Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Opening paragraphs.....................

      I am an invisible man.  No.  I am not a spook like those who haunted Edgar Allan Poe; nor am I one of your Hollywood-movie ectoplasms.  I am a man of substance, of flesh and bone, fiber and liquids—and I might even be said to possess a mind.  I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me.  Like the bodiless heads you sometimes see in circus sideshows, it is as though I have been surrounded by mirrors of hard, distorting glass.  When they approach me they see only my surroundings, themselves, or figments of their imagination—indeed, everything and anything except me.

-Ralph Ellison, from the Prologue to Invisible Man

selective attention test

Did you see the person dressed in the gorilla suit who enters the picture, walks slowly across the screen, thumps her chest, and moves off the screen after about nine seconds?  If you did not, you are not alone - about 70% of the subjects in the experiments did not notice the appearance of the gorilla.  And most were astonished to discover that they had missed the gorilla when the video was replayed to them.  Kahneman argues that the experiment reveals that humans are 'blind to the obvious, and we are also blind to our blindness.'  But how should we interpret the result?  Is it the result of a human failing?  Or a human strength?  Surely it is sensible when asked to carry out a specific task to blot out any extraneous observations irrelevant to the task, and the experiment demonstrated the power of human capacity for concentration.
     When confronted by the challenges of living in a complex world, we know that there are many stimuli that we would do well to ignore in order to concentrate on the matter at hand.  Indeed, the phenomenon of 'blindness', far from being a failing, may be regarded as a positive virtue.  The Hungarian-American psychologist Mihaly Czikszentmihalyi has found that individuals are happiest when in 'flow', completely focused on difficult but rewarding activities.

Differently the same...................

 "The imperfect is our paradise," Wallace Stevens wrote.  If the entry of genetics into the human world carried one immediate lesson, it was this: the imperfect was not just our paradise; it was also, inextricably, our mortal world.  The degree of human genetic variation—and the depth of its influence on human pathology—was unexpected and surprising.  The world was vast and various.  Genetic diversity was our natural state—not just in isolated pockets in faraway places, but everywhere around us.  Seemingly homogeneous populations were, in fact, strikingly heterogeneous.  We had seen the mutants—and they were us.

-Siddhartha Mukherjee,  The Gene: An Intimate History

Monday, October 19, 2020

Can I get an Amen..................................?

 "If lockdown were a treatment undergoing a clinical trial, the trial would be halted because of the side effects. "

-as excerpted from this letter

It's a good thing "social" media hadn't.................

 ................................been invented yet, or things might have gotten really nasty:

"At the beginning of the contest the Progress had declared that Huey would not resort to criticism of his enemies but would discuss issues.  Then, with a fine disregard for logic or consistency, the paper predicted that his speeches would be a welcome contrast to the 'tawdry howls of his senile, asinine, scurrilous' foes."

-T. Harry Williams, Huey Long

Ed. Notes: The contest was for a seat in the U. S. Senate.  The Progress was a newspaper controlled by Huey.  The year was 1930.

It's good to remember.............................



Yeah, what he said....................

“I am not absentminded. It is the presence of mind that makes me unaware of everything else.”

-G.K. Chesterton

A few morsels.................................

"The idea is that you have to take risk to get ahead, but no risk that can wipe you out is ever worth taking."

"You can plan for every risk except the things that are too crazy to cross your mind."

"A good rule of thumb for a lot of things in life is that everything that can break will eventually break."

"In fact, the most important part of every plan is planning on your plan not going according to plan."

-Morgan Housel, from the chapter Room for Error in his The Psychology of Money:  Timeless Lessons On Wealth, Greed, and Happiness