I suspect I'm pretty transparent, but it doesn't come up very often in my life.
ms bill thought I was "placid" until we got married (we didn't live together beforehand). She since has revised this view.
I've been told that I'm completely transparent, and that it's disarming. That seems to work to my advantage in my profession, but I could imagine it being a disadvantage if I were a lawyer.
I try not to have emotions very often so that I needn't worry about them showing on my face.
If what I'm thinking is "I'm not sure I understand what you're saying, or at least you're going to have to talk me through it before I agree", it apparently comes through my eyebrows as "You are the stupidest person I've ever met and I hate you."
This is interesting, because if I'm thinking "you are the stupidest person I've ever met," I'm likely to say "I don't think I understand what you're saying."
My thought show pretty clearly on my face, but sometimes I am thinking about more than one thing at a time, so my expression has nothing to do with the conversation I'm engaged in.
People also confuse my thinking-face for considered skepticism/doubt.
5 is also me, and if I genuinely think someone is an idiot I'm pretty good at hiding it (either that or idiots are good at hiding their offense and have thick skins).
Before I had kids, I was notoriously expressionless. Since then, I've learned the value of expressions that carry the message "This time, I really am going to sell you to the circus."
If there is a competition on this I lose. Physical manifestations of my emotional state are legion and pretty much unstoppable for me. If I manage to control my face when I'm angry it's because I'm in the process of trying to rip the tops of my socks up past my knees. It may be rooted in/part of my quasi-Tourette's. From time to time I seem to actually manage to scare people--that's not so great but fuck 'em.
. And there's a particular sort of bombastic bully, fairly easy to find in the legal profession, that makes me think "Jesus, you're an asshole" in a way that leaves me grinning at them.
I recall reading a piece by someone who claimed to be able to distinguish thirty odd distinct smiles in Thai (?) culture. One of them specifically meant "I am agreeing with you, even though I think your idea is foolish and will be the ruin of us both."
It was a list like this one. The smile I was thinking of is called "Yim thak thaan"
When I'm confused my ears shoot out.
The problem is not that you bare your teeth at bullies, it's that humans seem to confuse this with happiness.
11 is useless without pics.
I have often been told that I have no poker face whatsoever. While this may very well be true, it is also the case that the people saying this sometimes follow on with "It was SO obvious that you were thinking XYZ," where XYZ=something that has never crossed my mind.
I do find it handy that when you say absolutely true things with a straight face, people often think you are joking.
Apparently I am not transparent enough when trying to convey, through body language, OMFG I invited you to join us for NYE not to stay all New Year's day you are annoying the fuck out of me and growing progressively more offensive go home already.
There's an app for that.
17 to 15.last.
I think I have a decent poker face for feigning interest/happiness when I'm annoyed or irritated. When I'm in a not-happy situation I'm more transparent.
15: Is this an "You've made me eggs, now go away and maybe I'll send you a text" situation?
Made, fertilized, whatever.
Great, now I'm going to read Di's comments in Popeye's voice.
22: No, no. My date and I invited another couple to barbecue for NYE. The wife begged off sick, but the guy came anyway, regaled me with tales of their youthful conquests, described Dick Durbin as a penis, was generally unbearable, and stayed all. effing. day.
Yes, apparently I frown when I'm thinking about things, which tends to be interpreted as "what a fucking stupid idea". You'd think after 17 years (I spent all of last year thinking I'd been married 17 years, turns out it was only 16) people would remember that it doesn't.
"I don't think I understand what you're saying."
So next time someone says this to me, I should just go ahead and punch them.
26: People? Or one person?
And Di, that sounds horrible. My sympathies.
(I attended an event over the holiday that was so grotesquely, bizarrely over-the-top surreal that I felt compelled to sent the restaurant a letter afterward thanking their staff for service above and beyond the call of duty.)
When I'm actually thinking "you are the stupidest person I've ever met", I think I generally smile warmly and kindly. (Like essear, this doesn't reverse. Sometimes, a warm smile is sincere. If I've ever smiled warmly at you, and you weren't being a moron at the time, there's a fair shot I meant it.)
