“The richest 225 humans on earth have more wealth than the poorest 2.5 billion people combined, and the richest 20 percent of humans on earth account for 86 percent of consumption and on average make over
$25,000/year. Meanwhile, 1.2 billion people make less than $1/day and over half the world makes less than $2/day. Humans produce more than enough food to feed everyone in the world, but at least 800 million people are starving.
In 2004, worldwide military expenditures were $950 billion. (StungEye Note: Canadian defence spending for 2008 is expected to reach $18.9 billion.) In that same year, Worldwatch estimated that it would cost just $12 billion for reproductive health care for all women, $19 billion for the elimination of hunger and malnutrition, $10 billion for clean drinking water for all, and $13 billion to immunize every child in the world from common major diseases.”
— From Anti-Teaching an article by Michael Wesch on the crisis of significance in education.
It’s time to shut down the military-industrial complex and focus on education, sustainability, hunger, poverty and peaceful co-existence.
And to balance those stats, a feel-good commercial:
The US Military-Industrial Complex continues to eye Iran as its next target. Visit the photoblog Life goes on in Tehran for a glimpse of Persian culture and daily life. “Mission Statement: To show that regardless of what any president would have you imagine, despite what any media outlet would have you believe, life goes on in Tehran and elsewhere in Iran.”
Buying the full version of The Graveyard adds only one feature, the possibility of death. “You walk around, sit on a bench and listen to a song. It’s more like an explorable painting than an actual game.”
When I was a young lad my dentist had an office in the Wosley neighbourhood. There was a bookstore a few doors down from his office. In this bookstore I saw a book of pictures, photos of painted hands. I’m not sure if we eventually brought this book home, but I have vivid memories of the hand creatures.
Earlier this year ChefQuix told me about a technique used By Jerry Seinfeld to motivate himself to work on his comedy act everyday. With New Year’s Resolutions forming in our heads I thought you might enjoy this habit forming life hack:
Obtain a big wall calendar that has a whole year on one page and hang it on a prominent wall.
Get a big red magic marker.
Choose a daily task you wish to make a habit.
For each day that you accomplish your task put a big red X over that day on the wall calendar.
“After a few days you’ll have a chain. Just keep at it and the chain will grow longer every day. You’ll like seeing that chain, especially when you get a few weeks under your belt. Your only job next is to not break the chain.”
“The Canadian government is about to bring down Canada’s version of the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). The proposed copyright law is even worse than the ten-year-old American legislation that resulted in lawsuits against 20,000+ Americans without stopping infringement or paying artists.”
- Fight the Canadian DMCA on Saturday December 8th, 2007
“If this law passes, it will mean that as soon as a device has any anti-copying stuff in it (say, a Vista PC, a set-top cable box, a console, an iPod, a Kindle, etc), it will be illegal for Canadians to modify it, improve it, or make products that interact with it unless they have permission from the (almost always US-based) manufacturer. This puts the whole Canadian tech industry at the mercy of the US industry, unable to innovate or start new businesses that interact with the existing pool of devices and media without getting a license from the States.
If this law passes, it will render all of the made-in-Canada exceptions to copyright for education, archiving, free speech and personal use will be irrelevant: if a technology has a lock that prohibits a use, your right to make that use falls by the wayside. Nevermind that you’ve got the right to record a show to watch later — or to record a politician’s speech so you can hold him to account later — the policeman in the device can take that right away with no appeal.
If this law passes, it will make Canada into a backwards nation, lagging behind the UK, Israel and other countries that are passing new copyright laws that dismantle the idea of maximum copyright forever and in all things.”
- Canada’s coming DMCA will be the worst copyright yet
Let’s stop our government from choosing:
“locks over learning, property over privacy, enforcement over education, (law)suits over security, lobbyists over librarians, and U.S. policy over a Canadian-made solution.”
- Fair Copyright for Canada [facebook]
“Life in the ‘peg seems to be steamrolling forward at a pace I once reserved for last minute projects.”
