Sunday, March 31, 2013

12 Twenty-Nineth Beginning (Nanowrimo 2007) Organizing Aunt Sheila

[Welcome to the middle of a long conversation between and Aunt and the Niece she has never met and who has been sent by the family to "help orgainize."  Do not read any part of this as if it were a completed story or you will be disappointed. In 2007, my strategy for Nanowrimo was to call my efforts 'literary' use that as an excuse to dump ideas and references that had been collecting in my mind and desk and files for years.  I skipped linear progression.]

[I also skipped quotation marks and dialog tags.  They may or may not go back.  I kind of like the ambiguity.]

[Barbara has collected stacks of notes and is reading from them as she and her Aunt Sheila sit on a log in a meadow an undetermined distance away from nearby houses.]

Leopard calling.

Leopard calling is something that chimps do.  And maybe baboons.


Yes, and behavior, if you need a keyword

Chimps are always competing for status.  The top chimp is always under subtle or not so subtle attack.  But there’s one way that he can sidetrack the pressure for a time.

You see, the top chimp is always alert, watching out for the troop.  He makes a special call that alerts everyone that there is a leopard in the area.  All of his lieutenants jump into position to support him when he makes the call.  And for awhile after that, for the good of the group, there is cooperation against an outside threat instead of competition within the group.

So, every once in awhile, if there’s been pressure building from below. . .

. . . he leopard calls when there is no leopard.

That’s right.  Human leaders do it too.  It’s also a well known technique for bringing people, like voters, into a group that they wouldn’t have otherwise felt the need to be part of.

That’s blog material, too.

It’s significant.  Certainly it’s something that humans need to know about humans.

Do you think that the top chimp does it on purpose.  Or does he just start wanting to see a leopard and maybe misinterprets something as a leopard.

That would certainly help make it convincing.  But I can’t think of anyway to test it.  And nothing related has ever made the Sunday Supplements. 

Barbara paused, stroking the side of the laptop.

Okaaay.  How about:  “Jim Al-Khalili's Quantum: A Guide for the Perplexed is about the best book I've found for explaining this to a non-technical audience and has some beautiful illustrations besides. Give that a shot.” 

Books I’ve never read.  Sounds like a good one.

And we just need the title and author?


Christopher Booker in his "Seven Basic Plots -- why we tell stories"

Same.  Although I’m curious as to how much ‘why’ is in there and whether it’s Primatology.

Gotcha.  “If you can get any books be Eric Kandel, he is (IMO) the dude when it comes to memory.  Principles Of Neural Science Memory...Mind to Molecules. If you read the first, you may be able to follow the second.”  That sounds like two books.

Yes, can you pick them apart?  Sheila leaned over.

Yes.  I think it’s Principles Of Neural Science as one and Memory...Mind to Molecules as two.

And if it’s not, we’ll figure it out later.

Gotcha.  How about:  Self-Coaching: How to Heal Anxiety and Depression by Joseph J. Luciani, PhD, From Panic to Power by Lucinda Bassett, The Feeling Good Handbook by David D. Burns, M.D., and Power over Panic by Bronwyn Fox. I believe they are all available through Chapters.

Just the titles and authors. 

Are you sure you want to spend the time on these.  You’ve got stuff of your own going.

It’s easier to delete them then to get references for them again.

Right.  Included in his works as author and/or editor are By the Late John Brockman, The Third Culture, Digerati: Encounters with the Cyber Elite;editor of The Greatest Inventions in the Past Two Thousand Years, and The Next Fifty Years : Science in the First Half of the Twenty-First Century; Science at the Edge.

Sounds like a bunch of books by one author.

And it sounds computer related. 

Yes, computers and how they change society.  Have you ever read Isaac Asimov’s space detective novels?  One has a planetary society in it where people are never in the same room as other people.  There’s a taboo against it, like against pooping in front of people.

Or farting in front of them.

I have a fart reference for you in Kurt Vonnegut’s Galapagos. 

Hang on.  I want to put that in my note doc instead of into the database.

College kids usually like Vonnegut. 

While the title is misleading, Dennett's Consciousness Explained is about the best take on consciousness from an evolutionary philosophy point of view. If you want to get more into the technical neurological detail of the brain and the processes of consciousness, I recommend Ian Glynn's An Anatomy of Thought. (Warning, this is pretty technical, despite being a nominally pop-science book, and you'll need a basic knowledge of biochemistry and neurology to make good headway through many sections of the book.)

Titles and Authors and the keyword dense

Cool.  Now, I’m going to shake my finger over this one.


Yes.  It says I don't think you're geeky enough for the internet...