Party at a restaurant, at which the guest of honor was carted away in an ambulance after spectacular illness, the hostess failed to accompany him, 7 children under 12 years old were required to entertain themselves for 90 minutes between salad and dinner (since they stopped serving when the ambulance came), another guest decided to recite his marital troubles, and a third guest engaged the hostess in oblivious, drunken monologue.
I sent the two main servers $50 each in additional gratuity but I'm thinking I may never go back to that restaurant again, ever.
Wow. I'm sure they look forward with great anticipation to your next big celebration. Sort of thing breaks up the monotony.
If I weren't good at hiding my thoughts and feelings I would have been killed forty years ago.
Probably pwnd, but also probably unsurprising for me.
But I have also long had a theory that most if not all of us can't hide our feelings at all, and that social or interpersonal interaction is much much more complicated than we like to presume. Signed Sigmund Freud. Or The Last Psychiatrist.
Also probably pwnd.
Hell, most of the time we don't even know our own feelings, or pretend we don't.
Politeness really rules.
I have been told several times by managers and colleagues that I really need to learn to suppress my "this is so fucking stupid" face.
On the good side, that party will make for a great story for a number of people for years.
Hopefully, the Guest of Honor is better now.
35: In a row, while they repeatedly clarified this tip.
I think we have discussed this issue before, but I recently had a case with a younger female lawyer whose neck and upper chest got bright red. I was surprised that she had not learned to cover it up more when going to court.
Hm, my poker face generally just means: I am bored by what you are saying, but am pretending to be listening even though I'm now looking out the window at the birds. My impression is that people can tell what's going on, what with the looking out the window part.
I hear that people think I'm very grounded. I don't really know what they mean. What's meant in the popular parlance by "grounded"?
whose neck and upper chest got bright red
I have a flushing thing when I get angry.
That sounds like a bored face, not a poker face. A poker face shouldn't have an unambiguous meaning.
42 is about right.
41: Oh, hm, a real poker face? I think that's just my listening face, then. How people register that depends on my relationship with the person, I think. Some will want to have me nodding along or otherwise expressing agreement, and if I'm not doing that, they'll suspect me of disagreeing. Others will be familiar with this mutual listening relationship.
It took 43 to make me understand 42.
To me, "grounded" means someone who has enough self-confidence and practicality not to be swayed easily by flashy ideas or fast-talking/pretentious people.
I'm trying to figure out when I even have occasion to adopt something I'd call a poker face. When I'm in a negative mood about something, but must deal pleasantly with people: okay, then I basically come across as cold and estranged.
I always trail a metallic wire along the ground.
45.2: Sure; I just thought that described quite a few people, so I wouldn't have thought it an especially remarkable thing. Maybe it's faint praise. It was a stray thought, in any case -- just something that's come up from time to time.
LB: Have you tried wearing sunglasses and a cowboy hat?
Moby? Stormcrow? What the heck is going on in our state?
Corbett to sue NCAA over Penn State sanctions.
50: given that the point of origin is Corbett's office, it feels very strange to say this, but I'm not sure it's a crazy suit. The NCAA is an evil organization, there are plenty of people who believe that it overstepped in this case, and the suit, as I understand it at least, is in large part about Pennsylvania wanting to keep the fine money in state. That said, it's too soon to know for sure, so maybe it will be completely outlandish.
I would bet a very large sum of money that the only people genuinely concerned with keeping $ in Pennsylvania are those that own or are about to launch businesses that could plausibly claim to collect any of it.
The rest is grandstanding, and it's particularly disgusting coming from an AG who by any definition swept this under the carpet while he was busy preparing to run for governor.
To a first approximation, people with Penn State connections run the state.
52: No. A whole bunch of people really like Penn State.
One of our biggest family laughs over the holidays involved my involuntary facial grimaces. Just after I'd been talking some politics with my sister and brother-in-law (not confrontational, we are all pretty aligned) I exhibited a jaw-grinding spasm of hatred based on some dark avenue my thoughts had gone down. My brother-in-law, an earnest but rather self-centered fellow who generally tends not to be a careful observer of the body language of others, later expressed great concern to my wife over this. She says she attempted to suppress her guffaw but failed.
