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MetaCognitions | Cosplaying as the Ninth Doctor


MetaCognitions

After a horrific weekend evening dealing with my own incredibly annoying and slightly scary inner narrative, I’m watching Doctor Who episodes, this time from the 2005 series reboot with Chris Eccleston as the Ninth Doctor.

Why?

I’m trying to study Nine’s speech patterns and mannerisms for an upcoming costume event I’ve been invited to for recording this month, in attending as the Ninth Doctor, as I gather the elements of his clothing style and props. Here’s the replica of Nine’s sonic screwdriver that came in recently, a bit blurry from the excited shaking of my hand holding the iPod:

img_1997

It lights up and makes cool sonic screwdriver noises!

Why bring this up? Because frankly, I find the whole thing a bit daunting. Eccleston’s are big shoes to fill, even as a mere cosplay role. Nine was my introduction to the series, as Tom Baker was to the classic Who series. It’s both a frightening responsibility and an honor to dress the part, but with work and practice, I should pass.

Nine was the debut of a very different Doctor than I’d known in the old series, the survivor of a terrible war between the Time Lords and the Daleks, and deeply scarred for it. Let’s face it, Nine was broken, dark, brooding, and tragic, but he was also the most austerely dressed, least affected, most down-to-earth, and…fantastic…as a (then) new turn for the Doctor who still tried to do the right thing wherever he went, even when he couldn’t save everybody from the monsters. I liked the succeeding actors as the Tenth, Eleventh, and Twelfth Doctors, but never quite warmed to them as with Nine.

I look on the upcoming event as a challenge, and one worth taking seriously. I’ve got close to the right nose, ears, and hair for the role, so what remains is practice, and the rest of Nine’s garb to assemble.

Wish me luck. Maybe I can pull this off. 🙂

MetaCognitions | 2016.08.10


MetaCognitions

I’ve been busy lately, practicing mnemonic techniques for my study subjects, and not just Bengali, but some new courses have arrived and I’m currently immersed on a series of lectures on nonverbal communication, which as someone with high-functioning schizophrenia, showed me and continues to things which normal socialization had never, ever adequately addressed. These are things which severely impacted my people skills throughout my youth. Something this interesting bears further viewing, and listening. The memory techniques I’m using are fairly advanced, but worth the time needed to work on; keywords using interactive imagery, and this combined with the method of loci, or memory palace technique to memorize the Periodic table of elements. This last evening, I was mapping out locations in and around my home upon which to place the images and their associated tags, in my case, for hydrogen I place the image of an imaginary deuterium-tritium fusion reactor (an old tokamak model) spitting out neutrons on a nearby bookshelf, while on another sits a green Martian from Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Barsoom sounding like he’s just inhaled helium while giving a speech in the city of Helium. And the silliness goes on…

But the sillier, the better! The idea is to make each image memorable.

My practice was inspired by a piece from 2014 by Dr. Lynne Kelly, which is being heavily referenced as I go. It’s one of the clearest explanations I’ve seen for the method of loci, so I’ve plenty to keep busy with, and I’ll see you later this week!

Tf. Tk. Tts.

 

MetaCognitions | Editorial, Schmeditorial — Further Thoughts on Policy


MetaCognitions

Recently I’ve updated my editorial policy page to clarify a few things, at least the sorts of posts I avoid on this blog since adopting it. As I type this, the thought goes through my head about why I didn’t adopt it from the beginning.

After all, that’s pretty irresponsible, isn’t it, for a publicly accessible website?

I agree, especially given that with this blog’s general readership, I’m not preaching to the choir and wasn’t even from the inception of the site.

As my writing has evolved, so has the blog, and some of that evolution may be seen in the content of posts dating from shortly after this blog’s founding to the present. Early on, I didn’t adopt the use of graphic headers for posts, organization was looser, and my tone really wasn’t what even I would have been particularly proud of.

Not that I ever received nasty-grams from the tone trolls, but I had doubts about the professionality of some of the material. Some of it seemed less than objective, less than professional, and more polemical than I care for.

