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The Brain Is a Golden Swamp

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Posted on 28th December 2004 by Judy Breck in Networks

The role of an area of the brain that is now shown to be part of language development is being explored at Kings College London and described here. Ongoing developments in imaging the living human brain make it increasingly possible to observe dynamic networks of thought. Calling it “Geschwind’s territory” in honor of the scientist who suspected back in the 1960s that it had a role in language, Dr. Marco Catani of Kings points out that the area is one of the last to mature in the brain. He adds that “the completion of its maturation [coincides] with the development of reading and writing skills.” The brain is a golden swamp: when the right things connect at the right time to the right places somethings emerges, in this case language. Looks like we need to make sure we are teaching kids to read and write when their Geschwind’s territory is ready. NewScientist says that age is between five and seven years.

Farmers and Restaurants

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Posted on 28th December 2004 by Judy Breck in Blogs, Wikis and Swarms

A tsunami story in the New York Times today was grudgingly postive about blogging but snuck in a few subtle disses. The headline: Blogs Provide Raw Details From Scene of the Disaster. Just one brief paragraph, quoting Howard Rheingold, mentioned the immediate and crucial role of disaster relief (and one day, warning) that connecting people digitally promises: “If you can smartmob a political demonstration, an election or urban performance art, you can smartmob disaster relief.”

Coverage of the news from the scene was the main theme of the article, as these quotations summarize:

“Bloggers at the scene are more deeply affected by events than the journalists who roam from one disaster to another,” said Xeni Jardin, one of the four co-editors of the site BoingBoing.net, which pointed visitors to many of the disaster blogs. “They are helping us understand the impact of this event in a way that other media just can’t,” with an intimate voice and an unvarnished perspective, with the richness of local context, Ms. Jardin said. . . . [She] said people online often argued about whether blogs would replace mainstream media. The question is as meaningless, she said, as asking “will farmers’ markets replace restaurants?”

The farmer/restaurant analogy seems to me to be something of a sop to the mainstream media. The internet is providing fresher, healthier raw information in a wide range of produce including news, commerce, science, cultures and much more. The roles of the ruling chefs who apply preconceived recipies before serving need to be re-evaluated in every venue.

A Key To Joy

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Posted on 26th December 2004 by Judy Breck in Uncategorized

“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” ~ Albert Einstein wikiquote 12.04

A Benign Editorial?

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Posted on 21st December 2004 by Judy Breck in Emerging Online Knowledge

Today in the lofty wisdom of its lead editorial the New York Times made a number of pronouncements about the usefulness and impact of the new Google library project. With a sniff, the editorial ends this way: “The Google project will enhance the usefulness of the books it encompasses, but it in no way will render them obsolete.” Exactly why should the NYT editors be looked to as experts on this topic? (Maybe we are supposed to assume they are experts on everything.) In any event I have the background for warning you to watch out for appeals to your love of books by those with vested interests in old ways who may actually be trying to raise your suspicion of the internet. Maybe the Times is benign here. I don’t know.

Lilypad Directory

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Posted on 20th December 2004 by Judy Breck in Mobile & Ubiquitous

The spread of Wi-Fi access has been compared to the popping up of lilypads until the entire surface of the pond where the plant is growing is covered. Here is a directory listing access spots by zipcode, city and country. There is a lot of coverage already, and checking back here now and then would be a way to watch Wi-Fi cover the entire global pond. Jordan, for example, has only one hotspot listed, in Amman. I wonder how long it will be before the entire Middle East is covered.

Digital Grandfathers

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Posted on 19th December 2004 by Judy Breck in Emerging Online Knowledge


Digitized and Brought to Life is the headline of a story by Leslie Walker in today’s Washington Post. Her lead sentence is:

The true power of digital photography never really hit me until I came face to face with the dashing young Australian grandfather I had never met — on my 21-inch computer screen.

