Category Archives: Basics

Blog Year 2018

It’s that time for a reflective reviewing the previous year. On a personal level, it’s been an interesting year, a year of some changes with more ahead. I may (or may not) talk about that more down the road. I’ve already shared some of the more mundane ones. I’m still chewing on some of the more personal ones.

As a blog post, it makes sense to do a blog review, as self-indulgent as they are. This is more a milepost for me; a sort of year-end report to the board — see if it’s worth funding another year. (Technically, the Blog Year starts on July 4, with year zero being 2011. The blog is now seven-and-a-half; 741 posts tall. Plus it just grew one more.)

Stick around if you want, but it’s gonna be long, dry, and narcissistic…
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Unalike Minds

mind-0A while back I realized I had an Engineer’s Mind. I’ve always had a sense of that. What I realized was the significance of the Engineer’s Mind category. And of other categories of Mind — for example an Artist’s Mind (which I didn’t discover I also had until high school; see My Life 2.0).

Having a given Mind doesn’t mean one is necessarily good at something (skill takes practice), but it does suggest a predisposition or talent for it. Our minds seem to come pre-wired in two ways: core wiring that makes us human; and “flavor” wiring that gives us (some of our) basic traits. For instance, some people have — or strongly do not to have — a Math Mind.

I’ve found Mind a useful metaphor as well as a game to play.

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Three-peat

threeLast fall I kicked off a series of math-y posts with On the Count of Three, some thoughts about the groupings of three that occur around us, both naturally and in things we create. The idea of triplets is an obvious progression from the idea of binary opposition — quintessentially expressed in the metaphor of Yin and Yang.

Ever since that post, I’ve been noticing (and then noting) various instances of triplets. It really is a fundamental way reality expresses itself. (And more than just metaphorically — matter literally has three-ness!)

Here are some of the other triples I’ve noted…

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Secret Code

kid codeWhen I was a high school kid, my dad and I sometimes played a game where one of us would make up a secret code, write a message in that code, and the other would try to decipher the message. We generally used simple substitution ciphers, so it was an exercise in letter frequency analysis and word guessing.

There’s a cute secret code I found in a book back then that really stuck with me because of the neat way it looks. It also stuck with me because it’s so simple that once you learn it, you really can’t forget it.

So for some Saturday fun, I thought I’d share it with you.

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The Differential

e-fence-1

Zzzzzzzzzzz-t!

One of those annoying-to-those-who-know-better shortcuts that movies and TV shows sometimes take is the visual trope of throwing a piece of wood (or a rock) at an “electrified fence” and producing an exciting shower of sparks. Typically, one character is just about to touch the fence, only to be pulled back just in time by another character who throws something at the fence to show the first character how they almost bought it.

It looks good — everyone loves a good sparking. In fact, you may have noticed how many action scenes take place in factories that seem mainly to manufacture sparks and steam. You may have noticed how often welders seem to be creating showers of sparks in the background of every action movie.

But this isn’t about our love of sparks.

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Syntax & Semantics

Spiff SyntaxComputer programmers, and others who work with languages, sometimes use the related terms: semantics & syntax. They are concepts with a specific application to language, but language is communication and there are many forms of communication. For example, when music is viewed as a language one can apply the concepts of syntax and semantics.

This article (in my queue for years) was meant to introduce those two concepts, but my vision for this blog has evolved in ways that largely moot those original intentions. Why write about topics no one is casually interested in, and which are already covered in exhaustive detail elsewhere for those with a serious interest?

Besides,… this one… turned out different…

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Smooth or Bumpy

vu metersLast time I wrote about analog recording and how it represents a physical chain of proportionate forces directly connecting the listener to the source of the sounds. In contrast, a digital recording is just numbers that encode the sounds in an abstract form. While it’s true that digital recordings can be more accurate, the numeric abstraction effectively disconnects listeners from the original sounds.

In the first month of this blog I wrote about analog and digital and mentioned they were mutually exclusive Yin and Yang pairs (a topic I wrote about even earlier — it was my seventh post).

Today I want to dig a little deeper into the idea of analog vs. digital!

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Only 960

960-0It’s important to begin this with due proper credit. This is not my idea; I’m doing a bit of a riff on an idea that belongs to someone else. But it’s such a great idea that I think not only should it be shared but embraced. At the end, I will encourage you to do your own riff, your own version of the 960.

Science fans who spend a lot of time on the interweb (I’m sure there must be some who don’t) are familiar with Randall Monroe‘s outstanding über-geek web comic, xkcd. There is a lesser-known one, Abstruse Goose, that I think is in the same class and which has connected with me even more than xkcd has (which is to say: oodles). So far, for me no other web comics come anywhere close to these two.

This post is about 900+ little blobs, and it is an idea from Abstruse Goose.

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Deflection and Projection

inet highwayIn his 1982 book, Megatrends, John Naisbitt famously wrote, “We are drowning in information, but we are starved for knowledge.” What was true 30 years ago is true today at a level that is both jaw-dropping and mind-numbing. The interweb “highway” speeds past at a breath-taking pace; yesterday vanishes rapidly behind while tomorrow constantly barrels down on us. The sheer volume of traffic (meaning both ‘lots of’ and ‘very loud’) can be overwhelming.

I’d like to take the topics from last Thursday and Friday to a new level and talk about how we find knowledge and truth amid all that information. In a world filled with opinion and conflicting assertions, how do we tell fair from foul? When facts and expertise compete with ideology and status quo, how do we pick among them?

This is about ways to separate the wheat from the chaff.

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Johari Window

Johari-1One of the first blog articles I wrote concerned the idea of Yin and Yang. It’s a topic I’ve touched on several times since (and revisited in particular talking about men and women). I reference the concept so often, because I think the duality of opposing concepts is a fundamental truth about the universe.

It’s not the only truth, of course, but it’s a very useful way of seeing things and understanding them. We see duality everywhere! Sometimes it’s something versus the lack of something (heat/cold, light/dark, full/empty).  Sometimes it’s truly opposing pairs (north/south, positive/negative, male/female).

Today I’d like to expand on the concept and tell you about the Johari Window.

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