Archived entries for human nature


Has anybody else ever wondered why public toilets are designed in a way that’s opposite to the way that humans behave? Viz: the male stereotype is that we are solitary, antisocial creatures yet urinals are largely open affairs. That leads to a mathematical conundrum as to the optimal spacing that minimises the possibility of accidentally (or even intentionally) seeing another man’s junk through a sideways glance.

Women on the other hand, are supposed to be social creatures, with a persistent stereotype that they go to the toilet together in pairs or packs. They love checking each other out, although of course you’d never get one to admit it, yet they’re forced into separate cubicles. Admittedly this arrangement does allow for handbag hooks on the doors, which I’m told comes in handy.

Is there any logical reason why “socially sensible toilets” aren’t more common?

To finish on a completely random note: they’ve installed squat toilets at Adelaide University (video):

Toying around with creativity

My Transformers displayI’ve written here about my Transformers collection, but you may wonder what do I do with them exactly, other than putting together elaborate displays in my cabinet. To be honest, nothing; they largely gather dust (and are horribly difficult to clean, I might add). I had an epiphany the other day that the difference between me now as an adult and me back when I was a child: I no longer give myself the freedom to imagine.

Over the weekend I played with Jenny’s cousin’s son, a hyperactive two year old. Both my body and my mind received a thorough workout as we roughed up a stack of Jenga blocks, where the individual tiles were transformed into a pile of bricks, a horde of money, food, cars, trains and planes. Next, we moved onto an etch-a-sketch, where we drew faces, created scenes of day and night, and drew a whole lot of random scribbles from which we’d eke out meaning, like a Rorschach test. We did the same with his collection of toy cars as well as his Thomas the Tank Engines of various sizes (which somehow came to represent members of his family). Overall, about 2 hours of intense play.

It was like the opening scene of Toy Story 3 – toys aren’t simply objects to be appreciated for their features and design – they were avatars for the personalities and characters that we invent for them in our imaginations. As embarrassing as it is for me to admit this, I used to play with Transformers in the same way that girls played with dolls. I distinctly remember one Transformer called “Searchlight” that I used to play with a lot, for whom I built a little bed out of a tissue box for him to sleep at night.

As an adult, I no longer afford myself the opportunity to truly play with toys. My limit is putting them into spiffy poses and taking a photograph or two – any more than that and I’d probably be committed. The generally accepted adult expressions of creativity are things like this:

That’s great if you have the passion and the talent, but what do you do if you don’t?


Geek conversation etiquetteI make no bones about the fact that I’m pretty geeky, so I’m generally aware of my deficiencies in most of the social graces. No idea why, but yesterday, it suddenly occurred to me that I don’t know how to take a compliment. For example, somebody says to me “hey man, that’s a nice jacket”, my response would be along the lines of “um, yeah… thanks”. It’s a real conversation killer, and could be one of the reasons why I find the experience of talking or socialising with other people such an awkward experience.

Should I have returned the compliment – “thanks mate, you’re looking pretty sharp yourself”, or downplayed it with “nah, I just threw it on this morning ‘coz it was cold”?

Is it possible to learn this in a systematic fashion to compensate for not having acquired it by osmosis during the last 32 years?

Reading between the lines

Jenny absolutely loves movies. Me, I don’t care much for them, reason being that the plots inevitably hang one or more of the characters doing something stupid. We borrowed a couple DVDs recently – The Descent, which featured a group of girls being as irritating as possible and making irrational decisions at every turn so that their friendship dissolves into bitter enmity; and The Reader in which a character allows herself to be incarcerated for life because she’s too ashamed to reveal that she’s illiterate.

Kate Winslet in The ReaderWhile The Descent did nothing to improve the thriller/horror genre’s standing in my books, I did find myself being somewhat affected by The Reader (and not because Kate Winslet is naked in half of her on-screen appearances). There’s a lot of tension as Michael Berg (played by David Kross) grapples with his conscience as to whether he should keep silent and see his unrequited love go to jail, or speak up against her wishes and shame her in front of the court (and presumably, country). While Jenny was weeping by the end of the movie, the whole time I was going “is it really worth being sentenced to prison for life, just to hide the fact that you can’t read and write?” while secretly choking back a tear.

This probably reveals just how much of a geek I am, which is to say completely out of touch with my emotions (feelings that can’t be expressed with an emoticon don’t exist :-P) – but maybe like the cliché about the speck of grit being the source of great beauty, flaws are necessary for the telling of great stories, and it’s only by allowing yourself to ignore these flaws that one can connect emotionally. I blame my inability to appreciate this on being exposed to too much awesome.

So where does that leave The Descent? The oyster must’ve gotten a mouthful of dirt, choked and died.

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