Friday, January 23, 2009

Last Post

I no longer feel the urge to maintain this blog. The reason? It isn't popular enough to actually get me anywhere, but too many people (that I know) know about it to continue to write honestly. There are two reasons why I want to write a blog. The first is because I have a wide reader base who cares about what I have to say and who regularly views my blog. The other (in complete contradiction) is that I want to be able to write about what really matters to me, without having to worry about what future employers, my parents and my friends who do not agree with my life choices will think.

With this blog neither is the case.

I'm considering starting again in complete anonymity. A blog that really is written from the hearth, where I dare write those things that I never have the balls to put up here. A place where I can let out the inner daemons.

It is ironic that in this time of real inner struggle this blog - formerly my place to vent - no longer really feels available to me.

But anyway, so I do believe that this is my last post here. My apologies to those of you who have followed all these years and now feel abandoned. What can I do? If I no longer enjoy this then what is the point?

Be good and if you can't manage that, be happy.

Sunday, January 04, 2009


I might have celebrated the ending of 2008 a few days ago, but it is only really tomorrow that 2009 begins for me. That is when I go back to school, begin my new job and start acting responsible again. In a number of ways it’s about bloody time. My irresponsible behaviour cost me a phone, a book, a great deal of cash, a community card and quite a few brain cells.

But I’m going to try and not be quite as responsible as I was being last year. There being responsible was leaking over into being unhappy. It wasn’t good for me. I am – truth be told – playful and if I don’t play, I can’t be happy. Apparently it shows. In the last two weeks I’ve met a lot of people who’ve told me, ‘You were so reserved before. I like you better this way.’ And well they should. Happy people are likable people.

The trick is to strike a balance. I have to find a way to not play too much and not work too much. The result is that both will be better. I will not play with guilt and I will not work with a heavy heart.

But then I’ve always known I tend to go overboard. I go for it hard, because I know that ultimately it’s easier to take your foot of the throttle later, than to give it more gas. After all, the first impression is ultimately the anchorage point from which all further personality shifts are made. Better to be known for being too serious than not being serious enough, right?

Once a goof, always a goof.

But doesn’t that then beg the statement, once a bore, always a bore?

After all, you can never prove that you’re a great worker if nobody invites you to work and you can never prove that you’re a great partier if nobody invites you to parties.

I mean, truth be told the only reason that I ended up partying with a great crew was because I had my history of partying behind me. Through that a friend came down from to party new-years here and I met a girl who had been informed that I was a good one to party with (I think before these two weeks came along she might have been wondering if she’d been lied to). Without those folks I suspect my holidays would have been a great deal lamer.

And a lame party is like a dead-end job – you do it only because you’ve got no alternative.

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

End of year mutters

The end approaches; another year, another memory. A year of memories. It was most certainly an event filled year. Let’s recap. It started in Goa, where we celebrated in true style. We partied hard and solidly. We tore up the town, slept little and generally misbehaved. I first went to as many parties as I could and then ended up organizing the buggers. I spent months living on the beach, wondering where the hell I was trying to take my life. I spent a great deal of time thinking about whether I could be happy – what I had to do to have the feeling I was at least a little close to fulfilling my destiny.

Then I came to Europe, after a seven year leave of absence; got myself into a relationship; tried to get used to life on the old continent (what a fitting name). Ended up working in a café as manager for all of the summer. Found out that even I could end up hating beautiful days, for after all – a beautiful day meant a hard day of work. I learned more than I thought I needed to. Trained my memory, drank copious amounts of alcohol. Thought about whether I could be happy – how much I would have to do before I felt that I was living up to at least part of my potential.

Worked at getting my ass into university. Somehow did exactly that, despite setback after setback. They were always the sneaky kind of setbacks that you didn’t see coming. I guess that’s the way of the game. If you knew what was coming, well then obviously you’d be better prepared for it. A lot of people helped me and somehow I got through, got accepted and got started.

At university I learned to think about whether any of us could ever really be happy. Whether any of us actually had any destiny. Of course, I’d spent a huge amount of time thinking about it before, but now I was asked to think about it using the scientific method. Can we discover, by way of experiment, whether we are innately screwed? What does evolutionary theory have to say about our innate character and what that that means for our future? Do we all have the same potential? What does it mean if we don’t?

I learned to accept that our happiness was – as far as we can tell – pretty much fixed. You will be as happy as you are and you were as happy as you will be. Happiness is a chemical formula, a compound that just happens to trigger a feeling of wellbeing. It makes no sense for us always to be happy. From an evolutionary perspective a baseline of slight unhappiness was far more advantageous for our survival. I wondered if we could beat the rap and ever really be happy.

And then the semester ended and I was given two weeks off. Two weeks to dwell once again on the spirit and the mind. I decided to return to my roots and party like a mad man.

I finally realised that the more time you spend thinking about happiness, the less happy you’ll tend to be. And will I take that lesson into next year? Hardly! Realising that to be happy you have to spend as little time thinking about it as possible is a great deal easier to say than to implement.

Some of us are trained to think. I imagine that means some of us are trained not to be happy.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

In between

On Friday night I called up a friend and she told me she was going to Antwerp for a night on the town. I said that was a nice idea. She asked if I wanted to come. I told her I thought that was a nice idea as well. An hour later I there were five of us and a bottle of vodka speeding along the railroad tracks.

We went bar hopping, clubbing, and ever so slightly crazy. We danced the night away took /got our pictures/ taken (again and again and again. They are their own paparazzi) and ended up getting very friendly with some of the locals. Had racist slurs thrown at us (That really amazed me. Apparently Asian people constantly get abused in both the Netherlands and Belgium) and got ourselves quite properly lost.

In other words, we had ourselves a great time until about seven in the morning, when we crashed out on our first train back to Amsterdam. I would, of course, suffer for it later. These things always come back to bite you in the ass. It bit me about seven hours later, for then I had to start being nice to people and making coffee for the very last time. Of course, after a full night of behaving badly the four hours of sleep I did manage to get only really served to sleep of the alcohol; the real sleeping still had to be done.

I fought my way through it. Quite well, I might say. Customers were happy, satisfied and tipped well. I still managed to not make any mistakes. I think that really, only in my head, it was the work day from hell. That is, if hell has great coffee and apple pie.

Afterwards a whole bunch of people that I had worked with came into the café and tried to build a small party. They gave me gifts and farewell speeches. It was quite moving. Of course, I was still completely drained of good will and energy. We sat around and chatted for a while, but truth be told it didn’t get anywhere near lively. I guess everybody had had more than enough of these kinds of nights in recent memory.

I was touched by their efforts, though. The gifts were a little silly and kooky, but it was definitely the thought that counted. I had only worked there for a little more than six months, which many people before me had done as well. Not many of them got gifts, or a real farewell party for that matter. It made me feel like I had made a difference in their lives.

