Read Learning Log, Mar 2021 by Melanie RichardsMelanie Richards (melanie-richards.com)
Starting an experiment of the month, and succumbing to my curiosity around Python.
I love how the tired old link log idea has been re-framed here as a learning log. I might have to borrow the idea for my digital commonplace book.

I’m also glad to have stumbled across this so serendipitously for its mention of WaniKani for learning 日本語 (Japanese) kanji. I’m not quite sure what to make of their Crabigator yet, but perhaps Jack Jamieson might appreciate this as well.

I’ve been trying to catch up to a fourth grader in a dual immersion program, and I’ve been falling behind lately while working on my Welsh project. I’ve been too (slowly) working on a memory palace of Kanji with a lot more detail and historical information based on Kenneth Henshall’s A Guide To Remembering Japanese Characters, which seems to be one of the best texts I’ve seen for raw data. This app looks like it uses mnemonic associations in a different way along with spaced repetition that might allow for better immediate fluency.

Naturally I’m always happy to come across apps purporting to use mnemonics and spaced repetition, though I am still search for something with a more fluent focus for Japanese that is similar to SSiW’s immersion method.

Melanie Richards in on Twitter: “@SunhouseCLG Here’s a couple resources on Webmentions if you’d like to learn more about them: https://t.co/ilaWmEmX1T https://t.co/P8jI1kYfSq”

While searching for a digital copy of Cursus mathematicus (1634-67) by Pierre Hérigone (as one is wont to do), I serendipitously stumbled across Seth Long‘s (@SethLargo) brand new book Excavating the Memory Palace: Arts of Visualization from the Agora to the Computer (University of Chicago Press, December 2020). Naturally it was an immediate impulse buy. Looks like he’s also got some interesting papers on rhetoric/memory kicking around. These look pretty awesome in terms of substantiating some of the memory related work I’ve been looking at lately.

Sadly, I still need a clearer copy of Cursus. Is there an English translation out there? Any academics have non-published copies? Like to publish a copy? I’m happy to muddle through Latin or French especially if it’s an OCR/searchable copy, but it’s a stupidly long text for the assuredly short section on memory I’m seeking.

I’ve just gotten a copy of Remember: The Science of Memory and the Art of Forgetting by Lisa Genova which came out earlier this week.

Simple white book cover of Remember by Lisa Genova featuring a piece of red string tied into a knotted bow

I’ve thumbed through it quickly and done some targeted searches of the text. From all appearances, it looks like she’s approaching the topic of memory from a neuroscientist’s perspective and talking about broad psychology and culture.

There are a few references to the method of loci and a tangential reference to the phonetic major system in chapter 5. She approaches these briefly with a mention of Joshua Foer’s Moonwalking with Einstein and his PAO system (without using the word Person-Action-Object), but dismisses all too quickly.

But you would have to do a lot of memorizing before you can actually use these techniques (and others like them) to remember the stuff you’re interested in remembering. If the thought of doing this kind of mental labor sounds exhausting, I’m right there with you. I don’t have the dedication or time. Unless you’re motivated to become an elite memory athlete or your life’s dream is to memorize 111,700 digits of pi, I suspect you don’t, either. Most of us will never want or need to memorize that kind or that amount of information. But many of us would like to be better at memorizing the ten things on our to-do list, our Wi-Fi password, or the six things we need at the grocery store.

Sadly she doesn’t bring up the much easier to use phonetic major system, but blows right by it.

I’ll try to delve into the rest of the text shortly, but I was really hoping for more on the mnemonics front. I mnemonists won’t get much out of it on the techniques front, but might find it useful for an overview of the neuroscience or psychology fronts from Hermann Ebbinghaus onwards.

Read Transclusion and Transcopyright Dreams (maggieappleton.com)

In 1965 Ted Nelson imagined a system of interactive, extendable text where words would be freed from the constraints of paper documents. This hypertext would make documents linkable.

Twenty years later, Tim Berners Lee took inspiration from Nelson's vision, as well as other narratives like Vannevar Bush's Memex, to create the World Wide Web. Hypertext came to life.

I love the layout and the fantastic live UI examples on this page.

There are a few missing pieces for the primacy of some of these ideas. The broader concept of the commonplace book predated Nelson and Bush by centuries and surely informed much (if not all) of their thinking about these ideas. It’s assuredly the case that people already had the ideas either in their heads or written down and the links between them existed only in their minds or to some extent in indices as can be found in the literature—John Locke had a particularly popular index method that was widely circulated.

