Friday, 9 December 2011

first post!!1

Here we go! This is space for my personal musings. There are a few goals for this blog:
  • Opinionate freely* on subjects to my liking.
  • Practice writing.
  • Organize my thoughts.
* Perhaps not entirely. Because this is publicly accessible, with my name attached, I must be cognizant of the fact that colleagues, friends, family members, and others that play integral roles in, and Have Grave Effects(tm) on, my life may read this at some point. Therefore, I must address the blog as if to them. Zen Master Ta Hui said (paraphrasing) "When alone, be as if with others. When with others, be as if alone. Then you won't go astray." There is more context to that, but the point as it applies here is that I am not just blurting out information to the internet in an anonymous fashion.

And I would prefer it that way. When writing things anonymously, there is a tendency, I find, to somewhat "regress" into prejudiced views and be uninhibited in saying them. Think how easy it is to get road rage. Or how online comments can descend into nasty name-calling and putting down of others, even though one wouldn't dare do it in real life. Not just that, but we wouldn't even feel the need or think of doing so when with a real person, because we would have all the social parts of the brain fire up and we would realize, "Oh yeah, this is an autonomous person that has their own desires, wishes, and beliefs, and is worthy of happiness and respect." (Ideally.) I'm not saying that I would descent into savage name-calling by posting anonymously, just that I'm trying to buck the trend of spreading negativity, however subtle, by hiding behind anonymity.

Moving onward. I always found it a little underwhelming that most blogs have their first post just be along the lines of, "first post!!1" (I know, it's the title of this post.) Therefore, to buck another trend, I will actually provide some content here. Well, I suppose I already have with the discussion on anonymity above. So how about discussing the name of the blog now?

Cortex Dump. What's with that? Well, "cortex" or bark in Latin (of the arboreal, not canine kind), in neuroscience, is used to refer to brain structures or layered groups of neurons that typically exhibit a folded, bark-like appearance. The most well known example of cortex is that which we see when we peer at an intact brain. These many foldings of the outer layer of the brain is the so-called neocortex or cerebral cortex that is putatively responsible, or plays a dominant role in, all of the higher-level cognitive functions ascribed to humans (and other animals, primates & non-primates alike),  such as language, thought, and memory**.

** OK, so there is a lot more to it than that - there is of course the hippocampus, which undeniably plays a huge role in learning & memory, but cortex is just as important (and this coming from a budding hippocampologist!), especially, it seems, for the consolidation of long-term memories. For the record, cortex isn't the end-all and be-all for other cognitive and behavioural functions, either (as some would like to believe) - subcortical regions play a huge role in our mental lives. Take the "lowly" brainstem. It's not just responsible for autonomous functions such as breathing, which are in themselves vital, of course. But did you know that the integration of whole-body movements involve the reticular formation, a region of the brainstem? Not only that, but the brainstem is the source of all of the major modulatory neurotransmitters such as dopamine and serotonin - integral for the setting of moods, for example - and is vital for general arousal, sleep, etc.

Since the aforementioned "personal musings" are arguably composed nearly entirely of higher-order thinking and other processes that are cortex-dependent, I use the word "cortex" in the blog title.

Now how about "dump"? What is that supposed to mean? I certainly don't intend it to be of the fecal kind (though I do not claim that this blog is not "shit"), but more along the lines of the Unix command dump(1). Again, caveat emptor - it is not entirely an unfiltered dump, as already discussed. But it's close enough. To again use Unix terminology, this blog is most definitely not a device-level dump (à la dd(1)). It's not even a filesystem dump. It's more of a tar with a bunch of --exclude directives. (I realize I may have alienated a lot of readers - if there are any, that is - but I thought the analogy witty enough to include, even if for self amusement purposes only.)

In other words, this blog is an outpouring of thought straight from my cortex! 

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