Playing Catch With My Thoughts

“You have to wait for your mind to catch up with whatever it is it’s working on; then you can write…”

― James M. Cain

Sorry to say…
I have nothing today,
No thoughts to write,
No sources to cite.

Ideas? I have a few
But I haven’t a clue
Where to start,
Everything’s just a mental fart.

But you’ll please note
Above, a quote
Wherein you’ll find
The state of my mind.

With nothing new
To share with you,
Let’s hope and pray
Soon there’ll be a better day.

Where I won’t have to fight
To find something to write,
That isn’t just another way
Of “Sorry to say…”

– Bill

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Are You An Introvert, Ambivert, Or Extrovert?

“Spectrum (noun): a broad range of varied [subject]…so as to form a continuous sequence.” “Varied (adjective): tending to diversity, differing from the general, alternative.”

– Dictionary

All of us, in every facet of ourselves, are somewhere within a spectrum that speaks to who/what we are. And we are a varied lot. Depending on one’s source – Sexually: heterosexual (75%), bisexual (15%) or homosexual (10%); Politically (US): liberal (24%), moderate (34%), or conservative (38%); Personality: extrovert (50-74%), introvert (16-50%), or ambivert (somewhere between).

I favor those statistics that are imprecise, have category overlaps (like the personality one above) or don’t equal out to exactly 100% (like the political one above) because, unlike rigidly delineated groupings (like the sexual one above), they reflect reality, they recognize a measure of what’s called “fluidity”. Nothing is cut-and-dry, nothing is static – etched in stone forever over a lifetime. People can vary back-and-forth in their thinking or behavior, in the attraction at the moment. A heterosexual can have a homosexual encounter (or likewise, the homosexual in reverse) – that does not mean one has become bisexual. Likewise, the political moderate might vote either conservative or liberal – that does not move one to either the liberal or conservative party. Likewise, sometimes the liberal or conservative might find reason to cross party lines – that does not recatagorize one. Likewise, sometimes the introvert becomes the life of the party while the extrovert withdraws – that does not, again, recatagorize one.

But Statistics is a discussion for another day. For this post, I’ll focus on people’s overall personality types, introvert, ambivert, and extrovert.

Ambivert is a relatively new classification, something that was once suggested as a possible third personality type by the psychologist Carl Jung and is now recognized as a distinct variant between introvert and extrovert. Rather than a neither/nor, it is a sometimes one-or-the-other (something like the bisexual or the politically moderate) depending on the circumstances, or mood, or attraction at the moment. To learn more: https://www.forbes.com/sites/travisbradberry/2016/04/26/9-signs-that-youre-an-ambivert/#1f40050a3145

Extroverts, on the other hand, are easily recognizable, according to stereotype – the life of the party, open and out-going, genial and friendly, charismatic, gregarious, the ones people gravitate to, etc.

Introverts are also easily discernable, according to stereotype – wallflowers, shy, reluctant to join in conversation, home-bodies, avoid crowds, loners, the ones never noticed, etc.

But it may surprise you to learn that those stereotypes – like statistics – don’t paint a true picture – like the heterosexual or homosexual, or the conservative or liberal, lines can be crossed and (depending, again, on the circumstances, mood, or attraction at the moment) can be fluid, even though the stereotype holds true for the most part.

Especially for the introvert.

All personality types are dimensional and not binary (just like everything human). Still, studies have placed introverts at 25% of the population (there’s those statistics again!), even though it can be shown they really don’t always fit the stereotype. To learn more: http://www.businessinsider.com/what-its-like-to-be-an-introvert-and-what-everyone-gets-wrong-2018-5

What is most interesting is the “why” introverts and extroverts are the way they are. It’s not because extroverts had the best possible childhoods and family dynamics or that introverts had the opposite or some horrific psycho-trauma (although they can be factors). As the article points out, it’s because that’s the way they are hard-wired in the head. And it’s not hard to understand that between the “short” of the extrovert and the “long” of the introvert, there’s the “medium” of the ambivert.

It’s perhaps folly, but fun nonetheless, to take one of those on-line tests to see where you fall, either introvert or extrovert. Just for the $#!+$ and giggles of it I went to http://fortune.com/2015/06/03/cain-introvert-quiz/.

