Friday, December 7, 2018

Time Paradox -- Please do this Quiz!

One thing that Daniel and I talked about in our hitchhiking and other Italian adventures was the different ways that people perceive time and how we thought sociopaths tended to experience time.

I learned that Philip Zimbardo (of Stanford Prison Experiment fame) had a book out in the last decade talking about the different ways that people can and do perceive time.

I wonder if y'all wouldn't mind completing this short test Zimbardo uses to suss out who perceives time in what ways: http://www.thetimeparadox.com/zimbardo-time-perspective-inventory/

And then if you could report what you got in the comments with a rough score on what you are 1-10 in terms of sociopathic traits (bell-curve style, like I was probably an 8 at my peak, now a 7.5 and 10 is basically not functional in modern society without a ton of special accommodations), I'm interested to see if Daniel's observations are correct. Maybe even tell me what type of sociopath you consider yourself, male/female, low or high functioning, successful or struggles, that sort of thing.

Thanks friends!

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Italy in 10 efficient days -- Florence/Siena (2 days)

Ok, just a reminder that I was a little back and forth myself meeting people in different places, but this is what I would recommend for an efficient traveler.

Day 4: If you leave early enough in the morning from Rome, you can get a train or bus to Siena, which is on the way and has a charming medieval city center that is a Unesco World Heritage and a beautiful Cathedral with a museum about medieval music which was interesting to see in person for the first time.

You could probably wander around the city for a lot of time, but I think you'll get the point after 2-3 hours, and then on to Florence. In the alternative, certain parts of Florence, particularly right across the river in between the Boboli Garden (not really worth seeing unless you crazy love gardens our outdoor statutes or weird manmade grottos to house statutes) and the river.

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So if you don't feel like taking the slow trains to Siena (it's either fast train straight to Florence or spending more than twice the time on the slow trains to detour to Siena).

The lowdown with Florence is that everything is pretty walkable, much more than Rome (even though people might tell you that's a good way to see it). But there are also bikes everywhere! And I had so much fun biking around Florence. I think OBikes were the most popular, so maybe download the app ahead of time. I also did some longer term rentals another time I was there at Alinari Bikes. I did basically a circle loop, going across the river to the Michelangelo statute on the hill that has a great view, back towards the Boboli Gardens, and across the picturesque bridge with all of the shops. I was there not even at the peak of tourist season, but some Florence streets are not bikeable only because there are so many pedestrians, but the rest is pretty flat and easy. 

Daniel had a rule about only going to one church or one museum each day, so we did more outside exploration. With friend sociopath friend Arya, who met me after Daniel left, and friend Stuart who met us we went to the Uffizi Gallery, which may be the biggest, most consolidated art museum in Italy? At least that I had seen or heard about, with several famous masterpieces and plenty of selfie taking. Again, the key here is to make your reservations as early as you can swing it.



We also did the Duomo dome walk, which you can book as part of your Cathedral all in one ticket but again you need to reserve a time. Heads up, for all of the Cathedral stuff, there are a bunch of lines so make sure you know what line you're getting in before you get in line. The line to actually get into the Cathedral seemed not worth it, particularly if you do the dome and can kind of get the gist of it without needing another line. We also did the Giotto tower, which maybe has better views, as people say, because the dome is in the view. Also I have a major thing for Giotto. I licked the tower.

Finally, we went to see the David. It really is crazy. In fact, Arya said that it was maybe once of her favorite parts of the whole trip. We got reservations for the evening, which was nice to just sit and chill and look at him for an hour or so. The rest of the museum really is sort of an also run (not that great), unless you like looking at the Giotto school and comparing how the whole second floor was painted after Giotto, but still painted mostly flat with little of Giotto's perspective.

You can get a Florence pass. Same with Rome but I don't know, unless you're planning on being there for an inefficient stay, like more like 4 days, it's probably easier to just book your tickets separately. This is especially true because you often have to reserve a time to go to these places, and I couldn't figure out how to do the reservation with the Florence card. The expenses don't see like the big deal in Florence, it's the crowds and the lines, so I'd choose whatever is most convenient here. 

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Los Angeles 12/10/18

I think I have to be in Los Angeles on Monday December 10th, if people want to meet up?

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Tokyo, Seoul, and Taipei -- Meet up?

I'm still trying to make South Africa work, but it may get delayed.

Instead, I think I'll end up going to Tokyo, Seoul, and Taipei this winter (no earlier than the middle of January).

Again, please let me know if you'd like to meet up in one of those places.

Thanks!

Photo is from my Estonia trip that I still need to write about.

Monday, November 19, 2018

Italy in 10 Days -- Hitchhiking

After we leave Rome, Daniel and I start hitchhiking. His theory:

It's a complex game.

First – logistics. You have to choose the road (motorway is faster, but more problematic; on local road it's easier to catch a ride, but it won't be that far) and place (you need to be visible, it's better if there is space to stop a car, and if cars don't go too fast in this particular place; bus stop after curve is great, but not too close to the curve).

Second – good first impression. The driver will see you for several seconds and you want to convince him you're a good person he wants to take. It doesn't matter how long you wait, if you're stressed or tired, you put it all aside and play a nice, chilled, positive person (which you immediately become right after someone stops).

Third thing – someone took you for a ride, then what? I treat it like an exchange – driver offers me transportation from A to B, plus I watch him and wonder what kind of person he is, how to talk to him, how to act (“be who they want you to be”, a game I play often, and for being a good player I get rewards in many places). What I give him is positive feelings, a smile, sometimes a story or an interesting thought. And company, of course.

All of this is especially interesting because in everyday life you don't meet real strangers. You meet your friends, their friends, but they aren't random, because you choose your friends and they choose theirs, so in fact people you meet come to you through a kind of a filter (hope you understand what I mean). And now you not only meet a stranger, you also sit in his car and try to follow his rules. I guess it helps to develop empathy / emotional intelligence / intuition.

Fourth thing – I say it's easy to tell everything about yourself to a person you just met and will probably never see again. You meet this kind of people not only in bars, but also during hitchhiking. One thing is you rather want to be subtle, because you don’t know the guy, but if it's this kind of person, when you feel kind of a connection, you can tell them anything you want and he will not call you three years later saying what he thinks about you. It's like talking with yourself in my opinion.

And the last thing is where they leave you. Sometimes you're left on the crossing in the middle of nowhere, with nobody in sight, and when the car goes his way it's only you and silence, and I feel absolutely free in those situations. I really like this feeling, being on the road, you know.

So I think that's it.

And when I talk to Daniel most of the time that we are together, it feels a little this way -- like I am talking to a stranger, but in a lot of ways much more than talking to a random stranger like with the hitchhiking, I feel like I am talking to myself. 

Because I'm interested in really understanding the people I meet, as much as they want to be understood, I was interested to try out hitchhiking with him. We ended up choosing to go north instead because he had to make an international flight leaving out of France in about 6 days. Without really having planned it beforehand, we ended up traveling together for a week. First the hitchhiking, not very far just from Rome to Civitavecchia (if you want to look it up on a map. Worth seeing maybe, and apparently a frequent cruise stop or origin. We then, at the advice of the last person we met with, took a train up to Follonica, which is a nice beach resort town with only Italian tourists and pretty cheap. Worth a visit too if you're spending like a month in Italy. 

