Saturday, February 28, 2009


Once upon a time, I mentioned that the Whole Foods market near me sometimes rearranges the products on its shelves for no reason other than to confuse the customers. What I didn't mention, but what is nonetheless true, is that on more than one occasion, the rearrangement of the shelves coincided with the rearrangement of the shelves at the local Trader Joe's. Since Whole Foods and Trader Joe's are in the same shopping center, I typically shop at them both in the same day, so I can attest to this from first-hand experience.

Normally, I shop at Whole Foods first, and then go over to Trader Joe's. But the other night, I forgot that I needed to do some grocery shopping until about 8:30, so I went to Trader Joe's first because it closes at 9:00 -- an hour before Whole Foods closes.

It was about 8:50 when I got to Whole Foods, and as I entered the door, I heard a voice on the PA system reminding us that Whole Foods would be closing in ten minutes. So I figured they must have changed their hours.

I knew I'd have to hurry, and it didn't help that Whole Foods had rearranged their shelves again. If they'd changed all the signs to reflect the new layout, it wouldn't have been so bad, but when I walked down the aisle with the Chips and Salsas sign, all I found was pet food.

As an aside, I don't often buy chips, but I do like to always have a few bottles of salsa in my refrigerator. It enhances the flavor of just about every food imaginable, with the notable exception of breakfast cereals, which I don't eat anyway. But whenever I find a salsa that I like, it seems like Whole Foods eventually stops carrying it. This has happened about three times in the past few years, and I expect it to happen again.

I wasn't willing to substitute a bag of pet food for a few bottles of salsa, so I looked in a few nearby aisles. I didn't find any salsa, but I did find a guy who worked there. When he saw me, he reminded me that the store would be closing in a few minutes, and when he was finished, I told him there was dog food in the salsa aisle and I asked him which aisle now had the salsa.

He pointed the aisle out to me, and when I got there, I found all brands of salsa, but I didn't find the one I was looking for. It's too soon to say whether or not they've stopped carrying it -- maybe they just happened to be out of stock. I'll know more the next time I go there. So I bought three other types, hoping that I will like one of them.

I'm not normally this fussy about foods, by the way, but I am sort of picky about salsa. If you go to any store and look at all their salsas, you'd find dozens of varieties, but most of them are medium or mild. I like my salsa hot -- not so hot that it burns your mouth, not so hot that the piquancy overpowers the taste, but I want it to be spicier than a bunch of chopped tomatoes and a little bit of cilantro. It's kind of funny, but some salsas that are made with hot peppers are still sort of mild -- it's as though they add peppers to the salsa the way some people add vermouth to a martini.

So I'm picky, but I'm not as picky as it might sound. I will eat and enjoy many varieties of medium salsa -- it's just that I prefer hot salsa. And as for mild salsa, well, I honestly don't see the point.

However, as interesting as all this may be, it's not what I wanted to talk about today.

I wanted to talk about personalities, or more accurately, personality types, or even more accurately, types of personality types as determined by various types of personality tests.

You can take all sorts of personality tests online, and each test is based on a different personality model. For example, there's the Myers-Briggs classification, which is based on the Jungian archetypes, and there's the Enneagram model, which classifies personalities into nine types, conveniently labeled "one" through "nine." There are also the doshas, which are based on the principles of Ayurvedic medicine.

But even though you can take those tests online, the corresponding personality models were developed well before anyone knew what the internet is. So the notion of personality tests is hardly new.

And long before the first web browser was even a gleam in someone's eye, you could always take a Scientology self-assessment test, in which you answered hundreds of questions, mailed in your test, and then discovered that no matter what kind of personality traits you had, you could benefit immensely by signing up for an array of expensive Scientology courses.

I don't know if the Scientology test is available online yet, but it wouldn't surprise me if it were. On the other hand, there's a short test in Gary Null's book, "Who Are you, Really?" that as far as I can tell is not available online.

