Laura’s Psychology Blog

One Professor’s Observations of the World of Psychology….   

July 20, 2010

The Oddities of Modern Living

Filed under: Avocations,Random Fun — Laura Freberg @ 10:53 am

I’m always amused by those “are they kidding” moments we experience in life–the jaw-dropping absurdities that come in our direction. I had one of those today, courtesy of my friends at American Express.

Don't Leave Home Without Paying Them First

It appears that we linked our iTunes account to American Express at some point, so our balance this month was a whopping $0.99. That’s not 99 dollars–it’s 99 cents. On the AMEX notice was some forbidding text–“If we do not receive your Minimum Payment Due by the Payment Due Date listed above, you will have to pay a late fee of up to $39.00.” I’m thinking that by capitalizing some of those words, the AMEX people hope that they will seem more important to the reader (payment due date just doesn’t look as official, I suppose), although I’ll wait to see the empirical data on that phenomenon before passing judgment.

I strongly believe that American Express is fully capable of charging me $39 for not sending them $0.99, so I complied immediately. But I’m left wondering how much it cost AMEX to print their bill, mail it to me, and process my payment, not to mention the cost to my bank to send it to them. I’m left feeling nostalgic for the days of common sense and personal service.

April 4, 2010

Happy Easter!

Filed under: Avocations,Random Fun — Laura Freberg @ 8:42 am

Karla celebrated Easter by drawing a picture for me to use on my blog. I hope you enjoy it!

Karla's Happy Easter Greeting

Of course, one of our all-time Easter activities chez Freberg is consideration of the world of Peeps. Some years ago, Karla also animated an exploding Peep. I suppose some explanation of that is required. I have always been fond of the Peep Research website, which demonstrates really good science with the exception of ethical treatment of peep participants. So after viewing the site, Karla was inspired for her animation:

Poor Peeps!

This year, Mr. F entered the fray with his own Peeps contribution–Peeps Sushi from Serious Eats. Instead of rice, they use Rice Krispy treats, and fruit roll is substituted for seaweed.  They also feature a Peeps Pizza.  Hmm, I think I’ll pass!

Photograph by Robyn Lee for Serious Eats

December 14, 2009

Gifts for Geeks

Filed under: Avocations,Random Fun — Laura Freberg @ 5:31 pm

The holiday season is once again upon us, and presents are in order. Some people are easy to buy for, others more challenging. We tend toward the practical chez Freberg, as the last thing we need at our age is more “stuff.” But I do enjoy some of the odder possibilities in the gift-giving realm. Here are a few of my favorites:

The Shirtless Kirk Ornament is an instant classic!

The Shirtless Kirk Ornament is an instant classic!

  1. For the Star Trek fans in your life (and who is NOT a Star Trek fan), you can purchase a Star Trek stocking featuring the Enterprise, a Spock nutcracker, and the crowning glory–the Shirtless Kirk.
  2. For the hypochondriac on your list, how about a plush H1N1 virus from GiantMicrobes?
  3. If you are shopping for a really huge scifi fan, how about a Stargate ornament?
  4. From our friends at ThinkGeek, we have the ever-popular Albert Einstein action figure.
  5. Who doesn’t need more refrigerator magnets? This one has the periodic table.
  6. For your desk, especially if you share an office with annoying people, there is the desktop carnivorous plant.
  7. I personally like the wi-fi t-shirt that glows relative to the strength of your local wi-fi signal.
  8. I think I might buy myself some Miracle Berry Fruit Tablets (they make sour foods taste sweet) to use in Sensation/Perception class Spring Quarter.
  9. Not to spoil the surprise, but someone on my list needs a Star Wars flash drive…now which to choose?
  10. No list would be complete without the Zombie Brain Gelatin mold, which allows you to make jello in the shape of a brain…
Which to choose, which to choose?

Which to choose, which to choose?

Regardless of what’s under your tree this year, I hope you have a wonderful holiday season!