I will miss the place. It was always a good escape from my studies. There I could do something with my hands; something that was quick, exact and had a clear and obvious goal – the well-being of my guests. My new job will be nothing like that. It will require me working towards goals far into the future, with delayed gratification and no real opportunity to do something else (I will probably have trouble figuring out where my job ends and my degree starts!).

On the other hand, I will like the fact with my new job that I can actually make a difference. My work will stay out there for people to see. What I do will not be largely forgotten the next day. I’m moving away from feelings to facts. That is the problem with F&B, your never sure if you are actually making a difference; if you are actually making the world a better place. With Academia it is a little easier to fool yourself into believing that. We’ve all got to have a purpose.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Another mark

Yesterday I got into the first fight of my life. I won. Now that all the suspension has been drained of the situation let me give you a short account to the circumstances that led up to this life marking confrontation.

It all started at 7 am in the morning, when I picked up my mate from singers at the airport and we had our first beer. Things pretty much went down hill (sideways?) from there. After a bit of light grocery shopping to allow that merry Christmas feeling (and the fact that the shops were supposed to be closed) we wandered into, drinking, smoking and enjoying the occasional cup of phenomenal coffees. We proceeded through the day, touring the city and enjoying it from the insides to the outsides. As you might well imagine things went slightly pear shaped, though in a good, positive and above all happy manner.

You can only get a few friends in your life that you can spend literally hours rambling on about nothing in any way important and still think that your time is being terrifically spent. After a while it blurred together a bit, into a rich tapestry of colours, sounds and feelings of contentment.

Others got to (and seemed to) share in our enjoyment. Good moods are contagious and we had numerous little interactions with bar people, tourists and locals. All very positive, but they were what set me in the mood for intervening in a matter I had nothing to do with at about four in the morning (yes, we had almost gone full circle).

What happened was that this bloke started harassing these two young girls at the bus stand while we were on our way home. He tried chatting one up, she told him she was lesbian. Then he tried to force her to kiss her friend. My gregarious mood had me up and saying that that was enough before I was fully aware of it.

He said I shouldn’t touch him. I told him that was great and that if he wouldn’t touch the girls I would have no need to touch him.

He walked away, turned around and spat a huge gob on me.

I was – to put it mildly – enraged. I don’t know what he was expecting but when I went for him he certainly wasn’t expecting that. His friends actually laughed as pummelled him and brought him to the ground, where others had to pull me off him.

I guess he thought his friends would help. They didn’t. I guess he thought his image as a member of a troubled minority would protect him. It didn’t.

I’m not sure why I stepped up, but I don’t regret it. Hopefully he will think twice before he does it again. I imagine if people – all together – stood up to this kind of nonsense more often, it wouldn’t be half as common.

So I can cross ‘fight for the right reasons’ off of my ‘to do’ list. What’s next?

Saturday, December 20, 2008


For the next two weeks I’m going to behave badly. This I have decided. For eight months now I’ve been behaving like a good little boy, doing my homework, always going to work on time, attending all classes and keeping myself rigidly under control, but as of yesterday I’ve finished this year’s classes and feel that I can now behave badly for a few days.

I’ve stocked up on good cheer and craziness. I’ve allayed all feelings of guilt. The only two things I still need to suppress are my social conscience (that really does get in the way with behaving badly) and my concern about how others see me. I was planning to use copious amounts of alcohol to achieve those last two aims.

Yes, of course there are still things to do. There are still obligations to meet. But I’m sure I can still do those last few little things – even while misbehaving. It seems to be within the power of so many others, maybe for two weeks it can be within my power as well!

There are my last two days of work, today and next week Saturday. But I believe they can be a great moment of enjoyment as well as requirement. For those of you in the Amsterdam area next week Saturday, by the way, I will be having my farewell drinks at Villa Zeezicht in the Torensteeg that night. The boss has agreed. It is official. You’re all invited. Even the people I don’t know.

Then there are articles to write for the school magazine. I set the deadline for everybody else to meet, so it would be damned irresponsible of me not to meet those deadlines myself. In between tequilas, that’s my motto. Salt, shoot, wield pen while chewing on lemon rind.

In a few days time a friend from Singers is arriving in the city of sin. He came and met me (along with other company) last year in Goa. We misbehaved then as well. I’m going to assume that he’s expecting a similar type of occasion on this trip out. Who am I to disappoint him?

An Ode to the Orphans:

Yea of little faith, lift your glasses high.
Drink to the morrow’s sun
Cheer to the brightening sky.
Another year has come and gone
It ‘twas within a blink of an eye

Hear yea, hear yea, cries the new years day
I am well within reach
If they be asking you to start new things cry ‘nay’
For those are things for the new year to teach

Now it be time for merry and cheer
At the bottom of yet another glass
Drink yea gin, champagne, wine or beer
Don’t let this end of year quietly pass!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Side tracked

My assignment is finally getting somewhere where I’m not too embarrassed about it (Still a little embarrassed, but it’s getting there). It has, so far, taken me a solid five days of sitting on the couch, leafing back and forth between different articles, writing, editing, drinking coffee and listening to weird ass music on a set of head phones.

Is it good? Good is relative. Is it good enough? Compared to what? I’d like to get a nine for it. That’s the approximate equivalent of a solid A in the states. Maybe even an A+ (they don’t give 10s in Holland. It’s odd, they do have them in the grading system, but they are a true rarity).

I’m not sure if a nine is really within reach. I really like the professor who will be doing the grading, but unfortunately I can’t quite understand what she wants from me. Assignments that I imagine are fantastically don’t even qualify for an eight, while those that I rattle off with a headache end up getting nines.

I’ve invested a huge amount of effort into this paper, but unfortunately that doesn’t mean terribly much. Grading in psychology is ultimately rather arbitrary. Research isn’t, of course (that’s where the science part enters the psychology), but it is ultimately a matter of liking and not liking.

Most of university seems to be.

Actually most of life seems to be. It’s the human curse. We claim objectivity, while missing it by a mile. When we first meet a new person within seconds we’ve decided whether we like them or not and then spend the rest of the encounter trying to justify our initial impression.

And we might only dislike somebody because their faces remind us of our first teacher, who made us cry.

I’m sorry, but you aren’t the person we’re looking for, you just don’t fit in our company. Good luck with your job hunt, though!

I feel sorry for those people that believe that objectivity will get them there, in the end. I mean, don’t get me wrong, good work is important. If the inside is empty eventually people will notice. But if you don’t wrap it in a nice box, with a bow tie and pretty paper, you’re not going to get terribly far.

Research has shown that if you put ice cream in a round container rather than a square one, people will think it tastes better.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Can happiness be genuine when the source of the happiness isn’t genuine?

