[sticky entry] Sticky: Semi-Friends Only

Apr. 17th, 2020 08:28 pm
queenlua: (Default)
My public stuff is fic updates, meta, and perhaps occasional musings on non-fannish things (writing, birds, etc).

Random life commentary, or general commentary that happens to include potentially personally-identifying information (for some relative value of that term, anyway) is private. I like my secret internet double-life, yo.

If you want to be friends, just leave a comment here (all comments screened). If I've seen you around, or you convince me that we have some stuff in common, I'll probably add you!
queenlua: A wolf resting. (Wolf: Resting)
i've mused, in the past, on how it seems like being too close to your subject can make your writing quality suffer. now i'm musing over a highly-related but possibly-distinct concern: being too close to any one character.

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aphantasia

Jul. 22nd, 2016 10:52 am
queenlua: (Default)
Some number of years ago I stumbled on this blog post, "I don't see anything when I close my eyes".

The author says that he can't mentally "see" objects in his mind—for instance, if asked to imagine a red square, while he knows intellectually what it looks like, he can't really imagine/see it unless it's in front of him.

I found this fascinating to stumble upon, because I thought this was how everyone was. When people talked about seeing a picture in their mind, I thought it was just kind of a figure of speech, but this dude's post + various anecdata indicates most people actually do this, and I'm the weird one for not being able to picture things!

Anyway, this week I found a couple cool articles on this topic! Turns out researchers are starting to look into this, which I find exciting, because it seemed like such a tricky and quirky thing to study that we'd never get actual scientists on it, and yet here we are. Also it has a name now: "aphantasia."

Also, another person reports he's also unable to mentally "hear" music, which is fascinating to me. I can hear music in my mind, quite vividly, and have composed whole songs that way; it feels weird that not everyone can do this.

Other tidbits:

* I'm really curious if there are any good artists with visual aphantasia. I actually liked art a lot as a kid and drew lots up through middle school, but I wasn't excellent at it. I imagine with more training/effort I could've become good, but I wonder if I'd eventually hit difficulties once I got to Serious Business stuff? Like, I can imagine composing music without being able to hear music in the mind, but it'd be a huge pain in the ass, you'd be pretty reliant on synthesizer-like tools to experiment with sounds, and I imagine not having the ability to turn over different approaches in your mind would make iterations/improvements harder. But maybe not!

* Amusingly, I think this explains why I found it so impossible to find an approach for meditation that worked for me. A bunch of meditation guides have stuff like "start by imagining a white dot in your mind," and I think that was supposed to be the easy part, but I would get stuck there, trying and trying to conjure up a thing in my mind that just was not happening. Once I read a guide on walking meditation it all made much more sense.

Also if anyone else shares this experience let me know, because I'm super curious, join the aphantasia club etc etc
queenlua: (Mejiro: Hanging)
Here, have an abstract-y ideological-y post about Brexit, "The New Politics of Meaning".

It reminded me of my own post on enlightenment vs technocracy, but I think this guy states it a little more cleanly. In particular, I like his term "systematic mode" better than what I call "technocracy", since it pins the root of this sort of thinking further back historically, and avoids the Soviet-Russian-communism insinuations I think of when I hear "technocratic."

I do not have the time to dig through the whole of his blog, which seems like one of those things that's aiming to offer a Grand Master Theory Of Culture and Ethics, and thus would probably be interesting to scour through once I do have the time. His blog has the faintly wild lilt you'd expect from the sort of internet person who has a Grand Master Theory, and thus I suspect I will mistrust/quibble/argue with a lot of it (already in this other post I skimmed I'm raising eyebrows hardcore at the offhanded "mostly only STEM majors who can make [the transition to a higher mode of thinking]," and I'm a little skeptical of his leaning so hard on some dude's theories which, granted, I've not heard of before but feel really similar to Kohlberg's theories, which I have some familiarity with), but it's nice to see some of my own confused, intuited understandings reflected in the words of someone else, and I'm hopeful perhaps he has a better resolution to the dilemma than I found.
queenlua: (Magpie)
i.