Not merely a joke, but an entire career: Vaughn Meader's The First Family, released in 1962. It satirized JFK, his administration and his family. It broke all sorts of records in sales and won the "best album" Grammy. Everyone, including JFK himself, loved the album, and Vaughn Meader was an instant superstar.  Then came November 22, 1963. The album was pulled off the shelves, Meader's career was effectively over, and he basically never performed again, with a few rare exceptions.

And your finger will shake because. . .

You got this off of the internet and printed it out.  We hooked up to the internet to get rid of all of these papers sitting around.  You’re not supposed to be adding to the mess.

Have I ever told you about the theory of the paperless office?

No.  But it sounds like a good idea.  We’ll probably evolve to it eventually.

You’d think so.  Unfortunately, it’s one of those work expanding to fill the time available things.  And a cover your ass thing.

Cover your ass?

Keep the record clear so no one can blame you for something that you didn’t do.  Office communications can be tricky.

Now, you’ve suddenly got the capacity to make changes in a document quickly.  Where before it would have required typing out a whole book to make a few changes, now you can just slip the changes in.  So everyone wants to, right up until it goes out the door. 

And as the document is routed for comments and approvals, everyone wants to track the changes they requested, so copies are made.  Copies will let you say later that you asked for that change, or, no that’s Bill’s handwriting.  So copies of multiple versions of the same document are made and filed for future ass-covering purposes.

And since the copies can be made easily, instead of only by carbon copy, everyone wants to make one and keep it.  So they can remember to add it to their resume if it turns out that being associated with the document turns out to be a good thing.

Lots more changes.  Lots more versions.  Lots more copies.  Filed in lots more places.  Not less paper.  More.  Word processing generated a lot more paper for any given office.  Because the printout can’t be changed, but the electronic version can.  They can change it as soon as you’ve approved it.  They can change it years later, trying to cover their own asses.

No paperless office until the electronic versions can be locked into your personal equipment and used in the same way.  And even then, anyone who has been in an office long knows about the computer files that can no longer be read because we don’t have that program any more.  Or we don’t have an old enough version of that program.  Or the files got corrupted. 

The computer can’t take six inch floppies any more.  It can’t take ticker tape.  It can’t take two inch floppy or a zip drive or an Euler disc.  The electronics go out of fashion and you’re screwed.  All that data and no way to retrieve it.

But the paper can be read with your eyes.  Just your eyes.  No electronics necessary.  The language isn’t going to change fast enough to mess you up.  Your eyes aren’t going to upgrade to the point that they can’t read it.  Paper is golden. 

There will be no paperless office in my lifetime.  Paperless archives, maybe.  For organizations that can keep up with maintaining them.  So that shifts to new programs or equipment won’t result in orphan files.

And maybe you’ll live long enough to see things slow down and standardize.  The train tracks eventually standardized.  The electricity standardized.  Computer Operating Systems have standardized enough that you can read a document written on a Mac on an IBM.  There was a time when you couldn’t do that.  But I won’t live to see it.  I’ll see more paper, not less.

Are you finished?

I supposed.  Eyes batted.

Now, can you start a file for these things that you print out, at least?  I was going to ask you to just email them to me.  But if you need to hold it and see it in your hand, that’s okay.  I can do the extra work.

There was a pause, then their eyes met and they both cracked up.

I’ll try to remember to email it to you.  It’s just the old fogeyhood.  And I do want to see them.  Maybe in a 3-ring binder, when it’s all done.  I like to flip through.

They’re starting to get computers that you can do that with.

Hugely expensive.

Probably.  Next.

“I’m the end of a Raymond Carver Story”  Cat and Girl

That’s from a webcomic.  I don’t know who Raymond Carver is or what his stories are like. 

But you want to get the joke.  I’ll add it to Books.


Then you’ve got the Kinky Friedman bibliography.  I assume you’ve read some of them.  I’m not reading off the ISBN’s.

Don't bother reading the titles.  Just list them all with a question mark.  I’ll go through and see if which ones I’ve read.  I can never decide if I’d really enjoy meeting that man or if I’d want to slap his face in two minutes.

I’m going to have to try one, with that kind of recommendation.

He is a true raconteur. 

What is that.

A very special kind of story teller.
Cool - -

Saturday, March 30, 2013

11 Twenty-Nineth Beginning (Nanowrimo 2007) Organizing Aunt Sheila

[Do not read any part of the Twelfth Beginning as if it were a story or you will be disappointed. In 2007, my strategy for Nanowrimo was to call my efforts 'literary' and go completely non-linear, dumping ideas and references I had collected for years just to get them out of my mind and off of my desk.]

[ . . . Continuing the discussion as Barbara helps her Aunt Sheila to organize.]