I've written a ton more about Daniel and his life philosophies and how I was surprised by some of his observations to realize the extent of my irrational thinking on certain topics. But maybe better to get it from the source, his new blog. Also, I'll probably get deeper into it in the second book. It's just hard to explain part of it without explaining all of it, but a quick thing to think about is his observation -- most people try to buy their life with money. But the best things in life you don’t get like chocolate from the box that you buy. You get them like chasing after the puffy seed of the dandelion and you never have a guarantee that you’ll get it. You don’t buy your life. 

In hitchhiking (in which you you're not trying to travel by buying the comfort and illusion of independence from other people) and in so many ways in which we interacted with others and made our way in the world, I kept thinking about how much I try to buy my life and otherwise try to shield myself from dealing with or relying on other people in ways that are obvious, like the same way that it is obvious that you rely on people when you're asking them for a ride. I became aware of this and at least a half dozen other little self deceptions by hanging out with him. 

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Mardi Gras, South Africa in January? and Coachella 1st weekend

Just for people's planning purposes, I'm pretty sure I'll be at Mardi Gras in New Orleans this year, if you've ever wanted to go and wanted an excuse.

Also, I already have tix for Coachella's first weekend. Again, if you're going to be there anyway, I'd love to meet up, or maybe you've been interested in checking it out before but this might help you plan.

I'm also in the early stages of thinking about going to South Africa in late January and early February.

By the way, everyone that I have met, thank you so much for your hospitality and your friendship. I've loved meeting every single one of you and count you all my friends. Truly, let me know if there is ever anything I can do for you. And I hope to meet many more of you. Again, even if you have emailed me before, if you'd like me to try to swing to your area of the world, let me know.

Thanks all!


Sunday, October 21, 2018

Italy in 10 efficient days -- Rome (2-3 days)

True to my travelogue style, I'm going to give advice about what to do while you're in Italy, but I myself didn't follow this plan.

So I'll also tell you what actually happened.

Day 1: The first day I was in Italy I had no plans, so I just went to the National Roman Museum, which is right next to the Rome Termini station. It has a ton of ancient Roman artifacts, perhaps most famously the discus thrower. Otherwise, if you're planning on visiting the Vatican museums even a little bit and you're a little on a tight schedule, this museum is an easy miss. You can also get entry into the related museum (you can buy entry to one for 10 Euro and both for 12) to the old Roman bath ruins that are also right there by the train station. But you can also see basically some Roman bath ruins by going into the Basilica S.Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri, which is a part of the Roman bath building converted to a church by Mihelangelo. I checked into my hotel at around 3:00 pm and thought about just staying there (long flight and not a lot of sleep), but because I'm so hardcore about sleep schedules when traveling, 

I forced myself to uber over to some other second tier place. Ubers are good if you can't find a taxi stand (you don't really hail taxies, you have to find a taxi stand), although they are all black car so more expensive than American uber. Second tier activities, because I was going to be in Rome again in a week with another sociopath friend and I knew she would want to do all the first tier stuff with me. So I went to something that seemed safely second tier (although I ended up going again with socio friend just for a quick look), El Palazzo Doria Pamphilj. This one has a couple Berninis and a few Carravagios and it is a nice look into a Palazzo while also combining some important pieces of art. Heads up, there aren't really any big state run museums that have all the good art, but rather they all come from private collections and mostly have stayed in those collections, even if they're available for viewing by the general public, so don't expect something like the Louvre with a consolidated collection in Rome. But maybe the best thing about this Doria Pamphilij place is that the audio guide is narrated by one of the heirs to this family fortune/collection, and his little remembrances of his family are often hilarious glimpses into wealthy old money Italian families. I also saw the Palazzo Venezia, which is very missable unless you're into Mussolini locations, bu it was a good example of what the audio guide narrator at Doria Pamphilij said -- that in Rennaissance onward Roman society, it wasn't enough for a family to have money -- it had to have things. And that's what the Palazzo Venezia looks like, just room upon room of very precious (I'm sure), uninteresting things. I also took the elevator to the top of the Altare della Patria, which people say is the best view of Rome because you can't see the Altare della Patria in the horizon. ;) 

Day 2: I meet new friend Daniel who is maybe 7-ish on socio scale? He says he is on the more hyper rational side of things. We had emailed about hitchhiking down to Naples (he has a whole theory behind it, maybe he'll let me publish it) and had talked about leaving that day, but he said he'd rather spend one more day in Rome, so we just hung out. We met at the Colosseum, he looked at my shoes and was like, looks like you can walk around for 10 or 11 hours. Not quite, but a lot that way. We walked all over the place. They say walking is the best way to see Rome, and it is probably true, but also heads up that you need some good shoes for the rough cobblestone streets, sidewalks, and just all of the very hard surfaces you'll be on. We walked first to a park on the other side of the river that is high and has a good view and then on to St. Peter's, which is a masterpiece of architecture and the cleanest older church I have seen. It really looked like it could have been built in the last decade, it was so clean. Of course Michelangelo's Pieta is there in bulletproof glass, as well as a bunch of dead popes. No cost to go in, but a long wait for security with a lot of people from cultures who are not used to queuing. You can climb to the top of the sexy ass Michelangelo dome and should because it's sexy as hell. After, we hung out in the Vatican-y sort of area around the river and just wandering until I took a cab back to my hotel, which luckily had vacancy. I lost the first of my personal items there -- a jacket. I had packed light because of the hitchhiking plans, just a normal sized backpack, and I ended up losing basically half of my clothes on this trip. Tsk tsk.

Day 3: Things I did later in Rome and that are worthwhile is a tour of the Sistine Chapel and Vatican. I did the Pristine Sistine, because I had such a good experience seeing Stonehenge early, but even before it allegedly opened it was packed. Maybe still a good idea if it's high season? And the Vatican museums seemed complicated to me, so it was nice to just burn there through with a guide explaining things. I also did a Colosseum and Roman Forum tour because I figured otherwise I wouldn't know what was going on in there. That was also probably a good idea because the ruins are so partial it's not clear what is what.

Finally, I went to the Borghese Gallery. Heads up, the way they do it is let a group in for two hour slots. Two hours is more than enough time to see everything, so no stress, even if I could have stayed longer. But! As is the case at a lot of places, what ends up happening is that middlemen buy up all the availability and so reservations have to be made at least a week in advance for your time slot or you can try to buy from these third party resellers. I ended up staying a day longer than I had planned. Because I stayed longer, I also did a Walks of Rome tour of the catacombs, which was also interesting, especially sort of piecing together the history of Rome with the history and spread of Christianity. If you're short on time and/or money but want a flavor of old Christianity and bones, another good option is just to see the Capuchin Crypt yourself, which is easily accessible within the city limit. It was very not crowded when I went and also has its own Caravaggio.

