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Month: August 2011

Why I am Quitting the Bangor Mindfulness MSc

Edit: 2014-04-24 ~ Three Years Later ~ A friend just pointed out that this post is now coming second on a Google search for “Bangor Mindfulness”. I am somewhat amazed at this and slightly disturbed. It makes the post appear far more significant than it is. I considered taking it down but that seems a little too much like 1984. Instead I decided to add this note and a robots = noindex which should prevent it appearing in Google search in due course. Please take what is written below as a foot note by someone who was on the course and nothing more.

You will see from previous posts that I have been on the Mindfulness MSc at Bangor University for the past year. This will be the tenth post that comes in that Bangor MSc category. If you were to read through all the older posts you would see that I have become disenchanted with the course and will not be surprised that I am stopping. I have now completed the Foundation module and the Research module and have sufficient marks to exit the course with a Post Graduate Certificate in Mindfulness Approaches.

Bangor Foundation Assignment 2 Results

Attached is my second assignment from the Bangor Mindfulness course which has now been marked. This is the document as submitted but with my name and copyright information added.

I got 64% which translates as a ‘B’. The marker made some kind comments about my “highly original ideas” but rightly points out that this becomes the focus of the essay and marks me down accordingly. You can judge for yourself what you think of the assignment.

An areligious (not “A religious”) justification for meditation

If I start to talk about how the world is and therefore how we should best live there is a danger you will dismiss what I say as either playing with ideas that have no relation to real life (philosophy) or trying to impose some mumbo jumbo from a possible imaginary deity (religion). Many people are reluctant to explore this stuff because it will either prove a complete waste of time or overturn a belief system that they have accepted since childhood.

Despite this I do need to create a narrative explanation of why you should try mindfulness meditation. The rationality at the heart of our culture requires that this comes first. Please treat what follows as a pragmatic way of viewing the world for the purpose of living the good life rather than just a set of ideas or a religious doctrine.

Things arise in dependence on conditions and when those conditions cease the things cease. This is the root of the philosophy. This is easy to accept because when we look we can see it is true. This should not be confused with “cause and effect” which is more a product of language. To have a “cause” and an “effect” we need to define one thing as being the cause and something else as being the effect which is useful when we want to use words to represent these things but involves isolating them from the rest of the universe. Drawing a line around them if you like. So we could talk about it raining because it is cloudy but this conveniently leaves out the causes of clouds and the processes within the clouds.

Extracting Data From the Rhododendron Monographs

This post deals with the semantics of extraction of data from the Rhododendron monographs. Another post will deal with the technicalities of the actual extraction.

The image above shows a species description entry. It was chosen as being a small and simple example for illustrative purposes. I have marked up the bits I am interested in extracting. Red indicates important fields, blue unimportant and yellow something in between – but why those bits and those priorities? Monographs contain a great deal of other stuff such as keys and descriptions of higher taxa and discussions. We could argue for hours about what should be extracted and never come to a conclusion unless we have some guiding principles on what we are trying to do. I have therefore developed five guiding principles for the project that are probably pretty general and may be applicable to other such projects:

Links To All Curtis Botanical Magazine Illustrations in BHL

William Curtis (1746-1799)

This is a sideline to my working on the Edinburgh Rhododendron monographs.

The monographs often quote references to illustrations (icons) of species. This is useful as we know that these are illustrations that have been determined by the author of the account and are therefore “correctly” determined. What a shame we only have an abbreviated text string that can really only be understood by a human. An example might be “Rhododendron & Camellia Yearbook 25: f.58 (1970)”. Because these are in the botanical monographic style it is near impossible even to turn them into an OpenURL that a resolver could make sense of – so we have a bit of a challenge.

For the just-under-four-hundred species accounts I have extracted from the first two monographs I have 445 icon strings. Of these 144 contain ‘Bot. Mag.’ – for Curtis’ Botanical Magazine and so they look like a good set to try and parse and link up. The Biodiversity Heritage Libary have digitized that proportion of Bot. Mag. prior to 1920 that is out of copyright thanks to Missouri Botanic Gardens. I just need to join it all up. In fact I could download the relevant images and embed them in my data because they are out of copyright.

So a happy afternoon was spent learning about the BHL API and writing XSLT and regular expressions to parse the strings I had. The result was a match up of just 59 illustrations. About the same number I could have done manually in an afternoon! The rest of my Bot. Mag. references are post 1920 and so locked up in copyright.

But a happy by-product of the process was the fact that I downloaded and parsed all the metadata for Bot. Mag. in BHL and extracted the item IDs (books) and page IDs for what I believe are all the illustrations – a total of 8,215. So if you are faced with the same issue as me you don’t have to go to the bother of doing it. Here is a CSV file of the full list.

All Curtis Illustrations In BHL (CSV)

I have included the URLs to the resources in BHL although these are just trivial concatenations of the page IDs or item IDs and an http prefix.