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My first book haul video!

I got a couple books on my day off! I’m also reading two books right now. Whoa! I guess I’ll talk about that:

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Rewatching Beast Wars: Seasons 2 & 3

Applying for work is frustrating so I figured I would blog about the good old days of childhood cartoons. Huzzah!

I nerded out about season one here.

I finished watching the show with my brother over the Christmas holidays and my review is slightly mixed. I was so certain that it got better past the first season and boy was I right! Season 2 was fabulous. All around great writing, well choreographed fight scenes, basically no filler: perfect. Where the first season had many, many silly episodes that stretched my willing suspension of disbelief sometimes, the second season had all kinds of neato plot stuff going on, great action, and a minimal of lame cartoon slapstick type scenes.

So it was a bit disappointing when we watched season 3 and it reverted back to the not-so-good writing, over the top slapstick, and such. Megatron developed a random love for quoting shakespeare (or at least shakespeare-sounding transformers stuff) which was a bit weird. It seems like it would fit his character but it was always a little awkward and out of place. Waspinator becomes severely flanderized. He gets ripped apart in every way possible. This was already a fairly major part of his character but he really becomes the universe’s punching bag in this  season: “Why universe hate Waspinator?” 😥

My brother and I were watching and waiting for the end because we knew that the ending at least was great! And it was. There was quite a solid build-up to it in the last 4-5 episodes of the season in fairly subtle ways. We remembered the gist of what happened and were getting worried when there weren’t too many episodes left but it was all fit in rather nicely, I do declare!

And I loved the last scene of the show being Waspinator happy at last. Yay!

And then Beast Machines kinda messed up a bunch of the characters and had a weird art style so I won’t be watching that!

The Selfish Gene – What I learned

The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins was an incredible book that tells the real story behind evolution: the gene! I don’t recall this view being taught in school. Just the “survival of the fittest” style of evolution. This seems weird considering that this book is over 30 years old. This is exactly new material!

Anyways, here is my video about it:

What I learned – The Seven Sins of Memory

The Seven Sins of Memory by Daniel L. Schacter

i forgot

Crystal gave me this book as an early Christmas present (she can never wait :P) and I just finished it so I thought I’d tell you about what I learned. I think this is what I will do for nonfiction books from now on. Basically, nothing will be different but I’ll stick the “What I learned” in the title so you can tell it isn’t really a review. Avoid if you plan on reading the book and don’t want knowledge spoilers but stick around if you want to learn some stuff and don’t have time for many nonfiction books!

So this Schacter guy seems to be somewhat of a fancypants: he’s the Chair of Harvard’s Psychology Department. Neato. He talks about how there are seven fundamental types of faults in our memories in this book: transience, absent-mindedness, blocking, misattribution, suggestibility, bias, and persistence. In the final chapter he explains why these are most likely just by-products of other processes and are actually important for our brains to function properly even though they will cause minor or even major annoyances from time to time.

1. Transience
This is when your memories slowly fade over time. This happens because you aren’t reminding yourself about these memories enough and strengthening the connections in your brain. The older you get, the more this is a problem.

Transience has its uses, though. Memories that aren’t being used are surely taking up space and would waste time if they were recalled when they weren’t relevant. Thus, we don’t remember things that our brains find to be unimportant or no longer useful.

2. Absent-mindedness
This occurs when our thoughts aren’t properly encoded in our brains in the first place so trying to retrieve the memory later is useless. This happens when we are pre-occupied doing something else and place our glasses/book/keys somewhere. We never formed a memory of where we placed the object because we were busy thinking about other things.

3. Blocking
Tip-of-the-tongue is a major proponent of this. Interesting fact: many, many languages use this tongue metaphor! Blocking is when the memory is definitely still encoded somewhere in your brain but you are unable to retrieve it momentarily. There are normally certain cues that would cause you to remember it fully. This occurs most often on people’s names but can happen on any word. Names are most frequent because there aren’t any synonyms to draw from, and there aren’t really any cues to remind you. If I was named TallGuy then maybe it would be easier but I’m Arthur so good luck remembering that. I’m not explaining this very well. Um… maybe you should read the book for this one.

4. Misattribution
Mixed up and false memories! This is when your memories get jumbled so the who, when, and wheres get mixed up but also when your memory is just made up! This is where the book started to scare me in relation to eyewitness testimony. If memory is so flimsy, why do we put eyewitness testimony in such high regard? Yikes!

This chapter mentioned deja vu. Sometimes familiarity can be mistaken for memory of something that never happened.

Sometimes it is the source of the knowledge that is mistaken. Did you hear it from a trustworthy source? Did you witness it yourself? Did you make it up? Who knows?

This chapter was fascinating and covered a wide variety of stuff that I can’t possibly hope to cover here.

5. Suggestibility
We are incredibly weak to suggestion. Open-ended questions are best! Any specifics in a question can bias answers. Say car crash instead of car accident and people might report a more violent impact. This was another chapter that was terrifying for court cases. All it takes is a little nudging and people could say practically anything!

6. Bias
There are a lot of different biases in our memories. Consistency bias makes us think the past was like the present. If we are in a lot of pain right now, we report our pains being stronger in the past as well. This is a problem in marriages: Once the honeymoon is over there is generally a drop in satisfaction levels and if the consistency bias is in effect, even the honeymoon will be tainted! 😦

Hindsight bias is one that you might be more familiar with. Ask someone who they think is going to win a sporting event or a war or something ahead of time and also after the finale. They will report a bias to the winner as if it was inevitable in the second scenario when you want them to think back to what they thought before the event.