The first thing that jumped to mind when I was confronted with the above question was, ‘and what is genuine?’ (Well, it was really the second question, but the first question wasn’t really related to the above question and instead was more in the domain of chocolate cookies and wondering if any were still left. There weren’t). More specifically, what is a genuine source of happiness and what is genuine happiness? What is the difference between non-genuine happiness and genuine happiness? How do we tell the difference?

Does genuine happiness come from inside and non-genuine happiness from beyond the flesh? That can’t be right. People are at their happiest when with family and loved ones and who would argue that that isn’t genuine? Is genuine happiness natural and non-genuine happiness chemical? Well, then a great meal is obviously not genuine happiness, or the happiness induced by a phenomenal bottle of wine.

And what is fake happiness? Is that the kind of happiness that we know isn’t real? Like he happiness induced by watching a great movie or reading a great book? Since those sources are make-belief would you argue that the happiness isn’t genuine? Isn’t as good as the happiness brought on reaching climax? Sometimes it’s a real toss up whether I would rather cuddle a good book or a good body (though admittedly it has to be a really good book).

But let’s leave that aside for the moment, let’s talk about a happiness that most would agree as fake, namely drugs. How does the happiness induced by drug use compare to the happiness of time well spent, a project completed well, or company enjoyed? Is there a difference? Most would argue drugs are a short cut; that they aren’t the real deal, but rather happiness imposed from outside. A decree from above, ‘thou shalt be happy’. They might well be.

And is there then a qualitative difference between the happiness you’re experiencing? Well, not according to your brain. The right drugs will trigger the right chemicals and will deliver the right result. Anti-depressants give the depressed normality back. It gives them the opportunity to feel happiness again. Admittedly many depressed people argue that the drugs cut out not just their dales, but also their peaks. I wouldn’t know about that. I find my depressions an important facet of my existence and would rather keep them; stay who I am.

Happiness is essentially your subconscious telling the rest of you, ‘things are going well’ and ‘we’re ahead of schedule’. Happiness is a motivator. That’s why it feels great (how many people do things because they want to be happy? Well, there you go – nothing more motivational than happiness). Happiness gives you purpose.

And I think that’s what the above question is really asking, is there such a thing as happiness without having achieved your purpose, even if only for a moment? Isn’t that cheating the system?

Well yes, no doubt it is. But then the system cheats you (phobias, allergic reactions, cancer, schizophrenia, decrepitude and Alzheimer’s to name a few) and who ever said you had to fight fair? Isn’t modern society all about throwing sand in nature’s eyes?

Personally I prefer genuine happiness, brought on by real achievement; but then that’s just me. I feel I’d rather leave something for others to enjoy, instead of just enjoying myself. That’s because I’m arrogant enough to believe I can.

But then I just have to ask back, does the fact that your asking the question not imply that you aren’t genuinely happy?

Friday, December 12, 2008


A few hours on a train later and I’m in Frankfurt, Germany, at my parents house. It’s been a bit less than eight months since I’ve last been here and it was about bloody time that I came by for a visit.

Away from my tiny little room cluttered with furniture, clothes and scientific articles. Away from the life I’ve been (trying) to build for myself. It’s a shot break from the to and fro of what constitutes my existence.

Not, of course, that my university work has stopped. There are still assignments to hand in, articles to read and things to learn, but it is somehow different. Your environment seems to influence how you think (I have no evidence for that, just a theory).

This is a good thing, because I have a great deal of thinking to do in the next few days. Tonight – before twelve o’clock – I have to hand in one assignment which really only should take a few more hours and then I start in on a research proposal, which I mentioned earlier.

My research proposal is going to investigate the idea that when we feel included in a group we become less conscious of ourselves – while when we’re excluded we become more self-aware. Many of you will probably now be doing the regular social psychology reply by non-social psychologists, which I call the ‘but of course’ response.

But is it so of course? Research by Roy Baumeister and associates (1998) has demonstrated that when we are excluded from a group our higher reasoning functions actually decrease. He believes this is because of ego depletion, something that more commonly is referred to as ‘willpower’. Baumeister et al. suggested that we have a limited resource, a kind of mental fuel that is used up when ever we apply our conscious will. Since ostracism is actually emotionally and even physically painful we have to use part of our will to suppress this pain, leaving us less for other things.

This might well be true (it sounds plausible) but is self-awareness part of this construct? That is what my research will be examining in a roundabout way (a very roundabout way, I might add).

So let’s see if physical space leads to mental brilliance. I’ll keep you all posted.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008


Yesterday my bag was stolen out of my gym locker with in it my phone, my keys, my clothes and my wallet. They simply broke open the lock and took out everything, in plain sight; yet nobody saw anything and nothing was caught on camera.

I was left standing at the gym, without my street clothes, without money for the tram home, without a tram card, without a way to contact anybody to get them to help me, without keys to get into my house once I got there and without very much of an idea how to continue from there.

For a while there I felt really pretty down and desperate. The people at the gym were kind enough to lend me some money to get my ass home with public transport. I jumped on in the good hope that somebody was hope and started thinking on the tram. I thought for a while and then realised that I wasn’t quite as unlucky as I had thought.

You see a bad thing had happened to me, but it couldn’t have happened at a better time. Yes, there are inconveniences, but it could have been so much more inconvenient. Let me explain, the morning before my bag was stolen I just got around to handing in a receipt for 50 euros that had been in my wallet for weeks. That money will now be wired to my account. A few days earlier I got paid at my work. It was a huge wad of cold hard cash. I’ve been known to just carry that around in my wallet and slowly (well, not so slowly I have to admit) spend it. This time around I took it out and left it at home.

I sometimes take my laptop to school and leave it in my gym locker (something that I will obviously never do again), but this time I didn’t. I had almost no cash in my wallet for them to rejoice over. I didn’t even take my book in the morning, something I normally always do but decided against for some odd reason on this day. What was more, I had just bought a new jacket a few days ago and for some reason they left that. I think it was too big for them to take. That was the most expensive item in that locker. They took my worthless shoes, but left the jacket.

What was more, when I got home my housemate was still there. Even luckier, she had been planning to leave but had been held up. Both she and my other house mate were planning to be out till late at night, which would have left me stuck without cover from the cold and without money to hide inside somewhere. Again, luck was on my side.

So, all in all I was incredibly fortunate in my misfortune. Yes they got my bag and yes it’s going to cost me money to get my bank card back, a new phone, a new driver’s licence and those kinds of things, but things could have been so much worse. Plus I get the satisfaction that for all the risk they went through they got about 10 euros, which really does make my day a bit better.

