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Ten Million Years

When one wants to understand what the most sigificant digits are regarding courses of action, it is vital to have the appropriate time-scale. What can be done in 1 day is a much more constrained problem than one can be done in 1 year, 10 years, 1,000 years, etc. Ten million years is sufficiently large to rethink pretty much everything. As Peter Brannan writes in The Anthropocene is a Joke:

Unless we fast learn how to endure on this planet, and on a scale far beyond anything we’ve yet proved ourselves capable of, the detritus of civilization will be quickly devoured by the maw of deep time.

Continue reading Ten Million Years

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The World Until Yesterday – Book Review

The World Until Yesterday: What Can We Learn from Traditional Societies?The World Until Yesterday: What Can We Learn from Traditional Societies? by Jared Diamond
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wow, very interesting. If the past helps us understand the present, and help informed decisions on the future, then this work is an important one, and a fascinating read. There is an amalgam of different aspects, which do not hold together as well as some of Diamond's other works, but is interesting nonetheless. How people in traditional societies find/raise food, eat, raise children, comforted the aged, as well as wage war, are covered in this work.

Sections on "constructive paranoia" and bilingualism (and language extinction), as well as chapter 11 on "salt, sugar, fat, and sloth" are definitely a wake-up call to dangerous trends in America. In addition, the chapters on civil society "justice" vs. the more "conflict resolution" mechanisms in traditional societies is quite insightful.

Missing from this is a more extended discussion of marriage and gender relations, though certainly there is much of this sprinkled throughout the work.

In any case, one of the best works I've read this year (as of August, 2019). The book was published in 2012 but has certainly aged well (if at all) in the past 7 years. Highly relevant and an entertaining read.

Diamond has certain preferences regarding what we can learn from traditional societies, based on his fifty years of learning about them. Some takeaways:

- Crib bilingualism as a prophyactic against alzheimers
- Children cry half as much if picked up/comforted immediately upon the start of crying, vs. the Dutch and German tactics of ignoring the child some of the time
- Nuclear families tend to not function well as child caretaking/rearing, but rather extended families and a variety of "allo-parents" in terms of neighbors and villagers.
- On demand nursing is common in traditional societies (for various reasons)
- A lot more infant-adult contact (and being carried, as humans are "carry animals")
- Physical punishment is common in some societies and uncommon in others, and probably doesn't work very well
- Multi-age playgroups are a good thing (aka Montessori style and even more extended)
- Child play and education are entwined, and the current mass manufactured toys and video game play makes children less creative, by certain measures
- Children in traditional societies are generally more emotionally secure, self-confident, curious, and autonomous based in some part on greater freedom (and certainly some forms of greater constraint, e.g., living with little privacy)
- There is wisdom in older people (story of a harrowing boat ride and talk with someone who avoided that boat and the captain as they looked young, foolish, and with a powerful motor)
- Minority languages are not harmful but helpful in terms of bilingualism, and could and should be supported by governments and in schools
- Salt, sugar, fat, and sloth are killers and are increasingly so

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New Year 2019 CE / 2562 BE

For those not in Cambodia, Laos or Thailand, 2562 is the Buddhist Era (BE) date, which is 543 years ahead of the Common Era calendar.

New Year, The Last Before 2020

Ah yes, the end of a year and beginning of another. A time to reflect, etc., etc. Well, this year much was accomplished and much was not. The small children are developing, which is a joy and fascination itself to witness. For anyone interested in AI/ML, watching children learn is intriguing.

Recession is Coming

Though economists mostly discuss 2020 and 2021, around half of businessmen place the next recession firmly in 2019. Looking at labor markets in China, it seems obvious we are just around the corner.

The Internet is Fake

More and more and more fake at the years go by, and this should not be forgotten even for a day.

Markets Transfer Wealth Upward

Companies' pursuit of high profits is making the top 20% richer at the expense of the bottom 80%, to the tune of 3% in 1996..

Resistance is Needed

Invest in those things that provide value, ongoing, only.