It says I’m well within the introvert category. It doesn’t surprise me, I’ve known that all along. That, and the article from Business Insider, dovetails with my self-description in my post “Making Assumptions About Facial Expressions” yesterday (where I said I can and do socialize and make small-talk, but I’d rather not as I find it exhausting).

If you’re curious, you can take the test. But don’t take it to heart, either way you come out (I can’t vouch to its accuracy, but I agree with my results).

Just remember the concept of fluidity – nothing is etched in stone, everything about you depends on circumstances, mood, and attraction at the moment.

None of us is ever always one thing to the exclusion of anything else – if not in our behavior then at least, at times, in our thinking we will belie the label put on us by others or we have, ourselves.

– Bill

Curiosity Keeps This Cat Alive

“The cure for boredom is curiosity. There is no cure for curiosity.”

– Dorothy Parker

Two old adages, “Curiosity killed the cat” and “A cat has nine lives”, have meaning to this “cool cat” (an appellation only those growing up in the Beatnik Era will understand). I don’t know if I really am “cool”, but one thing I do know – I am never bored. I am incurably curious about a lot of things. And if this cat’s “lives” equal decades, I’ve got two left.

While I’ve obviously not died from my curiosity, in pursuit of learning about something that interested me, I have sometimes suffered from it, there have been times I’ve been hurt (or caused others hurt) in the process, especially when it led me on occasion to where I had no reason to go other than mere curiosity, like into other people’s personal business. Or to try something experimental, in my youth, that in 20-20 hindsight was insanely stupid, and by all rights should have killed me and/or those with me. (The recounts of all have been to the great astonishment and amusement to my sons and grandchildren, but serve as cautionary tales I hope they might learn from!)

That I’m still alive shows, I guess, that I haven’t exhausted all my lives. Yet. But that hasn’t diminished pursuit of my curiosity, of knowing and understanding. I’ve just learned to channel my curiosity (into a less meddlesome behavior, like minding my own business – live and let live others in theirs – and not to impulsively try something new or different just to see what might happen; to think through things, first).

Like channeling my curiosity of many and diverse subjects, that I have had to first research and learn about, into this blog. If in the sharing of the results of my many curiosities it has fed yours or led you to be further curious to learn more on your own, all well and good.

I decided before I retired that when I did I would explore the written word, both by continuing my love of books, and to (in turn) write. In these past seven years not only have I read many good books, I’ve written and published two of my own (hardly best sellers, no need for you to look for them) and this blog, which is (like my books were) written for my own enjoyment (and any by readers is just icing on the cake). Reading, research and writing are my things, through them I satisfy my mind, my curiosities, my time. They keep me from becoming bored.

The point is (which is where I’m going with this post), before the time comes when you find yourself unencumbered with raising a family and not needing or able to work – while you still are, while you have time to think about it and try out a few different ideas – you need to find something that will occupy – if not your time – your mind.

So do it now, before then, find something – a hobby, a cause, anything that can hold an ongoing interest and love of, that can occupy your then abundant free time.

Isn’t there something you’re curious about exploring, maybe doing? Surely there is something.

If not, you’ll find yourself bored out of your mind and without a reason to be, a reason to keep living.

And I’d find that curious and want to know why.

– Bill

Making Assumptions About Facial Expressions

“He was one of those saturnine people who smile with the corners of the mouth down.”

― H.G. Wells

Throughout all my life, when amongst people I really don’t know or barely know (at a function I can’t get out of going to, for instance) at some point someone inevitably will ask, “Are you angry about something?” I’ll answer, “No, why do you ask?” Their answer is always, “Well, you look angry.” I, “Well, I’m not.” They, “But you seem angry.” My invariable response at this point is, “I said I’m not. But say it again (as I give them a sly smile and a wink) and I will be!” Which usually disarms them – I can actually see the confusion (and maybe a little wariness?) in their eyes for a second before they give a timid smile in return and then turn their attention to someone else. Not that I wanted to offend or scare them but as I said, this has happened to me all throughout my life. It gets tiresome hearing it so often.