The only thing I really regret is that the phone wasn’t mine. It belonged to a friend who had a lot of text messages she wanted to keep on there. I haven’t told her yet (I don’t have her number), but I’m not looking forward to that.

Sunday, December 07, 2008


Last Friday I went to a party at the Paradiso here in Amsterdam on the invitation of the son of the boss. I arrived there appropriately inebriated (okay, too inebriated, have it your way) and after a full cavity search (every crevice of my wallet was fully examined) I was allowed into the club.

The thing that struck me very quickly was the following fact, the average age in the place was somewhere between a half and a whole decade below my own. I felt, for lack of a better word, old.

I ended up dancing a bit, talking a bit and eventually getting accused by one of the friends of the son of the boss (who had a dog, who had a former owner, whose baby sister’s husband was related to the Grim Reaper) that I was talking way too much about our age difference. I think she was on the prowl and my talking up of our age difference sent her the obvious signal that I felt there might be a problem there (she would have been nine when I finished high school), but it set me a thinking.

Have I been complaining about my age a lot? Have I been remarking that I’m old? And the truth of the matter is, yes I have. The fact that I’m nearly thirty has indeed cropped up in conversation after conversation (especially after beer after beer). Apparently I am starting to feel like an old bastard.

And that’s absolutely ridiculous, of course. I’m not even thirty yet (less than half a year to go, but still) and they always say that the thirties are the besties (okay, they don’t, I just made it up and it doesn’t sound very good, but I’m just typing this off the cuff). I think the problem is more that I feel like I’m in a place of my life where I should have been at a much younger age. Most people do get their masters degree before they hit the third decade. Heck, there is a girl (woman?) in my class who’s already busy with her second masters and she’s still got another half decade before she hits her third decade (okay, she’s 25, that was rather roundabout I admit.)

So I’m not old (even though I feel I am) I’m just in a life situation where everybody else is a great deal younger. So maybe I shouldn’t accuse myself of being old, maybe I should tell everybody they’d better hurry up and catch up.

Have an official decree written up that I’m slowing down my aging, in order to reduce my advantage.

The advantage being, of course, that; sorry, what? Yes, yes, of course. Sorry guys, I’ve got to go.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Social Psychology

When I first started studying social psychology I was actually massively disappointed. I think it was well summed up by something a student of neuroscience told me, ‘Every time you social psychologists talk about something ‘new’ all I can think of is something ‘knew’.’ And it seemed that she was right, so many of the ideas that social psychology had discovered were intuitively predictable. The social psychologist says ‘look, I found this effect!’ and the layperson says ‘of course’.

But now that I’ve been doing it for a while I actually find this to be one of social psychology’s strengths. You see, social psychology doesn’t make any assumptions about human interactions, feelings and internal workings. Sure, social psychologists have their predictions and their expectations – they are human, after all – but the whole point is that they then test these assumptions.

The reason they do this is because all social psychologists know that those assumptions, pre-conceptions and hunches come from them being human and are therefore automatically biased. To pull that big word out of the cupboard once again, all of our pre-conceptions have an element of anthromorphism in them. Every one of these beliefs about people was originally conceived of by people. And as every social psychologist also knows, people are wrong a lot more often than they care to realise.

We all believe we’re objective. In fact we all believe we’re far more objective than the rest of the people around us. Of course it can’t be true, it’s another one of those paradoxes (like we all think we’re smarter than average, we can’t all be more objective than average). This belief is called ‘naïve realism’ and most of us aren’t even aware of it occurring. It’s another one of those things that colours our perspective of the world and makes our hunches, assumptions and pre-conceptions a little harder to just accept at face-value. Forget about us being able to strip our thoughts of our own humanity (something that is essential if you’re trying to study humanity), we can’t even strip our thoughts of ourselves!

So social psychology tests, tries and experiments even the stuff that seems obvious. And yes, that means that often we find out that our assumptions are correct; but at least they then aren’t assumptions anymore. The result is that we slowly build up a scientific foundation, rather than building castles in the clouds. And you'd be surprised how many of those basic assumptions end up being inaccurate, or just plain wrong.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

This year and next

I just offered my resignation at Villa Zee Zicht. I will not be going into the new year with them. This is not through any fault of theirs, of course, but because I was offered a position today for two days a week at the university. Yes, I will not just be a student, but also an employee of the university.

It won’t be fun to leave the cafe behind. I’ve spent pretty much the whole of my first half year in the Netherlands there. During the summer I was working there regularly 50 hours a week, which might not sound like much for those of you in other industries but it’s a crazy amount to be working in F&B. Lately, of course, the amount of work I’ve been doing there has dropped steadily; from five days to three and then from three to two. Now, of course, it will go down to zero. One more month of café work.

So what will I be doing at the university? Well, one of my days will be dedicated to helping a team of researchers develop applications for emotion recognition software. Software has already partially been developed to allow a computer to use a webcam to identify the emotional state of a user. Now two PhD students will be exploring the application of this further and they apparently need a social psychologist. So what that means for me is that I’ll be spending a whole lot of time investigating emotions, especially as displayed on the face (there’s a whole group of researchers in Social Psychology busy with exactly that).

The other day I’ll be working as a managerial assistant. In that task my experience as a writer will again become important, as I’ll be assisting the head of the social science department specifically in the task of editing, reviewing, writing and summarizing. She just doesn’t have the time to do all the work that’s in her lap, so hey, presto! There’s me.

One of the coolest things I will get to do is write a chapter for a book about emotions in the media. Of course afterwards she’ll have to proof read it, edit it and eventually put her name on it (I’m writing it in her name), but hey, it’s a little more prestigious than making people coffee! (in that case I’m talking about making people black coffee, cappuccinos are another matter entirely.)

But first there is this month to survive. I’ve got an exam on the ninth (for which I will have to re-read approximately 15 articles), I’ve got a research article due on the 12th (for which I will need to read approximately 15 articles and which is between 2.5k and 3k words) and on the 17th I’ve got a research proposal due (for which I will have to read another 15 articles and which is between 2k and 4k words). That means I’ll be reading about three articles a day and writing a grand total of somewhere between 4.5k and 7k words.

I hadn’t looked at it that way yet. Uh, I’ll talk to you later.

Monday, December 01, 2008

The Dimensions Above

We can’t see the fourth dimension. Or rather, we can only ever see really thin cross sections of it, as if some evil genius has dissected time and is showing us one little bit after the next. It’s a bit like a picture show (aka a movie) in which the pictures themselves aren’t really changing, but we perceive change because what is changing is which picture we see. If we could see all of time, we would realise that everything is completely static.

But wait, let me explain by way of an analogy. Imagine that we live in a two dimensional world. There is width and there is depth, but there’s no (real) height. It’s the world of a piece of paper. Just like our three dimensional world things can exist there. We can have squares, circles and even triangles (yey).