The image at the top of this post is my my mother’s great-grandfather Alonzo Spaulding (1821-1881). I doubt Mother ever knew his name. Alonzo’s picture was found last year in a box that had not been opened in decades. Alonzo’s face is smaller than my little fingernail on the photograph I scanned to get the above image. I was moved and warmed when I enlarged this sensitive and serious face and, as Laurie says . . . ” for the first time, I got a really good look at this man who had died two [in my case five] decades before I was born.” This is an intriguing — and I think enriching — new kind of digital connection.

Networked Concoction for Snicket

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Posted on 18th December 2004 by Judy Breck in Networks

Though he doesn’t call it that, the creative dynamic power of networks as a content medium is, says William Booth in his Washington Post Lemony Snicket story this morning, the best thing about the movie. He writes:

The critics like the new film . . . but they love the sets — the otherworldly concoction that feels like the designers put Charles Dickens and Edward Gorey and Edvard Munch in a blender and punched “puree.”

New understanding of what you can do when you platform creative content in a network sheds light on what the critics loved. Mr. Booth explains that the entire film was shot indoors, on 10 soundstages at Paramount Studios and in a retired aerospace factory where Boeing used to build space shuttles. That meant there were no limits of reality: any piece of one thing could be mixed with any piece of anything else. That is exactly what a network is: a batch of nodes that can link to any other node.

For the Lemony sets: a bit of Dickens + a bit of + Gorey + a bit of Munch = something new and potentially very interesting. Exactly the same formula is true in thinking and learning: a bit of this thought + a bit of that though + a bit of another thought = a new understanding. The same is true in digital people mobbing: this guy + another guy + that guy = a new group. The internet is concocting new ideas and communities literally all the time. We are seeing a new virtual worlds emerging that can be fundamentally understood at the network level. I think we are going to love these new dynamic worlds even more than we do the Lemony sets.

The Crux of Open Learning

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Posted on 17th December 2004 by Judy Breck in Schools We Have Now

Geography no longer can be used as an excuse to isolate children, young people or anyone for the purpose of indoctrination by teaching them from one point of view while at best tolerating any other. Open learning now made possible by the internet exposes the arrogance of censored curricula and schooling of any kind that cuts off connectivity to rich and full subject matter. George Washington knew that toleration is a form of arrogance, putting it this way once liberty was won: “It is now no more that toleration is spoken of, as if it was by the indulgence of one class of people, that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights.” Among those natural rights is to the liberty to learn without limitation. (With thanks to Charles Krauthammer for the quotation.)

Wireless Metropolis = Unwired Schools

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Posted on 17th December 2004 by Judy Breck in Mobile & Ubiquitous

The State of New York is implementing a plan to cover the City of New York with wireless access in the next year. An article about the project in Entrepreneur.com explains that hubs for transmission will be placed on tall buildings and that technology advances have made wireless systems “easily installed and upgraded.”

The largest - and one most financially challenged – school systems in the United States is that of the New York City public schools. Any student in NYC with an internet wireless access device will soon be able to study online without more school funds being spent to maintain and add school wiring. Will unwiring the schools provide budgeting to get the devices to the kids? If it is not yet studying that, the NYCDOE should check into it pronto.

Stir Fry Wifi

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Posted on 15th December 2004 by Judy Breck in Mobile & Ubiquitous


Chinese cooking tools are being used to capture the internet in remote spots in Afghanistan and elsewhere. New Zealand’s Massey University lecturer Stanley Swan is getting 1000 hits a day on his website that explains how to use a common Asian cooking utensil, the fry scoop, to gather in satellite signals.

Looking Back from 2104

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Posted on 14th December 2004 by Judy Breck in Emerging Online Knowledge

Whom will the 22nd century honor as visionaries of the 21st. I don’t get to vote, but I’ll bet Brin and Page will be at the top of the list. In its story today about the newly launched project of their company to massively digitize and make freely available world library collections the New York Times states their breathtaking vision in a nutshell: “Google’s founders, Sergey Brin and Larry Page, have long vowed to make all of the world’s information accessible to anyone with a Web browser.” Brin and Page will be honored as founders of the Global Golden Age.