Oh yes, I don't disagree with 54 at all. I was just talking about the politicians.
(I fail to understand, though, if the goal of the $60 million is to provide public education and reduce future instances of such crimes, why anyone would assume that even 25% of the best nonprofits in the country on this topic are located in PA. I mean, RAINN is in DC but they do great work from what I understand. But maybe I am misunderstanding the stated purpose of the $60 million fine -- I haven't followed that part of the case very closely.)
Actually I think it was another lawmaker who wanted to bring a lawsuit based on the considerations that VW describes. This is apparently a separate effort but may be based on similar considerations. Corbett and much of the state government are racist buffoons and I have no idea why they think they should be involved in this*, but the NCAA acted really stupidly and in dumb haste** and is probably vulnerable on the details. They NCAA certainly does not deserve a penny of any money (I've not followed that part closely so it probably is targeted somewhere else.)
*Might be as simple as sort of a cut-out for PSU itself which realizes how much worse they would look in the court of public opinion. In fact they were at pains to point out that they were not involved in any way.
**There were lots of grounds for action, but for some reason they did not even follow the most basic of internal processes.
I cannot reload this post without having the "But I just met her!" reaction to the title.
The goal of the $60 million is to enable Penn State to continue to play football while letting the NCAA still look like it did something.
58: I just get the Lady Gaga song stuck in my head.
I have no idea why they think they should be involved in this
They're all on the board of trustees.
61 was me.
I can't mask my face when someone says something that I think is stupid. I used to worry about this with regard to people I work with, but since I have to answer the same damn questions week after week, I now think it's okay to show a little contempt.
Actually I think it was another lawmaker who wanted to bring a lawsuit based on the considerations that VW describes.
Oh -- I don't know why I assumed VW had knowledge of the content of Corbett's suit (it's apparently not going to be announced until tomorrow's press conference).
The legislator who wants to introduce the bill about spending the fine money in PA is puzzling. I don't understand what jurisdiction he thinks the PA state legislature has (it's NOT a lawsuit he wants to file) on this topic.
Last point on the poker face; thank God there isn't a webcam hooked up while I read and post on Unfogged*.
*To be fair, not just Unfogged.
65.2: I don't understand that part either.
65.last: According to the Post-Gazette it was both:
State Sen. Jake Corman, R-Centre, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, announced last week that he was putting together legislation and his own lawsuit seeking to have money from Penn State's fine spent only within Pennsylvania.
Centre being the county where PSU is located, he might just be talking about it for electoral reasons.
65: right, that's why I said it's too soon to know. And honestly, I'm not defending Corbett so much as saying that the NCAA seems to have acted very badly in this case, as in others, and so I'm not the least bit surprised that opportunistic politicians see the sanctions as an opportunity. And I can't imagine feeling the slightest bit upset if the NCAA ends up with (more) egg on its face.
58: I just get the Lady Gaga song stuck in my head.
That inspired me to go listen to the song on youtube. I mostly avoid Lady Gaga, but I am sort of fascinated by this performance. I've seen various other youtube videos which demonstrate that she can sing quite well, but that is the first time I've felt real affection for her project, if you want to call it that, of doing strange things in public.
I'm not at all sure what to make of the performance, but I am convinced that it's interesting; that she brings real presence, and emotion to the performance and makes clear that she has a really personal sense of drama.
I'm confused about how to reconcile the general contempt I've always had for standardized tests with my dismay at how low the verbal and analytical writing GRE scores are on the grad school applications I'm reviewing.
72: I have the same issue with the quantitative scores every year. "Wait, you scored in the 11th percentile and want a PhD? Even a PhD in history?" Then my contempt for standardized tests always wins out.
I find it fairly strange how asymmetrical GRE scores are for people in my field. It seems like it should be reasonably balanced, but no, verbal and writing scores are crap.