My dad and I went birding in Colorado. Not for long, just for as long as we could sneak away from the family, one hour one evening, when we drove up to a nearby ski resort and tromped through the forest.

There was a path, but I abandoned it because I could hear a hermit thrush singing and I wanted to see it. Hermit thrushes are elusive little birds, prone to hiding in the underbrush. We went deep into the forest; I took a step and got soaked all the way to my calves in mud. Damn, wetland.

Dad and I struggled through the mud for a bit before my dad noticed—there were these slender white flowers that seemed to like water; the mud was deepest where they were, shallowest where they weren't. Sure enough, we wound a far-drier path forward by creeping between patches of white, and just a few minutes later, we came to a clearing and saw the thrush: singing, loud, triumphant, at the very top of a tree where no thrush ever sings from.

ii.

I started writing this because in my mind all my hobbies are the same: programming is music is writing is birding is everything. And I thought I'd come up with some brilliant connection between birding and programming, how they're exactly the same, but I wound up convincing myself it was also, well, everything.

The key to everything—it's so zen-sounding obvious-sounding stupid: awareness. Or rather, observantness. But hear me out; I promise there's not an iota of pseudo-zen in this post. (EDIT: rereading this by the light of not-3am-on-a-work-night, this is a blatant lie and this is all hippie shit but feel free to read anyway!)

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queenlua: Tamaki and Kyoya of Ouran High School Host Club with the text "Elitist Bitches." (Ouran High: Elitist Bitches)
Here, have a very interesting story by Elon Musk's first ex-wife, where she talks about how she fell in love with the to-be uber-jillionaire & what caused them to grow apart.

I like it because it's not a "wow this guy was an A+ raging asshole" screed, and is more about how a young, ambitious woman fell in love with a young, ambitious man, the only man who seemed to respect and admire her ambition. And yet, as the man became more and more successful, he became more and more wrapped up in work, expecting her to take up more domestic responsibility, expecting her to be blonde like the wives of all his friends, showing more and more disdain for her "books," until one day she realizes she's been slowly turned into the trophy wife she never thought she'd become.

Read it a while ago, but posting it now since a friend brought up an interesting question this morning—if you had the opportunity to marry a fabulously wealthy person, e.g. a Saudi prince, would you go for it? (I answered, first I need to love them and have compatible goals for our future, and if that hurdle's cleared even then I'm a little nervous. Most marriages end in divorce, so you can't just be "now I've got it made"; I'd want to continue having my own money and my own career. Friend seemed more optimistic about the idea, saying it'd open huge opportunities for him and his potential kiddos. idk. interesting stuff.)
queenlua: (Robin)
i'm not a comedian or a comic writer or even particularly funny so here are some half-baked thoughts on comedy:
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queenlua: (Magpie (Snow))
here, have an article on campus activism, focused on oberlin specifically, but probably more broadly applicable than that. (also, the list of student demands referenced in the article.) also, a tumblr post on the subject, and some blogger dude.

i share these links because i think they're the only ones i've been able to find that try to offer a balanced perspective on the recent spate of student agitation over SJ-y issues. i thought the new yorker article was interesting enough that i tried to google responses to it, and i couldn't find anything beyond "lol these oberlin students are so DUMB and SPOILED and want to GET PAID TO SKIP CLASS whiny yanks need to stfu and go back to class," which was depressing. given that a lot of similar movements have been sparking across the country (u of missouri, yale, stanford, seattle university are the first ones that come to mind, but i know there's many others), i think it's important/interesting to try and understand where the students are coming from.

so, here's me cobbling together my own response.

