Monthly Archives: August 2013

On randomness, cognition, the Law of Attraction and Rumsfeld/Cheney

 

This image is in no way related to the post. I just like Shetland ponies, and I think it is cute how they're wearing jumpers (I bet they hate them, though in this pic they look quite happy). I just didn't want the featured image to be one of Cheney or Rumsfeld. (The pic.is from www.telegraph.co.uk).

This image is in no way related to the post. I just like Shetland ponies, and I think it is cute how they’re wearing jumpers (I bet they hate them, though in this pic they look quite happy). I just didn’t want the featured image to be one of Cheney or Rumsfeld. (The pic.is from www.telegraph.co.uk).

 

I am no longer miserable. It is Saturday night, and I will spend it on the couch, with the dog and my computer. My day has otherwise been filled with fun and games; I have visited my parents (which was nice); dropped by work to correct a few more tests (DEAR LORD THERE ARE SO MANY OF THEM!!1!); walked Nik (a few times) and have pondered sending an email, but decided against it after careful consideration. I then reconsidered and ended up sending a very poorly worded email. I am not entirely sure why). I have also returned a borrowed stereo (farewell stereo, I’ll miss you. We all know I’ll never get around to getting one of my own). And, I am currently listening to a bunch of girls (outside) loudly yelling WOOOOOOO!!!  I am not certain why they yell WOOOOO!!!, but I suspect it might make partying more fun? (Someone should probably conduct an experiment/write an article on it; “A quantitative investigation of perceived fun-ness as measured by the frequency of WOOO’s in a social setting” or somesuch. You could measure decibels, the frequency of WOOO’s and subsequent fun-ratings on likert scales; contact me if you’re interested and I’ll gladly help design the experiment).

Anyway, Sufi suggested I write a post on “the Law of Attraction” so I’ll do exactly that.

Now, keep in mind that I am a skeptic and that I may be completely wrong in my beliefs (as previously mentioned, I am frequently wrong).

The Law of Attraction (simplified and as I understand it) states that what you think (to a certain extent) determines how your life turns out. There’s this cosmic energy thing; good thoughts bring positive things into your life and bad/negative thoughts bring negative things into your life (…”Things”… I am so very eloquent…). You can read more about it here.

I don’t believe in it. I may change my mind, but it is doubtful. First, I believe that there’s a whole lot of randomness going on in the universe, and that we as humans feel a strong urge to impose structure where there’s none. We want things to be orderly, connected and predictable. We also like ranking things. Something has to be best, and something has to be the worst.  We want to know what follows a given event, and we have a hard time dealing with uncertainty and the indeterminable.  We’re ‘meaning-makers’, so randomness and unpredictability makes us uncomfortable. This applies to almost everything and everyone we encounter. Now, for an example, please look at the figures below:

 

Image taken from film110sp12.pbworks.com

Image taken from film110sp12.pbworks.com

If we see only  the parts/components in isolation, the thing you perceive as a square (or the circle for that matter) are not really a square or a circle. They are composed of a series of irregular lines, but your mind perceives them as recognizable figures, because it fills in the blank areas with perceived (but not present) lines. Your mind imposes structure and orderliness. The term “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts” fits perfectly in this context (did you know it was Aristotle who first said that? I didn’t until I googled it. I <3 Google). So, we like to see things and even events as connected somehow. We seek causal explanations for pretty much everything. If we then believe in the Law of Attraction, we may/will interpret these various events as being caused by our thinking. Instead of interpreting an accident as being brought about by random bad luck, we find an instance of prior “bad thoughts” and attribute the accident to those. We create a link between the thought and the event. The same goes for good luck. We may think that good things happen because we have been particularly positive/thought ‘good thoughts’, not because we’ve just been incredibly lucky. Mind you, I am not saying that a positive outlook on life will not alter it dramatically. By being (somewhat) positive, you’re likely to not turn people completely off. When others find you to be happy, maybe even delightful, they are more likely to want to help you, be around you and so forth. But I don’t think it is cosmic energy, I think it is that it is just nicer to be around someone who is happy than someone who is sad (note how most people withdraw, and only the noblest and sweetest of your friends are there for you when you feel horrible? Yeah. Remember to treat those people in the best way possible, they are golden).

