mair (mair_aw) wrote,

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bells and flowers and trees

So, I spent last week working on the draft of my report. I worked through Saturday night and finished it on Sunday, and then ran around like a bit of a headless chicken wondering what to do since I was supposed to have got it to my supervisor before he left on Sunday. Missed two of the three things I'd hoped to do Sunday, but I managed to get to Hursley for ringing.

I came into Winchester on the train and cycled over from there; my bike was stuck in top gear since the gear cable broke (a year to the day since I'd replaced it) and I hadn't had time to replace it before I left, so I had to walk up the steeper bits of hills, and eventually collapsed on a sunny bench outside the church about half an hour early. After a little while I got up and went to wander around the church itself, where I saw cards with bluebells on and thought of squirmelia's wow moments, and couldn't find any water but bought some Elderflower cordial (dilute to taste).

There's something about being tired-but-awake; not so sleepy I'm dropping off lines all over the place, but the edge taken off the tendency of my mind to flick all over the place, and I maintain concentration better. I only missed a dodge once (I think); of course every time I get through a dodge and am impressed at myself for remembering it, I realise that everyone else managed it too and struck it better into the bargain. I went round in the same loop for about half an hour; I noticed after a few repetitions, but continued to make the same striking mistakes rather longer - anyway, it was a nice quarter. I enjoyed it.

That was Sunday and then I went home, still in top gear. It also started raining on my way home. Hot bath...

Monday night was local ringing. Tuesday, I went out to Eling (no bicycle mishaps this time, and I'm getting used to top gear...). Asda on the way back. I've been sleeping by the window. Wednesday was the cycling forum - I posted about that.

(On a related subject, lnr posted earlier in the week requesting people to print and sign a petition for David Howarth to take to parliament today. Apparently it had 1190 signatures when he took it in - in such a short time. The power of the internet!)

Thursday afternoon I went to hear Ted Nelson speak. As lionsphil noticed, my mind wandered as much as his oratory, and I spent a good deal of time trying (once again) to see the patterns in London and Bristol (ringing...). However, just to prove that I did take notes...

Wendy introduced him by saying he invented http. Phil tells me that this is all a big troll and actually he invented hypermedia, which appears to be nothing more than some kind of buzzspace, so I'm not sure what he actually did, but maybe academics can get away with just sitting and thinking. At least if they're bright and enthusiastic and sure of themselves...

... he's got to seventy. People say he doesn't look it. Doesn't he? He says it's because his work on earth is not yet done.

Ted considers himself a generalist, which he says is American for Polymath. Or was it the other way around? His big theory is "everything is deeply intertwingled" (an intertwingling of "intertwine" and "mingle"); apparently it gets him the chicks. The talk was called "intertwingularity" ... he uses the word, not generalist, but Nexialist, from Voyage of the Space Beagle; someone who finds connections...

Hm, I can't really decipher my notes into anything linear. Then again, Ted doesn't like linearity and his talk didn't flow in any particularly neat linear way. I should write it up in a mind map really ...

... I *like* mind maps and making links between things, at undergrad I loved the way things all fitted together when it came to exam time and I actually learnt the content... anyway, my notes ...

... the problems with people who've had ideas about "media"; they've got caught making tools. Then he listed a whole lot of media people who came to sticky ends, went broke, etc: Gutenberg, Tesla (Radio), Farnsworth (? TV), ... I don't appear to have recorded the sticky ends.

... something about "When Worlds Collide" which is his favourite film ever (he likes films, even though they are linear ... then again some of them aren't. [ But they *are*, even if the linearity isn't chronological order, you can't watch a film out of order. Unless you have a DVD player. As I do.]). Something about two, er, big somethings which are approaching the earth ; one of them is going to just miss it and create big tidal waves and general doom and so on, and the other is going to hit it. He went on about this for a while, but the upshot which is the only thing I've written down is that they had to get a breeding population off the earth before the second one hit. He didn't say if they did. I thought they might be trying to jump them onto the first one, but he didn't say that either.

... but something about, well, we should still do that, and Stephen Hawking thinks so too, and ideas that are thought crazy at some point in time becoming mainstream (which may be pretty important to him).

