# Wait Your Turn

### Outside!

So there I was, waiting for my name to be called. She came out of the small room, reading off several names from a list. Not yet. I looked around the room, nervous people, some chatting some staring blankly off into space. Some studying the backs of their fingernails with feigned interest.

Twenty minutes passed. She came out again, read off another handful of names, then she looked at me, and nodded. It was time.

Sometimes, when I was a kid, I would ride my bike down to the beach to go body surfing. During the summer, the weather was hot, and the water was warm, so I enjoyed it just as much when there weren’t any waves as when there were. Sometimes I just enjoyed floating, letting the slow in and out of the tide move my body about. Every once in a while I would hear somebody say “outside set,” which meant that not the current set of waves, but the next one coming looked to be pretty decent.

Of course, a decent wave to a fourth grader on summer vacation means something completely different than what you may think of as a decent set of waves.

There is an interesting phenomenon regarding wave interference patterns when studying light. There is a famous double slit experiment, where they take a piece of material, and then put two small slits in a certain distance apart. Then they shine some light through on the other side of the slit, and measure the interference pattern on the other side with a special photographic plate. Because light travels in waves (sometimes) when it shows up on the other side, there will be peaks and troughs. The peaks are where the crests of waves coming through slot A line up with the peaks coming through from slot B. The troughs are where the lowest points from A overlap with B. The blank spaces in between are when a peak coming through slot A meets up with a trough from slot B, and they cancel each other out.

You can see this for yourself, by holding up your forefinger and thumb. If you hold you forefinger and thumb as close to your eye as possible, and then look through the space between them at a light source, as you bring your two fingers together, you can see the interference pattern start to form just before your fingers touch. You’ll see a small, but distinct pattern of darker and lighter “lines” between your fingers.

They say that physics is only makes sense because we see it over and over again, on a regular basis. Those that study quantum physics, or particle physics, knows that it follows a set of rules that is completely different than the rules we are used to in the macro world.

Not exactly.

There is the thing called the “correspondence principle,” and basically says that the laws of physics are the same for huge bodies, like planets, people, and trucks, as they are for tiny bodies like neutrons and photons, it’s just that the laws are specific to the condition.

Like the speed limit on the highway is 75 miles per hour, but through the small town is 35 miles per hour. They both still fall under the same speed limit law, but the law specifies different behaviors based on the environment.

But when I bought a boogie board, everything changed. Instead of swimming furiously to get to a wave that would only carry my poor body surfing skills so far, I could paddle out a lot quicker, and ride a lot longer. Simply by adding a simple tool to my pastime, I was able to get much more enjoyment, with much less effort. The only thing that became difficult was getting out through the waves as they were coming in. Before, as only a body surfer, I could simply duck under the wave and wait for it to pass over me. But with my boogie board, it became difficult. Many times I would paddle directly at the oncoming wave, only to get knocked back further than where I originally started.

Before, when I was body surfing, and I looked out at the waves coming in, and I wanted to get to a spot out beyond them, I didn’t give the waves a second thought. I just ducked under the water and let them pass over me.

But with my new toy, that made surfing a lot more fun, sometimes it was a hassle. How what used to be nothing more than some simple waves became a complex issue of timing. I had to wait until the waves were just right before I had a chance to paddle out beyond them, and wait until the new set came in.

Until my friend told me the secret. Get this thing called a leash, and attach one end to the boogie board, and the other end to your wrist. Then you could duck under the waves like before, you just had to sometimes fling your board up in the air before you did so.

Kind of like a tool added to a tool to make the tool more useful. With that added skill, boogie boarding was a breeze. And instead of floating just by myself, I could sometimes even pull myself up, lay on my back and stare up at the blue sky as the waves tossed me about.

When she finally called my name, I was about to fall asleep. I went into the small room, and I was surprised to see that it was just like the big room, only smaller. They had magazines, a couple of tables, and one of those bottled water fountains.

Then I had to wait there for another twenty minutes or so, but that is another story.

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# The Hidden Secret Of Knowledge

### Can You Repeat That Please?

I remember once I played a game with a group of highly educated, professional ESL students I was teaching. I’ve heard this game called “Chinese whispers,” or the “telephone game,” or other things. I even remember playing it once or twice as a kid. And even with a group of kids that are fluent in the language in which this game is being played, it is still funny to see.

Basically you get the group into a circle, and choose a simple enough phrase, and whisper it into the ear of the person on one end. The rules are that they can’t speak the phrase out loud, and they have to repeat it to the person next to them as soon as they hear it. You usually start out with a phrase like “banana ice cream,” and end up with something like “purple gorilla.”

It’s really fun to play with ESL students (English as a second language) because the end result often times doesn’t even qualify as an English word or phrase. But as a teaching tool, it helps to give students an opportunity to really practice their listening skills. The goal, the ultimate goal is to develop listening skills so that even passive listening will yield some understanding. I’ve you’ve ever studied a foreign language, and have listened to a dialogue or conversation that was even slightly above your comprehension level, you know how quickly you can get tired.

On this particular group, I started out with the phrase “blue truck.” Everybody got a kick out of the final answer, and it proved an interesting point.

Moving something from conscious competence to unconscious competence can take time, and come in stages, so doing this particular exercise is one drill, out of many, that can help to speed this process up.

I remember once I was at Griffith Park in Los Angeles, a friend of mine and I had just seen what we thought was going to be a Pink Floyd laser show, where they play a bunch of cool music, while you sit back and look at light show performed up above on a special dome. Only we misread the newspaper, and it was a classical music show instead. It was still worth the money, as a combination of good music through a really fantastic sound system, coupled with some skilled laser “shapes” that move around in sync with the music is pretty mesmerizing.

