Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Je Responderay

Borrowing the title of today's post from Isak Dinesen (Karen Blixen), who borrowed it from Denys Finch-Hatton. It means "I will respond" and I'm using it because I have accumulated a lot of interesting articles about which I want to think about more. Of course, they all go into a bookmarked folder and never again see the light of day. Since adding Hacker News to the list of sites I check compulsively, the number of articles has swelled to an alarming number; thus, I thought I would post some links and my responses to the ideas contained therein.

This may become a regular feature, supplementing the Good Hunting posts which are more of a collection of cool things and projects I've seen. Here I am focusing on ideas. Enjoy.

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Learning how to avoid mistakes:
"There are four different phases in the process of mastering something new: unconscious incompetence, conscious incompetence, conscious competence, and unconscious competence. When I decide that I'm going to try something new (let's say playing tennis), I start out lacking competence and also lacking awareness of that lack of skill. Once I start training, I gain awareness of my lack of skill, and begin to correct that. Over time I gradually build skill, and finally that skill becomes part of who I am. At that point, I am said to have mastery of that skill (although even that is an oversimplification)."

We usually have to realize we're making a mistake before we can fix it. If the mistake keeps cropping up, we have to keep on consciously fixing it, until avoiding the problem becomes automatic.

The Cognitive Functions Do Not Exist: in the words of George E. P. Box, "All models are wrong, but some are useful." Abstractions such as the cognitive functions or the MBTI types are not tangible constructs; there is no fundamental law of psychology that states that people must be one of the sixteen types. These are just useful patterns for grouping tendencies and information, for analyzing people and their actions. Is it bunk? Of course. I don't believe in the MBTI the way I believe in gravity, I believe in the MBTI the way I believe in organizing books by author's last name in the fiction section.

Learned Helplessness:
"Every day – your job, the government, your addiction, your depression, your money – you feel like you can’t control the forces affecting your fate. So, you stage microrevolts. You customize your ringtone, you paint your room, you collect stamps. You choose.

Choices, even small ones, can hold back the crushing weight of helplessness, but you can’t stop there. You must fight back your behavior and learn to fail with pride. Failing often is the only way to ever get the things you want out of life. Besides death, your destiny is not inescapable.

You are not so smart, but you are smarter than dogs and rats. Don’t give in yet."
When you've gotten used to submitting to others' wishes, it can be difficult to take power because previously, power was not an option. But remember: power is always an option.

How Soviet Kitchens Became Hotbeds of Dissent and Culture: a private space for discussions of dangerous topics, for the spread of subversive literature and music. Samizdat: self-published books and documents. "The precursor to the Internet." I have been meeting semi-regularly with friends since school ended but I still feel isolated. I envy my friends who keep active Tumblrs and have formed a community among one another, even finding new awesome friends through their discussions and posts. This doesn't mean I want to go back to Tumblr--I quit because it was taking up too much time, and that would still hold true--but it does mean that I look forward to next year when I'll be able to talk to people at a deeper level about ideas and the things that we're learning and the things we want to do.

Just Tell Me What to Buy:
"not every purchase is worth writing or reading a 2-3,000 word review of. Some purchases are about getting the best value for the cost and making sure you’re not wasting your money — but not necessarily absorbing all of the technical information available on a topic. Sometimes you just want to know what the best thing is, period." 
As someone who should soon start thinking about what laptop to get for college...yes. What is the best value laptop for an engineering student?

Where Is My Geek Cred?: I try to dampen my emotional responses to people who bother me, but one of my pet peeves is when people say, in response to hearing about someone who has never eaten Girl Scout cookies/watched classic Disney movies/been to an amusement park, say "you must have had no childhood." People are raised in different sorts of households, and grow up with different frames of reference--some cultural, some just individual.

Invalidating someone else's formative years just because they are missing some element you consider central to your own is a nice way of reinforcing cultural hegemony and spitting upon diversity of thought and experience. Does someone else not having memorized the words to "Circle of Life" endanger your existence?

This phrase, "you must have had no childhood," is an easy way to get a laugh out of other people who have had the experience in question, thus creating an in-group and an out-group. A related phrase is when, upon finding out that someone doesn't like a show/book/series, a fan of that show/book/series will say "we can't be friends anymore." In jest, yes, but someone who would even joke about ending a friendship over something so trivial does not signal their worthiness as a friend.

I would also like to take this opportunity to mention that I have never watched all the Lord of the Rings movies, that I don't like the Beatles, that I have never watched Doctor Who, and that the show Sherlock I find generally entertaining but also problematic.

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This is an experiment; I shall iterate.

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