It's the writing that worries me most. I remember that part of the GRE being basically just "can you sustain a logical argument for a page or so?", and if the answer is "no", that seems problematic, especially in the people who have native or near-native English proficiency.
Back when I took the GRE, we didn't write anything but circles.
Do you not see samples of their writing anyway?
I'm asking essear—I assume that VW does.
77: Not really, just a short statement of research interests, except for the ones who have published papers (but then, those usually have senior co-authors).
OMG here's someone who lists his work experience as a cashier at a liquor store on his CV.
So what are you evaluating them on? Even results have to be written up, right? Letters and grades?
Evaluate them on how many points of contact they need (other than their feet) to rise from the floor.
Yeah, I guess it'll be mostly letters that matter.
The GRE is weird. The math GRE didn't seem to test anything beyond high school AP Calculus and was only marginally more difficult than the math SAT. Why bother giving a math test for graduate school if you're not going to probe any graduate-level abilities in math? I can't imagine a real quant discipline taking that test seriously.
82: They're probably all young and limber, and I'd just be depressed about how decrepit I am.
80 --- awks. Isn't that a social capital problem though? Or does it just look like terminal inappropriateness?
84: Non sequitur. If it sets a low bar, then those who do poorly are unsuited for a math program with high probability.
You should totally admit the guy in 80. In fact, that should be the standard by which you judge all the applicants.
80/86: It's a common rookie mistake. At most undergraduate programs and not a few graduate ones no one teaches you what goes on a CV. I've seen several people either assume that it's the same as a resume or that they should just dump all the material from their resume into it.
86: Yeah, probably a social capital problem. I don't think it'll bias anything one way or another, but if he does end up in our program I might suggest he make some changes in his CV when he applies for jobs....
87: true, but you probably won't be able to do much discrimination at the upper end, because a range of suitabilities will be clustered there if the material tops out at too low a level.
Liquor store clerk's a pretty difficult job, come to think of it. Responsibility, danger, mind numbing boredom, collateral damage. Like the army, but with less travel.
In fact they keep making the quantitative GRE harder because too many people were getting perfect scores. The year I took it getting a perfect score got you to the 96th percentile or something. Presumably increasing difficulty is easier now that everybody takes an adaptive computerized test, but you also increase the path dependence issues of that approach the wider the possible range of outcomes (relative to the number of questions).
I don't think it'll bias anything one way or another, but if he does end up in our program I might suggest he make some changes in his CV when he applies for jobs....
"See, if you want a TT job you'll have to show that you worked in a more upscale liquor store, while maintaining an active research program and publishing regularly."
Doesn't the personal statement give some sense of writing ability?
95: A little, in terms of basic grammar and whatnot (often surprisingly bad!), but not really in terms of ability to construct an argument or think logically.
91: Standardized tests are great for some uses, but how much high-level math ability do you expect a standardized test to be able to capture?
IOW stamdardized tests good for testing generic aptitude but not everyone with generic aptitude is any good. An adequate GRE score should be a necessary condition for acceptance, but an excellent one should not be a sufficient condition.
When I asked a similar question way back in the day (early '80s or so), the response was that GRE scores appeared to be one of the best predictors of timely completion of an advanced degree. One may fill in any theory one wants as to why that might be the case. Probably some element of the basic screening function in 98.
Probably some element of the basic screening function in 98 is at least part of it.
99: It was a terrible predictor for me. Maybe dropping out quickly is the next best thing to timely completion of degree.
Right, fail fast, drop out young and leave space for the next sucker.
I really should send somebody an email and formally drop out or at least say, "Goodbye and thanks for the transferable portion of the jobs skills."
I don't think there's any good use for a poker face.
Like the army, but with less travel.
A student once told me that because he'd been in the Navy, he's seen the rest of the world and knew what people were like. He then went on to say that everyone loves Americans and wants to be just like them. From this I concluded that the only things he had seen of the world were dock side prostitutes.
12 & 14.2 are great.
Liquor-store clerk is probably a terrible job; I'd count that and motel night clerk as evidence of determination to get the degree.