But afterward we noticed outside, on the grass they had some sort of meeting of a local astronomers club. There were several telescopes set up, all pointed at different celestial bodies. I’m pretty sure that was the only time I’d actually seen the rings of Saturn firsthand. After I looked, I had a question, something to do with the rings, and when they are visible. They owner of the telescope gave us a well informed and easy enough to understand answer (although I can’t remember exactly what it was.)

Later on that evening, as we were still wandering around, I heard somebody else ask the same question that I had asked a few minutes ago. With the answer still fresh in my short-term memory, I spit it out as if it were common knowledge. After we were out of earshot, my friend gave me a hard time for pretending to know something that I just learned only moments before. Bu then he made an interesting point.

“Isn’t that all knowledge is anyway, passing on information from one person to the next, in some long chain of people?”

You can spend a lot of time digging into that idea. When we are born, none of us know anything, other than our pre wired instincts, one of which is to learn as much as we can. Obviously, that comes second to survival, getting food and staying safe, but most of us are fortunate enough to grow up where our life doesn’t hang by a thread, so we have the luxury of motoring around and figuring out as much stuff as we can. (Which is really cute to our parents, until we learn to walk, but then it’s a completely different story).

But most of the stuff that we know today as adults came from others. Mathematics, science, history, rules of grammar, most of us didn’t invent these independently in our garage laboratory as children. We were taught these by other people. Who in turn were taught by others. I guess it’s lucky for most of us that ever generation, there are a few brilliant people like Einstein and Edison and Curie that spend their lives trying to figure out new stuff, instead of figuring out how to apply the old stuff.

I had a friend pose an interesting thought experiment to me once. He was giving a toastmasters speech on the illusion of civilization that we live in. None of the stuff we have is inherently known, as discussed before. Each generation passes on information it learned, and that information is filtered through the education system loosely made up of teachers and books and libraries.

But what would happen if all that were destroyed? What would happen to the human race if the only way we could transmit information was by word of mouth? No writing, no video, no audio. Only word of mouth. We still had all the same technology, but everything had to be built according to information passed on only face-to-face.

His theory was that we are really only a generation or two, at most, away from a complete and utter breakdown of society. With no books to refer to, most of the information we take for granted would quickly be lost. I think his underlying point was that people were completely evil, and we would quickly revert to the futuristic world of “Escape from New York” or any other futuristic movie where society breaks down and only the most barbaric can survive. I’m not so sure, but I am sure that we do depend on information passed down from generation to generation. So much so that some believe this has as much effect on human development as the day-to-day survival pressures that shaped human evolution thousands of years ago.

And the interesting concept that my ESL group illustrated was how much quicker digital information is passed than analogue information. Once one of them latched onto a phrase that she not only understood, but could easily repeat well enough to be understood, that phrase quickly passed unchanged to the last person. It was interesting to watch the spread of information. Before that moment of recognition it was slow, and unsure. But as soon as she latched onto that one phrase (which of course had nothing to do with the original phrase) it flowed like water.

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# Conflict Of Interest

### Finders Keepers

So I went down to the video store the other day to return this DVD that I’d forgotten about. It was about three weeks overdue and I thought I might get into big trouble, or at least have to pay a big fine. I really should look into netflix or something similar. So I threw the DVD in my backpack, and hopped on my bike.

When I got there, I realized I had a problem. There was no video store. It had been completely transformed into an auto parts store. I’m assuming it was an auto parts store because they had a gigantic stack of tires out in front, and this big inflatable gorilla on the roof, who happened to be purple. He was holding an inflatable sign that said something about that week’s particular sale.

I checked the back of the DVD. I was in the right address, and I double-checked the date. Whoops. It wasn’t due three weeks ago; it was due a year and three weeks ago. I checked the title. Nothing I remembered watching. But how did it get where I found it? Sometimes you find the strangest things in the strangest places.

For example, once I was in Taiwan, doing my laundry. I had been there for about eight months, and hadn’t seen American money in quite a while. So imagine my surprise when I found a dollar bill in there with my socks and jeans. How in the world did that dollar get there? Was it some message from beyond? Was it a sign from the gods of wealth? Was I hallucinating? I’m not sure, but a dollar is a dollar, if you catch my drift.

When I was a kid I used to watch those guys down at the beach with their metal detectors, hoping to find chests filled with gold and silver, or at least a quarter. I don’t think I ever recall watching them find something. I think I remember watching them bend down a couple times, and pick something up, but I don’t ever remember their faces showing delight or that expression you get when you experience sudden and unexpected wealth. It was more like an, “oh crap,” kind of expression. Then they’d look around, and then toss it back into the sand. Couldn’t have been worth much. I suppose people that do that have a couple different criteria that they are satisfying at once. Obviously, if they were after money, and only money, there are better ways to get it. But if they like the idea of searching for money, rather than finding it, while doing it a nice place like the beach on a pleasant afternoon, well, then I can understand why they’d go down there and take their sweet time.

It’s interesting when you take apart your desires, and really take a hard look at all your criteria underneath your desires. The other day I wrote something about “integration of parts” where you take something you’re after and figure out all the underlying criteria. Sometimes your criteria can surprise you. I’m sure most of those guys that were looking for coins at the beach would tell you they’re looking for money, but if you asked them how much they’d like to go home with, and then gave it to them in exchange for them not looking, they might not take your offer.

It’s a combination of wants and needs, largely unconscious that make up our seemingly conscious desires. And since most of our wants and needs have overlapping deeper criteria, it can be hard to change one thing without changing everything else.

