Monday, December 24, 2007

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Think You're Smarter Than A Monkey?

(I apologize for a lack of posts lately. Work has been crazy, and I've been traveling a lot).

As if we didn't need any more proof that college students today are falling short, scientists have been pitting chimps against college students in a variety of mental tasks. Not surprisingly, the chimps are as smart or even better than the human "scholars." Incoming freshmen are taking remedial courses (AKA skills they should've learned in high school) at an alarming rate, and maybe we should reward them with bananas or some other kind of tasty treat.

It seems to work for the chimps.

Earlier this month, scientists at the University of Kyoto were surprised to find that young 5-year old chimps were actually better than college students at memory tasks. Even after three months of memory training, three of the brighter students could still not match the chimps' ability to remember sequence-oriented tasks.

Did the students have too much saki???

So scientists at Duke University took the research further and found that the chimps performed just as well as the college students at mental addition. Jessica Cantlon, a cognitive neuroscience researcher at Duke, helped test the monkeys and college students in "non-verbal math." She said, "It shows when you take language away from a human, they end up looking just like monkeys in terms of their performance."

Hahahaha...take that college kids.

In this study, both groups were paid for their time and efforts. The two chimps got to drink Kool-Aid, and the college kids got $10. But something tells me those students were drinking another kind of Kool-Aid.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

The Holiday Blues...Fact or Fiction

We drank a toast to innocence
We drank a toast to time
Reliving in our eloquence
Another 'auld lang syne'...

This Christmas song classic, Same Old Lang Syne, by Dan Fogelberg is a song I go from hating to really liking. I'm not sure how I feel about the song right at this moment, but during the holiday season, many of us are led to believe that despite this being a season of joy, it's often times a season of saddness for many others.

We've all heard about the holiday blues. For a variety of reasons, the holidays are also associated with depression and increased suicide rates.

Is there some hard evidence to back up this phenomenon?

Let's use plain logic. During the holidays, many of the innate dangers include:

1) Shopping. The crazy old ladies stampede during "Black Friday." Grabbing a flatscreen TV for $300 brings out the violent tendencies in even the most mild of grandmas. Two words, folks: online shopping. Learn it. Live it.

2) Overeating. Begin with Thanksgiving, throw in Christmas chocolate, beer, and more turkey - you've got a recipie for a heartattack. You'll probably join a fitness club and go the first couple months. By April, you'll forget where the damn club is located. But you know where McDonald's is, right?

3) Drunk driving. New Years can be deadly. Why people still drink and drive is really beyond me. If you want to kill yourself, go ahead. Just don't take an innocent family of four driving home from Christmas dinner with you.

4) Speaking of killing yourself. Suicides happen because you're depressed. Why would you be depressed this time of year? Maybe you lost out to one of those aggressive ladies in your quest for a cheap flatscreen. Maybe your expanding waist has got you down. Maybe you're all alone, and the holidays just make you feel even more solitary. Or, perhaps you HATE your family and you'd rather jump off a bridge than be stuck in a room with kin.

5) Speaking of depressed. Don't forget about all those Seasonal Affective Disorder sufferes out there. Our bodies respond to's one of our great regulators. Shorter days, longer nights, cold temperatures - it's a very real disorder.

6) Finances. With all that giftgiving, did you really think that credit card bill was just going to go away? Add taxes to that list - maybe you live in a state where you pay some sort of personal property tax this time of year, as I do in Missouri. Forking over $3,000 by December 31st isn't so damn jolly, now is it? Don't forget about having to heat our homes and paying for gasoline for those holiday trips. By January, you're broke.

7) Work. You work in retail? I imagine you retail folks are suicidal by mid-December. I feel for you guys. I'm EXTRA nice to those in retail this time of year, unless they're jerks. Do you have major projects due? Isn't it fun cramming those last-minute performance reviews and budget worksheets before the end of the year so much fun?

Despite all of these stressors, the evidence shows that the suicide rates actually dip during the holiday seasons. Maybe spending time with friends and family lifts our spirits and helps us get through this tough time.

I wish you the best of luck getting through this time of year. And I hope you get a giant Christmas bonus check this year - even if it is a year-long subscription to the Jelly of the Month Club.