Monthly Archives: September 2013

Image from wikipedia.com

On my ineptitude, travel and IQ tests.

I’m going to Toronto tomorrow morning. My dog Niko is moving to a whole new continent, and I’m going with him, just to make sure he makes it there safely. I’m a little nervous, not because I am in any way afraid of flying; I was only 6 weeks old when I took my first flight, and have taken hundreds of flights since then. Nothing remarkable has ever happened. There have been a few drunken and belligerent people, but there’s drunken belligerent people pretty much everywhere.  Anyway, I am worried for Nick though. I’m sure he’ll be safe, but I worry that he will stress and/or freak out. I also worry because I was the one to put together his travel-cage.

There are some things I am pretty good at. There are many more that I am absolutely useless at. For instance, I have a degree in agriculture, and if there is one thing I know virtually nothing about, it is agriculture. I somehow managed to get through three years of schooling without learning much of anything, and I think it says something about myself, the educational system, and the (sorry to all of those who find agriculture thrilling) boring nature of agriculture.

I am also (as previously mentioned) completely  unable to comprehend instruction manuals, no matter how simply written. Just look at the abomination below:

This is the instruction manual. My mind cannot process or even begin to comprehend what it wants me to do.

This is the instruction manual. My mind could not process or even begin to comprehend what it wanted me to do.

It took me about an hour and a half to put the thing together, and at one point, I had several parts I didn’t know the function of. I put them where the instruction manual told me to, but I am still not sure what they do.

What is this? What function does it serve?

What is this? What function does it serve?

I finally got the cage/box together though, and it looks like this:

uh-oh...

uh-oh…

It may very well collapse mid-flight and I sure hope Niko will be ok when it does..

Anyway, that brings me to the topic of IQ-tests.

I would likely receive a  high-ish score, both because I am somewhat academically inclined, but also because I know how they work (knowing what I know, I would cheat. It is a sad realization, but let’s be honest. I would TOTALLY likely cheat and I’d probably feel pretty smug about it too). I am nevertheless useless at tasks an average 9 year old would have no problems carrying out.

I have, as previously mentioned, tested IQ in a research setting. And, if there is one thing testing IQ teaches you, it is the uselessness of IQ-tests. Case in point: the two highest scoring individuals I tested were (long-term) unemployed, and one of them was homeless. I don’t mean to carve on the homeless or the unemployed, but people seem to assume that a high IQ is linked to great success. It is not. IQ-tests tap into how you may do academically. That is,  if you’ve been taught to think like a westerner; if you have had access to resources (read, money/education) and most importantly, if you have the motivation and drive to do well.  Motivation is key Without it, you’ll get nowhere (unless you’re one of those who were born into money. Some people make money simply by existing and having a recognizable name, but they don’t count. Or, they shouldn’t anyway). Regardless, the homeless guy had plenty of intellectual ability, he just wasn’t motivated or moneyed. Someone with an IQ considerably lower than his, but with higher motivation, would likely do much much better in life.

Another problem is that the tests are timed, and I find this to be problematic stupid. Who cares if it takes you 2 minutes, 20 minutes or 2 days to arrive at an adequate answer, as long as you eventually arrive at said answer? I bet it took Galileo, Descartes, Curie (did you know she was Polish? She was! I always assumed she was French), Somerville  and Einstein quite a while to come up with their respective theories/research findings.  ”Hey dummy, why so slow?” doesn’t really apply in those cases. So, timing intellect seems pretty silly and thoughtless when placed in context, no?

IQ tests are also culturally biased. They have been used to oppress and marginalize people who deserved better, and I personally think they should be made away with. But that’s just me.

Thanks for reading, I really appreciate it :)

 

My Prof/Boss's book- he was brilliant! (yet terrifying).

On spam, my (awesome) subscribers and schizophrenia

 

 

I keep getting spam in the comments section, and it is all for make-up, cosmetic surgery and weight loss products (what are you insinuating spam-bots? If you relied on my search history, you’d find me stuff/products that gets dog-vomit out of carpets and books on how to learn all the rules of Norwegian grammar (preferably “in 15 minutes or less”). That’d be useful, but instead I’m bombarded with ‘hey fatty, you’re kinda hideous‘- type spam. Sigh.

A very cool thing though, is that my subscriber-list has almost doubled, I now have 22 subscribers!  (myself and Sufi included, but still, that 20 people want to read my blog is incredibly flattering  (I <3 you subscribers)).

