I used to think Avril Lavigne was pretty deep.

Or, if not pretty deep, kind of deep.  Deep enough.  Though a quick reread of some of her lyrics suggests that she lacks some of the imagined depth I perceived in high school, I can still see why some of her songs resonated with me as a high schooler.

“Everything’s changing, when I turn around

I’m out of my control, I’m a mobile”

Yup, pretty much sums up the constant, out of my control, changes thrown at me during high school.  Moving schools and houses, departing friends, juggling identities; all the fun TCK additions to a turbulent time of life.  (Now with more changes!)

And routines become addictive, even if the routine is change itself.  After high school I hopped universities, hopped majors, hopped countries; I pretty much dominated the bunny on a pogo stick act.


Now I’m in Stockholm.  I’m currently (unintentionally) stationary.  And it’s unnerving.  It’s like country winter silence: no traffic, no neighbors, hibernating crickets.

And my friends and family are hopping like mad, emphasizing my stillness.  Marriages, jobs, moves: my network is scattered.  It’s like the diaspora.  OK maybe not like that.

But it’s an interesting time, being in the audience, watching the lives of others.  There’s a lot of potential here.   A lot of time to learn, explore, meditate.  Stillness does not equal laziness.  (See, I’m deep like Avril.)


Also, if you’re a random reader wanting to know how to pronounce my name, they say it like 50 times in this clip.  Sarah Michelle Gellar is baaaaack.


Psychology experiments tend to produce disturbing results,

but I find them to be engrossing reads.

I recently came across a “Good Samaritan” study done by the Princeton psychology department in 1970.  The psychologists conducting the experiment wanted to know how differing approaches to religion, differing time restraints, and differing momentary thoughts affect people’s choice to aid others.

40 seminary students were used in the experiment (or only 40 of the students’ results were kept), in which they were tested, asked to prepare a speech, and sent to another building, passing a moaning/injured man on the way.


They were interviewed about their degree of religiosity and placed into three categories: those who are religious because it helps themselves, those who are religious because of its (religion’s) intrinsic value, and those who are religious because it brings meaning to their lives.

Half the students were told to prepare a speech about vocations for seminary post grads, and half were told to prepare a speech about the passage of The Good Samaritan.  They were then told that they would be giving the speech in another building.

One third of the students were told that they were running late and should hurry to the next building.  One third were told that they were right on time and to go on over.  One third were told that they were early, but might as well go anyways.


The largest factor influencing the choices of the students was not their view of religion or their momentary thoughts – those preparing a sermon on the Good Samaritan were not significantly more likely to help the man than those who weren’t – the largest factor influencing the students’ altruism was their sense of hurry.

Their conclusion:

A person not in a hurry may stop and offer help to a person in distress. A person in a hurry is likely to keep going. Ironically, he is likely to keep going even if he is hurrying to speak on the parable of the Good Samaritan, thus inadvertently confirming the point of the parable. (Indeed, on several occasions, a seminary student going to give his talk on the parable of the Good Samaritan literally stepped over the victim as he hurried on his way!)

Although the degree to which a person was in a hurry had a clearly significant effect on his likelihood of offering the victim help, whether he was going to give a sermon on- the parable or on possible vocational roles of ministers did not. This lack of effect of sermon topic raises certain difficulties for an explanation of helping behavior involving helping norms and their salience. It is hard to think of a context in which norms concerning helping those in distress are more salient than for a person thinking about the Good Samaritan, and yet it did not significantly increase helping behavior. The results were in the direction suggested by the norm salience hypothesis, but they were not significant. The most accurate conclusion seems to be that salience of helping norms is a less strong determinant of helping behavior in the present situation than many, including the present authors, would expect.

Thinking about the Good Samaritan did not increase helping behavior, but being in a hurry decreased it. It is difficult not to conclude from this that the frequently cited explanation that ethics becomes a luxury as the speed of our daily lives increases is at least an accurate description. The picture that this explanation conveys is of a person seeing another, consciously noting his distress, and consciously choosing to leave him in distress. But perhaps this is not entirely accurate, for, when a person is in a hurry, something seems to happen that is akin to Tolman’s (1948) concept of the “narrowing of the cognitive map.” Our seminarians in a hurry noticed the victim in that in the post experiment interview almost all mentioned him as, on reflection, possibly in need of help. But it seems that they often had not worked this out when they were near the victim. Either the interpretation of their visual picture as a person in distress or the empathic reactions usually associated with that interpretation had been deferred because they were hurrying. According to the reflections of some of the subjects, it would be inaccurate to say that they realized the victim’s possible distress, then chose to ignore it; instead, because of the time pressures, they did not perceive the scene in the alley as an occasion for an ethic~l decision.