Nevertheless, I think I have a couple of (excellent if I may say so myself) cases who illustrate that positive thoughts do not equal positive outcomes/ negative thoughts do not equal negative outcomes: namely Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld (or Rush Limbaugh. Or Carl I Hagen. Or Putin. Or any evil warmonger out there. I could bring up countless of other examples, but I have to keep this thing somewhat manageable). Both Cheney and Rumsfeld  are verified pricks. I doubt any of them get up in the morning and think positive happy thoughts, yet they are incredibly successful. They have amassed wealth, power and great success; they’ve lived long lives and they’re seemingly still going to keep going strong for a while.

 

Really bad guy. (image taken from wikipedia.com).

Really bad guy.
(image taken from wikipedia.com).

Really REALLY bad guy! (wikipedia again).

Really REALLY bad guy!
(wikipedia again).

Why? Cause life is random and unfair.

So, those are my thoughts on the law of attraction. Please don’t be offended.

On emotional manipulation and such

First off, “emotional manipulation” is a somewhat foggy and imprecise term (I like my parameters to be well-defined); We could (for simplicity’s sake) define it as ‘methods people use to alter emotional states and subsequently, behaviour  in others’ (I am pretty sure I came up with the wording for that definition on my own. I may be wrong though, so please let me know if I have unknowingly stolen it from someone). It relies on some of the same mechanisms  as the ones discussed in my post on gambling; there’s (among other things) operant conditioning involved; Recall that operant conditioning is when someone carries out a behaviour, and is then rewarded for it in one way or another. This in an effort to establish a desired behaviour.

In operant conditioning, there’s positive reinforcement. Positive reinforcement is when we give something or add something. If I carry out a desired behaviour and I then get a hug from someone I like as a reward, it qualifies as positive reinforcement. Negative reinforcement is a little more difficult to understand; many think it is when something negative is applied (think a shin-kick, a punch or likewise) but it is not. Weirdly, physical insults are actually both positive reinforcement, i.e., something is being applied. It is also punishment). Negative reinforcement is when something is taken away from you, and it can be both good (you did your job well so you didn’t get yelled at by the boss) and bad (you didn’t do your homework, so your parents withheld your allowance). Both punishment, positive and negative reinforcement is used in emotional (or psychological) manipulation.

The scope of areas in which emotional manipulation is used is huge, It is also very difficult to write about in a coherent manner. I can’t possibly cover it all, so I’ll focus on emotional manipulation in (possible) romantic relationships.

Note also that I may not be the first person you should listen to in terms of relationships and how to maintain them. I am currently separated/divorcing from my husband of 15 years (he is the coolest guy and we’re the best of friends though, it just didn’t work out. You can see him here. He’s incredibly talented). I have also only had a total of two proper relationships throughout my whole life, so y’know, I don’t have a great deal of experience. Further, I have no experience whatsoever in writing about (romantic) relationships (it has just never been my thing). Anyway, I’ll give it a go, because if there is something I do know a little about, it is deception/deceit.

Now, there are these guys who call themselves “pickup artists”. Pickup artistry is big business and the most successful “artists” make millions off of teaching the ‘hapless-in-love’ how to pick up and seduce women. You know George Sodini, the guy who shot and killed several women in that Pittsburg gym? Well, he had spent a fair amount of money on these kinds of seminars. The seminar leaders (among the most famous is the ridiculous guy below) claim that they are using psychology and evidence-based scientific findings of human sexuality to develop these methods. They are full of crap.

 

This guy calls himself "Mystery"..

This guy calls himself “Mystery”..

 

 

Fuzzy hats appear to be mysterious. Maybe the biggest mystery  is how this guy gets women at all.

Fuzzy hats appear to be mysterious. Maybe the biggest mystery is how this guy gets women at all.

The methods they teach others to use are cruel. There’s “negging” in which the guy points out a flaw in the woman he wants to seduce. They may first give a woman attention, then deliberately ignore her- a method that can be quite unsettling for those who are a bit more sincere. They will “rename the target” (they charmingly refer to women as “targets”..) – that is, they deliberately use a different name, making you feel that you’re not important enough to even deserve being addressed by/being remembered by your actual name. They will use jealousy as a tool. (I am jealous, and it hurts so bad that I find this point to be the cruelest). In short, they try to break down parts of your psyche in order to get you into bed. The methods might work sometimes; if the guy has some other form of appeal for instance, but any intelligent woman would likely be put off. Mind, I have not been subjected to pickup artistry (I think. I might be too dense to have picked up on it though), but I have certainly had men call me “ugly” after having had their advances rebuffed. I don’t mind. If the guy did indeed make an advance on someone he considers ugly, his intelligence and judgement should be questioned.