Once they get to know me better (if they’re not too afraid by then to try, or someone who knows me clues them in), they’ll learn that I’m somewhat saturnine by nature, that is, taciturn (inclined to silence, reluctant to join in conversations) with people I don’t know. It’s not that I’m exactly shy (just ask those that know me well and they’ll tell you I am anything but), it’s just that I don’t like to do “small talk” socially. Not that I can’t, I can do it as well as anyone if need be. Yet I find mundane socializing taxing and after introductions and initial pleasantries, after noting the weather, the latest blockbuster movie and the happenings at work or the latest cute thing our children or grandchildren have done, I go silent, which is often misconstrued (because I’m no longer joining in, I’m not smilingly exuding interest – “Did someone say something to make him angry?”) when all that’s really happening is I’m silently thinking, “How do I make my exit?”

Silence and lack of a smile doesn’t equate to anger. Still, I’ve often wondered why some people don’t see the distinction and jump to conclusion that it does. Just read an article (https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/24/science/reading-neutral-faces.html) by Heather Murphy of the New York Times about people who do that. It really is quite illuminating.

The article’s first sentence, “Why do you look so angry?” sure caught my attention!

Seems many people simply can’t “read” neutral facial expressions. If you’re not grinning like a Cheshire Cat or frowning like you’ve got indigestion or staring daggers at them – if you present an emotionless face – they don’t know what to think and some people, based on their childhood, assume you’re angry. “[A]dults who were exposed to violence, neglect or physical abuse in childhood are more likely to see hostility where there is none…[or, were just] chronically irritable children…that…have a tendency to ‘perceive neutral or ambiguous faces as more hostile and fear-producing than typically developing youth’.”

Read the article yourself for self-understanding if you’re one of those people who always wonders if people are angry. Or if you’re a parent, for understanding about how your child might grow up wondering the same.

One thing I learned – the next time someone asks me, “Are you angry about something?” when I’m not, I know I’ll have some understanding of why they asked.

And I won’t get angry at them for asking.

– Bill

Are You (Or Know Someone Who Is) A Video Gamer?

“Life’s a video game stuck on hardest, no way to save, and no extra lives. Worst part? No manual either.”

― Ashleigh D.J. Cutler

Ain’t that the truth. If life was a video game – with a “pause button” allowing you to stop and think something difficult through before you acted or opened your mouth, or a “save” feature that allows you to always go back and re-experience some memory again in real-time, or “extra lives” that allow you to learn from your mistakes so you don’t do them again (and without penalty), and came with a “users manual” so that you know all the rules and what the end-game looks like – life would be so much nicer, even if stuck on “hardest”.

I’m not a gamer. Born way before their invention, which followed the invention of the home computer, which I was also born long before. But my boys – sons and grandsons – have never lived a day not knowing computers or video games, never lived in a world where escape into fantasy meant reading a book. In my naive eagerness to expose them to the joy of books, over the years as they grew up I’d bought and given my sons some I’d enjoyed. Silly me. How, to a child, can a book ever compete with the instantaneous, colorful graphics of action scenes, and the injection of one’s self through one’s own avatar, on the Tv screen? I’d learned my lesson there, and didn’t bother with my oldest grandsons once they’d discovered gaming as ‘tweens (although the youngest grandson, at seven, who loves his kiddie-level games, still likes a read-a-long with me or his Nana once in a while).

But I have tried to video game. Before the two oldest grandsons became teenagers, they loved coming – begged, even, at every opportunity – to spend the weekend with me (I really miss those days. I really do. The one-on-one interaction with them, the bonding we shared, will be with me in my memories forever. But now I have the youngest and his little sister who do the same. New memories!) So, eventually, I bought a PS3 system and a handful of games for them when they came to spend the night/weekend. I tried learning how to play, but it wasn’t in my wheelhouse (as they say), I just wasn’t fast enough to stay alive. Frustrated – insufficient eye-hand coordination or whatever, I guess – I just gave up. No matter, they’d soon moved on quickly to higher-end gaming units and games at home (and I’ll bet – or like to think – that’s the real reason they demure when invited to stay over now. Not so much I’m an old fuddy-duddy, or as teenagers they’re too cool to spend the night/weekend with their Papa, but that their home system/games are just more fun). Now the PS3 sits unused. Maybe it’ll see some use when the seven year old gets to that level of gaming. But it won’t last long, it won’t compare to what he’s seen watching his dad and brothers playing on their more advanced units and games at home.