Humans, and animals in general, are funny like that. Most of our biological parts serve a couple functions, at least. Take your hair follicles for example. The ones on your face, arms and back serve two purposes. One is to grow hair, and the other is to let out oil secreted by your sebaceous glands. It would be a waste of time to build two separate tubes on your skin, one for the hair to grow, and one for the oil, so nature built a shared piece of equipment. When everything is working together, you grow hair and keep your skin moisturized. When things don’t get along, you get a pimple. Or at least you did when you were in high school.

Same goes with unconscious intentions. Many times a behavior will serve two intentions. If the intentions are working well together, the behavior will be a good behavior, like smiling at people, or being patient in line at the supermarket when the goofball in front of you has eight billion coupons and then all of a sudden wants to pay in pennies when you’ve got that important meeting that starts in three minutes and if you’re late it will mean certain doom. Or something like that.

Of course in the above situation, it would be helpful to alter your behavior, such as take a step back and look for a line that is moving quicker. It probably wouldn’t do to well to strangle the guy, despite how good it would feel.

I was talking to a friend the other day, and he was telling me all the problems with the American educational system. He said the main problem is that this one humungous institution serves many different criteria, sometimes conflicting, and the learning of students, at least according to a few, is arguably not the most important. At least depending on how you describe education, which is one of those vague nominalized verbs that has as many different meanings as there are people who work in the system.

Anytime you tweak the system in one direction, you maybe increasing the effectiveness of one criterion, but lessening others, and that will cause immense pressure to move back to the status quo. Kind of hard of steer that ship, unless you crash it into a big iceberg, which you couldn’t see because so much of it was below the surface.

So after asking around, I figured out that the video store that had been there switched to pure mail order. So I’m stuck with this DVD that I don’t want to watch. They have my phone number and address, so I suppose that if they want to get a hold of me, they know where to find me.

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# The Mountain Man’s Secret

### The Fish

Once there was this guy who lived up in the mountains. Through a particularly strange string of events, he’d found himself with quite a bit of money, enough to quit his job for good. At first he spent time traveling around, and learning about different cultures, a few languages here and there. But when the thrill had worn off, he longed for place to spend the rest of his days in quite solitude. On thing he learned about himself was that he rather enjoyed being by himself, and could spend hours just sitting and gazing out at a peaceful meadow or countryside farm.

So he spent time searching for the right place, until he stumbled on this area in a semi rural mountainous area. He bought several hundred acres, after making sure there was sufficient water, and electricity wouldn’t be a problem. He had to contract with some construction engineers to get his electricity and phone lines wired in, but that wasn’t much of a worry.

After everything was built and set up, he had himself a nice cabin that was right on the edge of a large meadow, with a rather large stream running through the middle of it, and a fairly dense forest. Traveling through the meadow, it would become more and more flat after a few miles, and then open up into a large valley, which channeled down to meet the main highway. The road came only part way to the valley, after that there was access only by off road vehicle.

He’d gotten specific permits from the county planning office, and surprisingly had to sign several legal release forms, as for a good part of the winter, his cabin would become completely inaccessible, except by helicopter. That was why he chose to build his cabin on the border between the meadow and the woods.

Should a particular emergency arise, it was still feasible to get to his place by helicopter, even in the deepest snow of winter. But just a mile or so into the woods, he would be completely cut off for until the spring thaw. While he liked the outdoors, and enjoyed being alone for long stretches of time, not having access to emergency medical aid was not something he wanted to worry about.

During the other months, getting from his cabin to the main road through the valley below took a couple hours, and then to the nearest town where he could buy supplies was another hour. So he would make a run every couple of weeks, and load up his pickup truck with as many supplies as he would fit.

Make no mistake, because I’m using the word “supplies,” please don’t picture some scraggly mountain man buying beef jerky and shotgun shells. This guy liked his modern creature comforts just like the rest of us. In his cabin he had a large flat screen TV that was of course connected, as well as his Internet connection via satellite linkup, and having traveled the world extensively, he had acquired a taste for fine foods. He had an industrial size refrigerator, and a large walk in freezer that he kept fully stocked at all times, as well as an impressive wine cellar he had built to specific specifications to match identically that of a restaurant he’d grown quite fond of in the south of France.

But on to our story. One thing he particularly enjoyed was fishing in the stream/river that had started somewhere up in the mountains, ran down in front of his cabin (albeit a couple hundred yards awards away, as recommended by the builders) and became very large sometimes down the meadow.

There were plenty of trout, mostly rainbow, but a few brown trout in the stream. Despite all of the exotic food that he special ordered from time to time from the specialty stores in town, nothing tasted as good as freshly caught trout. He had developed several recipes that he used to prepare them, his most favorite being a simple lemon, garlic and butter concoction.

As he approached the stream, he found spot to start fishing. Long a fan of lures, he chose a spinner of no particular important, loaded it up and tossed it in. He slowly reeled it in, tossed it out again.

He did see a few interested fish, but none of them seemed too interested in his lure. He tried another lure, same thing. This wasn’t out of the ordinary. He’d once gone eight days in a row without catching any fish, so this wasn’t particularly frustrating, or out of the ordinary.

Until he saw it.

As he slowly reeled his lure back, after the 17th cast (had he been counting) there was a very large, very gold/orange fish following his lure. At first he thought it was one of those Japanese carp that some people build ponds for in their back yards, but it’s shape wasn’t quite right. The strange thing about this fish was that it didn’t immediately retreat when his lure drew close to the shore as he reeled it in. it seemed pause a little bit, swim up stream, and then drift just pas the point where the lure was to be pulled from the water. As if it somehow knew in advance where the lure was going to be extracted from the water.

After he set his rod for another cast the fish quickly darted back down stream. But when he cast and reeled in his line again, there was the same fish. Except this time, he was the only fish there. He performed the same peculiar behavior following the lure in, and then darting upstream, and drifting down just to the point of extraction. Then he (it) would linger just long enough, and then literally turn and dart downstream.

