Yestaborday was Labor Day: My first day of school and Steig’s CDB

Well, technically yestaberday was the dayborday after Labor Day. Yesterday was the first day of school. I finally got to go beyond the acronyms and meet the students! I will be posting more shallow stuff these next few weeks while I focus on school.

But all that talk about PLEP, CBM, FBA, MFE, SAT, ACT, MTEL, NECAP, and ALS made me think of William Steig’s book CDB!. I think every household needs to own a copy of this book. It’s just a bunch of illustrations with upper case letters as captions. The first picture shows a kid pointing as a bee and it says C-D-B (see the bee). And that pretty much says it all.


I’ve been making my own CDB style memes and posting them on my Facebook page. If you haven’t seen them yet, you should go check them out and like my page while you’re at it:


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Don’t Touch Me, I’m Norwegian: Migration and Temperament

My brother designed this pin to ward off over zealous Irish people around St. Patrick's Day.

My brother designed this pin to ward off over zealous Irish people around St. Patrick’s Day.

There are a lot of Indian families in our area. The greater Boston area has a lot of technology and biotech companies and attracts tech people from all around the globe. We were just having a conversation about how the Indian families always seem to find the best neighborhoods and schools and how they are so industrious, when suddenly I realized I was making assumptions about Indians as a whole based on a very particular subset. The average person in India isn’t necessarily good at choosing good schools. The average person in India isn’t necessarily good at scrimping and saving. The average person in India doesn’t come and live in the greater Boston area, only rich techies do that.

In her book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, Susan Cain reflects on a theory that could explain America’s national obsession with extreme extroversion. America, unlike old world countries, is peopled entirely by immigrants. That means everyone who lives here is descended from the type of person who would be willing to jump in a boat and leave everything behind in search of a new adventure. In other words, America was built entirely by extroverts. Maybe a few introverted wives and children came along. Maybe a few introverts came to escape political or religious persecution. Maybe a couple quiet types came over with the Irish escaping the famine. But on a whole, they were all the bold and brash types.

I got to see a miniature version of extrovert migration when I decided to move to Southern California to seek my fortune. Now there is an area that is entirely populated by recent immigrants. No one is born in LA. I think they have laws against babies or something. The population is entirely made up of perky blond people from the heartland who caught greyhounds to LA to try to break into Hollywood. Let me just tell you that a small town Vermonter of Norwegian descent stands out in LA like a piece of lutefisk in a tray of rainbow frosted, sprinkled cupcakes. But that just made me wonder: why wouldn’t the descendants of Vikings be more bold? Why do I feel more like looking at my feet than pillaging and looting?

I have a theory about the Vikings. And the Mongols too. It actually makes sense that the modern inhabitants of Scandinavia are really introverted. All their bold and outgoing people went off to pillage and rape. Only the quiet farmers and librarians and loot inventory clerks stayed behind. All the extrovert genes passed on to the Bretons and Normans, while the introvert genes all stayed up north. Same thing with The Mongol hordes. They took all the extroverts with them when they left Asia. Now pretty much everyone left behind is super introverted.

But extrovert migration also explains a lot of current geopolitics. I studied in Rome for a semester. Theres nothing more annoying than American tourists yelling loudly and obviously having no idea where they are or what they’re looking at. “Hey look! Boobies! Dude! Take a picture of me with this statue!” At one point I had to get past a group of American students on a bus. I didn’t want to be associated with them, so I said “scusate, scusate, grazie” and pushed through. The only Americans most people meet are the kind of Americans who go places. And they’re all loudmouthed jerks. No wonder everyone hates us! No wonder they all wish we would just shut up and go away! But you can’t judge a whole nation based on the people who leave its borders. Not everyone’s cut out for pillaging. Now where is my loot-ledger?

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7 Quick Takes: Back to School, Market Basket and the Good Old Days of Herbie

— 1 —


I just started my internship in a high school special Ed classroom. This is my last step before I can officially teach. If you’ve never been in a school during the weeks before school starts, you should rejoice and be glad. Let’s just say there can be a lot of wailing and gnashing of t… Oops, I meant AV and DG, (operationally defined as vocalization that is audible to others, and dental grinding).

I’ve learned a lot about PLC, CTE, ISS, MLP, CEU, ICT, SAU, IEP, RtI, LRE, MFE, FAPE, 504, IDEA, PBIS, SW-PBIS, BSP, ABA, BIP, UDL, ASD, EH, SST, ESY, LEA, AAC, OHI, BD, ADHD, LD, NLD, ID, OT, PT, SLP, IT, EMT, SRO, ACLU, IBM, FBI… Wait, what was I talking about?

(BTW, these are all real and off the top of my head.)

— 2 —


Is there no respect for art in this house? I drew this lovely piece for a post on introversion, but my son insisted that it needed captions to “show what the mama and daddy were saying.” And what, you may ask, were they saying? “Fleega fliga floooooog!” of course. It’s my son’s favorite thing to yell.

