As part of Vancouver Design Week 2014, a senior urban designer from the City of Vancouver took us on a 3 hour bike tour of Vancouver's architecture. We started in Olympic Village, made our way north on the seawall to Chinatown, then rode through Gastown to the convention centre, after which we biked to Stanley Park and then to Third Beach, ending at Mole Hill. Read more about Vancouver Design Week Bike Tour
Google Maps turn-by-turn cycling directions, headphones, and city bikeshares are by far the best way I've found to discover a strange city.
While leaving a BBQ celebrating a friend's 50th birthday party, Richard Smith's tweet pointing out the Ingress app had been released for iOS flowed through my stream. For the last two years, owners of Android-based Internet communicators have been playing the GPS-enabled, location-based massively mouthful role-playing game. Read more about Two Weeks of Ingress
Links randomly selected from the stuff I saw the previous week. Social issues and technology; a procedurally generated video game makes a big splash at E3; a surprisingly insightful review of a web series; and an autobiographical critique of Modernism. Some links are from longer than a week ago.
Reading the chapter on sharing folders from other computers from Raspberry Pi Networking Cookbook this morning, I decided to do the opposite: share my Raspberry Pi over my local network with my Mac. Henrik Jachobsen has some easy-to-follow instructions, and there it is, my Raspberry Pi! (I named it Ix as an homage to Ford Prefect of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.) I followed the instructions exactly, except that I used Emacs, of course, and added Samba to the list of software I’ve installed on my Raspberry Pi. Did I mention that I have a list of software I’ve installed on my Raspberry Pi?
This came in for me last week, so I hope to be able to use create a Node.js-based iBeacon in my house using Bleacon and some instructions using Estimote. So far I’m unable to install Bleacon because, I believe, I insist on using the latest available binary for Node.js for Raspberry Pi.
At least the hardware works. It’s just the Node module failing to install. Getting software to work has always been easier than getting hardware to work, so I will persist.
Avec l’habitude et le pas rapide, nous oublions les choses. Et c’est peut-être grâce à l’oubli que l’histoire et le passé se révèlent. La poussière, la patine offrent la possibilité de la mémoire.
The noosphere is the unified human consciousness. That is not what the network is. I’ve been conceptualising the network as a universal human memory—pace some very serious qualifications. I’ve believed for a while that the internet is a system intimately connected to memory—it resembles more the space of memory, with its strange connections and absences, than any physical space. Memory does not occupy the same dimension as time, either, even when it is augmented, machined, apparently and infinitely recallable memory.
I am talking in part about anamnesis, Plato’s conception of Socrates/himself as midwife rather than teacher; of remembering: only remember. The internet is only a machine, the network is machine-augmented memory, with all the strange ripple-effects that this produces. And memory, socially and culturally constructed, is not only what we, as individuals, have experienced; it is what we, all of us, have experienced: collectively, forever.
The act of forgetting crafts and hones data in the brain as if carving a statue from a block of marble. It enables us to make sense of the world by clearing a path to the thoughts that are truly valuable. It also aids emotional recovery.
Gretchen Reynolds reports on studies linking exercise with improved memory:
For some time, scientists have believed that BDNF [brain-derived neurotrophic factor] helps explain why mental functioning appears to improve with exercise. However, they haven’t fully understood which parts of the brain are affected or how those effects influence thinking. The Irish study suggests that the increases in BDNF prompted by exercise may play a particular role in improving memory and recall.
In the concluding chapter of her book Willful Blindness: Why We Ignore the Obvious at Our Peril, Margaret Heffernan recommends aerobic exercise to help combat poor decision-making. She emphasizes aerobic exercise from other types, like yoga, which she argues makes us feel good but does not make our brains better.
An important part about knowing yourself, according to Drucker [in Managing Oneself], is awareness of how you perform and learn. Some people perform better in situations where they process information through listening. Others learn and perform better by reading.
