Posted in Around Town, Issues

Getting Old(er)

“As we get older and more experienced, we overestimate the accuracy of our judgments, especially when the task is difficult and when we’re involved with something of great personal importance.”

Gladwell, Malcolm. “Cocksure: Banks, battles, and the psychology of overconfidence. The New Yorker 27 July 2009: 26.

Gladwell comes to this conclusion based (among other things) on the research of Ellen Langer, a psychologist who says, regarding competition, “…because ability makes a difference in competitions of skill, we make the mistake of thinking that it must also make a difference in competitions of pure chance.”  This results in overconfidence.

“In conflicts involving mutual assessment, an exaggerated assessment of the probability of winning increases the probability of winning,” Richard Wrangham, a biological anthropolgist at Harvard, writes.  “Selection therefore favors this form of overconfidence.”  Winners know how to bluff.  And who bluffs the best?  The person who, instead of pretending to be stronger than he is, actually believes himself to be stronger than he is.”

We’re good so far, right?  Here’s where the analogy to the Pasadena blogosphere breaks down.

“According to Wrangham, self-deception reduces the chances of “behavioral leakage”; that is, of “inadvertently revealing the truth through an inappropriate behavior.”

* * * * *

It seems like overconfidence is helpful…up to a point.  One needs overconfidence tempered with knowing what one’s limits are.  My dad has been a master of overconfidence his whole life.  In first grade he didn’t want to go back into the classroom after recess, so while marching in the line of children heading back inside, he didn’t make the left turn with the rest of the class but kept marching straight on in the direction of home.  As a 20-something, he convinced the Library of Congress that he had a reasonable knowledge of modern foreign languages and got a job filing foreign-language periodicals.  In truth, even though he had no mastery of any foreign language, it was easy enough to tell the French from the Dutch from the Swedish, etc., so he had no problem doing the job.  It was filing, for gawshsakes.  At least the task of deciphering one language from another added a bit of interest to the job.

Flush with confidence from a string of jobs (journalist-photographer in the Air Force, Evelyn Woods speed reading instructor, teacher at Massanutten Military Academy), he got a naval commission and was sent to Viet-Nam.  He went on to a civil service career in public relations, high school counseling, army recruiting — endeavours that require one to exude confidence.

Pop at Dodger Stadium

My dad and me at Dodger Stadium, 2008.

As a kid in western Pennsylvania, my dad moved a lot (Franklin, Guys Mills, Meadville, Zelienople…Okay, I’m not sure about Zelienople, but I threw it in because it’s such a great place name).  As an adult, my dad has moved a lot.  My dad has lived in Hollywood since 2002, which means he has not lately been moving a lot, and he is ready to move.  He has been applying for civil service jobs overseas, but with his hearing in bad shape and his memory getting worse, it is unlikely he could either be hired or handle a full-time job.

I recently had to talk him out of moving to Las Vegas, an idea prompted by tax problems with the State of California.  (He doesn’t understand, as a government retiree, why the government should take money out of his retirement.)  Able to minimize the wretched Vegas heat from the comfort of his top-floor Hollywood apartment, he was attracted by the lower cost of living.  He probably also wanted to continue his streak: “I’ve never lost in Vegas,” he avers.

Plans for Vegas have now been shelved, but my dad continues to exhibit, between episodes of JAG and Perry Mason, a desire to move.  At the same time, he does tell me about his failing memory.  “I have no secrets,” he’s always said.  He gets mad at me when I don’t respond to his e-mails, he’s crotchety when I call in lieu of e-mailing, and the other day he got mad at me for using the word “palindrome.”  Despite all this, my fingers are crossed that he will continue to have lucid moments of honesty when he tells me about his failing mental state.

Pop's Confidence

Confident in Covent Garden, London, 2008.

I’d love to hear about how it’s going with you and your aging parents.  Feel free to comment, or leave links in the comments.

Posted in Around Town, Lakenheath, Uncategorized

Getting the Message Out…or IN

I’m in the midst of planning my high school reunion. It will start on Guy Fawkes Day – though I don’t anticipate that we will build a bonfire in the hotel lobby.

Among other e-outreach activities, I set up a Facebook page for the event. The FB page contains info about the date, the city, the hotel, etc. I think it is pretty clear. Yet people still leave comments or send me e-mails asking where and when the reunion will be.

This puzzles me. I think I’ve laid out the basic information very clearly, yet some people don’t seem to be able to grasp what it actually right there in front of them.

Come to think of it, the first time “Carolina Logue” (the nom de plume of a parody blog writer) left a comment here, I deleted it. I didn’t read it carefully—it was more like I got a whiff of skunk and my eyes were too busy rolling back in my head to focus on the words. Later, when I got another comment from “Carolina” I saw that “she” was on a computer in Philadelphia. Thank you, wordpress.com, for revealing the IP address of commenters! Feh on blogspot for not doing the same!

So in the plainest speak possible: Aaron Proctor was Carolina Logue, author of the Pasadena Newer Progressive. With no help from anyone but his girlfriend, Kat.  You can read my previous post explaining all this here. Continue reading “Getting the Message Out…or IN”

Posted in Around Town, Issues, Not Your Momma's NW Pasadena, Pasadena

Fussing and Fighting, My Friend

This is the post you’ve been waiting for.

boxinggloveshanging

I have bad news. We are all racists.

I know, I know. You don’t want to be a racist (I don’t either). You think it is despicable to demean the humanity of another person, or to think of an entire group of people as inferior. Or perhaps you are a member of a group that has been victimized by another group, and you carry hate inside you, even though you don’t want to. Continue reading “Fussing and Fighting, My Friend”

Posted in Issues

We Can’t Sit Back and Blog

After my class at Pasadena Community Network last week, I watched some of Our Town with Marie Stein on KPAS 56. Marie’s guest was Jane Roberts of 34millionfriends.org. Just like me, Jane was appalled when Pres. Bush II stood in the way of the Congressional appropriation for UNFPA. So Jane decided to raise some money to help fill the gap, and she had done just that.

The main point is that providing family planning to women is essentially providing health care to women. The problem is that some people don’t want women to have access to family planning or even prevent diseases that are preventable (yes, both of those links go to the same article—repetition for emphasis, dear).

On the show, Jane showed pictures of her recent trip to Africa. One caller called in to make comments about the “feral” behavior of humans, breeding without thought about the consequences. I’d never heard ‘feral’ applied to humans before though I’m sure most of us have exhibited ‘feral-like tendencies’ at one time or another. I’m a mammal—how ’bout you?

I loved Jane and as I watched, I thought, “I’m going to blog this!” In her final call to action, Jane said, “We can’t just sit back and blog.” No, Jane, we can’t just sit back and blog, but we can sit up and blog.  Bloggers and blogs are your (feral) friends too.