But first an update:
Check out who joined club four-eyes:
Anyway, I am officially no longer employed by Target and can totally say anything I want about them. Honestly though, I kinda just miss the people I worked with.
That was actually what I had planned on writing a blog on this week, but I kinda left it 'til the last minute so I guess I'll make it brief. I wasn't really sure what I wanted to say anyway. Just something about finding things in surprising places.
I don't know what you'd expect of forty-somethings working at a place like Target, but I was a bit surprised at the number of them that had lived abroad. Craig lived in London for a year just because he wanted to. No job, no visa, just spending a year in his favorite city on the planet. Never did ask him how he managed it. Todd C. spent 2 months living in Australia to be with his girlfriend at the time. Jake spent 3 of his years in the army living in Germany. DR has relatives in County Cork, Ireland. I believe Brandy helped open the Niagara Branch of Target Canada (RIP Target Canada).
And you can find some great stories from these guys. My best bud, Todd, had an "inactive" artillery round for about 30 years. He and a friend found it in the friend's attic when they were preteens and Todd kept it just as a cool keeps sake. Used it as a doorstop in college, let it bang around in the back of his truck, put a Ramones sticker on it, used a chisel to remove said sticker later. A few years ago he decides to properly get rid of it and called up the explosives-quicker-picker-upper to come dispose of it. They arrived, looked at it for a few seconds, and relayed to him that all inactive, training rounds of this type were always painted blue to help distinguish them. Todd's was silver. Yep, Todd had a technically active tank artillery round as a doorstop. He told me he was so excited when they told him they might have to do a controlled explosion on his property to dispose of it. Todd's just great to talk to. I made some comment to him once about how it was hard to stock the gigantic holiday snickers because I just wanted to eat them all, and for Christmas he bought me one!
And there's Kevin who is far too chipper for 6am. He's been known to act like a 5 year old playing around during truck unload (he's the leader of the Flow Team, just fyi). I threw a box to him that he'd missed on the conveyor belt one day, and he wacked it like a baseball straight (unintentionally, no matter what he says) into a giant box of trash. He then had to dig it out. Missy and I cracked up for like 5 minutes.
And there was one afternoon where I was in the back working with Jim, one of the managers, and we were just swapping fire stories. I told him about our New Years bonfire lit by flaming arrow from a few years back. He told me about how in high school he'd set trashcans on fire beneath the bleachers. Or something like that. I may be mixing that up with a different story. He had a lot more fire stories than I did. And to think initially pegged him as straight-laced store manager (to be fair, he is rather intense about his job). I suppose there were a few people that I originally had the wrong idea about. Some that I thought were mean but turned out to be friends. And some that seemed nice and competent but ended up being fired for never actually doing their job.
But truly one of the highlights of my time at Target was Black Friday. Everyone is incredibly open about how they feel about Black Friday shoppers. It's very refreshing to hear someone who normally calls them "guests" refer to them as "parasites". It's a very unifying experience about how no one really wants to deal with people fighting for stuff on black Friday...while at the same time taking considerably longer than necessary to "rewrap" a plush throw in the back until they're conveniently off shift and can buy it themselves.
Yeah I'm gonna miss Target. Not so much the job, though it was fine, but the people were nice.
But the parrot:
Back when I was looking through stuff for the blog on perception, specifically when learning about qualia, I came across a quote:
"...[The mere fact that] we can all collectively wonder at the concept of Qualia is quite incredible and also quite human. Animals can do all sorts of clever things that we do. They can use tools, problem solve, communicate, cooperate, exhibit curiosity, plan for the future, and although we can't know for sure, many animals certainly act as if they feel emotions: loneliness, fear, joy. Apes have even been taught to use language to talk to us humans. It's a sort of sign language that they've used to do everything from answer questions to express emotion or even produce novel thoughts. Unlike any other animal, these apes are able to understand language and form responses at about the level of a 2.5 year old human child. But there's something that no signing ape has ever done. No ape has ever asked a question. Joseph Jordania's "Who Asked the First Question?" is a great read on this topic, and it's available for free online. For as long as we've been able to use sign language to communicate with apes, they have never wondered, out loud, about anything that we might know that they don't. Of course, this does not mean that apes, and plenty of other animals, aren't curious. They obviously are. But, what it suggests is that they lack a 'Theory of Mind': An understanding that other people have separate minds. That they have knowledge, access to information that you might not have. Even us humans aren't born with a 'theory of mind,'..."
- Michael Stevens, Is Your Red the Same as My Red
And I just kind of glossed over it because it wasn't as applicable to was I was discussing. But later, somewhat recently in fact, I was reminded of Alex the Parrot.
Alex (1976-2007) was an African Grey Parrot, purchased in a Chicago pet shop, and trained in a range of cognitive and verbal tasks as the subject of study of Professor Irene Pepperberg. The Alex study lasted over 30 years until Alex's death in 2007. Alex acquired a vocabulary of over 100 words, but what set him apart was his apparent understanding of what he said.
"For example, when Alex was shown an object and was asked about its shape, color, or material, he could label it correctly. He could understand that a key was a key no matter what its size or color, and could figure out how the key was different from others."
Here's Video of him in action.
In reality, Alex wasn't much different from any other Grey Parrot; others were shown to be capable of similar cognition in further studies. But he was the groundbreaker for being among the first to demonstrate Animal Intelligence in non-humans. And you can read more about it if you're interested.
but I want to jump to something specific:
"One day, he asked what color he was, and learned 'grey' after being told the answer six times. This made him the first non-human animal to have ever asked an existential question."
So while Michael technically wasn't wrong in his wording, I feel like he could have brought up Alex.
Alex's last words were "You be good, see you tomorrow. I love you." These were the same words that Alex would say every day when his owner left the lab.
excuse me while I go cry over a bird now
eh, I'm not actually sure of my blogging ability in the next few weeks. You can go ahead and say what you'd like to see but I imagine if I blog at all I'll be talking about London or Ireland or being trapped in an airport for 7 hours. I might actually blog from the airport during that long layover next week. Not sure, we'll see.