« Great. Just Great. | Main | Kittens! »

August 13, 2005


I must admit to giggling with empathy while reading this...I share the same affliction. I've no idea why the delusion exists or how to change it other than falling back on the answer 'I meant my other left' when I get it wrong.

"Does anyone understand why these sorts of weird delusions exist, and/or what can be done about them?"

Turn on the AC.


And fwiw it took me a very long time to figure out my left from my right for reasons similar to those you suggested above: I'm natively left-handed but was trained into right-handedness for certain things, so I ended up very confused about which was left and which was right. I think I finally managed to straighten it out by the time I was 12 or so, but even today too much fatigue will force me to go back through my (physical) checklist of left v. right. Thankfully, those moments are rare enough that it's simply an amusing eccentricity.

The AC is already on; the braindeadness comes more from the fact that I idiotically went out. Anarch: I'd be glad to kitten-blog, but I have one teensy problem: I have no idea how to shrink 5megabyte pictures down to a tolerable size, and posting one of those enormous pictures where you have to scroll forever just to get from the eyeball to the whiskers seems, well, not like a good idea.

(I'd also have to take the pictures, and who knows where Mr. Nils is. Patrolling some part of his vast territory -- I have an acre, so do the neighbors to the east; the ones to the west have 6; to the south, about 2, and below that, a golf course -- and no other cats to share it with!) (Annika, the other cat, is scared of outdoors, mostly.)

I often have to make the writing motion as well, at least mentally. I have a similar confusion with east and west, even though when I'm in the city I generally think of streets in terms of how they're oriented on a map. Of course, DC probably lends itself to that more than many cities.

"The conservatives, in my mind, are over where the kitten is, and liberals are where the archives are."

Well it's easy for you to say that. After all, *you* are looking *out* of the page, not *at* the page the way I'm looking. So, sure, when you're behind the proscenium arch, your right and left are reversed from the audience's.

My fiancee has problems with this. I've known a few other people who do as well. I can't say as I can understand: I'm about the most "handed" person you can imagine. I'm so right-oriented that when I was a kid, I had little obsessive quirks like always stepping on the cracks in the sidewalk with my right foot.

Needless to say, the irony of my political orientation does not escape me.

I think your impression that the conservatives should not be on the "right" might stem from the same place mine does: mild, irrational irritation that the political spectrum is defined such that one side benefits in some slightly psychological way from the multiple definitions of the word "right".

I have no idea how to shrink 5megabyte pictures down to a tolerable size

Download Paint Shop Pro. If you don't know how to use it, I will happily teach you in three easy steps.

It can be done in Paint, but the latter is such a terrible program that it's just too much of a pain.

Catsy: no, it's a very spatial discomfort with them being there. If anything, it might have something to do with the idea that, at least in a culture where we read left to right, that's the side that people progress towards.

Catsy: can you do it with Adobe Photoshop Elements? (One of those programs where I'm dauntingly aware that I have no idea what it's capable of, and just use it to do a few specific things I've figured out about, which are still worth the, I think, $10 it cost me on an obscure Amazon special.)

Just as an aside, if you've got a digital camera there probably was some free software included that will do the reduction. Go for something in the range of 640x480 pixels. For web use you can also use high compression if you want to have mercy on people using dialup.

Catsy: no, it's a very spatial discomfort with them being there. If anything, it might have something to do with the idea that, at least in a culture where we read left to right, that's the side that people progress towards.

Sounds to me like a variation on the same. :)

Digression, but maybe related: I used to translate Japanese literature. Ever since I filled my brain with Japanese, I found the English-language parts of my brain impacted by it. Sometimes little things--I tend to mentally read unfamiliar foreign words according to Japanese vowel pronunciations and syllable rhythms. Sometimes big things--to this day I still frequently pick up a book, magazine, or comic and flip to the back page first. For quite a few years my eloquency in English actually dropped because I was switching back and forth between languages so much that I sometimes had to stop and think about in which langauge the word I was looking for was.

You might be on to something with your conjecture about retraining yourself as right-handed. It's not inconceivable that early confusion about the concepts of right versus left could have affected the way you associate the words.

Elements should be able to do it, look for a menu option for image size. After you reduce the size save it under a different file name so you preserve the original.

I don't generally have left/right problems, but I do the same thing with the political spectrum--I reverse it, picturing lefties on the right and righties on the left. My guess is that I'm leftwing, but right-handed, so it seems natural for my subconscious to put the sinister rightwingers over on the left.

I have similar left/right confusion, though oddly enough I have no problem with port and starboard.

I really ought to merge our two discussions so I can stop double-posting. :>

can you do it with Adobe Photoshop Elements?

I'm sure you can, although I'm not sure what the exact command path is. Adobe software in general is some of the most bloated, overpriced, and unintuitive software in existence, so I tend to avoid it like the plague.

Generally speaking, what you're trying to do is resize the image dimensions while keeping the aspect ratio (ratio of height to width) the same. A quick google found me this.