November 22, 2009

Forty Years Can Pass Quickly

Filed under: Avocations,Football,Hobbies — Laura Freberg @ 10:09 am

Today is a bit of a milestone for Mr. F and me–forty years ago, November 22, 1969, we went on our first date. And what did we do? We went to the USC-UCLA football game, of course. Little did the 17-year-old Mr. F know that this activity would be a thrill for me, but that other girls might not share that view.  As always, the game was amazing, with the Trojans winning 14-12 on a last minute reception by Sam Dickerson. Apparently, forty years later, fans are still debating whether he was inbounds or not–certainly there was no review in those days.

 

Sam Dickerson's 1969 Game-winning Catch Is Still Debated

Sam Dickerson's 1969 Game-winning Catch Is Still Debated

Mr. F was being recruited by both schools at the time, so had received the tickets as part of the recruiting process. We enjoyed many other dates that year attending sports events–including floor level seating for Bruin basketball games, which allowed us to marvel at Lew Alcindor (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) and his teammates.

We’ve been back a few times to watch the USC-UCLA football games, and this year’s looks like it should be pretty exciting, too. We won’t be attending in person, but will probably be watching on television. Who do we cheer for, you ask? Well, we really can’t lose. Mr. F ended up competing for UCLA, and all three of my degrees are from UCLA, but he went on to get two master’s degrees from USC. Daughter Karen earned a master’s at USC and competed for their track team, setting both indoor and outdoor school records in the shot put. Because USC was so kind to my family, I have to admit I like their style and generally root for them.  I’m sure social psychologists would have a good explanation for that.

September 16, 2009

Can We Really Taste Much Difference in Wines?

Filed under: Avocations,General Psychology,Hobbies,Psychology,Random Fun — Laura Freberg @ 10:35 am

I live in California, the Central Coast of California to be exact, and as far as the eye can see, we have vineyards. Needless to say, a major hobby in this part of the world is winetasting, made even more popular by the cult film Sideways. So when my childhood friends came to town to deliver their daughter to Cal Poly, we headed for Talley Vineyard to sample the local offerings.

The Intrepid Tasters at Work

The Intrepid Tasters at Work

As we sampled, talk turned to the differences between what experts can taste and what novices like ourselves (with the exception of Mr. F, who is a member of Knights of the Vines) can taste.  Being me, I’m afraid that even in such recreational circumstances, I went into professor mode.

While I’m sure that you could train yourself to make small distinctions (dissociative learning as opposed to the associative type), a few things are working against the average taster. First of all, people differ vastly in the number of taste receptors they possess, and we can group them into nontasters, medium tasters, and supertasters. According to most of the tests, which you can take yourself by clicking the previous link, I am somewhere between a nontaster and a medium taster. So it’s pretty likely that I’m somewhat oblivious to bitter (also supported by my legendary coffee drinking), and pretty much all of the wines will taste good. Mr. F is a supertaster, and like most supertasters, he preferred a lighter Pinot, and opted out of the heavy red Cabernet at the end of the menu, which was my favorite.

Second, we have that nasty issue of expectation demonstrated so hilariously by Brian Wansink and his North Dakota wine. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the study, unsuspecting diners were served 2-buck-chuck with either a California wine label or a North Dakota wine label placed on the bottle by the experimenters. The people served “California” wine not only rated the wine as being better, but they rated the food served with the wine as better, ate 11% more of it (!!), and were more likely to make return reservations.

A more recent study looked at the influence of hearing an “expert’s” opinion before drinking it, and once again, we see that expectations matter. So a more reasonable line of research might be “why do we have critics in the first place?”  I know chez Freberg that our movie interests are so different from most of the critics that we tend to avoid films with high ratings. Mr. F still hasn’t recovered from negative critical reviews at the debut of the original Star Wars.  My guess is that people are influenced by conformity and other social factors to like what is generally considered good, or to show others that they have good taste. 

Maybe the best approach is to ignore the critics, and have the confidence in your own judgment to just like what you like, even if it’s a North Dakota wine or Eddie Murphy’s Norbit. Check out this link for North Dakota pumpkin wine. Reminds me of “7 star patata” in Tea House of the August Moon. Oh, and the Talley wines were excellent (in my personal opinion, not to influence your expectations), and the service was, too.

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Quote to Ponder

It is not a lack of love,
but a lack of friendship
that makes unhappy marriages
-------- Nietzsche



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