August 19th, 2007

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Good Morning!!

We went out for coffee this morning and reveled in the probe of bright, warm sun.  Then, I saw wisps of fog sneaking in and soon fog was pouring over the hills, and the wind was chill, and  now, it seems to have moved back out, and all is again still.   How funny it is to live so affected by the whims and moods of fog.  I was reading some menus for my area that are soups that can be served hot or cold, so you prepare dinner and then look out and decide what is needed as to serving.  Warm soup and a fire, or cold soup outside in shorts.  

I went to a memorial service years ago, and the minister spoke of how people in California are aware that the ground literally moves under their feet.  Because of that, we adapt more easily to change.  Our sky in the Bay area certainly offers a smorgasbord, a moving display.

I am softly purring, my little cat feet quite happy today.

I read the Khaled Hosseini book, A Thousand Splendid Suns last night.  I highly recommend it as an understanding of how complex issues in other countries, and therefore, in our own country, are.  The book is about Afghanistan and is sobering.   Love triumphs and it is a haunting examination of pain and suffering, and yet, if one is loved amidst it all, that is enough.  

May everyone enjoy this Sunday and the fact that bombs are not exploding in our streets, and everyone, male and female, has the legal and moral chance and opportunity for education.

I spoke with a woman yesterday who has never been able to read more than a few pages at a time.  It was too exhausting for her to do more than that.   Now she is working with a neurologist and through the use of a computer program, in three months her brain will have re-trained and she will be able to read a whole book.  How exciting is that!!

Here is to new patterns in our brains and lives, and love and understanding swinging round us like a young girl's braids.

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Alex Wright -

Alex Wright spoke Friday night at the LongNow Foundation.  Stewart Brand gives a summary of the talk.

As usual, microbes led the way.  Bacteria have swarmed in intense networks for 3.5 billion years.  Some two billion years ago a hierarchical form emerged with the first nucleated cells, which were made up of an enclosed society of formerly independent organisms.

That's the pattern for the evolution of information, Alex Wright said.  Networks coalesce into heirarchies, which then form a new level of networks, which coalesce again, and so on.  Thus an unending series of information explosions is finessed.

In humans, classification schemes emerged everywhere, defining how things are connected in larger contexts.  Researchers into "folk taxonomies" have found that all cultures universally describe things they care about in hierarchical layers, and those hierarchies are usually five layers deep.

Family tree hierarchies were accorded to the gods, who were human-like personalities but also represented various natural forces.

Starting 30,000 years ago the "ice age information explosion" brought the transition to collaborative big game hunting, cave paintings, and elaborate decorative jewelry that carried status information.  It was the beginning of information's "release from social proximity."

5,000 years ago in Sumer, accountants began the process toward writing, beginning with numbers, then labels and lists, which enabled bureaucracy.  Scribes were just below kings in prestige.  Finally came written narratives such as Gilgamesh.

The move from oral culture to literate culture is profound.  Oral is additive, aggregative, participatory, and situational, where literate is subordinate, analytic, objective, and abstract.  (One phenomenon of current Net culture is re-emergence of oral forms in email, twittering, YouTube, etc.)

Wright honored the sequence of information-ordering visionaries who brought us to our present state.  In 1883 Charles Cutter devised a classification scheme that led in part to the Library of Congress system and devised an apparatus of keyboard and wires that would fetch the desired book.  H.G. Wells proposed a "world brain" of data and imagined that it would one day wake up.  Teilhard de Chardin anticipated an "etherization of human consciousness" into a global noosphere.

The greatest unknown revolutionary was the Belgian Paul Otlet.  In 1895 he set about freeing the information in books from their bindings.  He built a universal decimal classification and then figured out how that organized data could be explored, via "links" and a "web."  In 1910 Otlet created a "radiated library" called the Mundameum in Brussels that managed search queries in a massive way until the Nazis destroyed the service.  Alex Wright showed an astonishing video of how Otlet's distributed telephone-plus-screen
sysem worked (which should find its way onto YouTube soon.)

Wright concluded with the contributions of Vannevar Bush ("associative trails" in his Memex system), Eugene Garfield's Science Citation Index, the predecessor of page ranking.  Doug Engelbart's working hypertext system in the "mother of all demos."  And Ted Nelson who helped inspire Engelbart and Berners-Lee and who Wright considers "directly responsible for the generation of the World Wide Web."

                    --Stewart Brand

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Atmosphere -

I forget most of the time that the atmosphere is what gives us our blue sky.   The oxygen atoms in the atmosphere scatter the blue light from the sun.

I read this in Hosseini's A Thousand Splendid Suns and it is childhood knowledge and yet I usually forget.  Today, I think of how each one of us has our own atmosphere, our own atoms, our own interpretation and gathering and scattering of color in light.

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The day softly unfolds.  I am reading Ode magazine.    It suggests omega-3 capsules or preferably foods that contain omega-3 as a way to improve mood and lower aggression.  "The chance of being murdered is 30 times greater in countries where fish consumption is low."  That is a startling statistic. 

The reason the value of omega-3 fatty acids isn't more widely pushed is that there is no money in it.   It can't be patented.  There is money in putting ADHD children on Ritalin.  The article points out that 20 years ago we didn't know about ADHD children.. Now it is one of the fastest growing disorders worldwide.  I thought ADHD might be related to children not playing outdoors enough and too much TV and computer games, but a lack of nutrients seems like a valid reason also.  The article does say omega-3 can't do everything, but it certainly sounds like a valuable supplement for us all. 

So, eat fish tonight or pop your omega-3.

I am heading out to walk down to the grocery for tomatoes and bread to make a summer soup.