Saturday, May 29, 2010

Halfalogues and the Search for Intelligent Life

You may have caught a recent article about the annoyances of halfalogues (the half-conversation of some idiot yakking on his cell phone). Cornell researchers found that when you need to concentrate, having a halfalogue intruding into your happy place was more annoying than any other kind of talking -- including monologues.

Although, I ask you: How well would you concentrate if some wacko was carrying on a monologue while you were trying to... say... multiply out a recipe... or diffuse a bomb? But apparently, a halfalogue would be much, much worse.

My Susan would also say that two-way conversations as background noise are often just as irritating when you need to concentrate. Like when she was trying to birth Boy#2 and the doctors kept talking about their cabin improvements. Or when she had to get a shot stuck into her spinal cord (while AWAKE) and the medical personnel kept up a constant blather about cars. As she tells it, their chatter made it very hard for her to get the job done.

Then again, her annoyance probably had more to do with her general loathing of medical procedures and the general feeling of powerlessness that goes along with them. I know I hate it when the groomers chat about weekend plans when they are trimming my nails!

My blogging mentor Daughter Number Three posted her reaction to the halfalogue research: Halfalogue -- More than a Annoying Neologism. I first read this as "Halfalogue -- More Annoying than Neologism" -- which is a little more global and I thought, Wow! That IS annoying! (Although I secretly rather like neologism -- once Dave explained to me what it is).

But why, you ask, are halfalogues so annoying to people? Why are they so hard to tune out? The researchers think that when people can't predict speech patterns it prevents them from ignoring halfalogues. They can tune out two-way conversations and monologues just fine because they follow familiar cadences.

Speech patterns are important to me too. In fact, I mostly listen to voice patterns and tone -- even though I know plenty of words. To conserve my energy, I have trained my people to switch to higher, ultra-excited tones if they have something really worth listening to. "MELLY! Want to go for a WALKIE?"

I admit I spend a lot of time tuning people out. Blah blah blah blah blah... People talk a LOT. (And to think I get snapped at if I need to vocalize!) But since I need to monitor human communications for key words such as CARMELLA, TREAT, WALK, GO, I can't tune them out completely. I am sort of like SETI -- ears always scanning the airwaves for sounds of intelligent life. For example, "LET'S GO TO THE DOG PARK!"

SETI telescope array

To be perfectly honest, halfalogues of people on cell phones don't interest me in the least. I can tune them out just fine. I'm not stupid. If there is a phone, computer, TV, iPod, iPad or any other electronic device in contact with my people, there is nothing in it for me. It is my cue to power down and take a nap.

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