Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for April 27th, 2020

The Role of Food Advertisements in the Obesity Epidemic

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Written by Leisureguy

27 April 2020 at 7:55 pm

Language learning is training a neural net

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I realized something as I thought about my earlier post on Duolingo. I described how I listened to many different speakers and listened repeatedly, and then gradually I could filter out the noise (slurred speech, bad pronunciation, different speeds, different voices) and hear the actual content. It suddenly struck me that this is exactly how neural networks are trained to, for example, recognize cat pictures. And then — duh — I realized that of course it’s like training a neural network, since that is what the brain is.

That explains the need for repetition and various accents, and it makes me more patient because I no longer feel that I have to get it immediately, I just have to keep up the process as the neural network in my head gets trained and rewires itself for this capability.

Written by Leisureguy

27 April 2020 at 5:00 pm

Transition on Day 9 of Esperanto studies

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I’ve been going regularly and fairly intensively at Esperanto for 9 days now. I started a little slowly, but 9 days ago I settled into a routine:

1. Go through the current Esperanto flashcards in several (free) decks I downloaded from Anki.
That takes about half an hour and goes fast because it’s easy. I don’t struggle over the cards. If I don’t know the answer, I click “Show answer,” note the answer, and click the button to show me the card again in a minute. The next time I get it right (or click “show me again in a minute” if I get it wrong), and from then on it’s just review.

The decks mix review with occasional new words, but some decks now are all review. For example, I’ve now completed Esperanto affixes, so it’s all review — 14 cards today, which takes less than a minute to go through. That particular deck is excellent deck — with Anki you can revise the deck to suit yourself once you’ve downloaded it (e.g., change the prompt or answer or add a card to the deck), and I’ve made only one or two minor changes to the cards in that deck.

2. Do Duolingo until it tells me “no more,” or until I give it up.
Usually I go to “no more,” but last night I finally gave it up after many (short) exercise/lessons. As I have noted, Duolingo offers excellent listening training, especially since some speakers mumble and/or mispronounce words (just as in real life, as I’m sure you’ve noticed). Gradually my adaptive unconscious is learning to filter out the noise and focus on the content. I have set my Duolingo settings to “serious” study: 30XP per day.

UPDATE: I misunderstood how best to use Duolingo. rather than follow the method above, take a look at Duolingo’s own recommendation: What’s the Best Way to Learn with Duolingo.

3. Study in the course, including making Anki vocabulary cards.
I’ve updated my Lernu-advice post with some recent realizations. One of the updates to recite aloud the text passages after listening to them and reading them and making Anki cards for any new vocabulary I encounter. (The exercises generally also include some new vocabulary, often introduced with images, so you connect the word directly with the image rather than with an English word: an idea I first encountered at Berlitz.) Eventually my vocabulary deck will be complete, but now it extends only so far as I’ve studied. It’s a shared deck, so you can use it. When you download Anki, be sure to click “Sync” in the top-line menu so that you can easily synch your deck. This is particularly necessary if you want to share a deck, which you do from the AnkiWeb site.

Reading aloud fluently, without stumbling over words, requires practice because speaking skills, like listening skills, are independent of reading skills and each of the three skills must be practiced separately for mastery (as must writing skills, and those I shall practice by keeping a daily ĵunalon in Esperanto). Speaking and writing skills seem mostly to be a matter of practicing new motor skills (for speaking, tongue, mouth, lips, vocal cords; for writing, muscles of the hand and fingers) so that they flow smoothly and do not require conscious effort.

“Not requiring conscious effort” means, of course, that the adaptive unconscious has picked up the ball and run with it, freeing the conscious mind from focusing the the minutiae of the task and looking instead at the big picture, much as a practiced and experienced fencer no longer focuses on his stance and how he holds the sabre but instead focuses on planning and executing his attack (and defense).

Indeed, this morning as I thought of things, I sometimes had the (still simple) though in Esperanto (or, as I just at first though as I wrote, Esperante). It doesn’t feel as though I (my conscious self) is doig that, but rather like a net is settling over my thoughts, or emerging from them, and pulliing them into Esperanto. I take it that is the adaptive unconscious beginning to get the idea and assimilate the language.