Canis Major - Robert Frost

The great Overdog
That heavenly beast
With a star in one eye
Gives a leap in the east.

He dances upright
All the way to the west
And never once drops
On his forefeet to rest.

I'm a poor underdog,
But to-night I will bark
With the great Overdog
That romps through the dark.

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Power Law & Second Languages

The original formulation of Zipf's law was based on naturally occurring word frequencies and their rank order in a given English language corpus. For one example, merely 135 words accounted for 50% of the total word frequencies. This could be extended to phrases as well. For foreign language learners, this means that there is some limited set of words and phrases which account for a large percentage of word and phrase occurrences. (Unfortunately these frequency lists are usually based on corpuses which have little to do with the task of learning, that is actually useful/usable words based on frequency of practical, everyday use -- that is, a verbal corpus.) Nevertheless, provided with an effective list, if we leverage the mnemonic tools previously discussed, we can spend time to create a set of entry level learning tools which will be extremely relevant (and therefore worth the time in creating).

Suggested Techniques for Second Language Acquisition

For given words and phrases identified - Phonemic imagery - Iconic images (simple drawings) - Canonical script, including for alphabet - Town language Roman room mnemonic, extended as a metaphor via the Pattern Language of Christopher Alexander (at the level of vocabulary, and eventually as grammar)

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Mnemonic Devices and Learning

On January 1, 2009 CNN published an article on memory. Now would be a good time to review and expand on that article, in the hopes of improving our own memory. It may be useful to conceive of the Art of Memory as having four broad application areas, a set of techniques (often called mnemonic devices), and the underlying cognitive architecture which indicate how and why such techniques work in the first place. Ultimately mnemonic devices promise a significant return on cognitive and temporal investment -- spend time learning these techniques and save a lot more time and effort over the application area.

Background on Mnemonics

According to Aristotle, the art of memory was considered a part of rhetoric as much as dialectic in classical antiquity. Apparently, many mnemonic devices such as the Method of Loci and the Major System were taught in schools until at least the 19th century. It appears we have forgotten these memory systems. Now may be a good time to recall them to mind.

Underlying Cognitive Architecture

The underlying cognitive mechanism which are the basis for much of the mnemonic devices include the following elements, among others. - The Von Restorff Effect seems to be the basis for many other phenomena. The main point is that things that stand out are more likely to be remembered. This has many implications - The serial order effect includes two features: primacy (things first in a list are more likely to be remembered) and recency (things last in a series are more likely to be remembered). - The Picture Superiority Effect indicates that according to dual-coding theory, memories can exist as verbal and/or visual, and therefore pictorially represented ideas have the advantage of being coded twice, enhancing memorability. Use pictures and words when possible. - The Levels of Processing Effect is a complex phenomena. It proposes that depth of processing increases memorability. Semantic learning (meaning) is deeper than phonemic (sound) and orthographic (writing) learning alone. - In addition, specificity (the same medium of recall and production, such as auditory learning and recollection) increases depth. Self-reference indicates a connection between the object of learning and the subject doing the learning. Self-reference increases depth as well. Make learning specific in terms of medium, meaning (semantics), and learner self-reference (meaningfulness to the subject). This could be termed the three Ms of Memory: medium, meaning, and meaningfulness. - Implicit recollection is easier than explicit recollection. Implicit recollection effectively has context and other scaffolding features rather than requiring recollection without any related stimulus. However this effect does not have clear-cut support. - There is a hierarchy of sensory inputs for recall. Vision and touch are strongest with sound and smell less powerful sensory inputs. Incorporate vision and touch into sound-based memory inputs and outputs when possible.