Also sort of must see is Bellini's Ecstasy of St. Theresa, which is just in a small church and is free to see but the hours are sort of particular. I went at least once when it was closed and then again when it was closing and sort of sketchy to see it after a Missa.




Thursday, October 11, 2018

Holiday Midwest, Chicago, Milwaukee, maybe Michigan and Ohio

Hey friends, I think I'm going to try to be in Milwaukee, Chicago, and maybe other places in Michigan and Ohio during the holiday week between Christmas and New Years and in the first week of January. Let me know if you would like to meet up.


Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Dachau and the problem of "evil"

I've spent a total of like 14 hours in the Copenhagen airport in the last 24 hours with delayed and then cancelled flights, but I wanted to write some quick thoughts about Dachau and evil while I wait for yet another European connecting flight before going home. I'll write more about the trip later.

Dachau is an interesting example of what people would call "evil". Dachau is a city in Bavaria and Dachau the prison and then concentration camp was the first of its kind and often used as a model for the construction of others. It began in the 1930s to house primarily all of the political prisoners that were occurring as Nazism had gained control over the German government and had gotten permission to protect the fatherland by eliminating or isolating potential threats. Interestingly, when they first obtained this permission through what was mostly still a legit democratically elected government, the pretense they gave for the need for such power was to protect their political rivals from the harm that might happen to the political rivals. In other words, they argued that their political rivals were so endangered by the political fury the Nazis themselves had worked so hard to foment via well placed propaganda preying upon the banal fears to which empaths in particular are susceptible. I sort of vaguely remember this being one of the given purposes for the establishment of Jewish ghettos as well -- that they were so hated that they needed to be separated for their own protection.

I went there with my German friend, which was interesting for me not so much because of who she is (sociopathic identifying, although that was also a little hilarious to sort of see the different ways she approached things than a more neurotypical person might), but because of how I reacted to her presence. I still have very low maybe non-existent affective empathy even post therapy, but one thing that I have always done particularly at the height of my manipulative ways is to be very aware of my audience and adjust my conversation and behavior to please. I still do this. I don't think it's bad, it's just being responsive to the context in which you find yourself, and the people around you are also part of that context. What I mean is that because she was German, I thought much more of the German perspective of what it would be like to live in Dachau -- a city that is still thriving but probably for a lot of the world will always be associated with the camp. Or what it might be like to just generally be German, especially a young German and be both so far removed from any connection to these events, but still inextricably entangled in them. And she had some very interesting thoughts about how the connection continues to affect the German sense of their national identity, like maybe they are less likely to be waving German flags in foreign places or making other overt shows of national pride, particularly while abroad.

So I found myself chatting with her about how the Germans have done a good job accepting responsibility for the things that their nation had done. They do and continue to do reparations, they have all of these memorial sites that are well attended and well maintained, and my German friend told me that the vast majority of her history lessons focused on WWII and with this idea of trying not to repeat past mistakes.

I also found myself saying things like despite the sheer magnitude of this particular path of human cruelty, the German example is not so singular. I had just been to Russia and seen a gulag, spoke at length with a local whose grandfather disappeared into a gulag long ago for the smallest of jokes about Stalin, and saw the affect that such a repressive regime still had. I had just spoken with new polish friend about some of the Russian slaughters of polish political prisoners. I also mentioned to new German friend that when I was in Russia and told people that I was visiting gulags that the U.S. has its own gulags -- the private prisons and terrible legal system that imprisons such a large proportion of its population, particularly its traditionally disadvantaged classes of people. I told her about how there has long been a Russian tu quoque response to American complaints about Russian civil rights violations -- "And you are lynching Negroes".

It was so easy to come up with examples of evil, not just of other nations both historical and contemporary, but personal examples and examples of very common brands of human cruelty -- the failure of common people to understand their fellows as being dynamic and capable of redemption, no matter what past misdeeds, the modern day stoning of public shaming done mostly via social media, the tribalism that has led to polarization and justification for violence and other "ends justify the minds" reasoning among such a broad swath of the population to a level I wouldn't have thought possible ten years ago.


The Germans have done a good job acknowledging the problem of evil, the fact that they as a nation fell susceptible to it generations ago, and trying to learn what this means for not just their own humanity and the dual good/bad that we all share, but for what it means when people do "bad" things to them. Do we judge as hypocrites? Do we falsely set ourselves up as being  beyond reproach?

Evil is not just banal, as Hannah Arendt famously argued, it is ubiquitous and we participate in it in ways small and big every day. When we can do as good of a job as the Germans do about acknowledging this and trying to learn from it and do better, I think the world would be such a better place.

Pictured, gate with the famous motto and lie that work will make free, crematorium, room marked showers that leads to a functioning gas chamber (although apparently never used), and "shower" head designed to dispense zylkon b for the efficient murder of people that were considered by their murders to themselves be "evil" and as such worth of such treatment.

Ok, my plane is boarding! Please forgive any typos or convoluted writing.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

How to Process Your Emotions

I thought this was a good, short video about how everyone has emotions that they don't process and how that is both influenced by societal expectations and has an ultimate affect on society:



It doesn't say anything terribly new, but this concept of having emotions that you don't even acknowledge as being emotions because they're happening at a level that you're not aware of is very much my traditional way of experiencing emotions.

It's not as if I was ever an emotionless void. But to the extent I did experience emotions, it's was if they were a conversation being had in another room -- or gossip about you that you're not aware of. I had physical or other symptoms (grouchiness). Like I would know that I felt tired or disinterested, but my awareness was more of my physical symptoms than being able to identify a specific source.

But even if I did have a greater awareness, I traditionally have not had the skills to process the emotion.

Through therapy I became more aware of and better at identifying my emotions, which solved the first problem. But then I had to (like everyone else) learn what to do with that knowledge. So I ended up with the same problem as everyone else in which I was experiencing general malaise, some generalized anxiety, and bad sleep because I had unacknowledged and unprocessed worries. Luckily once stuff starts affecting my sleep, I'm generally willing to do whatever it takes to figure out how to fix what's fixable. And in a way, as the video sort of alludes to at the end, although the way I lived my life was already following the philosophy of stoicism quite a bit, I became even more (via what I learned in therapy) an unintentional stoic. The key is this willingness to accept reality for what it is. Once that happens, I think most people are able to figure things out with just a little help maybe from a therapist or friend who sees things for how they truly are.  

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Italy and Munich in September

Hey friends, I’ll be in Italy in the second week of September, starting in Rome, Naples, Florence, and a couple other Northern Italy destinations before ending up in Munich around the last weekend in September. Hit me up if you want to meet up. 

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Paris in an efficient week

This travel time is cheating a little bit because I met a friend in Paris and his friend had been living in Paris for the past few months studying cooking, so I kind of coasted.

Things that I did and found worthwhile were the Louvre. I went through the newer area up the stairs from the boat sculpture, the Winged Victory of Samothrace, first, which I think was a good idea because there's less pizzazz that route, and then when I was tired after lunch is when I hit up the crazy Italian wing. The French revolution wing was closed, which was a little disappointing because I'm a fan of Géricault and Delacroix, but ok.