But now imagine a stack of papers and we cut a cone shape out of the middle of them. For those of you who can’t quite remember what a cone looks like, it’s like a tube with a point at one end, which slowly expands to a wide base at the other. So, we’ve got our pile of papers with a three dimensional shape cut into it. Now let’s imagine that the point starts at the top of the pile and the base of the cone is at the bottom. Then imagine that you start to pull a sheet at a time away. As you pull each sheet away the circle will appear to grow. Of course the circle isn’t growing, you’re just moving through the pile of sheets.

The fourth dimension is pretty much exactly the same, except (of course) that there happens to be another dimension below. If you could actually see it, things might be slightly odd. You wouldn’t just see your current self, but you’d also see your future and past self. I think Rob Bryanton said it best when he said,

“If you could see yourself in the fourth dimension you'd be like a long undulating snake, with your embryonic self on one end and your deceased self at the other”

The problem, of course, is that suddenly reality would become static again. You see, we’d be stuck on a line, with nowhere to go. Time, in and of it self, is linear. That’s quite understandable, really, just as width is one dimension, so time is only one dimensional. That means that you can’t go left, or right, up or down. You can only go forward (and possibly not even backwards, but that’s part of another story). What is ahead of you on that road will remain in front of you on the road.

Except, of course, if there’s a fifth dimension. Call it time squared, if you will, or time². Suddenly there is again space for movement left and right. Situations can be avoided and, what is more, there is suddenly a way to avoid those frustrating paradoxes that always confound time travel discussions. ‘What if you go back and kill your father’. Well, then you’re just moving the time line that you’re in off to the left a bit and you end up moving in a different direction.

Another great thing, of course, is that with the fifth dimension those that could see the fourth dimension in its entirety would not be seeing stasis. After all, the fifth dimension could then introduce the change required.

The question then becomes, of course, but what if you can fully see the fifth dimension?

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Research Proposal

The end of the semester approaches and slowly things are coming to a head. Assignments are due, exams are looming and decisions need to be made. I wisely decided to invest my last three days in going out, getting back late and sleeping too little. I truly am the epitome of self-control and restraint.

Actually, I’m not being very fair to myself. I was able to go out these last three days because I’m well on target and going strong. I’ve been (scarily enough) working ahead these last few weeks and though there is certainly work left to be done, the three days of misbehaviour won’t hurt too much.

But today I’d better get back to it – specifically by working on one assignment. I have to create a research proposal for one of my classes. In order to create that I need to first think of something to research, so that I can write a research proposal about it and that’s the clinch. There is so much out there that I want to look into, that I really don’t know where to begin.

Do I want to investigate our inability to read other people? Do I want to explore how bad we are at understanding what other people mean? This field has certainly been sparking my interest in these last few months – mostly by filling me with self-doubt and uncertainty.

Do I want to look into the Halo effect, the effect whereby everybody thinks they are better than the average? Do I want to explore the realisation that the normal people see the world incorrectly and have things by the wrong end, while depressed people seem to be more accurate in their predictions of the future?

Or would I rather continue my investigation into whether I can dismantle ‘Terror Management Theory’ a grand or encompassing Social Psychology theory that I don’t place a great deal of stock in (and have already spent a great deal of time working on in the last block)?

Then there is consciousness, which sparked my interest through a discussion I had in my café on Thursday (and one thing everybody has been saying to me is to use things from daily life. This discussion certainly qualified, though admittedly it wouldn’t have belonged in most people’s daily life debates).

And what about our understanding of beauty? That’s pretty fascinating as well, especially since there seem to be some rules there that decide who’s beautiful – but we’re not yet sure what they are.

So many ideas! Now I just need to whittle it down and start thinking of something original to do with what’s left.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Monday Mornings

It’s probably massively strange to most of you but I really like Monday mornings. It’s probably because I really enjoy going to the university. For me it’s actually the Sundays that are the toughest and that’s because on Sunday I don’t really get to go anywhere, or meet anybody; plus it’s hardly a day of rest for me, seeing as uni brings a whole host of homework requirements with it.

No, Mondays are where it’s at - classes, classmates, topics, discussions, research, people and something to look forward to. That is, of course, the opposite of everybody else who’s life can be wisely summed up with the Garfield quote “Mondays are a horrible way to spend one seventh of your life”.

I have trouble remembering that life. More than a year ago I remember the working life, where I was teaching English back in Singers and Mondays were filled with somewhere in the neighbourhood of eight to ten hours of work. Back when I was still earning mucho money and hitting the bars, clubs and women (or should I say seducing with that last one? Maybe ‘hitting on’ would have been good enough already...)

Money is – of course – a largely absent resource in my life, right now. As, for that matter, are the clubs and the women. In the bars I spend a great deal of time standing on the wrong side of the fence – as in that side where the drinks get poured into glasses rather than into mouths.

My life has certainly twisted and turned. In fact I’d say that if my life were a square of paper than somebody could have probably folded a lotus by now.

In the red corner – I’m cold, poor, sober and lonely. In the blue corner – I’m learning, growing, working towards something and intellectually challenged.

Ring a ding ding. Of course the red corner is all about the now, while the blue corner is all about delayed satisfaction. That’s what you get for growing older. Responsibility, discipline, standing up to your fears; all things I still haven’t learned.

I have, however, learned how to hide all my uncertainties behind layers of jargon and black-white speak. A skill that certainly should not be sneezed at.

Thursday, November 20, 2008


This was a week of research. We had to do our first little research project, just to get into the swing of things. It had to include an element called ‘Action and State Orientation’, which is the idea that people are either one or the other; where the first is an orientation towards doing things and the second is more an orientation to your surroundings and dwelling on things (suffice it to say that the first is far more advantageous than the second).

We decided to investigate how something called stereotype threat (the anxiety associated with belonging to a discriminated group makes a person perform badly on tests) might be influenced by one’s action/ state orientation. (The prediction being that people that suffer from a stereotype threat will do more poorly when they are state oriented). The way we did that was through a questionnaire that we spent literally hours collecting all around the campus.

It was an interesting experience.

Just how people behaved towards the questionnaire in different areas of the campus was already quite revealing. Obviously the fellow psychology students were very helpful (reciprocal altruism, or ‘you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours’), but the problem with them was that they could probably figure out what we were doing (which might mitigate the effect) so we didn’t want too many of them. The consequence was that we had to go hunting around for other participants.

We tried the main building, which has the largest student population, but found that for some reason the people there were far more blasé about the whole thing. This building is filled with a large number of social science students and humanity students. They didn’t seem to like taking part in experiments. I kind of have the feeling it’s the ‘cool building’ to hang out, for those students that are more motivated by everything around class than what goes on in class.

