The everyday blog of Richard Bartle.

4:27pm on Monday, 21st February, 2005:



It may have taken me 30 hours, but something in the back of my mind kicked in just now concerning an article I read in yesterday's Independent on Sunday. Sure enough, my suspicions were confirmed: the article says that Hereward the Wake "probably escaped into exile", whereas the accompanying picture bears the following caption: "Hereward the Wake, romanticised in engravings (above and left), was a Dane who resisted the Normans, at whose hands he probably died".

To me, "probably" means "with a probability exceeding 50%". It doesn't mean "with a probability". Hereward can't have "probably" been killed by the Normans if he "probably" escaped into exile.

Incidentally, apropos my earlier discussion of my unusual ability to boss my subconscious about, this is an example of an occasion where I didn't "set something off" to investigate it. It just popped into my head like it might have done anyone else. The reason this happened is because I didn't think about setting up a process to look at it. Interestingly, if I had thought about it (which is to say, if I'd put into inner speech consideration of whether or not to set something up to investigate it), that decision would have held absolutely: had I decided not to wonder what it was that was bugging me about it, I wouldn't have realised today what that thing was — my subconscious wouldn't have tootled off on its own and done it anyway.

This is, I believe, not such as good a deal for me as it is for most other people, because it means that if I think about something in words I have to make a decision as to whether or not to pursue it. The standard model seems to be that if you think about it, that itself might set off an investigative process as some kind of side-effect. That just doesn't happen with me: thought-as-words and thought-as-ideas are mutually incompatible.

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Copyright © 2005 Richard Bartle (richard@mud.co.uk).