Musée d'Orsay is not as massive as the Louvre, but is also very interesting and important more modern pieces and a beautiful building in its own right.

I really liked dining at the Jules Verne in the Eiffel Tower. It as a Michelin star and was of course pricey, but seemed like exactly the sort of thing you would want to spend money on. Make a reservation for sure, and as early as you can. I think they assume you want a good window seat and seating is based on how early you make reservations. Even locals believe Jules Verne to be "classique".

For other restaurants in Paris, the Fork App is apparently good. As one local put it, it's like Groupon for Paris restaurants, but good. You make discounted reservations when restaurants think they'll have extra capacity. There's also Yelp, but apparently the reviews in French can be quite different from the reviews in English. For instance, one restaurant within a short walk of the Eiffel Tower had things like "Good standard fare" while the French reviews called it a "National scandal!"

Pigeon is delicious. Heads up! Also of course escargot. My chef friend really recommends Grand Cœur as one of her favorite restaurants.

Also, my friend had been taking private French tutoring with a Paris local, and I think he enjoyed getting the inside scoop on local trends before he went. The Google Translate app is a must for weak French. Be sure to download the French dictionary ahead of time and get used to the app if it's your first time.

Apparently Parisian French is particularly hard to learn and understand. I had heard that from many sources, but it wasn't until I was dining with a new friend who was French herself, but who had been away for a decade or two, struggling to communicate with a server at a restaurant that I realized how serious that admonition was. She said that when she comes back, she often ends up speaking to her friends in English, so they can practice and because it just ends up being easier.

Notre Dame was beautiful, although an interesting trend is that Cathedrals or other older buildings in big old cities that have turned into sprawling modern metropolises is that there is just a lot more updating and other changes that happen to the buildings over centuries, for better or for worse. I did meet a cheese chef outside named Remy and kissed in the rain near the bridge to the other little island behind Notre Dame and he invited me to come visit him in Monaco. That seemed very Paris, but I also think I viewed the interaction in a more casual way than he did. Be sure to check out that view of the Seine and Notre Dame, I think it looks its best that way.

Versailles was great, but I definitely got lost going out there, had to ask people what train was the right one (which I should have done in the first place) and it's true that the line is pretty long to get in. It was what I thought it would be, which is a testament to its fame and current status.

A cheaper and dirtier version of French opulence was the Paris opera house, which was wonderfully more than I thought it was going to be. Also, for Phantom of the Opera fans, you can see the Phantom's box -- Box 5. While we were there, the inside (Chagall ceiling!) was closed for a ballet rehearsal. That was also beautiful to watch.

The catacombs were awesome! Again, because they are so small and down so far, only so many people can go in at a time so be sure to book well ahead, print out your tickets, etc. so you don't end up having to stand in the very long line and instead can stand in the shorter.

You can climb up to the Sacré-Cœur Basilica and check out Montmarte, in fact one of my new friends suggest I wake up early and climb up those steps to see the sunrise, but I was exhausted by this time.

I took a quick day trip outside the city to meet a new sociopath friend. More on her later, probably, but her story for me was perhaps one of the most compelling because she had just discovered her identity by chance a few months before, so I was seeing her discover herself and come to terms with it in almost real time. And she's such a classic example of what you would expect a very smart, beautiful, successful sociopath to be. Really you would all love to meet her, as well as the rest of the new friends I met on this trip and I hope to be able to write more about them in the next book.

I never feel sorry for the people I meet, but sometimes their circumstances are so poignant to me. A lot of them just want to live an authentic life of pleasure, but also some sort of substance or meaning. And it's not so much their unique mental processes that often keep them from it, but rather the reactions and misunderstandings of the people around them. I hope that we can do better as a society in this regard. I hope that we can come to understand each other better and allow each other to freely live genuine lives. 

Saturday, July 7, 2018

New York this week

Just a reminder that I'm in New York this week. If you want to meet up, email me: me @ sociopathworld .com


Friday, June 29, 2018

London in an efficient week

I met so many people in London, it was my busiest time traveling. So I'll give you a brief rundown:

First day back in London I meet up with M to attend Evensong at Westminster Abbey. Worth going! Also worth it to get in line early to get better seats (see photo from my very fancy seat). Afterwards we walk north to Trafalgar Square and eat in the crypt of St. Martin in the Fields. He is a therapist and practices meditation. He taught mea simple breath focus meditation, which was actually very nice to do and even though I have since been bad at practicing it, I do sometimes try to do a form of it when I have a gap of time or want to collect my thoughts. M was an interesting non sociopath guy to talk to because he had this sort of past history of not choosing right things and not loving people the right way. But he learned that being a channel of peace augments him and he becomes more peaceful more grounded. Evil depletes him and gives him pain, as well as other people. It's purely self interested to choose peace because you like the results. Altruism is just selfishness.

I liked this attitude. It reminded me of my own belief that it seems like we are all cells of the
multicellular organism of humanity and to oppose another person is really to oppose yourself.

The next day I went to the Harry Potter Exhibit at the National Library (the magna carta!) and met another new friend (he identifies a little aspie) at the Natural History Museum and walked around a bit. Natural History Museum had some of his favorite architecture, and it was really beautiful inside, particularly the huge whale skeleton. This is by a bunch of other museums you could check out, but we went to South Kensington (I think!) for tapas. Lovely neighborhood, good food and good company. We hang out talking about the writer's life visiting several pubs (diet coke!), ending up at a Covent Garden pub.

The following day I walk around Parliament area (spent 10 minutes seeing a ceiling full of Titians in the Whitehall Banqueting House, which was beautiful, but I did it for the toilet and because free with London Pass -- really exquisite toilets) the river cruise to the Tower, all London Pass items, and meet a new friend H. H relates with some aspects of sociopathy but not all. She tells me about how her work involves monitoring other employees at the same office. There's one person in particular that people love to hate at her office. She targets him as well in her professional capacity, but she is careful to never target him for the same behavior twice. Why? because then he would get fired and she would no longer have anyone to play with at work. She can't pick on just anyone, for instance not the older lady who brings baked goods for everyone after long weekends. That would make her a monster in the eyes of her co-workers. So she keeps this guy around, like a cat playing with a mouse. We got on a Jack the Ripper tour with a walking tour company that was excellent and does a lot of other walking tours around London. I think the London Pass offered some discount or something free, but still paid 10 pounds or something.