Bad Guys Online

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Posted on 13th December 2004 by Judy Breck in Mobile & Ubiquitous

Upwards of 13% of the people on earth are now using the internet. My guess is that the percentage is much higher for that usage among the bad guys. We know the 911 terrorists plotted extensively online. It is almost as if only the bad guys had the telephone and the rest of us still communicated by Pony Express. Here is a very worrisome observation on the matter from Commentary Magazine (with thanks to Powerline):

Before the advent of today’s computer technology, the hard Left in Europe and the U.S. would have had no idea how to seek out Islamist sympathizers. A generation ago, it would have been necessary for the two groups to occupy the same physical space—an unlikely prospect, given that traditional Muslims living in Arab-French suburbs, for example, rarely mingle with the college students who frequent Left Bank cafes. The Internet has opened a door between these disparate environments.

We will live in a much better world when those who love liberty are as closely in touch as those who would destroy it. The advent of the internet will not be reversed, but the number of people using it can be hastened by more effort to do so.

Monastic Pursuit

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Posted on 12th December 2004 by Judy Breck in Blogs, Wikis and Swarms


Perhaps not the internet in general, but certainly blogging fits the definition of a monastic pursuit. Here is what Deacon Andrey Kurayev, a Russian Orthodox missionary who lectures at Moscow State University says in a 12.11.04 BBC story: “‘What is the internet?’ Father Andrey asked. ‘It is a typically monastic pursuit. I am totally hidden from the public, it is quite impersonal – but at the same time I can take part in various discussion forums.’” As increasing numbers of thinking people join the blogosphere are virtual monastaries forming where future intellectual discourse will take place and be preserved? I think so.

Outstripping Our Imaginations

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Posted on 12th December 2004 by Judy Breck in Emerging Online Knowledge

In October I attended the 50th reunion of my graduating class from Austin High School in El Paso, Texas. They call people our age the “Lost Generation” because we are invisible, falling between the wonderful “Great Generation” who fought WWII and our spoiled brat little brothers and sisters known as “Baby Boomers.” It may surprise you to know that we tend to be visionaries. We vaguely remember the depravation of the Depression, vividly remember horror of WWII, lost gradeschool classmates to polio, did not have Rock and Roll in High School – and then experienced the changes of the next five decades. The world we knew in high school is truly lost to culture and memory.
This is a comment I got this morning in an email from 1954 classmate Zane Walker stating something our experience over the past nearly seven decades has taught our generation:

Technology has a way of outstripping our imaginations. Neither Marshall McLuhan (The Media is the Message) nor Bill Gates could foresee the future as we are now experiencing it. Remember Mr. Cohn, a chemistry teacher? I remember him saying the technological problems of launching a rocket into space were so enormous it would be well into the next century before it could be achieved. In all fairness, at the time they were still blowing up V2’s at White Sands just trying to get something up in the air. Every time I see a cell phone, I remember that and smile.

From El Paso during our school years we could sometimes look to the north and see the contrails of V2 rockets being launched by the German scientists who had been relocated 80 miles away at White Sands Proving Grounds. None of us have forgotten the night one of those rockets flew right over El Paso and exploded in a Juarez, Mexico cemetery right across the Rio Grande with a noise heard for miles!

My generation has been hands-on in a spectacular parade of tech innovation characterized by, as Zane puts it, outstripping imaginations. Zane’s comment articulates my justification for envisioning virtually every individual interacting with the internet causing a new golden age to emerge from that connectivity. Hey, Mr. Cohn was wrong. Right?

Ten By Ten

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Posted on 11th December 2004 by Judy Breck in Subject Sampler

GOLD LINK: It is my habit to reserve the word “cool” for special occasions such as this. Thanks to The Scout Report for 10X10 and other recent posts!