That is a sentence from an email I sent a friend after returning home from Australia in 2000. I had just started my first full-time job. The steamroller is back in gear.
Today the Free Press published a letter I wrote them:
I am disappointed with the Winnipeg Free Press. Here is a quote from the Arts & Life cover story about Britney Spears at the MTV Video Awards (Some comeback, Sept. 10.)
“(M)ost unforgivable given her once taut frame, (Britney Spears) looked embarrassingly out of shape.”
A glance at the image run alongside the article confirms that the author, Associated Press writer Nekesa Mumbi Moody, may have very high standards.
Increasingly, our society is struggling with problems related to body image. It is widely recognized that these problems are linked to the propagation (through the mass media) of unrealistic standards for a beautiful and healthy body.
By printing this article, the Winnipeg Free Press has lent credibility to a poisonous idea. Young girls and boys reading your paper may now be inclined to equate this image of Britney Spears with an out-of-shape body. At the same time, they are being told to exercise and stay in shape themselves. Do you feel comfortable with the standard you have helped set for them?
I did not submit the letter through the regular channels; I sent it to the acting editor in chief, the publisher, and the editor of the Art & Life section. Someone from the Free Press called yesterday to confirm the authorship, and to ask that I not send my future letters directly to the editorial staff. :)
The Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America was launched in March of 2005 by the former Martin Liberal government, who played a lead role in creating the SPP, also called deep integration. The SPP is a trilateral initiative to fast-track the integration of Canada and Mexico with the United States. The SPP is now being pushed more aggressively by the Harper Conservative government. [NDP Press Release]
Could this be the beginning of a push to “unite” Canada, Mexico, and the USA in a North American Union modelled on the European Union? Please… say it ain’t so.
The North American Future 2025 Project, an initiative being led by the U.S.-based Center for Strategic and International Studies, the Conference Board of Canada and the Mexican Centro de Investigacion y Docencia Economicas, calls for a series of “closed-door meetings” on North American integration with government officials dealing with a number of highly contentious issues including bulk water exports, a joint security perimeter, and a continental resource pact. [NDP Press Release]
The [North American Future 2025 Project] outline notes that fresh water is running out in many regions of the world, particularly the U.S. and Mexico.
By contrast, it notes, Canada possesses about 20 per cent of the Earths fresh water.
It goes on to say Canada, the U.S. and Mexico need to discuss solutions such as bilateral agreements on water transfers and the diversion of water.
The outline notes the overriding future goal of North America is to achieve joint optimum utilization of the available water. [Nation Post]
We will be governed by a kind of consensus populism-beliefs, ideas and policies that arise on blogs, websites, focus groups and so on. (Both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton announced their candidacies on the web.) This has its appeal. It is also frightening, as Tocqueville found American democracy, because it leads to tyranny of the majority. It goes with vast quantities of not wholly accurate information—Wikipedia is splendid and maddening.
AS Byatt, novelist and critic
The coming cleavage is between zealots and realists. Zealots think the world will yield to their strenuous, righteous will. These include Islamists, utopian free traders, neoconservatives, purists of all stripes. Realists think that you work with the world you have, not the world you wish you had. Realists are often greyer, more lethargic. They look for non-zero-sum games, buildings constructed from crooked timbers. Zealots are, well, thrillingly zealous about their final solutions.
The Face2Face project is to make portraits of Palestinians and Israelis doing the same job and to post them face to face, in huge formats, in unavoidable places, on the Israeli and the Palestinian sides.
A religious covered woman has her twin sister on the other side. A farmer, a taxi driver, a teacher, has his twin brother in front of him. And he his endlessly fighting with him.
It’s obvious, but they don’t see that.
We must put them face to face. They will realize.
Today, “Face to face” is necessary. Within a few years, we will come back for “Hand in hand”.