Mind you, I’m not opposed to controversy, except when it’s mere click-bait, and I don’t care for inflammatory language, which I’m much better at noticing in myself, along with instances of fallacious reasoning (The false dilemma fallacy was common, and rightly pointed out by reader Aliman Sears in several instances.).

I’ve grown not so much prone to walking on eggshells to avoid offending, but just putting more care into my writing. Adopting an editorial policy, even this late since the blog’s founding, was and is mostly to keep the blog on topic and not simply political correctness (which I despise). I’ve noticed over time major instances of topic-wandering, often for stretches of time in my archives, like a tendency to post too many cat videos in 2010, which in all fairness, was a good year for cat videos, and too many critiques of religion, politics, and faith for a skeptical blog.

The following is the current editorial policy in a nutshell, taken from its page on this site:

…I rarely venture into political issues unless they pertain to critical thinking, science, or skepticism. For the same reason, I rarely touch directly on religion and do not attack religious institutions outright, though the occasional misunderstandings of reality by religious leaders, like similar factual misstatements by political figures, needs calling out and critique.

The focus of this blog’s skeptical side is on claims and process, not beliefs or conclusions. I will never tell anyone what they ought or ought not to believe, or what party or candidate to or to not support for office. That is in fact completely out of my hands in any case.

So that’s it. I’m still moving over my major posting to Blogger this November, but I’m transferring all pages on this site to there before that happens. I’ll continue to read, comment, and otherwise follow and interact with those on WordPress unable to use blogger, on their own sites, it’s just that this site will be closed for updates until such time as I need to use it for that again. The current content, even early material at odds with the current policy, will remain online and publicly accessible unless the content involves broken links to images or blocked, deleted, or otherwise unwatchable embedded videos, in which case the post will be deleted for not contributing to the value of the site.

So I’m not going away entirely. But I’ve been posting here for nearly eight years, and this venue needs a rest. And once I’ve shifted over, the lessons learned here shall be continued there.

Thank you, and…

Tf. Tk. Tts.

 

MetaCognitions | Biases, Leanings & Inclinations


MetaCognitions

We are all biased to varying degrees no matter our relative sanity or intelligence.

In fact, a sure sign of bias is to believe ourselves to be unbiased, to see only the biases of who disagree with us.

Our biases can be insidious, blinding us to themselves, and we have them merely by virtue of having perfectly ordinary if individually quirky human brains that work the way they happen to do.

Hence the need for scientific skepticism, to know of, understand, and to varying degrees bypass the problems of our own biases.

So, here are my biases, my leanings, those I’m aware of, minus the neuroscience jargon, and some of my resulting ideological views and values.

First, my politics; they are somewhat left of center.

I believe in a strong central government with checks and balances concerned with social welfare, equal treatment under the law, civil liberties and the common good with efficient spending and effective taxation.

I’m for a strong but lean and efficient military capable of effectively defending the state and national interests from threats to peace and the general welfare.

I favor a strong wall of separation between church and state maintained vigilantly against the efforts of fanatics and theocrats. There currently seems to be a considerable erosion of this by a major political party and special interests in my country. Needless to say, I find this a disturbing sign.

I favor reason and rationality, not gut thinking, as effective ways of reaching reliable conclusions and clear decision-making.

I place little stock in believing things on faith without prior reasons. I take people at their word when it is rational to do so, if and when they are generally reasonable and given to making reliable claims.

I value science as a fallible but powerful and reliable way of understanding the natural world.

I consider blind faith irrational and dangerous, but allow for a sort of faith in those things whose rational denial would be self-refuting—science, reason, evidence, objective facts—and whose irrational denial would be incoherent nonsense.

I consider dogmatism and authoritarian claims to knowledge unreliable and profoundly dangerous; contrary authorities and dogmas are always to be found, and they cannot possibly all be correct.

I’m technically an atheist, not a strong anti-theist, and I subscribe to humanist ethical values, preferring the labels non-theist, humanist, rationalist, or skeptic.

I’ve little interest in certainty or absolutes regarding matters of fact, value, or opinion. Certainty is a feeling, not knowledge, so certainty is not worth much to me.

Not all biases are bad—that would be prejudice—and some of them are often downright useful. It is possible to be ideologically biased in favor of reality and in wanting to have more true beliefs than false ones.

