Saturday, January 31, 2015

Singalong! Killing Me Softly by The Fugees

I first learned about this song when a girl in my cul-de-sac taught me "actions" (where you do a 1 with your finger on the "one time" and then 2 on the "two times" - pretty difficult stuff.  Since then it has become, of other things, a great choice for karaoke.


KILLING ME SOFTLY
by The Fugees

Strumming my pain with his fingers,
Singing my life with his words,
Killing me softly with his song,
Killing me softly with his song,
Telling my whole life with his words,
Killing me softly with his song.

[WYCLEF:] Hi, yo yea yea.
This is wyclef refugee
El boogie up in here...
Rise well, little
While I'm on this I got my girl L one time! one time!
Hey yo L you know you got the lyrics!

I heard he sang a good song, I heard he had a style,
And so I came to see him and listen for a while.
And there he was this young boy, a stranger to my eyes,

Strumming my pain with his fingers (one time),
Singing my life with his words (two times),
Killing me softly with his song,
Killing me softly with his song,
Telling my whole life with his words,
Killing me softly with his song.

I felt all flushed with fever, embarrassed by the crowd,
I felt he found my letters and read each one out loud.
I prayed that he would finish, but he just kept right on...

Strumming my pain with his fingers (one time),
Singing my life with his words (two times),
Killing me softly with his song,
Killing me softly with his song,
Telling my whole life with his words,
Killing me softly with his song

[WYCLEF:] Yo L-Boogie, take it to the bridge

Strumming my pain with his fingers (yes, he was singing),
Singing my life with his words,
Killing me softly with his song,
Killing me softly with his song,
Telling my whole life with his words,
Killing me softly with his song.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Learning! The 10 most controversial psychology experiments ever published


Psychological experiments are fraught with ethical concerns, because they generally always rely on messing with peoples' heads, and that can be a fragile thing to do.  Of course, we figured that out over time, after a few not-so-kind experiments were performed and ethical guidelines ramped up exponentially.  These days, you have to get rounds of approval just to lie about the reason for your study to your participants - something that frequently needs to happen to keep people from tipping off the experiment by trying too hard one way or another.

I, of course, am thoroughly fascinated by these less-than-ethical experiments.  I know what they did is terrible, but we also garnered information we never would have otherwise known!  The conclusions are kind of thrilling.  (She says, revealing herself to be one of the biggest nerds of all time.)

Now, drumroll please, check out BPS Research Digest's compilation of the top 10 most controversial psychology experiments ever published!  Check their blog for their full analysis, my commentary is below.  Some of these I hadn't studied in school, which is even more exciting!

1) The Stanford Prison Experiment

This one has gone down in history as one of the most revealing and unethical experiments of all time, and gets recanted in almost every psychology class you'll take in an undergrad.  The experiment itself involved taking a group of college boys, randomly assigning them roles as prisoners or guards, and then locking them up in a dormitory overnight to see what would happen.  Well, turns out the guards quickly became totalitarian overlords, doling out punishments at whims, and the prisoners quickly became reserved, frightened, and either defiant or subservient.  The experiment was cut off early because of the behaviour of the participants.

The researcher (Zimbardo) interpreted this to say that "good people" will quickly and easily go bad, given the right role and circumstance.  This has, in true scientific nature, been refuted, but not entirely.

2) The Milgram "Shock Experiments"

Another one that shows good people gone bad, with barely a nudge from authority.  Here participants gave shocks that they thought were extremely painful, or possibly deadly, to another participant, with only the gentle encouragement of the researcher to urge them on.  Interestingly here, many of the participants who went all the way with the shocks did so at great personal distress, and others refused to participate at all, unfettered by the researcher's encouragements.

3) The use of elderly words to provoke slow walking.

One of many in a series of studies intended to show how dang suggestible we are, and how many little biases and preconceptions we have about types of people, this one fed people words that had to do with being elderly and observed them walking more slowly out of the lab than those who did not hear the primer words.

The controversy here?  Not making people walk slower but the fact that this has not yet been replicated, and that the original researcher got mighty angry when it happened.  Of course, if it happened once it didn't happen at all, as far as science is concerned, so this point is basically invisible.

4) Little Albert

This poor kid!  A toddler was conditioned to be afraid of white mice by being subjected to a loud, scary noise every time he saw one.  They were, of course, trying to prove that conditioning is possible based on external, unrelated factors, and boy, were they right.  Little Albert's fear extended not only to white mice, but anything white and fuzzy.  His mother rescued him from the experiment a tad too late, and refused to bring him back, so no one really knows if this crippled him for the rest of his life.