The next day I do the hop on hop off bus tour, but it is Lent so St. Paul's is only open for worshippers. I worship! In the afternoon I meet up with my new friend M, who is a full dandy and one of these charming sociopaths that can (and possibly has) conned a lot of people out of their money. He meets me in the National Gallery (after I think I mistakenly told him the National Portrait Gallery) and takes me on an impromptu tour of all his favorites, because like all good seducers, he knows enough about everything to make him seem like an indispensable dinner companion. How is Caravaggio so sensual! (Pictured) After, he gets wine and I get tea but we sit (allegedly) in the wrong place. How do others react to this, I wondered, as I watched him charmingly sidestep the server's rudeness while also placating her by asking for a menu. We sat there for hours while he tried (pretty successfully!) to convince me that conspiracy theories often have truth to them. I know from experience how easy it can be to manipulate people, particularly into believing things that they would rather believe than what may be an unpalatable truth. That's how he acted, but the things that I found most compelling (and probably most honest) were his struggles to find meaning after his father's death. We spoke about theodicy and how in his mind the "moral lesson you get from studying the world is whoever created it is morall horrible because every situation ends in the death of the person who is playing." He also has an Ann in his life, a person who is a guide to the world of people that he doesn't understand and explains he funny feelings that he provokes in others either on purpose or on accident that can either help or hurt him -- explain to him the assumptions that people make about him and helps make him more aware of what aspects of him provoke these reactions. He told me "I'm just interested in brilliance," and only as I write this now do I see how this sort of attitude could provoke the ire of people around him that are perhaps less secure in their own luster. I understand a little better now the reaction that many people had when reading about me, that I came off as being intolerably narcissistic. He even shared with me some reactions from friends who had grown increasingly intolerant of him. But I did not experience him that way, and I was sad to think about the people who (I believed) had mischaracterized and misunderstood him.

The next day I do a bunch of other London things on the London Pass, like the Shard viewpoint, the Tower Bridge, the London Bridge Experience (they pointed me out as the witch and were going to burn me?) and then meet up with my new friend V at the Barbican because he finds brutalist architecture to be soothing. Also close to the Roman wall. V says something that I have repeated a lot before, that one of the first ways he looks to identify sociopaths is that they struggle to find meaning. If the hollowness is unbearable to the person, that's likely just depression or something else. If there's no real emotional value placed on the lack of meaning, if there's just a straight acknowledgment that it's there, that person is more likely a sociopath. He has sociopathic traits himself. He needs a lot of novelty. Every place he has quit from is because he "ran out of dragons, after that it was just the grind." He has a friend that is probably more sociopathic than he is. She has a similar love hate relationship with work. She uses it to to give her less of a sense of emptiness, but when she is worn out she dreams of being the CEO of her own company. He thinks the only reason she hasn't don't it yet is because she's very half-hearted about things. She says things like "will I ever feel anything again?" His friends say he's manipulative. His mom says he just wants ohter people to be his puppet. He admits he likes to mess with other people. "I'm the main hero in my own work of art." "I am the work of art." This is the sort of statement you'd expect to hear from a total blowhard, but he isn't at all. He's soft spoken, unassuming. Compared to the dandy, he is much more likely to just blend in. If I met him outside of this context (in real life), I would never suspect him of having sociopathic tendencies. But when you talk to him, it's clear that a lot of his choices are motivated by sociopathic thinking. For instance, he says he doesn't do revenge, he does payback. He also has characteristics that sociopathic minded people who are higher on the trait of conscientiousness have, e.g. his therapist says that he struggles with perfectionism. He is very principled.

He thinks we can think nicely about stuff but we first need to get real about what we do. He believes that it is best to harshly acknowledge your own thoughts. For example, if I got annoyed at the person on the escalator (story from the book) because I am annoyable and I acknowledge that about myself, I have a greater opportunity to control my behavior that stems from my annoyance. He believes that the purpose of life is the Project of Being -- that existence in itself is a force and a project. H believes we're not living for ourselves, we're just a part of being and we need to not be petty and dwell on our sufferings. So he sounds a little almost Buddhist influenced, and cites Socrates as an influence. But also his favorite column is Modern Love in the New York Times. He avoids lying because at some point there will be some resolution between the lie and the truth. He thinks of love as a choice, as a project that he has decided to take on. But in general he tries not to pretend to be anything he's not, even though people think that though "sociopath" is seen as a disorder and it puts people off. But his mom taught him to never pretend to be something he's not. And he believes that ultimately the cost benefit doesn't make pretending worth it. "never being something you're not makes you invulnerable." "If you never pretend, it teaches you fearlessness." This absolutely resonates with me.

My last day in London was spent doing some clean up for the London Pass activities and meeting up with a young man at the Tate Modern, a man who had a high school classmate who was sociopath and one who had asperger's and we chatted about how those two interacted. Heads up! Don't eat mushy peas by themselves, just with the fish and chips. 

Taking the underground was really easy and efficient for me. They have an Oyster card you can get and just get a week pass. Look into this, but there's something more efficient about getting the Oyster card in London, rather than getting a traveller version. If you have touchless credit cards, you can also just use those? Or Apply Pay. I would suggest going that route. 


Sunday, June 10, 2018

Ohio? Southern Michigan?

I'm going to be in Northern Ohio the end of this month, if anyone wants to meet up? I'll mostly be around Toledo, but will have a car, am flying into and out of Detroit, and am willing to travel.


Sunday, May 13, 2018

Central Europe: Poland, Germany, Italy?

Hello friends! I am already planning for this September. So far I have plans to be in Poland, Germany, and Northern Italy. Are there people in those areas or other parts of Central or Eastern Europe that would like to meet up? Also, really if you are anywhere in Europe let me know, because I might be able to arrange a little trip or long layovers in your city as well.

Thanks!

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Stonehenge and Bath

Ok! Finally we get around to England/London. Next rest of London, Paris, then Russia and Eastern Europe.

The first day in London I went to the British Museum, which is free like all other state run museums and open late on Fridays like most. It was really great -- the type of place where you round a corner and essentially run smack into the Rosetta Stone. Also, they have thieved great parts of the Parthenon from Greece.


I stayed just this one night at the Millennium Gloucester Hotel London Kensington, which was good and close to museums -- the National History Museum, Science and Victoria and Albert. I stayed there because I had to wake up at like 5:00 am (jet lag, what?) for my sunrise Stonehenge tour with Premium Tours. I was surprised how much I loved Stonehenge? That place is photogenic as hell. I could have stayed there forever. And definitely I think it made a big difference that we had the special early entry (can also be later entry) in which we got to actually go inside the stones. Don't touch! Don't kiss! Definitely don't lick!

The tour continued to Bath, where I was going to meet my first new friends! I don't know what I expected, but I was surprised at how young and tall S was after our conversations and his girl petite. They were both so fun. He said that he has relative empathy -- that is he could feel a sort of empathy if he himself has felt and/or had access to that same type of emotion himself. He is also high for fearlessness, with stories like driving and having the bonnet of the car pop open, but he doesn't freak out or even slow down too fast, just looks between the crack at the bottom and steers onto the next off ramp. He says that it is difficult to finish a thought because as he’s thinking all sorts of other parallel thoughts, like a static electronic ball that shoots off little electric bolts (what another sociopath called a chaos brain). He has olfactory issues, which is an odd crossover but a verified one. He can't tell the difference between coffee and orange smell with his eyes closed. He works with his hands and he does say that he is more prone to accidents than others in his profession. S was super sincere. He said one of the things he doesn't like in other people (maybe the root of his antisocial views) is the hypocrisy and lack of sincerity in others. They just wait to talk, he said. He also has interesting ways that he learns from mistakes (sort of learns caution or a sort of respect because he has internalized the physical harm he has experienced, but only after severe or repeated exposure to the bad consequence and he never gets around to fear) that I get into more some other time maybe. Sometimes I would chat with his girl alone and she would tell me that she feels badly for him because he has no one to talk to about any of this, that is why she was so excited to meet me. Yes, I do think it is often a little sad and hard for sociopaths to have no one to talk to about how they view the world. But her situation seemed just as bad, if not worse. It seemed odd to me that they would have many people they could talk to about any BDSM stuff they get up to, because that at least has earned a degree of acceptance in the world, but she will probably never be able to talk to anyone what it is like to love a sociopath.