These tests may have some value, but I don't put much stock in them. Or maybe it's that I don't see the value of classifying my personality into one of several types. But in case you're interested, according to the Myers-Briggs model, I'm an INTJ. According to a sample Enneagram test I took, I'm a tie between a Type 6 and a Type 9, but according to a slightly longer Enneagram test, I'm a tie between Types 1 and 5 with Type 9 running a very close second. In the Ayurvedic model I'm either a Pitta or a Vata Pitta combination, and according to Gary Null's book, I'm a Creative Assertive. I don't think I've ever taken a Scientology test, but I'm pretty sure I'll do just fine without signing up for any of their courses.

By the way, not only can you take personality tests online, you can also take IQ tests. The tests I've taken all seem to be skewed toward certain types of intelligence, such as problem solving and spacial relationships, and lacking in other types, such as analysis of poetry or literature, but to be fair, there's only so much you can test for in a multiple-choice test.

Of course, it's possible that the IQ tests are so well-designed that your skill in solving various problems can also indicate your aptitude for literary analysis. Although somehow I doubt it. As a matter of fact, I take the IQ tests with a grain of salt, or maybe even a few pinches of salt. The only reason I think they have any validity at all is that according to those tests, I'm really smart. On the other hand, the reason I don't put much stock in them is that I happen to think I'm a lot smarter.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Three Ds and Two Mistakes

In a recent post, I made two mistakes. I'm not sure, but I think that may be a new record for me. Fortunately, two of the intelligent and knowledgeable people who read this blog sent me comments in which they corrected my mistakes.

The first mistake is that I repeatedly referred to Michael Phelps as Mark Phelps. I actually knew his name was Michael, but I guess that somewhere in the back of my mind I was thinking of Mark Spitz. The other mistake is that I thought "all-wheel drive" and "four-wheel drive" are the same thing, which they're not, even if all you've got is four wheels. I looked up the difference, but it would take more time to explain it here than I want to spend. So let's move on.

If you search for "the three Ds" in Google, you'll get some interesting results. I think it's because a lot people like to describe things using three words that begin with the letter D.

For example, one of the first hits I got was for delirium, dementia, and depression. There's also a site that lists the three Ds of new habit formation, which are decision, discipline, and determination. There was another site that listed the three Ds of home security as deterrence, denial, and detection. There were thousands of other hits, but I didn't look at them all. However, I did find a reference to a 1999 paper that appeared in the Annual Review Of Phytopathology which lists the three Ds of PCR-based genomic analysis of phytobacteria as diversity, detection, and disease diagnosis.

And in case you're wondering what prompted me to search for "the three Ds," it's because last night I saw the movie Coraline, which is the first 3D movie I've seen in a long time. I think the last time I saw a 3D movie was in the late '70s, when I saw a double feature consisting of Flesh for Frankenstein and another movie known variously as The Bubble, The Zoo, and Fantastic Invasion of Planet Earth. You can look that movie up on IMBb if you want to know why it has three titles.

Flesh for Frankenstein, by the way, also has more than one title, because it was originally released as Andy Warhol's Frankenstein. However, like most movies that have Warhol's name in the title (such as Andy Warhol's Trash, Andy Warhol's Flesh, and Andy Warhol's Heat), Andy Warhol had nothing to do with it. Those movies were all made by Paul Morrissey, who in some cases, wrote, directed, filmed, and edited the whole thing himself. Morrissey apparently never thought much of Warhol, but he knew that without Warhol's name in the title, his films would never get released. Fortunately, Warhol's name is not present in the DVD release titles.

So that's about it for this week, but before I go, I should probably say a word or two about Coraline. To be honest, I had mixed feelings about seeing it, and I went mainly out of scientific curiosity, since I wanted to see how 3D technology had changed in the last 30 years. I didn't think I'd like the actual movie itself, because I didn't particularly like The Nightmare Before Christmas and Monkeybone, which are the only other movies I've seen that Henry Selick directed. I thought The Nightmare Before Christmas was tedious and annoying, and I thought Monkeybone was just plain stupid, as well as annoying. But I really enjoyed Coraline. It was visually appealing, the 3D was used to good effect, and the story was engaging.

So go see it, if you haven't already. And make sure you see it in 3D. But you'd better see it quickly, because there aren't that many theaters capable of showing 3D movies, and a friend of mine told me that next week, all those theaters will be showing some 3D movie starring the Jonas brothers. I don't even know who the Jonas brothers are, but I understand that they're very popular and that any theater that shows their movie will be raking in the cash.