The group that we found out was the most helpful ended up being the medical students. Maybe they feel some kind of kin ship with psychology students? (Psychology is being accepted more and more as a science and we do study a part of the body, even if it’s only a very small part of it. Maybe you could consider us like orthodontists, except we focus on the soft tissue and they focus on the hard stuff).

Or maybe it was that they liked answering our IQ questions, seeing as med students are generally some of the most motivated and hard working students in the Netherlands (it’s very hard to get in).

Except for learning that med students are great students (hurrah for med students) we spent most of the rest of our time finding out how we should make our test better next time. Fundamentally it meant spending more time prepping and doing more pre-tests before you start the main experiment.

Nonetheless, it was interesting enough that I’d like to do it again.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

A dark mirror

Did you know that every time I go to my blog I check my site meter? If you click on it you can find out from where people are visiting, how many and what link they followed to get here. I click on it and I try to imagine who these people might be that come here to read what I’ve got to say. I wonder if I know them; if they know me.

Some people I recognise. Friends that I know read what’s going on. They generally access from the same server and follow the same links. There’s a couple of links from Singapore, the States and Indonesia now. Then there’s a few visits per week from Britain, Germany and Portugal. Friends and family keeping tabs on me (and me keeping tabs on them in turn). Some of the addresses I can’t place and I can’t help but wonder ‘who are you? Do I know you? And if I don’t, what are you like? Why do you choose to follow my life?’

And I’m mystified. What is it about what I write here that keeps people coming back? What is it in my life that makes people want to keep up to speed with what’s going on in my life? And why does it always seem to hover around about seven people a day? Do these people read everything that I write? Or do they just skim? Do they like what I like? When I’m proud of an entry, does it move them too, or is it something else? Do they like the soul searching, or the philosophy, or the science, or the honesty?

Do I intrigue them? Make them laugh? Cry? Worry? Do they think I’m arrogant, smart, or bitter?

Who are you? And why do you care about me?

It’s one of those mysteries in my life. And I realise it will probably have to stay that way. In the past I’ve tried getting people to comment, speak and reveal themselves. Almost nobody ever does. They say that for every person that speaks on the internet, ten listen quietly. That’s always amazed me; but then I’ve never been terribly good at being quiet. I’m always out there sharing my opinion, whether you want it or not.

Do I mind it, that I don’t know who you are? Well, it keeps things interesting. I can imagine that you’re all beautiful, intelligent and important. That my words make a difference. Or I can imagine that my words help people that need a bit of support. That somebody might find solace here. That somebody might occasionally go, ‘it’s hard for him too.’

And what am I going to do about it if I do mind? When I throw my thoughts out there into cyberspace, it becomes a common good. To be consumed and considered at everybody and anybody’s leisure, in the open or in obscurity.

And even though they (you) stay in anonymity, they (you) are still there. They (you) still care. It does help, you know, that little extra tick added to the counter of ‘how many have been here before’.

My words matter to somebody. In fact, they matter to at least seven people a day.

Friday, November 14, 2008


And then suddenly my mood improves. A few small things on the outside certainly helped (e.g. I got back my grades for my first two courses at uni and both are markedly better than expected, with both being above the cum laude threshold), but they can only be seen as catalysts. All in all, it is the inside that has changed; as it always seems to be. My downward moods (I hesitate to use the word depression) seem to truly be chemical imbalances. Often only the smallest things have turned against me when suddenly I end up feeling truly despondent.

That’s the thing I’m discovering more and more as I get into the Social Psychology literature, despite our beliefs that we are logical, rational, straight thinking, internally consistent and honest with ourselves the truth of the matter is that we’re none of those things. In fact, it is quite spectacular that we manage to function as we do at all. The more I learn, the more amazed I am that society actually works and stunned that we’re not more surprised (or interested) at how it actually does just seem to tick along.

But that’s the anthropomorphism in us; our inability to see beyond our own humanity and our belief that since we work this way, well obviously everything must work this way. Of course this is just an absolutely huge (and incorrect) assumption, but since 99.9% of us engage in it, we’re never really confronted with this assumption. In fact, it is incredibly difficult for us not to engage in this activity. It’s a bit like trying to imagining the world in five dimensions. We’re so used to four that we just can’t seem to shift our perception and that while M theory (one of the more promising theories of ‘everything’ in physics; a derivative of string theory) doesn’t just require five dimensions but somewhere in the order of 13.

But let’s get a bit closer to earth. What the hell am I talking about? Well, let me give you an example. In 1990 a Psychologist called Elizabeth Newton did an interesting experiment in which she got two people together and asked one to tap (on a table top) a popular song to the other person; but first she asked the tapper to predict how likely it was that the other person would guess the song the tapper was going to tap. The tapper’s, on average, thought it was about 50% likely that the other person would get the song they were going to tap out. In truth, the chance turned out to be around 3%. Yes, that’s right, not 30%, but 3%. One in 30 songs was correctly recognised, when the tapper believed about one in two songs would be correctly recognised. It gets even worse, when the listener was made aware of what song the other person was going to tap out and then was asked, afterwards, how much chance an uninformed listener would have of correctly guessing the song they also thought it would be about 50%

In other words, we are completely inept at ignoring what we already know. We reason from our own perspective and find it neigh on impossible to do otherwise. We are human and it colours our perspective, reasoning and belief system in every possible way.

And most of us don’t even know it.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Letter from the editor

I might not have mentioned this, but i recently became the chief editor of a magazine at my University. It doesn't pay and it's only two issues per year, but it's something. I decided to write a letter to the rest of the team (who are also new, the whole old team graduated and moved on, so we're all fresh) and since I spent enough time working on that I thought I'd use it for here as well. So, without further ado, my letter:

I realise it's strange that I'm writing an editor's letter when we don't yet have a magazine, but I felt we had to start somewhere and since this is the start of our joint effort to produce a magazine it seemed somehow fitting. To me it seemed rich in some sort of symbolism, though admittedly not the sort of symbolism that provoke poetry, inspire artists or generates paradigm shifts; but more the type of symbolism that crops up after a heavy night of drinking, the type of symbolism that seems oh so potent when the drinks have hit the double digits, but is fortunately forgotten the next day.

The reason I'm writing this letter is to get the ball rolling or rather, to sharpen the incline, seeing as all of us started it moving already. I want to tell you what I know, what I think and what I hope; so that you can tell me the same, or something similar, or something totally different.

So first what I know: What I know is that I'm happy to be working with each and every one of you. I've said this before and I'll say it again, I'm very impressed with the calibre of my class mates, as well as their enthusiasm and dispositions. That goes twice for all of you, because you've decided to not only take the responsibility of this degree on your shoulders, but also the publishing of a magazine, which is not something to be sneezed at (something that applies equally to publishing the magazine as you taking up this responsibility).