Ryan Irelan writes to remember. Writing notes gets me partway there, and review is essential. Some of the techniques tried in my past were:
- rewriting my handwritten notes in computer form, the printing them out for later review. I did this in high school, but never again after that. The idea was that rewriting them, with slight re-organization, would help to remember. Did it work? I haven’t done it since.
- taking notes in university worked somewhat, but all lectures I attended were live. If I had the opportunity to listen to the lectures instead, I would have been able to pause the tape, consider a point, and rewind if necessary.
- in May of this year, I had the unusual opportunity to listen to a presentation (about a proposed gondola between Simon Fraser University and Production Way Station in Burnaby, B.C.) twice in the same day, filling in blanks missed the first time and adding points the presenter had not touched on the first time. I could not do any of the questioners and commenters justice because they only spoke once.
People probably either expect (or at least accept) taking notes during meetings. What about during social encounters? I try to make notes directly after, based on very recent memory.
What are your tips, successes and failures with writing notes in lectures, meetings and social encounters?
We can remember which folder we put that CSS file in, but we can’t remember the name of the guy we just met at the party.
Having found myself unemployed in February, the opportunity for a quick trip to Portland presented itself in the middle of May of this year. I offered to volunteer at a conference called OpenGovWest, where, as the name suggests, people from the governmental, non-profit and information technology gathered to discuss issues surrounding opening the culture of public participation. In return for volunteering my time (which included breakfast setup and taking notes on two sessions), I was able to attend the conference for free. Karen, who spoke at the conference and served as volunteer conference convenor, and I left on an early Thursday morning for a Friday/Saturday conference, taking the train down from Vancouver, B.C. While it was not my first time taking the train south from Canada — I had earlier in the year taken a 4-day trip to Seattle to watch baseball games pitting the Toronto Blue Jays against the Seattle Mariners at Safeco Field and then to Everett for whale watching — it was my first time heading all the way south to Portland.
The train left Pacific Central at 6:30 in the morning, and with a brief stopover in Seattle, we proceeded to Portland. I had arrived at Union Station before, but only ever by Greyhound bus. My initial plan was to stay in Portland from Thursday to Monday, but it made more sense to come back on the Sunday train. Switching my return ticket on Amtrak was a breeze, even if there were only two seats left. If you can deal with the noise from fellow passengers and the opening and closing of the cabin doors, then you don't have to worry about traffic. If you have a device that can both access the Internet wirelessly and plug into an electrical outlet, Amtrak Cascades has you covered with Wi-Fi on trains and a (single) plug at your feet.
(I'm part of the Amtrak Guest Rewards program. If you send me your email address, I can sign you up to get 500 free points, which in turn gets me 500 points!)Getting Online
First step of the trip, after disembarking from the train, sent me to a T-Mobile store. An aborted attempt during my April Seattle visit to get a U.S. number and data plan, which included my Canadian cell phone provider incorrectly flagging my iPhone as stolen, left me with a $60 bill at the end of that trip. (Not only that, but my iPhone had been incorrectly locked when Apple replaced my original.) This time, with an unlocked phone and a bit more information, I proceeded to the T-Mobile outlet downtown. Since the iPhone 4 requires a micro-SIM, and this T-Mobile outlet did not have a SIM cutter, they sent me next door for a $7 trimming. After a few settings changes I was online.
