Monday, February 28, 2011

Qwiki: Cool New Website, or Exciting New Technology? Both!

I have discovered a new site that has great potential, as far as I am concerned. Qwiki went live only about a  couple of weeks ago, but it is amazing in concept and has a very attractive presentation. I am already addicted to it! Any time I want to learn about something, I first navigate to Qwiki. Not every single topic known to man is available on Qwiki as yet, but I can see application both in the classroom and as a general reference guide for everyone! I also just think it is fascinating, but that is definitely a reflection of my delight in information and learning in general.

The only issue with Qwiki that I really have currently is the that the computerized voice reading the Qwikis sometimes makes awkward mispronunciations. Actually though, this can be amusing, as when it pronounced, "spacetime" as "spaa-see-time." No really, there is a button to push right on the page which allows you to mention anything you think will improve the Qwiki you just watched (*they are all one minute or less long*), with a place to let the Qwiki team know about pronunciation errors.

The truly exciting part about these very brief Qwikis is that related Qwikis appear at the end of the one you watched, and then more at the end of the next one, which means that if you wish, you can be learning in one minute bites for quite some time. It is like web surfing all in one place. One thing leads to another, and you can watch one in a minute or less, so you still have plenty of time to explore other aspects of the topic, or start over very quickly. Another aspect that I find appealing is that pictures are appearing and moving around that you may click on to expand at anytime.

I think that students and teachers alike should look into this resource! Children can be exposed to a variety of topics or study one in depth. Further developments are in the works, and many more topics will be added in the future.

On a side note, too bad many people think that Wikipedia is a poor source of information. It is not, generally. I for one use it frequently to find information (although I am forbidden by most professors to use the information in writing papers...sadly). The only issue I have with Wikipedia is that there is a great deal of text to wade through, and often it is somewhat repetitive. However, I have done many, many checks for accuracy on information I first found through Wikipedia, and never found wrong information... In fact, the most common way I look things up for papers is by finding it in Wikipedia or another "unacceptable" source, and then using the information that I find to conduct a more precise search for what I want, or using the bibliography from the Wikipedia article, go to the original source of the information. Quite silly that Wikipedia does not have the reputation it deserves!

I can see Qwiki becoming a side-by-side resource for Wikipedia as well. Doug Imbruce, the CEO of Qwiki says, "Information becomes an experience that I can watch." If you go to the Qwiki About Us webpage you can watch the introduction of the concept by the creators of Qwiki, as well as read more about the artificial intelligence that is being developed there. This is a thought-provoking concept, and I am excited about it!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Bucket List

I've been thinking lately of writing a sort of "Bucket List." You know the premise, right? For anyone who doesn't, the name is comes from a movie of that name, where two guys who have cancer have a list of things to do before they "kick the bucket."

I figured I would start early. I don't plan on dying anytime soon, but I think it may take me a good bit of time to complete my list. Also, some of the things will be easier to accomplish earlier in my life, rather than later. I am not one of those women who won't tell my age. I suffer from no illusions about it--I am not yet old, but I am old enough to have felt the touch of mortality. In a little over two years, I will see forty. I neither look nor act like a woman almost forty years old, generally. Most people say they don't believe my age. Physically, I can believe I am getting older. For example, it is considerably more difficult now for me to get into shape (something I started working on again lately!) than when I was in my twenties.

Okay, that was a bit of an aside, but on with my list. I am sure it is not complete, but here is a good start:

 1.  Hike the entire Appalachian Trail. This is a big one, not easily accomplished. However, I have been imagining myself doing so since I was maybe 14 years old, so it definitely belongs at the top of the list. I don't think about it all the time, but I have definitely had it on the back burner of my mind for years.

 2.  See the Pacific Ocean. I was born about 50 miles inland from the Atlantic, and thus, I saw its shores many times. While I have made my way since then to Colorado, I have yet to go much further west. I actually did make it to Arizona for the first time last month. Which brings me to the next one....

 3. Visit every one of the United States. Territories too. Why not? I probably have already visited 30 or more states. I will have to sit down and figure out which ones I have left to visit one of these days. I want to get an RV and hit the road!

 4.  Build my own home. Strawbale, on my own land. And a large greenhouse to go with it.

 5.  Travel to destinations on every continent. I suppose that Antarctica could be excepted, since I don't think there is much in the way of destinations there. For example, a good itinerary might include the Great Barrier Reef (snorkeling) in Australia, riding the Euro Rail on a one-month pass, to see everything I can, the ancient Incan city of Machu Picchu in Peru, and so on.

  Well, I am exhausted just writing these down! I better get to work on getting in shape, because I am going to need it. Seriously though, I hope that I am able to do all this and more. No, I don't hope, I plan to. And I will, because positivity is the best force for forward momentum in our lives--and besides, it's exciting to plan and work toward these kind of goals, right??

