Sunday, 2009 July 19, 18:35 — language, me!me!me!, psychology

mind tools

Someone recently told me that it’s easier to memorize a sequence, such as a text, from the end: when you recite it you’re moving toward familiar ground. Friday I gave this trick a modest test, when I had to copy a 15-digit number from one place to another. It works.

Saturday I was having a snack in a public place and heard a mother and daughter at the next table speaking French. When the little one looked my way I made chit-chat in French, well enough that the mother asked whether I speak French routinely! In fact this was about my third French conversation in a year (and by far the longest).

Sunday, 2008 December 28, 22:54 — psychology

time and capacity

Malcolm Gladwell writes in his new book:

. . . excellence at a complex task requires a critical, minimum level of practice – which surfaces again and again in studies of expertise. In fact, researchers have settled on what they believe is a magic number for true expertise: 10,000 hours.

Does anyone else find it suspicious that the magic number does not depend on the field? Perhaps it does not measure the amount of study necessary for expertise, whatever that is, but a point beyond which improvement is much more difficult because a brain’s capacity is finite, which then becomes our definition of expertise.

Monday, 2008 September 22, 15:38 — me!me!me!, psychology


Dad has often mentioned that when he first got eyeglasses he was surprised to see that trees had discrete leaves; I never found that to be a big deal.

But now I sometimes find that blades of grass stand out with unnatural vividness. I wonder whether it’s because contacts can give a more accurate correction (because their position is less variable) or because, with this lateral bifocal arrangement, the contrast between sharp and blur is always subconsciously present.

Sunday, 2008 July 27, 20:00 — law, me!me!me!, psychology

stick a finger in my eye

After wearing glasses for thirty-odd years, I’m tired of it. I’m thinking of surgery; since I’m on the verge of needing bifocals, my bright idea is to have one eye adjusted for distance and the other for arm’s length (the typical distance of a computer screen or a gun sight). It did occur to me that this might be a Bad Idea for some reason I hadn’t thought of, so I decided to bring it up with my optometrist. To my surprise, as soon as I mentioned LASIK he brought up monovision. He pointed out that some people find it very hard to adjust, and suggested that it would be wise to try it with contacts first before risking anything permanent.

So now I have contacts; temporarily accepting a lot more optical fuss in the hope that later I’ll have much less. With them, my dominant eye is (according to Doc Lowe) about 3/4 diopter more farsighted then than my, er, submissive eye. (Presumably there is a term of art but I don’t know what it is.) I think his plan is to increase the difference every few weeks.

I haven’t got the knack of taking soft contacts out. With hard ones, you just put tension on the lids and pop!. These I have to drag out with a fingertip. Today and yesterday I stripped one eye on the first try, but had a much harder time with the dominant eye – which is counterintuitive; you’d think the thicker lens would be easier to grab.

Entirely unrelated: In The Atlantic, an article on the rationale of the naked streets movement (though it doesn’t use that phrase). The key point: when rules take the place of judgement, people learn not to use judgement. A similar argument has been made about safety regulation in general.

Tuesday, 2006 July 4, 11:55 — economics, politics, psychology

here and there

Claire Wolfe: The Quality of a Free Man (cited by Rational Review News Digest)

James Leroy Wilson says some things that I have attempted to say about, for example, highways:

Perhaps a genuinely free market would have seen the development of organic economies driven by local production and less on mass production and trade. People might have less of what they didn’t need anyway, and lead quiet, simple, but happy and stress-free lives. Or perhaps the free market would have taken us to unimagined technological heights and a prosperous and peaceful planetary economy.

I find both possibilities appealing. And that is why, ultimately, I can’t advance a libertarian worldview that exalts one vision over the other . . . .

Leftovers from September: Trapped in New Orleans: First By the Floods, Then By Martial Law

Sunday, 2006 February 26, 22:06 — politics, psychology


Am I the last to see this?

Monday, 2005 July 11, 23:09 — me!me!me!, psychology

they can’t always be wrong

You are elegant, withdrawn, and brilliant. Your mind is a weapon, able to solve any puzzle. You are also great at poking holes in arguments and common beliefs.

For you, comfort and calm are very important. You tend to thrive on your own and shrug off most affection. You prefer to protect your emotions and stay strong.

The World’s Shortest Personality Test
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