Mnemonic Devices and Techniques

  • The Mnemonic Link System can be considered the basis of the Loci, Major, and Dominic systems. The main idea is to create connections between two unrelated things, thereby forging a memorable connection.
  • Peg systems are a memorization of visual associations with numbers, such that the numbers can be recalled by recalling the visual associations in a given order.
  • The Major System is a handy and flexible way of encoding numbers in sounds that can be memorized in words, and then decoded later to reproduce the original number. Created around 300 years ago, this is the most flexible system, though as it relies on sound it has a greater cognitive load rather than a straightforward peg system. However, it can be supplemented with software to help generate the most appropriate words to link to the target numbers. See also this article and this free software that can help with numbers-to-words association to help with major system.
  • The Dominic system is a shorter version of the Major system and associates numbers with letters, and pairs of letters with people. Then the idea is to memorize a set of people performing interactions, which can then be reversed back into the original number. (See also this phonetic mnemonic system.)
  • The Method of Loci is ascribed to the classical orator Simonides, who was speaking at a banquet, was called outside, when the roof collapsed. The bodies were so damaged they could not be identified, but he was able to identify the victims of the disaster based on where the people had been sitting. Loci (locations) are a well-known visual space which can be recalled readily to mind. The idea is then to picture objects in these places. The strengths of visual imagery and self-reference are combined to construct a powerful mnemonic.

Additional Practical Aspects

  • In the book Aspects of Memory: The Practical Aspects, there is an interesting article "Memory Aids, known how, knowing when, and knowing when not" introduces and discusses various memory aids (mnemonic devices) and their effectiveness compared with rote learning.
  • Another article in the same book, "The Facilitation of Memory Performance", discusses various memory and non-memory issues. Memory issues include using warm up, presentation rate, effective instructions, repetition, distributed study trials, use of external memory aids, and physical presence of objects.
  • Non-memory issues include physical, emotional, motivational, environmental, and social conditions. All of these non-memory issues are meant to increase both arousal and selective attention. Physically we are faced with the obvious importance of enough, but not too much, sleep, food, and water. Environmental issues include bathroom facilities, heat and cold, seating or standing, lighting, auditory and visual elements, and other comfort issues. Emotional state regards stress and relaxation training including yoga, meditation, and exercise. Motivation is a complex component best dealt elsewhere. Social environment has to do with interaction with others to reduce shyness and provide positive feedback and support.

Mnemonic Application Areas

  • Remembering Faces and Names are particularly important for rather obvious reasons. There are a few related systems, which usually rely on unique visual combinations, related to names, as well as previous memories and experiences, using the notion of self-reference.
  • A reviewer of "Remember Every Name Every Time" appears to provide most of the content of a given book, namely the two methods for remembering, the observational and associational systems.
  • There are several resources available as technique variations. The useful Nutt's How to Remember Names and Faces is now in the public domain. There is a video on how to remember names. A blog entry on ThinkSimpleNow has seven hacks to remember any name. And an additional site has more hints for name memory.
  • The Major and Dominic systems are designed for numbers, as well as reversing any peg system.
  • The linkword system is perfect for learning foreign language vocabulary. There has been useful research (constrained to case study) which indicates significant difference in using the linkword system. It is important that the linkwords, usually a visual combination based in L1 (first language) be focused on for a specific amount of time. Some studies indicate a 10 second time interval is useful and there is anecdotal evidence for great gains. Unfortunately, if native-speaker-level pronunciation is desired (which it usually is) then the linkwords must be created by bilingual teams who can work out the correct pronunciation. As we know languages have different sound sets, so even there a trained native speaker must conduct the listening and production aspects. For more thoughts on this topic, see this and this.
  • Textbook and Course Content is an obvious application area, though there is a sense that cramming is good enough for the majority of students, who don't want to commit to memory much of their higher educational experience. There is a useful resource on mnemonics for textbook memorization.
  • Another site provides some techniques for Listening in the article "How to listen for memory".

Final Note

To paraphrase Mark Twain, I didn't have much time, so I wrote a long article. A shorter one will be forthcoming once I boil this down into a few simple techniques and guidelines.