The default high-quality setting for most digital cameras is 2048 x 1536 pixels. Yours might vary, but it'll probably still be a 4:3 aspect ratio. For blogging, you want to shrink that way down--how much depends on your web page layout. For ObWi's entry field, you're probably not going to want anything wider than about 400 pixels.

All of which is a long way of getting around to saying: open the resize dialog in your program, and change the width to 400 pixels, making sure that the "preserve aspect ratio" or equivalent is checked so that it'll automatically choose the right height.

Then save the resized image, which should now be much smaller.

That's without getting into JPEG image quality settings, but I think you'll find that'll help.

I know all sorts of supposed tricks, like that I wrote with my right hand; but even knowing that, I still have to make a sort of writing motion, as if I were holding a pen, in order to figure out which hand I actually write with.

I do this too. I'm mildly ambidextrous - I can write, though very clumsily and slowly, with my left hand - but I well recall back when I was learning to write in school, having to stop and figure out which hand it would be easier to write with.

On the other hand, I don't drive a car: poor depth-perception makes that really not a good idea.

On the gripping hand*, I have no problem with left-right political orientation. (I assume everyone knows why it's "left" for those of us who would have been Jacobins, and "right" for those of us who would have been ancien regime?)

*And those aliens had no problem with handedness.

Picasa will deal with the image size question for you. That's how I post the bug and pot and sea lion pictures at my blog.

Jes - depth perception is overrated in driving - just stay 3 seconds back - unless you have to parallel park a lot, and even then one can entirely compensate with timing and practice.

"Does anyone understand why these sorts of weird delusions exist, and/or what can be done about them?"

Nope. But my right hand is the one with the callous on the heel, size of a quarter and 1/4 inch thick. Really need to get a mouse pad.

But the start of the post....well, from Dallas, in our third consecutive month of constant 100 degree heat indexes, I should feel sorry for Yankees who aren't used to it, except you get used to it like you get used to -20 degree wind chills, which means not.

The puppies, all 130 lbs of them, bask and run in thru the doggie door, in and out, tongues and tails wagging, like some kind of inverted Scandanavian fools.

OK, like Catsy, I use Paintshop Pro, but I did have a trial version of Elements 3.0 I never bothered with, mainly because it's a pig. Top menu Image -> Resize -> Image size. On the dialog that comes up at the bottom leave the Constrain Proportion box checked. At the top will be the current image size in pixels, width and height, you get to change either one, the other will automatically change. Ignore the stuff in the middle of the dialog.
After you hit OK then save it under a new name.

BTW, if you have access to linux there are a wide assortment of well-written tools to use.

i often have mentally put my hand over my heart, as if i'm saying the pledge, to get a feel for left v right. sometimes, i catch myself lifting my right hand as i do this.

I have no idea how to shrink 5megabyte pictures down to a tolerable

may i whore my own company for a bit ?

this is a very useful little tool for quick image reduction, rotation, etc..

A) Re: L/R orientation. Had a similar problem as a teen. My father, who was a very competent and well respected doctor, diagnosed it as "a severe case" of having my head up my ass.

Surely not your affliction, hilzoy.

B) Nice to see Jes unbanned!

Cleek: figured it out in Photoshop E. Also: I couldn't tell, from the web page, whether your program works with Macs.

I do the writing thing too. I think it's incurable.

Driving in the USVI -- they drive like Brits, but with US cars -- I roll down the window, and stick my elbow out. If I'm not hitting vegetation, I know I'm on the wrong side of the road. (This'd be better with long sleeves).

I had quite the shock stepping out of the terminal at National at 9 last night, after 2 weeks in Seattle/Vancouver Island. Why on Earth would people want to live here? What wrong must we have committed in a prior life, or in this one, to be punished thus?

left vs right (navigationally speaking)
1. Hold up hands, thumbs on the horizontal, index fingers at 90 degrees (ie, vertical).

2. Which one looks like the letter L?

On image resizing: if you are a Mac user (as the comment dated 8/13:05:06PM suggests), you do a lot with Preview, which comes as standard equipment.

I pretty much have the opposite problem. I am almost completely ambidextrous--though I slightly favor my left hand. But I don't have any trouble distinguishing right and left.

I thought trouble with distinguishing between left and right was a mild gender thing (women have more often problems with it). I always have to write before I know which way is which ;)

About the "where you view party X to be" bit: isn't there a theory about which part of the brain is used for which role, and how that influences where they look? If they look to the right and above they are probabely lying or something similar?

On the question of handedness, an interesting book is

Crap, didn't close the tag.

The book is Right Hand, Left hand by Chris McManus. The link is to the accompanying website. Excellent read.

Now you've got me intrigued. I'd always figured my crossed-wires problem was just a verbal thing -- left/right, east/west. I never have a visual problem (e.g. driving in the UK or maps, which I adore and am great at using to navigate). But I put the political left on the (mentally visual) right and political right on the left as well.

Nadezhda: I'm also really good with maps, and I never get confused when walking in strange cities and so on. I'm not as good as I used to be -- I used to have something like a map in my head, that changed orientation as I did, as though it were like a compass, so that I not only knew, but could see in my head, the exact direction I needed to go to get back where I started, without having to think about it. (Very handy.) Now, however, I'm just quite good at that stuff. I never need to remember where I parked my car; I can always just walk back to it when I return.

