Now and then, when I meet new people, and talk to them for a while, I am reminded of someone I already know. This doesn’t happen with every new person I meet, but I’ve been noticing it happening more and more. I’m not sure if this is just because I’ve already met enough people that everyone has some sort of similarity to someone else, or because I’m just taking more notice of small details in how people communicate — both their speech and body language.

In general, it’s not usually (or ever?) an exact match between the new person and the person I already know. It’s more of a vague impression that this person acts similarly to the other person in some way. It could be the slightest thing — difficult to pinpoint and describe — but it is enough to make me think of someone else.

It might be as simple as their inflection or tone of voice when they talk about something in particular. It could be an air of confidence or nervousness or some other emotion in their words and the way they carry themselves. Perhaps it’s even just the way they tilt their head or move their hands when they speak.

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Today I finished reading Nicholas Nickleby, which I started reading so long ago that I don’t remember exactly when I started it, but just have a vague notion that it was around the middle of the year last year, and so I must have been reading this epic tome for about eight months, give or take a few weeks.

To be fair, it was certainly not the only book I was reading in that time – there were several Book Club books scattered throughout, and attempts to re-read The Hobbit as well as re-read Sabriel (both of which are favourites from my adolescence) – not to mention interception of my time by other pursuits, most notably Farsi and piano.

But Nicholas Nickleby is finished now – all 777 pages of it – and, because it is as masterfully written as any Charles Dickens classic, I thoroughly enjoyed it (despite what the 8-month reading of it would suggest).

[If you choose to read on, be warned there are some very minor spoilers.] Continue reading

dissecting a childhood memory

My primary school, in the years that I was there, had a sort of miniature forest planted in a corner of the school grounds, near the staff carpark. There was a little dirt path that curved and wound its way through the mini forest, and connected the playground at one end with the little pond at the other. Along the way, there were a few benches, so one could sit and enjoy the serenity.

I hadn’t thought of that little forest in a very long time, but the other day, when I was walking down the street in the middle of the day, and the wind rushed through the trees that I was passing under – at that precise moment, I thought of that little forest, and for a split second, I was back there, sitting on a bench about midway down the path, reading a book. It was exactly as Anne Lamott describes in Bird by Bird – the way random, seemingly insignificant memories resurface out of nowhere years after the fact, and years since you last thought of them.

In this case, however, I think my mind might have been primed toward that kind of memory. This post isn’t actually about memories or forests. It’s about childhood and change.  Continue reading

mind games

I actually still don’t really feel like blogging… but then I sort of feel like I should… and then I figure that I don’t really want to. Yeah, I’m just a bit confused. Maybe I just need to, but I don’t want to. Actually, no, I don’t think I need to. That very notion is almost ridiculous. Most likely, I’m just bored of studying and assignment-ing, and I’m looking for a distraction. Not that I don’t already have enough of those. And not, of course, that I’ve actually gotten much done lately.

Watched the Lions vs Sydney match last night. Well, most of it, anyway. It’s nice to see the Lions doing good again. They’re doing alright anyway. As much as I am apprehensive, I’m hopeful that they’ll make the top 8 this season.

With the Broncos, though – you’d sort of just expect them to make the finals. Even with a new coach, new line up of players, it would still seem insane for them to not finish in the top 8. But, of course, watching Friday night’s match against the Roosters sort of makes one think twice about that. To be honest, I switched off a bit before full time, so that I could go do some work. I think they were leading by at least two converted tries, and there wasn’t much time left on the clock, so I figured they’d win comfortably, and I didn’t need to watch the final moments.

They did end up winning, but it was such a dodgy victory because, as it turns out, Sydney were able to close the margin to only four points. I was shocked and disappointed when I found out. But, of course, I’d take a win over a loss any day, so couldn’t be entirely disappointed with the result.

Even with such great matches, though, I don’t think I’ve been able to quite get "into" the NRL or AFL as much as I did last year or the years before. I wouldn’t say I’m losing interest for them, but feels like I’m not committing as much time to following it any more. Maybe I just have too many other things to preoccupy myself with. I reckon I still follow the Broncos’ and Lions’ progress quite avidly, but I’m doubting whether I’ll end up remembering all the players’ names and positions and all that pointless information.

Actually, maybe I’m just prioritising things that need remembering. Like, it’s important to remember things that get you by every day, and examinable information, and so on and so forth. I know there have been studies to suggest that the human memory is not a finite thing, where you have to get rid of old memories to make room for new ones, but that doesn’t mean we can’t prioritise new information in respect to what gets stored, and when and where it gets stored.

I don’t want to go into that too much – it’s way too intellectual a topic that’s not directly related to what I’m supposed to be studying. Although, I must say, I do find memory to be such a fascinating thing. But, again, I’m not going to go into that too much here and now.

I did a fair bit of reading on placebo effects yesterday, so I suppose that’s what I shall write about now. I won’t bore you with definitions and mechanisms of action. But what I found interesting was this thing about ‘negative placebo effect’. The example was how people take sleeping pills, then expect to fall asleep quickly, but then start worrying/panicking because they’re not falling asleep.

Some researchers then decided to give people ‘arousal pills’ to make them sleep. The people who took the ‘arousal pills’ believed they weren’t sleeping because of the pills, and didn’t blame their condition, so they didn’t worry about falling asleep, and actually ended up falling asleep faster than those who were told they were taking ‘sleeping pills’. (Wow.. I didn’t realise how long that sentence was until I re-read it just then. Can’t be bothered cutting it up, though.) See, don’t need drugs – just some mind games. Placebo effect is also believed to be quite important in treating pain because pain is a subjectively perceived thing.

On a final note, I still maintain that it’s nice to smile at random passers-by. Although, I must admit, the positive response rate is a bit less than optimal – some people won’t even make eye contact. Oh well.. I think nothing of it. Can’t say I didn’t try.