Speaking of which, you should add zwyzzyr to the list.   It’s another word I made up.  Unless you think that visions come from outside of the brain, in which case, the gods told me. 

Spell it.

Z W Y Z Z Y R.  It’s the humor that underlies and is the basis of the universe.  There are kites involved.  It was a really short vision, but, as visions are wont to do, it packed a lot of back-story into the split second in which it occurred.

Okay.  I’m starting a category of words you’ve made up.  That last one gets a keyword of vision.  Have you had other visions.

Four all together.  The first happened when I was about twelve and I interpreted it in a Christian way, mostly.  There was no verbal component and no claims of dogma.  Not like when Jesus told Mom to drop.  I’ll explain that one later.  I’m in too good a mood to talk about my Mother.

These are going into Primatology, brain, visions.

Good.  One, later, was just a feeling that the universe was telling me that everything would come out all right.  I was wracked with a headache and was behind on just about everything, bills included.  It was kind of nice.  I didn’t believe a non-word of it, but that didn’t matter.  It was comforting.  I didn’t have to believe in it logically.  I could tell that enough of my mind believed it irrationally to let it make me feel better, so I just let it.

That was tangled.  Give me a minute.

Okay, what was the last one.

The last was a sudden, overarching realization that when I died there would be nothing of me left.  That memory and personality iss created by the brain and when it went, everything would go.



That’s such a downer, what did you do.

I mentally told myself to cut it out.  “I don’t need this now:” I said to myself.  I’m delivering these pizzas and I need to find the apartment number here on this dirty, half-lit landing.  I had to go back up and down a few more flights, but I eventually worked out that the number I wanted was missing from the door and it had to be this door by elimination.

So I delivered it, made change, and hustled to get the other two in the car delivered on time.

This happened while you were delivering pizza?

Yup.  And I needed the bonus money from getting high numbers delivered, so I didn’t have any time that night to think it over.  By the end of the night, I had decided that it was probably right, but that it was a conclusion that I had come to myself and no more true than any other conclusion.  And even if it was true, there was no point in worrying over it.

Later, I was kind of amused to have a vision of no afterlife to theoretically put up against other peoples “And then God told me. . . “

Barbara half smiled.  I guess that is ironic.  A vision that there are no visions, sort of.

Exactly.  I never thought of it from quite that angle, but you’re spot on.

Thank you.

I hope it’s not going to bother you.

Maybe later.  If I’m having trouble falling asleep.

Yes, that’s when the “I’m going to die some day” bug starts to bite.  Oddly enough, I’ve found that the bug bites more often if I’m not happy with my life than if I am.  So the surest way to keep it away is to figure out what I want to do and then find a way to do at least part of it.

Another, possibly two-thirds smile.  I’ll try making lists of things to keep it away.

My lists are my life!  Sheila held up an imaginary notebook, brandishing it as a vampire hunter would brandish a cross.

Barbara fully smiled.

Back to the lists.  "Gort, Klaatu barada nikto,"

That’s from an old, classic sci fi movie.  I think it was titled The Day the Earth Stood Still, but we’d better check that.  Gort was the name of the robot that came with the alien.  Gort was programmed to attack if the alien was injured.  The alien made friends with a woman and told her that command.  If he was injured, that command would keep the robot from attacking.

And of course she had to use it, and of course she almost used it too late.

Yes.  Narrative imperative.  It was also used in that campy fantasy movie with the guy with the shotgun who called it a boomstick.  Not Sean of the Dead.

Army of Darkness.  I loved that.  He doesn’t write down the invocation and forgets the last word – then tries to fake it with coughs and mumbles.  It was a cool movie. 

Yes, it was.  I’m not remembering a lot of it, now, so it may be a good time to see it again.  At least for me.

Yes.  We should get netflix.

You can explain what that is when we’ve got everything into the box, there.  Not everything explained, just everything in.

We’re getting closer than you know.

Have you been out to the sheds.


Then maybe not.

Damn.  (eyes up through the hair to check – no reaction)  ((cool))

Okay, I’m going to read this out.  It’s going under Primatology, religion.  And I don’t need a comment from you unless you want to give it.  But I think it’s cool and I want to read it now.

Sheila nodded, then leaned back with her eyes closed.

“I have a theory that there are three types of sin. 

There is the sin against your church/religion's authority - a Meta sin.

There is the sin that is pointless or patently stupid, so that anyone who will bother going to the pains of avoiding it is obviously a member of Our Tribe - a Shibboleth sin

Then there is what I think of as a Meat Sin.  The Meat Sin is defined by a square with a cross drawn in it, making two axes.  One axis is the benefits self vs benefits community axis.  The other axis is the short term benefit vs long term benefit axis.

