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Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Instinctive recognition

Instinctive recognition is an abilities that seems to have been come to humans naturally.

We come across thousands of faces in day today life and even though we don’t keep track of all these faces. It is sometimes so surprising that we tend to meet people after having talked to them for once that it is scary. . .

When we come to this world we come with an instinct of recognizing our mother, at least to some extent, and slowly we get familiar with other people like family members and friends. As we grow up we tend to decide to share our lives with a lot more people and the number of people we are familiar with gradually tends to increase over time.

From my bus travels in Bangalore, i have observed that there is a lot of thrill whenever we come across a long lost acquaintance. And even though in some situations it is awkward that we don’t remember their names. Just the feeling of being there again in our memories appeals to our being.

I am particularly baffled in the way we can recognize our friends in a dense crowd.

As human beings we have even implemented technologies like biometric verification by image-recognition, voice-recognition, finger-print, retina-scan and many such technologies.

Even though we tend to forget the names, we expect everyone we have ever met to remember our names and this is perhaps something that has been hard-coded in our nature and needs quite some time to affirm. We need to understand that each persons life is governed by his past priorities, and his life tends to be so much revolving around himself that there sometimes feels no point in just meeting so many other people.

We not only learn about other people by meeting them in person. We tend to learn about a large number of people like movie stars, sports athletes, and people who are involved in politics, religion, philosophy. We even learn about lives about terror-causing, anti-social vigilantes’ who tend to emerge from time to time.

In schools we tend to learn about historically significant figures such as the kings who have ruled our land, the freedom fighters who have fought for our countries. And from media we learn about artificially created characters such as the people living in movies, serials, cartoons, anime, news and so on.

We learn everything in our lives by studying things and people around us. We learn about how people are supposed to react to situations by observing other people. We learn what to talk, and what not to talk in some forums by looking and observing people who have been there and done that. We even set examples for those people who tend to observe us not actively in a role model kind of way but as companions who have been with us when a certain incident happened.

Doesn’t it amaze you the way some people greet you when they meet you the first time with a “Nice to meet you”, or a “Glad to meet you”. If you look at it, there is no reason for him to be glad yet; and i think it is like expressing a state of being that is yet to be in the future, while assuring themselves that you are not a complete waste of their time and resource.

There are games around instinctive recognition that have recently emerged such as "Where is Waldo", in which you have to find the guy with "red-white striped shirt, brown-boots, blue-jeans, snow-cap and a cane" in a densely crowded image.

Yes we are blessed with the gift of instinctive recognition and ignoring those around us whom we don’t recognize. However considering the fact that man is a social being, there needs to be more effort in getting involved with the people around us.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Multicolored Notes

Taking notes in different ink-colored pens is here referred to as multicolored notes. I had a teacher during my pre-university schooling who had mandated the maintenance of multicolored notes for his subject and the format he had specified was:
1) heading in red
2) underlining in black
3) content in blue

Regardless of the importance of the topic, this teacher had mandated the practice. And though I had not seen the importance of this practice, It was not until recently that i tried this art and was fascinated by its several benefits.

To   begin with, notes taken in multicolored ink tends to look neat and well documented. It might seem as complete waste of time and resources to some reading this but trust me in several occasions this art is God-sent.

There were several occasions where I had come across classmates who had multicolored pens with them during engineering. Who seemed to be very good at switching the pens even as the teacher went ahead in the topic explanation. I had a practice of bringing just the blue colored pen to the class and for some reason, I lacked the enthusiasm to switch to multicolored note taking.

Recently how-ever when I had to attend a 5 day lecture some of which involved note taking, I got myself pens of color red, black and blue and tried to stick to the 3 rules mentioned above as much as possible, and to my amazement I found that:
1) I was suddenly concentrating a lot on the content, even though the topic was covered post lunch
2) The switching of pens meant that I had to concentrate on the pen switch as well as what was being covered, so there was little scope for boredom ( or the accompanied yawning).
3) There was not only the alertness to keep myself from writing with spelling mistakes, There was now an additional overhead of using the right colored pen for the right context, so i had to be extra aware.
4) I also realized that even though I have one of the less attractive hand-writings (~_^), people around me were amazed at the way I was frequently changing the color of my pen.

Additionally I realized that since I was using 3 pens now instead of one, the pen was likely to last much longer, thus reducing the overhead of me having to get a different pen when the one i had ran out of ink.

I even tried to switch the color of the pen between words in a sentence, where i wrote the normal text in blue while the keywords were in red. At some point, I decided to draw the block diagram with black ink while the text was in black, while the arrows were in red. I have tried several such combinations, like writing the bullets in red, important points surrounded by a black outline, leaving little red stars (*) at important points and so on. But the essence here is, I was adding a lot of context switch and it did not reduce my performance in taking notes, rather improved it.

As children, we are encouraged to recognize alphabets associating them with colored alphabet blocks as toys, but as we grow older, we get used to the bureaucracy and stick to the eye appealing blue colored pens. The problem begins right from schools where we are enforced to write in black pencils and this practice then changed to blue pens as we grow older.

These days the concept of multicolored writing has been adapted in writing computer programs as well, where we see that a text editor is able to color different parts of the code based on key word, indentation or context such as comments or system library derivatives.
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