In the Garden

In the Garden
Leica Q2 Monochrom

A very simple image with minimal manipulation. I’m using some constraints like sticking with the Q2 Monochrom and images in the autumn garden. I’m not spending dedicated time to capture images and processing is casual, so this seems to be a way to be a bit more consistent.

Finally I CAN take notes while reading

I’ve lamented how much I’ve struggled taking notes while reading. This summer, in part due to injury downtime, I’ve been reading more. A couple of the books really prompted note taking. I now separate reading from note taking and it’s all good.

Ironically, I began rereading Ryan Carroll’s Bullet Journal Method and was moved to buy a notebook with pre-numbered pages. I’ve adopted many of Ryan’s principles in the past, but indexing never reaaly worked since my notebooks have generally been dated, not page numbered. I decided to take some summary notes of the Bullet Journal Method in my new Bullet Journal.

It was a fortunate turn of events because it brought together two factors that unlocked a new approach. First, I had read the book before. Second, I had a notebook and a text. So instead of reading and interrupting to note, it was a pretty quick process to work at a desk and take bullet journal style notes in the style that Ryan calls “rapid logging”. It was a review, not a re-read and served to see the book at a higher level than the first read through and reaction.

So now I’ve done the same with two more books. The first read is a no notes read. I can sit in a chair, stand on line at the store, lay on the couch- no matter, it’s just reading. Now of course I’ll capture an important thought now and then in my usual capture method, but it’s a process completely independent from the notes I’ll take later.

Note taking is then a fast, focused activity once I’ve made a first pass through the book. Then I have a better idea of what I’m after in taking notes. That is if I’ve decided I want to record anything from the reading experience at all. Some books provide a page of brief notes, others many pages with notations.

At this point, I’m making a digital copy of the notes to store in my DEVONthink database. If it’s going to be the subject of analysis or writing, I’ve then been typing up some notes that are searchable on the computer. I’ve been using Genius Scan for many years and agree with this nice summary Paper to Paperless: A Guide to Digitalizing Your Journals with a Scanner App | Mark Koester:

Genius Scan does a great job of automatically detecting document edges while you take photos using the camera or while directly editing static images. The app then resizes and positions the images accordingly to create a flat, document view. You can apply appropriate filters so docs are high contrast and black and white (or alternatively leave them as colored photos). You can also manually edit scans to correct misapplied edge detection, use an alternative color filter, or make other corrections.

The nice thing is that whether the scan is in Apple’s or in DEVONthink, the OCR of those apps generally provides good searching capabilities and so the notes are archived and available for future use.

So, now I’ve can take notes on books. My breakthrough was to separate the reading from the note taking summary. More efficient, focused and more useful.

Steering the Horse from the Chariot

The metaphor of horse and rider is an ancient way of understanding the relationship of mind to body. Our control is at best partial, influencing the animal we inhabit. The metaphor is dualist of course, seeing the mind and the body as separable entities.

We now understand of course that awareness itself arises from the brain itself, intimately tied into signals coming both from the environment and from within our own bodies. Those physical appetites and values we assign to the world pull brain function in their determined direction as brain control systems do their best to steer toward goals valued in more abstracted models of how the world works. Food, shelter, stability are basic desires, but we know based on social models that a fat bank account can be used to obtain them if some immediate gratification is delayed for a future gain.

I’m working my way through the classic Jewish book “Nefesh HaChaim” (“Living Soul”) by Reb Chaim of Volozhin published after his death in 1824. In a bit of a twist on the classic horse and rider metaphor, Reb Chaim likens the body and mind to a horse and chariot. It struck me that while it evokes a deeper separation of body and mind, it captures well how the body is physically under indirect control, being steered by the man in the chariot and not under the kind of direct control we imagine. The charioteer says go and we hope gets pulled in the right direction by the horse. There’s some steering and ability to stop, but not much more than that. The brain executes behaviors in the way the horse pulls the chariot. Awareness can influence but rarely control.

The limitations of awareness and agency are truly profound. We’re operating under assumptions of control that are not very accurate when tested. As choice is so limited, the emphasis has to be on training the horse rather than somehow trying to gain more control over it, an effort that seems destined to fail.

Decisions in Wetware

I spent some time editing the manuscript section talking about “Perceptual Decisions”, a terminology that doesn’t really fit in the vocabulary of standard decision theory. This mismatch drives home an idea that while Decision Theory and the brain need to solve the same problem of choosing options under conditions of uncertainty, Decision Theory is described in an abstract language of boolean algebra or set theory. The brain solves the problem in wetware, using networks of excitable cells to model the process in a language we can’t access, let alone understand.

The comparisons are fascinating at a conceptual level, but leave unsolved how to use our semantic tools to improve the functioning of the brain networks. That turns out to be the real challenge of deciding better

Editing the OBD Manuscript Once Again

It’s almost comical that I forgot that I had completed a full draft of my manuscript last June. I had edited about half to be a more complete, organized draft and got completely distracted. First it was building a PC to run Linux, then explorations of Emacs and LogSeq, which led into organizing and publishing work in progress. Plus delving deeper into the foundations of probability theory, reading Jaynes and standard accounts of the Kolmogorov set theory basis.

Almost all of my real notes have been on paper, so there has been little to publish here anyway other than casual notes and a few photos. I’m not at all concerned about the productivity function, just reeling in and completing some projects.

So I opened up the ODB manuscript folder and read over some of that first draft. My intent now is to finish that first draft and get something out there to call the project done after many years. Which of course frees up some mental energy to think about the next project.

Of all the ideas in my ODB theory of everything, the one I really want to explore is Bateson’s idea of Ecology of Mind. It gets at the root of personal identity, the internal model of the world and the role of conscious perception in brain function. Lets see if I can split off a bit of time to start that exploration.

Amazing how easy it is to reconstruct a social network on a new platform starting with a few well chosen individuals as starting nodes.

Honestly, I wish I understood what Doctorow really means here:

Online, a lot of us have been unhappy with our social media platforms for a long time, but we hang in there, year after year, scandal after scandal, because as much as we hate the platform, we love the people who use the platform. We don’t leave because we don’t want to lose them. They don’t leave because they don’t want to lose us. It’s a hostage situation, and we’re all holding each other hostage. Collective action problems are hard problems.

_ – How to Leave Dying Social Media Platforms | by Cory Doctorow | Oct, 2022 | Medium

He’s right that we’re locked in because the information is available on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Not just friends, but services and news. I’d like to leave, but see no alternative.

Somehow, I think, he wants the services to open to outside syndication. Interoperate with a broad set of platforms. Doctorow broadcasts his work from multiple platforms, but I’m out here on what they call the indie web just writing. I stopped the Twitter and Instagram cross posts. It was a nuisance and just feeds their lock in.

We’ve seen social media platforms die or migrate away from their original audience. Flickr of course comes to mind. Odds are that we’ll just see a new platform emerge, like Instagram did to accommodate photographers who left Flickr for the new style of promotion. Now that Instagram has changed, I haven’t seen where these photographers are going. Not their own websites and to no other platform. It’s just become kind of moribund with fewer interesting photographs to see. Either that or Instagram has decided to fill my feed with posts that are more viral or financially lucrative.

Looking for answers, but see my only recourse as my own site and RSS feeds.