What’s the deal with blood types?

Today I booked an appointment for next week to go and give blood. I’ve never done it before, but I’m healthy and definitely willing, so I figured it was about time. I think my mom told me my blood type but I have forgotten what it was if she did.

This reminded me of a video a watched not that long ago, and thought I had already posted (because it’s so simple and clear), but a quick search of my own blog reveals I in fact did not. So now I am!

If you’re healthy and willing and have never given blood before, I recommend you do it. It really can save lives and it’s a small sacrifice to do so. Here in Canada I called the Canadian Blood Services (1-888-236-6283), if you’re in the US I suspect you could call The Red Cross?

Either way, consider it. I am also a registered Organ Donor, which is another thing I support and recommend. I’d rather my remains potentially save lives rather than wastefully get buried in the ground. I suspect the worms have enough food already down there 🙂

Can’t get no (lasting) satisfaction? Here’s why

I wrote an article on medium not too long ago titled “The Real Root Cause Behind ‘I’m Bored'”, where I basically (spoiler alert) said that humans crave a goal or purpose to fulfill (this is not a new idea, I admit). Perhaps part of the reason why some people keep working even after they’ve won the lottery is because no one really wants to just sit around watching TV in their underwear all the time. It might seem pretty awesome at first, but I think eventually they would get bored and want something more meaningful.

Then there are people like me who are so obsessed with goals and creating meaning, that I try to do too many things at once and just get frustrated that I can’t clone myself or grow a second pair of arms, or never need sleep.

Well, Psychology Today has a good article titled “Why You May Never Be Truly Satisfied, and Why That’s Okay”, which also touches on this issue. With actual science to support it, rather than my attempt which was mostly just personal experience.

Have you ever set a goal, achieved it, became content, and then went looking for the next thing? It’s fascinating how quickly our lives adjust to reaching a goal: We get our dream job and, soon enough, start wondering when the next promotion will come. We move into a new house and then, a few years later, start dreaming of the next dream house. We quickly adjust our realities, constantly creating “new normals.” And then we want more.

That has been my experience lately. For me though, it’s more a constant question of “can I do this thing?”. Like, can I, as an individual, physically and/or mentally step up and get through it? And once I’ve answered that, I test the next thing. There are some things I don’t particularly care to know if I can do or not, but asking myself “what can I learn from this?” has done me very well since I started focusing on that question.

We all have different goals—different mountains to climb. One person’s climb may be about sobriety; another’s may be about diet; and someone else may be trying to find a passion. And we often think we’ve reached the top of the mountain, only to realize it was really just the base of another, larger one. And so we start out again. Generally, this works: If we had to reach the zenith all at once, we might be too intimidated to begin.

Popular inspirational speaker Iyanla Vanzant puts it another way, positing that there are curves in the road because if you were shown how long a stretch you actually have left, you’d never drive yourself there. These curves that only show a little bit of the road at a time so you can just focus on that piece. The lesson? Today, focus on the piece that’s in front of you. The better you manage that stretch, the better you’ll be set for the next leg, whatever it is.

I’m feeling this right now. I’ve figured out I have been pretty successful in doing a lot of incremental learning/goal tackling. Currently, I have several ambitious goals, they’re all larger, and I’m battling my brain because I want to do them all at the same time, but not all the little steps (feels too unproductive), so I’ve actually been procrastinating somewhat.

Those goals (in case you’re curious)
-finish learning how to program so I can make an app (this will take months of learning to code bit by bit, and I don’t really want to deal with that right now)
-re-learn website coding so I can built a website idea I have
-finish the curated book I’m working on (probably the most nebulous)
-finish developing the card game ideas I conceived recently (need to playtest)
-finish recording/producing an album I started 6 years ago (only a few things left to be recorded, then lots of editing/mixing which I am not in the mood to do)

The question, then, becomes how we balance being content—and grateful—where we are, while also being okay striving for something still greater. It’s not easy: Oprah Winfrey once said, “I got so focused on the difficulty of the climb that I lost sight of being grateful for simply having a mountain to climb.”