The other piece I find missing is a more historical and anthropological one which Western culture has wholly discounted until recently. There’s a pattern around the world of indigenous peoples in primarily oral cultures using mnemonic techniques going back at least 40,000 years. Many of these techniques were built into daily life in ways heretofore unimagined in modern Western Culture, but which are a more deeply layered version of transclusion imagined here. In some sense they transcluded almost all of their most important knowledge into their daily lives. The primary difference is that all the information was stored visually and associatively in the minds of people rather than on paper (through literacy) or via computers. The best work I’ve seen on the subject is Lynne Kelly’s Knowledge and Power in Prehistoric Societies: Orality, Memory and the Transmission of Culture which has its own profound thesis and is underpinned by a great deal of archaeologic and anthropologic primary research. Given its density I recommend her short lecture Modern Memory, Ancient Methods which does a reasonable job of scratching the surface of these ideas.

Another fantastic historical precursor of these ideas can be found in ancient Jewish writings like the Mishnah which is often presented as an original, more ancient text surrounded by annotated interpretations which are surrounded by other re-interpretations on the same page. Remi Kalir and Antero Garcia have a good discussion of this in their book Annotation (MIT Press, 2019).

page of Jewish text with Mishnah in the center and surrounded by various layers of commentary in succeding blocks around it
Image of a super-annotated page of Torah from chapter 3 of Annotation (MIT Press, 2019) by R. Kalir and A. Garcia

It would create a more layered and nuanced form of hypertext – something we’re exploring in the Digital Gardening movement. We could build accumulative, conversational exchanges with people on the level of the word, sentence, and paragraph, not the entire document. Authors could fix typos, write revisions, and push version updates that propogate across the web the same way we do with software. 

The Webmention spec allows for resending notifications and thus subsequent re-parsing and updating of content. This could be a signal sent to any links to the content that it had been updated and allow any translcuded pages to update if they wished.

Annotated on February 09, 2021 at 02:38PM

In this idealised utopia we obviously want to place value on sharing and curation as well as original creation, which means giving a small fraction of the payment to the re-publisher as well.We should note monetisation of all this content is optional. Some websites would allow their content to be transcluded for free, while others might charge hefty fees for a few sentences. If all goes well, we’d expect the majority of content on the web to be either free or priced at reasonable micro-amounts. 

While this is nice in theory, there’s a long road strewn with attempts at micropayments on the web. I see new ones every six months or so. (Here’s a recent one: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLqrvNoDE35lFDUv2enkaEKuo6ATBj9GmL)

This also dramatically misses the idea of how copyright and intellectual property work in many countries with regard to fair use doctrine. For short quotes and excerpts almost anyone anywhere can do this for free already. It’s definitely nice and proper to credit the original, but as a society we already have norms for how to do this.

Annotated on February 09, 2021 at 02:46PM

Transclusion would make this whole scenario quite different. Let’s imagine this again… 

Many in the IndieWeb have already prototyped this using some open web standards. It’s embodied in the idea of media fragments and fragmentions, a portmanteau of the words fragment and Webmention.

A great example can be found at https://www.kartikprabhu.com/articles/marginalia

This reminds me that I need to kick my own server to fix the functionality on my main site and potentially add it to a few others.

Annotated on February 09, 2021 at 02:59PM

We can easily imagine transclusions going the way of the public comments section. 

There are definitely ways around this, particularly if it is done by the site owner instead of enabled by a third party system like News Genius or Hypothes.is.

Examples of this in the wild can be found at https://indieweb.org/annotation#Annotation_Sites_Enable_Abuse.

Annotated on February 09, 2021 at 03:04PM

Acquired The Stars: A New Way to See Them by H. A. Rey (HMH Books for Young Readers)
This is a clear, vivid text with charts and maps showing the positions of the constellations the year round.
I’ve always wanted a copy of this book since I was little. Now I’ve got it.

I’m planning on integrating this into my memory practice shortly as well.

I just ran across and am happy to follow Anasuya Sengupta (@Anasuyashh) and
Whose Knowledge? (@WhoseKnowledge) via the New_Public Festival (#NewPublicFestival). Whose Knowledge is “a global campaign to center the knowledge of marginalized communities (the majority of the world) on the internet.”

As I’m reading Margo Neale and Lynne Kelly‘s (@Lynne_Kelly) Songlines: The Power and Promise, I’m curious to explore how the work of  Whose Knowledge might possibly help to empower oral cultures that are neither written down nor on the internet? Also how might this also empower their “third archive”?

Read Wheel of the Year - Wikipedia (en.wikipedia.org)
The Wheel of the Year is an annual cycle of seasonal festivals, observed by many modern Pagans, consisting of the year's chief solar events (solstices and equinoxes) and the midpoints between them. While names for each festival vary among diverse pagan traditions, syncretic treatments often refer to the four solar events as "quarter days" and the four midpoint events as "cross-quarter days", particularly in Wicca. Differing sects of modern Paganism also vary regarding the precise timing of each celebration, based on distinctions such as lunar phase and geographic hemisphere.
Read Forging Communities: Memory and Identity in Post-Conquest England by Jennifer PaxtonJennifer Paxton (Haskins Society Journal (2002))

Physical print sent by the author and not available in digital format (at least that I can currently find.)