So rather than deny my biases, I try to understand and sometimes sidestep them, sometimes make use of them. That seems to me the better path.

Tf.Tk.Tts.

MetaCognitions | Thoughts on my Editorial Policy


MetaCognitions

I prefer rationalism to atheism. The question of God and other objects-of-faith are outside reason and play no part in rationalism, thus you don’t have to waste your time in either attacking or defending.

English: This image is a reproduction of an or...

English: This image is a reproduction of an original painting by renowned science-fiction and fantasy illustrator Rowena http://www.rowenaart.com/. It depicts Dr. Isaac Asimov enthroned with symbols of his life’s work. Français : Peinture de Rowena Morill rĂ©prĂ©sentant Isaac Asimov sur un trĂ´ne dĂ©corĂ© des symboles de son Ĺ“uvre littĂ©raire. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


The above quote, by the late Science Fiction writer and skeptic, Isaac Asimov, encapsulates nicely the essence of the current editorial policy.

I’m by circumstance, not by choice, a nonbeliever in all of the world’s ancient, respected, and confident faith traditions.

Let others believe as they will, whatever they will, as they will. I’ve no say in that.

I can have no say in that.

Skepticism, science, and rationalism, not atheism or anti-theism, are the foci of this blog.

My current editorial policy requires me to avoid posting on matters of faith or politics, unless their advocates try to make scientific claims, attempt to impede scientific literacy for ideological reasons, or indoctrinate the young or vulnerable for less than ethical intentions. ‘Nobody likes a skeptic’ it’s said, but scammers can be dangerous, and can part you from more than just your money. Those, not religion or politics themselves, are fair game.

No one wants to hear about how much I don’t believe this doctrine, or arguments against that theology, as those are matters outside of science and so outside the purview of this site.

No one wants to see yet another tiresome attack from me on faith, another boring tirade on contradictions in somebody’s holy book. No one cares, and neither do I enough to have blogged about it recently or do so anymore. I’ve said it all before, so no longer.

Earlier posts on my earlier views will stay up, as Google gets very angry about my deleting posts, and as I am not in the habit of writing inflammatory polemics there’s no worry there.

I admit, it’s a policy that I should have adopted long ago. So no rhetorical sparring with apologists, or debating political ideologues. This is not a forum for that…

…but for science, skepticism, and those things that matter to me…

…and the fractals. That’s all.

Tf. Tk. Tts.

MetaCognitions | 2015: The Year in Review — the Good, the Awful & the ‘Meh’


MetaCognitions

The past year was a mixed bag where I’m concerned, though on its own merits survivable. I’ll begin first with the good stuff, as I prefer a positive start.

The Good:

On this blog, there was the posting of Slimy Great Old One, whereby I parody Jimmy Buffett’s tune Pencil Thin Mustache, there was a talk given by Carol Dweck on how mindset can influence how the brain works, and the concept of fluid intelligence, and a debate on Facebook which went rather well, all things considered.

In January, the Dawn probe visited the Dwarf Planet Ceres in the main asteroid belt, the first such body visited closeup.

In April, there was the news that North and South America have eradicated Rubella, with no home-grown cases in five years…

In May, Ireland approved marriage equality by popular vote in a ‘yes’ vote by all but one of its 43 parliamentary constituencies.

In June, Cuba was declared by the World Health Organization to have eliminated mother-to-baby HIV transmission, a first!

In July, the New Horizons probe made its historic flyby past Pluto, planet or not, completing the initial reconnaissance of large solar system bodies known prior to the 1980s.

September brought us evidence of liquid water on present-day Mars, and,

…a new species of humanity was discovered, the remains found in a South African cave, Homo naledi, another branch on the ever-expanding tree of human evolution and descent.

In November, the reason for the loss over time of the atmosphere of Mars was revealed, making any future prospects for terraforming the Red Planet very grim indeed.

In December, SpaceX successfully landed the Falcon 9 in a vertical takeoff/vertical landing operation from a successful satellite launch.

So, get this out of the way, let’s get on with…

The Awful:

The truly awful Chapel Hill Murders of three muslims over something as petty as a parking dispute, discussed better than I by AronRa and Mister Deity.

