A 46. évem / My 46th year

I spliced all the images I found of myself in my 46th year into a video:

A note about the music in the video. My alma mater, UCSB, has a “Cylinder Preservation and Digitazation Project“. They post MP3s of cylinders they digitized under the CC license. So whenever I can I pick music from there. This one was a Hungarian song, titled “Hejre Kati” performed by the “Moss-Squire Celeste Orchestra”. More details here.

(Here is last year’s version of the pictures.)

Learning Course #6: Readings from week 2 #LH2L1

The optional readings for week 1 of the Learning course* I am taking were interesting. Here is a set of quotes/highlights from them:

Robin Scott, “The 30 Second Habit That Can Have a Big Impact On Your Life,” Feb 18, 2014, The Huffington Post.  This is actually a wonderful article on chunking!

  • Immediately after every lecture, meeting, or any significant experience, take 30 seconds?–?no more, no less?–?to write down the most important points. If you always do just this, said his grandfather, and even if you only do this, with no other revision, you will be okay.
  • It’s not note taking
  • It’s hard work
  • Detail is a trap
  • You must act quickly
  • You learn to listen better, and ask better questions
  • You’re able to help others more
  • It gets easier and more valuable

Richard Wiseman, “Be lucky – it’s an easy skill to learn,” The Telegraph, Jan 9, 2003.  Yes, Lady Luck DOES favor some–and for a reason!

  • Those who think they’re unlucky should change their outlook and discover how to generate good fortune
  • Although unlucky people have almost no insight into the real causes of their good and bad luck, their thoughts and behaviour are responsible for much of their fortune.
  • Take the case of chance opportunities. Lucky people consistently encounter such opportunities, whereas unlucky people do not
  • Personality tests revealed that unlucky people are generally much more tense than lucky people, and research has shown that anxiety disrupts people’s ability to notice the unexpected.
  • Unlucky people miss chance opportunities because they are too focused on looking for something else
  • Lucky people generate good fortune via four basic principles. They are skilled at creating and noticing chance opportunities, make lucky decisions by listening to their intuition, create self-fulfilling prophesies via positive expectations, and adopt a resilient attitude that transforms bad luck into good

The Overflowing Brain: Information Overload and the Limits of Working MemoryDavid Glenn,Divided Attention,” February 28, 2010, The Chronicle of Higher Education.

  • Illusion of competence is one of the things that worry scholars who study attention, cognition, and the classroom
  • “Heavy multitaskers are often extremely confident in their abilities,” says Clifford I. Nass, a professor of psychology at Stanford University. “But there’s evidence that those people are actually worse at multitasking than most people.”
  • whether attention is generated by conscious effort or is an unwilled effect of outside forces. The consensus today is that there are overlapping but neurologically distinct systems: one of controlled attention, which you use to push yourself to read another page of Faulkner, and one of stimulus-driven attention, which kicks in when someone shatters a glass behind you.
  • In a famous paper in 1956, George A. Miller suggested that humans’ working-memory capacity is limited to roughly seven units
  • Informational bottleneck has been recognized as a profound constraint on human cognition.  Two ways to manage its effects. One is to “chunk” information…The second method …is to manage attention so that unwanted stimuli do not crowd the working memory.
  • The Overflowing Brain: Information Overload and the Limits of Working Memory
  • Variability in working-memory capacity accounts for about half the variability in novel reasoning and reading comprehension.
  • People with strong working-memory capacities don’t have a larger nightclub in their brains. They just have better bouncers working the velvet rope outside
  • Information that is encoded in declarative memory is more flexible—that is, people are more likely to be able to draw analogies and extrapolate from it.

Steve Mensing, Dunning-Kruger Effect: When Distorted Self-Perception and Illusions of Competence Trick Entertainers, Politicians, and Cities,” Nov 26, 2013, Rowan Free Press.

  • The Dunning-Kruger Effect is the extreme bias that some untalented and unskilled persons suffer from when they rate their ability at a much higher level than it actually is.
  • For a given skill, incompetent people will:
    • Tend to overestimate their own level of skill.
    • Tend to recognize the extremity of their inadequacy.
    • Fail to recognize genuine skill in others.
    • Recognize and acknowledge their own previous lack of skill, if they are exposed to training for that skill.

