Tag Archives: Middl


by Richard

We’re heading into the homestretch here, dudes.

Tomorrow is August 1, which means the summer is well and truly winding down towards its end. We’ve got 27 days until school starts and only 30 until college football blesses us with its first game of the season.

Even better, we’re starting to be able to see the slight downward slope that’s leading us toward cooler temperatures. Of course, considering how hot it’s been this summer, I’ll take cooler temperatures being in the high 80s and count myself lucky. It’s been a hot summer, is what I’m saying.

As the summer is winding down, I’m starting to gear back up.

Not only do we have to start shopping for back-to-school supplies for Hyper Lad, but we’ve got to begin getting Zippy the College Boy ready to head off to Wilmington. I’m sure this is going to be another wonderful experience, like it was when we sent Sarcasmo off last year.

Their mom is going to insist they have lots of necessities that no girl would dream of going to college without and they’re going to keep insisting that, hey, surprise, they’re not girls. And they don’t need more than two or three pair or shorts. Or any hangers. Or storage boxes, considering there’s a whole big floor right there to drop stuff onto.

Yeah, that’s a fun and enjoyable experience. Good thing I won’t be stuck in the middl– Oh, yeah. Right. Never mind.

Anyway. This is the time of the summer when I start feeling a little desperate. There’s only so many days left before school starts and I still have so much I want to do. And I’m not even a kid any more.

I feel like Phineas and Ferb, only without the bizarrely shaped heads and the affinity for large-scale mechanics. So much to do, so little time.

Which probably means I should get to it.

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Freaky Friday: Verbal Sight

by Richard

It turns out that my wife, known to me as She Who Must Give Instructions — Twice, was right again. Being told what to look for can actually make it more likely that you’ll find it.

In a research study published today, scientists reveal that spoken language can alter your perception of the visible world.

The study in PLoS Onereveals that people given a series of visual tests had dramatically different scores when they were prompted first with a verbal cue. Asked to find a specific letter in a crowded picture, people were much more likely to find that letter when they were given the auditory cue “letter B” beforehand. Interestingly, being shown an image of the letter B before looking at the picture did not help them pick out the letter B any better than a control group could.

I guess we shouldn’t be surprised. After all, we’ve all done word searches in elementary and middle school when the teachers were looking for a little time killer and didn’t want to have to do too much work. With every word search, there’s a word bank to show you the words for which you’re searching. I always found that I did better when I read the words out loud to myself, rather than just reading the words.

The interesting thing to me, though, is I always find words that aren’t in the word bank. A question of looking too hard or just not focusing on the task at hand? I always came down on the side of working too hard, but my teachers kept harping on focus. Po-tay-to, po-tah-to.

Interestingly, although auditory verbal cues increased detection sensitivity, visual cues did not. This finding makes some sense when one considers that linguistic cues involve a non-overlapping format of sensory information that is globally statistically independent of the visual format of information in the detection task itself. By contrast, visual cues involve the same format of information as the detection task, and therefore do not provide converging sensory evidence from independent sources when the to-be-detected stimulus is presented.

Which means that there needs to be a combination of verbal and visual stimuli for this to work, to let you target what you’re looking for.

This has some pretty significant implications for parenting, dudes.

I mean, I know I’ve left notes for the little dudes before and returned to find absolutely nothing accomplished because they couldn’t find what I’d written about. After reading about this, I realized that the little dudes did do better when I gave them the note and also went over it with them.

Something to think about the next time Zippy the Monkey Boy tells me he can’t find that missing shoe when it’s sitting on the floor in the middle of the room.

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Me First And The Gimmie Gimmies*

by Richard

When dads sit down around the campfire after a long day of herding little dudes and cleaning up after them, there’s a cautionary tale that gets told to the shivers of the listeners. It goes something like this.

There was a family with three little dudes and or dudettes. It doesn’t matter. The family was planning a vacation to somewhere warm, sandy and delightful. As they were doing the final pack up, they heard the news. At the resort, a bird who’s species is on the verge of extinction had flown into the engine of a fully loaded jet as it was coming in for a landing. The jet went down in a ball of flame, killing all on board as well as wiping out the resort and causing a fire that devastated the tiny island.

“Oh, how horrible,” said the mom.

“That’s just terrible,” said the dad as he began to unpack their suitcases.

The middle little dude looked on, aghast. He couldn’t believe what he was seeing.

“Wait,” he said. “Why are you unpacking? That doesn’t affect me, does it? Well, find something else.”

And the group around the campfire shivers, knowing the little dude just didn’t get it. All he worried about was whether or not he was going to get something. The dads hoped they were raising their little dudes to be better than that. They picked up their plates of beans and started a fart contest. Whatddya want? They’re dudes.

The problem is that little dude’s reaction wasn’t all that unusual. There’s little dudes all over the world that only care about something if it affects them, or how they want to do stuff. I may, just may, know this from personal experience. Maybe.

I’m not sure why this happens. I’m not sure how a little dude becomes so focused on himself that he sees the entire world through the lens of how it will affect him. I think, though, there are some ways to work with the non-functional-brained little dudes.

One way is the bait and switch. Offer the little dude something he or she really wants, or says he or she does, and then make it contingent on doing something nice for someone more than once. Or tell them they can’t have it. And then give it to them only after they’ve made an unprompted gesture of niceness toward another member of the family.

I think we need to make sure kids like these widen their perspective more than a little bit. Let themselves see the outside world has more to offer and needs more from the people living in it than what happens to them.

*not the band, although they’re awesome.

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