Over to the schizophrenia-thing. One of the most interesting jobs  I have had (besides the one I have now)was in schizophrenia research. Schizophrenia is not (as many believe) ‘multiple personality disorder’ (or ‘dissociative  identity disorder’; a diagnosis that many, myself included, have serious doubts about). It is a disorder characterized by delusions (beliefs that are not true and who are at times outlandish; think Aliens/CIA/FBI/CSIS/PST monitoring thoughts through microchips implanted in the patients brain (paranoid delusions); the belief that one has killed someone without having done so; the belief that one is Really special (called ‘delusions of grandeur’; think historical figures like Jesus Christ or likewise). There are also hallucinations (you see, hear, feel, taste, smell or otherwise perceive sensations that are not present). And finally, general disorganization (you’re not able to distinguish/sort impressions).

We split symptoms into groups. There are positive symptoms (hallucinations, delusions etc); negative symptoms (flat affect/withdrawal/immobility (catatonia)), and disorganized symptoms (difficulties in organizing thoughts/speech/etc).

I’ll probably write several posts on schizophrenia, so I won’t go too in-depth here. If you’re particularly interested in the disorder, please buy my former honours thesis-professor and boss’s book, “In Search of Madness; Schizophrenia & Neuroscience”.

 

Just some quick facts about schizophrenia:

Anyway, the reason I am posting this is because I came across this video on facebook. It is a heartwarming story of a woman who lives with a schizophrenia diagnosis. It is not representative though. Many, if not most patients do not have insight into their own condition (“I’m not crazy!”) and many suffer a great deal. Patients with schizophrenia frequently end up homeless, incarcerated, and though they might be violent (in rare cases. Besides, we can all be violent, it is part of our nature) they are much more frequently victims of violence than perpetrators. Anyway, this This video is more representative of how schizophrenia may look.

This is one of those posts I can’t come up with a clever conclusion for. I guess I could say that there is very little reason to be afraid of patients with schizophrenia? In encounters with people suffering from schizophrenia, displaying compassion and respect usually works very well- I have yet to be attacked anyway, and I have been around schizophrenia-patients for quite some time.

Because in times of financial struggles, what we need is…

Norge

 

the conservatives to get in to power…

I have been miserable all day due to the election results here in Norway (the conservatives won. There’s a coalition-thing going on, but the “hey-let’s-get drunk-of-off-cornerstore-booze-while-not-collecting-taxes-yet-somehow-building-more-nursing-homes-and-better-roads” people are now able to dictate what happens in my life. And, I resent it.  Back in my youth (when the grass was greener, the sky was bluer and the youth were polite) these guys were marginal. Now they’re mainstream. I am old enough to remember Thatcher and Reagan, but I am also young enough to have seen the consequences of their decision-making. This development worries me, specifically because of the two groups I care for the most; those who suffer from mental illness and migrants.

Migrants get a bum rap. I have met more intelligent, hard-working, upstanding and wonderful people among migrants/refugees than in the general pop.  And in terms of those suffering mental illness? Under right wing/conservative govts., they frequently end up on the street or in prison (google “thatcherism/mental health/reform” and you’ll find more than enough material). It is a horrible fate for those who are already facing a struggle most of us can’t imagine the extent of.

Ugh. I should probably just go to bed and try to forget about it all.

I went to another conference; on the Nazi Genocide of the Roma

So, another Saturday night, another blog-post (written Saturday, posted Sunday for proof-reading purposes. I do know (I’m pretty sure anyways) which day it is).

I feel like I have been super-productive the last couple of days; I had the loveliest possible day yesterday (Friday). I went to work (I love my work, colleagues and the students). I voted! (My party (SV) will get nowhere, but at least I made an effort) and I went for a super-lovely and very interesting walk through the botanical gardens at Tøyen.

Villa Grande. The Holocaust-center is located in a building in which Vidkun Quisling once lived. The building is beautiful but somewhat creepy.

Villa Grande. The Holocaust-center is located in a building in which Vidkun Quisling once lived. The building is beautiful but somewhat creepy.

Today I attended a conference. The conference was on the WW2 Genocide of the Roma and the Sinti. The conference was named “The Nazi (…)” but that wouldn’t be entirely accurate, as the talks also covered Croatian fascists and others (is it weird that I am this nit-picky when it comes to wording, yet I willingly link to Wikipedia? Yes it is).  It is not exactly the cheeriest of topics, but it is an incredibly important one. I have spoken/written a little about the current situation of the Roma in Norway and Europe, but it is not a field I am super-familiar with, so the conference was very enlightening. I was bracing for the emotional impact before going. I am a wee bit soft, and I cry really easily (it is ridiculous at times), but I had forgotten about the blessed ability of academics to talk about the grimmest of topics without allowing for emotionality (it’s been one looong  year since I finished my M.A).

