who were paid $10 said it was awful!  Hideous! The worst thing ever!  Those who were paid nothing said it was fine, no big deal, not so bad.

Same poo, different disgustingness?

The researchers argued that the people who were paid had an external way of justifying their behaviour. In other words these participants were able to say they ate this horrible, disgusting poo because they got paid. Their beliefs about the disgustingness of the poo did not conflict with what they did. The people who were paid nothing, had no way to justify engaging in something so disgusting – their behaviour did conflict their beliefs – so they had to change their beliefs to justify their behaviour.

When we love something like driving, or the convenience of something like an electric dryer, it is a struggle to justify these behaviours if we believe we are damaging the environment, and currently the joy of driving/using the dryer/using plastic cutlery with takeaway/quad-ing or snowmobiling/and so on is strong enough that it compels us to change our beliefs.

If we could acknowledge both, accept that we are doing some damage, would it possible to make minor adjustments?  If we don’t acknowledge the problem, we’ll never change our behaviours that are contributing to it. So maybe we have to start saying something like – “I love driving, and it damages the environment so I’m going to hand my clothes to dry and minimize the plastic I consume.”  It’s better than not changing at all.

Naomi Campbell joins march to stop violence against women    O.o

Fa Fa Fa Fa Fashion

Posted: March 8, 2014 in General Rants

When I was in grad school I had the misfortune of teaching a research methods lab at 8am. Every morning I would look at my group of bleary eyed, dishevelled, sweatpant wearing students.  Except one.  I can’t remember her name but she looked like a supermodel.  Not only was she naturally beautiful, she had clearly styled her hair, expertly applied her make-up and chosen a very nice outfit right down to the shoes. I remember thinking, “What time do you wake up to accomplish this and still get to class on time?”

In my world, very little trumps sleep. And you need only look at me to see this.  I am also blessed with not feeling the need to look beautiful for many of my regular activities be they in the privacy of my own home (e.g. scrubbing the floor) or in public (e.g. grocery shopping).  I see university – as a student – as another activity that really doesn’t require one to dress up, let alone glam up. (Who am I kidding, I can hardly be bothered to dress up for university as a lecturer.)

But this week, the first week of semester, I have been continually struck by the efforts that students are going through to fancy themselves up. I saw one student, teetering up the stairs to the book store in stiletto heels that most strippers would balk at.

It isn’t that I don’t think fashion and academia mix. I don’t think you need to be dowdy to be smart. What I don’t understand is the obvious suffering when it isn’t necessary.  Well, I don’t understand that at the best of times, but anyhoo. You will still learn what you need to learn regardless of what you’re wearing. And possibly you’ll learn more if you’re not in pain.

I don’t know if I will ever understand the polished, preened and podiatrically adventurous. Especially in instances where it doesn’t seem even remotely necessary.

It’s funny ’cause it’s sad

Posted: February 6, 2014 in General Rants

I saw this ad on a news website.  I have highlighted the critical word – friend. Singular.



Posted: February 5, 2014 in General Rants

According to this article, rats could grow to be the size of sheep.

The argument is that as other, larger species become extinct, the rats will take advantage of the job opening and grow to fill it.  I suspect that this article will be quite alarming to some, but when you think of it – Why?

What makes rats creepy?  They live in dark, dank places like sewers and basements and rubbish bins. But if they were the size of sheep, that would no longer be possible.  They would have to move above ground or risk plugging up the works.

There are already rodents as big as sheep.  The Capybara is native to South America and are pretty darned cute (I took this pic off the internet from a Huffington Post article).


I mean come on.  It’s so cute it hurts.

Another large rodent that is near and dear to my own heart is the noble and majestic beaver.


Who could be afraid of this??? Clearly sweet and god fearing and praying… (Picture also lifted from the ever giving internet).

I suppose the biggest downside would be their unsuitability for laboratory studies. We’d have to use hedge mazes to test them. Although, we already have giant hamster balls for them to play in (currently being used by people with hamster sized brains, again, picture totally pilfered off the net).


But since animal testing is growing less and less acceptable, this drawback is unlikely to be an issue by the time ratsheep  arrive.

So, people of the earth, fear not the rodents of unusual size. Unlike most animals, they seem to get cuter as they get bigger.

Every Once in A While

Posted: February 4, 2014 in General Rants

My crumbling faith in human kind receives a bit of fresh mortar.