On the plus side, one of my other admittedly larger goals is happening – I’m currently learning ASL (American Sign Language), and unsurprisingly, I’m really benefitting from the formal classroom environment that I’m learning in. It’s incremental, so it doesn’t feel overwhelming. I know I could just discipline myself and do these other things incrementally, and maybe that would work better if I didn’t have that many things I want to do (all right now, not one now, the rest later). Maybe it’s time for me to get an accountability coach. When I get in a groove, I’m really good at not procrastinating, but right now I honestly just can’t seem to bring myself to pick one thing to focus on (well, aside from ASL).

The reality is that our journey stretches as long as we live, and if we ever think we’ve made it to the end, we might be limiting ourselves. We just don’t realize it when we set our current goals. This is why so many of us never feel truly happy, or fully satisfied. We want to see today’s goal as a destination because that allows us to feel a sense of certainty, finality, and accomplishment when we reach it—as it should.

However, there is another piece that often gets lost, which is that we’re always in a state of change. It’s not about wanting more, but about being present for where we are, and the people we’ve become at every new stage of our journeys. It’s not specifically about the better job, home, or relationship—the truth is that wherever we are, there will always be something more to reach for.

One thing I can definitely say since I got on this persistent quest for learning, skill building, and personal growth, is that I have been exposed to some things I never expected, met some really cool people, gone to some cool events, and ultimately inspired and enriched my life quite a bit. In my “old life”, I never would have thought someone like me could have some of these experiences, all I had to do was try. I was afraid, I was unconfident, I didn’t think I deserved it in some cases. Now I just want to encourage others (which is why I started a bucket list group with some friends on facebook, so we could attempt to tackle some of these things together), and that has really helped me not feel so unlikely to accomplish some of my goals. I’m in that ASL class because of a friend of mine who I didn’t even know was interested in ASL. She’s my accountability buddy. And I’m loving it. I’ll be writing about it later, but I’m excited by the possibilities it creates, and the ability to interact and connect with people I couldn’t before.

I’ll leave you with one last quote, from Jon Bon Jovi: “Any time that you think you’ve hit the top of the mountain, the truth of the matter is you’ve just reached another mountain. And it’s there to climb all over again.”

Political perspective: Liberals and Conservatives really ARE different (but maybe not how you thought)

Most people don’t want to talk, or even think about politics. It’s too divisive, and rarely pleasant. Unfortunately, politics is a part of our lives whether we like it or not, and we’re better served to not stick our heads in the sand and hope everything just works out.

That said, I found an article recently that finally seems to bring some clarity to the age-old Liberal vs Conservative debate. I’ve been really into the idea of emotional intelligence lately – understanding someone else’s situation, point of view, why they feel the way they feel. In doing this, it’s easier to relate, empathize, and maybe even work together (compromise), rather than just saying “I don’t agree with you, you’re stupid, I’m going to make your life harder”.

From Vox.com comes “Why Democrats and Republicans don’t understand each other”, and I think it does a good job of explaining some key differences that we hear about, and we perceive ourselves, but they’re finally presented in a more “tangible” way.

First:

Democrats are more focused on making policy to appease their various interest groups and Republicans are more focused on proving their commitment to the small-government philosophy that unites their base.

As Speaker John Boehner put it when he was asked about the slow pace of lawmaking in his House, “we should not be judged on how many new laws we create. We ought to be judged on how many laws we repeal.”

As one example I can think of (though I’m sure there are better ones), I watched a documentary years ago about Ralph Nader called “An Unreasonable Man”. The title is derived from the quote “The reasonable man adapts himself to the world. The unreasonable man persists in trying to adapt the world to himself, thus all progress depends on the unreasonable man”. In this documentary, it chronicled how Nader initiated several organizations and committees to protect various groups – workers, consumers, families… and he was making quite a bit of headway, until the next Replublican president was elected and quickly squashed and stagnated his efforts.

This next bit speaks to a point that Chris Rock made in one of his stand up specials, about being liberal on some issues, and conservative on others:

On its face, this presents a puzzle: how can conservatism be the more popular ideology even as the Democrats are the more popular party?

Grossmann and Hopkins disagree. They see this not as a puzzle about American politics but as an explanation for why it works the way it does. They note that 73 percent of Republican voters say they’re conservative but only 42 percent of Democratic voters say they’re liberal. And they note that while voters tend to agree with Republicans on the philosophical questions in American politics (should government be smaller?) they tend to agree with Democrats on the policy questions in American politics (like should Social Security be smaller?).

