Luminary Perspective

March 23, 2006

Blogging too fast?

Filed under: Efficiency, Motivation, Writing & Education — Luke @ 12:48 pm

This blog I am running has been a great success in personal terms. If nothing else, it has built my self-image. I feel more self-aware, and more alive. Over the past month I have developed a number of ideas that are fascinating and new to me. Having them in a solid, tangible form has kept them in my conscious mind longer, more firmly, and more productively. However I do wonder about whether this production rate is possible to maintain indefinately, and am thinking about whether I should perhaps better structure things to make sure my content does not disappoint even if I hit a bad day.

The articles I write (that I am interested in writing) tend to be moderately deep philosophical and technical fare. They are not usually something you can just skim through and understand the first time. I also tend to make them at least a page or two long. But like other writers, my quality level is not constant. It fluctuates, so sometimes you have to read some garbage if you want to read it all.

Another thing is that my interests tend to rotate, possibly not at in sync with a given reader’s. If they don’t change around a bit, I either feel like I am harping on one subject too much, or I find myself running out of ideas. I was at one time more interested in accelerated learning, but this week it has been more spiritual topics. I’ll undoubtedly move back to blogging about accelerated learning, but that could take a bit of time. If you are just interested in accelerated learning, my recent posts will be boring and irrelevant.

A solution might be to maintain multiple blogs. That would let me keep things on topic more, but it could mean perhaps not updating all of them every day. Another alternative is to use the existing “category” feature more rigourously. A better thing might be to put up some static pages containing some of my better content, allowing people who are disappointed with a particular day’s story to go back and read something of more solid value to them.

Any suggestions or comments?

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Give Me Liberty!

Filed under: Spiritual Growth — Luke @ 12:15 pm

Liberty is more than getting to do what you want. It is having a system of rules in which it is safe to do what you want. Plenty of tribal cultures have existed where you could do what you wanted, but it was not very safe to do so. People doing what they wanted, often found themselves at odds with their neighbor who wanted to do the opposite.

Having it safe to do what you want can be very simple. As long as what you want harms nobody else, leaves them free to follow their conscience, and does not permit them to harm themselves or others in a major way, it is fairly safe to do it. Part of the picture is thus to remove the “want” to do something that violates the liberty of others.

That is why Christianity is so good. It gives us rules to keep from hurting others badly, and it also gives us a mechanism to conquor persistent unconscious desires that are contrary to that purpose. That is what the Cross is about, stopping the urges we have to hurt others, and preventing them as much as humanly possible from being acted out.

In the past, many have misunderstood this purpose. They believed that the Cross was merely to remind us of our incurable and wretched state, which only death frees us from. That may be fine for a culture of serfs and slaves to believe, but it is not how a free country operates. It was certainly not the intent of the Gospel writers. The Cross exists to free us of our hurtful instincts and habits, which is what lets us live freely. We do need to face them squarely, but as victorious folk with real power to overcome.

Relational Knowledge

When you learn a new skill, it is similar to getting to know a human being. There is an entire set of knowledge that you acquire about the subject area, and things that you must experience to fully grasp. Like human relationships, more time spent means a closer bond with the subject. Also similarly, there are ways to make friends and ways to approach a subject that are more effective than others.

You need to find common interests and common goals to make friends. It is likewise good to find some existing area of personal interest that a subject incorporates or expands, and to take a close look at the various goals you have which it has potential to help you achieve.

Knowledge is your friend. It can also help you make friends, just like having friends can help you make more friends. It gives you something to talk about, and it gives you power and abilitites that impress people favourably. All these are advantages of friendship as well.

Thus when I think of knowledge in terms of a relational database in my mind, it is more than a mechanism. It is more like a relationship.

Music and Intelligence

Is it true that musical ability and (measurable) intelligence are linked? I believe this is correct. Music involves combinations of both similarity-based association and rhythmic association. From these two come the ability to reason more quickly and filter out distractions, which (in human minds) causes the phenomenon we know as intelligence.

A tune without rhythm, or rhythm without a tune, is not music at all. That is to say, you can produce very subtle rhythms or tunes, but if it is absent or completely undetectable, it is impossible to recognise as music.