More controversy came later because apparently the results were a touch inconsistent, the methodology sloppy, and the child may have had a neurological disorder.  Still, poor Little Albert.  Poor, poor Little Albert.

5) Lost in the Mall

This was one of my favourites in university, because it showed how dang malleable our memories are.  An adult who, according to their parents, was never lost in the mall as a child, is then told the story of their frightening "lost" experience.  It's corroborated by a trusted source.  Suddenly, the person not only agrees that they did, indeed, experience that, but they add on to the story, reporting details that are completely made up.

This was intended to refute the sudden rash of "recovered memories" of sexual and physical abuse that were coming from hypnosis sessions and other less-than-ethical counsellors.  Because unhappy people with relationship issues who are in therapy and undergo hypnosis to figure out the root of their problem will not only believe the subtle suggestions that they were abused, but invent the memory.  How terrible is that?  Now their family is torn apart by a false memory of something that never happened.

6) Darryl Bem and Pre-Cognition

Ooohh!  This one is new to me!  In 2010, Darryl Bem did a study that showed people performed better at memory tests for words that they would study in the future, something he claimed showed some kind of pre-cognition.  This is enough to turn psychology on its head as it is, and while he made his methods readily available, no one was able to replicate and the journal that published his study refused to publish any other attempts, resulting in a big "replication crisis" in psychology.

7) Voodoo Correlations

Meh, this one is kind of dull, to be honest.  (My opinion, of course!)  Someone published a study saying that different parts of the brain link directly to different emotions, but their methods were shoddy.  The term "voodoo" was used to refer to "non-existent."

8) Anti-Depressant Placebos

The placebo effect is one of my favourite psychological phenomena.  Here, researched Kirsch did a meta-analysis of all published and unpublished research submitted to the FDA about antidepressants and found that people with mild-to-moderate depression fared no better than placebo.  This, of course, lead to dramatic headlines and a re-analysis of the data showing just the opposite, and another re-analysis of the data showing the same result but interpreting it differently.

9) The "Nurture Assumption"

Man, people get up in arms about results they don't like.  Here, Judith Harris found that kids are more shaped by their peer groups than their parents.  She describes it as concisely as is possible: "identical twins reared by different parents are (on average) as similar in personality as those reared by the same parents ... adoptive siblings reared by the same parents are as dissimilar as those reared by different parents ... [and] ... children reared by immigrant parents have the personality characteristics of the country they were reared in, rather than those of their parents' native land."

10) Free Will is a Lie

Libet's study used EEG readings of brain-wave patterns to discern that brain activity for an action begins before you have consciously decided to do it, leading him to assume there is no free will. Mostly the debate here is as to whether the conclusion is overstated or not. Do we have to be aware of our conscious decision to have made it? Philosophers, go nuts.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Inspiration! Get the order right.


"Inspiration usually comes during work, rather than before it." - Madeline L'Engle

This was a HUGE lesson for me. Like many creative-types, I used to sit around waiting for inspiration to strike. I would write when I felt like it and then mentally whine about not writing when I wasn't, and the busier life got, the fewer and further between the inspirations came. Then I realized that if I didn't make time for it, it would never happen. That's why I now have set "writing times" that are about as sacred as they can. I'm accountable to it, because I've gotten a few others together to join me in my endeavour of writing regularly. It's so good for all of us, it's amazing the impact it's had! Just start working.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Singalong! I'm a Cuckoo by Belle and Sebastian

Tomorrow is Robbie Burns Day!  (Or, as my Scottish friend informs me it's meant to be written, Rabbie Burns.)  Let's celebrate with a tune by Scottish songsters Belle and Sebastian.  This song is one of my favourite of theirs, partially because it is so uncharacteristic of them.  I first was introduced to it on a mix CD my friend made me (remember those).  The next time I saw him after listening to it, he asked what I thought of the Belle and Sebastian song.  I responded with something like, "oh it's great, I mean when are you not going to love Belle and Sebastian?", all the while racking my brain - I couldn't for the life of me remember a B&S song on the album!  Had I mistakenly not listened to the end?  I remembered looking at the playlist when I started listening and seeing it coming, but I hadn't been consulting throughout.  Of course, in my usual display of confidence and candour, I couldn't just admit  that I didn't know which one it was, and his confused look (he obviously expected a conversation about this sudden departure from melancholy the band had displayed) made me feel even sillier.  Alas!