Any behavior can be plotted as a point which will fall into one of four quadrants.  Behavior that falls in the short term/self quadrant is tempting behavior (call it quadrant one).  Behavior that falls in the long term/community quadrant requires thought, planning, and an act of will (call it quadrant four).

An individual is better off, personally, if they avoid quadrant one.   Acting for their own long term benefit is better in the long run (hence the phrase - long term benefit).  Acting for their community's benefit, either short or long term, will gain friends and support.  Other people are our greatest resource, which makes gaining support good for us, long term.

So it is desirable, from a strictly meat perspective, to shift behavior, especially the behavior of other people, into quadrant four.  It tickles me when religions, which are supposed to be based on the spiritual, end up organizing most of their sins from this meat perspective: toting up lists of good and evil behaviors that come down to lists of quadrant four and quadrant one behaviors. 

To me, Original Sin is the acknowledgement that all humans, heck, all living things, tend to slide into quadrant one behavior.  The Devil is the personification of the slippery slope toward quadrant one.  It's the externalization of the urge to do what you know will not benefit you in the long run, just because it will feel good now.

Original Sin is also the acknowledgement that Life feeds on Life.  Life competes with Life.  No matter how diligently you plan your behavior, you will never be innocent in the original meaning of the word - - doing no harm.  Even plants try to shade out other plants. 

We can never be completely innocent.  Innocent also has an implied meaning, as in innocent bystander, that is - this person should not be harmed.  Like the notion of sacrifice, this implied meaning hinges on a balance.  To the degree that someone is harmless, they should not be harmed.  Since we can never be completely harmless (due to Original Sin/the general facts of Life), we can also never be completely safe.

Anyone craving Complete Safety will not be worthy of it unless a miracle somehow cancels out their deficit of harmlessness.  Only if Someone can magically steal or eat that last bit of unavoidable harmfulness can a person be Completely Safe.

Those of us who can't find the magic to balance the equation must live with knowing that we are not innocent and we are not safe. “

I remember writing that.  I don’t remember it being that smooth.  I was unhappy with it and put it away.

I like it.  I’d like to keyword it blog.

I don’t need a blog to feed, dear.  I have enough that I’m behind on.  And I don’t think it’s long enough to be an essay.

I’d still like to keyword it blog.  That’s a comment on it’s size and style more than a statement of intent.  Although, if I ever start a blog myself, I’ll ask to post it.

You have my permission.  As long as I don’t get quoted directly.  I know a number of Christian persons who would take that as a challenge.

I’ll note that.

Thank you.

No – thank you.

[the conversation will continue still more later - it was a long one]

Friday, March 29, 2013

10 Twenty-Nineth Beginning (Nanowrimo 2007) Organizing Aunt Sheila

[Do not read any part of the Twelfth Beginning as if it were a story or you will be disappointed. In 2007, my strategy for Nanowrimo was to call my efforts 'literary' and go completely non-linear, dumping ideas and references I had collected for years just to get them out of my mind and off of my desk.]

[ . . . Continuing the discussion as Barbara helps her Aunt Sheila to organize.]

“Life is what happens while you’re making other plans.”  That had been attributed to a Beatle at one point.  But like Abe Lincoln, Mark Twain, and Ben Franklin, you had to search to be sure the quote had not been misattributed.  You could find nearly any quote attributed to one or more of the big three in print or on the internet.  They were names that people gravitated towards. 

Well, the shoes were still dry.  And as overpriced as zip-locks were, they did have their uses.

Sheila took her time walking back to the log.  There were birds in the meadow beyond the log.  Blackbirds mostly.  Barbara was sitting on the log, her attention on the book and pencil.  There was a competitive streak hidden under that meek exterior. 

What’s the puzzle?

This first one isn’t a puzzle.  They’re calling them obstacles.  The first obstacle is “What letter appears once only in each of the first two words but not at all in the last two words.”  It seems more like clerical work than anything else.  I’m going to assume that it’s designed to program my brain to be a genius.

Interesting assumption.

Well, it is a Mensa book. 

That’s only the top two percent.  And it’s that portion of the top two percent that feels the need to say they’re in the top two percent.

Have you know any Mensans?

I was one, one year.  Didn’t get enough out of it to pay another twenty dollars.

They make you pay.

Oh, every club requires dues.  I got a newsletter and I’m sure they have internet things, now.  I also got a button that said “First Time”.  You were supposed to wear it for, say, your first local games night or your first state convention.  People were supposed to see it and introduce you around.

Did it work.

I was very, very not social at the time.  I think I went to one games night and one special show in a Planetarium that I rather liked.  This was back in Ohio.  We lived in Ohio for nearly a year before moving to California.

So they showed particularly nice stars at the Planetarium?