Errol Morris, “The Anosognosic’s Dilemma: Something’s Wrong but You’ll Never Know What It Is (Part 1),” June 20, 2010, The New York Times, Opinionator.

Maria Konnikova, “What’s Lost as Handwriting Fades,” June 2, 2014, The New York Times.

  • Children not only learn to read more quickly when they first learn to write by hand, but they also remain better able to generate ideas and retain information. In other words, it’s not just what we write that matters – but how.
  • The messiness inherent in free-form handwriting: Not only must we first plan and execute the action in a way that is not required when we have a traceable outline, but we are also likely to produce a result that is highly variable. That variability may itself be a learning tool.
  • Cursive writing may train self-control ability in a way that other modes of writing do not, and some researchers argue that it may even be a path to treating dyslexia

Carl Zimmer, “This is Your Brain on Writing,” June 20, 2014, The New York Times.

  • The researchers, led by Martin Lotze of the University of Greifswald in Germany, observed a broad network of regions in the brain working together as people produced their stories. But there were notable differences between the two groups of subjects. The inner workings of the professionally trained writers in the bunch, the scientists argue, showed some similarities to people who are skilled at other complex actions, like music or sports.
  • When we first start learning a skill — be it playing a piano or playing basketball — we use a lot of conscious effort. With practice, those actions become more automatic. The caudate nucleus and nearby regions start to coordinate the brain’s activity as this shift happens.
  • The very nature of creativity can make it different from one person to the next, and so it can be hard to see what different writers have in common. Dr. Pinker speculated that Marcel Proust might have activated the taste-perceiving regions of his brain when he recalled the flavor of a cookie. But another writer might rely more on sounds to evoke a time and place.

Johns Hopkins Medicine, “Memories of errors foster faster learning,” August 14, 2014, Science Daily.  Yes, mistakes really do help you learn!

  • Using a deceptively simple set of experiments, researchers have learned why people learn an identical or similar task faster the second, third and subsequent time around. The reason: They are aided not only by memories of how to perform the task, but also by memories of the errors made the first time.

* This blog entry is part of my series on the “Learning How to Learn: Powerful mental tools to help you master tough subjects” course I am taking.

Acoustic Lectro Espresso Concert Videos

I videod 52 songs in one evening last Thursday. Here is how it happened. After a show last month D.j. KuDjo, who I never talked to before, chatted me up on Facebook and asked whether I could video the shAcoustic Lectro Espresso Concert Videosow he was putting together. We talked back and forth about it and I agreed to do it, while he knew that I wasn’t a professional videographer. But he has seen me at several shows and saw some of the videos I posted on YouTube.

So he had organized an “an extensive night dedicated to local talented performers” (Facebook event) with a 14 artists at the Arlene Francis Center. Despite some technical challanges (e.g. the first electric outlet I set up my camera didn’t have electricity in it, and later in the evening my extension cord had to get unplugged, because it was a security hazard) I managed to video most of the shows. Apologies for the second artist, who, like the others, played 4-5 songs, but I only got 1 recorded, as a result of the aforementioned issues. And I ran out of steam to record the closing act, a stand-up comedian. So here is the whole YouTube playlist and below the individual listings. I added the song titles, where I could.

1. The Howlin Tramps (Facebook)

2. Josh Lancina (Facebook)

3. Emma Charlotte (Facebook)

4. Carlos Chavez (Facebook)

5. Tommy “The Hero Project” Bodell (Facebook)

6. Derailed Freight Train and the Engineers (website)

7. John Courage (website)

8. Ashley Allred (Facebook)

9. Alex Rather-Taylor (Bandcamp)

10. The Corner Store Kids (Facebook)

11. Guthrie Galileo (Soundcloud)

12. No Limit Creation (Facebook)

13. Just A Konsept (Soundcloud)


Don’t Post Videos of Breakaway Patriots

On the smallest stage of Bottelrock festival Breakaway Patriots played a set in May in front of 30-50 people. I shot a couple of their songs and posted them on YouTube. As soon as I posted I got an email from YouTube saying: “Due to a copyright claim, you are no longer monetizing the following YouTube video. It is still playable on YouTube, but the copyright owner could choose to show ads on it.” I thought this was the end of it and I was more than happy to comply with the simple message. all was well. Keep in mind that

  1. I always link to the artist’s home page or Facebook page in the first line of the video’s description. I want to support them and make sure that credit si given, where credit is due.
  2. If someone asks me I take down a video immediately.
  3. I have 500+ videos on my YouTube channel and this is the first time what I describe below happened.

