MetaCognitions | Language Hangups

Last evening’s Tamil language podcast listening was productive, and vastly more satisfying progress-wise once I got myself into the right headspace to immerse myself and process the dialogue and interviews.

Setup for that takes me about 15-20 minutes of quiet thought, and at the very least a full hour of immersion, whether to speak, read, write, or listen in any language I’m studying. I should work up to an entire day of immersion when family is away for extended periods.

There’s a bit of performance anxiety in that, stemming from previous study of both Japanese and Pilipino, the former in the early 90s and the latter just before the early 2000s.

Both taught me a lot, but in both cases I was not…well…at either time, and was to my eternal regret a bit of an idiot as a student even in my late 20s.

Without getting into personal details or drama, my experiences of both left me with a difficulty in switching between English and other languages quickly or in a public context, especially for interviews or social media posting, and dreading again making an idiot of myself as a learner, this time on the Internet for all to see.

There’s also a lack of patience on my part, as I must remind myself that even in formal study it takes several whole semesters for anybody to make progress at my age in any non-native language, even with an instructor and fellow students to interact with for feedback.

Hindi, Tamil, and Bangla are not easy languages to begin with, especially for non-native speakers like me!

All of my study to-date on the current languages, ALL of it, has been informal, but still marked by progress over time, even with my biases and impatience getting in the way of seeing that.

It helps to take, even in a passing moment of introspection, and actually immersing myself in the damn languages instead of whining, a long view, to see the forests of India’s Big Three languages over time for the trees of any given study period.

Maybe I’ll always be somewhat anxious about being the village idiot of students, but maybe too I can avoid that outcome, to keep up the long game toward what level of mastery I can achieve.

At my age, I’ll probably never reach native fluency in any of them, but that’s cool. I’m not trying to pass as a native speaker anyway, not perfect fluency, only to broaden my horizons and reduce my ignorance of the rest of humanity elsewhere in some small way, however imperfectly.

And d’you know what? I think that’s good enough.

Tf. Tk. Tts.

MetaCognitions | Writing Technique

I’ve been thinking about the writing process, such as that can be as this blog’s resident entity from beyond space-time….

Is it some alien elder thing seeping from deep within the vowels of the earth, issuing forth with dire murmurations laden with hideous consonants and a doomed attempt to impose some order on the whole horrid outcome with punctuation?

It’s actually quite ordinary, with nothing from outside the curves and angles of space-time involved at all. Even a shoggoth could manage it — or my cats.

I use a variety of tools, from brainstorming, storyboarding, and at least half a dozen more as I experiment to initially generate ideas. I either put material down as electronic files or write it down old school, with pen and pad, as I often keep that handy in case something interesting pops up, and I have to capture it before it dissipates. Some ideas show up only once.

Once I have a basic draft, I let it sit for a time, simmer a bit, as I slowly add to it. The process is surprisingly controllable, though tends to work best during extended periods of strategically alternating mental focus and unfocus.

Once I have enough to work with, I open the draft, add any final material, and edit the crap out of it. I go through at least three full rounds of edits on the entire piece, and then proofread it twice, once from beginning to end, and then from end to beginning, reading it aloud to myself or under my breath, and rewriting the piece as I go each time.

When I’m doing that, I pretend I’m the narrator of an audiobook and read with as natural a vocal pace as I can manage. I tend to find the majority of errors during the proofreading process, catching mistakes my eyes alone often miss.

Once I’m done, I work on the layout and format of the piece, finish that, and ready it for publishing.

And that’s about it. The whole affair is nothing special, but it works, and works well enough that it makes the job of keeping up the lab in the Sooper Sekret Volcano Lair™ easy for the eldritch servitors, even when having the death rays and world destruction machine upgraded.

Life as a Lovecraftian horror sometimes has its perks. 😉

Tf. Tk. Tts.

MetaCognitions | Thoughts at the Age of 53


As I reach the age of 53 this morning, I consider myself lucky indeed, to have lived the experiences I have, to learn the things I’ve learned, and to have met the people I have, both in real life and online. But one thing has always been lurking on the background, and that’s frequent self-doubt as to how good a friend I am to others.