T-Mobile, at this writing, offers a $1.50 daily fee for 30 MB of unthrottled access to their data network. They call it "web", but it's the full Internet as far as the iPhone is concerned. After 30 MB, the network starts throttling, and all throughout there are a few sites you might not be able to access, as they seem to have some net-nanny software deployed. The only website this affected for me was Untappd, where one can "check in" to beers that one drinks. (Yes, we'll all have a good laugh about that website in the coming years.) Other than that, speed is less an issue than being able to connect to use Google Maps, Twitter, Foursquare, etc. That the pre-paid allowed for voice and text was nice, but I use the Internet so much more than any other service on my cell phone.The Hotel
The event was held at the Jupiter Hotel, which we also stayed at for two nights. As the hotel is co-located with the Doug Fir Lounge, we found the noise from the patio outside during Thursday and Friday nights annoying. The hotel attendants made a note of it up front, and once we put in earplugs and fell asleep, it didn't bother us as much as we thought it might. True to its website's description, it had a boutique feel, with chalkboards on the inside and outside of the doors, and we found the inside white decor very pleasant. We are undecided if we'd ever stay there again, but we appreciated staying at the same hotel as the conference venue, meaning we could sleep an extra few minutes without worrying about a daily commute. The hotel is located about a half an hour's walk from downtown Portland, just enough to soak in some rays and take in the sights from across the bridge.Photos
I took the necessary transit shots of the MAX train, made the requisite pilgrimage to Powell's Books, and even learned a couple things about the city. Most interesting were the new bike lane on the Morrison St. bridge, walking up the stairs from the Eastside Esplanade, finding an old fire station (now available for lease as office space; Portland Architecture has some photos of the inside), what a bioswale looks like, what a lefse tastes like (thanks Viking Soul Food!), and the biggest rotating loaf of white bread I've ever seen.
Leaving on the Sunday meant an afternoon departure from Union Station, which afforded us some time to have dim sum at Ocean City Seafood at 3012 SE 82nd and a final pilgrimage to Powell's. From there we walked to Union Station to find a curving lineup within the station, though not too late to fill up on water and get our seat assignments. The only downside to an afternoon departure meant a late night arrival in Vancouver, which further meant having to go through customs at 11 PM. That went more pleasantly than the return from our last trip to Portland in 2009, where we had our bags fully searched by Canadian border guards. (At least on that occasion we arrived in the late morning because of our 7 AM departure from Seattle.) No big haul like last time.
- Why can’t I remember much of my childhood?
- What tactics work to enable me to remember something, especially for a test of knowledge, and what most certainly does not work?
- Why am I so bad with names and song lyrics and what an article was called, yet I can remember where I stored something?
- Are computers to blame for my brain’s inability to store and retrieve?
- How different is my muscle memory and my book smarts? Does “life knowledge” count or affect how I remember?
- Where do my emotions fit in?
- How did I get to the point where remembering was important to me?
These and other questions I hope to explore in a pop-up blog I’m calling One Stack Deep. The blog’s name refers to a passage in The Soul of a New Machine by Tracy Kidder, a brief history of early 1980s computing. Kidder followed the engineers at Data General around as they built their new machine, codenamed the Eagle Project. When talking about the language engineers use when talking to each other, one engineer uses his vocabulary to describe another engineer in computing terms:
Give me a core dump meant “Tell me your thoughts,” for in the past, when computers used “core memories,” engineers sometimes “dumped” the contents of malfunctioning machines’ storage compartments of memory, a sort of in-box inside a computer; it holds the information in the order in which the information is deposited and whe it gets overfull, it is said to “overflow.” Hence the occasional complaint, “I’ve got a stack overflow.” “His mind is only one stack deep,” says an engineer, describing the failings of a colleague, but the syntax is wrong and he rephrases, saying “See. He can push, but when it comes time to pop, he goes off in all directions” ― which means that the poor fellow can receive and understand information but he can’t retrieve it in an orderly fashion.
I will mostly focus on the storage and retrieval aspects, with the occasional diversion to problem-solving and other interesting avenues, though only how they relate to memory. The unnamed engineer quoted above might have been describing me 30 years later. What follows is an personal journey to understand how my brain works, how it fails, and what I can do about it.
Inspired by the inventories Liz posts on Flickr, Karen and I decided to take a photo of everything we accumulated on our trip to Portland and then Seattle. We set physical we took from America on the floor and then stood on a chair to take the photo with our DSLR. Below is the photo plus a list of the items with some links, taken from the annotations Karen and I added to the Flickr photo.
