Friday, January 20, 2012

Stress Relief

[This entry is primarily therapeutic, so don't bother reading it.  BUT this Sunday, I'll share some interesting information - I have a few things I learned about linguistics that I want to document.]

Well, I've been busy.  I should get this boring stuff off my chest for one last time so I can stop telling people the same story over and over.  I have a bad habit of talking about the nitty-gritty details of my life in extensive detail, and it frankly resembles the kind of incessantness that irks me.  Still, there's no way I'm completely ridding myself of the need to tell stories, so I'll tell the story but keep it short.
In trying to exceed the credit limit, I corroborated with some old teachers, put together an argument, and e-mailed the dean of first-year students.  She refused to hear my argument on the assumptive grounds that freshmen are incapable of transitioning to college work in less than a year.  Well, I don't party, I don't really spend much time having fun when I have work to do, and I am good at reading and thinking on my own.  In other words, I'm already a college student.  I'm frankly -

(Okay, that's not short.  ~author set.rant=0)

- I sent an e-mail tonight to another dean to try to get more comprehensive advice and to get communication going between me and the other parties I've involved.  Now I wait.

(That's better.)

I bought my books today, too, which meant I spent almost no time at home.  I've done this all week, pretty much of my own volition.  I find it's quite fun to meander around the Rutgers campus, studying wherever I please, meeting up with friends all over the place.  Makes me feel like my home is bigger than ever.  Forget the provincial confines of my room, I have two cities to lounge about, including free transportation!

The greatest advantage to never going home is that I get to really spend time working.  Last semester, I swear, two ten minute bus rides to and from my dorm take up an hour in college time.  Significant drag.  As long as I find places in which I enjoy studying, I'll be good to hit the ground running.  I found one place in the Busch student center, and that'll probably be my number one study lounge.  Of course, there's always Alexander library before linguistics, and my double single whenever I'm home.  In my experience, it's best to have one desk for the computer and one desk for the work.  Or at least don't keep the computer where you work.  Or just get rid of the computer, which is half of my strategy.  No more Skyrim means I work (out - but not really).

Overall, I'm trying out stress management strategies that seem to be working.  Besides having great friends that I can hang out with, my favorite strategies so far are organizing my desk and planning out when I do all of my work for all of my classes, as well as when I get to do fun stuff like blog and mix.  It gives me less to worry about.  ...Well, at least it will once I have the ability to make that schedule.  Not knowing what my classes are like makes it a wee bit harder to do that.  Oh well :/

But really, I do have some interesting things to compile for an entry this weekend.  Note to self - don't forget it.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Speed Reading (in a sense)

A little tidbit about language processing.

There has been proposed a simple modular pathway between sensory input (shapes on a page, sound waves in the air).  That's the modular processing model, which I'm going to skip over here.  On to the more complete interactive processing model, which is informed by the actual architecture of the brain and specific studies:

When you read something, the shapes you see are translated from visual information into concepts.  In lexical decision (choosing a word that matches visual input), this is bottom-to-top processing.  Basically, when interpreting information, you have to choose a word from your mental dictionary, and the process begins with a prime (first letter & last letter, it would seem).

Simultaneously, there are synapses that send information from the conceptual level to narrow down what word you're perceiving.  This way, you don't have to see every letter, or even every word, when you read something.  

In other words, one way to save time when perceiving language is essentially to lessen the amount of information that you actually take in, and to increase the amount of higher level processing that contributes to lexical decision.  Cool, right?  More association cortex, less direct processing.

This could have implications.  Do people read faster because they read less?  Who learns better, the people who read slower and take in more information, or people who read faster and depend more on their association cortex?

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

The Lens of Existentialism

What is success?  What is happiness?  What makes a good person?

According to the existentialists, one man alone can answer these questions:  you.  You - who, because of masculine hegemony in the English language, are assumed to be a man - are the only one who can define good happy success.

For you.  Good happy success for me is something completely different.  I have a completely unique definition of good happy success that no other can replicate:  to have and ethically fulfill a life mission.

So I have a life goal. I aim to do whatever is in my power to enable non-human animals to communicate with humans through language, or vice versa.

Next comes the fulfillment.  There might be a few roadblocks.  But those roadblocks mean nothing more than that my life won't be boring.  As I begin my quest into linguistic neurogenetics, I think I should outline what I now believe to be all of the major roadblocks.  I kind of want to make a time capsule of my naïveté.

1.  Other species are physiologically incapable of using language.
2.  Animals are neurologically incapable of using language.
3.  Nobody wants talking animals around.
4.  It's unethical to change too much of the physiology or neurology of another species.

If I cannot knock down these four pillars, then I will be forced to give up and find a new career.  Or, find one in the first place, because I don't know what career I'm headed towards even with this mission.

Well, at least I know what I'm majoring in:  genetics, linguistics, and psychology.  That'll be super easy, doing three majors.  It'll be like taking one major, but instead it'll be three.  Same difference.

Now that that's taken care of...  time to sit down to read about language from the perspective of a cognitive neuroscience textbook, and thus formally begin.  With a cup of Sleepytime.