Guest Post by Nancy Hill: Perspective Framing & Crunches for Your Cranium

23 Oct

Last week I put out a challenge to try a perspective shifting exercise and the brilliant mind behind Reason Creek (among other brainy projects), Nancy Hill, jumped in!  Here is her experience in her words!  I hope you love this guest post as much as I do!

Ruth Curran, aka Capt’n Crunch, the proprietress of Cranium Crunches plays with images for her brain building business. This last weekend she suggested a guest post when I said I liked the what can you find in a bounded space exercise. I said I wanted to do this camera exercise on the local university campus where I am temporarily working.


I rediscovered this great little grotto near the main library when I got off the campus shuttle and started to take a path, a path that I took to the doors where I entered the building all the time 20 years ago when I worked for the same department. But the path no longer leads to an outdoor plaza walkway between an archival section and the main library. It leads to a back wall of a Starbucks and then on into two tiered plazas, one sunny and one shady, but both now dead-ends where once they were nice diversions on a main thoroughfare. I decided I wanted to have lunch on the lower tier and do Ruth’s camera exercise. I would not do this after twilight, too secluded, but the temps are dropping in Tucson and the shaded lower court seemed like a perfect spot to snag some pics and eat a sack lunch.

I ate that sack lunch.

carrot cake

Carrot cake. Smooshed, but still yummy.

I enjoy visits to Cranium Crunches because beyond being good exercise for my brain, I am an info-nerd and meaning-junkie with a bit of a fixation on framing and much of the information on this site is about perspective and framing although not overtly treated as such. Most people familiar with the concept of framing probably learned about it from one of George Lakoff’s popular works such as Don’t Think of an Elephant. I am intrigued by how much of our lives we tend to live while on auto-pilot, and how powerful conscious control over perception can be.

In this exercise I decided to take some liberties and not just to do close-ups (my phone camera does not do anything close to a macro) but to see on what I could choose to focus, both near and far, from the little courtyard.

First I looked down at my feet. IMG_5075

My initial thought was, “Cute shoes.” Then I saw them.

cigarette butts

“Yech.” Did not want to focus those.

So I looked up.


That’s better.


More non-native trees, but typical for Tucson palms. And neat angles.


Lots of neat angles.


And the nature of those angles shifted with context.

I decided to grab some close ups to see what I had missed by not paying close attention. I found great textures I will use for backgrounds.


And there were other things which I might be able to use for article illustrations.

IMG_5143You never know when you might need a pic of bird poop. IMG_5140

A door handle.


Bench supports to illustrate the concept of under.


Or a cistern/utility/manhole cover.

But best of all, I found creatures.


Lizard 1.


Lizard 2.

Lizard 2.



Lizards 1 and 2 as I first spotted them.

This was a much richer environment than I had thought. There were so many, totally distinct, completely different items and aspects on which I could focus.





The decision to pay attention is mine. What I notice, those things upon which I focus, are also choices I exercise. This little exercise taught me more than I thought it would when I first decided it would be a fun way to spend a lunch hour. There really are infinite perspectives and many of these, beyond the basic constraints of our species, are under our individual control.


The Doorway Syndrome & Why Yesterday’s Puzzles Were So Freaking Difficult!

21 Oct

Yesterday afternoon as I walked through the hallway of the Queen Mary  with my dear ghost hunting partner and friend,  yesterday’s puzzles and why they were so difficult came up.

Yes, they were tough puzzles and not only for the reasons mentioned in the post (I gave some details about how abstract art is distracting for some). The difficulty factor in these particular puzzles, laid out in that particular way, went way up because you could not see both images on the same screen at the same time – you had to scroll up and down. That, my friends, tests your working memory – a tiny space that holds a limited amount of information for a short period of time.

I notice my working memory failures, quite frequently, as I stand in the middle of the room, shaking my head, trying to remember why the heck I am here and what am I supposed to remember to do….

The following is from a piece I wrote earlier this year originally posted on this site and the ideas (0r loss of them as I walked through so many doorways) apply just as much today as they did when I started writing about them!

From our puzzles: A Dooorway to Nowhere in Fernandina Beach, FL

Did you walk into a room today and completely forget why you were there?   I did…all day long…. It has just been one of those days.

The good news is that this is “normal” and explainable: going from one room to the next can make you forget!   Seriously, researchers at Notre Dame studied this and determined that the physical act of walking through a doorway can cause you to forget!

You create an “event boundary” – a point where memory is updated to bring in new information. When you receive new information, “old” information is given a new position in the order of importance based on how it holds up to the new data.   Sounds complicated but here is what is really happening:     when you walk through a door you add new items for your limited, short term memory to deal with. Most of the “old” items are either compartmentalized (put in a category and filed away) or just pushed aside to make room for something more immediate and important. Poof…just like that, your thought is gone!

So, maybe we are not crazy, but what can we do?   Some say retrace your steps. Unless you were on a mission to find something that you needed to complete a task in the first room (like a pen to write a check), this usually doesn’t work. Often, memories that are put in a category and filed away don’t keep their context so back tracking is not always successful. In addition, since it is the physical act of going from one room to the next that makes you forget, rinsing and repeating only adds more information to the process and makes it less likely you will remember your original purpose.

Dark doorwayOne good strategy to use to keep from losing a specific thought is to make sure the information stays at the front of the working memory line. Make it important enough to bump everything else out of the way. Give that thought an emotional value or a sense of urgency. Make it tough to replace it or file it away without associating it with something urgent.  That can be exhausting though, so make sure you only choose those things you really need to remember.

You can also remember things in chunks – associate several thoughts and make it one. That way that group only takes up one spot in line and, even if the group is filed away, you have several points of reference to use to pull it out.

Some days though, just know that the Doorway Syndrome is real and will happen no matter what!  I file this away in the “stuff happens” category.  That way when I stand up and leave the room, I won’t beat myself up for not remembering why I came here to begin with!

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