Content-type: text/html ~ Stephen's Web ~ Seven Things You Don't Know About Me

Stephen Downes

Knowledge, Learning, Community

Jan 11, 2009

Originally posted on Half an Hour, January 11, 2009.

I was tagged by a couple of people - I wasn't going to do this, but then I read Christine Martell's and realized it may help people to understand me a bit.

1. I have sleep apnea. I've had it since I turned 30, but it was only about four years ago I started using a CPAP to allow me to sleep. The CPAP has given me a new lease on life. I always fight fatigue (the CPAP isn't perfect) but I now have a stable heartbeat and my throat is no longer raw when I wake up.

2. I have tinnitus. I can tell you exactly when it started - I was lying on the couch in the house on Massey Ave after coming back from a French test at Memramcook, in 2002. My tooth had erupted overnight, I had gotten zero sleep (I had no painkillers with me) and after the test came home, took a pile of ibuprofen, and tried to sleep. I have had a ringing in my ears ever since. Sometimes it's really loud, other times it's just background. I've had my hearing tested; it's perfect. It just rings.

3. I was a Boy Scout, and it's still a bit part of my identity. Not that I'm active or anything like that. But I participated in Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts and did a whole bunch of outdoor type things, like camping (even winter camping, which is a whole other experience), sailing, canoing, and the rest. I went to scout camp at Camp Opemikon for a couple years and was a camp counselor there for two more years.

4. I am not religious. It's not for lack of effort. I was confirmed Anglican and attended United and Pentecostal services. I went to a Pentacostal youth camp in Peterborough for a weekend. A huge amount of goodwill and camaraderie. I took many many religious studies courses in university, and could have minored in it if I had declared it (it simply never occurred to me to do so; I kept taking them out of interest). I've read the Bible several times, studied TM, am well versed in Buddhism and Taoism (which is what I'll say I am if people insist), have attended wiccan ceremonies, and more. But for all that I have had zero religious experiences, and for me, faith must be substantiated by at least some shred of evidence. I don't take it personally; I understand if people have had religious experiences or have religious faith, and I'm supportive of that. But I get bit snippish if religious people judge me based on my lack of faith: I live a morally upright life, feel that honour and altruism are the highest calling, and live a life of service. People can believe what they want, but they should let me believe what I believe.

5. I have my own discipline, or so I tell myself. It is that area where media, education, philosophy and computers intersect. And I have the requisite ten years of experience in each to make me an expert. Media: I started my own newspaper when I was a kid, called the Eagle Report. I spent six years working on the university newspaper in Calgary, the Gauntlet. Plus another two years as publications chair at the GSA in Edmonton. Education: I have a decade worth of teaching experience. I was staff trainer at GSI. I taught in a variety of modes for Athabasca University for seven years. Another year at Grande Prairie Regional college, various courses for the University of Alberta, and night school at Assiniboine Community College. Not to mention being a camp counselor and of course the Connectivism course last fall. Philosophy: five years to earn a BA (first class honours, University of Calgary), one to earn a Masters (Calgary), and four years of PhD studies at the university of Alberta. Plus a lifetime of reading science fiction. Computers: I took some night courses, then a full year of studying computing at Algonquin College in 1979-80, where I learned Pascal. Then I worked for Texas Instruments for a year and a half - I taught myself Basic, among other things. Some more night courses at SAIT, studying Fortran. Then I bought a computer and, working in Basic, programmed games. With a new 386, I bought myself Turbo C and learned that. Then two years learning LPC and doing MUD programming. I started doing web programming in 1995 and learned HTML, Perl and Javascript.

6. I have a rich mental life. I suppose most people do, but to me mine feels especially rich. I did not listen to a lot of music as a child - my parents were listeners of CBC radio (which is playing now as I type this). And I read a great deal as a child (still do). So I have a constant inner dialogue talking place. My mind is always talking to itself, to me (the only time we get together is when I write). That's not to say that I 'think in words'. I don't - I think in formless patterns (see below). The dialogue is just me talking to myself. It is possible for me to be lonely, but it is never possible for me to be alone - I always have my inner voice, an endlessly fascinating recounter of memories and stories, creator of scenarios, conductor of dialogues, and more. My inner voice isn't always helpful, and I have had over the years to attend to what it says and how it says it. It can sometimes be very negative and hurtful. I have had to learn to apply the same sort of scepticism to my inner voice as I would to any person.

7. I have an IQ of 166. At least, more accurately, I have tested, twice, to 166. In neither case was I sober, so the actual number may be higher - or lower, depending on whether you think my capacities were artificially improved. Both tests were many years ago, and I'm not sure what I would test at now (and I don't care to find out). I have recently gone through a whole process of thought around the question of the possibility that (some) other people are smarter than me. Because I am frequently right about things, I am used to being right about things, and so I have to make an effort to consider that other people may be right and I am wrong. But there are undeniably some very brilliant people in the world, and their facility with complex material (such as mathematics of software) is daunting. I have an excellent memory, but I don't remember everything (I am in particular very bad at faces and names, I suspect because most faces look alike to me). My strength (and weakness) as a thinker, though, is in pattern recognition - I jump very swiftly to commonalities, I see similarities in disparate phenomena, I can imagine entire bodies of knowledge as a flow.

OK, I hope you enjoyed that. I don't tag people, so I'll allow my branch of the meme to end here (not worried though; the remaining people tagged I'm sure will carry it forward just fine).

Stephen Downes Stephen Downes, Casselman, Canada

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