This isn’t the sort of essay I was initially hoping for, but it does touch on the idea of forged church documents as a means of providing a power base for certain churches versus others as well as versus other leaders. Without an oral society with memory methods spread among various constituencies, the power structure was based solely on written (or forged) documents.

Read Talking out loud to yourself is a technology for thinking by Nana Ariel (Psyche)
Talking out loud to oneself is a technology for thinking that allows us to clarify and sharpen our approach to a problem

I ran across this article this evening and some of the ideas resonate strongly with me. The article mentions some areas of psychology research and a few papers I hadn’t seen before.

I’m also particularly interested in the idea of embodied cognition within cognitive psychology. Has anyone delved into these areas in their research or memory-related work? @LynneKelly’s research and written texts encourage singing, dancing and performing (I don’t recall specifically speaking or walking in her contexts, but I’m sure they’re all closely related), but has anyone else experimented with these additional modalities in their practice?

Most of the Western-based mnemotechniques I’m aware of are focused almost solely on internalized speech/thought. Can anyone think of any which aren’t?

I’ve seen several works in which Nassim Nicholas Taleb propounds the benefits of the flaneur lifestyle for improving thought, though his mentions are purely anecdotal as I recall. I’d appreciate any additional references to research in these areas if others are aware.


Like many of us, I talk to myself out loud, though I’m a little unusual in that I often do it in public spaces. Whenever I want to figure out an issue, develop an idea or memorise a text, I turn to this odd work routine. While it’s definitely earned me a reputation in my neighbourhood, it’s also improved my thinking and speaking skills immensely. Speaking out loud is not only a medium of communication, but a technology of thinking: it encourages the formation and processing of thoughts.

I’ve noticed speaking out loud also seems to help me in practicing and acquiring a new language.
Annotated on December 28, 2020 at 09:52PM

The idea that speaking out loud and thinking are closely related isn’t new. It emerged in Ancient Greece and Rome, in the work of such great orators as Marcus Tullius Cicero. But perhaps the most intriguing modern development of the idea appeared in the essay ‘On the Gradual Formation of Thoughts During Speech’ (1805) by the German writer Heinrich von Kleist. 

Some of this is at play with the idea of “[rubber ducking](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rubber_duck_debugging)” as a means of debugging programs
Annotated on December 28, 2020 at 09:55PM

In both cases – speech and writing – the materiality of language undergoes a transformation (to audible sounds or written signs) which in turn produces a mental shift. 

There’s surely a link between this and the idea of thought spaces in the blogosphere or the idea of a commonplace book/digital garden/wiki.
Annotated on December 28, 2020 at 10:06PM

Mute inner speech can appear as an inner dialogue as well, but its truncated form encourages us to create a ‘secret’ abbreviated language and deploy mental shortcuts. By forcing us to articulate ourselves more fully, self-talk summons up the image of an imagined listener or interrogator more vividly. In this way, it allows us to question ourselves more critically by adopting an external perspective on our ideas, and so to consider shortcomings in our arguments – all while using our own speech. 

I’m also reading this and wondering about memory techniques and methods and how these may interact beneficially.
Annotated on December 28, 2020 at 10:07PM

It’s no coincidence that we walk when we need to think: evidence shows that movement enhances thinking and learning, and both are activated in the same centre of motor control in the brain. In the influential subfield of cognitive science concerned with ‘embodied’ cognition, one prominent claim is that actions themselves are constitutive of cognitive processes. That is, activities such as playing a musical instrument, writing, speaking or dancing don’t start in the brain and then emanate out to the body as actions; rather, they entail the mind and body working in concert as a creative, integrated whole, unfolding and influencing each other in turn. It’s therefore a significant problem that many of us are trapped in work and study environments that don’t allow us to activate these intuitive cognitive muscles, and indeed often even encourage us to avoid them. 

I’m curious if Lynne Kelly or others have looked into these areas of research with their Memory work? She’s definitely posited that singing and dancing as well as creating art helps indigenous cultures in their memory work.
Annotated on December 28, 2020 at 10:10PM

