Tools for Thought

It’s a niche interest, maybe; geeky, if you will. But I continue to explore ways that the computer keyboard and monitor that most of us have in our homes these days can do a better job of gathering information and meaning, and not just stupefying us with entertainment and distraction.

Also, we presently lack good ways of validation and credibility of the sources we find to support our thinking (we seldom set out to find evidence that falsifies our strongly-held beliefs.)

Add to that the way the present web connects resource to resource, but plays little or no role in weighing of one resource over another for our purposes (ideas, concepts, thought webs, creative design.)

There are tools both extant and under development to address both the credibility and integration of resources towards “cognitive productivity” and “augmented learning.” Our brains are not being used to best effect with the current siloed info-aggregators. If there ever was a time we needed collaborative wisdom, it is now.

So possibly, I will write here about my explorations in memory and thought-enhancement by the tools and techniques at our disposal. One of those might be contained in this video. Another, a evolving outline in a tool for creative thought called ROAM–at this link.

A Future of Keystrokes, Minutes and Synapses

These are the things that I tell myself every morning are in limited and consistently depleted supply. Every morning, this reality should drive me to the top of my task and projects list.

And almost every morning, instead, I’m not driven anywhere in particular, other than where my whimsy points me—whimsy backed by curiosity, interest and the hope of discovering something new to know that I didn’t know I wanted or needed to know.

It turns out that “genius” and creativity hold a place for undisciplined “wandering”. I recommend this article that looks at the role of aptitude and focused work versus serendipity, wasting time and just showing up–in the realm of becoming a master of some domain of knowledge or ability.

The Bus Ticket Theory of Genius by Paul Graham

Meanwhile (as Steven Colbert is fond of saying with great drama) I have now purchased three Affinity apps: Photos, Designer and Publisher. The latter two are now on sale for $35. I have bailed from Adobe products and now OWN outright the tools for digital creativity, should I ever be in that line of hobby-work again. I may yet need to create posters, handbills, etc should I venture into another magnum opus or dust off my speaker’s notes.

BTW I used Designer to cobble the graphic in a few minutes, and in time, will figure out why the WordPress editor won’t position the image properly. But for now, approximate is close enough for what you pay me.

And finally, tomorrow our little kitten Mosey (grown from 2.5 pounds to almost 7 now) goes to town to (as Gary Larsen would have it) to get TUTORED. We will hope to contain her in the carrying tote we purchased for just this purpose; listen to her howl between Goose Creek and town; and fetch her, less her baby software, tomorrow afternoon, and hope that she forgive us this additional insult, so close on the heels of leaving her at home alone for 4 days (with occasional human resupply and mostly failed attempts at socialization.)

So as you note here, this is one the once familiar “Seinfeld” blog posts about nothing in particular. But I paid my server-host friend for another year of hosing Fragments, so I’ll be darned if I’m going to be totally silent for the next 12 months. I’m looking for ways to streamline the process, lower the friction to posting and to image discovery and down-res-ing for blog purposes.

So I may in future be saying more about less. But I can’t promise I won’t get wound up and churn out an essay, homily or screed.

Landscape, Place and Memory

This topic of recent interest holds the potential for a vastly expanded ramble, with a point and even a conclusion perhaps, in another life time. But for now…

Suffice it to say that I have been revisiting the mysteries of memory, and the various historical ways humans have possessed it, or lost it–individually and collectively.

And so, beyond the arcane details of the “Major System” of phonetic numeric memory, the Locus System of memory palaces, the Vaughn Memory Cube, the Peg System and the world of synaptic chemistry of remembering that we are just beginning to understand, I’ve come across other diversions down other rabbit trails.

Briefly, to be further explored…

At some point the Gregg Shorthand characters are apparently derived on the same basis as the major system phonetic-based number system where f and v are homonyms, as are t and d, ch and sh, hard k and hard g. The historic roots of “shorthand” go back to Tiro (who died in 4 BC), Marcus Tullius Cicero’s slave and personal secretary. Many of his scribbles persisted as letters of today’s English alphabet. Greggs came along much later (1880’s).

Gregg’s system puts down the SOUNDS of the speaker, not the English spelling. The Major memory system does the same, and accounts for the method by which memory champions remember telephone books and pi to 300 places.

This matters to me because I so often heard my mother recoiling from her memories of her shorthand teacher in high school. I was so impressed with mom’s ability to jot down phone conversations in that cryptic curlycue writing that I learned a bit myself when I went back to get the PT masters in 1987 and needed to get down as much information as my hands could master.

But what really resonated with me in this revisiting the history of memory is that in pre-literate civilizations, memory was pegged to landscape. Lacking a written language, the memory “locus” system was based on PLACE. And so the rivers and forests, birds and mammals, mountains and deserts were both landmarks and memory marks for the transmission of knowledge from generation to generation.

STONEHENGE: was it erected as a shrine to a civilization’s collective story at the highest level, with each stone being the peg upon which tribal history was hung? There is support for that notion.

Lynne Kelly (science writer) – Wikiwand

This ancient mnemonic technique builds a palace of memory | Aeon Ideas

The Indigenous memory code – All In The Mind – ABC Radio National (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)

One Word, Benjamin: Plastics

This advice was innocent enough, in a smarmy and ominously-prescient sort of way when the “the graduate” got this insider tip so many decades ago. It was certainly the way the world of profit and growth were going, even then, on our way to a shrink-wrapped future.

And woe to us, the tsunami of plastic has continued unabated ever since. From where you sit to read this, how many seconds does it take for you to find five objects made partly or entirely of plastic?

And now we have reaped the whirlwind of hormonal and other poorly-considered health issues from the biochemical to the biosphere level, as a consequence of so many Benjamins grabbing for the golden ring of plastics-for-profit.

It has been a wonderful-terrible answer to our problems of packaging and fabricating the temporary conveniences of our lives the last half of the last century. But by the middle of the present century, we must have broken our plastics addiction, for a vast number of reasons.

So now we can’t hope for a carbon-free future if it is not also plastics-free. We are overdue to find a replacement, while dedicating all manufacturing to “redesign plastics without harmful pollutants, reform regulation to account for low doses that may have harm, and recharge health advocates.”

If you have questions about what impact plastics are having on human and marine and any-other-biology or about what alternatives are currently being researched to help us break our plastics habit, you’re in luck.

The first Plastic Health Summit was held this year.

Even At The Gates

I looked up from the kitchen window about 10 minutes before we were to depart for a hike and pot-luck across the county.

WhatDaWhat! There not thirty feet away was a cluster of bittersweet (you never find just ONE Oriental Bittersweet vine because hundreds of seeds have fallen from the plant the year before, and many new sprouts also strangle the host tree and twine around others of their kind as well.

I reached for the loppers, since cutting the sapling at the base was the only remedy. And yet, this is no remedy.

I drug the whole mess down to my truck, and there it will stay until our next bonfire Weiner roast. To discard it in any other manner only spreads Medusa’s head in other seas.

And so what if one small group of vines does not drop seed this year? The cut vines still remain–to big to pull out of the ground. And within a hundred yards are a hundred other vines, climbing up the white pines in the powerline right-of-way.

I know this. And yet to do nothing with invasives coming right to the edge of the yard and in my face was a challenge I could not ignore.

And yet, in a hundred years, the flora of this place will be dominated by plant species from other continents. And maybe people born then will accept Stilt Grass, Multiflora Rose, and Oriental Bittersweet and admire them for their positive qualities, not knowing what would have grown in those places during their great great grandparent’s age.