I don’t remember the stars part, although there probably was some of that.  Then they did a rendition of an Isaac Asimov short story.  I’m blanking on the name.  It wasn’t Nightfall.  It was the one about the end of the Universe and the question that restarted it.

That sounds interesting.

The light effects were well done.  If you want to keep working on your obstacle, I don’t mind sitting here.

Well, the first one was easy.  Let’s see about the second one.  “Remove one letter from the first word and place it into the second word to form two new words.  Yada yada. . . that looks a little more interesting.

Barbara continued in silence.  Sheila closed her eyes and listened to the sounds of the outdoors.  She listened as Barbara worked her way through Obstacle 3:  “What word has a similar meaning to the first word and rhymes with the second word.”

Barbara frowned and started poking at the book and making hash marks.  Sheila looked over and saw a nest of interlocking triangles and rectangles. 

I hate those count the shapes things. 

Hah, the last question says “How many hexagons can you find?”  Any answer would be right for that.

Pedantically speaking, yes.  Any number you would suggest would presumably be the number you found.

So unless I guessed a number that I hadn’t found, I’d be right. 

Which makes it an honesty test.

Ah!  I hadn’t thought of that.  I was trying to connect it with the bridge in Monty Python and the Holy Grail. 

I’ve seen that once or twice.

You didn’t like it.

It was like watching South Park.  Bits were funny, but there was enough that was . . . off that I couldn’t enjoy the whole thing.  I saw the bridge bit as a clip on a talk show before I saw the whole movie.  As a bit, the bridge scene was brilliant.  I’ve been told that I’m too judgmental about the rest. 

Yes, yes you are.  Although there are one or two comments that I could do without in the Castle Anthrax scene.

Which one is that?

“Naughty Zoot – the grail-shaped beacon?”

Sheila tilted her head and rolled her eyes to the left.  Ah, the oral sex.

Barbara laughed, discomfort bubbling away.  You always surprise me when you do that.  You avoid saying . . . even things like poop.  Then you let off with porn or oral sex. 

It’s probably a reaction to all of the foster children.  I’ve needed to rein in their language, some of them.  But you can’t let them think that language is a lever to bother you with.  So I shift back and forth.  I’ll have to watch to see if I’m doing it when the person I’m talking to is trying to avoid saying something. 

You don’t know if you’re doing it that way? 

No.  I hadn’t really thought about it at all, ‘til you brought it up.  Now I’ll have to think about it. 

Most people know.

Most people say they know.  But most people are shoveling.

Do you say that to avoid saying bullshit?

No.  It’s my own adaptation.  Do you remember when the Left Brain vs Right Brain meme hit the magazines and Sunday supplements?

No. But I’ve run across references.  Something about the right brain being creative and the left brain being ordered and them not talking to each other.  And what kind of a word is meem?

A small one.  It’s an idea or procedure or piece of style that can travel from one person to another.  Words are made of phonemes.  Worldviews are made of memes.

So it’s something like a paradigm? 

Paradigms are bigger.  In fact I think paradigms are made up of memes.  Or can be.  I may have a quote to that effect.

I haven’t logged one with either meme or paradigm, yet.

We’ve still got a couple of book cases to go.  And then there are the boxes. 

Yes, I suggested this walk to avoid the boxes.

Did you?  That was clever, insightful, and effective.

Thank you. 

You’re welcome.

I’m not used to people being happy that I’ve tricked them.

It’s a normal enough human interaction.  I don’t see anything sinister about it.  You gave me something I needed and wanted to get something that you wanted. 

Yes, but most people would see it as Losing.

Well, that would be my problem, surely?  If I don’t want you arranging to get me what I want, then I’m going to have to be more on guard.

Barbara laughed.  Online it would have been LOL. 

Yes, but most people don’t see it that way.

Most people don’t want to see things as they are.  They want a story that sounds better and that lets them maneuver for what they want behind the story.  Of course everyone is maneuvering.  All you can hope for is that they do it in a kindly manner.  Which you have done.

Thank you.

I wouldn’t have thought of you avoiding the boxes because I’m too occupied with avoiding other things myself. 

I’ve noticed that.  I’m also getting curious.

Sheila could not help frowning.

But, I’m going to wait and see what I can pick up naturally and with a few questions here and there as subjects come up in context.

Until we get to the video interviews.

Barbara’s head came down, but the eyes looking out were not timid.  Well I was hoping you wouldn’t twig to that.

There was a pause.  Birds twittered and something splashed, somewhere.  Barbara hadn’t seen any sign of water and was mildly curious for a moment.

We were talking about something and got sidetracked.  Not that the side track wasn’t scenic.

They cast their minds back.  Barbara was first to touch ground.

We were talking about left brains and right brains.