A few days ago, 10 weeks after the above, I got the following email:

Video title: Breakaway Patriot: The Homecoming @ Bottlerock, May 30, 2014
Video url: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=…
Takedown issued by: Breakaway Patriot
Video title: Breakaway Patriot: Righteous Minds @ Bottlerock, May 30, 2014
Video url: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=…
Takedown issued by: Breakaway Patriot
This means that your video can no longer be played on YouTube, and you may have lost access to some features of YouTube.

You received a copyright strike

You now have 1 copyright strike. Getting multiple copyright strikes can lead to the termination of your account and the removal of all your videos. To avoid that from happening, please don’t upload videos that contain copyrighted content that you aren’t allowed to use.

When I logged on to YouTube next I had to watch a video and do a quick quiz about it, which is fine. My account is now (till February)  limited to videos shorter than 15 minutes and cannot have private or unlisted videos.

I understand if bands don’t want to see their music or video online. All they had to do shoot me an email and my shaky videos would have been gone. But I don’t like the automatic and punishing way this band or their lawyers or label handled the issue. I kind of like their music, but I make sure that I won’t mentioned them in any way in the future, so not to promote them. They just lost a potential fan.

Learning Course #5: Chunking, Illusions of competence, Motivation, Library of Chunks, Overlearning #LH2L1

Here are the points I want to remember or be able to find again from the videos of the second week of the Learning course*

What is a chunk?

  • Chunking is the mental leap that helps you unite bits of information together through meaning.
  • Memorizing a fact without understanding or context doesn’t help you understand
  • When you’re focusing your attention on something it’s almost as if you have an octopus. The octopus of attention that slips it’s tentacles through those four slots of working memory
  • Focusing your attention to connect parts of the brain to tie together ideas is an important part of the focused mode of learning.
  • Chunks are pieces of information, neuroscientifically speaking, through bound together through meaning or use.
  • Your neurons fire and wire together in a shimmering mental loop cementing the relationship in your mind between the sound mama and your mother’s smiling face.
  • One of the first steps towards gaining expertise in academic topics is to create conceptual chunks, mental leaps that unite scattered bits of information through meaning.
  • Focused practice and repetition, the creation of strong memory traces, helps you to create chunks.
  • The path to expertise is built little by little, small chunks can become larger, and all of the expertise serves to underpin more creative interpretations as you gradually become a master of the material.

How to form a chunk

  • First listen or watch.
  • Getting an initial sense of the pattern you want to master for yourself is similar for most subjects or skills.
  • You grasp and master various bits and pieces of the skills you need.
  • You’re creating little neural mini chunks, that you can then gradually knit together into larger numeral chunks.
  • The best chunks are the ones that are so well ingrained, that you don’t even have to conscientiously think about
  • Chunking in the subject of history  is quite different from chunking in chemistry or in karate.
  • The first step on chunking is simply to focus your undivided attention on the information you want to chunk.
  • The second step in chunking is to understand the basic idea you’re trying to chunk
  • Can you create a chunk if you don’t understand? Yes, but it’s often a useless chunk.
  • Don’t confuse the “aha” of a breakthrough in understanding with solid expertise.
  • The third step to chunking is gaining context, so you can see not just how, but also when to use this chunk.
  • learning takes place in two ways.
  • There’s a bottom up chunking process, where practicing repetition can help you both build and strengthen each chunk, so you can easily access it whenever you need to. And there’s also a top down big picture process that allows you to see what you’re learning and where it fits in.
  • Context is where bottom up and top down learning meet.
  • Learn the major concepts or points first: the key parts of a good instructor or book chapter’s outline, flow charts, tables, or concept maps.
  • Once you have this done, fill in the details.