I'M A CUCKOO
by Belle and Sebastian

I'm glad to see you
I had a funny dream
You were wearing funny shoes
You were going to a dance
You were dressed like a punk but you are too young
to remember

Glad to see you
I'm outside the house
I'm not thinking right today
I've got no energy
I'm glad that you are waiting with me
Tell me all about your day

Breaking off is misery
I see a wilderness for you and me
Punctuated by philosophy
And a wondering how things could've been

I'm happy for you
You've made it hard for me
I counted on your company
You are staying with your friends tonight
I'm feeling sorry for myself
I keep taking everything to be a sign

I'm happy for you
Now I know this hurt is poison
Too sharp to be bled
I'm sitting on my empty bed
On my empty bed
At night the fever grows it's pounding pounding

I'd rather be in Tokyo
I'd rather listen to Thin Lizzy-oh
Watch the Sunday gang in Harajuku
There's something wrong with me, I'm a cuckoo

Scary moment, lovin' every moment
I was high from playing shows
We lost a singer to her clothes
My trouble raised its ugly head
I was revealed
And I was home in bed
I was a kid again

Jesus told me, go after every coin like it was the last in
the world
And protect the wayward child
But I'm a little lost sheep
I need my Bo Peep
I know I need My Shepherd here tonight

Breaking off is misery
I see a wilderness for you and me
Punctuated by philosophy
And a wondering how things could've been

I'd like to see you
But really I should stay away
And let you settle down
I've got no claims to your crown
I was the boss of you
And I loved you
You know I loved you
It's all over now

I was there for you
When you were lonely
I was there when you were bad
I was there when you were sad
Now it's my time of need
I'm thinking, do I have to plead to get you by my side?

I'd rather be in Tokyo
I'd rather listen to Thin Lizzy-oh
Watch the Sunday gang in Harajuku
There's something wrong with me, I'm a cuckoo

Friday, January 23, 2015

Learning! Professor Astro Cat's Frontiers of Space

This could be the absolute finest educational book about space I have ever seen.  I want to buy one for everyone I know who has kids, plus many copies to save for the future children of the world (and maybe one extra for myself...)

Here's what you can learn from it:

What are the relative sizes of all the planets?  (Conveniently making the earth cherry tomato-sized.)

Buy the book. / Online source.

Where did the term "galaxy" come from, anyway?

Buy the book. / Online source.

What's our pathway to the moon?

Buy the book. / Online source.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Inspiration! The show must go on.


"The show doesn't go on because it's ready; the show goes on because it's 11:30." - Tina Fey

This sums up an amazingly important lesson I learned about getting things out there. Occasionally I like to write and produce theatre, and I generally do so with one of my best friends from theatre school. She is a lawyer now, and still one of the keenest directors and dramaturgs I know.

I noticed the past couple of times we worked, however, a slight change in approach between the two of us: I had developed a strong "the show must go on" attitude. Once we were on the path, the show was happening. If it wasn't perfect, that was okay. It had to go up. We had started. She, on the other hand, wanted to try to perfect it, and would occasionally suggest postponing, something I couldn't fathom.  It caused a touch of tension, from time to time.

Now, I'm not using this to try to be ammo that my way is right and hers is wrong, but to raise the conversation. I think she had a good point that if we knew the play was going to be terrible, maybe we should wait and work on it some more. I also think I had a point. After years of working for a producing theatre company I had come to realize that no one play defined anyone's career. Some companies or artists are known for putting on incredible work, but that by no means presupposes that everything they do is great, or even good. There's something in that continual churning out of work. Continually trying new things and adventuring through their art that, over time, produced excellence. Without naming names, I can think of a few companies that got incredibly mediocre reviews when they started and are now considered some of the most exciting companies in town.

Think about your other favourite artists, be they painters, writers, filmmakers, or musicians.  It is extremely unlikely that you love everything they made, except perhaps in a sort of nostalgic "this work was touched by this brilliant person"-type way.  Otherwise, their catalogue, if they produced a decent amount of work, is likely peppered with works you consider to be less-than.