But left and right -- hopeless.

It's particularly problematic in conjunction with the being good at navigating, since I often end up being the map-reader in cars, and can't give directions quickly. And then when you add in one more trait -- that when I'm startled, I don't come up with words quickly -- it gets truly comic, since my reaction to suddenly realizing that we need to turn now is generally to make the sort of noise I might make if I were tied up with duct tape over my mouth and trying to get someone's attention.

hilzoy: a delight to travel with. Not.

My dad has similar problems, which he typically ascrbes to being naturally lefthanded and being forced by his parents to write righthanded in grade school. He needs to acclimate himself at the bridge table to which direction bidding and play will go by making a spinning motion. No one has yet called the director claiming he was sending signals (to my knowledge).

I am on the opposite extreme -- being close to true orientation, which makes it very hard to get lost, even in strange neighborhoods. The only time it felt messed up was in Sedona, Arizona (take from that what you will).

hilzoy -- Same problem for me when I serve as navigator for another driver. When a turn's coming up, I sometimes do little mental tricks so I'll say the correct direction -- like holding onto my right arm for a second before I say "turn right at the second stoplight." But if I have to spontaneously tell someone to turn right because they're about to miss the turn, it's better than 50/50 that I'll say "turn left!" So yeah, I know all about that miserable duct tape feeling.

1) Welcome back, Jesurgislac.

2) hilzoy: Hold both hands with palms away, fingers pointed straight up. Close all fingers except the indexes (indices?) and point the thumbs at each other. The one that makes the letter "L" is your left.

Of course, this doesn't work if, as seems to be fairly common, the lack of a clear "handedness" sense has induced even a mild dyslexia (as it seems to have done with a substantial portion of my wife's family). And apropos of nothing at all, my father works in the area of overcoming learning impediments, and he says it's fairly common to see such things associated with lack of preferential handedness. So because the physiology of this sort of thing isn't well-understood (at least, by him) one approach that seems to work is to train a preference for one hand or the other.

Hi Slart -- yes, the thing with the fingers works (as does the make-a-writing-motion-and-see-which-hand-it-is one.) What I completely lack is the ability to do this instantaneously, without a conscious reasoning process. And also, apparently, to keep from switching things (the political spectrum, the words 'left' and 'right' as applied to New Zealand highways) around in my head without knowing it.

No dyslexia, thank God. One of the things that makes blogging so much as possible is that I read really, really fast. I know someone who is a dyslexic copy editor, though (and a very good one); this always struck me as a particularly heroic form of overcompensation.

"Catsy: no, it's a very spatial discomfort with them being there. If anything, it might have something to do with the idea that, at least in a culture where we read left to right, that's the side that people progress towards."

Learn Hebrew.

"I have no idea how to shrink 5megabyte pictures down to a tolerable size, and posting one of those enormous pictures where you have to scroll forever just to get from the eyeball to the whiskers seems, well, not like a good idea."

Download.com is your friend; there are tens of thousands of free programs that will do most things you want; before ever buying a program; check to make sure a freeware or shareware or demo won't first do the trick; in the case of something as basic as photo editing, there are a couple of hundred free choices available.

Never had any left/right confusion that I recall; I'm bad at remembering where a car was parked, though, without significant distinct effort.

Hilzoy: I've always had the same problem you're describing. Now, I remember reading a long long time ago, about the time when I knew you personally perhaps, that this kind of problem between the binding of the word to the spatial orientation was a consequence of particularly fierce competition between cerebral hemispheres. Now, intuitively, this makes little sense to me, so as I type these words, I can't even offer an plausible explanation to justify them. Now, wherever I read this, I also read that Freud complained about having the problem himself, and that he references a passage from Schiller, where Schiller complains about having it too. I wish I could remember more.

Piscator: do I know you? If so, email me and tell all.

One of my oft repeated lines is that I'd give my right arm to be ambidexterous. My wife, on the other hand, was a lefty who was forced to do everything right handed (Japan is pretty bad about that, because it is more difficult to read chinese characters written left handed) and we get in great arguments about navigation, especially when I rely on her to read maps (she bought me a car navi for Valentine's day) as I have a pretty good innate sense for direction, but she really doesn't. The problems with not knowing one's right from their left is mentioned in the book I linked to earlier, but I don't think there is any linkage between ability to track direction and handedness made. It appears that my oldest daughter is left handed, and we are wondering what to do about that. (My thought was to get her to write English with her left hand and Japanese with her right, much like an earlier president could write Greek with his left hand and Latin with his right at the same time)

In linguistics, there are some languages (notably Australian aboriginal, I believe) that utilize an absolute directional framework, and there has been some interesting research to determine if they can maintain their bearings. I don't have access to my books, but a quick web trawl gives this pdf which is a discussion of spatial language from the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics. Also, there is a very interesting book by Charles Fillmore on Deixis that starts off with a rather interesting point about left and right, which is how dictionaries define the two.

this pdf

some pretty wild stuff in there. thanks for the link.

The comments to this entry are closed.