Anyway, I was already aware that the estimated number of Roma/Sinti killed during the Holocaust is foggy at best. I tried finding accurate numbers when I wrote the prior article/blog-post (and if there’s one thing in this world I do think I am pretty good at, it is finding accurate info) but in the case of Roma/Sinti, it is virtually impossible. The estimates of people killed during the Holocaust  are a fairly good indicator of how muddled it is; it ranges from 96000 to well over 500.000 according to Anton Weiss-Wendt, one of the speakers at the conference. Others were guesstimating 1.5 million.

I learned that the French authorities (Vichy) attempted to assimilate/make Roma conform to an unnatural (to them) way of life way back in the 30′s and 40′s. I learned that the French distinguished between those who had a permanent residence and those who were labelled “Nomads/travellers”. “Nomads” had to carry very specific identity cards, and were frequently detained and sent to camps. They were subjected to surveillance, arbitrary arrests and efforts at “rehabilitation”. The attempts at “rehabilitation” were in reality persecutory assimilation-attempts. I learned that Govt’s, both in Norway and in most other European nations were complicit, but to my surprise, Muslim clergy did make a serious effort to protect the Roma in their ranks (We can see a parallel today; the Clergy here in Norway have been stellar in speaking out on the behalf of the Roma). I learned that Roma belong to several of the major religions (including Islam); I had this weird misconception that they were largely catholic and orthodox (or of a  intersect of religions). I learned that (as usual in subjugation/persecution of minorities), humiliation was used as a tool (in this case, by Croatian Ustaša) ; the Roma were forced to remove their clothes, and then dance for their executioners (this makes me feel sick to my stomach. I can’t even…) before being killed sequentially. That is, they got to witness their impending fate..

 

20130907_104616

Narratives of the Ustaša’s complicity in the atrocities; one labelled them puppets of the Nazi-regime, the other presented them as monsters with own agency.

I learned that one of the most prominent psychiatrists in Norwegian history belonged to the Eugenics movement. I found out that Roma in Norway were sent to forced labour-camps faaaar north in the country; how many died is uncertain (again..) because there were no records of women and children, only men (there was, according to eyewitnesses, no doubt that there were women and children present.

 

Johan Scharffenberg was a Norwegian psychiatrist and criminologist, he was also a member of the Eugenics movement...

Johan Scharffenberg was a Norwegian psychiatrist and criminologist, he was also a member of the Eugenics movement…

There was also a visit from one of the most prominent Roma-families in Norway. They were not happy. They felt that the focus on past-events was misguided, and were pretty adamant that people, and certainly so academics, should be focusing on their current plight. I do believe they had a pretty inaccurate perspective of what life is like in academia though, and I  don’t think they understand how important it is to recognize/remember history in order to understand and (hopefully) rectify current conditions. Yelling at those who try to help you is certainly not the way to go. But that’s just my opinion.

Nevertheless, the people on the panel handled the situation in the best way possible, I can’t even begin to express how impressed I was.

Dr. Grieg Fry and his (obnoxiously long) list of published scientific works.

Sometimes I feel inadequate. Other times I feel more inadequate (<–I fluctuate between the two states. My emotional spectrum is quite complex). When I see someone, roughly the same age as myself (whom I have known online for over a decade), who has contributed to (or has been the sole author of) 66 published scientific articles, I don’t even know what to say. Except, ‘you should probably stop it. Cause it makes the rest of us feel bad about ourselves’.

Bryan’s page is nevertheless a great read; for those of you interested in science, venom(s) and (in a way) human rights, read Bryan’s “Zamzama” text. It is excellent.

Zamzama gas fields

Here’s the list of scientific publications. 

 

:)

Oslo again (miscellaneous pics taken at different times :)).

 

So, I’ve amassed an impressive number of pics on my phone. I just get carried away when I see something neat or distinctly Oslo-ian. I teach (adults) about Norwegian society and culture, so these pics come in handy at times (also, some of the students are aware of this blog; I am not sure if they read it though). Some of the pics are kinda pointless and only interesting or funny to me, so bear with me :)

 

Anyway, here goes:

 

This is just by my place. I took it cause it perfectly illustrates my rebellious, daring nature – I totally walk down that road All The Time! (there’s not even a proper sidewalk!).

This is just by my place. I took it cause it perfectly illustrates my rebellious, daring nature – I totally walk down that road All The Time! (there’s not even a proper sidewalk!).

