Learning by Osmosis

I haven’t had a lot of problems with Windows 10 in the year and a half that I’ve been using it. It’s intuitive enough that I quickly picked up any differences between that and the previous systems I had. (First Vista, then Windows 7, which was basically Vista with a different name to offset Vista’s bad press.)

I prefer learning by intuition and osmosis when possible — it’s a lot easier than hard mental labor, for sure. (Most of what I know has come simply from reading, which is the ultimate osmosis medium. Read enough books, and things start to sink in.) This preference for intuition, osmosis, instinct, is what keeps me playing around with the decks of tarot that I inherited. If I finger them enough, perhaps the knowledge of how to read the cards will seep into my mind and I won’t have to actually study them or memorize them. The truth is, I’d like to know what they are all about, but I’m not sure I want to know badly enough to do the work. And I’m not sure I want to know what is hidden in the far recesses of my psyche anyway.

Meantime, there is the computer. It’s a wonderful tool for so many things, my most recent use being to translate an instruction booklet from an obscure Italian tarot deck into English. It’s slow going, but an interesting exercise.

One thing I do not like about the computer, Windows 10 in particular, is the way this system does updates. In previous systems, I could choose which updates to install, and if I uninstalled an update, it stayed uninstalled. Not now. There is no way to choose what to update. Windows 10 updates automatically. Oh, I could stop it updating automatically for a day or week, but then I’d have to install all the updates at once, and I’d be back where I started from. Besides, I don’t want to stop necessary updates, just problematic ones.

I mentioned yesterday that my computer no longer talks to my printer. I found out that a particular update caused the problem with the spooler, so I uninstalled the update. My printer worked perfectly! Yay. Well today, Windows reinstalled the update. Boo. I have to restart the computer to make it take effect, and I was able to put it off for a week, so I have a respite. (But if I have to restart the computer for any other reason during the week, I’m out of luck.) The best I can hope for is that in the interim, since this is a known problem, Windows will come up with a fix. I suppose if it doesn’t, I’ll uninstall the update again. Or wait until I need to use the printer and then uninstall it. So not optimal. So not an intuitive way of dealing with the matter.

And speaking of learning by osmosis — I am especially grateful someone other than me is installing the garage door. Though it seems that installing a door should be intuitive, especially for people who have done it before, the instructions for this door look as complicated as instructions for creating cold fusion would be. Not only are the directions for three different doors included in the booklet and not only does the order of those directions put the first parts last, and the last parts somewhere in the middle, but the instructions read as if they were translated from one archaic language to another and then finally into English. Even though I think putting up the door should be a two-man job, it’s a good thing there’s only one guy working, otherwise the two workers would spend all of their time discussing what the instructions mean.

Come to think of it, as complicated as the tarot is, it sure seems easier than computers and garage doors. Maybe I won’t have any problem learning how to read the cards whether by osmosis or intuition or instinct or even plain hard memory work.

Assuming, that is, I decide I want to.


Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.

7 Responses to “Learning by Osmosis”

  1. Estragon Says:

    I’ve found the computer, and more particularly, the internet has profoundly changed both how I learn, and what I learn. In my pre-computer days, I was reasonably numerate. I could do simple math in my head or on paper pretty easily and accurately. Age related cognitive losses (and recent widow’s fog) aside, that ability has largely rusted away. It’s just too easy to get a device to do it for me. The ability to so easily look up a number or fact has made it so my brain often simply refuses to absorb these easily-looked-up factoids. I’d like to think the mental space freed up is now used for better synthesis and analysis of information, but I’m not sure that’s the case. Computers might just be making us dumber.

    IMHO, instructions should not be written by engineers or other tech types who know how the operate or assemble the subject of the instruction. They should be written by someone who knows nothing much about the subject, so they’re less likely to assume knowledge or abilities the end user may lack. The writer should be compelled to follow his or her own instructions as written at least once.

    Instructions should also not be written by someone whose first language isn’t that of the end user. I just now Google translated “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak” from English to Chinese and back again. It became “Willing, but physically weak” – subtly different. I’ve seen technical instructions originally written by Chinese tech types with mangled translations that end up being gibberish.

    It’s probably a good bet the spooler issue will get fixed promptly in a future update. OTOH, I’ve heard of people now buying a new printer when they run out of the ink it comes with, because the printer is cheaper than replacement ink cartridges. Interesting times.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      That widows fog is a real horror (along with all the other horrors of grief.) I used to be able to look at numbers and automatically do whatever arithmetic necessary without thinking, but during that widows fog year, I lost the ability and it never came back. I remember looking at numbers, and my brain just refused to recognize what they were, let alone the answer.

      I hadn’t realized how much of my cognitive abilities I’ve lost until I remembered how almost instantly my brain processed not just numbers, but words and concepts. When I was in grade school, the year we were supposed to do word problems, we were taught algebra. Unfortunately, the arithmetic portion of the high school entrance exam I took focused on word problems, so while I was taking the test, I also had to learn how to do the problems. Today, if I had to do that, my brain would simply shut down. I do think (though I might be fooling myself) that I am better at correlations than I used to be.

      I really can’t blame the computer. I still spend most of my time reading as I always have, so the problem is just . . . me.

      I considered buying a new printer but I have a backup package of each of the inks that is worth more than a new printer. Yep, interesting times.

  2. Estragon Says:

    Interesting about the difference between word problems and algebra.

    Some years post high school I took a post-secondary accounting course, part of which was a stats course. My high school algebra eluded me almost entirely, but I got a sense that to really understand the formulae involved in the stats course, I would have to relearn the “language” of algebra. So before even attempting the stats course, I relearned high school algebra. Having done that, the stats course made a whole lot more sense. I understood the principles behind a formula in a way similar to how you might understand a problem described in English. A different language, but both describe a condition, a solution, a point of view.

    Oddly enough, both the algebra and the details of the stats course now elude me. The concepts of the stats course are still with me though, and I can see the “lies, damned lies, and statistics” in a way many might not. Language (of whatever nature) seems to have a way of influencing our thinking that way.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      I’ve forgotten everything about the statistics course I took, even, until this very minute, that I took it!

      I find how people learn interesting. “Learning” is always treated as if it’s a single process shared by everyone, and yet the hows, whats, and whys vary according to individuals.

  3. rodmarsden Says:

    Updates with computers can be tricky. Is there a need to update so much? I don’t know.

  4. Sam Sattler Says:

    “Come to think of it, as complicated as the tarot is, it sure seems easier than computers and garage doors.”

    That may just be my favorite quote of the week. It’s all relative, for sure.

    I gave up on Windows several years ago for the exact reason you describe here. I felt like the Windows gods had more control of my computer than I did, and I knew that they didn’t really care about me at all. The final straw was when they pushed an update on me overnight that crashed my computer. Well, actually, it KILLED my computer. I was one of several thousand people who suffered a substantial financial loss at the hands of Microsoft with not as much as an apology, much less a fix, ever offered. I even spent another $100 or so trying to have an “expert” get me up and running again.

    I’ve been an Apple advocate ever since. They aren’t perfect, but I control my own destiny.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      Yikes. An update killed your computer? If that ever happens, I’ll probably switch, too. For now, I’ll stick with what I have and keep my fingers crossed. I’ve never liked Microsoft or any of its people, but I’ve been going on the assumption that “the devil you know , , ,”

      In my case, there is a fix, but my computer isn’t updating that particular update. Weird.

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