Press your spaceface close to mine

Mental mapping (Part 2)

Posted by halcyon on Mar 30, 2008 at 9:58 pm

As you may recall¹, Mental Mapping is the process of describing the shape of a mind (usually your own) by identifying recurring (and preferably unusual) thoughts.As with most sciencey ideas, questions abound regarding the process of Mental Mapping. Some of these will be answered in good time, to the best of my ability. Some of you might answer the remainder, to best of your ability.

Let’s start with this example: our beloved Captain’s Mental Map [discovered in the archive, recorded somewhere in the year '02]:

Grapes (or peanuts) the size of footballs²
I’m Homo sapiens / everyone else is Homo faber
Being first on the scene of an accident
Awareness of paranormal activity
Desire to commiserate with the Irish working class
The words “Half and Half” are pronounced “Hlaf n’ Hlaf”
Want to move to Chuuk

The above should give you a pretty good idea of what a basic mental map might be. I conferred with the Captain, and she claims that mostly, over the last six years, the entries have held up. Mostly.

Which brings us to an important point about mental mapping: these maps (like all maps) are subject to change. Given the nature of this invisible ganglionic territory, even the best efforts are bound to be full of guesswork and errors.

As with any map, you must start with the basics, and make some assumptions. Here be dragons, and so forth. Revisions are essential. Paradoxically, errors in mapping your thoughts increase the accuracy of your mental map (only if they are your errors). Mis-thinking is a form of thinking. Accuracy (I’m talking to you, Ensign Aargh) is not a prerequisite for success.

It is probable that conscientiously mapping your thoughts will change what thoughts you think. But unless you can un-think about it you’re humped, so you might as well start with what you got.

Don’t think of the points (or lines, or stars, or townships, or mountains, or whatever) on your map as being “right” or “wrong.” There is no right or wrong in mental mapping. There are only degrees of interestingness.

Here are the basic criteria I use when assembling a mental map:

Recurrence: when you have a thought, consider whether it is a thought you’ve had before.

Regularity: how often has this thought recurred? The thoughts that interest me most recur at a rate of less than once a day and more than once a year.

Interest: what is your reaction to this thought? Does it stimulate an chain of further thoughts? Does it (or has it) worked its way into conversation or action? If you cohabitate with someone, they might have a good idea of what some of the points on your map are.

Uniqueness: is this thought yours, or is it owned by many people? A common thought is often accurate, but not telling. For instance, let’s say you regularly think “puppies are cute.” It is certainly a part of your mental map, but it does not go far in distinguishing your mind from anyone else’s.³

One typical reaction to the idea of mental mapping is to be stumped. This leaves you to consider the possibility that perhaps you are deep down, a boring person (see footnote). Don’t panic – the process of assembling even a meager list can take weeks or months.

One patient swore that he had nothing of interest to map. Two months later, at three in the morning, he called us with a revelation: he had recognized a point on his mental map. Every time he went into an old house, he said, he would find himself thinking that maybe there was treasure secreted inside the walls.

Good for him.

Always here to help,
Psych Officer

p.s. More to come, including an important message about the dangers of psychic robots.

¹ Mental Mapping (Part 1)

² As previously mentioned, although now the grapes are the size of watermelons. “I need to be able to carve off a large slice and eat it with two hands,” she says.

³ It is possible to have a mental map made entirely of common thoughts. But it is sad.

2 Posted in Daily Space

Mental Mapping (Part 1)

Posted by halcyon on Mar 26, 2008 at 9:29 pm

Consider the human face. Most faces contain the same basic features. Two eyes, a nose, a mouth, etc. When describing your face, you use the shortcut of assuming all those features and only call attention to the ones that differentiate you.  In the same way, your mind can be described by the things that you think about regularly.

I call this “Mental Mapping.”*

Picture your mind as a planetoid. Your consciousness is like the view through a telescope from that planetoid. You observe your thoughts, passing by your consciousness, as stellar objects. Some pass by frequently, on a regular orbit, like moons. Others are irregular, their orbits eccentric, like comets. Some you only “see” if you direct your consciousness there; some are only visible at certain times of day or during certain seasons. And so on.

Most moon-thoughts are as common as noses. They are not really worth commenting on, or considering as a defining characteristic. For example, I regularly think “I don’t want to go to work tomorrow.” That’s a classic moon-thought.

What you are searching for, when Mental Mapping, is ideas or thoughts that are relatively unique or at least very unusual, and that occur to you with some regularity. Captain Subspace regularly finds herself thinking about “eating grapes the size of a watermelons.” That’s notable.

Collect these orbital eccentric thoughts on a list; try to estimate their frequency. Now you have a mental map, a little rough perhaps, but a fair likeness of your mind.

More later.

Always here to help,
Psych Officer

*For several years, I credited Nicholson Baker with this concept; I swore that I had read it in “The Size of Thoughts.” Having re-read the source (the essay in particular was called “Changes of Mind”), it turns out that my theory was spored from the dingy and ill-kempt laboratory of my own mind, and had merely taken root in the fertile agar Mr. Baker had so kindly supplied. I highly recommend you read his essay; you can find it at any decent library.

11 Posted in Daily Space

The Incredibly Redundant Hulk

Posted by halcyon on Mar 15, 2008 at 6:11 pm

The Hollywood brain trust is planning to release another Incredible Hulk Movie.

There is only one rational response to this: why, for the love of all that is green, go there?

Maybe because the previous incarnation, directed by Ang Lee, was roundly despised. Much of the criticism centered around the cartoonish CGI. I asked my good friend Captain Obvious of the good ship O’rlly what he thought.