Bath is nice too, probably worth the trip. It's made all out of the same pale yellow stone (Bath stone) and built basically at the same time in the same Georgian style. It's a little reminiscent of inner Paris that way with the Haussmanian architecture. Also the roman baths are very interesting, beautiful, and historically fun, and finally, this part you can lick!!! (the water has a very strong mineral taste that is a little reminiscent of blood.)

Sunday, April 29, 2018

The Evolution of Trust

Sorry, I truly forget whether I have posted about this, but a friend sent it to me again. I remember going through the entire game and finding it very interesting, and also a good explanation for trust. All sorts of people talk about how empathy was necessary to build tribe cohesion, etc. so that people could trust each other to stop killing each other and cooperate, but I wonder. Try the game out and let me know what you think.

Also, don't forget I'm in Oregon in May and Hawaii in June, if anyone wants to meet up.

Here is the game: http://ncase.me/trust/

For some background on game theory, including perhaps the most popular, the Prisoner's Dilemma:

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Sociopath son kills his sister

One day a thirteen year old boy wakes up having the urge to kill someone. He settles on killing his three year old half sister because she is the easiest prey. He had plans to also kill his mother (perhaps out or revenge for when she relapsed on a heroin addiction for a year and during which, according to him, she put her addiction ahead of him and his sister), but decided against it when he discovered how difficult killing turned out to be.

The mother of the sociopath son (he was too young to be diagnosed, but his examining psychologists said he would qualify if he had been 18 when they met with him) talks about what it is like to continue to love and interact with him, albeit while he is in prison.


In a NY Post article interview her, she details what had happened:

A prison rights activist, she keeps Ella’s memory alive while frequently visiting her now-24-year-old son in jail. He is serving a 40-year sentence (the maximum in Texas for a juvenile for murder) and will be eligible for parole in 2027.

“I have forgiven Paris for what he did, but it’s an ongoing process,” explains Lee. “If he was free [from captivity], I would be frightened of him.

“The fact that he is incarcerated gives me peace of mind, but I worry about his own safety.”
***
After his sentencing, an assessor told Lee she deserved to know that her son was a sociopath. Psychiatrists whom she hired when Paris was 15 agreed that, had he been 18 and old enough ​to qualify ​for the label, they would have diagnosed him as having anti-social personality disorder​ (sociopath​y​)​.​ He confessed to having had homicidal thoughts since the age of 8, often expressing them through violent and disturbing drawings.​
***
While Lee describes him as “manipulative” and “narcissistic,” she is quick to explain how her maternal instinct means she puts her love for her son above her anger.

“I sometimes have to say to myself [during visits]: ‘Okay, Charity, take a breath, you know how Paris is wired,’ ” she says. “But I am not going to be that parent who abandons their kid.”

She also talks about how since she had her third child she has wondered what she would do if her murderer son was allowed to meet the toddler (he's prohibited from having visitors under age 17 due to the nature of his crime).

Of course few sociopaths are murderers or ever feel a desire to kill like this. But having both sociopathy and for whatever reason a desire to kill or pretty bad rage and impulse control issues does seem like a danger.  Still I think it interesting that perhaps the person most victimized by this crime apart from the small child is an advocate prison rights. In visiting all of these bad places in my recent travels (more on the Gulags and Auschwitz later) and learning of the ways that everyone reacted regarding these -- prisoners, guards, government, passive people allowing it to happen, families of victims -- I find that I am across the board most impressed the most by people who didn't allow their circumstances to dictate how they behaved. I don't mean to say that I judge the rest, because who knows their circumstances, their heart, or how they were "wired" or shaped by early socialization. But if I were to aspire to a certain way of being, it would be to treat people consistently with the same amount of compassion regardless of who they are or what they've done. I have forgotten where I heard this, but I like it -- we treat people according to who we are, not according to who they are. 

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Coachella, Oregon in May, and Hawaii in June

For people who want to meet me, upcoming trips I have planned are Coachella first weekend, Central Oregon in May, and Hawaii in June. Let me know if you'd like to try to schedule a meet up.

Also, a little bit of advance warning, central Europe in August or September probably. I have to be in Southern Germany and Northern Italy, so those two places for sure, but I can try to schedule in other stops.

Thanks!


Sunday, March 25, 2018

How Psychopaths See the World

One thing that's been really interesting about meeting other sociopaths is seeing different iterations of essentially myself. I see people who have very different lives from me, very different professions, but their choices also make a lot of sense to me. I can't help thinking that I would have made those same choices they had made perhaps in a parallel universe, or if I had their early life experiences. I can also see much better that the traits represent themselves in spectrums. For instance, I think all sociopaths are impulsive, but some are more conscientious in general than others. I'm about middle of the road in terms of conscientiousness. Some sociopaths I have met have a much longer future outlook than I do, like up to 7 years. Mine of course is still around 3 years. Then there are also people who have a much shorter outlook, more like 6 months to 1 year. Not many sociopaths I have met (just one!) are as into seduction as I am as a form of power game. I was also a little surprised to hear that at least among the successful sociopaths I have met, my fearlessness levels are among the highest. This is not to say that the other sociopaths are fearful, just that they experience a small degree of fear in their lives more than I do (which I experience as almost nothing).

It's super fascinating to talk to these people. It's one of my favorite things in the world to do now, there's such a unique pleasure to it. The way we talk and skip from subject to subject, so fast and so nonstop with interesting things to say, has been common to all of the sociopaths I've met, although of course everyone's conversational content has varied. One new friend I met in Europe actually commented on this -- "You know that no one else talks like this, right?" She described it as having a "chaotic brain". She said that she is careful not to talk like this particularly in the professional realm in which establishing trust is very important for her. Because, as she explains, you have to be likeable and you can't be likeable if you sound like you're on a separate planet. I likewise assume that our unique conversational style reflects the non-linear way that appears to characterize our thinking, as well as the unusual way that our attention works. The imagery I've used to describe it to other people is that it's like in a Loony Toons cartoon where the characters are sneaking around at dark but when a spotlight falls on them they freeze, as if doing so would allow them to escape detection. Our attention is like that spotlight. Whatever it falls upon, we are super focused. Everything else is in a murky haze.