106; to be fair, ttaM comments that parts of the UK that I'd expect to be insulated by a millenium of high status are inappropriately US-imitative.
I think I know what 108 is saying, but in the absence of further clarification it amuses me to imagine it means consultant doctors drinking Mountain Dew and eating chitlins.
I think 106 is missing something.
When you're travelling abroad, quite often the people who want to come up and chat with you and engage with you are either 1) fascinated with Americans, or 2) trying to sell you something and thus feigning fascination with Americans.
So the student is missing the gigantic inherent selection bias at play, but their experience felt broad to them.
My memories of the general GRE are that it was easier than the SAT.
Regarding the Physics GRE, I have heard that foreign students overwhelmingly tend to do better than US students because US students don't bother to prepare much.
Years ago talking about this with a physics grad student from India, he said that if we want American students to do better on it, we should start charging them ~$1,000 to take the thing, like they do in other countries..
Apparently that works wonders for increasing people's focus.
So the student is
missing the gigantic inherent selection bias at play a moron.
110: That was basically what I was getting at, but I limited "selling something" to prostitutes, because I thought it would be funnier.
2) trying to sell you something and thus feigning fascination with Americans.
I concluded that the only things he had seen of the world were dock side prostitutes.
People are often friendly when you show up on a gunboat, which is why we should all resolve to do that more.
Because there's nothing funnier than desperate women selling their bodies for sex.
Because there's nothing funnier than desperate women selling their bodies for sex ON A BOAT.
People of all kinds, and not only whores, have been nice to me in the few foreign countries I've visited, but I never took from that experience the idea that all Americans are beloved abroad. I'm pretty sure that others would have different experiences.
women selling their bodies for sex
urple, I think you've gotten confused again.
Scottish people are in desperate need of Mountain Dew. I've tasted IRN-BRU. Improvement would not be hard.
When you're travelling abroad, quite often the people who want to come up and chat with you and engage with you are asking for directions, in my experience.
111 Regarding the Physics GRE, I have heard that foreign students overwhelmingly tend to do better than US students because US students don't bother to prepare much.
Chinese students almost all get perfect scores. They have months-long cramming camps and memorize all the old questions.
In my undergrad dept we had a professor who took it upon himself to scare everyone into preparing. It worked pretty well; my score on the practice test he had us take would probably have gotten me rejected from a lot of the places I wanted to go, but a couple days of preparation was enough to bring it up to slightly-sub-Chinese levels.
Nothing wrong with Irn Bru! Admittedly it's only really palatable when incredibly hungover, when it comes into its own.
Yeah, but I'm basically talking about
assholes the professional management class. And not in the (arguably) good or at least tolerable 'dsquared' yay-for-Taylorism sense of 'management class'.
I used to run philosophy revision classes for undergraduates about to sit finals. And also some for A-level students doing resists. Both classic ways for grad students or temporary lecturers to make some extra cash.
It was amazing how much you could improve someone's score just by telling them how to do it properly (or at least fake it convincingly) and boot-camp style drilling them on some basic core material. And also drilling them on the shit they don't need to know and so shouldn't waste their time with. What was sad was how few people, even the ones who were basically good thinkers, had worked this stuff out for themselves or had had it taught to them by their tutors or lecturers.* I suspect the big dividing line between people who get 1sts and then go onto graduate school and those who don't, is as much about a certain level of preparation and exam technique nous.
* this is a general problem throughout academia, at least in part because those teaching just _are_ those who worked it out for themselves.
I think I've met only one person who took the history GRE and it was apparently for fun, not for graduate admissions.
127: I did the English subject test for fun, or at the time with the vague hope I might end up in grad school. I never took the regular GRE, though, and here I am.
I think I've met only one person who took the history GRE and it was apparently for fun, not for graduate admissions.
I took the Math subject test mostly for fun -- I was pretty sure, at that point, that I was more likely to apply to graduate school in politics (and ended up not going to grad school at all).
I did quite well on the standard GRE and not nearly as well as I would have liked on the Math test, but I blame the fact that I stupidly took both tests on the same day. That was a really _long_ day of standardized testing and I was not thinking clearly by the end.
