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    Spit and Twitches: The Animal Cognition Podcast - Pilot Episode

    Well here it is, the much anticipated, ok, not anticipated much, but well you know, the pilot episode is here!  I sat down this afternoon with Laurie Bloomfield of the Psychology Department at Algoma University here in Sault Ste. Marie.  We talked about her specialty, bird communication. Photo credit: Oregon State University ArchivesLaurie studies chickadees mostly, but of course, as we all know, it is not the species that is important, it is the problem.  (Or, as my PhD supervisor once said to an ornithologist, "I don't study species, I study problems").  Well, Laurie and I talked about a lot of stuff, her career, how she started out in animal cognition, and about fist fights between eminent researchers.  (That last part came in the final bit, where I asked her four questions, an idea I have stolen borrowed from FourCast).  

    I would really like feedback on the show, what do you think?  Feel free to comment here, on facebook, google + or whatever.  

    I really appreciate Laurie sitting down with me and talking today.  I had a really good time.  

    The music in this episode is by Battery Life and is called "Beer Rights"

    download mp3




    Words I Hate

    I understand that languages evolve, and that new words get invented to deal with new stuff, and I have no problem with that.  What I do have a problem with is imprecise or innaccurate language.

    As a psychologist, I truly despise when new 'disorders' are invented that are not disorders at all, but just being an asshole.  So, this post is inspired by those two things.

    I guess the two current buzzwords that I hate the most are homophobia and islamaphobia.  Now, I know what both of these mean, as do you.  What pisses me off is the use of the term 'phobia'.  Homophobia is hatred of LGBT people, and Islamaphobia is hatred of Muslims.  THESE ARE NOT PHOBIAS.  A phobia is an irrational fear, a real psychological problem, and they can be debilitating.  

    Islamaphobia and homophobia are simply bigotry.  They are simply hatred.  These are not disorders, they are being a bigoted asshole.  That is not a disorder.  Why in the hell can't we just use the word 'bigot'?  Perhaps we could come up with a better term, anti-Semtisim is not called 'Jewphobia' or something. 

    Now, I don't think (or I certainly don't hope) that most people thinnk of these two things as disorders, but the words themselves imply that they are disorders.  I also am not naive enough to believe those words will change.  Anyway, as usual, I am starting to ramble.....


    Lecture Notes for Fall 2011 Available At

    While my home for my lectures is of course still active, I thought I would also post the lecture notes/powerpoint presentations here.  So, you can see both Brain and Behaviour and Animal Behaviour tabs at the top of the site.  Even if you are not in the class, feel free to download the lecture notes, and the lecture audio when they come out in the fall.


    Blind is not a bad word...

    OK, so those of you that know me, know that I have a disability.  I am blind, well legally blind.  So I actually can see, at about 10 percent of normal visual acuity.  This is all my parents' fault (in that it is due to a genetic disorder).  That disorder, albinism, not only makes my skin and eyes an unearthly exotic white, it also screwed badly with the devleopment of my visual system.  On the upside, it gives me super powers, ok, that part I made up.  Anyway, it is, nowadays, not that big a deal to me.  There was a time when it bothered me a lot, but that is well in the past (being mercilessly bullied and teased as a kid will make you a bit bitter....)

    People are often afriad to ask about my disability, for fear of offending me, but I am always happy to answer.  For the most part, it means that I basically see in SD while the rest of you lucky bastards see in HD.  It is not that stuff is blurry or anything, it is just not there.  There is a lack of detail.  Oh yeah, and I have no true depth perception, for this reason I hope that 3D TV fails, but that is another matter.

    Me on the left at about 2, and two other kids who probably don't even have twitter accounts, much less blogs, Photo credit Leslie BrodbeckI have always had this, indeed one is born with this disorder.  Now, note something right there.  I said disorder.  I am not differently abled.  I am not challenged.  FUCK, I hate being told I am challenged.  Once back in grad school a particularly PC type told me I was visually challenged.  I said 'yeah, I wake up and think, oh boy, what a challenge, today maybe I will walk into a wall.  Oh yeah, it will be such a challenge when I can't find my glasses in the morning'. 

    Brent Morris and I were talking about this very issue on the boat at PAB2011.  Brent has some deal with his leg, I don't know what it is, but he has a limp.  He was talking to someone, I am not sure who, and I heard him call himself 'crippled'.  I came over and mentinoed that I am blind.  We then both started talking about how perfectly good words were being replaced with euphemisms.  We also figured that this was being done to make people without disabilities comfortable. The funny thing was watching some of the people hear our discussion, they looked a little oh let's say uncomfortable, and I think Brent and I enjoyed that....

    A nice example of the use of such euphemisms is the local agency that works with people who have Down's syndrome, autism and other developmental disorders. It is called 'Community Living Algoma'.  Now understand I think they do excellent work.  My son Jon (who has autism) gets services from them and they are first rate.  But, what the hell does 'Community Living' mean?  I always think of George Costanza saying 'you know, WE LIVE IN A SOCIETY' when I hear the name.

    Now, I am not saying we can put the toothpaste back in the tube so to speak, and bring back words like 'idiot' and 'moron' (they have taken on new meanings) but what the hell is wrong with the word blind?  It means you can't see.  Believe me, if you saw how close I am right now to this damned computer you would say 'yeah he's blind'.  

    I honestly believe these PC euphemisms are there so the able bodied can sanitize the fact that people like me and Brent are different, and our bodies don't quite work properly.  (I mean that is the function of the 'new' sanitized labels, I do think that the idea is one from people of good will).  I just wish people could be more fucking precise now and then. Oh and maybe ask my opinion.  (I mean the blind community here, not just me, though hell, I will speak for them if they elect me, or I have some sort of blind coup, I mean I can see a bit, so I am like a supersighted blind guy really, oh where the hell was I...)  I can't be the only blind person that finds 'visually challenged' an annoying term.

    Finally, I know there are things I cannot do.  I will never drive a car (legally...) I will never be an F1 driver, I will never fly a plane and I probably won't go parasailing.  I mention the parasailing because Isabelle's brother in law told me that some blind guy in Quebec sued an instructor that would not let him, a BLIND GUY, (and I mean like 0 % vision here) solo parasail.  He won his ridiculous human rights case (I guess he was going under constitutional right to be a fucking idiot) and he soloed.  Oh and he hurt himself pretty badly....



    Your Story Deserves No Attention Whatsoever: The Video

    I do seem to move around a lot in this video...   Anyway, here i am doing my jolt from PAB 2011.  You should check out the PAB Youtube Channel, it is full of great content.  Thanks to Mark, Bob and the guys at the NAC.

    I think I ought to say 'fuck' in academic talks more often...