There was the passing of Mr. Spock, Leonard Nimoy on the 27th of February, and an awful thing indeed, though to be fair, his was a long and prosperous life, and I envy him for it.

August brought the death of noted neurologist Oliver Sacks from cancer. His too was a life well-lived and his contributions to neuroscience considerable.

And there was the death of my longtime friend and reader of this blog, Carl Powell, also from cancer on May 25th. He fought, oh damn he fought. He’ll be missed.

There were the murders of prominent secular bloggers in Bangladesh, in a climate of fear for Bangladeshi atheists there and abroad.

In December ISIL (DAESH) claimed credit for the attacks in Paris and elsewhere.

Finally, we have…

The ‘Meh:’

I’ve deleted several of my experimental WordPress blogs started in 2014, and changed the Theme of this and other of my remaining WP sites to their current layouts.

I’ve started several new features to this blog, cleaned up the site’s Categories, and several of the site’s more visited posts.

So…

All in all, a passable year despite the horrible things going on along with the wondrous, with lessons to be learned from the sheer awfulness.

Here’s hoping this year is better, and if not, more interesting times in any event. And that’s just ‘interesting’ in the sense of the apocryphally-ascribed ‘Chinese’ curse.

In Soruggon,

Talotaa frang. Talotaa kas. Talotaa tranga suulat.

 

MetaCognitions | Mindfulness sans Mysticism


Mental Health Awareness Ribbon

Mental Health Awareness Ribbon (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Lately I’ve been getting into various mindfulness practices to some effect, but am extremely cautious of many of the claims made about them.

There are things it just can’t do, but mindfulness is useful because of those things it can do.

What I seek is a little more equanimity during rough times, a bit more balance, clearer mental focus, a deeper sense of my link to the world, better awareness of the present moment…. perhaps a little more compassion and less dickishness than I’ve perhaps had the previous day.

These practices have yielded valuable understanding of the fleeting contents of the three-pound lump of convoluted tissue in my skull; my private thoughts, feelings, a better awareness of my motives, errors in reasoning that prior to beginning the practice I hadn’t noticed myself committing.

They also help with my…. psychology…. With less than a minute of breath awareness, I may calm my somewhat raucous inner narrative after stressful moments and regain a level of clarity that would otherwise take an hour to achieve.

With a body scan — attending to subtle physical sensations from toes to head — I may relax and achieve a decent night’s REM sleep within moments.

Extending the practice to the act of walking, or eating, or creating fractals, or listening to an ocean of sound around me as though at a concert, in both formal and informal practice, it becomes easier to attend to the moment in a variety of situations.

Better yet, with practice and experience it becomes possible to create and adapt new exercises to new situations and circumstances.

This is a definite win/win situation for me.

Meditation can focus the mind and render profound insight, but it cannot work feats of magic or suspend the laws of reality.

It may only show us those things within or about ourselves we hadn’t seen before, hadn’t noticed, and often haven’t even looked for, surprising us when they appear before our inward gaze for the first time.

Even those things we might not like when we find them. Caution and a light step are important. It can help one attend, but one must be careful what to attend to, particularly with issues like mine.

I’ve no intent to seek enlightenment, become a sage, realign my chakras, redirect my flow of qi, nor achieve other alleged supernormal powers.

My goals are instead to strengthen my connection to the world, to affirm rather than deny it, to live in it more fully and to experience each moment as though it were precious. It’s to enhance my observational awareness as a form of cross-training for bettering and for clarifying my thinking.

What about transcendent experiences? It’s possible with enough practice over time, I suppose. But that’s not big on my list of things to do, though it would be interesting if it happened. Not my cup of chai.

Meh.

Rather than doing this for some lofty spiritual goal, nor to seek power, I’ll just keep at this for purely practical reasons, while at once being careful what to practice….

.…and what to avoid for the dangers it may present to my mental health. I won’t engage in anything that fuzzes the edges of my reason. That goes for recreational pharmaceuticals as well.

No.

Otherwise, I may as just turn in my skeptic card, and I simply don’t see that happening.