Musical ability has a lot to do with distinguishing nice sounding notes from bad sounding notes. To do this, a catalogue of nice sounds must be kept in long-term memory for easy access and precise comparison. This is completely unconscious for most musicians, but so is mathematical ability for most mathematicians.

Another distinguishing feature with musicians is the ability to determine tempo easily. This is something that is also completely unconscious, or must be practiced until it becomes so. It has to do with counting time intervals precisely and being able to determine at a given moment exactly how many intervals have passed. The mathematician faces a similar challenge in balancing equations, because he has mastered the art of translating symbols to past, present, and future terms.

Thus I think musicians train in quite similar skills, and possibly identical neurological structures, to those used by master mathematicians, as well as any other endeavour of the mind. There is always a use for “tempo” and “pitch” in learning a new skill. Intelligent people who are not good at music are likely capable of becoming so if they are willing to adapt, and it also makes sense to think that those not gifted with high intelligence will find their mental capacity to expand with musical practice.

Rational or Irrational?

Filed under: Accelerated Learning, Efficiency, Motivation, Spiritual Growth — Luke @ 11:22 am

There are words which in technical terminology have a definite meaning, but in the everyday universe of human lives, are highly subjective. For example, if you make a decision based on a gut instinct, is it rational?

We usually think of a rational decision to be based on logic. A gut instinct is not consciously based on logic, so it is not consciously rational by that definition. However, when you look closer you generally find that a gut instinct is actually based on information acquired from a variety of sources, added together in a logical way. That makes it rational by that definition.

Furthermore, if a person has a good ability to make instinctive judgments and those serve them well over the course of a lifetime, they might come to depend on them. That is a rational choice, because it makes logical sense to do things using a tried and true method.

Ultimately, everything is rational. However there are scales of increasing complexity that come into play, and there are parts of the mental processes that shuttle around extremely high information densities. It’s unsurprising that we don’t always percieve our thoughts as being rational. But every instinct that is programmed into us has a good logical purpose once you understand it.

March 22, 2006

Store-Bought Meat

Filed under: Motivation, Spiritual Growth — Luke @ 12:30 pm

I have been giving some thought to avoiding store bought meat. We have a whole recently butchered pig in the freezer, which was corn-fed it’s entire life and humanely slaughtered. I don’t feel guilty about eating it. However, when I think about the likelihood that the beef, pork, chicken, and turkey from the store was raised by a factory-farm optimized for profit at the expense of the animal’s comfort, it makes me a bit uneasy.

Capitalism has advantages, but it has it’s disadvantages as well. One of these is that where living creatures are concerned, it rewards the farmer who figures the most ingenious way to fatten them up for slaughter quicker and cheaper, over the farmer who keeps them comfortable and healthy.

Unfortunately, most of the time organically grown meat is sold for around $6/lb. I would prefer to be vegetarian or vegan, rather than pay that kind of money. The pig we recently had some friends help us slaughter and butcher was about $0.50/lb, plus labor. It goes to show how much better of a deal you can get if you are willing to do some of the work. It is also an advantage of living in the country.

What bugs me about eating animals which have been forced to suffer discomfort for economic reasons, is that I believe God cares about me. It stands to reason (particularly in light of certain scriptures) that He would care at least to some meaningful degree about animals as well, and that if they are being tortured as a result of my economic decisions, it is displeasing to Him.

Aside from that, there are health reasons (injected hormones, high-disease conditions, feeding of mammal parts, mad cow disease) and conscience. I don’t want more on my conscience than is necessary. Not eating tortured animals will likely reduce the subconscious temptation to turn a blind eye towards the suffering of humans.

H store-bought meat
U  cheapest way not always healthy : unpleasant conditions often used
M spiritual consequences
A  mistreating animals is sinful : supporting sin is also wrong
N alternatives
E  humanely raised animals : vegetarian : vegan

Hating Tolkein

Filed under: Spiritual Growth, Writing & Education — Luke @ 11:32 am

I just realised something. I hate Tolkein. Well, his books anyway. Kind of. Millions of grown adults worldwide are totally in awe of this man’s fiction series, but it is all a pure dumb fantasy. A bunch of untrue stories about wierd creatures and fantastic coincidences. They never existed outside the imagination, and the outcome of their imaginary actions will affect no one. And yet, when reading the books (or even watching the movies) it’s hard not to like them.

