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?


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

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

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

March 20, 2006

Churning out “The Stuff”

I have just not been getting as much done as easily lately. Some days writing 5 medium-sized posts is easy, others it’s hard. Today, I just want to stop and do nothing. But I know if I do that it will cost me in terms of will-power and discipline in the long run.

Today I have written two. They weren’t bad, but could have been better. To all my loyal readers, I thank you for your patience. I will try again to get my writing style down to improve. It won’t be easy, but that isn’t the point. The point is it will be harder to do what I want in life if I quit.

In a way, it’s a good sign that I’m getting discouraged and frustrated. It means I am challenging myself. If I had stuck with an easy rate, I wouldn’t be growing. The longer I stick with this rate, the more growth I will achieve, and the more likely that I will get to a point where this is “too easy”, even on a daily basis. Perhaps then I can double up and make it really hard on myself. 😉

W Hitting the wall
O  5 posts is overwhelming today : yet not impossible
R Skills take time
K  challenging rate is hard : unchallenging rate won't bring growth

Learning The vi Editor — The Right Way

Filed under: Motivation, Technical — Luke @ 9:08 am

I studied the vi editor yesterday. It is satisfying for me to take in information on various subjects, and even more satisfying when the study starts paying off in terms of time and effort saved. Some of the commands I found handy were dw, cw and ZZ. I used to always use :wq or :q! to quit when I finished with a file, but now I know that ZZ and ZQ available, and much easier to type.

What I really appreciate (maybe it comes with being INT 😛 ) is that the paradigm of vi is based on the idea that an alphanumeric keyboard with two meta keys (shift and control) is sufficient. I am just getting myself weaned off of the “return”, “escape”, and “backspace” mentality. CTRL-M, CTRL-C, and CTRL-H take care of each of these nicely, while h, j, k, and l guide the cursor through the file, eliminating the need for arrow keys. The end result is less stretching of the fingers and less distraction.

If you ever have any question, chances are the gap in your knowledge can be fixed in a few minutes by typing :help . If this doesn’t give the result you are after, try searching for whatever with the forward-slash. (You’ll know all about this after going through vimtutor.) Once you have learned vi, it is hard not to like it.

M Paradigm
O  no non-alphanumeric needed : more simple once you learn it
R Problems
E  none once you learn it : easy to quit before mastering
V How To
I  vimtutor : use :help and / : learn the control and shift-keys
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