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?

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

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

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

March 21, 2006

Thoughts on Rhythm

The more I think about it, the more it seems like rhythm is the ultimate key to hacking our wetware. The flow of ideas and thoughts inside us is based to a large degree on timed functions. All you have to do is synchronize them properly and they can accomplish anything that is possible for a mind to accomplish.

Rhythm reduces the amount of energy that it takes for the mind to accomplish a particular task. A non-repeating beat is never as easy to process as a repeating one. However that is not to say perfect rhythm is the only thing that is useful in life. Often it helps to break a flawed pattern. However, this only works if there are sufficient resources available to correct it.

Thus, it is good to start with with a rhythm until sufficient resources exist to handle a break, then locate a flaw and temporarily break the rhythm over it. This is a really basic principle.

R mental
H  composed of timed functions : rhythm synchronizes
Y social
T  people expect rhythmic behaviour : schedules, ideas synchronize
H flaws in a pattern
M  may be ignored for a time : must be confronted at the right time
I repeating patterns
C  build energy : permit growth : not always perfect

Growing Worms

Filed under: Business, Efficiency, Spiritual Growth, Technical — Luke @ 10:56 am

Last summer, we had the bright idea to purchase some red worms. The little critters are fairly hardy, but even so we thought we lost them last winter when the bin froze solid. Well, this spring I dug around in the bin and it turns out there are several breeding adults still alive in there. Apparently they either grew from eggs, or survived freezing.

I like worms. They are nature’s farmers, constantly plowing and fertilizing the soil. Nightcrawlers are about 5-10 inches long, and plow deep burrows into the subsoil. They come out at night to find any food lying about, then pull it down and eat it. They also leave some of their castings on the surface where it buries loose rocks and fertilizes surface plants. Their tendancy to dig deeply makes them a tree’s best friend, because the roots of trees need spaces to grow into and ways for water and air to pass through the soil.

Red worms are different from night crawlers, because they are smaller and require a higher carbohydrate intake to survive. They thrive on manure piles and rotting vegetable matter, and reproduce quite a bit faster. This is the kind we have in our worm bin. We feed them coffee grounds and table scraps, along with rotting leaves and such for bedding. Our current bin is half of a plastic 55-gallon drum with holes in the bottom for drainage. I am planning to make a larger one by stacking some tires on top of each other.

Not only are worms good for the soil, they make great fishing bait. Red wrigglers are popular because they wriggle around more than nightcrawlers. They (and/or their castings) should be fairly easy to sell if we can get them to reproduce enough.

W red worms
O  reproduce fast : eat high-calorie stuff : small
R night crawlers
M  come out at night : dig deep burrows : greatly improve soil
B worm growing
I  use red worms : feed table scraps : need bin with drainage

Fluency-Based Learning

Filed under: Accelerated Learning, Efficiency, Writing & Education — Luke @ 8:27 am

There has been some fascinating research done in fluency-based learning. This is a training technique where higher-speed, rhythmic answering of questions is favored over short-term accuracy. With my current understanding of neurochemistry and accelerated learning, this makes a lot of sense.

Rhythm releases energy-carrying chemicals into the nerves, muscles, and brain cells involved, and helps thoughts to occur synchronously with each other so they can connect logically. It also links them together in the memory, boosting long-term retention. The faster you practice something, the more energy is supplied when you try it the next time. Having this extra energy available creates an added boost to performance and memory for the skill, even if it wasn’t done with pure accuracy the first time.

In my experiments with the Dvorak typing tutor, I have found that by getting into a rhythm and not breaking it, I get more learning done than by going for strict accuracy. Not to say accuracy isn’t worth striving for, but it is a different function from fluency, which is having the right answer come to you immediately.

Howard Stephen Berg’s famous speed reading course starts out by instructing you to train yourself by reading through the book without even trying for comprehension, rubbing your hand across the pages in various rhythmic patterns. This is to condition your mind to expect mental activity at that rate, and supply a steady flow of energy to the high-speed reading rate that you are shooting for. It also helps train your eyes not to get fixated for too long on a given part of the text, but to rhythmicly move over the whole page.

Writing is another area where I believe the concept of fluency-based learning has helped me. I write more quickly than I would naturally be inclined to, and don’t worry about mistakes until after I’ve made them. I actually make fewer of them this way, and it increases my writing speed more in the long run as well.

F high-speed testing
L  prepares the mind : supplies more energy : better retention
U speed-reading
E  high rhythmic rate conditions mind : more energy made available
N speed-writing
C  write things faster and rhythmicly : quality can be worked on seperately

Computer Game: Learn Dvorak

I just came across a neat computer game. It involves pressing keys really fast. If you hit the right key, you go up a level, but if you hit the wrong key you lose a level. Sound fun?

It’s name is dvorak7min, and came shipped standard with the full Debian linux distribution. I have had it around for 6 months, but unfortunately didn’t bother to try it until this morning. (Shame on me!) All I needed was to switch to dvorak mode using xkbdconfig, and I was good to go. It is awesome, with instant feedback for every right or wrong key-press and an optional display that shows which key you need to press next. If having it blink at you doesn’t work, enable “Nastiness on” and it will start making you think twice.

Maybe a Dvorak typing tutor doesn’t sound too exciting to you. Compared to modern-day games, perhaps it isn’t that engaging. It doesn’t force you to be entertained by the way they do. You could get bored with it quickly if you had too much other entertainment avalable. But for someone like me who has been away from anything more advanced than minesweeper for about 3 months, it’s fun and addicting, much as is vimtutor.

The big advantage is I am learning a useful skill today, whereas I could be busy boosting my reaction time at pumping fake lead into fake corpses. The fact is, I want to be good with the dvorak keyboard — it’s only because I haven’t practiced that I’m not. I have heard many good things about it’s benefits in terms of ergonomics and efficiency. Not only that, but for the unaddicted mind, a tutorial like this has the same stress-relieving potential of any commercial game out there.

D like a game
V  dvorak7min : run xkbdconfig to switch : instant feedback 
O learning a useful skill
R  dvorak can speed up typing : enhances qwerty speed
A why not?
K  regular games more forceful : addiction to them tough to break

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