Blog of Sara Jakša

My Drawing Lessons 2018-11-15

So the drawing lesson number 2. This time I was drawing something else. It was supposed to be a lesson in how to draw ellipses. Apparent ley it is really hard, but I don't really see the problem. I was also supposed to learn observation. This was a bit harder to do.

the drawing of a pitcher

Unexpectedly Good Customer Service at NLB

Recently, I had to renew the security certificate, that I use to log in to my online bank account. When I have gotten an email, they warned that they are going to phase out of it by the end of the year.

Hearing about it from the first time, I started to search. There was nothing on my online bank about it. I did not see anything on the website of the bank. Since I no longer get statements in paper, I even when online to check, if they warned about it there. No information what so ever. The only information that even indicated anything like this was, that this was only available to customers, that started before middle of 2017.

So I sent an email, to ask them about it. I did not want to get a new certificate, if it will stop working in a month and a half. And the answer was, that they don't have a date, but they usually phase out by not extending or enrolling new people. So I figured out, it will probably work for at least a year, so I extended it.

This certificate could also be used to access the governmental sites, but I already have their own certificate as well, so I don't need it for this.

Some time later, they send me the following message:

Pozdravljeni,

z veseljem vas obveščamo, da smo na pobudo vas, zvestih uporabnikov spletne banke NLB Klik, odložili ukinitev uporabe kvalificiranega digitalnega potrdila - certifikata AC NLB za vstop v NLB Klik. To pomeni, da boste svojo spletno banko lahko tudi v prihodnje nemoteno uporabljali in do nje dostopali s pomočjo certifikata.

Prijeten dan!

For some reason, they decided to extend this offer. I mean, I only asked a question, but I guess I was not the only one. But I am happy, that no matter what they talk in media about it, they still care about what their customers want.

Embodied Decision Making

I have read another pretty interesting article. The main idea of the article was, that the way we move our bodies can affect the way we make decision.

The article used Movement Pattern Analysis, concentrating on the difference between perception and assertion. The perception is concentrated on getting information out of the environment, with movements indicating exploring (spreading the chest and then moving the arm), evaluating (crossing the legs into the thinker pose) and anticipating (gesturing while molding the torso back to the chair). On the other hand, the assertion is connected to acting upon the world. It includes investigating (zeroing on the interviewer), determining (gesturing with the chin) and timing (quick gestures).

While they used a small sample, they found correlation between the difference between perception and assertion and the amount of information requested and time needed to make decision.

This is very interesting to me. It is hard for me to observe myself sometimes (I mean, I can't even notice, when I use formal language), so I am not sure where on the spectrum am I. I do notice that I do a lot of thinker pose (I so far blamed BBC Sherlock for this). But on the other hand, when I am alone, and I think out loud, then I use quite quick gestures. On the other hand, sometimes it seems that I need way more data than other people, so far, I would lean to a bit more perceptive than assertion size.

But it will be interesting to see, if it also holds true for other people. Time to do some observing.

My Drawing Lessons 2018-11-09

My mother had won a 1 month free drawing lessons somewhere. She said that she had no interest in the drawings (I suspect, that she thinks she has no talent, but it does not really matter).

So this was my first lesson. The point was to try something and see what my level was. And this is the picture that came out of it.

the drawing of a pumpkin

Perpetrating the Status Quo

I have right now (in a preparation for my cognitive science master thesis) read the article about collective conservatism. As any economical article, it had a respectable amount of math, but it was not math, that was interesting to me. It was the main idea.

It talks about, how ideas and institutions are retained in the society. Even though, these ideas/institutions can be without any positive effect anymore. And it mostly touches on the majority of people, that are not actively lobbing for any position. These have an effect, but they are not the reason, why the ideas stay like this. There were a couple of religious examples in the text, but I have a more modern one. Most people use phones. And they will continue using phone, without there being any activists or authority convincing to forcing them to do this. Or maybe email or social media would be a better example, as some people at least think that we could have ended up differently there. But that just means, that maybe it is more further along.

The status quo gets reinforced in steps. On the beginning, multiple alternatives are tested. People, activists and non-activists alike are checking multiple ways of how they could approach the situation or the problem. But eventually one idea wins out, for some reason. Normally, it is because it that moment, it seems like the majority is supporting it. Then this idea becomes accepted in the society, and people that go against it are usually punished. It can be by actual punishment, or just social disciplinary action. These social consequences came out of non-advocate majority, who perceive some potential punishment, if they don't comply with what the majority wants (I am reading the Elephant in the Brain right now, and this reasoning would go right along with it). Can you see, where I am going with this?

Well, the social norms and social pressure is there, even if the preferences of the people change. So eventually, in order to keep themselves consistent, the cognitive dissonance kicks in. And people really start believing that this is the right and only way.

Kind of reminds me of the group of monkeys, who were punished, when they tried to reach for the bananas. When the newcomer came in, and tried to reach for the bananas, they beat them up. And this trend continued even after all the original monkeys were gone. We humans are doing the exactly the same thing, except with more abstract situations.

What is the solution? The article itself mentions one, and this is to tell our real (or private) opinions. This can be done by changing the human nature or by changing the infrastructure of opinion gathering. Anonymous voting is better for this than raising hands, for example. Or maybe we can just wait for the environment to kick us in the butt.

Doing Something Mentally Hard

As I was going through my old notes, I have seen an advice written in the corner on one of my notes. I even remember, when I asked this. I know that in the class before that, one of my Vienna classmate and Ljubljana classmate were talking about the number of scientific papers that they read. And I would say that they are both well-read people.