Ah, and shoveling. 

Yes, you said it was your own idiom.

Imagine, if you will, a herd of memes, rampaging across the fields of the Sunday Supplements.  There may have been a book that started it out.  There were definitely books that followed.  And, of course, there was probably a journal article or two at the heart of it, although they would not have been referred to directly at any point, nor, I dare say, interpreted correctly.

At the core of it were what seemed to be a troop of ex-epileptics who had had surgery to sever their corpus callosi.

Corpus which?

It’s a fiber tract that runs between the two hemispheres of the brain.  It contains nerves connect the two hemispheres.  I saw a 3D model of the brain, once, that could be taken apart and put together like a jigsaw puzzle.  The Corpus callosum looked a lot like a butterfly that had been squashed by a basketball and then peeled off.


Probably says something about me, although I’m not sure what.

No doubt that you once played basketball and have seen butterflies.

True, but of no consequence.  Where were we?

Surgery to cut through the butterfly.

Yes.  These people had had huge, raging epileptic seizures and the surgery had been done as a last ditch effort to stop them.  It seems that it was successful.  But it left people with diminished connections between the two sides of the brain.

You say diminished.

Yes.  I looked into it a bit and there is at least one other connection, normally, and other connections may be there for individuals. 

Idiosyncratic Brain Connections?

Yes.  Band Name.  Barbara giggled.

Now when I say herds of ex-epileptics. 



You said troops of ex-epileptics.  It was herds of memes.

Thank you, ungrateful child.  Barbara giggled again.

The troops of epileptics.

Ex-epileptics.  With their hemispheres severed.  When I say that, I have no idea how many of them there were.  The articles seemed to be quoting the same patient over and over, although there was one article that mentioned a female patient, where most of them were mentioning male patients.  I suppose there could have been as few as three people being studied.

Because they were being studied.  The surgery was heroic, done to save some quality of life even if there was great cost.  So there were scientists studying the functioning of the ex-eps to see what the cost was, using the opportunity to gain additional knowledge of how the brain works.


Yes.  It was already known that the right side of the body reports to and is controlled by the left side of the brain and vice versa.  So the scientists created a device that would show an image to one eye or the other and ask ‘what did you see’. 

Now the speech areas are normally located in the left side of the brain, so things shown to the right eye would be correctly described while those shown to the left eye wouldn’t be.


Yes, but a person has two hands.  So they would make up a strip of card that had several images on it.  Then they would send an image to the left eye, ask what he saw and while the voice was saying it didn’t see anything, the left hand would point to the correct image.

More interesting.

The story that was in almost all of them was showing a tree to the right eye and a shovel to the left eye.  The voice would say tree, while the hand went to the shovel.  When asked why the hand went to the shovel, the man would say something along the lines of, well, of course we need a shovel to plant the tree.

Now here was a person who had had a portion of their brain removed.  And they knew that they were being studied, although I will grant that the scientists probably never told him what, exactly, was being studied.  Scientists do that.  They’ll tell you that a test is for one thing so that you’re not thinking about the thing that they’re actually watching.

But he knows that he’s being studied.  And his hand is working without him.  But he immediately reaches for an explanation, and as soon as he has one, he’s unshakable.  He planned to touch that card for the exact reason stated.

And when I read that, I though, my god.  People are doing that all the time.  They’re being very sure of themselves with no real rational thought at all.

I’ve read somewhere, that they’ve identified the area of the brain that thinks up reasons for what you’ve already done. 

The rationalization area – like sour grapes.

Yes.  Or mostly yes.  Rationalization is motivated.  It’s meant to relieve anxiety and make a person feel better.  Shoveling is just automatic.  It fills in the gaps and presents a person with a coherent view of their own behavior.  It may be inaccurate, but it doesn’t have to be self-serving.

That’s almost scary if you think about it right.

It’s scary no matter how you think of it.  I’m always distrustful of anyone who isn’t distrustful of their own conclusions.  You see, there was a woman in some of the later articles.  The scientists pulled something on her.  I’m sure they did the regular tests, too, but the test that was cited would have gotten someone censured if it were done today.

Barbara leaned in.

The put a picture of a house, or some other benign object on the right side, and a picture of a naked man on the other.

Barbara put a hand over her mouth, appalled and giggling.

She would say house or whatever, but she’d be laughing when she said it.  They’d ask her why she was laughing and she said I don’t know.  I don’t know.  It’s just a funny, funny house.

She said she didn’t know.  Maybe she had more permission to say that.  Like she could stop for directions if she was lost.

Yes.  There’s that.  There’s also the fact that women are usually less lateralized than men, so that there might be more brain areas analyzing the naked man linguistically.  Although women also have, again, on average, larger corpus colossi. 