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Prehistory and Post Apocalypse

The thing about history is that there is a lot of it. And prehistory, well, so much more. The highlights: - carbon/methane sequestration - 50mya seas and temperatures - Return of the wooly mammoth - Arctic resources - Emigration for the next 1,000 years - O Canada

Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM)

> At least since 1997, the Paleocene–Eocene Thermal Maximum has become a focal point of considerable geoscience research because it probably provides the best past analog by which to understand impacts of global climate warming and of massive carbon input to the ocean and atmosphere, including ocean acidification. Although it is now widely accepted that the PETM represents a "case study" for global warming and massive carbon input to Earth's surface, the cause, details and overall significance of the event remain perplexing. - Wikipedia Around 50-60 million years ago there was a thermal maximum which is essentially the hottest the earth became most recently, with other significant heating events at around 500, 400, 300, and 250mya.

Earth an Ice Planet

Around 700mya the earth somehow began a massive erosional event that is presumed to be what is known as snowball earth. Basically Hoth.

Emigration for the next 1,000 years

Provided that things result as expected, and also that it is possible to consider a 1,000 year timescale for a family -- which is certainly possible when reviewing some of the world's oldest companies. Many of the oldest companies are local and family-owned. The question becomes, where should local be located, given the above? First, those countries whose temperature will become unlivable (which ultimately may be most), should be jettisoned. Low-lying, densely populated, ocean-dependent, and equatorial/tropical countries are particularly at risk (especially if several of these factors are combined). Granted, the worsening conditions will take some time to unfold, but the establishment of a new locale should be done within the existing generation. Inheritence, primogeniture, and the inability to break up a dynasty... World's oldest companies, why so many are in Japan... See Harari's book Sapiens See also the book on Russia...

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10 Trillion x 100 Billion

10 trillion galaxies times 100 billion stars. One trillion squared. That's what we are talking about. In addition, the universe is possibly 250 times larger than the observable universe. Mind boggling.

First Observed Interstellar Object

'Oumuamua is possibly a lightsail object sent for observation, and in any case is definitely from outside the solar system (from another solar system altogether). > Last year, the first unambiguously interstellar object, 'Oumuamua, flew through our Solar System, delighting and amazing astronomers worldwide. Coming in at a steep angle with an incredibly large speed and a bizarre, cigar-like shape, it must have originated far away and long ago, most likely from a distant star system.

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Notes on Sleep

How Much Sleep is Enough? (2018)

Now that my eldest son is 3 years old, there may be some changes to his schedule (he still takes a nap most days, but he is staying up past his traditional bedtime, so this became a question for me: How much sleep is enough? Well, there is a range of answers, depending on ages, such as:

Mayo Clinic Sleep Recommendations*

Age group | Recommended amount of sleep --------------- | --------------------------- Newborns | 14 to 17 hours a day 12 months | About 10 hours at night, plus 4 hours of naps 2 years | About 11 to 12 hours at night, plus a 1- to 2-hour afternoon nap 3 to 5 years | 10 to 13 hours 6 to 13 years | 9 to 11 hours 14 to 17 years | 8 to 10 hours Adults | 7 to 9 hours *Note that there are differences in particular circumstances such as illness, pregnancy, and the like.

CDC Sleep Recommendations

Age Group Recommended Hours of Sleep Per Day
0–3 months 14–17 hours
4–12 months 12–16 hours per 24 hours (including naps)
1–2 years 11–14 hours per 24 hours (including naps)
3–5 years 10–13 hours per 24 hours (including naps)
6–12 years 9–12 hours per 24 hours
13–18 years 8–10 hours per 24 hours
18–60 years 7 or more hours per night
61–64 years 7–9 hours
65 years+ 7–8 hours

Sleep Training (2016)

With teeth and teeth brushing comes the need to sleep through the night, or at least change the nighttime feeding into nighttime watering. Turns out that this happens about the same time as toothbrushing should, or somewhat thereafter. We are entering the zone of the final few months of the baby's first year. At 10 months, kicking dad throughout the night has gotten a bit old. So it is time to make several changes: - Co-sleeping - Nighttime weaning - More and better tooth brushing The question is the correct method and also sequencing. Probably the most traumatizing should come first.