the sense i get from the new yorker article is, the current wave of activism is a sort of third-wave pomo activism. the previous wave of student activism in the 60's/70's gave rise to stuff like, say, affirmative action, which is a good way to get more underrepresented/lower-class students into universities, where they can then learn upper-middle-class values and join a middle-upper-class profession and have middle-upper-class babies. for folks who had been kept down for so long, this was awesome progress, and i don't have actually statistics/links on hand, but i know people have drawn pretty strong links between these policies and stuff like "hey now there are actually black lawyers" and "hey now there are actually enough black lawyers that they can support each other and form professional networks" and "hey now the idea of a middle-upper-class mostly-black suburb is a thing that can actually happen." hashtag progress.

but the most recent generation of underrepresented students is showing up on campus and saying, jeez, this is a sham, upper-middle-class values suck. why am i learning only about dead white guys? how come no one cares about non-western cultures? how come i feel like a token rather than a fully-integrated part of this campus community?

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queenlua: (Default)
In college, I spent a week in Panama, where I had the birding adventure of a lifetime, running around from dawn to dusk with a gaggle of ornithology students and frantically writing down the names of everything in a little moleskine notebook.

At the time, however, I was not a super-scrupulous note-taker, so while all my bird notes since then have been entered into eBird, the little moleskine's been sitting untouched.

Since eBird automatically keeps count of your "life list"—the number of species you've seen total—my life list count on eBird has thus been super-inaccurate, because I saw an absurd number of species in Panama that eBird knew nothing about.

For the past four years or so, I've had the vague-yet-serious goal of having 1,000 species on my life list, and yesterday, I decided it was time to figure out my Real Actual Life List Number, so I dug up the moleskine and started copying notes from it onto eBird. Halfway through the process I came to an interesting realization: I actually don't care that much about the life list number anymore.

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queenlua: (Default)
i have no idea how widely this is being covered by traditional news sources, since my news feed has, uh, a very tech-heavy bias, but!

if you haven't seen it yet, google's alphago program just won the first two matches of a five-game series, playing Go against Lee Sedol, one of the top Go players in the world.

this is actually a very cool, very big deal and y'all should take a peek at a bit of it while it's going on. it's totally the deep blue vs kasparov of our time.

i think the thing that's striking to me is how quickly this has happened. when i was studying AI in college, around 2011 or so, the impression me and my fellow students generally had was, Go is a really really hard game for computers, for a number of reasons, and most of us weren't expecting it to be solved anytime soon.

in particular, we can compare against chess. chess is a hard game, and deep blue was a huge accomplishment for its time—but. turns out chess has a definite win condition a computer can aim for (put the king in checkmate); go is based on however many points are earned by the end of the game, and turns out like 80% of those points are "up in the air" until near the end of the game most the time (you "capture" stones as the game progresses but most stones don't get captured til near the end). chess boards are small, 8x8, and thus have a smaller number of possible game states; go boards are nineteen by nineteen which puts an insane multiplier on the number of possible board states. chess pieces are in a fixed position at the start of every game; go pieces are placed on the board one at a time as play progresses. there are nice heuristics for evaluating how strong/weak someone's position on a chess board is at any given time (i.e. count up the value of each players' pieces), whereas it can be really hard to tell who's winning a go game at any time. and so on.

there were efforts at go AI while i was in college, of course, but most of them were only effective on much smaller boards, or against inferior opponents (players in the european go associations are noticeably weaker than asian go association players on average, etc), and used some newfangled search trees. i haven't had a chance to read up on alphago yet, but the gist i've gotten is that it relies heavily on neural networks—an area of AI research that's exploded at a crazy rate in the past few years—as well as those newfangled search trees. i also understand that the techniques the computer used to learn go are surprisingly general—that is, it wasn't super-duper-hardcoded to work with only Go, and thus theoretically could be applied to a wide range of AI problems.

it's been a long time since i was especially interested in AI, but this is super-cool research; i'm planning to read the papers and such about it and maybe do a writeup of it later. in the meantime, yeah, everyone go check out some alphago matches; it'll be a good time.

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