Here’s an excerpt from an email I sent a friend today partially explaining the source of my spiritual atheism:
As a geek, math is my bridge to the spiritual. The more one studies math the more one realizes how fuzzy it can get. Take Phi, the golden ratio, that number our artists and builders often incorporate into their works, purposefully or not. It’s found in successive ratios of the Fibonacci sequence0,1,1,2,3,5,8,13,21,34… and so on, each number being the sum of the previous two.
1/1 = 1
2/1 = 2
3/2 = 1.5
5/3 = 1.666666666…
8/5 = 1.6
13/8 = 1.625
21/13 = 1.61538…
34/21 = 1.61904…
Here we are converging on a transcendental number, somewhere in the vicinity of 1.61803399… The further we travel along the Fibonacci sequence, the closer the ratios get to Phi. But! We can never reach Phi. Its parent sequence is infinite.
For this reason, Phi is fuzzy. Interestingly, it pops up throughout the natural world; in the arrangement of plant branches; in the veins of leaves and animal blood vessels, in the spirals of sunflower seeds and sea shells, in the population growth of rabbit warrens (the study of which was how the Fibonacci sequence was discovered), and so on…
A DNA molecule measures approximately 34 angstroms long by 21 angstroms wide. We’ve seen those numbers before.
Phi and others like it —ask Jeff about the transcendental number e that pops up everywhere in electrical physics— show us that math is just a human model, a tool we use to anchor reality, a tool with limitations, where certain concepts refused to be nailed down, defined.
And it is here, in the eddies and swirls, on the blurry edge of the model that gives root to all science, where I find my god; a god of interconnection and perfect imprecision; a god like a golden cord tying us all together; a god around which no box can be drawn.
For the musically inclined:
There are 13 notes in the span of any note through its octave.
A scale is comprised of 8 notes, of which the 5th and 3rd notes create the basic foundation of all chords, and are based on whole tone which is 2 steps from the root tone. [via]
I noticed this object nailed inside our front doorway when we first moved in. I soon forgot it as we don’t often use that door. It caught my eye again this past weekend, so I decided to query the collective conciousness.
Eight minutes later I had my answer:
It’s a Mezuzah, a Jewish house blessing and sign of devotion to God. Mezuzot contain small parchments inscribed with two sections from the Torah’s Book of Deuteronomy (6:4-9 and 11:13-21).
The symbol at the top of the object is the letter Shin, which stands for “Shaddai,” one of the Hebrew names of God. The letter Shin was also the inspiration for Spock’s Vulcan salute on the original Star Trek.
The US president now has tyrannical control over (the broadly defined) “illegal enemy combatants.”
“[The bill passed today in Congress] could subject legal residents of the United States, as well as foreign citizens living in their own countries, to summary arrest and indefinite detention with no hope of appeal. The president could give the power to apply this label to anyone he wanted.”
[New York Times]
“Burried deep within this legislation is a provision that will pardon President Bush, and all the members of his administration, of any possible crimes connected to the torture and mistreatment of detainees dated all the way back to September 11th, 2001.”
“Until the latest of our world conflicts, the United States had no armaments industry. American makers of plowshares could, with time and as required, make swords as well. But now we can no longer risk emergency improvisation of national defense; we have been compelled to create a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions. […]
This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence - economic, political, even spiritual - is felt in every city, every Statehouse, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society.
In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.
We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.”
We are reminded, near daily, that we are fighting for freedom, democracy, and ultimately peace.
We are asked to support our troops, without ever questioning their actions.
Our leaders preach an overly simplistic “us=good them=evil” ideology (see: dualism), appealing to fear, prejudice, and patrotism to win our support.
As responsible global citizens we must see through this rhetoric.
A quick run-down of Scientology doctrine from Wikipedia:
75 million years ago, [an alien ruler of the “Galactic Confederacy” named Xenu], brought billions of people to Earth in DC-8-like spacecraft, stacked them around volcanoes and blew them up with hydrogen bombs. Their souls then clustered together and stuck to the bodies of the living, and continue to wreak chaos and havoc today.