Still, I am fascinated by watching the boys and my son play their gaming. Especially the younger of the two oldest boys. His hand speed on the controller, his intuitiveness in knowing what’s coming and quickness of thought in what to do, is simply mesmerizing. I have gone over to my son’s – any or no reason will do – just to sit beside the boy for an hour or so to watch him play. His skill, his excitement, his determination, is positively astounding. It electrifies me.

Their absorption in their games. I’ve worried about that. I love them to pieces and worry if such energy and time spent might have detrimental effects on them, somehow. So, as the caring and loving father/grandfather I am, I’ve done some research. Of course there are positive and negative evaluations.

Some negatives:

I’ll refer you to Philip G. Zimbardo, psychologist and a professor emeritus at Stanford University, who wrote “Man, Interrupted: Why Young Men Are Struggling & What We Can Do about It”, and what he says about excessive video gaming.

• Social isolation, hindering a young man’s ability and interest in developing his face-to-face social skills – social phobia and shyness.
• Obesity.
• Anxiety.
• Lower school performance – school seems comparatively boring, creates a problem with their academics.
• Impulsivity and depression.

Some positives:

I’ll refer you to https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/30/well/family/parenting-the-fortnite-addict.html that uses, as an example, the game Fortnite. (It’s my son’s and grandson’s current

favorite game.)

• Gaming is a social experience. When not played solo but with others online, it instills teamwork, coordination, and rooting for one another’s success.
• Worry that shooting games cultivate aggression? C. Shawn Green, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison who researches video games, notes that, “there’s really no evidence that playing a violent video game would take someone who has absolutely no violent tendencies and suddenly make them violent.”
• Research confirms that action video games cultivate the spatial skills needed in advanced mathematics and engineering.
• At least one college has announced it is offering scholarship money to skilled Fortnite players (http://usatodayhss.com/2018/ohio-university-is-first-to-recruit-top-fortnite-players-with-bona-fide-scholarships).
The article also offers the following advice to parents, as gaming can be somewhat addictive:
• [Insist on time spent on] other important activities, such as completing homework, being physically active, participating in family life and getting enough sleep. As Dr. Green notes, “there is value to setting limits to how much a young person can do one thing because it’s useful for kids to have a variety of experiences and to engage in lots of different intellectual activities.”

Like everything else in life, moderation and limits are good, excess is to be avoided.

One final thing I can say about video gaming and my boys – it has given them a cross-generational interest they can (and do) do together and it makes my heart happy to see the three of them together in animated discussions, sharing strategies, kidding about each others “deaths”…

Bonding. I don’t think I have reason to worry about their gaming.

– Bill

Did Neanderthals Really Disappear?

“If you were to compare two random modern human chromosomes, you’d see a difference every thousand base pairs…[comparing modern humans with] Neanderthals, you’d see a difference once every 750 base pairs.”

– Encyclopaedia Britannica

According to the figures in the quote, there is only approximately a 25% difference, chromosomally, between H. Sapiens (you and me) and H. Neanderthals, and (depending on the source) that difference amounts to upwards of 2-3% of your genes if you are of European descent or as much as 6% if your folk hail from southeast Asia and Oceania; only if you’re sub-Saharan African do you escape having any Neanderthal in your family tree and, thus, in your DNA.

Now, the “H” preceding Sapiens stands for “Homo”, which means “man, human” and “Sapiens” means “modern [man/human]”, the only existing species of humans; the “H” in front of Neanderthal also stands for man/human, only they are not Sapiens because they no longer exist as a species. And we (and they) are not the only humans to have walked the Earth – others (called “archaic” meaning old, or older humans) include at least 13 types dating back 2.5 million years or so.