The Republican Party, in other words, has a very good reason to base itself around philosophical conservatism, while the Democratic Party has a very good reason to base itself around policy deliverables.

This next part is pretty interesting, and gives you an idea of the broader, longer-term implications of this:

The chart above shows the results: Democrats consistently prefer politicians who compromise and Republicans consistently prefer politicians who stick to their principles.

What’s remarkable is that held true even when Republicans controlled the White House. “Though they voiced strong disapproval of Bush, Democrats still expressed a preference for compromise in government — a tendency that has carried over to the Obama era,” write Grossmann and Hopkins. “Republicans have been consistent in their elevation of principle over moderation, regardless of which party is in power.”

That is…extraordinary. Even when a Republican president was facing a Democratic Congress, Republicans did not choose the answer that would have helped their president get more done. And even when a Republican president was facing a Democratic Congress, Democrats did not choose the answer that would have stiffened their party’s spine against passing Bush’s bills. I would have bet money against surveys showing this kind of stability between Democratic and Republican administrations. This is a difference between the two parties that runs deep.

This is something I do tend to find frustrating about more pure conservatives, some might call it “stubbornness”, and it’s important to be able to tell the difference between stubbornness (refusing to budge no matter what) and sticking to principles because you don’t feel you’ve been giving satisfactory reasoning for a change.

“Democrats and liberals are more likely to focus on policymaking because any change that occurs is much more likely to be liberal than conservative. New policies usually expand the scope of government responsibility, funding, or regulation. There are occasional conservative policy successes as well, but they are less frequent and are usually accompanied by expansion of government responsibility in other areas.”

The cleanest way to shrink the size of government is to repeal laws and regulations. But it doesn’t happen very often. In the American political system, Grossmann says, “it’s hard to pass anything, but it’s particularly hard to repeal a law that already exists.” Systematic analyses show it’s rare for laws to be repealed wholesale. “That creates perpetual disappointment among the Republican base,” Grossmann continues. “They correctly perceive that their party does not succeed in enacting their professed ideology.”

But they’re a reminder that American politics is fundamentally rational. Republicans are uncompromising because compromise tends to expand the scope of government. Democrats are willing to make deep concessions because policy moves in a generally liberal direction. Republicans have a clearer message about government because their message about government is fundamentally popular. Democrats talk more about policy because what they have to say about policy is fundamentally popular.

I think that’s a good distinction, and I think if more people were aware of it, it could help grease the gears a bit better and perhaps lead to a little more getting done. I think it suggest that partisanship is at least partially misconceived. Yes some people are truly stubborn and unwavering for personal and/or selfish reasons, but I’m sure that’s actually a minority.

This next bit feels a bit like the whole “Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus” idea, but applied to politics:

The data also explains why Democratic and Republicans have so much trouble understanding each other. Democrats tend to project their preference for policymaking onto the Republican Party — and then respond with anger and confusion when Republicans don’t seem interested in making a deal. Republicans tend to assume the Democratic Party is more ideological than it is, and so see various policy initiatives as part of an ideological effort to remake America along more socialistic lines.

This is really why effective communication is so important. If you make assumptions that are wrong, you obviously won’t get the results you expect. As frustrating and broken as the 2 party system often seems, perhaps there is a healthy balance hidden in there.

I’ve been “liberal” and “socialist” for a long time, and used to be much more ideological than I am now. If I was given political power in my 20s, I probably would have made a bunch of laws which were well-meaning, but not fully or properly considered/researched. Now I feel like I would think longer and more carefully before setting a policy for something.

Want to get more cuddles? There’s an app for that

A few days ago, a friend of mine posted an article on facebook titled “Tinder for cuddling: This app will find you a random stranger to spoon”, which initially I thought was satire because it just seemed so unexpected. The article is about a new app called “Cuddlr”, and when I tried to google it, I actually couldn’t even see what looked like an official website, or press release, or anything. So things didn’t quite seem to add up.

But then I spotted an article on medium by one of the inventors of the app (Charlie Williams). His article, “It’s Touch, Not Sex”, is about the app, its inception, its purpose, and its goal.