These evil alien souls can be removed from us if we pay to be audited. Auditing can also free us of Engrams, painful memories which are the single source of all human illness.
On Tuesday I started a new project with my pal Kyle M. Together we’re writing daily emails to Prime Minister Stephen Harper. We’ll be blogging all the emails, along with any responses we receive. The subject matter will be diverse, ranging from the serious, through the mundane, to the fancyful.
Everything we call “the past” is, literally, nothing but present memories. Likewise, everything we call “the future” is nothing but present memories inverted, or rearranged, to form a prediction or expectation. The appearance of “time” is little more than a trick of memory, […] You can easily discern this for yourself: simply figure out what it is you consider “the past” and “the future.” You will discover that it is nothing but thoughts […]
There’s really no such thing as time. There is really only Now, an eternally present Present with no beginning and no ending. Everything is completely new, distinct, and original every instant, with no real “change” or “motion” at all. The mystic-philosopher Heraclitus, explaining this point, said, “A man cannot step in the same river twice.”
You’re a CN worker tasked with painting over graffiti on freight trains. What do you do when you start to appreciate the art your paid to remove?
You take pictures. That’s right, a show that opened last night at the Graffiti Gallery (109 Higgins Avenue Winnipeg, Manitoba) showcases photographs of ephemeral freight graf taken by various CN workers and local graf artists. It’s worth the trip.
It’s Mozart’s birthday. The CBC held a Mozart ‘remix’ contest: everything from hiphop (the last entry), modernism-ish (second last), to happy-hardcord-ish (third entry). There are some piano and horn entries too.
The last question was asked for the first time, half in jest, on May 21, 2061, at a time when humanity first stepped into the light. The question came about as a result of a five-dollar bet over highballs, and it happened this way…
Tolkien recalls how he once saw the words Adeiladwyd 1887 cut on a stone-slab. It was a revelation of beauty. “It pierced my linguistic heart,” he recalls. “Most English-speaking people…will admit that cellar door is ‘beautiful’, especially if dissociated from its sense (and from its spelling). More beautiful than, say, sky, and far more beautiful than beautiful. Well then, in Welsh for me cellar doors are extraordinarily frequent, and moving to the higher dimension, the words in which there is pleasure in the contemplation of the association of form and sense are abundant.”
“Nobody believes me when I say that [Lord of the Rings] is an attempt to create a world in which a form of language agreeable to my personal aesthetic might seem real”
Meditation consists of two aspects or components. The first, called shamatha in Sanskrit, is the step by step development of mental and physical calmness (stopping). The second, vipashyana, is the step by step heightening of awareness, sensitivity and observation (seeing).
Stopping is the wholesome resource that nurtures the mind. Seeing is the marvelous art which fosters intuitive understanding.
Yesterday ChefQuix asked me for a link to a meditation tutorial. The online tutorials I found were overly complex, so I wrote him a simple tutorial myself.
I learnt to meditate near Cape Tribulation, Australia, in a small clearing in the Daintree rainforest. I’ve practiced meditation (on and off) for the past 5 years. Recently I’ve started meditating at work during my lunch hour.
In short, meditation is the practice of stilling the mind, the art of focusing on not-focusing.
I recommend stretching before hand. If you know yoga, start with 3 - 5 sun salutations, otherwise try the following:
Try to touch your toes. If you can’t reach them, grab as low as you can on your legs and hold on. When you breath in, (still tucked down), straighten your legs, when you breath out try to grasp further down your legs. Do this for 3 breaths and slowly stand back up.
Next, reach upwards, fingers wide apart, stretching your arms/hands towards the ceiling. Release after 2-3 breaths.
Repeat 3 or 5 times, starting with the toe touching.
It’s important to be comfortable. Wear compfy, loose clothes.
I don’t recommend trying to sit lotus. I sit cross legged. You can also sit in a chair with a straight back, (both you and the chair), with your feet flat on the ground. Sit on a small cushion if you want.