The balance, I presume, is in being honest with yourself about where the project is, truly, and devoting as much of your energy to it as possible to make it as great as you can, right until the last possible second.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Living Alone: The Downsides

Living alone is generally the best.  You talk to people when you want to talk to people.  You stand in your kitchen "not eating" a bag of chips and dip and have to justify your actions to no one.  You have dance parties in your living room sans commentary.  You decorate your home exactly the way you want to and can work out in your living room any time of day wearing whatever level of clothing you feel like.  You sing songs to your cat without an audience and never have to negotiate the television.  Generally, it's bliss.

However, sometimes, there are things you just need another person to do and it can be tempting to drop into a dramatic hunch, sob dramatically, and cry out "I AM SO ALONE!"  Or am I the only one who does that?

Examples:


When you're congested and can't smell to tell whether or not the shirt you want to wear stinks, but you really want to wear the shirt.


When you really really don't want to get up to do pretty much anything, there is no one to try to bribe into doing it for you.


If you come home at the end of the day and your door is left partially open, the only possible explanations are psycho killers or your own incompetence.  (And generally wondering if there are psychokillers in your home and checking behind shower curtains by yourself every time you get home.)


When you are trying to put a box spring under a mattress that's on the floor and the room is really small so you don't really have enough space to just lift the mattress on its side and lay the box spring down and then slide the mattress on top of it, and even if you did, that's still a lot of maneuvering to do all by yourself and the mattress might fall down on you.


Hanging art, or anything else really, that needs to be level. I mean, don't get me wrong, you can still use a level, but trying to balance the level, identify the spot you're going to put the nail, and then hold the spot, all while holding your frame in the right position and not dropping anything is TRICKY.


Those stupid jars that sometimes just cannot be opened and at the very least it's nice to have someone else confirm that it is, indeed, impossible.


Hoping someone else will take out the garbage for once.  Or scrub the shower.  Or do whatever the job is that you really really hate doing and put off for as long as humanly possible and roommates have generally picked up the slack on, but I figured it was okay because I washed their dishes and cleaned the toilet and counters.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Cute! Glum Gertie

Today is, apparently, the most depressing day of the year*. Gertie's feeling the malaise, y'all.


*If you don't feel like clicking the link, it's worth noting that a travel company made up the concept of "Blue Monday" to sell more vacations.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Singalong! Song 2 by Blur

My best friend in high school and I were very proud to have looked up and learned the lyrics to this song that nobody else found even the slightest bit comprehensible. It's quite satisfying to sing along with, despite the lacklustre nature of the actual lyrics.  It's also perfect if you want to do a little stomping around in your living room.


SONG 2
by Blur

I got my head checked
By a jumbo jet
It wasn't easy
But nothing is
No

[chorus]
Woo-hoo
When I feel heavy-metal
And I'm pins and I'm needles
Well, I lie and I'm easy
All the time but I am never sure
Why I need you
Pleased to meet you

I got my head down
When I was young
It's not my problem
It's not my problem

[repeat chorus]

Yeah yeah
Yeah yeah
Yeah yeah
Oh yeah

Friday, January 16, 2015

Learning! Beliefs are shaped by actions.


"The things you do often create the things you believe."

Benjamin Franklin said this, in a very astute reflection on what psychology would later confirm. We like to think that our beliefs drive our actions, but we also explain our actions by determining that they must be consistent with our beliefs. Over time, as our actions pile up, so does our understanding of the kind of person we are and how we see the world. Same goes for how we see others.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Inspiration! Give it a rest.

This sums up so much on the cult of busyness that plagues us these days - something I intend to write more about shortly.


"For want of rest, our lives are in danger." - Thomas Murton

Monday, January 12, 2015

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Singalong! What if God Was One of Us by Joan Osborne

Remember when Joan Osborne made us all re-examine the potential for the divinity of strangers and whether God was sitting beside the phone like a single girl in the 60's? I do.


WHAT IF GOD WAS ONE OF US
by Joan Osborne

[oh...
one of these nights at about twelve o'clock
this whole earth's gonna reel and rock...
things thay'll tremble and cry for pain
for the Lord's gonna come in his heavenly airplane.]

If God had a name, what would it be
And would you call it to His face
If you were faced with Him in all His glory
What would you ask if you had just one question

Yeah, yeah, God is great
Yeah, yeah, God is good
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah

What if God was one of us
Just a slob like one of us
Just a stranger on the bus
Trying to make His way home

If God had a face, what would it look like
And would you want to see
If seeing meant that you would have to believe
In things like Heaven and in Jesus and the Saints
And all the Prophets and...

