Sunday, January 13, 2019

Italy in 10 efficient days -- Padua/Venice (2 days)

Day 8: Arya and I took the fast train from Florence to Padua, but I'm sure there's a train from Cinqueterre or from Pisa too. We booked our tickets for the Scrovegni Chapel (otherwise known as Giotto wonderland!) like a week ahead, which is pretty much the minimum to book any of the places that require tickets. It's walkable to the chapel from the train station, but a good thing I kept losing clothes everywhere because after a week of extensive walking with Daniel and continuing to walk with Arya, this time I maybe had low grade plantar fasciitis. Arya and I just had backpacks, so that was easy, but also the chapel has a coat check that can handle even bigger luggage, so it is a very easy detour to/from Venice and one I absolutely recommend as the whole detour took just a few hours including lunch.

The Scrovegni Chapel is essentially like the pre-Renaissance (and my favorite artist's) Italian master Giotto's version of the Sistine Chapel. It's a miracle that it was preserved. Giotto pieces are super rare. Before this I had only seen two in the Louvre and two in the Uffizi. Now imagine an entire interior of Giotto. Wow. This was for sure the highlight of the trip for me and one of the main reasons I had wanted to go to Italy.

I wept in there. I wept before we even got in there from the video that we watched while we were getting dehumidified (overly moist air is a big problem in there because they're all frescoes and the land has underground water too). In the video (not the one above, I can't find it online) it talks about how the two layers of paintings are about Mary and Jesus's lives respectively and how underneath the main paintings are paintings of the 7 virtues on one side and vices on the other side.

Here are my notes from the video:

Each of us is called to choose between good and evil. This is the message of free will. 
He appeals to our sense of responsibility. He points us to the healing process that can make us better people. 

I think there are other things in Padua worth checking out, but we didn't. Also, it's expensive to stay there. For some reason I thought it would have been cheaper to stay in Padua than Florence, so my initial plan (before we got night tickets to see the David) was to train it up to Padua in the evening and stay there, but we ended up one more evening in Florence.

Weird side note about the coat check, after we were done we grabbed out back packs again, ate a snack, but wanted to check out the multimedia section (not that great, but it did have a video and dress up). BUT the crazy lady in there gave us such a hard time about having a backpack, even though we were the only ones in there, and insisted that we couldn't even be in the room with a backpack. Rather than re check the bags in the free coat check, we just walked back to the train station. That's a potential "gray rage" scenario (more on that later?), but luckily we had just been through the chapel so I was on a spiritual high!

That afternoon we took the train the final 20-40 minutes to Venice. There are two Venice train stations -- the one on the mainland and the island ones, make sure you're getting the right one. We stayed in some sketchy dive a short walk from the train station that nonetheless had the most beautiful grand canal view. We kept that window open the whole time, just listening to the boats and people outside. Gondola rides were 200 euros at night in cash. What?! But still, it's like pony up the cash because it's such a singular experience. Other than that and St. Mark's square, I don't think there are any things that you have to do. The churches are ok, but there's nothing unmissable, which is nice because you don't want to spend your time inside museums here, you want to spend it out on the streets and on the water.

Definitely get a little ferry pass (their version of a bus) for however long you're going to be there, otherwise there are certain places you simply can't get to. We went on the ferry to the little island and accompanying church of San Giorgio Maggiorre, which has a tower that you can get up to for cheap that is a very nice alternative to the St. Mark's one, which can often have a line. See below and above photo for the view from this tower. We also went to the Doge's Palace with the audio tour, which had entertaining amounts of blood and intrigue and prisons. Word on the street is that the Secret's of the Doge is a fun tour, but has to be booked so far ahead of time that we were not even close to being able to do that. 

We spent about 36 hours there, which I thought was great -- enough to see Venice in all sorts of light. If you are short on time, I think you can get the gist in even shorter amount of time. But do go! Because it keeps getting more crowded and flooded by the minute and it is such a different city, very singular and unmissable, I think. And because we went at the very end of summer, we didn't have any flooding or any similar issues.

