Wednesday, March 27, 2013

It's hard to get it right

Raise your hand.. how many of you have listened to someone, or watched someone, and thought 'That person is not nearly as smart as they think they are', or 'That golfer/dancer/painter/whatever is not nearly as good as they think they are'?

Aha... I see all of you raised your hand  (some of you raised both hands, and one of you raised a foot... I'm not quite sure what that means, so I'll just ignore it).

Next, raise your hand  (just your hand, and one is sufficient!) if you've ever had the reverse experience...  someone seems to take their own knowledge, or expertise, or skill for granted... and not realize that they are more than just average?

Ok, still a few hands that time (and a tail?  oh wait, that's the cat), although not as many.

This is not a case of people intentionally trying to be deceptive -- well, ok, maybe some of the time it is but most of the time, this is not intentional deception, but instead it's the  Dunning Kruger effect, with a little bit of the Imposter Syndrome thrown in.

Simply put, the Dunning Kruger effect stands for the proposition that those who don't know any better, don't know enough to realize that they don't know any better,  while those who DO know better assume  that everyone knows better.. which makes them undervalue their knowledge.

Oh dear.  That doesn't sound very simple, does it.
Let's try this again.

About fifteen years ago, two psychologists, David Dunning and Justin Kruger determined that incompetent people, by the very nature of being incompetent, were unable to recognize their own incompetence.  But there's a flip side to this.  Those who are competent, still don't get it right.  They assume that other people generally know what they know, and have the skills and abilities that they have, which results in them overestimating other people, and underestimating themselves.

And in case that's not confusing enough, let's throw in The Imposter Syndrome.  The imposter syndrome is a situation when someone is convinced that they don't deserve the success they've deserved, despite evidence to the contrary.

I'm no statistics expert... truly, I'm not.  That's not the imposter syndrome talking, that's not the second part of the Dunning Kruger effect, it's a fact.   I've never taken a statistics course.  But I do know that, by definition, half of us are better than average, and half are worse than average... whether we're talking about intelligence, golf, or bowling.  For every Tiger Woods, there's a golfer out there who misses the ball entirely, when they take a swing.  For every Albert Einstein, there's someone who's likely never even heard of Einstein.  And the extremes are actually fairly easy to discern, I think.  Tiger knows he's a good golfer, I know I am not.  However, most of us are not at one end of the spectrum or the other, we're somewhere in the middle.  And this is where Dunning Kruger comes into play.  If you know enough to know that you're not the worst, and you know enough to know that you're not the best, how do you go to the next step and determine whether you're above average, or below average?

But here's the surprise ending... as I've been pondering this issue over the past week, I've concluded that in most cases it doesn't matter.  And if it does matter, there's certainly someone who will tell you.  Of course, you have to be careful, because they might not be right.

The Dunning Kruger idea has been in the news a lot, lately, and it caught my interest.  But now that I've explored it, it's really not very interesting, is it?

Time for tea, which is always interesting, and always better than average if you choose the right tea.

Monday, March 18, 2013

A little patch of sunshine

I'd like to introduce you to one of my cats - Shadow.  (and before you start worrying that I'm one of those 'cat ladies', we only have two cats.. one for each lap.)

Like most cats, Shadow has her own view of the world, and she has very specific likes, and dislikes.  One of her major likes, is going outside.  She doesn't get to run loose, but I put her harness on and let her outside, clipped to a long leash attached to the pole on the corner of the deck.  Technically, she's outside, she can eat grass, she can chase chipmunks foolish enough to get within 15 feet of her pole, and she can lie in the sun.  In fact, she can't run away, can't get into any real trouble, and I do keep an eye on her (but don't tell her that).

But, this is New England, after all, and it gets cold.  One of my 'rules', is that she can't go outside, unless it's at least 40 degrees.  This, by the way, is one of Shadow's dislikes.  It's not the rule, per se, that she dislikes, but rather the fact that it gets cold.  On more than one occasion, she's stood there at the door, berating me for not letting her out and demanding to know where that 'warm place' is,  and she's not very interested in my explanation that this is New England, and it's only January.

This weekend, Shadow was particularly adamant about going outside; I was equally adamant that 23 degrees was not appropriate 'going outside' weather for a 15 year old cat.  Oh yeah, one of Shadow's dislikes is the word 'No'.   Things did not end well, and we each went to separate parts of the house.