What I also know is that if we all put our minds to it, we'll produce something that we can be proud of; something that when people ask to see it you don't feel the urge to tell them that you've lost your copy but instead you want to tell them over and over again that you were a part of making what they're holding.

What I think: if we manage to do this, if we manage to pull this off then it will create bonds that will serve all of us well over the years to come. Call it friendship, call it mutual respect, call it an understanding of strengths and weaknesses, call it pizza, for all I care, but over the years what I have come to appreciate most are the handful of people who have helped me or I have helped do great things. And if things go well I'd soon like to add all of you to that list.

I will be honest, I am very demanding – but that is because in the past those people who have placed high demands on me and then helped me reach them have made my life so much richer and have brought me so much closer to my potential. So yes, I am very demanding and I expect (demand?) that you are the same way towards me. After all, why be good when you can be great?

What I hope: I hope this letter inspires you, that it provokes you, that it fills you with thoughts, ideas and criticisms. I also hope we'll all be honest with each other and stay true to what we signed up for. I hope that you'll be honest with me. I know I can be loud, obnoxious, autocratic and intimidating. Don't let it scare you. It's probably just me hung over.

What I also hope is that in two years time we'll all be happy with the decisions we made in terms of this magazine. That we all feel we learned something and that we moved ourselves and the magazine forward. What I hope is that this is the beginning of a great working relationship. And I hope that all of you want that too.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Your reality

Interestingly, when you’re depressed your image of reality is actually closer to the truth than when you are – what they call – normal. It used to be believed that people that are sane have the most objective view of reality and that it was the abnormal who’s vision of reality was further away from what was really out there. In the case of depression this has been shown not to be the case.

There are a whole lot of reasons for this. The most important one being that if we didn’t have an incredibly rosy picture of ourselves, our friends, our past and our future in our minds, none of us would ever get out of bed. (Though that then begs the question, who exactly would be building those beds?) In order to maintain our sanity we actually can’t be – as we traditionally described it – completely sane.

For example, we believe we are move clever than we are (almost everybody thinks they are above average in intelligence, which obviously is impossible), have more control than we do (everybody seems to believe that they have a below average chance of getting into an accident, getting sick, or getting in trouble), are friendlier than we are (if everybody was as friendly as they thought they were, there wouldn’t be any more wars, I’m sure!) and have a brighter future than we do (everybody that’s young is certain they’ll be rich and famous when they’re older!)

The question researchers asked, when they saw all this data, was, why – exactly – do we have such a rosy picture of ourselves, our future and our surroundings? Isn’t it true that having an incorrect view of reality means that we’re all the more likely to get ourselves into trouble? (by way of comparison, if we thought a car was approaching differently from how it was, we’d be far more likely to step in front of it.) And no doubt it is.

The thing is, we’re not just observers, we’re also actors. We don’t just see ourselves as being better than we are, we also then proceed to act that way and that is the crux of the matter. We act like we are going to succeed at tasks we really only have a very slim chance of succeeding at and as a result sometimes succeed at them! This is commonly referred to as a ‘self-fulfilling prophecy’. If you believe you can do something, chances are better that you’ll actually manage to do it then if you don’t believe you can do it.

And then there are always two final protective mechanisms to guard us when we do fail. The first is that we attribute success to our own skill and failure to circumstance. While the second is that we forget when we fail and remember when we succeed (thereby also establish a more rosy picture of our past, as well as the present and the future).

Depressed people disengage most of these defensive mechanisms and end up with an unfiltered view of the world around them. They see the brutality of the world around them and their insignificance within it. Their depression functions a great deal like the Ultimate Perspective Machine dreamed up by Douglas Adams in his Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

We need to be convinced of our own importance. Otherwise, why bother? Therefore, we witness reality through numerous filters and interpretation devices – just to avoid being termed insane.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Gordian Knot

There’s a great Dutch saying that roughly translates as ‘being knotted up into your self’. The meaning is that you’re making things harder for yourself than they need to be, or that you’re getting in your own way. Actually, it’s more a bit of both.

I’ve constituted that that’s my problem right now. I think I’m moving forward, but my break lights are on (that’s not mine, it’s Jack Johnson’s, but then things are very rarely mine, even if I’m not aware of it. The subconscious is the biggest plagiarists of them all). Every night I sit in my room, studying, working, watching movies, reading and generally trying to entertain myself – when in truth I want to be out meeting people, seeing places and doing things.

Yet during the day, when I could be doing something about it, I’m not. I could be setting things up so that I’d have things to do in the evenings, but instead buy a pre-packaged meal, go home and eat alone.

People have tried to help me. They’ve invited me out. They’ve offered advice. I haven’t taken any of it. And I don’t know why. Well, I do. It’s because I’m ‘knotted up into my self’.

Or maybe it’s because I’m so used to it being so easy for me to find nice people, do nice things and see nice places that now that I can’t seem to understand that over here it takes effort, time and patience. Over here I’m not special anymore. I’m just another Dutch guy, wandering the streets of Amsterdam with a pre-packaged meal under his arm.

And yet I find it incredibly hard to do anything about it. I think that’s what happens when you’ve managed to get yourself stuck in a rut; the longer you’re in there, the harder it gets to get out.

I think it would be fair to say that I’ve been pretty unhappy with my situation for quite a while now. I hide it from myself, from others; but when I’m going home alone again in the evening I know it’s true. When I’m sitting on the bus, aware that soon I’ll be in my room and my fellow passengers will be the last people I will see till the next morning, sometimes this desperate loneliness tries to overwhelm me.

Of course it’s gone in the morning. Then there’s a whole day of meeting, talking, discussing, sharing, complaining, ridiculing, chatting and interacting. Then I’m okay. I forget about it, even.

It’s just the evenings.

And what to do?

You see, the thing is that what I miss is kindred spirits. People like me. People that used to be easy to find when I was younger but have been getting progressively harder to encounter as the years have passed me by.

I don’t know if that’s because I’m getting more unique, more choosy, or just less social. I do know that recently I find it easy to make acquaintances, but neigh on impossible to make any friends.

It’s your friends that you hang out with in the evening.

So I go home alone.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

My Choice

Even though it doesn’t matter, seeing as I’m not American, (and there are no doubt literally thousands of people doing the same thing at this very moment) I’m going to tell you who I would have voted for and (to make matters worse) why.

If I would have been allowed to vote, I would have voted for Obama. The reason why can largely be summarized in one word and that word is Palin.

But let me explain myself, seeing as one word hardly qualifies as an explanation. Before this election and before the primaries and before all of that jazz, I actually already knew about McCain. That, I realise, isn’t a great accomplishment, but it is probably more than a great deal of Americans themselves can say. I can go even further, I actually liked him.