Neither space nor your or my time allows for a detailed description of any of those archaics, or where they first came from, or where they fit into the human family tree, or if and when and where to they emigrated out of Africa. Suffice it to say that (again, depending on the source) Neanderthals date back some 250,000 years ago in all of Eurasia, finally disappearing approximately 30,000 years ago; Sapiens appeared in Eurasia about 100,000 years later. Which means we and they lived side-by-side, from what is now England through all of Europe and the Middle East, for upwards of 70,000 years. As humans, our people (Sapiens) have lived alone as the only humans on Earth for only the last 30,000 years.

And the first interbreeding between Sapiens and Neanderthals may have taken place in what is now Israel only 55,000 years ago, based on fossil remains.

Why, one might ask, would they? Sapiens bred with Neanderthals? Those ape-like hairy, brutish, grunting, knuckle-dragging, club-swinging cavemen?

Would you be surprised to learn that they appreciated music as much as we, and that it was they who first created the tuba and flute? Or appreciated art, and painted pictures on walls thousands of years before we did? Also practiced medicine and healings? Also buried their dead with food, tools, weapons and household goods, which indicates religion and belief in an afterlife? Had the same vocal cords we have (unlike any previous “archaic” human) and thus were capable of the same kind of speech, language? Weren’t any hairier than we? And walked just as upright?

Would you be surprised that – in fact – if you put one in a coat and tie, and on any modern city street, no one would see anything different from any other person? Other than being a few inches shorter, maybe slighter more stocky and muscular, with marginally more pronounced brow ridges, than the average man, but not so much as to be eye-catching?

(For those who are Bible believers, currently the most widely accepted creationist view of the Neanderthals is that they were probably one of the tribes that departed from Babel in the dispersion, 106 years after the Flood.)

Obviously, neither they nor we saw one another as so different and therefore undesirable when the urge to mate arose on occasion. They have also been found buried alongside of us in the same grave, which indicates some kind of close relationship.

So why aren’t they still here?

Lots of different theories about that. They thrived in cold weather, during the last Ice Age, and maybe after the thaw and warming when the flora and fauna and landscape changed they were unable to adapt. Or by slow starvation, as their physiology didn’t allow them to throw spears as well as we could, or to run as far and for as long as we, and couldn’t compete in the hunt? Or, just maybe, our ancestors were just like us when it comes to settling lands already occupied – we simply exterminated them and took what was theirs because we wanted it (that’s a very likely scenario, as the last Neanderthals were found in southern Spain, in Gibraltar, apparently forced there, where there was no where to go except into the sea. In Europe, ancient DNA has identified waves of migrations into the continent, in which groups of people serially replaced, or nearly replaced, the local population, with Sapiens being the last “wave” just after Neanderthal’s).

But I think the most likely reason is also physiological, and sexual.

According to https://m.phys.org/news/2016-04-modern-men-lack-chromosome-genes.html:

“The Neanderthal Y chromosome genes could have simply drifted out of the human gene pool by chance over the millennia. Another possibility…is that Neanderthal Y chromosomes include genes that are incompatible with other human genes…Indeed, one of the Y chromosome genes that differ in Neanderthals has previously been implicated in transplant rejection when males donate organs to women.

“Several Neanderthal Y chromosome genes that differ from those in humans function as part of the immune system. Three are “minor histocompatibility antigens,” or H-Y genes, which resemble the HLA antigens that transplant surgeons check to make sure that organ donors and organ recipients have similar immune profiles. Because these Neanderthal antigen genes are on the Y chromosome, they are specific to males.

“Theoretically…a woman’s immune system might attack a male fetus carrying Neanderthal H-Y genes. If women consistently miscarried male babies carrying Neanderthal Y chromosomes, that would explain its absence in modern humans. So far this is just a hypothesis, but the immune systems of modern women are known to sometimes react to male offspring when there’s genetic incompatibility.”

So while a male child (Y chromosome) might be aborted, a female child (X chromosome) wouldn’t, necessarily, and that’s how you come by your Neanderthal genes – blame your mother who passed down your X chromosome (X+Y= son, X+X= daughter) from her mother, and her mother on back to that Neanderthal-Sapiens coupling you are a product of.

And to finally answer the question, “Did Neanderthal Really Disappear?”