This went on for about more casts, when he decided to try another spot. He walked down stream for about thirty minutes, and found a spot where there was a large bend in the stream, where the flow slowed considerably, enough for large pool to form, much like a small lake.

He walked around the lake, stopping in several places. Each time the same thing happened. He’d cast out his lure, reel it, and it would be followed by the same peculiar fish, that would do the same peculiar thing.

Finally he decided to call it quits, as the sun would be setting within an hour or so. He walked back up stream toward his cabin. Just before he arrived, he decided he’d try one last cast. But there was that same fish, only this time, it didn’t dart away so quickly when he pulled is lure from the water.

He swam back and forth, seemingly agitated, jumping from the water at each turn. Perplexed, the stood and stared.

And then it happened.

There was a monstrous earthquake, that seemed to last several minutes. He could hear the rocks up through the forest come tumbling down the hillside, the loud cracking of trees as they plowed relentlessly through the woods.

When the shaking stopped, the fisherman looked down at the valley where he’d been fishing all day. All along the side of the river, as far as he could see, almost exactly parallel to the river, was a giant crevice that had opened up in the earth, and was slowly pulling all the water from the stream into it. Pretty soon the stream, now a gushing river, had completely changed direction.

He turned, quite shaken, and walked slowly back to his cabin, not sure what had just happened. One thing he did know, and that was he didn’t think he’d be eating fish any time soon.

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# The Secret Behind Human Intelligence

### Captain, That Is Illogical

Here’s an interesting mind experiment. Ready? Here is the situation; you have four cards, with the following faces showing. D, 7, 3, F. You are told that each card has a number on one side, and a letter on the other. Now you are given a statement:

On every card that shows a “D” on one side, there is a “3” on the other side.

Here is the challenge: How many cards do you need to turn over, and which cards, to conclusively prove or disprove the following statement, and which cards do you turn over?

While you may find this easy (I didn’t I had to cheat and read the logic behind the explanation to get it,) most people don’t. In face, when this study was first concocted by a couple of professors at Stanford (where you’d think there’s be some smart people) only about one out of four got the answer right.

Now here’s the same question, presented another way:

You are a bouncer at a bar. The rules are that you can’t drink unless you are twenty-one. Now the cards are “drinking coke, drinking beer, 16 years old, 25 years old.” Or if you prefer, there are four people sitting at the bar. One is drinking beer (you don’t know how old they are) one is drinking coke (you don’t know how old they are) one is 25 (you don’t know what they are drinking) and one is sixteen (you don’t know what they are drinking).

From a logical standpoint, the problem is identical, yet when presented the second way, most people quickly realize that in order to figure out if anybody is breaking any laws, all you do is card the person drinking beer, and quickly check what the sixteen year old is drinking. In effect, turning over two cards to see what is on the other side.

As in the case above, you turn over the “D” to verify it if has a three on the other side, and you turn over the “7” to make sure it doesn’t have a “D” on the other side. If the D has a 3, and the 7 doesn’t have a D, then the statement is correct. If the D doesn’t have a three, and the 7 has a D, then the statement is incorrect.

The underlying problem is why, when the logic is identical, do so many people have a hard time (as I did) with the first question, and a much easier time (as I did) with the second question?

One answer could be that we aren’t as logically thinking as we’d like to believe. It may be that our brains aren’t designed to think in terms of Vulcan logic like Mr. Spock, but to think only in terms of social interactions, specifically to uncover social “cheats,” those that would break unwritten social contracts.

The thinking behind this idea goes like this. Humans lived in small groups for a couple hundred thousand years. That’s when we developed our “humanness” so to speak. One thing that evolutionary biologists think is one of the major driving forces behind the massive growth of the human brain during our history was social pressure from within the group. Our brains, our language, our thinking was all developed to outsmart each other within that small group of wandering nomads all those years ago.

Numerous studies of chimps and various apes have shown this to be a major portion for the need for their large brains as well. Most of them have plenty of food where they live, don’t need to organize sophisticated hunting parties, or come with complex methods of evading predators. Most of their thinking power, many believe, is so they can outsmart each other and rise as high in the social order as possible.

When humans developed language many, many years ago, we just took it a couple notches higher (to say the least) and developed all kinds of conscious and unconscious social skills. We learned to read facial expressions and body language, learned how to tell when somebody is cheating or lying, and be able to cheat and lie ourselves.

Many species have a specific feature, which is there solely for sexual competition within the species. The most often given example is the peacock’s tail. When peahens get together to choose their mate, they choose the male with the most flamboyant tail. Interestingly, the more flamboyant the tail, the dangerous it is for the peacock, as he is a much easier prey for predators, as well as having to lug that huge thing around should he have to run away.

In other species, they have other aspects. Bull seals have their size and strength, gorilla’s have their silver stripe of hair on their back, different birds have various ways to strut their stuff, from colored feathers to singing ability.

In humans, it is our brains, more specifically our verbal and social skills that became the driving force of sexual selection. Those that were the most eloquent, and the most persuasive, were the most prolific, and left the most offspring. Those offspring, having inherited slightly higher skills for eloquence and social prowess, in turn competed with each other. Continue that process for a few hundred thousand years, and you’ve got these big-brained humans walking around.

Us.

Something to think about yet next time you’re at a bar or club or other social gathering, and watching the vast throng trying to talk their genes into eternity.

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# The Mystery Behind Cause And Effect

### What’s The Meaning Behind That?

I remember several years ago I was driving down the freeway, in a hurry to get someplace. I forget where, so obviously it couldn’t have been very important. I was zipping in and out of traffic, checking for cops behind me every few minutes. Just as I was about to shift over to the lane to my left, a car on the other side of my destination lane merged in, without a signal, without checking, without any obvious sign of recognition that there were other cars on the road.