The first book is about a hobbit. Hobbits are little human-like critters with furry feet and a horrible tendancy to overeat and gossip. Nonetheless, they are supposed to be great farmers and burglers. The main character is always complaining throughout the book, eventually stealing a ring which gives him the magic power of invisibility. Every foe he encounters in a group is either a foolish-yet-good (elves, men, dwarves) or an unquestionably bad group of people (spiders, goblins). Two shady characters encountered are Smaug the dragon, and Gollum the mysterious cave-creature. Gandalf the Wizard is an infallible authority figure who helps him along the way.

The second book, or rather series of books, takes this world and treats it ten times more seriously. Suddenly, there are about five heroes, plus a few side characters who either are weak and become strong, or fall and get redeemed in various ways. The trouble is it is so magical and non-rational that it doesn’t teach a solid moral message. Instead of showing how real people fall into temptation and get redeemed, it instead vividly shows how fantasy people fall and get redeemed. By Magic.

The One Ring is used as a kind of catch-all plot device that makes people fall to temptation or darkness for reasons completely magical. A thematic explanation is provided, but it is not one that translates to anything in the real world. Gandalf is tempted to take the ring and use it to do good, but decides that doing so would lead (in no uncertain terms) to him becoming evil. Galadriel and Aragorn experience the same temptation. No logical reason is actually given for them to know this to be the case — they just know it because they are the good guys and it would be the end of the story if they did.

This misrepresents how people are really tempted and really overcome it. Temptation comes from very mundane sources. Things around us provoke irrational responses, and we are tempted to act on those. The only way to really overcome temptation is to gain a better real understanding of the area of temptation, and fund out why it is really wrong to give in. It is not to use catch-all phrases and meaningless platitudes to cover your ignorance.

L misrepresents temptation, redemption
O  magical source of temptation : redemption also comes magically
T real temptation, redemption 
R  misunderstanding produces temptation : understanding brings lasting repentance

Mini-Mapping: Mind Maps for Dummies

Filed under: Accelerated Learning, Efficiency, Writing & Education — Luke @ 8:44 am

You’ve probably noticed the mind maps at the end of each post. I started out with more graphical ones that involved use of backslashes and underlines to simulate the effect of drawing on paper. I have since quit doing that, only using colons to seperate details from each other, and indentation to distinguish between them and key-points.

This makes the little mini-maps extremely easy to create. All I need to do is make a vertical word that corresponds to the topic somehow, then add key points and details on the right-hand side of it. They do not have to be linked acrossticly, just related to the subject.

I try to put at least two details per key point. If I can’t think of at least two details, that tells me that it is not much of a point. A given topic usually has at least two or three key points, as well.

M mind maps
I  connect between topic, points, details : format may vary 
N ascii text
I  no slanted text : underlines awkward : vertical topic on left
M advantages
A  easy : quick : help organize thoughts : small, to the point
P

Overwriting Bad Habits

Filed under: Efficiency, Motivation, Spiritual Growth — Luke @ 1:48 am

In life we tend to follow patterns. Most of them we are not conscious of. I used to think my life unstructured, yet I spent a good deal of time in repetitive, unproductive actions such as habitual procrastination, daydreaming, playing computer games, and watching movies. Now I have consciously restructured my life to where I clean up, go to bed at the same time, eat regular meals, and often do chores that are “not my job”. These are now habits, and often happen without my thinking of them, or with very minimal conscious thought. I still have a good many improvements left to make, but these are encouraging to me.

The secret to forming a habit to perfection is said to be to do it for at least 28 days straight. If you can do the same thing for a month, it becomes a habit. This refers to it going into your long-term memory where you don’t hardly think about it. Your short term memory, of the past 3 days or so, is sensitive to much shorter repetitions. If you blog one morning for the first time, it is likely that the next morning you will think of whether you want to do it again. If you follow through, then the third morning it is even more easy to remember.