If you are uncomfortable while meditating, do something about it: scratch that itch, shift your legs, etc. Just don’t get obsessed with finding the perfect position.
Keep your spine straight. Not only will this improve your posture by strengthen your lower back, but it will also allow for the optimal air-flow to your lungs.
During meditation your hands will be on your lap, palms up, one over the other, with your thumbs touching.
Meditation (Focus on breath / counting):
This one is easiest for beginners.
Sit still, and clear your mind. Breath through your nose. Focus on the point where the air enters your body, and on the expanding / contracting of your lungs. Count your out-breaths. When you reach 10, return to 1. If you loose count or end up above 10, return to 1.
Meditation (White Light):
Sit still, and clear your mind. Breath through your nose. Focus on your third eye (centre upper forehead). Imagine a small white light centred there. On each out-breath expand this light until it fills your vision.
Learn to control the position of the light, move it around your body, bringing your awareness along for the ride.
Sit still, and clear your mind. Breath through your nose. You can begin by focusing on your breath (no need to count), and work towards a focus-free mindfulness.
Sit still, and clear your mind. As slowly as possible, breath in through your nose while counting. Once your lungs are full, hold your breath for the same count. Then, breath out for the same count. With each breath you will try to increase the count. Your goal is 20 seconds, (this may take many sittings.) Do this for 2-5 minutes before meditating.
When (not if) a thought drifts by, observe it, and release it. Do not control your breaths, observe them.
Start by trying to meditate for 5-10 minutes, and build from there. Your first few attempts may be write-offs, your mind alternating between stillness and racing thoughts.
I’ve started meditating with my eyes partially open, there’s two schools of thought on this. Play around.
The first three shows at ZenCast are meditation timers in mp3 format. You play them to time your sessions. They work much better than an alarm clock because they signal the end-point with ambient music —less jaring than a: BEEP BEEP BEEP.
Pairs of participants played video games requiring communication. Members of a pair were physically separated but exchanged graphic signals through a medium that prevented the use of standard symbols (e.g., letters). Communication systems emerged and developed rapidly during the games, integrating the use of explicit signs with information implicitly available to players and silent behavior-coordinating procedures.
By 1983 there were over 400 deaf students enrolled in the two [Nicaraguan deaf] schools. […] The [language] program achieved little success, with most students failing to grasp the concept of words. However, while the children remained linguistically disconnected from their teachers, the playground […] provided fertile ground for them to communicate with each other, and by combining gestures and elements of their home-sign systems, […] they were creating their own language.
It’s interesting to note that NLS would not have developed if these children had been older than 7, when our language absorption(/creation) faculties begin to fade. If NLS is any indication, the bulk of our world’s 6300 languages was developed by young children.
Side note: That last sentence sounds funny with ‘was’ beside a plural, but I assure you that the verb is in agreement with ‘bulk’ not ‘languages’. ;)
Mind is the Master power that moulds and makes,
And Man is Mind, and evermore he takes
The tool of Thought, and, shaping what he wills,
Brings forth a thousand joys, a thousand ills:—
He thinks in secret, and it comes to pass:
Environment is but his looking-glass.
Unknowingly prisoners of [our] own egotism, [we] feel insecure, lonely, and deprived of the naive, simple, and unsophisticated enjoyment of life. Man can find meaning in life, short and perilous as it is, only through devoting himself to society.
Le Parkour is a physical discipline of French origin, in which participants attempt to pass obstacles in a smooth and rapid manner.
Parkour is said to be L’art du Deplacement, consisting of uninterrupted forward motion over, under, around and through obstacles (both man-made and natural) in one’s environment. Such movement may come in the form of running, jumping, climbing and other more complicated techniques. The goal of the practice of parkour is to be able to adapt one’s movement to any given situation so that any obstacle can be overcome with the human body’s abilities.