Furious, I waited until he (at this point I was assuming it was a he) was ahead of me enough so that I could pull in behind him. My plan was to tailgate him for a while, and then pull up along side of him and give him the finger. I tailgated for a couple of minutes, but my rising blood pressure and anger didn’t allow me the patience to torment him long enough, so I pulled quickly up along side to tell him/show him what was what.

Things suddenly changed when I saw who it was.

I remember reading about a strange legal case that happened a while ago. This guy was sitting at one of those Japanese restaurants where they cook in front of you Teppan style. The chef was doing his culinary acrobatics, and one thing led to another, and he tossed a piece of something to the patron sitting there, who was supposed to catch it in his mouth. They had had some dialogue going on, so it wasn’t an out of the blue toss to an unsuspecting customer. The guy snapped his head bad to catch the food, but damaged his neck, due to some extremely strange combination of angles and such. Something that would be nearly impossible to reproduce.

Nevertheless, the poor guy had to be taken to the hospital, and required a couple of surgeries to fix what had happened. The first surgery went OK, they sent him home, but later on he had to go back for another surgery. During his hospital stay after the second surgery, he contracted some kind of infection, and died.

The family tried (unsuccessfully) to sue the restaurant, as they started the whole chain of events that caused his ultimate death. The courts didn’t agree, because there were so many things that happened in between the first event, and his death, that it wouldn’t be reasonable to hold the restaurant responsible.

Then there was that guy who assassinated President Garfield, at least according to the courts. Garfield was getting on a train, and this guy Guiteau shot him a couple times in the back. They weren’t fatal shots; they didn’t hit any major organs. They took him home and his goofball doctors went to work. I say goofball because if in those days (1881) there medical methods were a bit out there. Had they treated him according to standard medical procedures in the day, he may have lived. Instead they did things like check his wounds with dirty hands (despite other doctors having already learned the necessity of antiseptics), they fed him through a rectal tube rather than through his mouth. Almost three months later he died.

At the trial, Guiteau said, “I didn’t kill him, I only shot him. His doctors killed him.” But they hanged him anyway.

Scientists tell us that our brains have evolved a very simple method for determining cause and effect. There are usually several intermediate steps that we overlook when we assume A causes B. It’s usually more like A causes A1, which has an effect on A2, which when combined with A3, has a reinforcing effect on A1, which in turn makes B possible, but not until C has been notified and called into action.

But all we humans see is A, and then B, and assume that A causes B.

They’ve done plenty of experiments on monkeys and babies to see what kind of assumptions we make about cause and effect. The results indicate that we seem to have a pre wired circuitry to assume cause and effect between certain objects. They’ll take a knife, and an apple, and show them to a baby (or a monkey), and then move them behind a screen. Then they’ll show some movement behind the screen, and lift up the screen to show the apple cut in half. This doesn’t get much of a reaction, as it seems to be expected.

Then they’ll take a knife and an apple, but when they lift the screen, they’ll be a balloon or something else completely unexpected. Usually the babies (or the monkeys) stare at this for much longer, as if they are trying to figure out what in the heck just happened.

There’s a whole branch of psychology dedicated to train people to uncouple unhelpful assumptions about cause and effect. We see somebody, they do something, we get angry. We then say that they “caused” our anger. But did they really? Or was it our reaction to our assumption about the meaning of the situation? We say “hi,” and somebody doesn’t return the “hi.” An event. We must give meaning to the event. Their not saying “hi” means they don’t like us. So we must react to that event. Our reaction to them not liking us is hurt feelings. So we react to that. We get angry, how dare they treat us like that. We may utter “asshole!” under our breath.

But what if they just didn’t hear us? What if they were in the middle of some complicated thought, and returning the “hi” would have ruined everything? What if they really thought they said “hi” but their throat was stuck or something?

Our brains are pre wired to survive in an environment that didn’t allow for second-guessing and various alternatives. We had to read the environment, and react quickly, or die. But we don’t have to do that any longer. Since we live in a modern society where we don’t have to hunt for our food, and their aren’t tigers roaming around trying to kill us, we can relax and choose our responses, instead of mindlessly reacting as if we were still cave people. It may take some time, but once you start to practice responding instead of reacting, you’ll notice you have a lot more power and control over your emotions, and it will soon be impossible for anybody to “push your buttons.”

So just as I was about to extend my finger, I saw that it was an old priest at my church that I attended at the time. This guy was about 80 years old, and couldnâ€™t hurt a fly. He was such a gentle old man, that he was guy I went to whenever I used to go to confession. He was always so sympathetic understanding, no matter how horrible I thought my sins were.

Thoroughly ashamed that I had such vicious anger for such a gentle old man, I slowed down, and drove more carefully, and more like a normal human, after that.

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# How To Learn Anything

### Teach An Old Dog New Tricks?

The other night, I decided to go out for a walk. I recently moved to new part of town, and decided to go and check things out. The sun has been setting later and later recently, and I had gotten off a little earlier than normal from work, so I figured I’d just go wandering about and see if anything interesting happened.

The first thing I noticed was this big park on the other side of my apartment building. Bunch of kids playing, lots of toys based on animals. Big gorillas, zebras, elephants that were made into slides and other playground equipment. I stopped to watch, as there were a few benches, and there was this huge grass area adjacent to the playground, so it was a pretty good spot to chill for a bit.

One thing about kids is when they play, they really play. They don’t play, but at the same time worry about their homework or whether or not their shoes really match the rest of their outfit, and if not will anybody notice. They seem to be pre set for a couple things, which seem to be completely opposite, at first glance.

