Cultural Differences

Us and Them

Warm versus Competent graph

Of Doctors, Babies, Kings, and Zombies Before starting my journey as science fiction writer, I got a few degrees under my belt — astrophysics, mathematics, cognitive science, education, etc. It took a few decades (I’ve gotten married and had a family in there somewhere), but I got my doctorate and have used and still use it to help people think through complicated problems, mostly in product design. How is this relevant to writing, you might ask? Well, in addition to witnessing and surviving some amazing situations — always a good experience for a writer — I’ve acquired a few tools on how to think about situations and people. I would like to share one such tool with you: Us versus Them, a cognitive perspective. What people (and other animals) are very good at is dividing themselves into Us’es and Them’s. It’s a useful tool when we live in a divided world — how else do we keep clear of our allegiances to countries, sports teams, and political parties? But these divisions have neurological and psychological underpinnings. Consider a four square graph that charts competency versus likability (emotional warmth and approachability): We perceive (our) doctors as warm, personable, and able. We…

There’s a word for that?

Pieter Bruegel the Elder, Tower of Babel

A Dictionary of Cool Words That Hide True Feelings & Meanings from Parents Many of the strange vocabulary words, that Jude and her friends, from my new novel The Far Side, use, arise from their need to create a sense of linguistic privacy from the grownups. These are real and come from hard-to-translate words from other languages, professions, or sub-cultures. Age-otori — a feeling that you look worse after the haircut. (Based on a Japanese word.) Ataraxia — a sense of stoic calm. (Based on an ancient Greek word.) Backpfeifengesicht — a face in need of a fist. (Based on a German word.) Chingada — a hellish place where all that annoy you go. (Based on a Spanish word.) Desenrascanço — to find a creative way out of a bad situation. (Based on a Portuguese word.) Dépaysement — the sense of displacement one feels when visiting a foreign country and being far from home. (Based on a French word.) Doppelgänger — a duplicate of a person. (Based on a German word.) Dustsceawung — the contemplation of the idea that everything turns to dust eventually. (Based on an Old English word.) Eudaimonia — deep fulfillment and the resulting happiness, even as…

A Short Radio Story

Hitler Baby

Over the weekend, I’ve created two short audio pieces: “Baby Killers” and the first chapter of “The FATOFF Conspiracy.” While you will have to wait until Friday for the Speculative Fiction Cantina hosted by author S. Evan Townsend to hear the beginning of my dystopian novel about fat, “Baby Killers” is now available. Feel free to read the story along with the video. Enjoy!

1908 Russia — One of the Settings for My Novel: Twin Time

Sasha and Alex

“Twin Time” is a science fiction time twist story of two sisters: one autistic and one not. It plays out in two time periods: modern and just before and after the Russian Revolution of 1917. My grandmother was born off this time period, and it is partly based on her stories that that part of the book is created. Born into privilege, she lost everything after the Revolution. She married a Russian officer to secure her own Russian citizenship — my grandmother’s father was an English citizen, and her last name was very English and so was her passport. The new name and citizen papers saved her life. “Twin Time” is fully illustrated. But this movie of Russian life in 1908 gives another glimpse into the life of my characters. For those interested in reading the first few chapters, here’s the link: “Twin Time”.

Cultural Differences in Child-rearing or Abuse?

baby and cobra

I’ve written about cultural differences in child-rearing that from our, Western, point of view seem like child abuse. There’s the dunking of babies into freezing ice waters in Russia; and spinning children to improve something; and now I just saw these videos from India. and There is no question that if these were video-documented instances of child abuse in New York or Los Angeles, authorities would be knocking down doors to rescue these children. But in other cultures, is it different? Do we bear responsibility there?

Cultural, Psychological, and Evolutionary Basis for Your Political Choice in 2016 Presidential Election

2016 Election

Who’s your choice for president this election? How did you make your decision? Given where you live and who you are, you might never really had a choice! Your vote might have been decided for you even before you were born… Might. Cultural Argument: Empathy versus Sympathy There is a lot of talk about the presidential candidates that start with: Who would you rather have beer with? Why does such a question have resonance? Why do we put so much importance on our ability to relate to the candidate? Why do we feel that our ability to visualize ourselves hanging out with a potential president somehow qualifies them for office? Many pundits and TV personalities try to convince us that it matters one way or another. But why does it work? Why do people believe them? Well, there is actual is a reason, and it just happens to be culturally-based. It is worth looking at another example that has nothing to do with people running for the Office of the President of the United States of America. Consider mental illness. How do you feel about a person with schizophrenia? How do you feel about a person with Post Traumatic Stress…

“Thanks for choosing Apple”…not!

Apple Customer Service... Not

This last month, we had a bizarre customer service experience with Apple iTunes. It started on September 13th with a simple purchase that wasn’t fulfilled. It ended with us angry and frustrated for no reason. Apple was having a one-day promotion where they were selling movie bundles of 10 movies for $10 each. My husband couldn’t resist and purchased three of the six bundles on Apple TV. But the movies didn’t show up in our list of purchased movies. It’s not the first time we’ve bought movies; our credit card was up-to-date. Something technical had just gone wrong. So the next day, my husband submitted a customer service request with Apple iTunes. The Apple Customer Service rep said that he could see that the purchases had been made and said that other customers were having the same problem getting their purchases. He said that he would resolve the issue. But then, another strangely hostile customer service rep took over. He recanted what the previous rep had said, implied that my husband was a liar and said that he could tell that we had never purchased anything, and effectively told us to go get bent. The customer service interaction with Apple…