Empty Baths, Full Glasses And Kittens

Moo, my cat, seems to like lying in my empty bathtub.  I don’t know why.  I would say that it might cool him down but he does it in the middle of winter too.  His habit always reminds me of something.

I once got asked a question that presented me with the scene of a kitten in a bath tub full of water.  The rest of the scene setting involved stressing that the kitten wasn’t in danger, it was just a little wet and a little miffed.  At your disposal you have oven gloves, a hose pipe a bucket and a toothbrush.  What’s the best way to empty the bath?

Hands up if you thought it would be the bucket? Nice answer.  I can see where you’re coming from, but how are sure it’s the best way?  You’ll have those bits in the bottom that bucket is just too big to empty, surely?  Where do you put the water you’ve moved?

Over gloves then? Yeah, I suppose you could use them to move water, but not what I was looking for.  And good luck using a hose pipe to siphon an entire bath full.

Those people who picked the toothbrush… Well, you should just go and take a long, hard look at yourselves.

Of course, the best way to empty the bath would be to the pull the plug.  If you read the question as actually being about rescuing the kitten, the best answer would have been simply to pick it out the water (possibly using the oven gloves or the bucket to negate the angry kitty’s sharp claws) with the emptying of the bath a secondary thing.

Yep, it was a trick question about seeing what wasn’t there, in which case the question was probably lacking in other details.  Was the plug in the bath in the first place, so was the water already emptying?  Was the kitten a young cat or a young beaver, which may have been upset for another reason than being in water?  If it wasn’t in danger, why did I need to empty the bath?

When I don’t know that something is supposed to be a trick question, I hate trick questions because (being frank) I generally notice flaws in questions and am fairly often seen as being “nitpicky”.  I’m a lawyer, it’s in my nature!  As a result, I fairly often point out things that haven’t been said in the asking of a question and can be very pedantic in my own phrasing of things.

It’s a similar case with that generic psychology question of seeing the glass as half full or half empty.  Pessimists are supposed to say that the glass is empty, while the optimist will see it as full.  I’ve argued that it depends on the process being done – if you’re emptying the glass then it’s beneficial to see it has half empty, and vice versa.

But if I was being a complete smartarse (smartass for my readers in the US!) I actually need more information still.  Half full of what?  Because unless the glass is in a vacuum it’s completely full to brimming of something and can never be even a fraction empty.

The two questions (the one about the bath and the one about the glass) both highlight differences in perception, of what we see as there and what we don’t see at all.  They also highlight that sometimes the most important thing to focus on is the objective reality, rather than the perception.  Then there’s no reason for the kitten to extend his swimming lesson.

Hello, Luka… Congratulations.
You have just discovered the secret message.
Please send your answer to Old Pink, care of the Funny Farm, Chalfont…
Roger! Carolyne’s on the phone!

What shall we use
To fill the empty spaces
Where we used to talk?
How shall I fill
The final places?
How should I complete the wall?

Empty Spaces by Pink Floyd

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