On the one hand, they are pre wired to be automatic learning machines. The amount of things a kid learns between the age of two and ten is simply staggering. If you tried to learn the same amount of information in the same amount of time, you’d be a nervous wreck. They learn an entire language, complete with tens of thousands of new vocabulary words, in about five years. Any that has attempted to learn a foreign language as an adult would be lucky to retain five new words a week.

But on the other hand, they completely forget everything they are “supposed” to learn when it’s time to play. When they see a cool slide or a gorilla swing set, proper subject-verb agreement is the furthest thing from their minds. You’d think that as adults, the extra stress and worry we put into learning new things would help. But it doesn’t seem to. It seems to have the opposite effect.

They say that a kids learning capacity is different simply because they are a kid. That learning a language is easy for kids, but hard for adults, due to some pre wired brain structure due to millions of years of evolution. Some window of opportunity that once is closed, is closed for good. While that’s interesting from an objective biological point of view, it doesn’t sound too promising from a human potential point of view.

This is observable in other animals. Birds will “imprint” to their “mother” within a certain time frame, and they can be tricked into “imprinting” on an imposter if done at the right time. Certain birds learn to sing, but only between two weeks and two months old, and only if they hear another one of their kind singing. If they aren’t exposed to another one of their kind singing during that critical time period, they’ll never learn to sing properly. (Of course when I say, “sing properly” I mean sing well enough to attract a mate.) As for myself, I can only sing properly after sufficient alcohol, and a high-end voice synthesizer, but I digress.

The Jesuits used to say, (and probably still do) that if you give them a child when he is born, he will be a soldier for Christ for life by the time he’s seven. What this really means is that kids can be taught any number of beliefs when they are young, and can take a lifetime of effort to “unlearn” them. It takes a significantly life altering event, to cause an appreciable change in religious beliefs in most people. Not too many people who grow up in strong fundamentalist Christian households decide later in life to worship Zeus.

If I had my druthers, Iâ€™d like to conduct a language learning experiment. They say kids can learn languages much better than adults. Two, three, even four languages are a snap for kids so long as they are exposed to them early enough. It is assumed there is some kind of genetic “switch” that makes it harder to learn as adults, but I’m not so sure. Enter my experiment.

Take a bunch of adults, and separate them in three different groups. The first group has to learn the new language the regular way. After they finish their day job, they go to their once or twice a week at some local junior college, and then study the language whenever they have free time. Weekends, during commercials, whenever. These people are only exposed to the target language when they are in class, or they are listening to language tapes, or when (if) they bravely seek out native speakers of their target language.

The second group gets a free pass from work for a year. They are told they still have the obligations as an adult, they have to cook for themselves and maintain their household, but they get a stipend that will allow them to study on their own, along with the use of whatever material they think will help them. They of course, are only exposed to their target language when they organize their environment accordingly. Language tapes, private tutors, whatever they can afford. But when they go shopping, or watch TV, everything is in English.

The third group, I think, would be the most interesting. They are surrounded only by their target language. They never hear English (which in this case is assumed to be their native tongue.) They are surrounded by helpful speakers of the target language who buy and cook all their food (and whatever they want provided they know how to say it), drive them everywhere they want to go (provided they know how to say it), and give them massive amounts of happy praise, including generous physical, non-sexual touching and caressing (like quick back massages and what-not) whenever they speak the target language correctly. They never criticize for mistakes; only give continued encouragement to keep you going. Their only job is to learn the target language, and follow their “keepers” around whenever they go out to buy food and take care of normal, everyday housekeeping matters. And plenty of time for playing, so long as it’s in the target language (video games and what-not).

I think these “experiments” would show that there is a lot more to the change in environment, from child to adult, which makes learning harder rather than some genetic switch that makes it mentally impossible.

Obviously, as adults, unless you are super rich, you can’t really afford to learn things as described in group number three. But you’ll notice some similar advice given by various gurus who teach learning to be successful in any endeavor as an adult.

Surround yourself with people that are already proficient in what you want to learn. Give yourself rewards for every little success, no matter how small. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself, and go easy on yourself when you make the “mistakes” that are absolutely necessary for growth and improvement. And give yourself time to play. The only real difference in being an adult rather than a kid is you’ve got to nurture yourself. Try it and what happens.

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# How To Make Everything A Logical Conclusion

### Follow The Bouncing Ball

Once I had this friend who had this really overactive imagination. I guess overactive isn’t quite the right term, as I don’t suppose his biochemical neuro activity was any more or less than the next guy. But he had two things that stood out when it came to his imagination. He was very good at verbalizing his thoughts, as they came up, as well as getting on a track, and just keep on going.

I’ve met some people that were absolutely scatterbrained, they’d be talking about the benefits of exercise, and all of a sudden start talking about something that happened to them last weekend, and then remark about how the grocery was having a sale on bananas. All without any logical switch between the two. Of course, in their mind, there is always a logical switch, or at least a neurological connection somehow. You fire up one neuron, and the other neurons that are connected to it get fired up, and then the surrounding ones in turn get fired up, until you have a large enough cluster centered around what your brain thinks is an important idea, or a pertinent memory, and that kicks the verbalizing department into action, and pretty soon your listeners are wondering what planet you’re from.

Most people, when you listen to them, you can sort of see the connection in their ramblings. They’ll be talking about oranges, and then mention their grandfather was an orange farmer, and then tell some story about how they went fishing once one summer with their grandfather, and pretty soon, the story is all over the place, but it’s left a trail of bread crumbs back to the original story or idea.