 

This is the scary part of town (no seriously..People frequently make a point of talking about Tøyen as dangerous. I must be unusually brave because I have never once been afraid). *High-fives self*

This is the scary part of town (no seriously..People frequently make a point of talking about Tøyen as dangerous. I must be unusually brave because I have never once been afraid). *High-fives self*

 

One of my favourite stores; they sell fossils here, and I recently bought a tooth of an extinct mackerel shark (Odotus obliquus) that is a staggering 60 million years old. The tooth was found in Morocco and is in excellent shape :) At some point I'll post pics of my fossil and map-collection.

One of my favourite stores; they sell fossils here, and I recently bought a tooth of an extinct mackerel shark (Odotus obliquus) that is a staggering 60 million years old. The tooth was found in Morocco and is in excellent shape :) At some point I’ll post pics of my fossil and map-collection.

 

Completely different spot; this is at Ekeberg. We're about to get a much contested sculpture-park. The anger has been over the fact that some of the sculptures will be portraying women (I'm not sure if they'll be with or without clothes); I saw one sign that read something that I am way too uptight to write- but think along the lines of "No to an inappropriate touching path at Ekeberg". What I think is waaaay worse is that many, some historians even (Holy What?) wanted to bury and forget a part of Norwegian history; that is, the fact that some Norwegians did indeed sympathize with the Nazis. There's a graveyard where Nazi officials were buried during WW2 near where this pic was taken, and when it was decided that a memorial of sorts was to be erected, all these people were up in arms. Gotta say, the old "Those who forget history are bound to repeat it" comes to mind.

Completely different spot; this is at Ekeberg. We’re about to get a much contested sculpture-park. The anger has been over the fact that some of the sculptures will be portraying women (I’m not sure if they’ll be with or without clothes); I saw one sign that read something that I am way too uptight to write- but think along the lines of “No to an inappropriate touching path at Ekeberg”. What I think is waaaay worse is that many, some historians even (Holy What?) wanted to bury and forget a part of Norwegian history; that is, the fact that some Norwegians did indeed sympathize with the Nazis. There’s a graveyard where Nazi officials were buried during WW2 near where this pic was taken, and when it was decided that a memorial of sorts was to be erected, all these people were up in arms. Gotta say, the old “Those who forget history are bound to repeat it” comes to mind.

 

One of the statues. I am aware that this is sideways, but I have no idea as to how to correct it here; you could try tilting your head maybe? The statue depicts intertwined women.

One of the statues. I am aware that this is sideways, but I have no idea as to how to correct it here; you could try tilting your head maybe? The statue depicts intertwined women.

 

This is at Groenland again; this statue is a symbol of the social democratic movement in Oslo/Norway. I think it is so cool!

This is at Groenland again; this (very cool) statue is a symbol of the social democratic movement in Oslo/Norway.

Same statue, different view/angle.

Same statue, different view/angle.

 

Good to know!

Good to know!

 

Oslo has a lot of neat backstreets and adorable wooden houses.

Oslo has a lot of neat backstreets and adorable wooden houses.

 

More cool wooden houses. Oslo has burned to the ground several times, so at one point they decided to start building brick houses.

More cool wooden houses. Oslo has burned to the ground several times, so at one point they decided to start building brick houses.

 

"Oslo West has seven hospitals, Oslo East has none". Campaign poster from "Rødt", a faaar-left political party.

“Oslo West has seven hospitals, Oslo East has none”. Campaign poster from “Rødt”, a faaar-left political party.

 

This is a weird thing; the beggars are now specifying their Norwegian ethnicity (I've blurred the name in order to keep the man's identity hidden. I haven't used photo-editing programs in 15 years so the result is pretty bad). I feel the need to mention that I never take pics of possibly sensitive stuff without permission. He was totally o.k. with my taking this (I also gave him 20 NOK). Curiously, he had considerably more money in his cup than what I see the Roma have. The Roma are also given useless currency like 0.20 Euro (which can't be used in Norway)

This is a weird thing; the beggars are now specifying their Norwegian ethnicity (I’ve blurred the name in order to keep the man’s identity hidden. I haven’t used photo-editing programs in 15 years so the result is pretty bad). I feel the need to mention that I never take pics of possibly sensitive stuff without permission. He was totally o.k. with my taking this (I also gave him 20 NOK). Curiously, he had considerably more money in his cup than what I see the Roma have. The Roma are also given useless currency like 0.20 Euro (which can’t be used in Norway)

The back of an ice cream truck. The ice cream from the truck is slightly crappier compared to the store-bought stuff.

The back of an ice cream truck. The ice cream from the truck is slightly crappier compared to the store-bought stuff.

 

Well, that was about it :)