However, a short time later, I came back into the kitchen, to discover this:

You see, while Shadow may have been angry with the weather gods, and more than a little annoyed with me, she found a little patch of sunshine, and decided that maybe life wasn't so bad, after all.  And as I stood at the counter, watching her snooze in the sun, and waiting for the kettle to boil, I concluded that she was setting an excellent example.  There are lots of times when I'm not happy, and I'm not getting what I want, and being adamant isn't accomplishing my goal.  Shadow's lesson is that I need to find a little patch of sunshine, and enjoy myself.  Sometimes, all you get, is just a little patch.  But that's ok...  for now, take it.  With any luck, there will be more sunshine around the corner.

Thanks, Shadow.  You're a good cat.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Beware the ....... Kalends of April

HAH!!!!  You thought I was going to say "Ides of March", didn't you??!!!!

Well that would be rather boring, wouldn't it?  And I hope by now you've come to expect something better than 'boring', from Teapot Musings.  So -- for your entertainment, today, on the Ides of March, I thought I'd share some calendar information with you.

First, as a preliminary matter, we all know that 'ides' is not the plural of 'ide', rather 'ides' just means the fifteenth of the month.  Except that... that's not quite true.  Actually, according to the Roman calendar, the ides was the day of the full moon... in most months that was the 13th, but in a few months - including March - that was the 15th.

No, no, no.. sit back down, there's no need to go check your calendar... as you suspected, the full moon is not the middle of the month, every month, and it's definitely not the 15th of March, 2013.  Don't forget that our current calendar is not version 1, but instead it's something like version 3 or 4...  originally, the calendar year began with March (which explains why September sounds like it should be month 7, October sounds like it should be month 8).... but over time, the calendar was tweaked, and revised, and modified, so that now, the full moon can occur on any day of the month, and some months will have 2 full moons.

But, I digress.  Where was I?

Oh, right, I was going to talk about the kalends of April.  But before I get there, I thought you might like to know that, in addition to the ides, months also had nones.. which were the 7th of each month -except when it was the 5th of the month.  And I'm not making this stuff up.  Apparently, notwithstanding the common notion that the Romans were quite busy, with all of their philosophising, fighting wars, having orgies and banquets, and - well, building Rome -  the Romans clearly had too much time on their hands, so they spent some of it making their calendars as difficult and complicated as possible.

So, we've got ides, we've got nones, and it turns out we also have kalends.  Unlike ides and nones, kalends were always the same day every month, and that was the first day of every month.  Which means that the kalends of April, is April 1, also known as April Fool's Day.

I could have saved this post for April 1st, except I figured no one would believe all this calendar stuff, and would assume it was a joke.  So I'm posting it, today.  And after all, very few of us have run into a fortune teller lately, warning us of the ides of March, so there's really no need to worry today.. but, come the kalends of April...  we all need to watch out.  So, here's your warning.  Beware the kalends of April.  And while you're waiting, go have a cup of tea.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Mother's Day Around the World

Mother's Day?  Isn't March a little early for Mother's Day, you ask?

Depending on where you are in the world, it's actually a little late.

I was looking at my calendar last week, and noticed that today, March 10, 2013, is Mother's Day in the U.K.  This particularly caught my attention, because while my mother is not in England now, she was born in England, immigrating to the U.S. as a pre-teen  (although they didn't call them pre-teens, back then).  I'm not quite sure why mom never took advantage of this....  all these years, she could have been insisting on two Mother's Day celebrations.  On the other hand, all of us call her fairly often..  and maybe she felt like she already gets enough cards and flowers.  I'll call her today, and ask her.

But it did make me wonder about Mother's Day around the world, and I thought I would share some interesting bits of information.  I was not surprised to discover that there's a lot of information available from various florists... apparently, wherever you happen to be, it's generally the tradition to give flowers to mothers on Mother's Day.  But there were some things that were surprising.

Mother's Day in England, began centuries ago, and was originally a church celebration... Mothering Sunday..  and was a time when you would return to your 'home church', or 'mother church'.  Coming home from church, children would pick violets and give them to their mothers....  over time, the focus shifted to honoring and celebrating mothers.

Here in the U.S., Mother's Day has had a much shorter history.  It was first suggested in 1872, but the idea didn't catch on until the early 1900's, when Anna Jarvis took up the campaign to celebrate Mother's Day.  The second Sunday in May was chosen, because that was the anniversary of her mother's death.