I remember when I was in college, when we used to sit around in our dorm rooms in an altered state (due to excessive studying, of course), we’d sometimes try and follow our conversation backwards and see how many ideas we could link. “You were talking about this, and that was because he was talking about that, because you said, the other thing, which reminded of his pet when he was a kidâ€¦”

It usually didn’t work out so well, as you’d probably already guessed.

But this guy would not only clearly ramble on about his imaginations, but he would do so in such a linear and easy to follow fashion, that it was a kick just to sit back and let watch him go. It got to the point that when he started talking, we’d all kind inwardly smile, and know when to just shut up and enjoy his imagination.

The funny thing was that sometimes he would go off in a positive direction, and other times he would go off in a negative direction. Positive meaning he would start thinking in “best case scenario” terms and the end result would be everybody getting laid like rock stars and getting paid millions of dollars for barely passing a geometry test.

When he would go off on a negative bent, we’d all end up serving a life term on death row in a Mexican prison, figuratively. The funny thing was that he knew full well that we enjoyed listening to him go off on his tangents, and it became kind of like an impromptu performance art. Once he started, he would see how far he would go.

But the interesting thing was that whichever direction he started off in, he would always stay in that direction, either positive or negative. I asked him about it once, and he said that the brain was just like a muscle. Just like you can train your muscles to do certain things, you can train you brain to do certain things.

If you train your muscle to do certain repetitive actions, it becomes unconscious and automatic. If you know how to dribble a basketball, there was a time when you didn’t, and you had to go through the process of learning. Maybe you learned quickly, maybe it took a while. Maybe you had to start by watching the ball, and watching your hand, and you had to be all by yourself, otherwise you’d lose control of the ball, and you’d have to chase it down the street or something.

But after you learned how to dribble without looking at the ball and your hand, you then maybe learned how to walk and dribble at the same time. You could direct where the bouncing ball when without even looking at it. If you kept at it, then you may have been able to move sideways, backwards, even a slow job while keeping the ball under control.

I remember once when I was a kid I spent a couple hours one day learning how to dribble between my legs. I saw somebody on TV do it, and I thought was pretty cool, and I wanted to learn how. After a while, I could dribble back and forth between hands, between my legs, while I was walking, without even looking.

This guy with the amazing skills of imagination said the same is true of your thoughts. If you just let them go wherever they go, they’ll usually end up in a bad place of fear or anxiety, as that’s the way the brain is hard wired from evolution. To always be on the lookout for danger. But if you train your thoughts like you train your self to dribble a basketball, pretty soon, you can direct your thoughts in any direction, and they’ll start going there automatically.

He said that once he learned how to do this, he had great fun just setting a basic intention, and a theme, and then letting his mind do the rest. It would pretty much go in the direction he sent it without having to keep conscious focus on it, like when you are beginning to dribble a basketball.

And if you can learn to direct your thoughts as well as some people can dribble a basketball, there’s no limit to what you can creatively come up with.

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# How To Apply The Powerful Integration Of Parts Technique

### Union Talks

I was mindlessly reading various articles on the net the other day and came across a description of an NLP procedure I learned a few years ago in a seminar. It is pretty useful procedure, but many people don’t realize in how many different ways it can be applied, and in how many different situations for various results, both for yourself and for others.

The procedure is called “Integration of Parts,” and has been written about in quite a few NLP books. The interesting thing about NLP is people tend to think that it is set of tools that were “invented” and didn’t exist until Bandler and Grinders started their work. The actual truth is that all of NLP existed before, in various forms, they just weren’t called “NLP,” or they weren’t used in the specific way the “NLPers” are taught to use them.

One of the presuppositions of NLP is that the more flexible you are, the better equipped you are to handle different situations. You’d think that being taught this from the get go, NLPers would be able to see how the same procedures have been used for quite a while, some since the beginning of recorded history. In one particular book (I believe it was persuasion by Kevin Hogan, but I may be mistaken) he goes over a passage from the New Testament, where in one of St. Paul’s letters, he is clearly using the sales technique of “pacing and leading.” Only back then he didn’t call it “pacing and leading,” he was likely a natural salesperson.

The thing that many people tend to overlook is that NLP only collects the techniques and strategies that people that are “naturals” are doing anyway. They study excellence, elicit people’s strategies, and then write them down in an easy to follow recipe. Sometimes you’ll hear a particularly gifted and eloquent speaker, and people will whisper and argue whether or not he’s “using” NLP. A better question might be is he a natural, or did he learn those skills, or is it a combination of both?

A lot of people claimed that President Obama was “using” NLP while he was campaigning, but I think he is merely a naturally gifted speaker. If you study the tonality and gestures that he uses when he speaks, they aren’t anywhere near as proficient and congruent as in somebody who has studied embedded commands and anchoring.

But back to the particular procedure. Integration of parts. Lets say part of you wants to pick up the phone to make a cold call, so you can make some money. But another part of you is afraid of getting rejected. It would seem that you have two parts that have two completely different intentions. These warring parts create anxiety, stress, and a high turnover rate in any sales job.

So what do you do?

Integration of parts.

You ask the part that wants to make the call to come out and play. Put that part in your right hand. You then talk to that part, respectfully of course. Parts don’t usually get a lot of focus, and are used to operating in the background, so you need to be gentle. First chat him or her up a bit, and develop some rapport. Describe them as much as you can, in as many sensory modes as possible. Then ask the part what’s important about his top level intention (wanting to pick up the phone to make a call). Then do some basic conversational criteria eliciting skills and find out the intentions under that. You’ll probably need to go three or four deep to get to the big one. For example, he wants to pick up the phone, to make some money, to pay the bills, to not worry, to feel safe. Safety is important. Make sure at every step of the way to validate you part, and make sure they know you respect their intention.