What is Cuddlr? Put simply, it works like Tinder, but is meant to help you find willing, platonic cuddle partners. I’m sure a lot of you can think of problems with this idea, but hang on for a second and hear them out.

Cuddlr is all about the power of touch, though some folks are confusing “touch” with “sex”. Oddly enough, the hubbub shows exactly why the app and the discussion it is creating are necessary in the first place.

Coming this week [out now as far as I know], Cuddlr connects you with new people in your immediate area who are up for a cuddle. (It’s sort of like Tinder or Grindr, but for public cuddling instead of hookups.) Once you and the other party agree to cuddle, the app helps you find each other, and the rest is up to preference and communication. For each user, the app shows a tally of how many successful cuddles they have had already: the more someone has been vetted by other users, the more likely they are to be good at cuddling, communication, and respecting boundaries.

I like that he is immediately addressing issues of communication and respecting boundaries (ie consent). That tells me that his intents for the app are more on the positive side.

He also addresses another important distinction here:

While we seem wired to pursue both sex and closeness, we aren’t necessarily wired to expect them to come packaged together into one experience. Before the birth of the modern egalitarian relationship, no one would have expected a romantic partner to also be a friend, a confidante, to share one’s taste in music or books. Now, if and when we find a partner we’d like to marry, or have children with, or buy a house with or just stay together with for a long, long time, there’s a presumption that we no longer need close touch to come from anywhere else.

But we are born needing, even craving touch. As children, we revel in the closeness we get from snuggling with parents and close family members. As teenagers or young adults, we discover sex, and generally speaking we try to do as much of it as we think we can get away with. By the time we form a stable adult peer group, we’ve effectively trained ourselves not to cuddle except for with people we’re sleeping with: not because it wouldn’t be pleasant or fulfilling, but because of inherited social rules left over from our ancient pregnancy anxiety.

I really like that he addresses the distinction between intimacy and sex (since it rarely seems to get addressed otherwise), and how many people who are not in romantic relationships (such as myself), often get little to no physical touch of an intimate, caring nature. And to be honest, a hug from a family member is not the same as a hug from a female friend, co-worker, or new acquaintance. They don’t have to love me, so getting a hug is at least somewhat of an implicit “you’re a nice person and I like you”.

And this is the paragraph that I practically tripped over myself to quote because this really is my experience:

It’s not just me: a friend who had moved away to teach at a private high school came back for a visit, and when I gave her a “welcome back” hug she was momentarily overcome with emotion. It took us both a moment to realize why this was happening. Then she said, “I just realized that I haven’t actually made contact with another human being for three months.” [emphasis added] There she had been, unaware of the sort of contactless confinement she’d fallen into even as she was surrounded by people all day long. When people relocate, we rarely acknowledge how it will also radically affect our day to day intimacy needs, nor do we have any systems in place to accommodate. I think future civilizations would find her lack of opportunity for benign touch disturbing. We find it normal. That’s not something we should let continue; it’s something we should work to change.

I had had a vague sense for a little while now that I lacked intimacy in my life. I was trying my best to reach out to women via OkCupid (as one example) to try and make a connection, to meet and maybe start dating. I really do love hugs, cuddling, hand holding, gentle physical touch, and I rarely get it. In fact, the only person who ever really regularly hugs me outside of my family, is my best friend’s girlfriend, and I feel a bit weird of wanting to hold on for a couple extra seconds, but I really don’t want to let go. Then this came along and I was just like “holy crap! I am totally starved for physical intimacy!”.

I actually sought out “friends with benefits” arrangements earlier this year, and while sex did end up happening, I did not really get intimacy and I ultimately realized that was what I wanted more than the sex itself.

There’s even science behind all of this – hugs have been shown to release oxytocin which is a natural anti-depressant hormone, so hugging people is literally good for your health. Yet, many people who are not in relationships rarely get that physical contact, and it’s something that we literally need as human beings. I certainly try to make the most of things, but the absence has definitely been noticed and felt.

