Every year it happens. I gasp when I receive the email. I never remember when it starts, but I always remember when it ends. Yes, I’m talking about the NCAA tournament – and about the special bracket tournament that some of my colleagues at Kentucky take part in every year. We get an email reminder, followed by a flurry of activity when people assemble their predicted winners and losers in a neat, sideways pyramid.
After filling out my bracket yesterday, I could barely contain myself. Would I have the best picks this year? Can Murray State really do that well in the NCAA tournament? Will Syracuse fall when I think they will? Armed with my enthusiasm, I went to a nice dinner with some colleagues and their friends. Two of the people at dinner were from America, so I assumed we could trade our picks for the upcoming Big Dance.
“I’m so excited for this year’s NCAA tournament,” I said to my American colleague. “It’s huge back in Kentucky.”
“Is that starting up now? I wasn’t paying attention,” he responded.
People love to imitate – and we love others who imitate us even more. When you scratch your face, the person talking to you will likely scratch her face. If you jiggle your foot in an interview, you might get a jiggle in return. Since I arrived in Sydney, I have noticed a lot of imitation. Most of it comes from people who have lived the majority of their lives outside of Australia.
When I say the word “bay,” my voice lowers and drops off at the end. It sounds as if something is winding down, similar to a balloon letting all of its air out. The reason “bay” sounds that way is that I have a Midwestern American accent. Sure, I’m from Nebraska, where accents go to die, but that doesn’t mean my talk is free from these little peccadillos that set my speech apart from yours.
Ever feel that it actually hurts to buy something? Maybe it was that pair of shoes you had to have that cost $500 but broke within three months? Or that $7 coffee beverage that your friends said was so great but you knew was overpriced? I experienced something akin to pain today, but it took an odd form.
Psychologists have been studying the pain of paying for over a decade. It’s based on the principle that it hurts more to make some purchases than others. The more a purchase hurts, the less people are willing to make it. After all, who wants to experience pain, no matter how much you think you want something?
What kind of taster are you? Do you have extreme reactions to food? Or does it take a lot to get your taste buds going? I’m what taste researchers call a ‘non-taster’ because I can’t taste anything when I put a slip of paper treated with a funky chemical – phenylthiocarbamide (or PTC, for short)– on my tongue. If you haven’t tried it, beware: I gave the chair of my department a PTC strip once and he made a face that let me know it was the worst thing he had ever tasted. He is a supertaster.
Today I attended the Taste of Sydney festival in Centennial Park. It’s an event where many of the best restaurants put up tents, offer people small portions of great food, and encourage them to have a multifaceted dining experience. My colleague Tom Denson and his wife Nida picked me up, and we zoomed to the festival to meet up with their colleagues Michelle Moulds (clinical psychologist) and Jessica Grisham (clinical psychologist and great-niece of novelist John Grisham). We enjoyed little hamburgers made from Kobe beef, pork belly, ice cream sandwiches, and some nice shrimp concoctions. It was something similar to the Taste of Chicago.
The best part of time is that you know what you have and what you don’t. I know that I only have a few more minutes before Saturday turns into Sunday. You know that you have a limited amount of time to read this post. We both know that we’ll never have enough time to do everything we want to do. Yet, time doesn’t always have to be so objective, so quantifiable, so drastic.
Yes, time can be relative. Einstein knew it and, through a combination of thought experiments and painstaking calculations, he changed how we all think about time. But we don’t need to bend time to realize that it can do weird things. Today, for example, I learned that relative time could change how I approached different situations.
I love feeling connected and writing about connections. And for good reason; my mental and physical health depend in large part on my social connections; my writing about social connections helps pay my bills. But can the benefits of social connection boomerang, leaving people worse off than when they were on their own?
I started my day having meetings with my graduate students back at the University of Kentucky. We met over Skype, which enabled us to see each other and hear each other through the use of our web cameras. My first meeting was at 6am (2pm Eastern time), and the second meeting took place at 7am (3pm Eastern time). As usual, they meetings were stimulating, engaging, and inspiring. Next, I wrote for an hour, walked to school with Tom Denson, wrote for two more hours, and then went to lunch. After lunch, I emailed, called a couple of people back home, and did some more writing.
By the time early afternoon rolled around, I was exhausted. I had been so connected to others the entire day that I had worn myself out. I went home with aspirations to go to the gym and cool off in the ocean. I took a nap instead.
When you of a scientist learning, where does that learning take place? In a sterile, laboratory environment? Or in the back of a taxi cab? Today I learned lessons in both places, but each lesson took a different flavor.
If you’re like most people, you think of a scientific laboratory as a large room filled with beakers, Bunsen burners, and people with white lab coats not saying much. That might be true of some laboratories, but it doesn’t come close to grasping what most psychology laboratories look like. People occasionally traipse around in white lab coats (my research assistants do), but most of the time people simply wear slightly better than average looking clothes. There is usually a line of small rooms, in which individual participants are led and given instructions for what they’re going to do. Faculty members have their offices close by, often next door to other faculty who share their common interests. Even our faculty offices usually look the same.
Off DeWall: Wired in Australia
That’s right, I’m off to Australia. This is the blog of my adventures. I will update it every day.
Being a simple man, my first adventure takes place in the plane itself. That’s right, I’m currently at the tail end of my flight to Sydney. This leg of the journey is about 16 hours, depending on the headwind. Being an odd duck, I love the long plane ride! You always have time to do what you want. I can blog, watch movies, write, sleep, and read books – over and over again. Unlike the usual hour or two-hour jags you do flying State to State, international flights give you time to make a nest for yourself. But I didn’t fly all the way to Australia so that I could build my nest.