H: Do you think the hulk was too cartoonish?
CO: The hulk was a cartoon.

The hulk originally appeared in Marvel Comics (1962), in a story penned by Stan Lee and drawn/plotted by Jack Kirby. Here’s the gist of the plot, for you Rigelians and trans-dimensional entities with your soundlessly gibbering mouths: a meek and mild-mannered scientist is exposed to deadly gamma radiation, barely survives, and thereafter is prone to fits of “hulking out”: turning gray, getting big and muscle-y, gaining an unquenchable desire to smash things, and losing any interest in sustained silent reading.

It’s a modern retelling of Dr Jeckyl and Mr. Hyde. A scientist made to suffer for the excess of science. Id vs. Super-ego, made visible. The essential conflict is man vs. self.

Ang Lee’s hulk (2003) strayed from the essential conflict by introducing a “bad-guy” secondary character (played well by Nick Nolte). However! The theme (the price of scientific excess) remained, since Nolte’s character was the epitome of a morally bankrupt scientist.

Nolte rounded out a stellar ensemble cast (notably featuring Sam Elliot and Jennifer Connelly) and a remarkably nuanced performance from a mis-cast Eric Bana as the hulk. Character motivations are believable and subtly played. The military man (Elliot) rightly recognizes the Hulk as a threat and moves to subdue and destroy it. Bana enjoys and fears the Hulk persona. Connelly is caught between. The movie is well-edited and uses some split-screen cuts to enjoyable campy effect.

Not this time! The new Hulk will stow that thinky crap by introducing a troglodytic arch-nemesis (Abomination), made using the Hulk’s blood. No complex moral quandaries will vex this Dr. Banner (Edward Norton): he wants to destroy the Hulk, but is bound by a sense of duty to kick the bad guy’s assssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss.

He wishes it didn’t have to be this way, but hey, Support our Hulk.

The new movie will not admit to being campy. It is grim as death. So it trades cartoonish CGI for ghoulishly overdrawn bodybuilder CGI (all the better for the extended musclebound-monsters-punching-on-each-other sequences). Because this is serious business, people. The fate of the world hangs in the balance or something.

That level of seriousness, about a movie, about a giant green monster-man movie, reveals a dangerous pathology on the part of the film-makers.

Listen up, filmy people: the Hulk isn’t a monster, out there, in the world. It’s a monster inside you. You need to learn to laugh at the Hulk. You need to hug the Hulk and teach the Hulk to love itself. Only when the smashing stops can the healing begin.

Always here to help,
Psych Officer

3 Posted in Movies

Halo: Dispatches from the Front, Episode 2

Posted by halcyon on Feb 26, 2008 at 11:41 pm

Commander Seuss: You ever see “7 Brides for 7 Brothers?”

Major tiltawhirl: The musical? No.

Commander Seuss: It’s pretty offensive.

Major tiltawhirl: Because it’s a musical?

Commander Seuss: Here’s what it teaches you: if you want a woman, just kidnap one and hold her hostage for six months in filthy cabin deep in the woods. She’ll never want to leave you.

Major tiltawhirl: Really?

Commander Seuss: That’s what love is, apparently.

Major tiltawhirl: Huh.

Commander Seuss: It’s also known as “Stockholm Syndrome.”

Major tiltawhirl: All I remember is a lot of hairy-chested men chopping firewood and singing.

0 Posted in Games

Learn Your Spaceships – The Halcyon Way!

Posted by halcyon on Feb 21, 2008 at 4:26 pm

Here I provide a educational illustration of Away Team member Quagmire’s intergalactic garbage-scow Atmo. Originally designed for sub-orbital refuse processing, this sturdy scow was retrofitted for deep-space service.


While offensive for some to look upon – as it is no rarefied and fragile little hot-rod – the Atmo brings tears of affection to the eyes of the most grizzled cosmonauts. Such a fine ship is few and far parsecs between.

1 Posted in Visual

Halo: Dispatches From the Front, Episode 1

Posted by halcyon on Feb 19, 2008 at 9:54 pm

(Note: names altered to protect the identities of our brave lasersponges)

Major Seuss: … that was at the height of the hobo wars.

Brigadier Jumbopwn: When was that? Right after world war one?

General Ibwndurma: Great depression.

Brigadier Jumbopwn: 27? 28?

General Ibwnurma: In the thirties.

Major Seuss: Which ended when Roosevelt unleashed the polio virus.

Commander MyBologna: Finally, a fucking intellectual discussion on Halo!

2 Posted in Games

Sam Nielson’s “Brownies”

Posted by halcyon on Feb 19, 2008 at 9:33 pm


Found at the Avalanche Software employee art blog. Sam Nielson’s personal blog is available here.

Memo: the Importance of Being Mu.

Posted by halcyon on Feb 17, 2008 at 11:51 pm

Q: Does the dog have buddha nature or not?
A: Mu

Mu, from Japanese, means “without” or sometimes “emptiness.” In this context: “unask the question.”

Q: Can we travel back in time?
A: Mu

This question is invalid because it assumes that time has a “back” and a “fore.” Ask a Tralfamadorian.

Q: Is light a particle or a wave?
A: Mu

Categorical thinking, such as this, is usually delusional, and not the fun kind of delusional. Remember this when playing mind-chess on the fourth satellite of shoggoth and some mouthless muttering moon ape tries to pin you with a false duality. Just say “mu.”

Always here to help,
Psych Officer

0 Posted in Uncategorized