- Overland Equipment Auburn bag.
- The Alexander Technique Manual by Richard Brennan
- Two maps of Powell's City of Books in Portland.
- Boost Your Brain Power Week by Week: 52 Techniques to Make You Smarter by Bill Lucas
- U.S. stamps for mailing postcards.
- Various TriMet maps, passes and info. From right to left: three maps, a comic in Spanish, and a bike rider's guide. The five passes are: one bus transfer, two weekly passes, and two "honored citizens" passes that I rescued from the trash.
- Seattle Sound Transit guide.
- Two free Portland bridges bookmarks. That beat paying $19 for the poster of the same bridges.
- Inclusive City book flyer.
- 4 Amtrak ticket stubs for the train trips we took from Portland to Seattle, then from Seattle to Vancouver.
- Artist postcard from gallery in the Pearl District.
- Pumpkin Butter with Port, from the "Made in Oregon" store.
- Spiced hazelnuts with cinnamon and pepper. I talked to the man who makes them at the People's Co-op Farmer's Market. It was chilly. (The weather at the market, not the man!)
- Dreaming Escape, a book of poems translated from Albanian.
- Greeting cards from Positively Green
- Seattle Art Museum tickets to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. We stumbled on it on our way to a concert, donated in the wrong box, plead our case, and got in as the result of the donation.
- Our little big purchase: the Flip MinoHD, with a custom design that I commissioned from @idleglory (flickr: rocketcandy).
- 2 rolls of film from the Fisheye camera, ISO 400 and ISO 200.
- Notebooks and a Jane Austen address book, also from Powell's.
- Apple Cider, obtained from the Farmer's Market.
- Bridges of Portland fridge magnet.
- Art gallery opening card from Moshi Moshi.
- The poster for Duncan Sheik's 2009 winter tour for Whisper House and Spring Awakening. We attended his shows in Portland and Seattle.
- Ticket stub from the Portland Duncan Sheik show.
- Artist postcard from gallery in the Pearl District.
- Skirt purchased from The Future Inc., which closed this past Saturday.
- An "Oregon Wilderness" postcard, the outlier of the 8 we sent in total to our American and Canadian friends on this trip.
- Apple Cinnamon Tea from Pike Place Public Market in Seattle. The entire kitchen smells like this tea now.
On my trip to Portland last week, while my girlfriend went to the People's Farmer's Market, I took a jaunt over to the airport from downtown. To travel from the airport from downtown, I had to get a zone upgrade, because the 7-day pass we bought (see below) afforded us 2 zones. (We mostly traveled from Zone 2 through Zone 1 to the Fareless Square.) The fine folks at the TriMet information office at Pioneer Courthouse Square advised me that to get the zone upgrade, I would have to step on a bus, get an upgrade, and immediately disembark and hop on the train. I wasn't interested in risking getting caught by a fare inspector, so I made the trip to Gateway/Northeast 99th Avenue TC, hopped off the train, and got a zone upgrade from the #19 bus driver there.
On the trip I took quite a bit of HD video using the Flip Mino HD camera we bought. Following is a Hillsboro-bound MAX train arriving at Gateway/Northeast 99th Avenue Transit Center (which I will refer to in conversation as "Gateway" after the SkyTrain station here in Greater Vancouver).
Having a 7-day pass may not have been worth it from a purely financial perspective: as mentioned, we spent 5 days there in total and the pass did not apply to the Aerial Tram up to OHSU. (We would have appreciated a ticket stub as a memento of that trip. I sent a note to TriMet directly with that suggestion.) We did very much appreciate the convenience of the two-zone fare and not only the convenience of not having to fish for change, but being able to select which consecutive 7 days we could use the pass. In Toronto, you can't select which days. At least they have one, though: we'd love to be able to have weekly passes in Vancouver!