Bell curve.

Yes, exactly.  And you’d think that taking out a larger, more often used tract would strand more brain function, not less.


So, I adapted the word shoveling.  I have to explain it, if I forget and use it.  But then I have to explain a lot of the words I use, so it doesn’t change much. 

[The conversation continues later.]

Thursday, March 28, 2013

09 Twenty-Nineth Beginning (Nanowrimo 2007) Organizing Aunt Sheila

[Do not read the Twelfth Beginning as if it were a story or things will get strange. In 2007, my strategy for Nanowrimo was to cram the story into the category 'literary' and go completely non-linear, dumping ideas and references I had collected just to get them out of my mind and off of my desk.

Don't let yourself get confused trying to make more of the bits than are there. Thanks.]

[ . . . Continuing the discussion as Barbara helps her Aunt Sheila to organize.]

Reinventing your life, by Jeffrey Young. 

Book not read.

You’ve got a lot of self-help books.

And a lot of cleaning books.

More on self-help.  With an emphasis on procrastination.

Yup.  That’s me.  How many do you have listed.

Let me count.  In fact, let’s see if you remember them all.  If you do, I can rate them.

This one might not count.  It’s The Hilton Head Executive Stamina Program by Peter M. Miller, Ph.D.

Not procrastination.  Older book I keep it for the exercises.  It has recipes and diet info, too, but I’ve read so many diet books that nothing impresses me any more.  I haven’t burned out on hoping to maintain an exercise program.

Live the Life you Love by Barbara Sher.  Her stuff is pretty good.  She’s done other books and shows on PBS.  The one I like most is Wishcraft.  It’s very how-to.  Live the Life is an exploration of yourself. 

I’ll flag that.  It may give me ideas for interviewing you. 

I wouldn’t mind that.  I don’t remember the questions in it, but I don’t remember being embarrassed by any of them.

Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway. but Susan Jeffers, Ph.D.

I don’t remember that so much.

It had a lot of post-its in it.

Hmmm.  Still not coming clear. 

Making the Case for Yourself by Susan Estrich.  No Ph.D.

No, she’s a lawyer.  And that’s sort of a diet book. 

Does it have exercises? 

I don’t think so.  The words came out slowly.  I’d have to check to be sure, though.

Doing It Now by Edwin C. Bliss.

Was that a little paperback?

I didn’t make a note.

That’s the good one.  You read the beginning and it tells you to make a list.  Then you start the first chapter and it asks you if you made the list.  And tells you to go back and do it, if you’re at all serious about dealing with getting things done, because if you’re just going to read the book, you’re wasting your time.

You found it motivating?

Yes, and I could go back and it would work again for awhile.  Reading is comforting, relaxing.  If I’m working up to doing something it’s easier to read about it first and launch off from there.

So, you’re saying that having a book tell you something is different from having a person tell you something.

Oh, yes.  Especially with the procrastination.  Make a note in Primatology about making social connections to reading or computers.  I’m sure there’s something significant to know about that.  I’m fairly sure I’m more attached to books than to a lot of people.

I won’t ask if you like books more than you like me.  I know it’s not that simple.

Thank you, dear.

The Now Habit: A Strategic Program for Overcoming Procrastination and Enjoying Guilt-Free Play, by Neil Fiore, Ph.D.  That one had post-its, too.

Nothing coming.  Just a general feeling that it’s pretty good.  I remember reading it from the library and then getting a copy. 

The Procrastinator’s Handbook:  Mastering the Art of Doing it Now, by Rita Emmett.

Might have bought that one for the title.  There’s one about growing a spine that I checked out from the library more than once.  It was on tape or disc.  I don’t think I ever bought it.

So this other one makes you think of spines? 

Maybe.  Hard to tell.

I’m going to give you homework from these books, you know. 

I’ll find a way to live with that.  If I can get the energy together for it.

I’m going to give you homework about that, too.  Barbara’s eyes went straight down.  There was no chance of meeting them.  Which was convenient.

Perhaps.  That’s a hard one.

Maybe we can start with why it’s hard.  The fingers clicked on the laptop.

What are you entering.

Personal Medical History.  What should the keywords be?

Long pause.

Energy, Digestion, Joints, Stress, aaaaaaand Uterus. 

Which is the most embarrassing?

What’s most embarrassing is that I can’t pick out which symptoms are caused by what and I can just hear the doctor saying “Well, you’re getting older, you can only expect so much.”

Has a doctor ever said that.

Not to me.  I’ve heard many other women complaining of it.  Mostly, I got asked if I was under stress.  I had a big run of it.  Including a rash I had on the back of my hand. 

Were you under stress.