Flipping, and other acrobatics, isn’t part of pure Parkour. We’ll call it FreeStyle Parkour.
Shannon and I both found jobs, (with our ex-employers none the less). Until the new year we are living on the 3rd floor of my parent’s house. Soon, the old routines will be new again.
I recently watched the movie Primer. As described by Kottke, this movie is very indie, was made for around $7000 USD, and will (only?) appeal to nerds, engineers (aka nerds), and philosophers (aka nerds).
The movie deals with time-travel, and due to the branching time-lines explored, and the resultant paradoxes, it was a challenge to follow. Luckily the ‘net comes to the rescue:
The idea of building a time machine in your garage might seem far-fetched, but what about building a brainwave analyser? An EEG can be used to experiment with biofeedback, or potentially to control digital/electronic equipment with your mind.
With a 9-5 looming, I’ll have to follow Steve Pavlina time management advice if I wish to build an EEG in my spare time. His advice seems well tested: he graduated with two degrees in only three semesters, (holding a full-time job in the final semester).
During my brief job hunt I restructured my CV as a webpage using XHTML and CSS. I then attempted to replicate the design in Word for dead-tree printing. After ten minutes of Word-Wrestling, I returned to my XHTML version and created a printer friend stylesheet.
…we all subscribe thoughtlessly to many beliefs, the truth of which does not strike home to us until experience gives them reality. Wisdom may be rented, so to speak, on the experience of other people, but we buy it at an inordinate price before we make it our own forever.
On the fifth of September we will board a China Air flight to Bangkok. After forty-two days of exploration (Thailand, Vietnam?, Malaysia?) we will begin our journey home:
Bangkok -> Amsterdam -> London -> Montreal -> Winnipeg (Friday 04 November 2005)
Three thousand years from now, when keen minds review the past, I believe that our ancient time, here at the cusp of the third millennium, will be seen as another such era. In the years roughly coincidental with the Netscape IPO, humans began animating inert objects with tiny slivers of intelligence, connecting them into a global field, and linking their own minds into a single thing. This will be recognized as the largest, most complex, and most surprising event on the planet. Weaving nerves out of glass and radio waves, our species began wiring up all regions, all processes, all facts and notions into a grand network. From this embryonic neural net was born a collaborative interface for our civilization, a sensing, cognitive device with power that exceeded any previous invention. The Machine provided a new way of thinking (perfect search, total recall) and a new mind for an old species. It was the Beginning.
Last weekend, Harold, Tania, and ChefQuix came to Amsterdam by train and ferry from London. Good times!
Although Harold and Tania have now returned to their cozy flat, ChefQuix will be living with us for one month. After his stay, he will be heading to Romania for 6 months, where he will be crafting a novel. As such, I have enrolled him in Wally Glutton’s Quixotic Boot Camp for Writers.
The purpose of this boot camp is to boost creativity while decreasing self-censorship, through constraints on time, word count, vocabulary, and subject matter.
Last Saturday we went to an Electro party at the 301 Overtoom squat (or ex-squat?).
"Squatting is the act of occupying an abandoned or unoccupied space or building that the squatter does not own, rent, or otherwise have permission to use. Squatters often claim rights over the spaces they have squatted by virtue of occupation, rather than ownership; in this sense, squatting is similar to (and potentially a necessary condition of) adverse possession, by which a possessor of real property without title may eventually gain legal title to the real property. [...]
Besides places to live squats are often socially interesting places, hosting give-away shops, pirate radio stations, (often vegetarian or vegan) restaurants."
The Devil's Lake water diversion project is scheduled to open on July 1st. When it opens, water will flow from Devil's Lake in North Dakota, into the Sheyenne River, which joins the Red River and flows through Manitoba into Hudson Bay. [...]
Canada and Manitoba have been asking for review of the project by the International Joint Commission, which administrates the Boundary Waters Treaty, but so far the United States has not agreed.