We left that night by taking an overnight bus to Munich (Flix). Either Venice or the bus exposed me to a new bug that gave me bullseye bug bites that itched like crazy for 2-3 days and then disappeared. I don't think bed bugs, and I had it confirmed that it wasn't tick bites by my doctor when I got home. Other than that who knows. Maybe wear bug repellent. 

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Texas and Louisiana in February?

I'm thinking about hitting up some of my Central and East Texas and Louisiana people who have reached out to me before I go to Mardi Gras. Email me if you would like to meet up. 

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Narcissists, Psychopaths, and Sociopaths

Here's another video that one of my family members sent:

I just ran into this video on youtube and I was wondering what your opinion on it is, based on the research that you have done into these kinds of distinctions.  To be honest, I had a hard time even comprehending some of the things she was talking about and I think that it might have something to do with the nature of empathy.  Like it seems like people who are empathetic are naturally so (and this is what makes it so hard for empaths to even understand what it would be like to be a sociopath/psychopath) but the stuff she said about psychopaths being born and sociopaths being made made me wonder if empathy is an acquired skill.  Have you seen other people citing this same distinction between psychopaths and sociopaths (i.e. that the causes are nature and nurture, respectively)?  If you haven't seen this video before, it might be interesting to show to your blog and see how people react to it there. 

See below my response to the distinction between psychopaths and sociopaths. But I think the issue of empathy being an acquired skill is sort of a separate question, in a way. From my own experience, I think that anyone can learn to do better perspective taking -- or cognitive empathy. But I've had brain scans that show low low levels of function in the typical empathy brain areas. And after so many years of therapy, I still don't really have the sensation of feeling affective empathy. I don't feel like I will ever get to where I am feeling affective empathy normally. But I also don't feel like I need affective empathy for a normal, happy, fulfilling life. In fact I think the overreliance on empathy in our society has led to a great many ills.

I like her explanation of guilt and shame. I think along with the previous video about regret, these people are accurately describing what negative emotions sociopaths may or may not experience.

I don't necessarily agree that a psychopath is born and a sociopath is made. I have heard this before, but I don't know that this is a consistently held belief or that there has been a good deal of research to justify this distinction. I do think that there probably is a different between people that I would consider sort of a genetically driven sociopath and those that may have been culturized or socialized that way. For instance, I have heard from several people that a high degree of the population of Romania seems sociopathic. That seems like more of a cultural response. Whether that means we call them sociopaths and other people psychopaths, I don't know. I'd like to see the academic empirical research on this.

One story I did like is the girl who broke up with a dude who  tries to win her back, successfully. They date for a solid year and he is the perfect boyfriend. On the one year anniversary of getting back together, the boyfriend tells her that he had been playing her this whole time to break her heart. Wow, cold. But I could see sociopaths (especially young ones with a lot of time on their hands) do something like this. 

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Sociopathy as adaptation instead of disorder

This Bret Weinstein (evolutionary theorist) video was sent to me by a reader and I actually thought it accurately described a lot of my own experience and conception of sociopathy. He talks about how sociopathy is listed as a disorder, but for a lot of sociopaths their sociopathic traits end up being the thing that enable the sociopath to achieve high levels of success, so it is more like a superpower than a disorder. In fact, he suggests that sociopathy is just one end of a spectrum that contains all normal people.

I don't 100% track his definitions of empathy and sympathy. I think I still prefer cognitive vs. affective empathy.

His thoughts on why we think of sociopathy as a disorder, because their traits are turned inward into their own groups (as opposed to be used against opposing groups, etc.) are pretty interesting.