That self-doubt, engendered by my failure to keep in touch with many of those I’ve befriended over the years, was a major cause of the several-month long inactivity on this blog starting in November of last year.

Part of the cause of that is my . . . condition . . . that results in a frequent, totally nonsensical and irrational desire for solitude, even with full knowledge that human interaction of some form is absolutely necessary for my psychological and physical well being.

Every year, I’m required to live alone, tending the house, garden, and cats, as well as my own affairs while family is away, often from a period of time ranging from two weeks to a full month, all on my own. I don’t at all mind the responsibility, so that’s not the issue.

But spending such long spans of time as the only human being at home causes a heightening of that innate, irrational drive for solitude, normalizes it, accustoms me to it, drawing me further from those I know, unless I actively work toward making that needed human contact more frequent.

There’s also my study and work periods spent poring over manuscripts, reading, lectures, work on notes, and the less-often-than-I’d-like practice sessions learning languages. These require solitude in order to focus, as I am a terrible multitasker.

I simply cannot engage in online conversation while at the same time trying to focus on details of a language, or the same while working on manuscripts. I’m 53 now, after all. And one’s ability to multitask declines significantly with age.

That forces me to single-task whenever I can to get anything done. That requires focus, often leading to solitude while working. If I try to do two involved tasks at once, I wind up succeeding at neither. I’m no longer in my twenties, though psychologically, I don’t feel 53.

So there’s that.

What to do about this?

One solution is to schedule my time in an organizer, and to develop more productive habits, like rising earlier while maintaining my sleep hygiene, and spending more time each day interacting online than I’m ordinarily inclined to by my condition. Isolation kills. It’ll also drive me nuts if I let it.

There is also something, more attainable with someone here to help out at home, of simply getting out more often and doing things I enjoy with others. But I’m most definitely not an extrovert, so dealing with others face-to-face can be exhausting, and that can carry over to online engagement as well, even with the seeming anonymity of the Internet.

I have doubts, frequent ones, that I have anything of real consequence or importance to say online, say, in response to tweets sent my way, or in the comment threads of blogs, even this one. It makes me feel as though I’m just not a very good friend to those I’ve come to know through social media.

It came to a head late last year on this blog. And part of the chain that led up to that involved the late Christopher Trommater, formerly known to the blogging and Twitter communities as Skeptic Cat. In February of 2014, he took his own life, and I’d only found out about it from his ex-fiancee the following month.

From then, until late 2016, that has haunted me, along with the nagging, totally irrational thought that maybe I could have kept in more frequent contact with him through email, that maybe I could have talked him out of his decision to end himself.

Maybe, the silent voice within says, I could have been a better friend than I was and he would still be here today. But that’s nonsense. I’ve learned that to give credence to such musings is nonconstructive. I can’t live my life based on what might have been, what I might have done, and yet I can’t shake the mild self-loathing stemming from the feeling that what it says is true.

But suicide doesn’t work like that. I know to a high degree of certainty that there’s nothing I could have done, other than torment myself sooner, and more deeply, than I did in fact. Chris had metaphorical demons to deal with I cannot possibly grasp as a merely online friend, that I’d be no help in enabling him to overcome.

So, happy birthday to me, as there’s a lot of work to do, and things to improve until the day I cease to be and cannot improve anything at all, save the nutrient content of the soil.

When will I reach my ultimate life’s goal, whatever that is? I’ll let you know as soon as I reach it . . . .

Aaand I don’t expect that to be anytime soon!

Tf. Tk. Tts.

James Randi: Thoughts About God

The Amazing Randi gives his thoughts from a refreshing perspective of modesty that Troythulu can only hope to emulate (being this blog’s resident Eldritch Entity™ only does so much for one’s humility…) on the topic of religion and religious belief, and why he suspects they came about, what purpose they originally served, and to some perhaps still serve. The discussion about driving animals, like dogs, nuts with conjuring tricks he performs, is amusing and illuminating with it’s implications that human cognitive limits are not so different from those of other species, with surprising parallels between us and them. It’s cool how the uniqueness of humans is seeming not so unique after all.