By going ahead with the Devil's Lake Outlet without proper assessment, North Dakota is endangering not only the downstream environments of North Dakota and Manitoba but also a long-standing, internationally acclaimed environmental agreement.
The year I began to say vahz instead of vase, a man I barely knew nearly accidentally killed me.
We're on a mission to spread important ideas and change minds.
Here, the algorithmic process is used in a creative context so that users can convert sequences of numbers into sounds.
Goal setting is the laying out on paper of the experiences you wish to have, the possessions you wish to own, the places you wish to go to and the people you wish to meet. The emphasis is on the experiences.
[link - Ignore the horrid background image.]
A New Way of Walking
Artist-explorers called psychogeographers are changing the way we experience the city.
But Not On You
It is raining inside the room, except where you're standing.
The Ten-Percent Myth
It's the old myth heard time and again about how people use only ten percent of their brains.
"Stryker is a little off the beaten path for Winnipeg's Gonick, but still illustrates his penchant for gay-themed flicks. Gonick is best known for his short film 1919, a black-and-white version of the 1919 Winnipeg General Strike from the point of view of a gay bathhouse, and Hey Happy, a movie about gay ravers at the end of the world. Stryker paints the picture that when Winnipeg's street gangs aren't smoking crack and arguing with themselves, they're having sex with transvestites."
To learn is to fuel wonder. I was late to learn to read, or so I am told. Perhaps I didn't see the use of it. All this changed when my parents introduced me to the public library. As a child, the concept amazed me. Row upon row of books, arranged by category, free for me to explore. The non-fiction section had a strong hold on me, and I grew to love the dewy decimal system [Dewy Decimal Categories]. I have a vivid store of memories with libraries as their setting.
Although I am still drawn to books and libraries, the Internet now provides much of the fuel for my sense of wonder. The following is a description of how I search and discover on the Net.
Answers.com provides a dictionary definition for single words, thesaurus listings, along with encyclopedic information (if available) gathered from various Internet sources, (including Wikipedia).
The easiest way to search answers.com is two query the word directly through the URL. For example, I would enter http://answers.com/who into the location bar of my web browser, to query the definition of the word "who". (Side note: Grammar nerds should read the who/whom usage note provided with the definition.)
Google allows you to search for definitions from around the Web. Enter the following into Google:
Google is still king when it comes to general Internet searching. Reference the Google Cheat Sheet for more precise results. I rely on a mix of quotations and + and - symbols to narrow down my searches. Try to imagine the page you wish to find. Then, search for words and quotations present on this imagined page.
If you are looking for a specific category of information, try exploring DMOZ, the open directory project. It's reminiscent of an older yahoo, but like Wikipedia it's maintained by volunteers from around the world.
The Internet is forever in a state of flux. Anyone familiar with the concept of Memes will be aware of the impact the Net has had on the transmission of cultural information. The Internet is a digital extension of the Noosphere [ChefQuix's thoughts on the Noosphere]. Much like the toughts processed by our brains, information and ideas on the Internet can be forgotten, archived, or reinforced through conscious use/retrival.
Picture the Net as external memory for humanity. Through our use of the Net, we add our individual consciousness to the consciousness of the whole. There are various tools that can be used to view a snapshot of our external consciousness.
For example, we can use blogdex to see what WE -a digital extension of the Royal We- are currently thinking about. As I write this, WE seemed to be grieving the loss of Hunter S. Thomspon. (OUR thoughts will no doubt have shifted by the time I post this entry tomorrow.)
For a glimpse of what information WE currently find fascinating, we can turn to the world of social bookmarking. Gone are the days when you saved your favorite sites locally on your browser. Tools like del.icio.us, Spurl, Furl, and Stumble Upon allow us to share our Internet finds with the rest of the commune. A visit to Spiderous reveals which pages are currently peaking OUR interest.