So in conclusion (in this section of the post at least);  if a guy comes up and tells you that your teeth are crooked/you look “a little tired but I bet you’re cute when you’re well-rested” or likewise, I suggest you walk away. Far faaar away..

Then there’s the self-help books. There are so many of them I have lost count. I did once read one called “The Rules”. It was a horrible waste of both ink and trees. It tells women that they should manipulate men to get what they want. The following are a few examples of rules:

Rule number 5: “Don’t Call Him and Rarely Return His Calls” (negative reinforcement).

 I think this one is just plain mean. So, we know that men and women are more alike than different in how we view relationships, and as such, it would seem that men also have feelings (?? it’s a bit of an unresolved mystery, but the evidence suggests that this might be the case). I think I’d be very hurt if someone I cared for didn’t return my calls. I also think it is completely counterproductive, as the failure to call/return calls might be perceived as a lack of interest.

Rule Number 12: Stop Dating Him if He Doesn’t Buy You a Romantic Gift for Your Birthday or Valentine’s Day (punishment and then some). 

YES! MATERIALISM IS THE BEDROCK UPON WHICH GOOD RELATIONSHIPS ARE BUILT!1!!

Rule number 20: Be Honest but Mysterious.

This is one of my favourites! I know how to be honest, but I have no idea how to be Mysterious... Where does one learn how to be mysterious? I wear a lot of black clothing and I sometimes squint (I have quite poor vision and should be wearing glasses), does that make me mysterious? So many questions…

Rule number 27: Do The Rules, Even when Your Friends and Parents Think It’s Nuts

In other words, ignore those who love and care for you, and instead, take the advice of a book you paid  $11.95 for.

Rule number 31: Don’t Discuss The Rules with Your Therapist

No, cause your therapist may explain how following “The Rules” would make you  horribly insincere. Also, hiding stuff from your therapist kinda negates the possible benefits of going to therapy (i.e., you’re wasting your money).

The only rule I do like is Don’t Date a Married Man”. This is sound advice.

There’s of course also rules for how you should look, dress, and how long your hair should be, but I can’t be bothered getting into it (I’m kinda tired of writing by now as well). I’m not going to get into the whole “Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus” thing either, as it will just end up annoying me. It polarizes the sexes and treats us like we are separate species. We are not. We have the exact same emotional register.

My stance is that honesty, sincerity and care may be the best approach to maintaining a relationship. And, as cheesy as it may sound, communication is key. The minute you start trying to deliberately mess with others heads, you’re compromising your integrity (in my opinion) and you may also do irreparable damage.

That was a pretty bad entry, but I’ll post it anyway. Please don’t judge me.

On things I don’t understand

I don’t understand a lot of things. In fact, I would say that proportionally, the things I don’t understand heavily outweigh the ones I do understand. I tried to paste the pie-chart of my general understanding of stuff below, but it turns out that that’s another thing I just don’t know how to do.  You’ll just have to click the link if you’re interested.

Pie chart

Among the many things I don’t understand are:

Instruction manuals.

Why (some) people bother to engage in pointless conflicts.

Fashion, and why people are willing to spend ludicrous amounts of money on it.

Expensive cars/handbags/other luxury-goods that’ll only depreciate in value.

Calculus.

Why political debaters nowadays seem to focus more on tearing the opponent down rather than on presenting coherent arguments.

The elections are nearing here in Norway and it looks like we’re heading in a more conservative/fiscally liberal direction. I’m not crazy about it, but outside of voting, there’s little I can do. I am quite open about my political views; I’m a leftie (big surprise eh?) and my party is SV (Socialistic left-party. It is less dramatic than it sounds). I don’t mind having to pay taxes; I think immigration is stellar and that we should welcome it; I dislike NATO intensely; I think we have a responsibility to help those who are struggling and I think “The Invisible Hand of the Market” is brutally unfair at times. So, there’s that. Sometimes though, I find myself  less than impressed with those who are on my side. Like today. I was walking downtown (again); the political parties had booths and representatives standing along Karl Johan’s street (the main street in Oslo). Most approached me in a friendly way and I accepted all the flyers I was given (I always do. I don’t know why, and I should probably stop, cause I end up carrying around a ton of garbage that I’ll likely never read).