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Who Am I?

Who you are is determined in part by your name and physical description, but that is only a small portion of you--other parts contribution to the whole being, which consists of mind, body, soul, maybe more.

We are all created by the sum of our experiences as well, beyond genetics. The nature versus nurture conventional argument is put to the test and comes out time and again to show that both play a role, without doubt. Who we are is the experiences that the world and its inhabitants have placed in our paths, either directly or indirectly. Therefore we are a part of the world, and it is a part of us.We are connected.

John Donne wrote these words in 1624, as a part of a larger work entitled Devotions upon Emergent Occasions:
 
No man is an island, entire of itself
every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main
if a clod be washed away by the sea, 
Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, 
as well as if a manor of thy friends or of thine own were
any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind
and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls
it tolls for thee. 
 
I think it is amazing that John Donne created two essentially
everlasting quotations with those words ("No man is an island,
entire of itself" and "  never send to know for whom the bell
tolls it tolls for thee").  I feel the truth in his words, despite the
fact that my mind as easily finds arguments against as for the
concept. Evocative of the essence of life, the words have
retained their fame through almost 400 years! Beyond randomosity,
there lies a land of truths, many of which can be grasped by
traveling through the realm of randomosity.
 
When I was a child, my grandmother had a set of 1958 World
Book Encyclopedias with which I spent many long hours. I
loved the idea of all that knowledge! In the introduction to the 
1958 edition of the World Book Encyclopedia,  there was
a scenario described that was something like this:
 
"Imagine a screen with all the knowledge that exists on it, in a 
darkened theater. The screen can only be illuminated with your
flashlight, which shows only a little of that knowledge at a time."
That was approximately how it began, but I really would love
to find that quotation, or another set of 1958 World Book
Encyclopedias! I can't remember the whole thing, or the exact 
wording of that first part, really. I just remember how entirely 
enlightening I found that introductory passage. It made me want
to know, well, everything! 
 
Now, I don't just want to know everything. I desire to understand
the inner workings and the outward connections that run from 
every concept and object in existence to all others. It is not about
whether the items or ideas are a part of each other, but how and
where they both fit into the giant screen of life.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Balance and Opposites

Balance of power. Balance between good and evil. A balanced life. Being out of balance. In some ways, the search for balance in life is like the conflict regarding moderation that I posted about last week. From the time we are small children, balance is sought. Remember when you were a child, and whenever you saw a ledge, you felt the need to walk along it, practicing your balance skills? Your parent might have walked beside you, if you were very small, holding your hand.

Another learning experience related to balance that children have is opposites. Hot and cold. Sweet and sour. Dark and light. Up and down. Day and night. Soft and hard. Big and little. And so on. Opposites generally reflect two ends of a spectrum, or more appropriately, two different directions in a continuum. It is good that balance exists in the world, but isn't the opposite of balance (imbalance) essential to support the existence of a balance continuum. Does it therefore follow that, if balance is good, imbalance is bad, or are they both simply necessary?

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Enchanted by Intuition

Creativity happens. It has a tendency to happen more to those who are open, whose minds stretch to accomodate the unusual, the different, and the antithesis of your usual thinking. That is not to say that creativity is always a random event, showing up only in certain instances for certain people. Although creative processes can be learned, many people do not realize that creativity is not just a product of artistic endeavors. The reverse is more how I perceive the matter: The artistic endeavors are actually the product of creativity. In actuality, the basis of creativity is thought.

It is not just thinking about new styles or methods for creating something tangible, like a sculpture or a poem. Great scientists in history always have encountered new ideas through creative thought. Whether thinking about a solution to some major world issue, or theorizing about the natural order of things, thinkers who use a creative process may feel the synaptic connections forming. So, although it may be a physical creation (new pathways in the brain), it is not entirely tangible.

Okay, before this post gets any more confusing (even I am starting to lose my sense of direction), I will get to the point! Intuition is the result of creative, almost subconscious thought processes. When my subconscious mind takes over, so to speak, I often find myself enchanted by intuition. And when the processes overflow, I am ebullient and feel the need to write. I think that this may be my most random posting yet. Not so much random as rambling... Ah, well. That is true stream-of-consciousness, I suppose!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Success and Serenity

When I was a child, I read avidly, every book I could. I consumed so many volumes of every possible type that I was teased as being a know-it-all. I was, in fact, a genius by strict definition (IQ tests). Sadly, this is not an instant path to serenity or success. Knowledge may be power, but uncertainty does not cultivate success with any frequency.Nor does it necessarily foster a peaceful soul.

