Book Review: Blink

Today I finished reading Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking by Malcolm Gladwell. In the last few months I've noticed this book referenced in blog posts (recently, Dr. Greg Low and Get Rich Slowly), often with praise, and so I was looking forward to reading it.

Blink is an entertaining book and broad look at how our unconscious mind works. The book never gets overly technical and Malcolm Gladwell has a great writing style and way of telling stories that made me keep turning page after page.

I was most interested in the accounts of decision making by army commanders and police officers, and a kind of thought-association game called the IAT that shows unconscious preferences (spooky).

Some other interesting insights from the book:

  • often problems can be reduced down to simple elements, and good decision makers edit out information that's just "clutter" (chapter 4)
  • according to one researcher, a major predictor of whether marriages will fail is "contempt", and other factors like defensiveness and criticism come into play as well (chapter 1)
  • when we examine our thoughts and try to come up with logical reasons for them, our insight can be impaired (chapters 4 & 5)
  • Food testers have very specific scales for analysing color, color intensity, slipperiness, crispiness, shine, firmness, denseness, and so on. An Orea cookie can be analysed on 90 different attributes! (chapter 5)
  • Emotion can start on the face, and our expression of emotion is so closely tied to our feeling the emotion that merely pulling an angry face can make our heart rate rise, as if we were angry (chapter 6)
The book doesn't give much advice on how we would go about improving our "at first glance" assessments or intuition, which is understandable, as situations where we might have to use these powers vary so much. I enjoyed reading it more for the explanation of other's situations, than for an insight into my own thinking.

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Missed Lunar Eclipse

I missed last night's total lunar eclipse...doh!

Luckily others weren't so forgetful. Will from Will's Blog mentioned this Flickr link which has some amazing photos already (not all from last night).

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Heath Walks

I reckon Heath officially started walking August 14th, 2007, while we were at my Aunty Karen's house*.

Heath is always very excited while walking - I think he amazes even himself. It sure amazes me to see my "baby" grow into a toddler.

I took some video of him walking, talking and being generally cute the other day. Enjoy!

* Olivia tells me he walked lots before that. The date could be wrong. I'm sticking to it.

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"MyPersonality"/Internet Time Waster :-)

Thanks to Brian, here's the latest results of an online personality test for me:

Click to view my Personality Profile page

I'm always interested to learn more about myself - I call it debugging :-)

According to the documentation (user manual?), INTJ's are strategists, independent, an observer, values solitude, perfectionist, detached, private, logical, reserved, etc. This is interesting as it gives me a clue about my strengths, how others might perceive me, and my weak areas.

You can do the test yourself (free login required). Have fun!

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Basic Instructions

The other day, I followed a link via the Dilbert Blog to a very funny comic called Basic Instructions.

Basic Instructions has a unique style and is often hilarious (I was so hooked, I even took time to read through the archives).

My favorites so far are:


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Male Spirituality: God The Father

I posted the other day about Paul Fromont's post on Male Spirituality.

I've been thinking about the first point: men's identification of God as Father. How do I think of God?

The Bible identifies God as "father", so I'm not in any confusion about His gender. I don't think it's fair to assume God is like the various Dad's I've known. But it does drag out all the good and bad about "fathers" that I've experienced, and that I guess is the block to my growing as a Christian.

Sometimes I think of God as a fairly authoritarian Father, and I see me as a teenager, that only talks to him from time to time. Sometimes I'm more the little kid, seeking God's approval. My Dad is (still) a great Dad - just felt I needed to clear that up :-)

OK, so here it is: I guess I think of God as some combination of my own Dad, me as a Dad (that's pretty vain...God in my image!), and some "ideal" Dad that only exists in my dreams.

I don't know quite what I'm supposed to think, but I guess I'm just surprised at what I do think.


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Male Spirituality

Paul Fromont at Prodigal Kiwi(s) Blog writes about "male spirituality", and has started a discussion over a couple of points from a late-80's book on the subject.

I'm going to re-post the points here, on "...twelve stumbling blocks that inhibit the development of a healthy masculine spirituality within the Christian tradition...":

  1. The identification in the tradition of God as Father.
  2. The fear of the feminine.
  3. The domination by tradition-centered males of the development of almost all literature in theology and spiritual direction.
  4. The suppression by males of much of the broad range of human emotions.
  5. The valuing of self-sufficiency, making it hard to pray for help or to seek healing in the face of powerlessness.
  6. The misunderstanding of the value and process of reciprocal relationships, which inhibits our sense of self in God’s eyes and devalues our interdependence with creation and with the rest of humanity.
  7. The insistence that to do something is categorically manlier than to be something, or simply to be.
  8. The problem men have knowing who they are when they are not in charge.
  9. The heritage of body-soul dualism and the resultant dismissal of the body and human sexuality.
  10. The need to control structurelessness by putting everything in a hierarchical order; the fear of both chaos and spontaneity.
  11. The assumption that incompleteness [and mystery]… is a sign of failure.
  12. The preference for linearity over circularity…
I can't necessarily deny or agree with all of them, but I find some of these points challenging. One one level - this is the way I am, too. Particularly points 4, 8 and 10. But to see "male spirituality" dissected like this raises the question: are these points of view hindering my Christian life?

I remember reading John Eldridge's Wild At Heart (I blogged about it briefly here and here) and feeling challenged by the book's early chapters, reflecting on men and society and church. Maybe it's time for a re-read.

It's clear men and women are different and prefer different things, have different needs and views of God, and have different understandings of "spirituality". I look forward to reading where Paul goes with this (if you have a comment for Paul, please go to his post).

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Saying The Right Thing At The Right Time

The other day I was standing outside my work, next to a busy road, waiting for my beautiful wife to collect me to go home. The sun was shining, birds were singing, and a man was walking along the path towards me.

I noticed that, as he came closer, the man was practicing punching and jabbing the air in front of him. I think at this stage I gripped my mobile phone tighter. I'm definitely not a fighter, but I've been told I look intimidating enough so that I reckon most people will stay away from me.

I wasn't worried (I'm sure that's what I told myself!)

The punching man stopped in front of me. Perhaps I was a little cautious at this stage. He asked if I had a light. I don't smoke, I told him.

Then, perhaps in a stroke of Saying The Right Thing At The Right Time, I asked him about his punching and mentioned (at the same time) that I had been taking Thai Boxing classes too!

I don't think that he was going to beat me up, but I felt a little safer that he knew...

We talked a bit about uppercuts, crosses and hooks, he told me he wasn't crazy, and then he went on his way.

I wonder if I looked worried to him :-)

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Social Gaffes

Are you meant to eat the little sprig of parsley at the side of a plate of salad served at a café?

Is it permissible to use your finger to collect all the icing sugar that fell off your apple & cinnamon crumble at the coffee shop, and then lick your finger?

Is it acceptable to use your hands to pick up and eat a focaccia or a meat pie? (If so, why are they often delivered with knife and fork?)

I only ask because I'm trying to make sure I'm setting a good example for my kids when we eat out :-)

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