So, taking advantage of this, I asked this Vienna classmate, what the strategy for reading that many scientific papers are. This are the notes, that I have taken from him:

  • It is the same as reading the book
  • It is mentally more challenging
  • Just practice
  • Be careful of the intermediate stage, where everything is gray
  • Just go over the feeling of not wanting to read

It is a nice throwback to about a year ago, and how much did things change in this time. In the time of writing this, it is exactly 1 year and 2 days ago. Now, I have no problems reading multiple articles per day. I know that I have read more articles in this year, then there are days, and I know, that I don't read every day. Just today, I have read 3 scientific articles before 10 o'clock in the morning, something that would be unthinkable just a year ago.

The one takeaway, that I took from that conversation, is to simply do it and to not overthink. I did not need to study the article. I could just read it. And if there is something in the article, that I needed to know later, I can always check if afterwards. This helped me read multiple of articles more than I did before.

And this is true for any kind of work, that is mentally hard. Simply do it, and eventually a level will become a second nature. And then , trying to do something on a higher level becomes a lot easier. Since it does not require also learning how to do something on a lower level as well at the same time.

And I guess I used the same type of work on how I learned programming. I just got an idea, that was interesting, and I did it. Or something (read: lot of times) I gave up in the middle of it. But it did not matter. I still finished with some interesting finished programs. And based on this, at one point I realized that I find something things, that my classmates were struggling for easy. And not just their basic programming homework, but also compared to my classmate who needed to do something with self-organizing maps for his programming research projects.

The Care for Language

One thing that has always bothered me is the amount of focus that people in Slovenia put on the way other people say things. Either they spend way too much time on trying to figure out, where the person is from, or they count the number of fillers that the person uses or simply criticize the use of language. I remember one time, when somebody pissed me off. And after the walk did not help with anger, I wrote a very long angry email, explaining all the reasons why that person was in the wrong. And then she apparently forwarded this to a couple of our mutual acquaintances. How do I know that? Well, there were multiple people that came to be, telling me that they agree with me, and that they found some linguistic mistakes in that text. Like these two were on the equivalent level.

The difference can also be seen in some similar contexts. I have now attended Toastmasters meetings in multiple countries. We are the one, that puts the most emphasis on the grammarian. We not only give it twice a longer time, they are much more likely to deal with small stuff. Some of them can feel like listing of all the mistakes (and in some rare cases good examples of the phrases). On the other hand, I liked the things in Germany, where the grammarian usually concentrated on the biggest mistake most people made and then tried to explain some alternatives.

Also, unlike the English-speaking countries, where they know when it is time to use formal language and when people can use other forms, it seems that in Slovenia, there is a tendency to expect people to always use the formal language. We have Facebook pages dedicated to the more frequent use of rodilnik (one of the cases), which is one of the Slovenian cases, in everyday life.

Apparently, the French are similar to us. They also put a lot of emphasis on the language. But I am not like that. I much prefer the more linguistic oriented definition: if a natural speaker would say it like that, then it is right.

Another Cultural Difference (This Time Subject Based)

Another one from my notes, this time from the Cognitive Science 2 class, that I took in Vienna. I think it was the result of the discussion of the article 'Could Neuroscientist Understand the Microprocessor'. I think the results of my (very sparse) notes from that lesson were, that it would be possible to use neuroscience to understand microprocessor, but we would have a lot of better results using computer and engineering methods.

The discussion eventually went to the differences in scientists in different subject matter. The difference that I have written down is, how do biology and computer scientists deal with grant money and choosing project.

In biology, if it would not work and it would not lead to the Nature publication, then these projects don't get funding. On the other side, in computer science, if something would not work, but it is interesting, then they still fund this project.

What I am interested it, what is the reason behind this difference? This would be something that I am interested it.

Expertise vs. Mass Profiling

Another interesting fact from my old notes. This one comes from the class of Introduction of research 1. And it is about the difference in how different countries attempt to deal with national security.

In Israel, they have a couple of well trained and educated people, who are observing and profiling the people. On the other side, the US deal with people by sampling a mass of people randomly with a lot of human-resources and hoping they will catch the right one.

For some reason, I have the note there, that Israel is as least as good, if not better than US in catching criminals.

This reminds me of another story, that I have heard (but I have no idea, if it is true). In Slovenia, there was once an assassination, that happened in a hotel. In the same hotel, there was a team of Israel, I think they were a sport team, but I am not sure. After the murder happened, the Mossad was surprised, that they did not know, that it will happen. Their reaction was, that they knew it was going to happen, so they secured the ways that a person could take to their floor. To protect their own. And they assumed that Slovenians will take care of it. The problem was that apparently, we did not know it will happen.

This also reminds me a bit of how some other regimes dealt with the surveillance of people. When I read the Gulag Archipelago, I got the feeling, that the Soviets had a more mass profiling going one. The same could be said for the secret intelligence in the East Germany. But there is also a mass surveillance going on right now: with NSA collecting information and even companies, like Google and Facebook, that have enough info to profile every user of their product. Not sure they would like to be grouped together with them though. :)

Not sure who else is using the expertise-based profiling. I would be interested in that, since I think a lot more can be learned from that perspective, than the mass one.

Thought, there is another difference between US and Israel. Apparently in US, you can comment on weight loss, but not weight gain. In Israel, it is the reverse. You can comment on weight gain, but not weight loss. I wonder if this is also the difference, that can lead to this? Assuming the weight is the cultural-independent standard (because of the media import and export), then Israelis criticize, and US praise. And maybe this leads to Israel having a more expertise-based way of dealing with stuff.