Then he talked about note taking. As a form of "driving stakes into the ground", giving you something to hang your memories on? Well, it works if the associated memories all *hang together*, thanks Ted. But the trouble is, if you take notes on paper, then you lose them and they all end up in different places. Yes well, I have notes in the back of several different diaries and all over various bits of paper and, clearly, the solution is to write them all up on your blog afterwards. Or indeed at the time via your laptop. But Ted didn't say that. He went on to education, which is apparently vaguely related to note taking.

Now education is somewhere he has opinions. Well, he has lots of opinions. But education particularly. Apparently it's the art of ruining subjects for people, and the last one to be ruined determines your profession. Schoolchildren are prisoners! Think about going through the mall - shopping is a form of research! Everyone laughed. I thought about all the research one does before, say, buying a Brompton. How time consuming it can be. How well informed one can become...

Sooo, let's make education a consumer product. You still have to /do/ everything, okay. You still have to take tests. In fact, you have to take a test every time you go to Kinko's, which is like some coffee shop. But the *order* in which you do it is not decided for you. He got lots of questions/trolls on that one at the end. Someone asked about theorems. Well for heaven's sake, text still has to come in paragraphs. Sometimes even longer units. No, he didn't say that either, but he should've. He kept using history as his example, because it doesn't have to be learned in any particular order. It's divided into units, and a few of them are selected and presented to us, but why should the curriculum decide which and when? Then again, why not? So, back to Kinko's, this new education system is going to be, not a curriculum, but a cafeterium. Maybe it has potential.

He popped up a picture of the Brothers Grimm. They wrote Fairy Tales. For their day jobs, they were linguists in a university. Studying the way vowels have changed over time. How do you study that? You talk to the old people. How do you talk to the old people? You ask for the old, traditional fairy tales... intertwingularity!

... speaking of language, and this is really where I stopped taking notes and started drawing blue lines, speaking of language, where did we get ours from? Let's look at the European countries; I remember sladen telling me that Swedish is like, oh some European languages, and maybe German or something, while Finnish is like, oh, something else and *nothing else on earth*. I remember this because I think Ted was talking about much the same thing; all these European language, and then the Lapp languages (who prefer to be called suomi?). Anyway, the basic idea was that all of us came in from India when the ice melted, and brought our language with us, but those Lapp (who prefer to be called suomi) guys, were already here because they like snow, and they kept their language, kthx. The next bit of my notes on the same line says that Greek Gods were probably real people.

... the other day, Cat was telling me some story about Saudi swimming pools, and I said "oh, mummy had a story about ... ", then we realised it had probably /actually/ been not mummy, but something I read in "Black Like Me" (about racial segregation in the American South). Ted's theory is that people attribute interesting quotes and ideas to interesting people they know ... hence the Greek God thing....

... then he was back on language (I think), only he was on about writing, and linear A and linear B, which I'd never heard of, and something about pots and minoa, and Bristol Royal really does have structure, so why the hell can't I *ring* it?, anyway, they found these pots and eventually figured out that there had been this huge explosion with a Death Cloud that wiped out Turkey and in fact wiped out all the people who could write linear A and linear B, which is why they don't exist any more, and writing had to be invented all over again. Annnnd there was some dude called Sequoia, who was more good-looking than the Brothers Grimm, who re-invented language. And I don't have this bit of notes, but I thought it took him 1500 years or something, so it can't have been all him. But never mind, you can probably look it all up on Wikipedia anyway.

... he also talked about the earth expanding (or not) for some time (and see above re Stephen Hawking and ideas becoming accepted that were previously not), but I don't appear to have written that down at all.

... in fact, in general, how does one keep track of all these connections and cross connections. Then he mentioned Xanadu, which lionsphil has mentioned on IRC a few times lately, so I blinked.

He went on to say that one can work out the real problem and the right solution and so on - "that way lies madness" - or just hack together something with the available tools. "I went the way of madness". Yes dear, we can tell.