Illusions of competence

  • After you’ve read the material, simply look away, and see what you can recall from the material you’ve just read. In the same amount of time, by simply practising and recalling the material students learned far more and at a much deeper level than they did using any other approach.
  • The retrieval process itself enhances deep learning, and helps us to begin forming chunks.
  • If you’re trying to build connections between chunks, before the basic chunks are embedded in the brain, [concept mapping, drawing diagrams that show the relationship between the concepts] doesn’t work as well.
  • The only time rereading text seems to be effective, is if you let time pass between the rereading
  • Merely glancing at a solution and thinking you truly know it yourself is one of the most common illusions of competence in learning.
  • [Highlighting,] making lots of motions with your hand can fool you into thinking you’ve placed the concept in your brain.
  • Words or notes in a margin that synthesize key concepts are a very good idea.
  • Mistakes are very valuable to make in your little self tests before high stakes real tests.

What motivates you?

  • Acetylcholine neurons form neuromodulatory connections to the cortex that are particularly important for focused learning, leading to new long term memory.
  • Our motivation is controlled by a particular chemical substance called Dopamine. Dopamine is released from these neurons, when received an unexpected reward. This can motivate you to do something that may not be rewarding right now but will lead to a much better reward in the future.
  • It can lead to craving and dependence, which can hijack your free will and can motivate actions that are harmful to you. Loss of Dopamine neurons leads to a lack of motivation. Severe loss of Dopamine neurons causes resting tremor, slowness, rigidity, this is called Parkinson’s disease.
  • Serotonin is a third diffused neuromaginatroy system that strongly affects your social life. Prozac, which is prescribed for clinical depression, raises the level of Serotonin activity. The level of Serotonin is also closely linked to risk taking behavior. Inmates in jail for violent crimes have some of the lowest levels of serotonin activity in society.
  • Emotions were once thought to be separate from cognition but recent research has shown that emotions are intertwined with perception and attention and interact with learning and memory.
  • If you want to learn more about Acetylcholine, Dopamine, and Serotonin, look them on brainfacts.org.

The value of a library of chunks

  • What people do to enhance their knowledge and gain expertise is to gradually build the number of chunks in their mind.
  • Valuable bits of information, they can piece together in new and creative ways.
  • The bigger and more well practiced your chunked mental library, whatever the subject you’re learning, the more easily you’ll be able to solve problems and figure out solutions.
  • When you grasp one chunk, you’ll find that that chunk can be related in surprising ways to similar chunks, not only in that field, but also in very different fields. This idea is called transfer.
  • A chunk is a way of compressing information much more compactly.
  • If you have a library of concepts and solutions internalized as chunked patterns, you can think of it as a collection or a library of neural patterns.
  • In building a chunked library, you’re training your brain to recognize not only a specific concept, but different types and classes of concepts
  • Law of serendipity: Lady luck favors the one who tries. Focus on whatever section you’re studying.

Overlearning, choking, Einstellung, and interleaving

  • Once you’ve got the basic idea down during a session, continuing to hammer away at it during the same session doesn’t strengthen the kinds of long term memory connections you want to have strengthened. Focusing on one technique is a little like learning carpentry by only practicing with a hammer.
  • Repeating something you already know perfectly well is easy. It can also bring the illusion of competence.
  • You want to balance your studies by deliberately focusing on what you find more difficult. This focusing on the more difficult material is called deliberate practice.
  • Einstellung (means installation) – an idea you already have in mind or a neural pattern you’ve already developed and strengthened, may prevent a better idea or solution from being found.
  • You have to unlearn you erroneous older ideas or approaches even while you’re learning new ones.
  • The best way to learn that is by practicing jumping back and forth between problems or situations that require different techniques or strategies, this is called interleaving.
  • Although practice and repetition is important in helping build solid neural patterns to draw on, it’s interleaving that starts building flexibility and creativity.
  • When you interleave between several subjects or disciplines, you can easily, more easily make interesting new connections between chunks in the different fields, which can enhance your creativity even further.
  • Science progresses one funeral at a time, as people entrenched in the old way of looking at things die off.

Interview with Dr. Robert Bilder on creativity and problem-solving

  • Leadership is the ability to disguise panic.
  • When you experience some discomfort you’re actually accomplishing some kind of change.
  • Personality characteristics: OCEAN stands for openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticisim - relate to degree of creative achievement
  • Correlation with agreeableness is negative: people who are less agreeable or more disagreeable tend to show higher creative achievement.
  • I like to go back and forth between those two kinds of approaches [verbal versus visual learning styles]

* This blog entry is part of my series on the “Learning How to Learn: Powerful mental tools to help you master tough subjects” course I am taking.