I think I've mentioned here that I took the Geography* GRE for fun. It was a blast.
And some might recall Michael Bérubé taking the English GRE a few years back an reporting on it. An excerpt (it is behind the Chron firewall):
Very little of the test, as far as I could see, had anything to do with gauging someone's aptitude for graduate study in literature; it was, instead, as if I'd played an arduous two-and-a-half-hour parlor game. And that's apparently how some departments of English treat the English GRE. Although many programs require it, my own does not, and back at my old haunt, Columbia, the graduate-admissions Web page declares, "Our department does not require the GRE Subject Test in English literature, which we regard as unsubstantive and not predictive of the quality of graduate work." Over all, according to the most recent "MLA Guide to Doctoral Programs in English and Other Modern Languages," 41.5 percent of English departments require the subject GRE test, whereas 96.2 percent require a writing sample. When I asked my department head whether I'd wasted my time with a test that would have no significance if I were an applicant to my own program, she said, "Pretty much, yeah. But it does sound like fun." A supposedly fun thing, in the words of the late David Foster Wallace, that I'll never do again.
I think I've mentioned here that I took the Geography* GRE for fun. It was a blast
Has the term "JP-fun" been coined yet?
I think 130 is totally fair, especially since I'd say taking the test and the prep sessions hosted by the English department leading up to it were some of the best fun I had in college. (I might only think this because I did better than all the other students there who had actually taken lit courses, which was of course my goal.) I don't think I would have had the emotional stamina to manage grad school anyway, plus I'm apparently the sort of person who just accidentally stole a book from the library, though I've finished it and will return it in the morning.
There is a GRE subject test in my field but I didn't take it, I don't know anybody that took it, and I'm pretty sure my department explicitly says that they don't care if people take it/aren't terribly interested in it. But everybody (to a first approximation) gets into my department by having relevant research experience anyhow.
plus I'm apparently the sort of person who just accidentally stole a book from the library, though I've finished it and will return it in the morning
It's too late, Thorn! I'm after you! I will ruin your life!
In sorting through a lot of very old boxes of crap as I've gradually settled into my new place, I have discovered that I possess three books that I checked out from Widener in the mid-'90s. I guess I will return them on Saturday before the meetup.
If this guy could do a better poker face, he'd stay below the radar.
As far as I'm aware, there's no reason to take the polisci subject test, or the econ one. I was told by my undergrad mentor that the GRE general test scores were given an embarrassing amount of weight in the admissions process, though.
134: Works better in song.
In which fields are GRE scores weighted heavily in admissions? In my own program, we don't pay much attention as long as they're not notably low: bad scores can hurt you but good ones don't especially help.
I was told by my undergrad mentor that the GRE general test scores were given an embarrassing amount of weight in the admissions process, though.
This makes me wonder if I wrote notably poor personal statements in my applications to Politics programs -- quite possibly; I was ambivalent about the whole process.
Could also have been your recommendations. Not that people necessarily wrote you bad ones, but that the people you had writing them weren't known to the people reading them.
I took the math subject GRE and did worse than I've ever done on a test. Something in the teens percentile. It was accurate in the sense that I was massively underprepared for graduate school.
Therefore I did not apply anywhere that required the subject GRE.
139: I haven't been on a grad admissions committee yet, but I've heard similar things in math: bad scores are a problem, but above a certain floor no one cares exactly what the score was.
In history, I've heard that they don't care much about the math score, unless the score is so low the applicant appears to have completely ignored that part of the test (like below 400). But that's interpreting it as a sign of motivation/preparation more than anything else.
140: Could also just be issues of 'fit': the faculty in your likely sub-field/research program/ism/region/methodology/school of thought already had too many advisees, or were on the shit list of someone on the admissions committee, or were on sabbatical.
I'm not sure I've talked about the way they do admissions in my department; it seems so weird! I am curious how common it is. The way it works: every couple of years each faculty member gets a slot for a grad student. With that slot, they can select from the available pool of applicants (including somebody they encouraged to apply) and say "I want that one". That applicant so selected gets admitted to the school, essentially regardless of what objective qualifications or test scores or grades or recommendation letters they present with. If that person goes elsewhere, then the faculty member gets no new grad student that year.