No. At least, only in part. Just look in the mirror.

As an aside: We share 99.7% of the same genome with Neanderthals. We share 99.8% the same with Chimpanzees. Obviously, some of the difference between us and the Chimps is in those genes that determine sexual compatibility for offspring. What if the Chimp’s and the Neanderthal’s had been reversed? A different type of hybrid? Just a thought. Look up my post of Jan. 27, 2017, “Stirring the Genetic Pot, Part II” for that possibility in the future.

– Bill

Genetic Memories?

“[G]enetic memory is a memory present at birth that exists in the absence of sensory experience, and is incorporated into the genome over long spans of time. It is based on the idea that common experiences… become incorporated into its genetic code…”

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genetic_memory_%28psychology%29

Genetic memories. I’ll get to that in a minute, but before that allow me to digress and share a little personal DNA and gene background.

I grew up in northern Virginia, the state my mother’s family had lived in for some 350 years after emigrating from southeastern England (and before that from Normandy, France, which was settled by Norwegian Vikings) and, in small part, also from the northern part of southern (as opposed to Northern) Ireland. My father’s family, from his father back, had lived on Maryland’s Eastern Shore directly across the Potomac River from Virginia for more or less the same 350 years, after emigrating also from southeastern England and, in small part, northwest Scotland (although, they weren’t Scots, they were Norse-Gaels originally from Northern Ireland and heavily mixed with Norwegian Vikings). And consider, the southeastern part of England both families lived in for some 600+ years was settled principally by the Saxons (who neighbored on Scandinavian Denmark. Kissing cousins, if you will, along with the other Scandinavians, the Norwegians and Swedes).

One would think, given all the Scandinavian roots, DNA testing of my genes would say I’m mostly of Scandinavian descent, right? Well, according to one testing service, I am; according to another, I’m not, I’m English. Go figure (read my post of 12/6/17, “Unexpected and Unintended DNA Test Results”.)

The same DNA testing service that says I’m English also says my two sisters are Scandinavian and Irish (although they flip-flop in percentages). But I think that service might be on to something, and here’s where I get to genetic memories.

An article in Psychology Today (https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-superhuman-mind/201302/remembering-things-you-were-born) discusses the likely and unlikely types of different kinds of genetic memories and the physiological basis for them, and notes, “But if…there is…genetic..memory, which part of the human genome codes for it? We don’t really know. What we do know is that we haven’t yet discovered the purpose of many segments of the genetic code. Some of these segments may contain…memory information.”

I am of the mind that there is, to some extent, genetic memory. At the very least, some innate recollection, a familiarity, a resonance, with things experienced daily in our past ancestor’s lives. Tribal things, even if we aren’t aware of, or are no longer living amongst, that tribe. I say this because…

Shortly before I turned 14, I went to England to stay a spell of months with my father’s brother who was living there at the time. Within days, I felt at the very core of my being that I was “home”. Everything felt utterly familiar, more so than I’d ever felt where I was born and raised – or anywhere else since – as I walked the streets of (the then sleepy little village) of Brackley or – alone – daily bicycling through the countryside 10 or more miles in different directions each day, down country lanes, or by bus or train farther afield. Even the people and their accented language felt “right”. And I remember going to see Stonehenge (in those days, back in the early 60s, one could still walk inside the circle and amongst the monolithic stones – today it is fenced off and one can only view them from a distance), and to this very day I still feel the goosebumps I felt then as I walked amongst them, touching them, feeling somehow that this was not my first time there. Or when I went by myself by bus to the nearby larger town of Banbury on market day, walking amongst the street stalls filled with produce or sundry wares for sale – I’d never in my life been to anything like it, but I “knew” it.

I know all this sounds like grist for those who believe in past lives – reincarnation and the like – but I don’t put much stock in that, I don’t believe in such. Maybe because the religion I believe in doesn’t countenance it.

But I believe I do believe in genetic memory. How else to explain what and how I felt in England?

Maybe my sisters are Scandinavian/Irish. Maybe I am English.

We are what the genes we’ve individually inherited say we are.

And maybe some of our memories are in those genes.

– Bill