His solution is, instead of killing sociopaths or neutralizing them or imprisoning them or whatever, that society look to eliminate situations or societal systems that are vulnerable to exploitation -- not just from sociopaths from anyone. He suggests that the example of individuals glutting themselves on world resources to the detriment of future generations would be an example of the sorts of societal systems that allow people to profit off something that produces harm to others that needs to be rectified, primarily I believe based on his arguments by requiring people to internalize all of the benefits and harm of their actions.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Italy in 10 efficient days -- Cinqueterre/Pisa (1.5 days)

Day 6: Cinqueterre! One of my lawyer friends has talked this up quite a bit, and I think it may have to do with the fact that she went a decade or so ago when it was a little less crowded. The crowds and the mudslides have maybe dulled this gem of the Mediterranean just a little bit from what it perhaps once was. But I actually think it was perfect for Daniel and I because you either hike or take the train to the difference towns, and we did a ton of hiking, which was a perfect overlap of our interests and beautiful weather for hiking in mid September. 

We actually got to Riomaggiore, the first city from the South, the evening before and did some swimming, although we probably didn't read the instructions about safe places for swimming correctly and ended up with some blood lost. 

In the morning we checked our bags with some checked luggage lady for something ridiculous like 10 euros each. Wow, highway robbery. Remember that if you're spending just a day here (totally doable if you're mostly here to see the coastline and do some hiking). Maybe it's worth it to stay at an actual hotel that can keep your luggage for the day instead of the sideways place we stayed at. Also, heads up, it was mosquito city there in certain places, so bring repellent. 

Between Riomaggiore and the next city there is a path (Via Dell'Amore) that's been closed for like 5 years because of potential structural issues. We just scaled the cliff a little to get around the barrier, and it was a nice walk (Daniel slept there on his last day, when I took the train to stay the night in Pisa). If you don't want to scale the barrier, you can take the train there or maybe do some other longer hike. 

There's a similar story with the next city Manarola. I actually think this may have been a better place for swimming, if we had brought swimming gear. But we didn't really have time that day either because there's sort of a full day of hiking just to get from place 1 to place 4 (we never did get to number 5 although we could have grabbed a ferry or train to finish the journey). 

Daniel again wanted to take the path that goes along the coast that got cut away by a mudslide (visible from the water or from the former starting place of that path) but to me it looked a little too destroyed. I'm actually glad we ended up taking the hill path instead because we got some great views of both Manarola and number three city Corniglia and the hike was pretty fun after the first half mile or so which was basically like walking up stairs for forty five minutes. The path is a little hard to see, but we asked some people by some pay restrooms (Daniel is very good at asking for directions) and there was a little water station halfway up the stairs with some good views for resting. By this time, I don't know what was wrong with me, but I was not at my peak performance. Something I ate or the heat or something? The first couple hours of the hike Daniel was waiting for me to rest a lot. Things turned around in the afternoon, but even so I was wishing I had brought true athletic shoes with me instead of the very thin soled sneakers I had brought.  

You don't need a pass to go to Cogniglia, but to get to the fourth city Vernazza, yes. You can pay at the beginning of the trail to Vernazza. Vernazza was maybe the liveliest of the places? He is the top photo of this blog. Pretty cool how he juts out like that. We could sort of see the fifth city way far away and it didn't look as charming, so we called it quits at Vernazza and went back on the ferry, which was a nice maritime and relatively cheap way to see the cities. Ferry tickets are sold down at the ferry line. The ferry holds a lot of people so don't be too nervous you won't get on, but do stand in line and not wait until the last minute. 

If you wanted to skip a trail for time savings and less intense, probably take the train or ferry from 2 to 3. The trail from 2 to 3 was pretty long and intense with good views. The trail from 3 to 4 was a little less jungly and less up and down. 

I'm sure there's shopping and there definitely was a drinking culture from the tourists that were there at night. Mostly it's just pretty beautiful. 

Day 7: I stopped in Pisa on the way back to Rome to meet Arya. Pisa seems like the major hub city that you pass through to and from Florence? It's not probably worth more than a couple hours of wondering and seeing the tower, but is a cheaper place to stay before or after your day hiking in Cinqueterre. 

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