Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Just another gravel barge....

    Expectations mold perception.
    What you think you're going to see colors what you think you saw.
    This can't be emphasized enough, since most people never get beyond using their current beliefs, not only as a screen to mask out information that doesn't agree with those beliefs, but as a filter to distort what they're seeing. You can't convince them otherwise because they don't allow themselves to process contradictory information. They can't even perceive it's there.
     I'm no different, as illustrated by this momentary exchange on the Madison Street Bridge a couple weeks ago.
    A long gravel barge was moving up the river. I've often seen these barges, loaded with gravel, heading to points elsewhere. Something about it — the lookout on the bow maybe — made me whip out my phone to take a picture of the gravel barge going by.  My wife observed that it was probably destined for Oak Street Beach.
    "The gravel?"I said, as we started to walk.
    "No, the sand," my wife said. "It's a barge full of sand."
    "No, it's...." I began, then stopped, and actually looked at the barge disappearing under the bridge. Wouldn't you know it? She was right. It was sand.  I would have sworn it was gravel. In my defense, I never really focused on what the barge was carrying, just that it was a barge full of something. Usually, it's gravel. This time it wasn't. 
     I'd be an idiot to insist that, appearances notwithstanding, it's still a barge of gravel because that's what I thought it was, initially. So sad that those surveying our political or cultural landscape can't adjust their perceptions with similar ease. They're expecting gravel because it all looks like gravel to them, and by God, it must be.


  1. Most likely going to Prairie Materials at Chicago & Halsted.
    They get at least one barge of gravel & one of sand a week.
    Stand on the Halsted bridge & you can see it.
    The barge's markings indicate it's from Material Service Co., which sold off its concrete supply company to Prairie & Ozinga years ago.

  2. Regarding the political landscape, it appears that the pile on the barge is actually manure.

  3. What is sand but crushed gravel?

  4. Being in the habit of exercising early in the morning without wearing my glasses, I am more prone than most to seeing things that aren't there: man with dog that turns out to be a post and a fire hydrant; lovers embracing that turn out to be a couple of bushes waving in the wind; aircraft in the distance that turn out to be light poles a block or so away. Moreover, the illusions for a few seconds take on a life of their own: the man with the dog is wearing a Sox hat and the dog is a lab; the couple are a long-haired male and a short-haired woman; the plane is wriggling its wings to stabilize its airport approach. So much is added, assumed and embellished. If I like Donald Trump's forthrightness, everything he says is certifiably true, because it's "honest." If I hate his crudeness, everything he says is by definition a nonsensical lie. Hillary is a bit different: either she should be shot or canonized would be logical, but even those of us who support her have been influenced by the power of incessant negative publicity to question her sincerity. Maybe that's a good thing, but I doubt it.


  5. Another personality trait that can cause us to hang onto misinformation is our own pride. I used to have the strange notion that corned beef came from cattle that were fed an exclusive diet of corn. Discussing the product with a homeless person, of course an argument ensues. I'm a mister know it all, and a homeless person no less, is not going to correct my understanding of the world. She just took out her phone puts it on speaker, calls the local Jewel, requests the meat department, and asks the butcher how corned beef is made. Now I know corned beef is created when beef is soaked in brine. It is passing strange they way people can continue to cling to bizarre ideas against all contrary evidence.

  6. Mr. Google advises that the chunks of rock salt used to make the brine were called "corns."

    A famous experiment in the psychology of perception had subjects view a picture of a white man menacing a well dressed black man with a knife. Asked later which one held the knife even black subjects tended to say the black man.

    Old joke about how we often process what we see and hear. Tourist on 57th Street in Manhattan asks a man carrying a violin case how to get to Carnagie Hall. The answer: "practice, practice, practice."

    Less familiar: Two gay guys dining in a New York restaurant watch a beautiful woman enter and proceed to her table, and one says, "Gee, Frank, do you ever find yourself wishing you were...a lesbian?"

    Tom Evans

  7. so you could once come to this blog and read your musings. now most of the time click here to read more appears half way through the colomn redirecting me to the suntimes sewer of a web site. everytime i go to the ST site i get a little pin wheel spinning around on my screen my computer slows i have to turn it off and let it reboot. just not worth it.

    1. Maybe you need a better computer. And it can't be "most of the time" -- my column only runs in the paper three days a week. I'm not happy about it either, but they pay for the columns, they deserve to get the clicks. Have you considered being patient?


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