Thank you Brent Lindeque of South Africa

Scaredy Chaps

Posted: January 31, 2014 in General Rants

Further proof that women are the dominant gender – men are afraid of the weirdest stuff.

If you ask a man to grab something out of your purse for you, he will bring you your purse. Ok, maybe not always, but probably 99% of the time.  I don’t know what kind of hand mutilating snare you think is in there, but I assure you there is nothing that can hurt you.  One guy actually said to me, “There could be female product things in there.” Again, I don’t know how you think they work, but if we use them in our most vulnerable region, they certainly won’t cut, pinch or abrade you.

The other day I encountered another situation illustrating a pathological male fear.  The ladies washroom.

Our washrooms at work have motion sensor lights. I’m not sure why, but the motion sensors never sense me. I can tell you it is slowly wearing down my self-esteem to be so blatantly invalidated.

I had one foot propping the door open to let in light and was waving my arms like a fool trying to get the lights to come on when a man came out of the mens washroom across the hall. Not wanting him to assume I was a raving lunatic, I explained I could not get the lights to come on.

He came over and suggested that perhaps if I walked further into the room, the lights might come on. He held the door as I went all the way to the far wall, still waving my arms like a hysterical orang-utan. He suggested maybe if I waved my hand under the air dryer, the lights would come on.  Adding salt to my wounds, this second device also refused to acknowledge my existence. I was about to suggest the power to the whole washroom might be out when the man took a single step into the washroom, but then immediately stepped back out and gave a tentative meerkat glance into the washroom.

Um. If there is someone in here lurking in the dark, we have more to worry about than you being spotted in the women’s washroom.

And thanks for sending me into the deep dark corners of a washroom that may be housing the kind of super-villian that would lurk in a dark ladies room!

Chivalry? Dead.

I am not so sure why men are so afraid to go into a women’s washroom, but I’ve witnessed this before.  Women may avoid mens toilets, but that is mostly because we expect them to be urine soaked cesspools of bacteria. But we certainly have no problem bypassing the inevitable queue to the ladies room and heading into the mens when needed.

Why we are not ruling the world is beyond me.

Anthropomorphising is the attributing of human characteristics to non-human objects. Ranging from objects that are similar to humans, such as animals, to those that are decidedly not, like lamps.

One of my favourite tv commercials of all time is one from Ikea, which illustrates this phenomenon brilliantly.

Some might argue that the music and staging with the depressing rain creates the sense that this poor lamp has feelings.  But consider this short video clip.

I use this video clip in talks I give to various groups and people from 8 to 80 are able to articulate the story that they see. They are able to attribute personality traits, thoughts and emotions to the characters. This is truly astounding when you consider the actual content of the clip – lines and shapes moving about on a screen!

Humans are exceptionally good at anthropomorphising because we are painfully egocentric.  This is the way we are, therefore everything under the sun must be too.  We don’t actually know the experiences of other things, so we project our own onto them as our best guess. Dogs, creatures that don’t even understand not to look at your hand when you are pointing to something, through the absurdity of anthropomorphisation have deep and complex thoughts about the world.  Even more strangely they can be quite critical if they spy you doing something stupid.  I’m pretty sure I’ve had a cat roll her eyes at me.  The mind boggles at what she could have been thinking. Whatever it was could probably be summed up with “stupid human”.

The truth is, we’ll never know what cats are thinking. We don’t even know if they think as we define it – their brains are the size of walnuts for pity’s sake!

Well, I’ve taken this absurdity one step further.  I’ve attributed a tree with abilities that even humans don’t possess.


Yes, telepathy.

There is a tree I pass every day on the way to work.  A very strange tree, of the like I’ve never seen before.


It has very rough, splintered bark.


In the winter, when it had no leaves, I had the thought that it was ugly.

And then I felt guilty. As if it could read my thoughts AND feel hurt by them.

To this day I feel a little bad when I walk past it. I tried to think better of it as spring arrived and it grew leaves and blossomed with strange, white, puff-ball flowers.

It is absolutely absurd to think the tree could possibly know that I thought it was ugly, let alone care! And that I mentally tried to make amends.

And if it did, it would take one look at me and think “Whatever, have you seen your hair?”

Further proof that I am indeed crazy.

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.

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.