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. 
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