Egocentric biases cause us to exaggerate how important we are. Most people will describe themselves as above average but obviously this can’t really be true. In memory, this causes us to remember ourselves getting better grades than we actually did in school and various other things.

Then there are good ol’ stereotypes. Yay.

7. Persistence
One of the scary ones, persistence is the process where memories we want to forget just never want to leave us alone. Evolutionarily, this would have been useful for reminding us against something life-threatening but it can cause daily annoyance and lead to severe depression in some individuals. Persistence occurs because of the strong emotions involved. Emotions are incredibly good at improving memory which is super handy most of the time but kinda scary in others.

 

I learned a lot from this book but, of course, I couldn’t remember it all (har har). I find brains incredibly fascinating. We can talk all we want about memories being encoded and retrieved but what exactly is going on? How does it all work? I know there are neurons zipping around making connections and such but how the heck does that make a memory. It is even stranger for me considering that I am most certainly a materialist. I’m definitely a layman in regards to this stuff but I don’t believe in spirits, soul, or some extra mind stuff floating around in the ether or whatever. It’s just brains to me! So how is all this information stored in an accessible manner? Beats me!

In conclusion, I’d like to mention that brains are weird.

 

Bookshelf tour extravaganza! (with bonus to-be-read)

Here is my bookshelf in all its glory!

If you want a review on my blog or on youtube for any book on my bookshelf just let me know!

I ended up editing out my to-be-read pile but I will talk about it here instead.

Slaughterhouse-five by Kurt Vonnegut
I read Breakfast of Champions also by him a while ago and it was very original and written very strangely. Vonnegut even adds drawings which added to the zanyness. A very interesting book to read! I don’t know much about this book but I am lead to believe it is not exactly a funny book like BoC. Apparently about some bombings so yeah…

Neither Here Nor There by Bill Bryson
Bill Bryson normally writes travel books and this is one of those. He usually has very silly rants and such so I’m sure it will have some good bits. I got this from the take-a-book, leave-a-book thing in my laundry room. Score!

Mind of the Raven by Bernd Heinrich
I think ravens and crows are pretty cool looking birds and this book will surely show me how they are total smartypants birds!

The Maze Runner by James Dashner and Divergent by Veronica Roth
I dunno. My ladyfriend wants me to read these.

The Wastelands & The Drawing of the Three by Stephen King
More Dark Tower books! I have only read the first one which was weird but good. I picked these up second hand and got these big fancy illustrated versions and some of the pictures look pretty creepy!

The Year of Living Biblically by AJ Jacobs
Another laundry room find. I’m hopeful that it will be a silly read but I’m a bit worried because all the reviews on the back seem to be by very religious people. The premise just sounds silly, though: trying to follow the Bible literally for a year. How could that not end up in silliness? We’ll see. (My girlfriend just discovered a positive review by Mary Roach in there and she is one of my favourite science authors so yay!)

So there’s my TBR list. I don’t have any set date for that stuff: the dark tower books have been on there for months but keep getting postponed. I’ll get around to them eventually but I already have two books on the go and Cryptonomicon might take a while. Not only that, but I will most likely maybe get more books for Christmas. Yikes!

Toodles!

 

Bastion, a nifty review

The world has collapsed and you are one of the few left with only the narrator to keep you company. He always has something interesting to say whether you are slaying enemies, sipping some rum, or falling off a cliff. This is Bastion.

Shards of the old world rise to meet you as you walk around, all with gorgeous art. I quite enjoyed the weapon variety. Lots of guns and close range weapons to mix it up. The enemies had good design but were slightly limited.

But the sound is where Bastion truly shines! The narrator’s voice is marvelous and is present throughout the entire game. He never gets repetitive or boring in any fashion. This could have failed miserably if he kept saying the same things over and over but he never does. He generally had at least 2 or 3 things to say on the most inconsequential things and much more on common occurrences. If he would have started repeating himself, he doesn’t say anything instead.

In addition, the soundtrack is wonderful. I’ve been listening to it on the way to work for a while now. Best I’ve heard in a game in long time.

I thought I was done with this game but there were a couple choices at the end along with a new game plus to try. You can keep all your weapons and levels and try again. Normally this might be boring but you can easily amp up the difficulty in this game by worshipping the gods. I found that kind of funny. Those gods sure don’t make your life easy. But they reward your worship, at least! I think it will definitely be worth a replay.

Countries with the fishes

So I was reading the Economist, as usual, but this week had their technology quarterly special. Yay!

One of the things featured was new to me, at least in the real world: Seasteading. This is what it would be called if a man-made country was contructed in the middle of the ocean. Pretty wacky stuff that I thought was completely in the realm of sci-fi except… people are actually researching how to do this!

The idea is that there is currently no (easy/peaceful) way to make a new sovereign state because all the land in the world is taken up. This would be a way to create new “land” to colonize and set up a whole new government. Imagine: a seastead full of people with similar beliefs and values as you! I guess that would lead to segregation, though. Hmmm…

This is still a ways off but it isn’t as sci-fi as it used to be. A lot of the problems with it are political. Coastal waters are calm and convenient but these are already claimed by various sovereign nations. Yet, A seastead too far out would be more difficult to access and would give occupants a bumpy life on the stormy seas. Another problem is that a seastead would be relying on the friendliness of nearby sovereigns. How would they defend themselves?

This was exciting to find out about because now I know that there are at least some rich people out there spending their money on crazy futuristic stuff. I wonder what other stuff like this people are researching?