Non related articles:

Young Americans Reign in Their Dreams

Don’t just do something; stand there


Last week I was told I would never be a writer because

I’m not reclusive enough.  To which I responded “I am reclusive!” To which I received laughter.  And, yes, it sounded a bit weak to my own ears.

Added to the hindrance of my nature is my nurture.  I had a wonderful childhood.  The sort that would render Dickens and the Bronte sisters unable to produce any of their harrowing material.  Young Copperfield would have had summers of endless warmth and laughter.  Sweet Miss Eyre would have had a simple, stable, deathless experience growing up.  And Dickens and Bronte would remain completely unknown.

Would they have traded fame/brilliance for better, brighter lives?  Would you?  In An Unquiet Mind, psychiatrist Kay Jamison describes her lifelong struggle with Manic Depression (Bipolar Disorder).  She frequently stops taking her medication even though, as a doctor, she knows exactly why she needs it.  She stops taking it because, aside from buoying her from depression, the pills repress her mania – the place from which she produces her most creative, genius, moving work.  For the most part, she would rather take the bad for the sake of the good.

She describes mania:

” There is a particular kind of pain, elation, loneliness, and terror involved in this kind of madness. When you’re high it’s tremendous. The ideas and feelings are fast and frequent like shooting stars, and you follow them until you find better and brighter ones. Shyness goes, the right words and gestures are suddenly there, the power to captivate others a felt certainty. There are interests found in uninteresting people. Sensuality is pervasive and the desire to seduce and be seduced irresistible. Feelings of ease, intensity, power, well-being, financial omnipotence, and euphoria pervade one’s marrow. But, somewhere, this changes. The fast ideas are far too fast, and there are far too many; overwhelming confusion replaces clarity. Memory goes. Humor and absorption on friends’ faces are replaced by fear and concern. Everything previously moving with the grain is now against– you are irritable, angry, frightened, uncontrollable, and enmeshed totally in the blackest caves of the mind. You never knew those caves were there. It will never end, for madness carves its own reality.”

And also describes depression:

“Others imply that they know what it is like to be depressed because they have gone through a divorce, lost a job, or broken up with someone. But these experiences carry with them feelings. Depression, instead, is flat, hollow, and unendurable. It is also tiresome. People cannot abide being around you when you are depressed. They might think that they ought to, and they might even try, but you know and they know that you are tedious beyond belief: you are irritable and paranoid and humorless and lifeless and critical and demanding and no reassurance is ever enough. You’re frightened, and you’re frightening, and you’re “not at all like yourself but will be soon,” but you know you won’t.”


Carrie Fisher, Kurt Cobaine, Stephen Fry, Mel Gibson, and Amy Winehouse are/were all Bipolar.




You know it’s tourist season in Sweden when sober guys start hitting on you.

There are also other indications: bus announcements translated into English, overweight people, loud families, etc.  But the “approach a stranger, strike up a conversation out of mid-air, attempt to get digits” number is a particularly good indication that some new blood is on the streets.

I’ve generally heard that it takes guts for a guy to approach a woman and try to create a connection out of nothing, and therefore you should respect the effort.  I generally disagree.  Guys who have this approach are either outgoing, confident, or desperate (or drunk, or under a dare).  If they are outgoing or confident, then it’s not a particularly brave action.  If they are desperate, they are driven beyond their own gutsiness.

Still, I usually enjoy these sorts of encounters if they are non threatening/non physical.  My friends roll their eyes or ignore unsolicited male attention, and find it odd/amusing when I engage in the conversation.  I find the whole process fascinating.  It’s like we’re all these amoebae floating around the world, and generally ignoring the ones we don’t recognize.  Then, suddenly, one of them likes the outline or nucleus of another, and angles its direction to bump into it.

Maybe that was a weird analogy.  I first imagined it as disembodied souls, but the amoeba image had more of a Larsonesque feel to it.

Suffice it to say, I enjoy interacting with (non creepy) strangers.  I was a journalism major.  I want to meet people and hear their stories and try to figure out what set of circumstances, genetics, personality type, serendipitous happenings, led them to who and where they are at that exact moment.  And no, I don’t think everyone is good deep down.  But a lot of people want to be, and that’s a start.  Yes, those last two sentences were contextually appropriate.

It’s also a great acting exercise.  A stranger hitting on you might be attempting to simulate a genuine conversation, but there is no obligation to treat it as such.  You can change your name, age, occupation – heck, you can go to that exclusive college that rejected you and you pretended not to care, calling it elitist and bourgeois, while secretly you wish you’d gotten in.  *Use an accent that you can maintain.