And so, with my “not quite poly, but supportive!” attitude, I’ve decided to be proactive. I have actually reached out to a couple females specifically, to ask in the most respectful, transparent way that I can, if they would be willing/interested to be platonic “cuddle buddies”. And I plan to reach out to more yet. Technically, all I need is one. I can’t get the app (sadly, since it’s currently iPhone only as of this writing), but the idea has been planted and I want to be proactive about it.

If you want to watch a video showing how the app works, you can see one on www.cuddlrapp.com.

So honestly, I think this is a cool thing, I’m glad someone made it. It also helped me realize a deficit in my own life that I am serious about addressing in the most consentual, mutually beneficial way possible. If you’re not really into hookups, but would rather meet someone more sensitive and arguably nurturing, this might be for you.

Heterochromia Iridum aka multicoloured eyes

I only recently learned that this had a name, and since I find it interesting, I wanted to do a post about it. Apparently, there’s one player in the NHL (Shawn Horcoff) who has this, and actually, I grew up with a pet dog (a gorgeous Siberian Husky) that had it too.

Heterochrowhatia?Watch movie online The Transporter Refueled (2015)?

From WikiPedia:

In anatomy, heterochromia (Greek: heteros ‘different’ + chroma ‘color’) is a difference in coloration, usually of the iris but also of hair or skin. Heterochromia is a result of the relative excess or lack of melanin (a pigment). It may be inherited, or caused by genetic mosaicism, chimerism, disease, or injury.

Heterochromia of the eye (heterochromia iridis or heterochromia iridum) is of two kinds. In complete heterochromia, one iris is a different color from the other. In partial heterochromia or sectoral heterochromia, part of one iris is a different color from its remainder.

Eye color, specifically the color of the irises, is determined primarily by the concentration and distribution of melanin. The affected eye may be hyperpigmented (hyperchromic) or hypopigmented (hypochromic). In humans, usually, an excess of melanin indicates hyperplasia of the iris tissues, whereas a lack of melanin indicates hypoplasia.

So, either both eyes can be different colours (as was the case with my childhood dog), or one eye can have two different colours, or the eyes can simply be a different colour from the hair or skin. But since it’s not something we see very often, it always catches our attention and fascination.

You can actually see it somewhat in this closeup of the iris that I found and posted recently:

eye closeupPretty darn cool huh?

So, if you want something pretty to look at today, I suggest googling “heterchromic eyes”, and behold. I’m partial to any images with green or blue, personally.

 

A science and safety lesson re: Microwaves

Short post here, busy week, but this is pretty interesting, and does a good job of explaining a concept quickly and succinctly. I don’t microwave a lot of stuff, but this is definitely good to know:

SciShow “Why can’t I put metal in the microwave?”

Insightful Quote of the Day

Attempting to define yourself is like trying to bite your own teeth
-Unknown

I haven’t been able to find a source for this (heard it on a podcast), though I would at least partially beg to disagree.

The point is that you’re constantly changing and evolving, so any definition you come up with will eventually be inaccurate, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be very self-aware and know how you have changed and thus know how to redefine yourself. I’m all too familiar with that, thanks to being a Scanner.

Reminds me of another Incubus lyric:

Picture the scene
Where whatever you thought would in the blink of an eye,
Manifest and become illustrated
You’d be sure man that every line drawn reflected a life that you loved
Not an existence that you hated
So, must we demonstrate that we can’t get it straight?
We’ve painted a picture, now we’re drowning in paint
Lets figure out what the hell it’s about
Before the picture we painted chews us up and spits us out

Washoe the Chimp gives us more to think about as Humans

Since I’ve stumbled across so many examples now of really damn intelligent animals, it’s starting to become an actual interest of mine. I’m partway through Temple Grandin’s book “Animals Make Us Human”, and when I finish it, I do plan to do somewhat of a review here. Animals really are amazing, and many people do not give them enough credit. But it seems, if you took away human’s opposable thumbs and ability to communicate with verbal language, we would not be much further ahead than some of the creatures we share this planet with.

Washoe the Chimp is a pretty interesting story. She was confirmed as having learned over 300 words in American Sign Language (which I am going to have my first lesson in this afternoon, actually), and demonstrated more than one example of self-awareness that got researchers talking.

So, originally I was made aware of Washoe through this link, which tells a story with some pictures. Before I posted about it though, I wanted to confirm what was being said. So, off to Wikipedia I went, and was not disappointed.