Solitude may provide answers that are heretofore unknown. It is a type of thinking that cannot be done while in company of others. At least I cannot! I think that is why reading, gardening, drawing, cooking, writing, and other mostly solitary activities are the most relaxing to me. These days, life moves at a fast pace, and I find myself pulled anxiously along, away from my thoughts. Success is sought, but serenity is lost, which perhaps in the long run is the reason why success is elusive.

I read a blog a while back that explained how and why some people are afraid of succeeding. I hope that I am not one. I looked for the original blog that I read (probably over a year ago). While I did not find the one I read before, I found that it is a common theme for blogs!(Examples: http://www.yeartosuccess.com/members/y2s/blog/VIEW/00000015/00000150/Fear-of-Success.html , http://monetizeblog.info/monetize-your-life/fear-of-success/ , http://shayoni-mind-mirror.blogspot.com/2011/02/fear-of-success.html )There seems to be a great number of people who suffer from fear of success. Defining success for one's self is like planting the seeds, and then the process of cultivation begins. I am growing braver in the face of my potential, but I think that this time around I will slow down and cultivate success, through a bit more time spent focusing on my own inner tranquility.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Moderation is the Key...or Is It?

Never go to excess, but let moderation be your guide.
--Marcus Tullius Cicero

I think that this quote from Cicero is particularly amusing, considering the decadence for which Romans were known, overall. On my iGoogle page this morning, I found an article entitled "How to Cook Like a Roman: 8 Steps (with video)," and of course, I had to click it (the how-to article of the day). It was certainly entertaining, and I also found the idea of creating a dinner party or banquet in authentic Roman style to be stimulating. 


I agree with moderation in principle. In essence, I try to avoid extremes of consumption, and usually, extremes of opinion. However, I think there are times and places to take a stand (possibly inciting an extreme of opinion). Not that said stand would ever necessarily reflect any sociocultural norms, but if it did, then so be it.


Then there are the fluctuations from moderation in consumption, whether it be food, alcohol, computer games, reading, television, or any other type of substance/experience. Most of these fluctuations are related to our hedonistic natures, and thus, logical thought is often circumvented in order to accept our personal levels of consumption. Most people eventually learn to moderate, simply for their own physical or mental health. When we no longer have parents controlling us, that moderation has to come from ourselves (and in some cases legal considerations are pressure factors), but typically, people learn to moderate by their late twenties, if not before.  


Okay, I think I got lost in the description of the issue. Randomosity and all that. My point is that moderation is my modus operandi--most of the time. Because, it makes sense and works for me. As ancient Greek philosopher Democritus put it, "Throw moderation to the winds, and the greatest pleasures bring the greatest pains."  And who truly wants "the greatest pains?"

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The Surprise Factor

Common advice for dealing with life usually goes something like, "Be positive, expect good things, and good things will happen."

For some inexplicable reason, I have long rejected this dogma. I am not entirely negative, no, but I find that if I expect the worst, then I am better prepared to deal with it should it happen. Then, if something better should happen, I can be quite pleased indeed. I guess it is an exaggeration to say that I expect the worst. Generally, I do not actually expect the worst, but I do think about the negative possibilities of occurrence that might happen. It is a sort of "What If?" game.

Life is not entirely predictable, either on the positive or negative side. Sure, your actions are a factor in the outcome. But variables exist that we have little or no control over. So, doesn't it make sense to "estimate" the possible answers, like filling possible values for a variable to see the range of potential results? If only I could know the entire formula in advance, and all the possible factors to consider! A mathematical solution to life...the idea is a little creepy, yet entirely intriguing, all the same.

Stuck in My Head

It's after midnight, so I think my run of daily blog posts just skipped a beat. But anyway....

Why can't I remember to do important, current items of business, yet I remember my childhood best friend's phone number (from twenty years ago) without even trying? It may be partially because our minds are clearer as children, and thus the information is more firmly attached to the synaptic pathways. However, I feel there is something more at work here. Perhaps a bit of randomosity?

Certainly I wonder why I woke up this morning with Pink's Raise Your Glass resounding through my brain...and it STILL IS! All day. Seriously, I think this is the longest period of time I have had a song stuck in my head, non-stop, ever. Ignoring it did not help. Cleaning the house did not help. Driving to the grocery store in the snow storm to buy food did not help. Singing it did not help. Playing it on Youtube did not help, at all. I am beginning to believe that I am intended to think about the song more deeply. So, I am going to go find the lyrics now. Sheesh. The things I do for my random brain.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Out of Focus and On a Tangent

I am wondering if lack of focus is a failing or a gift. It does create problems, including the inability to get things done on schedule at times. But hey, the tangents tend to lead to creativity and greater depths of understanding when I allow myself the freedom to indulge them.

There are a number of educational philosophers whose works hinge on this principle. Among others, John Holt (How Children Learn, Why Johnny Can't Read) believed that children learned quite naturally until they were forced to do so. I would love to be able to educate myself, and in fact I do, but I often don't have time to work on my self-education due to the demands of my schooling.

