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Oh no, a meme (interests)

fanw passed along an interests meme, where someone asked about five of her LJ interests, she posted, and commenters can volunteer to be infected (get asked about theirs.) Her selection for me:

ancient Rome: Hmm, not one of my first-tier interests, actually. But I took Latin as a kid, and before that was raised on Greco-Roman mythology, and got some Roman history to boot. Metamorphoses, little booklets of facts about Rome... and meeting Latinist anima_mecanique a few years ago revived it. These days I guess I'm interested less in conventional history (Tales of the Consuls) and more in how the culture might be surprisingly similar to or different from our own. The Republic; the powers of the paterfamilias; thinking of the Senate as the tribal elders; flowerpots which look just like our own; graffiti and the literacy rates that implies; urban restaurants and street food vendors. Comparing and contrasting the Republic with Athenian democracy (I lean towards Athens these days -- but Rome extending citizenship, if grudgingly, was a big innovation.)

transhumanism: Ah, a lot easier. "transcending the human condition"; a fluid conjunction of AI, life extension, intelligence increase, nanotech, and space exploration dreams. I probably first heard the term in college, via the Internet and the extropians, but there'd been some relevant science fiction reading beforehand -- The Silicon Man, Price of the Phoenix, probably others. Still more a set of dreams or attitudes than anything practical, I think; I don't have a cryonics contract, and have never stuck with calorie restricted diets that thoroughly. But I see life and youth extension, mind expansion (in practical, technological senses), machine intelligence, as good and desirable things. "Modern medicine" as spare parts for all body parts up to and possibly including the brain. Liking the fiction of Vernor Vinge, Iain Banks, Greg Egan, and others. Criticizing Bujold for *having* full-spare-parts medicine in her books but still relatively limited lifespans. ... I'm not sure I'm saying this at all well.

bayesian: Hah. Bayesian statistics, or approaches to probability. About which I'm no expert, but what I've read sounds appealing, sounds right, intellectually grounded. Standard hypothesis testing computers the probability of the data, given the null hypothesis, and rejects if that's suitably low. Bayesian stats purports to compute the probability of all the relevant models or hypotheses, given the data. Doesn't that sound more useful? Of course, you have to figure out prior probabilities to feed into the equation.

victorianism: Heh, compared to anima-mecanique I'm a poser. I got no clothes. But I grew up in a moderately ornate 1915 home, I liked the "Victorians" of San Francisco, and looking at a Victorian magazine, and The Diamond Age made neo-Victorianism sound pretty attractive, up to a point. Castle Falkenstein sounded fun, and I like Girl Genius, and I liked Wilkie Collins, who you (fanw) introduced me to, and grew up on Edward Gorey. There's a coolness to the age and aesthetic, though not one I've tried to emulate.

filk: Yay, filk! The folk music of science fiction and fantasy fandom, originally a program typo but immortalized as a fortunately appropriate-sounding mutation. Caltech-griffin-Sarah introduced me to it, via some tapes she'd gotten from... a con, maybe? I was never quite clear; it certainly felt very folksy, as in tapes being passed around via back channels. No artist authors, just some album and song names, and fantasy and space songs. I did manage to find out the name Leslie Fish, presumably from the Internet, and eventually half-forgot about it, apart from occasionally playing my copies. Then fanw sang this weird song in our poetry group in San Francisco, about wizards and a girl who could cast her mind out to horses and blue stones. I kind of took it as a strange folk ballad, though the "moons" was puzzling, and folklore wizards tend to not be that organized. Also traditional folk songs don't tend to be that *long*, I think. Fanw didn't know any provenance of the song, having gotten it over the phone from her sister, who'd gotten it from someone else...

But I was intrigued, and went home and googled distinctive lines, and found the Horse-Tamer's Daughter. By Leslie Fish. "Fish! Oh, it's filk! That makes more sense now." I don't remember now whether I'd had a nagging sense that it was Darkover-based or not, what with the wizard towers and domains and the red hair. The Internet told me it was definitely Darkover, and also that the folk process had mutated the song en route to me: the original version is *really obviously Darkover*, using words like "living matrix", "first level screen", and Hastur. Fanw's sister's version had obscured all those, though left in Hali, which is less distinctive if you don't see the spelling. Replacements for the first two were well done, but not the third: a wizard being fearful of someone else's wizard blood doesn't make a whole lot of sense.

And then I went and memorized the 15-stanza 90-line ballad, which was an interesting demonstration of the power of rhyme, rhythm, and meaning to make something easy to memorize; you don't so much memorize it as learn a compressed set of constraints allowing on-the-fly reconstruction of the original, give or take some helper words which can be swapped in or out.

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fanw
Oct. 23rd, 2007 11:41 am (UTC)
And then I went and memorized the 15-stanza 90-line ballad, which was an interesting demonstration of the power of rhyme, rhythm, and meaning to make something easy to memorize; you don't so much memorize it as learn a compressed set of constraints allowing on-the-fly reconstruction of the original, give or take some helper words which can be swapped in or out.

Bingo. Turns out you can learn whole operas this way. Isn't the brain nifty!
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