Sunday, March 22, 2015


Albeit a bit sodden, spring has finally come to Atlanta.  Vines on the front step of my little brick Craftsman.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Not Dead Yet

Just waiting for the vernal equinox, which occurs at 6:45 pm tonight.  On the equinox, the tilt of the earth's axis is neither toward nor away from the Sun, but perfectly balanced, in equipoise, aligned.  It can be taken as a metaphor for the Middle Way between indulgence and  denial.


Thursday, February 19, 2015

We take for granted that we know what we like when we taste it.  We take for granted that we are this kind of person or that kind of person, or that we’re athletic or not athletic.  So many of these things are based on a foundation in our minds. If we approach it in the right way, if we actually recognize that, we can take that foundation, belief, and poke at it and change it to our advantage. 

It’s not that we can imagine anything and make it real. But our minds are constantly making these self-fulfilling hypotheses and limiting our own potential.  Why not tap that potential and see what we can create? 

Try the occasional experiment and see what happens. If you don’t try, you’ll never know.

 - Edited, chopped and screwed from an interview with Chris Berdik.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

In a 1977 study published in The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, researchers gave men a photograph of a woman before a telephone conversation. Some of these photos showed attractive women, others a less attractive woman. When the men had the phone conversations with the women, the men who thought they were talking to an attractive woman spoke differently, and the woman subsequently adapted behaviors stereotypically associated with attractive people. Basically, when the men thought they were talking to someone attractive, they changed speech patterns and conversation type, and the woman did as well.  The women who were thought to be physically attractive came to behave in a friendly, likeable, and sociable manner in comparison with the women who were thought to be unattractive.

In short, how you think other people perceive you (or how they actually do, for that matter), changes how you act as well.  Expectations of others play a role in how we behave.  We don't consciously realize it, but we all tend to conform to the perceived expectations around us. People who are called the "quiet one" or the "adventurer" or the "life of the party," even if that's not what they are, subconsciously conform to those stereotypes. It's obvious how this could apply to race, gender, religion, and plenty of other characteristics.

All this is from the same Lifehacker article I've been quoting over the past couple of days.  You could just go over there and read the entire article for yourself - after all. you're the inquisitive type -  but you'd miss all my pretty pictures of Spanish boats. 

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Our expectations can alter how we view reality as a whole. One time, at a party, I picked up what I thought was my can of beer and took a sip, and was revolted by the flavor.  It turns out I had picked up a perfectly good can of Coca Cola, but my mind, expecting the taste of beer, was disgusted by the flavor of Coke.  Once I realized what it was, I took another sip and it tasted fine, but my expectation had altered by experience.

More from the interesting Lifehacker article:
The way we anticipate something changes the way we perceive it... It suggests that the way the brain works is to influence our perception. If our perception has been established without the information from the brain, the information of the brain is no longer relevant... 
If you think about it more generally, there's a question about how our preconceived notions color our view of reality... what happens when we view the world with glasses that are strongly tinted by our preconceived notions? What these results suggest is an interesting connection between the body and the mind... it suggests our mind tries to predict the future... by anticipating the future the mind actually changes our physiology... it prepares us for that future. By doing so the mind basically gets us to experience the reality that we anticipate. 
That was from psychology and behavioral economics professor Dan Ariely,  His concept falls in line with the idea of the hedonic treadmill. The hedonic treadmill is the tendency of humans to quickly return to a relatively stable level of happiness despite major positive or negative events or life changes. According to this theory, as a person makes more money, expectations and desires rise in tandem, which results in no permanent gain in happiness. The pursuit of happiness can be compared to a person on a treadmill who has to keep walking just to stay in the same place. 

The concept dates back to such writers as St. Augustine, cited in Robert Burton's Anatomy of Melancholy: "A true saying it is, Desire hath no rest, is infinite in itself, endless, and as one calls it, a perpetual rack, or horse-mill."

Basically, if a B+ made you happy last year, it'll take an A- to register the same satisfaction again. If you think you'll do poorly on a test or in a social situation, you probably will .  You've probably heard the classic phrase "happiness equals reality minus expectations," and it's true. In short: you can theoretically apply the placebo effect to your day-to-day life. 

Science journalist and author Chris Berdik offers up this example of how exactly this works:
Many people worry that they're likely to choke under pressure. They look to coaches and elaborate training techniques to overcome this tendency. Or they just worry and bite their nails before important presentations or competitions. But in one study, researchers told some track athletes that what they thought of as pre-race jitters actually improved performance, while telling another group that this sort of arousal was usually detrimental. The athletes performed accordingly when the pressure was on. In another athletics study, the researchers gave every subject a personality questionnaire and then randomly gave some of them false feedback that their answers indicated they were the sort of person who thrives under pressure. When it came time to compete, the athletes told they would likely do better under pressure did so. 
Of course, this doesn't mean you can change the world around you with your mind. If you're sad, you'll still be sad, and if you're ill, you'll still feel sick.   But what it does suggest is that we're more in control of our present and our future than we think. When we fully realize this, that it's our own mind that causing us to suffer form sadness or from sickness, the sadness and the sickness lose a little of their grip on us, making it that much easier to get better.