Yeah, yeah, God is great
Yeah, yeah, God is good
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah

What if God was one of us
Just a slob like one of us
Just a stranger on the bus
Trying to make His way home

Tryin' to make His way home
Back up to Heaven all alone
Nobody callin' on the phone
'Cept for the Pope maybe in Rome

Friday, January 9, 2015

Learning! Give up the drugs, pick up some hugs


The latest from science is that hugs beat drugs at stopping the cold and flu!  Truth is this might be because people who hug have more social support, but they don't actually know why.  All they know is that people who hug more often feel sick less often.  So get your hug on!

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Inspiration! The Pong Traffic Light

It's so wonderful when people take something everyday and utilitarian and turn it into something fun, fanciful, artful, or neighbourly.


Germany takes the win on this one.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Me & Ryan Gosling getting our Disney on

In the fall I went on a hike with some friends and a bird landed on my hand at the top of the mountain.  Ryan, being a male Cinderella, joined me in having a little conversation with the bird.  It was a beautiful bonding moment.


Monday, January 5, 2015

Cute! Cat Meets Baby

Gertie met my friends' baby the other day.  She wasn't quite sure what to make of this creature.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Singalong! In the End by Linkin Park (Covered by Us the Duo)

I was in a coffee shop this morning, and had the good fortune of walking in the moment this song started playing.  A gorgeous, ghostly cover of Linkin Park's melodramatic hit "In the End".  Turns out it was the barista's CD and we got to chatting about music, as if it was 2003 when people still had to discuss music instead of using apps to record and identify the ambient sound.  It was a historical moment.


IN THE END
by Linkin Park (performed by Us the Duo)

(It starts with one)
One thing I don't know why
It doesn’t even matter how hard you try
Keep that in mind, I designed this rhyme
To explain in due time
(All I know)
Time is a valuable thing
Watch it fly by as the pendulum swings
Watch it count down to the end of the day
The clock ticks life away
(It’s so unreal)
Didn’t look out below
Watch the time go right out the window
Trying to hold on but didn’t even know
I wasted it all just to watch you go

I kept everything inside and even though I tried, it all fell apart
What it meant to be will eventually be a memory of a time when...

I tried so hard
And got so far
But in the end
It doesn't even matter
I had to fall
To lose it all
But in the end
It doesn't even matter

One thing, I don’t know why
It doesn’t even matter how hard you try
Keep that in mind, I designed this rhyme
To remind myself how
I tried so hard
In spite of the way you were mocking me
Acting like I was part of your property
Remembering all the times you fought with me
I’m surprised it got so (far)
Things aren’t the way they were before
You wouldn’t even recognize me anymore
Not that you knew me back then
But it all comes back to me
In the end

You kept everything inside and even though I tried, it all fell apart
What it meant to me will eventually be a memory of a time when...

I tried so hard
And got so far
But in the end
It doesn’t even matter
I had to fall
To lose it all
But in the end
It doesn’t even matter

I've put my trust in you
Pushed as far as I can go
For all this
There’s only one thing you should know
I've put my trust in you
Pushed as far as I can go
For all this
There’s only one thing you should know

I tried so hard
And got so far
But in the end
It doesn’t even matter
I had to fall
To lose it all
But in the end
It doesn’t even matter

Friday, January 2, 2015

Learning! The Four Greatest Psychological Discoveries of 2014


This combines my love for year-end lists and psychology!  Psych Central shared what they consider to be the four greatest psychological discoveries of 2014.  Here are the basics, and of course, visit their blog for their analysis.
  1. We look for happiness in the wrong places.  It's not in the big life events, but little day-to-day moments.
  2. Mindfulness.  We are all about mindfulness these days, and while it's gotten to a shark-jumping level of saturation in the personal and professional development realm, it's truly useful.  Be aware of your thoughts and feelings, in the moment.  Pay attention.  It is good for you.
  3. Sleep and anxiety. Going to bed early and getting enough sleep actually might combat obsessive negative thinking, worrying, and anxiety.
  4. Treat yourself with compassion and feel better about yourself.  Extend yourself the compassion you would extend to others and you'll just feel better about yourself!
These are even complementary practices - the more mindful you are of the moment, the more likely you are to notice the day-to-day little things that will bring you joy.  Compassion also increases the ol' happiness meter, and a good night's sleep is good for everyone.