— 3 —


The other day I wrote a post in which I wondered what the deal was with Ludwig Bemelmans, the author of the Madeline books. Turns out he actually lived a pretty colorful life. He was born in Austria-Hungary to a German mother and Belgian father. His mother took him to Germany after his father ram off with the family’s own miss Clavel. But he soon moved to America to escape prison. You see, it seems he shot a waiter in his uncle’s hotel. I have to say, I’ve found the waiters at hotel restaurants do ask for it sometimes.

And I guessed right about salad. It comes from salata, short for herba salata, salted greens.

— 4 —


We won! Market basket is now in the hands of Arthur T. If you live in the New England area, you should go shop there to show your support. They lost a lot of capital during the strike/boycott; we need to help them get back on their feet. One good way of doing that is stocking up on dry goods that you know you’ll use eventually. Go buy a hundred cans of soup, Arty T. will be sure to pass it forward.

— 5 —

I just read most of The Highly Sensitive Person in Love: Understanding and Managing Relationships When the World Overwhelms You by Elaine Aron. I was hoping so much that it would be good. It was definitely interesting, but it was based on a sort of Frankenstein’s monster cobbled together from old studies and eastern mysticism. You want so much for it to be true, but then she starts talking about levels of spirituality and finding your own path. As I read it I got the distinct impression that as a scientist she knew that some of what she was saying was bogus, that some of what people were doing was just not going to make them happy, but that she didn’t want to offend anyone. She’s too sympathetic. She’s too forgiving. She’s just a little to sensitive to be really helpful.

— 6 —

This keeps happening to me: I keep looking for conservative books to counter the fact that I’m turning more and more into a bleeding heart liberal, but every book I pick up turns out to actually be super liberal! I just read American Panic: A History of Who Scares Us and Why by Mark Stein thinking it was by Mark Steyn. It’s about mass panic from the Salem Witch Trials to the McCarthy Era to the racial violence against anyone suspected of being Arab or Muslim after 9/11. It’s a really interesting book. He’s pretty balanced until you get to his more recent examples of panic. He gives plenty of examples of how some Tea Party members and pro-life activists fit his definition of panic, but only gives enough space to the Occupy and Pro-Choice movements to be able to give lip service to neutrality. While I do believe he is telling the truth, I don’t think he’s telling the whole truth.

— 7 —

We just watched The Love Bug. Movies used to be so clean, so innocent. Gone are the purer days when women could say they sympathized with a car because they wished they were owned by its driver. Gone are those simpler times when being drunk was hilarious. Gone are the magic moments when it was OK to say you understood how to “unscrew the inscrutable” Chinese. Oh for those happy hours when hippies could watch a woman apparently being held against her will be an unknown man and simply remark that “we’re all prisoners, chicky baby.” Ah well, enough reminiscing, back to the vulgar and degrading present.

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

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Hungry Heart

Got a mistress and kid in Carthage, Jack / I went out to form a philosophical community and I never looked back…

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Positive Spin and Magnetism

Chick Magnet

Chick Magnet

Just the Facts, Please

Media outlets aligned with one political camp or another are constantly accusing each other of not presenting “just the facts.” Everyone claims to present the pure truth with no spin. But it’s just not true. It would be impossible to present just the facts. Imagine if there was a news outlet that reported every local election, every local crime, every piece of legislation from municipal to national, every misdeed by every public figure, every sporting event, every stock or bond on the market, every business deal, real or anticipated, every scientific paper published… The amount of information would be mind boggling! We can only process so much information at a time, so we need it to be sorted, processed, interpreted and chunked in a form that’s easily understandable. This information triage inevitably cuts out the majority of the raw data as it picks the few bits that are front page material.

It’s All in Your Head

Every moment, your brain and the rest of your nervous system carry out this same triage process. You have sense receptors throughout your body: you see with your eyes, hear with your ears, taste and smell with your mouth and nose, feel touch on your skin, feel the position of limbs, feel the stretching or contracting of internal organs, sense your blood glucose level… Meanwhile your brain is busily processing all the information you’ve received, comparing it to past information, looking for common patterns, storing it in long term memory, reworking old memories… And while all of this is happening, the only thing your conscious mind is aware of is that you’re sitting there reading this stupid blog. Your mind is not a no spin zone. There’s a constant triage going on in there.

Do I Repulse You With My Queasy Smile?

We all have inborn cognitive biases. We can’t help pricking up our ears when we hear someone say our name in a conversation across the room. In crowd of smiling faces, we see the one frown more clearly. We’re drawn to shocking stories about sex, violence, betrayal, incompetence… These things tend to make our minds yell “clear the cognitive presses, we’ve got a big one!” But these things tend to be negative. As we run more and more of these stories, our mind begins to realign its focus. Our neuronal networks become magnets for negativity. We become locked in a world where the only news is bad news.

What’s Infinity Divided by Two?