 

Garbage that I for some reason accepted

Garbage that I for some reason accepted

 

The totality of useful stuff I was handed. On Falun Gong and human rights abuses in China; on Kurds in Syria and on executions in Iran. Links to the texts can be found below.

The totality of useful stuff I was handed. On Falun Gong and human rights abuses in China; on Kurds in Syria and on executions in Iran. Links to the texts can be found below.

But one of the ladies from SV  was just plain scary. She approached me, almost yelling, “STEM SV!!!!!!!” (VOTE SV!!!!!!  I normally don’t use more than one exclamation mark, but all the ones used are warranted, that’s how loud and angry she was). I replied (using my indoor-voice) “I already do”. Instead of saying something like “hey, that’s great!” or “Thank you” she (again nearly yelled) MAKE ALL YOUR FRIENDS VOTE SV TOO !!!!!!”

 I can’t make anyone do anything..  And Lady, that’s a horrible way to recruit new voters. Most people prefer not being yelled at, and if you’re trying to garner votes, it would probably be better if you explained why one should vote for your party rather than yelling at people and slamming the opposition. It may be so that the lady does not mind being yelled at, but when I am to present a case, I try to think of how I prefer being talked to. I like it when people are somewhat calm, or at least not aggressive. They can be enthusiastic, eager and even loud, but when you approach me with an aggressive command, you lose me.  I like it when people assume that I have a certain level of intelligence; this is currently almost absent from the political debates. The B.S that is presented is staggering, and there are Straw Men and Red Herrings all over the place . I tend to look for logical inconsistencies in my own argument, while many politicians seem to build their arguments on (almost) nothing but (I must admit that I sometimes question their intellegence/Intelligance/intellugens intelligence (heh :D). I tend to try to present my case by stating what is favourable about my stance and backing it up with data/research-findings, while in politics, it seems to be all about showing why and how everyone else is wrong. My way is of course not the only way, but there’s got to be a better method than the one that is currently employed.

I really don’t have a conclusive statement today, maybe just “don’t yell at people if you want them on your side”?

International Committee Against Execution: On Iran

Organ Harvesting of Falun Gong

About Falun Gong

The last flyer did not have a internet address; it is on the situation Syrian Kurds are facing in Syria. If anyone wants to read it let me know and I’ll scan it.

 

On why I don’t mind it when addicts spend the money I give them on their drug of choice

I know the headline sounds quite off (again..), but I do think that my reasoning is sound (heh..Don’t we all…)

I have already written a little about addiction and how prevalent it is in Norway. The drug(s) of choice are predominantly heroin and alcohol, both very harmful and both quite scary when used carelessly, but more on that later.

When I walk about Oslo, I hear people talk (I swear I’m not trying to listen in on private conversations – it just kinda happens). While (totally unintentionally) listening in on others conversations, I have overheard variations of one particular theme several times. The topic is how addicts spend their money and how they should spend their money. Here are a couple of pretty common statements:

“I don’t give cause they’ll just spend it on drugs”. Or, in the case of more generous  passers-by’s, “I hope you spend this on food, not drugs”. I understand both sentiments; the first one pertains to not wanting to feed an individual’s addiction. Addiction is a horrible disease, and most do not want to contribute to another person’s downfall. The second one is reasonable as well, cause after all, all creatures need some sort of nourishment to survive (Why hello there Captain Obvious!). There’s a problem with both statements though, namely that when a body is thoroughly addicted to a drug, your body/brain makes the drug its first priority.

Let’s look at alcohol. Alcohol is an evil drug. It is one of the few drugs that can make you really ill, but that you’ll still return to. Now, there’s something called “the Garcia-Effect”. Dr. John Garcia was a psychologist working in a U.S defense lab. He was a prolific researcher, and he studied the effects of pairing a food/drink item with horrible nausea (among many other things). It turns out that if we put something in our mouth, then get nauseous, we develop a taste-aversion. That is, we’re unlikely to eat or drink that same thing again; we might even get nauseous at the very smell of the food/drink that made us ill (I know the Garcia-effect well. I still cannot eat Christmas-type glazed ham after getting very very ill from eating it while living in a boarding school in Kolding, Denmark. 19 years have passed and the smell still makes me unwell. Dear Lord did I ever get sick). Alcohol, despite being “something you put in your mouth/swallow” is not subject to the Garcia-effect; It may be in the short term, but most forget about the horrible hangovers and the puking fairly quickly. We may be evolutionarily prepared to avoid food/drinks that may harm or even kill us, but alcohol seems to be an exception.