My friend sent me this Atlantic Article about a study done on male prison psychopathic prisoners and their theory of mind, or ability to place themselves in another's shoes. What they found is that sociopaths can do that sort of perspective taking, and can do it very well, they just don't appear to do it automatically. They only engage in that mental exercise if something draws their attention to doing so:

They saw a picture of a human avatar in prison khakis, standing in a room, and facing either right or left. There were either two red dots on the wall in front of the avatar, or one dot in front of them and one dot behind them. Their job was to verify how many dots either they or the avatar could see.

Normally, people can accurately say how many dots the avatar sees, but they’re slower if there are dots behind the avatar. That’s because what they see (two dots) interferes with their ability to see through the avatar’s eyes (one dot). This is called egocentric interference. But they’re also slower to say how many dots they can see if that number differs from the avatar’s count. This shows how readily humans take other perspectives: Volunteers are automatically affected by the avatar’s perspective, even when it hurts their own performance. This is called altercentric interference.

Baskin-Sommers found that the psychopathic inmates showed the usual level of egocentric interference—that is, their own perspective was muscling in on the avatar’s. But they showed much less altercentric interference than the other inmates—the avatar’s perspective wasn’t messing with their own, as it would for most other people.

Of course, not all psychopaths are the same, and they vary considerably in their behavior. But Baskin-Sommers also found that the higher their score on the psychopathy assessment test, the less they were affected by what the avatar saw. And the less affected they were, the more assault charges they had on their record.
***
To her, the results show that psychopaths (or male ones, at least) do not automatically take the perspective of other people. What is involuntary to most people is a deliberate choice to them, something they can actively switch on if it helps them to achieve their goals, and ignore in other situations. That helps to explain why they behave so callously, cruelly, and even violently.

But Uta Frith, a psychologist at University College London, notes that there’s some controversy about the avatar task, which has been used in other studies. “What does it actually measure?” she says. It’s possible that the avatar is acting less as a person and more as an arrow—a visual cue that directs attention. Perhaps instead of perspective-taking, the task simply measures how spontaneously people shift their attention.


Baskin-Sommers argues that the task is about both attention and perspective-taking, and “for research on psychopathy, that is a good thing.” That’s because, as she and others have shown, psychopaths pay unusually close attention to things that are relevant to their goal, but largely ignore peripheral information. “It’s like they’re the worst multitaskers,” Baskin-Sommers says. “Everyone’s bad at multitasking but they’re really bad.” So, it’s possible that their lack of automatic perspective-taking is just another manifestation of this attentional difference. The two things are related.

When I think back on some of the sketch that I've gotten up to or some of the sociopaths I've met have gotten into, there's a similar thing going on. It's almost like I'm in a trance, so focused on accomplishing the one thing dominating my attention, like tracking that DC Metro worker to choke the life out of him or kicking my best friend out of my car in the middle of a strange city during an argument. It's only when she yelled at me "what is wrong with you?!" that I snapped out of it and started taking a broader, different perspective on the situation. Several of the sociopaths I have met have either been diagnosed with ADD or ADHD or have used the meds on the sly to improve their linear thought or better control their focus. To help mediate this unusual focus, I sleep inordinate amounts and when I need to concentrate on one thing for long periods and do not find myself naturally doing so, I force my brain to think linearly with baroque, minimalistic music, or impressionistic music, which share a common feature of constantly moving forward musically at whatever pace without much focus on cadence or structure.

So I find this study and its results to have a great deal of explanatory power and I would love to see this connection explored more.

Hilariously, the study was criticized by an autism researcher, not because the science behind it is poor, but because it seems to suggest a closer link to autism than the autism researcher was comfortable with:

“It is a bit worrying if [Baskin-Sommers and her colleagues] are proposing the very same underlying mechanism to explain callousness in psychopathy that we used previously to explain communication problems in autism, albeit based on a different test,” Frith says. “These are very different conditions, after all.”

But the distinction here, as pointed out by the researcher and as is apparent probably to all sociopaths who have had extensive interactions with people on the autism spectrum, is that autistic people are really bad at perspective taking, even with their attention directed at it full force. And with the sociopath... it's not as if he can't be bothered to do so, it's just that he doesn't always think to do so.

But what do sociopaths or those acquainted with think about the linear thought (chaos brain) or the multitasking? By the way, I can't have a television on in the background and still be able to focus on a conversation. I think I may have mentioned this before, but I also feel like I understand movies and television better with the subtitles on. I used to think it was bad hearing from years of drumming, but I've had my ears tested many times and they're always fine. There's more something about the ability to understand speech in the context of seeing it spoken on a screen that leaves my brain scrambling.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Russians, etc. please email me

If you're trying to contact me, best to email me at: me@sociopathworld.com

Thanks!

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Russia or Eastern Europe?

Last call for people wanting to meet up in St. Petersburg, Moscow, Lake Baikal area, Perm, Estonia, Poland, or other locations in Eastern Europe. I'll be there from March 17th until the first week of April.

Thanks!


Thursday, March 1, 2018

Melbourne in two efficient days

Sorry for the delay, just got back from England/France/Belgium, which I will get to shortly. But first we finish up Australia.

I arrived in Melbourne in the afternoon, took a nap, and showed up intolerably late for a dinner appointment with my new friend P because I got the times wrong in my head. We had dinner at a local eatery and then drinks at Naked for Satan, hip, a lot of nudity in the decor, and a great rooftop view of the city.

The next morning I woke up and did a tour of the Old Melbourne Gaol. Again, I was struck by how my brothers sociopath were treated and based on such a paucity of evidence. There were exhibits on Phrenology and other attempts to explain criminology through physical or inherited traits. In fact, by the 19th century, Melbournians were calling for greater law and order, particularly in the slums. The rally cry was that criminality (among almost all other traits, apparently) was inherited. Where do the criminals live? The slums. Where were the criminals having children, the slums. So it stands to reason that the slums were just a genetic cesspool of criminality. And thus under this reasoning, one's class was essentially one's mortal and moral destiny on this earth.

The thing that struck me about this part of the jail was how common this belief is again -- that people
are sort of naturally bad or all bad in this black and white thinking and the main solution is to "lock them up." In fact, I was just looking at some random twitter account whose name included those words. I Googled them today and saw black and white thinking from both liberal and conservatives on American political issues. The idea is that either Obama/Clintons or Trump/Kushner/Etc. or essentially just criminals trying to ruin the lives of ordinary good people and that the solution is to lock them up. When large percentages of the populace are seeing their brother man this way and thinking the solution is to imprison them, kill them (as some of the more extreme believe or wish) or to wish them into nonexistence somewhere far away to never be engaged with again, I see parallels to the inhumane ways we have historically treated prisoners and alleged criminals.

An interesting exhibit on the death penalty discussed how much the general populace loved to see public hangings and how there were many who felt deprived of a natural right when hangings became private. When the number of people executed sharply rose in the 1890s as a result of an economic depression, many understood the connection between people living in desperate situations and engaging in crime and started wondering about the morality of hanging. Frances Knorr was a particularly polarizing hanging. She had been convicted of the murder of one baby, although she later confessed to killing at least two during these tough economic times. According to Wikipedia:

Australia was in severe depression from 1873 to 1896; with no state welfare, women in particular faced a hard life. The diaries of John Castieau, governor of Old Melbourne Gaol from 1869 to 1884 indicate that as children were permitted to stay with their mothers, it was a common practice for a pregnant woman to commit a crime so that she could have her delivery in the gaol and be cared for.