Then I discovered that, while there are thirty-six different dates for Mother's Day in 2013,  there are over thirty-five other countries, including Finland,  Japan and Turkey, that celebrate Mother's Day on the second Sunday in May.  Turns out that, as Mother's Day became popular in the early 1900's here in the states, people in other countries liked the idea of having a national day to celebrate your mother.  In some countries, there was already something similar in place, on a different date, so they left the date intact, and just started calling it Mother's Day.  Most Arab countries celebrate Mother's Day on the first day of spring, which seems like a nice idea... having Mother's Day coincide with flowers blooming and the weather warming up.  In Thailand, it's celebrated in August, on Queen Sirikit's birthday.

In 2013, the first Mother's Day celebration occurred in Norway, on February 10th.  Since then, there have already been another twenty celebrations, before the British Mother's Day, today.  The last Mother's Day of 2013 will be in Indonesia, on December 22nd.

So... I guess those who say that every day is Mother's Day, are closer to the truth than you might have thought.

It's still a bit early to call my mother today, so I think I'll have a cup of tea.  As it happens, I got my love of tea, from my mother, and my grandmother.  And as I said, my mother no longer lives in the U.K., she's been in the states, for over 60 years now.  But even so, later today, I'll call mom.  Not really to wish her a happy Mother's Day, but just to say hello.  And I think I'll wish her a happy Mother's Day, as well!

Friday, March 8, 2013

(sometimes) It's not as important as it seems

For those who read my post on hobbies, you already know that flytying is one of my hobbies.  Flytying is the 'art' of attaching bits and pieces of fur and feathers and string, and whatnot  (purchased at the whatnot store, of course)... to a hook.  Flyfishing -- which I do NOT do -- consists of throwing those hooks into the water, and pulling out a fish.

Now, I could bore you with the story of how I got into flytying, but I won't.  Ok, maybe I will, but just the short version.  Some years ago, we used to go fishing in lakes and streams, and people tried to talk me into flyfishing.  While I had no interest in that, I declared that I would prefer to tie those flies.    And everyone laughed.  So -- I got a book and a video, and some bits and pieces, and the ever-essential whatnot, and by golly,  I tied flies.
Not all of them looked quite as pretty as the ones in the book, but I felt they were good enough.  So, to humor me, my husband fished with some of my flies.  And by golly, he caught fish with the flies I'd tied!

But, as time went on, I started to suspect that perhaps he could have caught fish with just about anything... there was nothing special or magical about my flies, and that the manner in which I attached the bits and pieces of whatnot, really wasn't that important.

And I was right.

Today, I came across a blog about a man who caught a trout, flyfishing with a key .  Yes,  plain, ordinary house car.. or it might have been a car key.. I'm not sure.  But it's not important.  And that was the whole point of his post.  If you're in the right place, at the right time, with the right fish, you're going to catch it, no matter what you throw at it.

Teapot Musings is not about fishing, or flytying..  so why am I boring you with this?   Because I'm thinking that there are lots of things that just aren't as important as they seem.  Now, don't get me wrong.    Regular readers of teapot musing certainly know better than to think I'm suggesting that nothing is important, so don't worry about it.  No, what I am suggesting is that we should think about things, and not just take them at face value.  You can't just throw a teapot into the water and catch a fish, BUT..  it really doesn't matter if you're thread isn't quite as straight, or if the whole thing slips and is a bit catawampus on the hook, or if the glob of glue at the end is a bit globbier than it should be.
And a blog might have some good stuff in it, even if the layout is awkward.  And that frumpy looking man with his hair all askew might be an excellent attorney.  And that funny looking girl might be a better auto mechanic than anyone else around.  The blog content needs to be well-written; the attorney needs to be knowledgeable, the mechanic needs to be skilled.  And the hook with the bits and pieces needs to be in the right place... but it might not even need the whatnot, in order to work.

Sometimes, it's important.  But sometimes, it's not as important as it seems.

Now, my tea....  that's important.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Anticipation: the act of looking forward

I know someone...  a young person, in her early twenties .. who is on the verge of some major changes in her life.  Nothing bad or ominous,  just part of the normal progression of things.  And in fact, not only are these changes neither bad nor ominous, but they are wonderful opportunities; they're not accidental, they are part of her plan... and a good plan it is.  She was excited when she shared the good news with me, and I was excited for her.