Washoe  was a female common chimpanzee who was the first non-human to learn to communicate using American Sign Language—to a limited degree—as part of a research experiment on animal language acquisition.

Washoe learned approximately 350 words of ASL. She also taught her adopted son Loulis some American Sign Language. Using similar teaching methods, several other chimpanzees were later taught 150 or more signs, which they were able to combine to form complex messages.

Washoe was raised in an environment as close as possible to that of a human child, in an attempt to satisfy her psychological need for companionship.[13][14][15]

While with Washoe, the Gardners and Fouts were careful to communicate only in ASL with Washoe, rather than using vocal communication, on the assumption that this would create a less confusing learning environment for Washoe. This technique is commonly used when teaching human children how to sign.[16]

After the first couple of years of the language project, the Gardners and Roger Fouts discovered that Washoe could pick up ASL gestures without direct instruction, but instead by observing humans around her who were signing amongst themselves. For example, the scientists signed “Toothbrush” to each other while they brushed their teeth near her. At the time of observation, Washoe showed no signs of having learned the sign, but on a later occasion she reacted to the sight of a toothbrush by spontaneously producing the correct sign, thereby showing that she had in fact previously learned the ASL sign. Moreover, the Gardners began to realize that rewarding particular signs with food and tickles was actually interfering with the intended result of conversational sign language [emphasis added – and damn fascinating!]. They changed their strategy so that food and meal times were never juxtaposed with instruction times. In addition, they stopped the tickle rewards during instruction because these generally resulted in laughing breakdowns. Instead, they set up a conversational environment that evoked communication, without the use of rewards for specific actions.

Self-awareness and emotion

One of Washoe’s caretakers was pregnant and missed work for many weeks after she miscarried. Roger Fouts recounts the following situation:

“People who should be there for her and aren’t are often given the cold shoulder–her way of informing them that she’s miffed at them. Washoe greeted Kat [the caretaker] in just this way when she finally returned to work with the chimps. Kat made her apologies to Washoe, then decided to tell her the truth, signing “MY BABY DIED.” Washoe stared at her, then looked down. She finally peered into Kat’s eyes again and carefully signed “CRY”, touching her cheek and drawing her finger down the path a tear would make on a human (Chimpanzees don’t shed tears). Kat later remarked that one sign told her more about Washoe and her mental capabilities than all her longer, grammatically perfect sentences.”

Washoe herself lost two children; one baby died shortly after birth of a heart defect, the other baby, Sequoyah, died of a staph infection at two months of age.

When Washoe was shown an image of herself in the mirror, and asked what she was seeing, she replied: “Me, Washoe.” Primate expert Jane Goodall, who has studied and lived with chimpanzees for decades, believes that this might indicate some level of self awareness. Washoe appeared to experience an identity crisis when she was first introduced to other chimpanzees, seeming shocked to learn that she was not human [emphasis added, and again, blows my mind]. She gradually came to enjoy associating with other chimps.

Washoe also enjoyed playing pretend with her dolls, which she would bathe and talk to and would act out imaginary scenarios.

When new students came to work with Washoe, she would slow down her rate of signing for novice speakers of sign language, which had a humbling effect on many of them.

This whole thing just really blows my mind. This chimpanzee, who was essentially raised like a human child, is acting very human-like, showing compassion, but also showing self-respect in giving the cold shoulder to people who haven’t respected her. I know some actual human beings who don’t even behave this intelligently.

In case you are thinking “wait, wasn’t the primate they taught sign language named Koko?” That was actually a different case, Koko was a Gorilla who learned over 1,000 signs. I’m choosing to focus on Washoe here.

I’ll say it again – simply fascinating.

Science Basics Quiz

Normally, I wouldn’t post something like this, because it comes from a quiz site (which is more of a distraction), but a teacher friend of mine shared it, and I thought it was interesting and fun.

How Good is Your Science Knowledge?

I scored 12/15 which isn’t bad, that’s a handy 80%. I haven’t formally studied science in a while, so I’m pleased. The questions range across different scientific fields, they’re not all in one category.

Show your contempt for the problem, and your concern for the person
-Jim Rohn