The schooling is a necessary evil, so to speak, since that piece of paper is required by many jobs. Also, financial assistance for schooling is generally only available to those who attend colleges and universities. So, since I am not independently wealthy, nor possessed of a sufficient job to provide all I need while I pursue my personal learning experience...well then, that is the reason I must go the official route to "education." Meanwhile, I am plagued by tangents and lack of focus--highly symptomatic of randomosity.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Time and its Convolutions

Life is the course of events that occur over a certain, though likely unforeseeable period of time. One thing I have always noticed about time is that our perception of time varies. In general, it seems that time speeds by when we are very busy or enjoying ourselves immensely, but drags by interminably whenever we must sit idle (as in a dentist's office--partial remedy is to bring a book), or when we are bored. It is especially slow to our perception when we are eager/anxious for something to occur that will be happening sometime in the future.

Another aspect of this amalgam of time and consciousness exists in the tendency for our awareness of time's passage to speed up as we get older. My uncle explained his theory regarding this phenomenon to me a few years ago, and it made perfect sense to me. When one is four years old, a year is 25% of one's life, while when one is twenty, a year is only 5% of one's life, and so on. So for those of us who are over thirty, when we are surprised at how fast a year has gone by, we should remember that a year is less, percentage-wise, of our life, so it makes sense that it seems shorter than it did in our childhood.

I am sure that there is more to our changing time consciousness than this, but I like this simple paradigm. In general a simple paradigm almost always hides a complicated structure underneath, with myriads of different possibilities and sidetracking ideas. This is especially true in the pursuit of randomosity--you knew that was coming, though, didn't you?!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Gray Area and Thinking "Too Much"

Does your mind keep questioning long after you reach a decision? Do you spend hours thinking and re-thinking your stand on issues? If you ever find yourself standing with a foot on either side of the line between choices or beliefs, then you are dealing with the gray area. Some people, (i.e., me) find the world to be full of questions, for which, upon finding answers, more questions than ever are created. Perhaps this is more common than I previously thought. I know I am not alone in this labyrinth of endless thinking. However, there are certainly those who cannot accept this behavior, which appears irresolute and wishy-washy to their eyes.

 "You think too much!" "There is only one best answer/way/belief/choice!" ...and so on. Well, I am here to say, "I cannot agree, at least not entirely..."

So how do I proceed from this gray area to action? The main problem with a sea of gray area, as I see it, is accepting the gray area, yet having a basic thesis of your own ideology to provide foundation for one's day-to-day life. Randomosity, for example, builds on my foundation of keeping an open mind and heart.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Rationalization and Validity

To be irrational is to be human. Well, technically, rationality is human as well. It is all a matter of thinking. Thought processes range from imagination to logical analysis--but all are human activities. So what is the point of all this?

Well, to illustrate, a friend of mine who tends toward very creative thought processes once explained to me why he thought that a drinking binge helped him think more clearly afterward. "The weak brain cells are the ones that are killed off by the excess alcohol..." An excellent example of rationalization.

What makes validity, though? Rational thought can definitely be flawed. I once took a Metaphysics class. In one class session, the professor used logic to prove both the existence, and the non-existence, of God. Another source of weak validity lies in faulty scientific experiments. There are many different ways that an experiment can be flawed in design or conduction. More information about experimental error can be found at http://www2.volstate.edu/tfarris/PHYS2110-2120/experimental_error.htm. The point is that validity is not inherent in either logic or science. Another way that we can be fooled by rationality is found in statistics. There are actually a variety of ways to interpret the results of statistical analysis, and even the way that the analysis is done affects the outcome. It is very important to remember--don't believe everything you read, hear, or even see. Hey, I forgot, there are also visual illusions...the list goes on beyond this I am sure. Randomosity lives on!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

What is Randomosity?

If you have ever felt weird, different, or completely certain that you were crazy, you probably already know about randomosity. Randomosity is stream-of-consciousness in thought, words, and actions. Most of us are quite capable of controlling our actions and words, if we so choose. The question is, why do we choose? To avoid conflict with the law or other authorities? Okay, that is relatively valid, in my book. Yes, I will control my actions and words in these circumstances, unless there is extreme duress. However, where do we draw the line? Why do we so often hold back our words and actions, simply because we are afraid of being thought weird, different, or crazy? Sociocultural norms and fear of rejection are powerful motivators, I regret to say.

I feel the urge to promote more randomosity...maybe we need a special day or week to raise awareness! Well, why not? Perhaps, randomosity is not just actions and words produced at random. Maybe they are really cues produced by the subconscious mind, which are leading ultimately to our destiny. Harmony with destiny or harmony with sociocultural norms? You choose.