Resources for Sleep Training

These articles are from the very informative Dr. Craig Canapari. - Learned Hunger and Nighttime Feeding - How to Stop Co-Sleeping - Sleep Training Tools for Parents - Top Sleep Training Mistakes - Bedtime Fading

Monophasic, Biphasic, Polyphasic Sleep (2012)

> There will be sleeping enough in the grave. --Benjamin Franklin Polyphasic Sleep is when sleep occurs at more than one point in the 24-hour cycle. Otherwise known as napping, it is possible to shorten the length of sleep for all sleep periods and end up with less time overall spent sleeping. The reason this is possible, is that the sleep periods (theoretically) become more efficient in delivering the kind of sleep needed for restfulness. Power-napping is another term for this, but the power part comes from a compression of sleep stages. Some people are able to supposedly get by on 3 hours of sleep this way, and it has been ascribed to such people as Thomas Edison and Winston Churchill among others.

Benefits of Sleeping Less and More Often

The purported benefits besides an increase in available time (quantity) include as well quality indicators such as increased alertness, creativity and health. However these benefits have been (somewhat) debunked on Supermemo. The main issue that they take with this practice is that sleep deprivation is necessary in order to entrain one's sleep pattern.

Naturally Polyphasic

This is obviously true... Or is it? If my current sleep pattern is not actually natural (quite a bit of historical as well as EEG evidence that humans are naturally diphasic).

Extreme Sleep Conditions

In extreme situations such as battlefields and extreme adventure sports, sleeping less is mandatory for success. Enter the Uberman (aka Superman, Uebermensch).

Uberman Sleep Schedule

The rather heroic Uberman sleep schedule, which is 20-30 minutes of sleep every four hours, is not something I am going to try for. I don't need that much of a change and also, there doesn't seem to be much room for error there regarding the actual function of sleep. Instead, all I need to do as a result is one more hour of productivity without any loss of energy/alertness, etc. I intend to do more reading and more exercise during this time bonus, if and when it arrives.

Five Interval Sleep Phase

My initial experiment (beginning 11-AUG-2012) will be one hour sleep periods five times per day, at approximately: - 8am-9am - 1pm-2pm - 6pm-7pm - 11pm-12am - 3am-4am This fits my schedule which is fairly flexible, but needs a 4am wakeup for early morning running, a 10am-12pm classes and 3pm meetings several times per week. This also allows me to have an early dinner (at 5pm) or late dinner (7pm+), and not need to sleep at night until 11pm. Also this would allow me to do a late night dancing from midnight to 3am (which my current monophasic sleep does not allow).

Updates on Sleep Experiment

  • Day 1: Took the naps during the day, and had more energy, but got tired (as always) later in the evening. Slept from 11pm-4am. Which means I had 8 hours of sleep (which is more than I usually do). Therefore slept more, ate more, and had more energy.
  • Day 2: Similar to day 1. Took naps (the 2pm was difficult, only 30 minutes and got back up). Instead of the 6pm nap, went for a two hour Thai massage. Then to bed at 10:30pm. Heard the 1am alarm but ignored it. Heard the 3am alarm (to nap again), thought of getting up, but didn't. Heard the 4am alarm and then stayed in bed. Got up at 5am for the run. This mean 8.5 hours of sleep. Even more!
  • Day 3: ...

Conclusion on Sleep

I've learned this isn't going to work out, I am sleeping more, not less. And there are times I put off the nap, can't get to sleep, can't wake up easily, and also the habit of sleeping through much of the night. However, my awareness of sleep and its effect has dramatically increased. There are some studies which conclude that modern man is basically sleep-deprived and this has disastrous effects regarding accident rates, attention in the workplace, not to mention basic physical well-being. I've come to realize, especially at my advancing age in the upper 40s, that sleep and naps should be grabbed at every reasonable opportunity.