Is this normal? It doesn't seem normal to me, or at least I would have had absolutely no idea it worked this way before starting school (or, really, before my now-advisor told me it worked this way and that I should apply, however unlikely it seemed in the abstract that I would be admitted).
141/145: I appreciate the thoughts.
Mostly that just makes me feel like I really did not have a good sense of the process at the time I was applying. Thankfully, I feel well-served by not going to grad school. I think several of my professors just assumed I would go, but knowing what I know now, I'm glad I didn't.
So I have no stake in figuring out what I could have done better during the application process (which is almost certainly multiple things).
I was amused to get a 5-page PDF file explaining to me how the graduate admissions committee works here. I don't think it's actually that complicated.
Better to send lengthy instructions to the applying students. "For god's sake, don't start off with some cryptic quote from Feynman or Heisenberg or whoever that you think is like totally deep or whatever. You aren't trying to impress your dormmates."
Has the topic changed?
Apollo Robbins ...New Yorker profile of the world's best pickpocker. Two quotes:
Jillette, who ranks pickpockets, he says, "a few notches below hypnotists on the show-biz totem pole," was holding court at a table of colleagues, and he asked Robbins for a demonstration, ready to be unimpressed. Robbins demurred, claiming that he felt uncomfortable working in front of other magicians. He pointed out that, since Jillette was wearing only shorts and a sports shirt, he wouldn't have much to work with.
"Come on," Jillette said. "Steal something from me."
Again, Robbins begged off, but he offered to do a trick instead. He instructed Jillette to place a ring that he was wearing on a piece of paper and trace its outline with a pen. By now, a small crowd had gathered. Jillette removed his ring, put it down on the paper, unclipped a pen from his shirt, and leaned forward, preparing to draw. After a moment, he froze and looked up. His face was pale.
"Fuck. You," he said, and slumped into a chair.
Robbins held up a thin, cylindrical object: the cartridge from Jillette's pen.
Orchestrating it all is what Robbins, by way of Maurer, calls "grift sense." "Grift sense is the closest thing to a sixth sense we have," he told me. "It's stepping outside yourself and seeing through the other person's eyes, thinking through the other person's mind, but it's happening on a subconscious level." He went on, "I can analyze how I do things, but the actual doing it--when the synapses just start firing--I can't explain."
It is amazing and fascinating the degree to which ordinary people believe they understand personal interactions and communications. Part of what makes societies work I think is this combination of arrogance and innocence.
Penn Jillette knows nothing of what goes on with a person next to him, what PJ is seeing, watching, observing, receiving and reacting. You think you are more aware?
More from above:
The intersection of magic and neuroscience has become a topic of some interest in the scientific community, and Robbins is now a regular on the lecture circuit. Recently, at a forum in Baltimore, he shared a stage with the psychologist Daniel Kahneman--who won a Nobel Prize for his work in behavioral economics--and the two had a long discussion about so-called "inattentional blindness," the phenomenon of focussing so intently on a single task that one fails to notice things in plain sight.
Many of Robbins's neuroscience talks find their way onto YouTube, and I asked him if he was concerned that he might be giving too much away. "It doesn't matter if people are aware of how I work, or even what I'm going to do," he said. "They still won't catch it. While they're trying to watch for it, I'll be watching them."
See, I think most have it backwards. The evolutionary adaptation is not focusing, animals focus, but ignorance, ignoring perception. Consciousness gets in the way, as an adaptation that makes social interactions possible.
146: That's not how it worked in my undergrad department. What I know about that process comes from the girlfriend of one of my classmates who was admitted there from another school. I don't think those people had significant research experience. She had taken graduate level classes as an undergrad, but that was about it.
There was one hilarious guy admitted that year who had been a toll collector on the MTA. He had never studied Greek as an undergrad but took classes as an adult at CUNY. He just spent hours reading ancient literature while doing his job.