Because these tools allow us to categorize and tag our findings, we can narrow our snapshot to a specific category. By entering http://del.icio.us/tag/politics into our location bar, we can see how the Net is reacting to our present (or at times past) political climate. Likewise, http://del.icio.us/tag/music or http://del.icio.us/tag/philosophy can provide hours of quality reading material. (Quality, in the sense that at least one person within the Internet commune found the page worth bookmarking. The number of users who saved the page can be seen below the link.)
I use Spurl to save my bookmarks, which in turns submits them to del.icio.us [My del.icio.us]. The best part of Spurling a link, is that not only is the link itself saved, but a copy of the page is also archived. This opens up the possibility to search the WWWW (Worthwhile World Wide Web). No longer must I waste time hunting through the commercial sites and the information pollution returned by a regular web search. To search Spurl is to search an archive of information pre-sorted by the commune, information ranked by praise. (Cory Doctorow's free book Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom, explores the idea of applying praise ranking to people.)
Ok. Enough chatter. Here are some links I've recently discovered (aka MLP):
I heard a knocking at my window, just now. I discovered a woodpecker, climbing the wooden-edged frame, of the opened window, across the hall.
"I have, for many years now, been pulling the sticks out of my butt that I let my composition teachers, colleagues studying composition, and influential composers that I admired, stick up there when I was a student."
A Crash Course On Complexity, Emergence and Collective Intelligence
"Put a hundred army ants on a flat surface and they will walk around in never decreasing circles until they die from exhaustion. Yet a colony of a million army ants becomes a sophisticated super-organism."
An anonymous 17th century poet wrote: "...and the thousands of fishes moved as a huge beast, piercing the water. They appeared united, inexorably bound to a common fate. How comes this unity?"
The Article, Emergence as a Construct (dead link) which appeared in Volume 1 of Emergence Magazine provides a detailed, although rather complex look at the subject. Better yet, a web-based project over at MIT allows you to explore emergence via the wonderful world of cellular automaton. (Remember Stephen Wolfram's ode to the cellular automaton, A New Kind of Science?) You can also use this piece of software to create interactive art pieces that use emergence to "provide the opportunity to explore the role of artificial life and human presence in the creation of an art form which includes the interactive experience."
I find that I am drawn to one particular subset of emergence known as Collective Intelligence. The Chef and I have spent many hours discussing this concept. You may have noticed that I've been linking to Wikipedia through-out this post. Wikipedia is great example of Collective Intelligence, it's a free encyclopedia made for and by the collective intelligence of the citizens of the internet.
The following projects are exploring this global net-based intelligence in some interesting and novel ways:
Typophile : A Smaller Picture - Harnessing the collective intelligence to democratically draw the english alphabet. Make sure you try viewing the drawing/evolution process as an animation. (The one flaw I see in this project is that the collective intelligence will most likely end up drawing a copy of the font used on the site itself.)
The World Map of the Mind - "Visitors to the project are presented with the map so far, a crude bitmap build out of green and blue blocks. Green blocks represent land, blue blocks water. One of the blocks is red. The visitor is then asked whether that block should be land or water." (The project appears to be offline at the moment due to a heavy user load.)
Community based news and discussion sites like slashdot and kuro5in use the collective intelligence of their user-base to improve and moderate the quality of information, discussion and debate.
The Collective Unconsciousness Project - Explore the connections that exist in the dreams of net users across the globe. Add your own dream experiences to the dreamscape. Navigation is quite dream-like.
Site like daypop and blogdex allow us to track meme probagation across the blogsphere.
The Open Mind Common Sense Project - "An attempt to make computers smarter by making it easy and fun for people all over the world to work together to give computers the millions of pieces of ordinary knowledge that constitute 'common-sense', all those aspects of the world that we all understand so well we take them for granted."
These are exciting times. We have an opportunity to watch and study the development of an emergent intelligence rooted deep within the interconnections of the net. The interconnections in this case, are not only the physical real-world network connections but also the interconnections within the web itself, the blogshere and the flow of human consciousness that "surfs" across the datascape.