Of course.  Almost everyone is under stress.  I’d been under stress for years.  I still am, although I’m fairly sure that most of my stress is caused by my symptoms, rather than the other way around.

You said you were embarrassed because you didn’t know what was wrong, what was causing the symptoms.  But isn’t that the doctor’s job?

You’d think so.  But they tend to diagnose what they’re used to hearing about.  If you’re vague in describing your symptoms or you don’t describe them in the way they’re used to hearing, they can miss things.

You want to know enough to be able to lead them to the proper conclusion.


I never thought I’d hear myself saying this, but you might need to do it the way my Mother does.  She complains and just keeps complaining and implying that it’s someone else’s job to figure out what she needs and make it better.

I’ve always hated people like that.

Me too.

Well, maybe not the people.  The behavior, certainly.

Yes, but only because hating people isn’t nice and I want to be a nice person.

Sheila exploded a snorting chuckle.

I admit nothing.

OK.  Maureen O'Sullivan, micorexpressions.  Is that a book?

No, I think it’s a subject and a researcher.  We’d have to go into journals to get anything.  Maybe.  It’s about these quarter-second fleeting expressions giving away our true feelings as we lie.


Sounds right.

Success through Failure by Henry Petroski.  Procrastination?

No.  That’s a Book Not Read.  It’s on how the best designs evolve through repeated failures. 

Book, keyword evolution.

No.  Keyword design.

k.  How about:  May Padian and Edward Othniel – dinosaurs.

Those are character names for if I’m feeling puckish and find a story where they’d be appropriate.  I’d have to look up how much of the names are dinosaur names.

So, they’re not books you’ve never written, they’re characters who never had a book you didn’t write.

Basically, yes.

Let me add the category.  I’m assuming that Characters would work.

Yes.  We did pack toilet paper in that backpack, didn’t we?

And a trowel.  Do you need them.

Not immediately.  It’s reassuring to have the equipment nearby when things start shifting or otherwise making their presence felt.

I’ll get them out.

Thank you. 

This next one is longer.  “I pit the fact that we are losing touch with the natural world. Please convince me that our children's children will be able to experience a glacier, a jungle, a desert, or a forest in the same way that I did. Otherwise, I'll feel ashamed that we did such a lousy job as keepers of the planet.”

I think that was supposed to be part of the list of things people should know, where know means experience. 

So we just need to keep glacier, jungle, desert, and forest?

Yes.  That would be enough. 

What does pit mean?  Where it says I pit the fact?

It’s from a very civilized chat board that I found.  There are different board topic areas and one of them is called The BBQ Pit.  It’s a place for ranting and accusing and questioning the decisions of the moderators.  You’re allowed to cuss, but not to be foolish.  People who are getting too worked up on the other boards are told to “take it to the pit.”  When one member wants to excoriate another they invite them to the pit.  The natural progression of language produced sentences like “I pit people who won’t control their children in public.”

Ah.  So I’ll erase the rest of the quote and just keep the nature areas.  How about this:  Peter is -4, 4 . . . a bunch of other numbers,  I'm 4, -5 . . . a bunch of other numbers, then:  Enneagrams.

Primatology.  Enneagrams are like zodiac signs or Myers-Briggs Personality Styles.  They’re a system for categorizing human behavior, assigning behavior traits to individuals to predict their behavior and feelings.  I believe I’m going to take a quick walk back to the trees.

Take the cane.

I’m not sure I can hold everything. 

It’s in a bag, here.  I figured we may as well use those plastic grocery bags.

Good idea.  Cane – bag – going.

I’ll play a Mind Assault or Two.

Or look around.  The scenery is nice.

That, too, maybe.  I’ll turn on some tunes so you don’t get lost.

I appreciate that. 

There weren’t any trees worth hiding behind, but there was a bit of a ridge behind the log, with a decline behind it.  A little way down the decline was a boulder tall and smooth enough for Sheila to lean against and crouch.  The trees were thin-trunked, but plentiful enough to block sight from any trails. 

I’ve gotten too good at this, she thought.  But the regret was all for the clumsiness of her declining body, she felt no regret for her skill in manipulating it and relief and a small triumph for having done so successfully in this instance.  There was a great deal of noise but in the end it was only gas.  Comforting to relieve the pressure, though, and there was no way to tell ahead of time.

The liquid unload hadn’t been necessary, but put her comfortably ahead of the game.  Sad to waste so much worry over her digestion.  That hadn’t been any part of her plans for the future. 

[Well, something finally happened besides the talking.  There are pages and pages of this.  It felt good to get it out of me and written down, but it obviously shouldn't all stay in one infodump.  Maybe a third to a quarter of what's there might profitable be spread over a whole book.  You have been warned.]