He went on to compare people who, when they look at technology and don't understand it, they say "I don't understand technology, it's not my thing", with him, who is sure the problem is not with him, but with the technology. So get - invent - some better technology. My next line of notes says "The problem is paper!", but I don't recall what the problem with paper *is* - he went on to complain about copy-paste but, oh, linearity ... [oh, I think he was talking about trouble with writing essays / long essays]

... all computers ever are descended from Xerox Parcs. He made some comments about applications being the ultimate multi-modal interface, and somehow that's intuitive, even though multi-modal interfaces were supposed to have gone out with the dinosaurs (hello vi users) [it'll probably turn out Ted uses vi now... when he's not flapping Real Paper around]. And at the same time as they were inventing this completely non-intuitive interface, they *ruined* copy and paste, which was supposed to allow you to chop up all your text into unordered blocks and rearrange it how you like (hm, you remember that school curriculum^Wcafeterium?), like they did in newspaper offices when he was a boy. And "clipboards"! Just as bad! He waved his talk at us, with bits of paper literally cut and pasted all over the place...

... so 3-d link structures, *complex* relationships, *wave Xanadu*,

... then, suddenly, he was into WW3 strategy, or maybe my mind wandered again and I missed something. Some dude who lectured him, didn't write down the name, got the Nobel prize recently, might've begun with S. Can't disarm, can't strike. What *can* you do to encourage communication? A million what-ifs. Someone should write the history of WW3. Okay, it didn't happen (yet), but it could've, over and over again it could've. Can't disarm, can't strike, what can you do?

... so he applied the same tool to the problem of giving up smoking. He'd tried the "okay, I'm not going to smoke any more" method. Didn't work. So, how do you really really discourage yourself from smoking? How do you make each smoking bout so unpleasant it puts you off smoking for a long long time? Aha! You eat the cigarette. Now he smokes, and eats, one a year. He hasn't persuaded anyone else to try it... he went back to see the dude who might begin with S, who said he was trying to find a good way to give up smoking...

[ something about game theory not being a good model for war and reality as it assumes lack of communication, disconnected payoffs etc; writing up these economic realities in game theoretic language so economists can read it... ? ]

... what about police informers? Nice little piece of strategy/interaction here. The police need informers, so the informers have the police over a bit of a barrel (and they could lie or withhold information ...), but then the informers need the police (protection, etc), so ...

... what about AIDS? Another case of information releasing/withholding. A sudden diversion into sexual behaviours that the policy makers don't know about. Y'think? And so they don't make policy taking all these weird urges and needs into accounts. Hey, I can understand that... makes one wonder about Ted though. So, anyway, there's this problem. (Although, he said, there's a general trend of diseases getting less virulent over time. Syphilis used to be much worse. AIDS too...) There's a whole lot of anonymity around AIDS testing, which is great, because it means no one can force you to give out that information. But it's bad, because it means you can't ever prove (say to a potential partner) that you're clean. Ted has a solution. Pendants. *Everyone* should wear a pendant. This is to acknowledge that there /is/ a problem; get it out in the open; be aware of it as a real pervasive issue. Or something. Even your dog should wear a pendant! All the pendants look the same, so it's not big deal. But, if you unscrew your pendant, and you've been proven clean, and you've chosen to wear a pendant that proves it (which you might not), there's a little hologram inside with your name and the date stamp of the test. This means anyone can prove they are clean if they choose to, but they don't have to release (or even have) the information if they don't want to. I can see problems with potential employers basically forcing that release, but no one asked him about it in the questions.

My notes end there. I have no idea what his conclusion was, if he had one. Anyone care to fill in the gaps? He got lots of clapping and then some questions (lionsphil says trolling) about education and linearity. I went back to Vista where I found leftover cake from the pre-talk snacks^Wrefreshments. Damn good cake.

Then I went to Bishopstoke for ringing, where we had a good practice and didn't ring any of the things I'd been trying to get straight during the talk anyway.

Now I'm sitting by the window, and I've run out of hayfever tablets so I'm happily sneezing away. I oughta get on with stuff...

Currently reading: The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, which is a great book to read by the window at night, and not particularly interesting by day. Which is just right...
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