 

Image taken from addictionville.org

Image taken from addictionville.org

Anyway, alcohol-withdrawal can (and frequently does) kill people. The symptoms are horrible. The milder symptoms include nausea/vomiting, headaches, dizziness, shakiness and anxiety. What follows is worse. There’s  hallucinations, both visual (that is, the individual sees things that aren’t really there); tactile (the individual feels something that’s not real, for instance a touch or likewise) and auditory (this is when we hear sounds, voices or likewise that aren’t real).  People who go through alcohol withdrawal may as such turn psychotic. Then there’s delirium tremens. Delirium tremens symptoms include severe anxiety, visual hallucinations (that cannot be distinguished from reality. Imagine seeing the Grim Reaper coming for you and believing it is true…), racing heartbeat, high blood pressure and finally, seizures and heart-failure. All this may happen within hours, but if the individual drinks a little alcohol, the symptoms recede. Comparatively, if we don’t eat for a few hours, we (may) get grumpy, maybe a bit dizzy and if we go without food for a longer time, we may faint. It takes a looooong time for us to die from lack of food. Food should naturally be a priority, but in this case, it should not be the first priority (in my opinion anyways). If given the choice between alleviating hunger and alleviating symptoms of delirium tremens, I’d go with the latter every single time. My friend/former classmate/collaborator on a major paper in a counselling psychology class, Nickey Christine, made a few excellent points when I posted this on facebook. The following is one of them (in her own words). “Where I live at least, I don’t know about Norway, food on the otherhand is something ppl can access thru food banks, community meals, religious centers, etc. So in a strange and twisted way, not having money does not nec mean not having food. But it can mean resorting to more destructive means to feed their addiction… So not giving bc of a fear of feeding an addiction can mean the opposite of risk reduction… Mind blown lol”. We have the exact same situation here; there are several places where those who struggle can secure a free meal, so food is easily obtained; money though? Not so much.. I’ll include links to the various organizations/institutions on the bottom of this post, in case anyone might know of someone who is in need of a little extra help.

 

As previously mentioned, I do understand the unwillingness to contribute to others worsening disease, but not giving does nothing to help the individual. The addicts need proper treatment by professionals, and until they get that, I think it is all about keeping the person (somewhat) well and at least alive. Helping them secure their drug of choice is  an act of kindness. Cause not giving does nothing to cure the disease.

Also, if we give something away, we no longer own it. Stipulations on gifts are obnoxious in a “I know what’s right for you” kinda way. Or so I think.

 

(Btw. Don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy the occasional (ehrm..) glass of wine.)

Links:

Blå Kors

Kirkens bymisjon 

Frelsesarmeen 

Fattighuset i Oslo

 

I’ve been busy…

I have a lot (and I mean *A Lot*) of stuff going on at the current time, so I have not had time to write much. I do promise that I’m going to write another post tomorrow (or the next day) though :) (Sufi suggested a suitable topic and I’m going with it). I have nevertheless had (some) time to read,  and holy wow, this is absolutely nuts!

I do not like the direction in which Europe (or the majority of the western world really) is heading at the current time. I’m getting Thatcher-ite/Ayn Rand/Atlas Shrugged-kind of vibes, and it bothers me.

I’ll probably be spending the rest of the night over at cuteoverload.com  (while hugging Nik).

 

This is Niko/Nik, the resident terrierist. He picks fights with much larger and much scarier dogs, and he burps audibly/visibly on a frequent basis. He is also quite adorable :)

This is Niko/Nik, the resident terrierist. He picks fights with much larger and much scarier dogs, and he burps audibly/visibly on a frequent basis. He is also quite adorable :)

 

BLUR!

I have been a huge Blur-fan since I was about 20 years old or so, and I finally got to see them perform live at Øya tonight :) (I will forever and ever (and ever) have a crush on Damon Albarn).

20130807_214016

The set-list was great! I had plenty of beer spilled on me, and several people stepped on my feet (in the most brutal way) but it was totally worth it :)

 

Allen likes Blur.

Allen likes Blur.

Otherwise, I am kind of obsessing over this tune right now. Thanks Javier! :)