So I was initially a little surprised when she started listing all of the things she was going to miss about her present life. On the one hand, it's not as if her present life is bad, so of course she's going to miss it.. she has a lot of good things she's leaving behind.  But I was more than a little surprised when she insisted on focusing on what she was going to miss, even when others  (well, ok, maybe it was just me!) suggested that she should instead be thinking  about what was ahead.

I think back to those times in my life when I was on the verge of major changes.  I was someone who had never been away from home, and I moved across the country, away from family and friends, to a place where I knew no one.  But it was a good move, and I made new friends, and acquired additional family when I got married.  But then, as a new bride, I moved across more of the country, once again leaving family and friends, to a place where my new husband and I knew no one.  Of course I missed what I'd left behind, but the 'missing' was far outweighed by the 'anticipation'.   Perhaps more importantly, I waited until I'd actually moved on, before I started missing things...   I didn't 'miss' them, before I'd even left them behind.

I'm sure this young woman will do very well, as she wends her way down her new path.  She'll survive, she'll adapt, she'll find new things that become her favorites.  Nevertheless, I'm saddened that she spent what could have been a time of anticipation, and expectation, and excitement..  cataloging those things she was leaving behind.  She'll have plenty of time to miss the old...  but she's missed her opportunity to anticipate the new.  Rather than looking forward, she chose to look back -- before it was even behind her.

Of course I can't hear the word anticipation, without thinking of the ketchup commercial, but the song was originally Carly Simon's song  Anticipation... I can remember the tune, but not the words, so  I decided to look at the lyrics.   And I was sorely disappointed.  Carly sings of Anticipation keeping her waiting, but than at the end of the song, she concludes that she's going to stay right where she is, because "these are the good old days"....   so maybe I have it wrong.  But I don't think so.

My young person has now already moved on...she missed the chance to anticipate, and is already stepping into her new life.  I wish her the very best, and - at least for the moment, I'm going to quit worrying about something that it's too late to change.  And I'm looking forward to my next cup of tea.

Friday, March 1, 2013


I have this really cool app on my iPad, called Knowledge.  
Actually, if you go to the app store, it's called Unnecessary Knowledge  
...  in other words, it's a bunch of trivia.   Although, in all fairness, I suppose I need to admit that while I may think this is a really cool app, I've had more than one family member threaten to break every bone in my fingers if I read one more bit of trivia, out loud.   But I like trivia... funny trivia, serious trivia, odd trivia, even trivial trivia.    This app claims to have over 2000 pieces of
information, and one of the things that I like, is that it allows me to tag my favorites.

I haven't looked at this app in awhile (the fear of bodily harm thing), but the other day, I was killing some time... and decided to browse through my favorites.. and seeing how none of you are physically close enough to commit any injuries, I thought it would be safe to share some of them with you.

Let's see .. oh, here's one.. "When ants die of poisoning, they always fall to the right."   
Now see?  Isn't that cool?                                        

Oh!  Here are a couple, about snails... Snails kiss before mating,  and snails have 25, 000 teeth.  Wow.  I did not know that.           

Hmmm.....  polar bears are left handed.   That's pretty interesting...  both my sister and my brother are left-handed... I wonder if they're actually polar bears... I'll have to check with mom on that one. 

Ooh.. another goody.. seals get seasick on boats.       
WAIT.  That makes no sense at all.  I can't believe seals get seasick... on or off boats.  That just doesn't make sense.     Up until now, it had been interesting, but I've spent a lot of time on boats, and I've actually seen a bunch of seals, and I'm just not buying this one.  And now that I think about it.... does it really make sense that poisoned ants would always fall to the right?  or that my siblings are polar bears in disguise?
So... I head off to google, to check out some of these things.  Sadly, people, I must report that none of these things are actually true.  Oh sure, you might be able to find things on the internet that support each of these bits of 'knowledge'..  but if you check out serious and legitimate sources, you'll discover that they aren't knowledge, at all.  I guess you really do have to consider the source, when someone tells you something.

By the way, while I was googling around, and looking up trivia, and checking out sources, I came across this really cute cartoon...

All of this trivia, has made me thirsty.  And I have it on the best authority, that drinking tea, will satisfy your thirst.