But the good news is that the negative newsreel in your head cherry-picked those stories from literally millions of alternatives. There is way more information coming at you at any given moment than your conscious mind could possibly handle. That does mean there are more negative stories than your mind can handle, but it also means there are more positive stories than your mind can handle! You just need to retrain your triage process to pass on the good news and leave the bad for those other stations to cover.

I Don’t Know You From Atom

In every substance, the electrons on a given atom spin in one direction somewhat like planets orbiting a star. Just like the Earth, this spinning gives them a magnetic north and south pole. Virtually every substance on earth has the potential to be magnetic, but most of the time the atoms are just jumbled together and the positives and negatives cancel out. But when all the atoms are aligned in the same direction, the result is: a magnet.

If It Isn’t Working, Hit It With a Hammer

How do you make a magnet? You need to get all the atoms lined up in the same direction. But how do you do that? Two ways: 1. You line it up with the magnetic field of the earth (north to south) and bang the hell out of it with a good hammer. The result will be a pretty weak but passable magnet.
2. You place it in a much stronger magnetic field. The realty will be a nice strong magnet.

Stuck on You

How do you change your cognitive biases? Two ways:
1. you do it all on your own. You find out what you should be doing with your life, find the direction of Polaris, and get out the hammer.
2. You surround yourself with people who are on the right path. This doesn’t mean going with the flow: the majority of the world is spinning in the opposite direction from where you want to go. You need to find a community that can draw you away from the negative and toward the positive.

Nowadays, we get most of our news from social media rather than news media. When you join the right community, it becomes much easier to be positive. Suddenly half the triage process has been done for you. But never let your guard down, negativity can have a very attractive pull.

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Gender and sensitivity: What makes a man a man? Am I a man? Yes. Technically I am.

    I just started reading Elaine Aron’s The Highly Sensitive Person in Love: Understanding and Managing Relationships When the World Overwhelms You. She explores how the theory she developed in her earlier book, tThe Highly Sensitive Person, apply to relationships. Aron has found that around 20% of the general population fit her definition of being highly sensitive: they have unusually reactive nervous systems, tend to avoid highly stimulating environments, are very perceptive, and tend to be reflective and inward focused. Being highly sensitive is an underlying physiological trait, so once this trait interacts with a person’s environment, experience, and other physical characteristics, the resulting personality types can differ widely. Yet highly sensitive people have many things in common. They tend to be introverted. They tend to be deep thinkers. They tend to be pretty moody. So the question Aron asks in this book is how do these factors affect relationships?

    One of the biggest problem areas in relationships is gender role expectations. Who does the bills? Who does the shopping? Who opens up and shares their feelings? Who listens? Who looks for solutions? Aron discusses the mismatch between our culture’s ideals and stereotypes about gender roles and the innate nature of the highly sensitive person. There is not quite as much of a mismatch for women: women are often stereotyped as sensitive and emotional. But sensitive men have it a bit harder. Men are supposed to be macho. We are expected to leap before looking. We are expected to have thick skin. We are expected to be highly competitive. So when you are the sensitive type, you get slotted for minor roles. You’re the sissy. You’re the confidant who’s never seen as a love interest. There are always whispers about how you’re probably gay.

    You beat yourself up. You try to do all that macho stuff. You force yourself to join that football game. You take that job in sales even though you know you’ll hate it and probably fail. But why make a show of being “masculine?” Why not just be your own sensitive self?

    I think things have changed a lot since Aron wrote her book in 2001. Fathers and husbands and expected to be sensitive. But I see myself so much in the struggles she describes. The world may be more open to sensitive masculinity, but there are still so few role models. Sensitivity may be the new macho, but I still don’t feel like a real man. Am I?

Posted in Marriage, Psychology | 1 Comment

How to handle your introvert: Some dos and don’ts


Do say hi.

Don’t be surprised when I just grunt or something. Just mentally translate that into the warm “oh, hellloooo, Jenny! I’m so delightfully tickled to see you this sparklingly wonderful morning!” or some such you would have used.

Do invite me to your party or outing. Just because I turned it down or sat in the corner the whole time last time doesn’t mean I don’t want you to ask me.

Don’t be offended, though, if I turn you down again. I need to get out. But I also just need to read sometimes.

Don’t assume I’m stuck up or hate you because I’m not joining in with your conversations. I don’t like small talk. I’m not good at small talk. But I don’t mind you doing your thing as long as you don’t try to get me involved.

Do strike up a conversation with me. It might seem like I don’t like talking, but that’s not it at all. I just don’t like small talk. I love conversations. When I think of the happiest, most meaningful moments in my life, most have been good conversations. Go ahead and talk to me. Most of the time, there’s nothing I’d like more than to have a real conversation with you. But if I check out, don’t think I don’t like you. Sometimes I really do just want to sit and think.

Do understand that there will come a time when our conversation is done.

Don’t keep going at that point.

OK. Nice talking! Bye!

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