Then you do the same with the other part. Make sure that before you do that, you ask the first part if they’ll sit tight for a bit. They usually will, as it’s nice to sit out side in the open. Once you chat up your other part for a bit, start digging down for their deeper level criteria. It doesn’t take long to get the “Aha!” when you realize that both parts are really after the same thing, only at different levels. The first part took a while to get to wanting “safety,” while the second part might be fighting for that right off the bat.

Once you find that both parts are really after the same thing, ask them if they’d like to join forces, like the superfriends. Most of they time they’ll agree, then slowly bring them together, and give them time to get used to each other. Once you combine your hands, you’ll be holding a new part that has all the strategies and resources of both parts, but not evolved into more powerful more resourceful part. Slowly bring this into your chest, take a couple of breaths, and do whatever hallucination is useful to let this new part sink down into your soul or wherever the parts live inside you. It’s different for most people. I knew this one guy that had all his parts living in an energy ball that floated behind him, and was tethered to the back of his neck. Not really his neck, the tether went right into his spinal column.

(Keep in mind this is only a hallucination, there really are no parts or anything called NLP or any of that other new age nonsense. It’s just pretty useful, that’s all.)

Can you see how this simple communication strategy between two entities with seemingly different intentions can work? You can use this for:

Union Negotiations
Sales Meetings
Asking for A Raise
Nuclear Arms Reduction Talks (if you’re into that sort of thing)
Deciding where to go on a date

And much, much more. You are only limited by your imagination, and you willingness to play with this and see what happens.

If you’re interested in a really cool guided meditation/dual induction CD (about twenty minutes long) that helps you through this process, check out the New Option Generator, from Learning Strategies Corporation.

Have fun.

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# Focus On What’s Important, Not What Isn’t

### Keep Your Eye On The Ball

When I was a kid I played little league. One of my problems was watching the ball hit the bat. I remember my coach was always saying to do just that, but I kept looking up to where I wanted the ball to go, or where I expected it to go I swung and connected correctly. It seemed a lot easier to “watch the ball hit the bat” when you were supposed to bunt, but I never really liked bunting. Something about sprinting towards first base and always worried you were going to be thrown out.

I must rather enjoyed hitting one into the outfield, and thinking of second base on the way to first base. Rounding first, slowing up a bit and checking to see what the ball was doing was a great feeling. A mixture of success, control, and possibility for more. A bunt, on the other hand, is pure danger. Like you are challenging the pitcher to a race. Of course, when you bunt, you aren’t supposed to bunt it right back at the pitcher, you’re supposed to bunt toward the first baseman or the third baseman, providing they haven’t read your signals and are playing way up.

They say baseball is a game of inches, and when you’re talking about bunting, they are certainly right. But it’s much more fun to blast away and hit the ball as far as you can (or at least intend to), so you don’t have to run very fast towards first.

I finally figured out way to drastically improve my batting, and start to hit it out of the infield on a consistent basis. It was just a small addition to how I usually practiced.

I used to date this girl in high school. I guess it was your normal high school relationship. Nobody really knows what you’re supposed to do. You’re lucky if you can get a car. Being in high school, I never had much money, so going out on dates was always a challenge. Drive somewhere, sit around, and hopefully make a move of some sort. I found the best dates were the ones where I didn’t worry about the little things along the way, when I was able to focus on the big picture, so to speak.

When there was something big going on, (and free) like a county fair or some kind of event, it was much more fun. I was able to look forward to something large, rather than focus on every single nuance of the conversation along the way to just parking somewhere and hoping something “happened,” if you catch my drift. Those dates were always worrisome, as I felt I needed to maintain every little change in the mood, and keep the interest level up.

But when we went to some carnival or something, I didn’t even worry if my date was having a good time or not. I just kind of assumed it, as I was having a pretty good time myself. Those dates were always much easier, and ended much better (ahem.)

Once with a couple of friends, we decided to go skydiving. It was the tandem kind, where you strap yourself to an instructor. You get to pull the cord, but he is there, strapped onto your back in case you black out or something. That is perfect for first timers, as it only requires about fifteen minutes of instruction. It’s pretty idiot proof. The alternative is to jump with two guys on either side of you, but that takes several hours of instruction and drilling.

One thing the guy I was strapped to said just before we leapt out of the plane. He said not to look down. At first I thought that was the regular advice given to people that are afraid of heights. If you look down, you’ll freak out, and lose your nerve. But he was referring to the minute or so after we jumped out of the plane, and was free falling.

That was without question, the most exhilarating minute of my life (except the obvious exception). And it was also the quickest minute (except the obvious exceptions). The reason he said not to look down is that you tend to find some spot below, and try to focus on it, or “fixate on it,” as he said. And when you do that, you miss out on the feeling flying. When you are free falling, you only actually feel like you are falling for the first couple seconds. After that, you hit terminal velocity, which is when you stop accelerating. And you feel like you are literally floating on air. If you look down, you’ll miss out on the fantastic feeling, and spend your brain energy staring at something that isn’t important. If you keep looking forward, and enjoy the experience, it will be much more memorable, much more thrilling, much more extraordinary. So when he said “donâ€™t look down” he wasn’t trying to keep me from getting scared, he was trying to make sure I got the most enjoyment out of the situation.

And the funny thing about learning to consistently hit the ball out of the infield was to practice doing the thing I hated the most. Bunting. I’d go to the batting cages, and stand there like I was going to swing, and then at he last minute, lay down a bunt. I must have looked pretty foolish practicing bunting in the batting cages, but it really trained my hand/eye/bat coordination.

Pretty soon I moved from simple bunts, to short, slow swings, to bigger swings, and to full motion full power swings, all while keeping my eye on the ball the watching the ball hit the bat. Pretty soon I was smacking them all over the place.

Just changing where you place your focus can make all the difference.

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