Breaking undesirable habits is the same way. Earlier this month I had a webcomic addiction. I would visit 5-10 sites with daily updating strips, and read them. Then one day while brainstorming about a blog entry, I had the bright idea that I could quit reading them without missing them, simply allocate a day or two at the beginning of each month to catch up. Reading the comics daily was a bad habit, but reading them monthly would not be so bad. For the rest of the month, I would have all that time (and mental workspace) free to work on blogging instead.

For the first few days after that, kept getting urges to connect and read the comics. But I was able to prevent myself from doing so, and remember my commitment, because I had aleady abstained from reading them the previous day. This gave momentum towards the new “break the habit” pattern I was introducing. Since that first day, I have not looked at a webcomic. I typed urls for them a few times, but always closed the window before it loaded.

Part of what helped me introduce that “breaking” pattern was the introduction of the blogging pattern, with which I associated breaking the bad habit. However, I think part of what I used to introduce the blogging pattern was the pre-existing webcomic-reading pattern. I realised that the act of sitting and writing at a computer is not much different from sitting and reading at a computer, and since I was doing one on a highly consistent daily basis it wasn’t near as much work to introduce the other. In short, I was able to leverage the bad habit’s rhythm into the creation of a similar-yet-better habit, and this in turn helped me break the bad habit.

O habits
V  everyone has them : not always good : necessary for growth
E bad habits
R  usually not consciously acquired : have rhythm
W good habits
R  need rhythm : usually acquired consciously
I switching
T  start with both at once : establish good one, then break bad one
E

March 21, 2006

Being Vigilant

Filed under: Uncategorized — Luke @ 11:30 pm

North Korea has been threatening to nuke the US several times recently. This seems to be because they feel like our present administration’s statements that they have an evil government is an insult. I think it is time for a few tempers to cool down, before we start having to worry about mass deaths and radiation poisoning.

We should be fair to the perspective of each side. North Korea has been working hard for a long time to try and improve their nation and defend it’s culture. This is a good thing. We all try to improve and defend ourselves, and that is honourable. However, it is not good that they have taken some wrong turns in the past, leading to widespread starvation and poverty. Flawed beliefs are always more evil than the people that hold wrong beliefs.

What is a bad belief that Korean officials have? I think they have many prideful individuals who take their nationalism to an extreme. I’m not talking about the genuine pride in their culture, their language, or their people. These are a good thing. Good pride is that which preserves who you are, and keeps you strong and alive. Bad pride is what causes you to lash out at people who seem to insult you rather than trying to do better. Thinking that others are insulting you when in reality they are trying to make sure you improve, is a form of bad pride, and also a type of paranoia.

America has a powerful army, for the simple reason that not having an army would mean much more risk of being ruthlessly slaughtered in today’s world. If it were not for the risk of being killed for not having one, we would have never created a military in the first place. It’s a big monetary expenditure and has been historically used for tyranny, which we are ideologically opposed to. But to choose between having one and being massacred, people in the US feel it is better not to die. That is why we are proud of our military and support them in their efforts to aid the cause of freedom.

We do not want to kill anyone. It is wrong to kill people unless they are a direct threat to you and those you care about. Nobody should rejoice when other people die, even people they think are bad. We really hate that kind of thing in our culture. That is why we got so mad about the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Extremists like Saddam Hussein were rejoicing when the towers fell. That makes us far more angry than the deaths of the people themselves.

Saddam believed we were the evil ones when he helped finance and train the terrorists. He thought he was helping the world out, somehow making it a safer place for his country. That was an incorrect belief, and was responsible for the deaths of many innocent people. It is not so important for us to know that he was personally responsible, as it is that the bad beliefs that he had and clung to were responsible. We should be vigilant against terrorism, but even more so against self-deception.

V bad beliefs
I  bring bad results : create worse people : need changed
G good beliefs
I  bring good results : create good people : need defended
L american military
A  exists to defend good people : doesn't exist to murder people
N self-deception
T  a battle everyone faces : unchecked, leads to great sorrow

Relavent links:
North Korea
Democratic People’s Republic of Korea

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