During the 1893 Commission, Melbourne's public health officer testified that the post-mortems he had performed on over 500 children showed that more than half had been murdered.

Frances's husband had been imprisoned for fraud and her lover had abandoned her. She had taken to baby farming," the practice of caring for illegitimate or other unwanted children in exchange for money, and decided like many did, including this couple, to kill the babies she was being paid for rather than care for them. Her death sentence so divided the populace that the hangman committed suicide just days before her execution date, partly in response to his wife telling him that she would leave him if he executed Frances.

This quote from Chaplain Keith Forbes from around this time: “It would be impossible for those who have witnessed, like myself, the 'brutal exhibition' of a human being launched into eternity to refrain from asking, 'Can this thing be justifiable in the sight of God?'”

The Gaol also had various portraits of prisoners, the charming Frederick Bailey Deeming, a possible candidate for Jack the Ripper, who was finally caught "masquerading as the dashing Baron Swanston," about to be engaged to a third woman after he had killed two other wives (and four children!) in the space of a year. Wikipedia describes him as a "difficult child" whose teen years were marked by fraud, deceit, and theft with "behaviour variously described as aggressive, ostentatious, ingratiating and overly attentive to women" but was also known by his employers as being an excellent worker, whose employers gladly loaned him 200 pounds to start his own business and who, although he eventually murdered her, was known for treating his wife with the utmost civility. Hello, brother sociopath.

After that I went on The Little Penguin Bus tour to see the parade of penguins, featuring the very cute Little Penguin. The tour was awesome, the guide was awesome. It was such a change from the bad experience I had in Cairns. I definitely recommend seeing the penguins, they are hilarious. They eat fish out in sea and come back to shore every couple days or so to feed their new chicks. But teh chicks don't recognize the parents, only the parents recognize the chicks. So every baby chick is out there squawking and harassing every single adult they see begging for food. Like some seriously aggressive badgering, and the adult is just trying to like slide by without getting harassed. The baby chicks are also like 80% as tall as their parents. So they look like these big furry baby bullies harassing the sleek looking parents. I added the Guided Ranger Tour, which had pretty good seats for seeing them come up from the beach (you can see a million forums about this), but honestly the closest I got to penguins was after everyone got up from their seats and started going through the walkways, when the penguins were just inches away. So don't stress about getting better seats or tour options, I don't think, but the guided ranger tour was still pretty interesting and worthwhile to do if it's available to you.


A quick funny story, while I was out on the penguin tour there was an incident on the same block as my hotel where a man drove into a crowd of pedestrians. My very friendly and very conscientious guide was trying to break the news to me gently, perhaps because I would be upset by it? But she needed to tell me because the roads were closed off and they would likely need to drop me off a bit down the street. I had no clue how to respond to her, though, and I was tired and could not summon up a proper response so I just stayed quiet, but then left to use the toilet. I wonder if she noticed anything unusual.

My last day of Australia I went with new friend N on quick road trip of the Great Ocean Road. If you're used to driving on the left side of the road, you could totally rent a car and do this yourself in a somewhat long day, or they have tours! In fact, the Little Penguin Bus also does Great Ocean Road tours.


I shook down my Little Penguin Bus guide for an itinerary, and this is what she suggested:

  • Head straight to Loch Ard Gorge via the city Colac (not along the Great Ocean Road, cut across on the faster straighter freeway). Check out the Gorge look out and the Razorback lookout
  • London bridge maybe if you have time.
  • Gibson steps is just a lookout. 
  • 12 Apostles
  • Maits rest rainforest walk is just about an hour from 12 Apostles and a quick 20-30 minutes walk
  • Apollo bay has some famous ice cream, Dooleys.
  • Kennett river about 30 minutes from Apollo bay has wild koalas.
  • Anglesy golf course has wild kangaroos 


Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Children lying = high brain function

A reader sent this older New York Times article on the normal development of lying in children around two years old, including the fact that the vast majority of children lie routinely.

Among some of the findings about children lying, the children who start lying earlier than others are smarter and have better theory of mind (the ability to cognitively put yourself in another's shoes):

Other research has shown that the children who lie have better “executive functioning skills” (an array of faculties that enable us to control our impulses and remain focused on a task) as well as a heightened ability to see the world through other people’s eyes, a crucial indicator of cognitive development known as “theory of mind.” (Tellingly, children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, which is characterized by weaker executive functioning, and those with spectrum disorders such as autism, which are characterized by deficits in theory of mind, have trouble with lying.) Young liars are even more socially adept and well adjusted, according to recent studies of preschoolers.
***
Training children in executive functioning and theory of mind using a variety of interactive games and role-playing exercises can turn truth-tellers into liars within weeks, Professor Lee has found. And teaching kids to lie improves their scores on tests of executive functioning and theory of mind. Lying, in other words, is good for your brain.

Of course we all know that sociopaths are clinically bad at affective empathy (the ability to feel another's feelings) but tend to be quite good at cognitive empathy or theory of mind, so perhaps these results should not be surprising.

But what about the fact that lying children (or anybody) is a little creepy and problematic? Again, there are some definite parallels to sociopaths:

For parents, the findings present something of a paradox. We want our children to be clever enough to lie but morally disinclined to do so. And there are times when a child’s safety depends on getting at the truth, as in criminal cases involving maltreatment or abuse. How can we get our children to be honest?

In general, carrots work better than sticks. Harsh punishments like spanking do little to deter lying, research indicates, and if anything may be counterproductive. In one study, Professor Lee and the developmental psychologist Victoria Talwar compared the truth-telling behaviors of West African preschoolers from two schools, one that employed highly punitive measures such as corporal punishment to discipline students and another that favored more tempered methods like verbal reprimands and trips to the principal’s office. Students at the harsher school were not only more likely to lie but also far better at it.

Witnessing others being praised for honesty, meanwhile, and nonpunitive appeals for the truth — for example, “If you tell the truth, I will be really pleased with you” — promotes honest behavior, Professors Lee and Talwar have found.
***
You can also simply pay kids to be honest. In research involving 5- and 6-year-olds, Professor Lee and his colleagues attached a financial incentive to telling the truth about a misdeed. Lying earned children $2, while confessing won them anywhere from nothing to $8. The research question was: How much does the truth cost? When honesty paid nothing, four out of five children lied. Curiously, that number barely budged when the payout was raised to $2.

But when honesty was compensated at 1.5 times the value of lying — $3 rather than $2 — the scales tipped in favor of the truth. Honesty can be bought, in other words, but at a premium. The absolute dollar amount is irrelevant, Professor Lee has found. What matters is the relative value — the honesty-to-dishonesty exchange rate, so to speak.

“Their decision to lie is very tactical,” Professor Lee said. “Children are thinking in terms of the ratio.” Smart kids, indeed.


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