That’s not hard. He is (used to be?) honest, a free trader, confrontational, clear and in a league all his own. He – in many ways – embodied many of the values that I believe once made the Republican party one of the greatest parties that helped govern America, before all that bible bashing, ultra-conservative empire building, war mongering lot somehow took the reigns.

The problem is that Palin represents the very wing of the Republican party that we really don’t need another four years of. The wing that thinks only in black and white, has no clue about how the rest of the world works and doesn’t really want to find out (after all, everybody outside of America must really be an American in waiting who just hasn’t quite seen the light, right?), believes the bible should decide matters of the state and believes their values should be everybody else’s values too.

By choosing her as his running mate McCain is creating the possibility, however slight, that if something were to happen to him we would end up with somebody who – in all likelihood – is even nuttier than Bush. At least I can understand what Bush was trying to do (though it was often misguided and ill conceived) but I’m not really sure I would be able to understand where the hell Palin would be coming from.

And the fact that McCain chose her says something as well. He’s willing to take somebody under his wing that he obviously doesn’t really like, who’s values he doesn’t really respect (McCain isn’t big friends with the fundamental Christians) and who he won’t be able to agree with on many points, just to get the extremes of the Republican Party to back him. What’s so honest about that?

Is Obama the best choice? Well, it is true he’s inexperienced (though it’s so strange that I can argue that when I’m only two thirds his age), but that’s something that can easily be rectified with a good team behind him. What he does have is charisma and the ability to show the world that America is not the bigoted, discriminating place that most America haters think it is.

And that is really horrible, that race needs to play a role, but unfortunately it does. Race is still a very hot topic in (and outside) America and by showing that a black man can become president the minorities will be energised, invigorated and made aware that they no longer have an excuse. Furthermore, it will prove America’s enemies wrong. America is not a country where the white man oppresses, but instead a country where everybody can live the American dream, not matter what the colour of his skin is – a dream that is still a beautiful notion.

And for the rest? Well, all we’ve seen is Obama the campaigner, with his lines scripted and his performances rehearsed. To judge his ability to lead a country by his campaigning is like judging your surgeon’s ability to operate, by how well he or she can play piano. He’s got pizzazz. He’s got character. And hopefully he’s got the vote on his side.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Lost Days

I lost yesterday completely, as well as last week Friday and some odd day the week before that. The reason? Hangovers. Terrible, day consuming hangovers that make any action besides lying in bed and groaning incredibly unappealing (and even the groaning has to be done in a soft tone, so as to avoid adding to my pain).

The thing is, I’ve drunk so much more at other times and other places that I can’t understand why the hell I’m getting such horrible hangovers now. There is no rhyme or reason to it, no justice and no fairness (and if you’re going to say, ‘well the world isn’t fair’ then I’ll be forced to answer, ‘compared to what?’). When I was in Goa, for example, I can honestly say there were times when we were abusing alcohol, drinking and partying day after day with no respite and no time for recovery; yet, though I didn’t always feel honky dory, I can’t remember even one hangover that compared to the bastards that are costing me days now.

Now I really only drink one day a week, the day – and you guessed it – before the hangovers hit. For the rest of the week it might be a beer with dinner once or twice, but no more.

My father, who is a skilled drinker by all accounts, suggests it might be because I’m lacking the necessary vitamins and that I should maybe try taking vitamin pills. This could be the case, as it is true that I’m not really eating my vegetables (They are actually really hard to get, if you try to avoid cooking like I do. I though Europe as well about healthy eating, but I might have been eating healthier in Asia than I am here).

Another theory I’ve heard is that the hangovers are hitting me exactly because I’m drinking so much less. My body is no longer used to significant amounts of alcohol, while my mind is still used to consuming like I did previously, so when I do go drinking ‘properly’ I end up drinking too much for my current tolerance level.

This would seem to fit with my memory of falling of my bicycle on Friday night (I also have physical proof, as in a hurt hand that I obviously acquired during the fall). The reason I fell off, if I’m not mistaken, is because a curb aggressively attacked me on my way home. So, either the curbs are slowly awakening and planning to take over the world, or I really shouldn’t have done those two shots right at the end there.

So what is the solution? Take vitamin pills and drink less. The first step is easy, the second one, as anybody that drinks regularly well knows, is a lot tougher. There is, to paraphrase Yoda, ‘only drink and no drink, there is no try’. So I guess that means I’ll have to do the no-drink thing. The trick there is to get my ass out of a steady drinking environment, where the beer flows freely (in both senses of the word), and into a more sober setting; yet another reason that it would be nice if I could get the research assistant job.

Breaking habits is all about removing the habit cues from your environment and since I do not drink at home the only real habit cue I’ve got is my place of employment. Well, that and weekends, but it might be a little harder to get rid of those.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Six cups

Today I drank way too much coffee; six cups, or something there about. The reason was that I was distracted. The first two were drunk during my first Motivations meeting (it sounds like a self-help group, but it’s actually a social psychology concerned with understanding human motivation, why it happens and when it doesn’t.)

The second two I drank as the result of an impromptu job interview. Last night when I got home from work there was an e-mail from the secretary of the research masters course saying that somebody was looking for a teaching assistant and where I should send an e-mail to if I was interested. I decided to respond, but because I was tired (and had had a tequila shot – a drink that apparently doesn’t agree with me terribly much I’ve discovered) I decided to keep it brief. I said something along the lines of:

I might be interested in the position, could you tell me more and what would you like to know about me?

That was sent around one o’clock in the morning. I didn’t get a reply this morning, but instead found out one of my class mates (who had responded earlier) had been invited in for a talk. I and another class mate decided to tag along. I can’t tell you why, it seemed like a good idea at the time. They ended up telling the two of us that weren’t invited that they had probably already found somebody for the teaching position, but that they did have two other openings that they were just starting the search for. Were we interested? I barely noticed the third and fourth cup going down, seeing as the potential position that was being offered was quite definitely quite interesting. The woman asked when I could start and that she would look into it. She didn’t even ask to see my CV.

The last two cups happened after the job interview, a few beers and dinner (we had to celebrate our possibly good fortune). The reason I didn’t notice those two going down was A) a few beers and B) a good conversation.

Now I feel a bit ill in my stomach and woozy in the head, despite it already being two hours ago that I had my last cup. Still, that fails to distract from possibly a very good day. The motivations class was very promising (possibly the most interesting class to date), the job possibility is exciting and the dinner (well, the conversation, the dinner itself was a bit of a disappointment) was a nice way to finish it off.

Besides, the slight sick feeling gives me a perfect excuse not to study tonight, so I might just curl up with a good book, some odd music and wait till the caffeine wears off enough that I can get some sleep.

For today I feel I’ve already done enough. Tomorrow is another day.