The same thing happens when you first immerse yourself in to learning and playing Go, in which a stone or group is captured by surrounding it (thus “The Surrounding Game” — worth watching). You are straining to detect how to surround and avoid being surrounded, and suddenly in daily life you start to be aware of being surrounded: you pull up to a stop light, and there’s a car on your left and one behind you and you feel (rather than think) that you are half-surrounded, and if a car then pulls up beside you on your right, the alarm bells go off because you now have only one liberty: straight ahead.

The physical sensation comes not from your conscious mind but from your adaptive unconscious exercising the skills of its new awareness.

That’s what seems to be happening with my learning of Esperanto: it’s moving from my conscious into my adaptive unconscious, so that as these thoughts in Esperanto emerge, it’s as if I’m just a bystander, observing it happen rather than making it happen. The adaptive unconscious has started doing the heavy lifting and is now flexing its muscles.

It’s interesting. I’m curious to know what the situation will be by, say, the end of May.

Reference: see Strangers to Ourselves: Discovering the Adaptive Unconscious, by Timothy Wilson — one of the books on my list of book recommendations.

BTW, this is after 9 days of concentrated study. Esperanto is indeed easy to learn, and I suspect one reason is that the regularity makes easy the job of the adaptive unconscious so that it can move ahead more quickly with taking over the basic tasks from the conscious mind.

Written by Leisureguy

27 April 2020 at 11:26 am

Great shave and more ruminations on “novelty” soaps and scents

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An extremely nice result this morning. I did change the blade in the iKon 102 after the first pass, this time using a Gillette 7 O’Clock SharpEdge. I did have the benefit of a two-day stubble (and an extremely good slant), of course, but prep is also good..

As I lathered with Catie’s Bubble Waterlyptus and enjoyed the fragrance, I got to thinking again of what exact is a novelty fragrance.

As a species, we rely as much on vision as dogs do on smell and cats on hearing. I suspect that the languages of each (provided that dogs and cats developed languages) would rely heavily on metaphor in creating words, olfactory metaphors for dogs and auditory metaphors for cats, just as many common words and descriptions we use have implicit visual underpinnings.

So in talking about fragrances, I find I rely on words from a visual orientation (often in spatial terms). Now, mi ne estas odoristo, of course, and professionals who deal with scents (perfumers, chefs, and others) may well have an established vocabulary that works well, but I must go with what I’ve got.

In enjoying the Waterlyptus fragrance this morning, I realized that if it were purely watermelon, it would indeed be a novelty fragrance. I have a dark-chocolate-fragranced soap from Phoenix Artisan (a limited edition Valentine’s Day soap of a few years back), and though I enjoy it, it is clearly a novelty soap since it has but one note to its song. Similarly, I saw a shaving soap a while back that boasted the fragrance of newly cut grass. That’s a nice fragrance, but if that’s all that’s going on, it will not wear well.

What isn’t a novelty fragrance is a fragrance with layers — with depth (two visual metaphors right there). The watermelon fragrance in this soap is balanced by eucalyptus, which makes the fragrance of more lasting interest. Similarly, Meißner Tremonia’s Pink Grapefruit shaving paste (or soap) uses eucalyptus as a counterpoint to the pink grapefruit, and the result is an intriguing soap of enduring appeal. In both cases, eucalyptus modulates and modifies the sweetness of its companion note in the fragrance.

Going from a single note to two is not much (and indeed most shaving soap and aftershave fragrances are complex, with a variety of notes, but still there are some very nice two-note fragrances — cf. Planet Java Hive from Phoenix Artisan: coffee + honey), but it seems to be enough — there’s a jump in complexity and interest, much as in billiards (true billiards — table has no pockets and three balls are used). Play on a billiard table with one ball, and there’s zero interest: you hit the ball and it rolls arund, bouncing off the rails. That will get dull quickly — I’m already bored just writig about it.

Add a second ball, and now you can use the cue to hit the first ball and make it hit the second. That’s (barely) better, but that too would become dull in less than one minute.

Add one more ball. Now you can use the cue to hit the first ball and make it hit both the other two balls. Now we’re talking! (The sudden jump is reminiscent of catastrophe theory.) Add one small restriction — that the cue ball must strike the cushions three times before it hits the second ball — and you’ve not yourself a great game. Watch this (with sound turned off).

A splash of Woods, an aftershave I like because of its intriguing fragrance (but, alas, Saint Charles Shave has closed its doors), finished the shave and lifted my spirits.

Written by Leisureguy

27 April 2020 at 9:02 am

Posted in Shaving

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