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?

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.

March 22, 2006

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

March 21, 2006

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

March 20, 2006

Stuff about Esperanto

Filed under: Accelerated Learning, Technical, Writing & Education — Luke @ 12:31 pm

One of my favorite languages is esperanto. I like it because it is as easy for me to learn as it is for anyone else in the world. That’s not quite true of english, which is not as easy for everyone else to learn as me.

In esperanto, there is a set of root words. These can be made feminine, negated, or conjugated in various ways by adding the proper suffixes. They can also be made nouns, plural nouns, objects, subjects, adjectives, past tense verbs, present tense verbs, and future tense verbs. In every case, these are added in a consistent manner so you can apply the same rule in every situation.

Some roots are vir, akv, frat, est, am. Viro is a man, virino is a woman. Akvo is water, and akva is wet. Frato is brother, fratino is sister. Malfrato is a non-sibling, and malakva is dry. Estas is to be in the present, estos is to be in the futire, and estis is to be in the past. “Mi amos min fratino” means I will love my sister. “Li estas min frato” means “he is my brother/sibling.” “Ili estas fratoj” means “they are siblings.”

All in all, it is an easy language to pick up, compared to most others. (Admittedly, so are most other constructed languages.) It is also a good introduction to the learning of foreign languages, teaching people to think in terms of the parts of speech and the variety of ways they can be represented.

ES Advantages
PE  easy to learn : same from any background : intro to linguistics
RA Basics
NT  set of roots : repeatable rules : consistent pronunciation

Relavent Links:
Esperanto in English

Fe Fi Fo Fum, Terminology on the Run

Filed under: Personality Types, Writing & Education — Luke @ 11:32 am

Lately I have been using a mock-MBTI version of the personality type letters system. Instead of putting a J or P at the end, I determine order of traits by simply writing them in order. EFS, ITN instead of ESFJ or INTJ. It’s simpler and makes more sense to my mind.

However it is prone a little to misunderstanding. A bit like the vi editor or the forth language, it is really ridiculously simple once you know it, but you do have to know it for it to make any sense. If you don’t know that traits alternate, you won’t know that IFN means extroverted intuition, for example.

That is why I sometimes use the longhand literal form of appending a lowercase letter telling the directedness of a given letter. Although it is more cumbersome to write, it has the advantage of being harder to misunderstand. This is where I put “FeSiNeTi”, “TiNeSiFe”, or “FiNeSiTe”.

With all that CamelCaps, you can see why I get tired of it. But it is easier to see what I’m saying if you are still learning the system. Also, in communication it is nice to be able to use the abbreviations like “Fe” instead of “extroverted feeling” because it cuts down on the conversational workload.

My type is INT. That means Ni with Te, which come with Fi and Se. Go figure. 🙂

S Mock-MB
H  really easy : has slight learning curve
O CamelCaps version
R  too long : educational value : abbreviations useful

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

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