Read SoulCycle’s exclusivity was its secret weapon — and its downfall (Vox)
The boutique fitness phenomenon sold exclusivity with a smile, until a toxic atmosphere and a push for growth brought the whole thing down.
A fascinating story about culture and exclusivity.
Read - Want to Read: Remember: The Science of Memory and the Art of Forgetting by Lisa Genova (Harmony)
A fascinating exploration of the intricacies of how we remember, why we forget, and what we can do to protect our memories, from the Harvard-trained neuroscientist and bestselling author of Still Alice.
Have you ever felt a crushing wave of panic when you can't for the life of you remember the name of that actor in the movie you saw last week, or you walk into a room only to forget why you went there in the first place? If you're over forty, you're probably not laughing. You might even be worried that these lapses in memory could be an early sign of Alzheimer's or dementia. In reality, for the vast majority of us, these examples of forgetting are completely normal. Why? Because while memory is amazing, it is far from perfect. Our brains aren't designed to remember every name we hear, plan we make, or day we experience. Just because your memory sometimes fails doesn't mean it's broken or succumbing to disease. Forgetting is actually part of being human.
In Remember, neuroscientist and acclaimed novelist Lisa Genova delves into how memories are made and how we retrieve them. You'll learn whether forgotten memories are temporarily inaccessible or erased forever and why some memories are built to exist for only a few seconds (like a passcode) while others can last a lifetime (your wedding day). You'll come to appreciate the clear distinction between normal forgetting (where you parked your car) and forgetting due to Alzheimer's (that you own a car). And you'll see how memory is profoundly impacted by meaning, emotion, sleep, stress, and context. Once you understand the language of memory and how it functions, its incredible strengths and maddening weaknesses, its natural vulnerabilities and potential superpowers, you can both vastly improve your ability to remember and feel less rattled when you inevitably forget. You can set educated expectations for your memory, and in doing so, create a better relationship with it. You don't have to fear it anymore. And that can be life-changing.
Acquired American Museum and Natural History: Birds of North America by Francois Vuilleumier (Editor) (DK Publishing)

Ideal for the armchair bird enthusiast or dedicated bird watcher, this book includes stunning full-color photographs, revealing each species with unrivaled clarity.

A lavish introduction describes bird characteristics and behavior, while stunning full-color photographs reveal individual species for easy identification.

The 550 most commonly seen birds are pictured in clear, close-up photographs, with images of similar birds provided to make differentiation easy, from game birds and waterfowl to shorebirds and swifts to owls, hummingbirds, finches, and more. Discover which species to expect when and where with up-to-date, color-coded maps highlighting habitation and migratory patterns.

The most commonly seen species are given a whole page in the species catalog, and each full-page profile includes images of plumage variations, subspecies, information on similar birds, and artwork of the bird in flight that reveal their outstretched wings.

Rare birds and vagrants who occasionally stray into North America are also described, making AMNH Birds of North America one of the most comprehensive guides on the market and essential for anyone interested in birding.

Publish Date: November 10, 2020
Pages: 752
8.6 X 11.0 X 1.8 inches | 6.45 pounds
Hardcover
ISBN/EAN/UPC: 9780744020533

After doing some research on various bird books, I’ve picked up this massive textbook as the structure for creating a bird memory palace. 

Purchased from Amazon.com for $26.60 on 2020-12-07; arrived today.

Birds of North America Texts and Field Guides

Spent some time tonight looking at the seven most popular bird books for North America for my memory project. I’m still figuring out how to set up the memory palace for the project though. Lots of data to encode. 

While all are generally solid I’m arranging them for data/information, layout, and image purposes. Here’s the rough order of preference I think I’m going to put them in moving forward:

  • American Museum of Natural History, Birds of North America (and/or the Western Region) (DK)
  • The Stokes Field Guide to the Birds of North America
  • National Wildlife Federation Field Guide to Birds of North America, 
  • Peterson Field Guide to Birds of North America
  • Sibley Birds West
  • Golden Field Guides: Birds of North America

I’ll probably buy the top two as I proceed. It looks like DK just published an update to theirs in the last month! In particular, I like the volume of detail of the DK edition and the layout for potentially making memorization easier. 

Now to figure out how to best lay out the various pieces. I’m thinking that Lynne Kelly’s idea of using a Lukasa memory board may be best. But what to fashion it out of and how?

Winter Counts and related holiday traditions

Some indigenous American tribes kept annual winter counts which served as both a physical historical account of their year, but served as visual mnemonic devices leveraging a bit of the idea of a drawn memory palace along with spaced repetition by adding a new image to their “journey” each year.

I was reminded about the idea over the weekend by a dreadful, cheeseball Hallmark Holiday movie A Royal Christmas Ball (2017) (please don’t torture yourself by watching it). The two main characters had a Christmas ritual of creating a holiday ornament every year for their Christmas tree with a design that represented something significant in their lives that year. Because most families generally use and reuse the same ornaments every year, the practice becomes a repeated ritual which allows them to reminisce over each ornament every year to remember past years. It’s a common occurrence (at least in Western society) for people to purchase souvenir ornaments when they travel, and these serve the same effect of remembering their past travels.

If others haven’t come across this idea as a fun mnemonic device for the whole family with built in spaced repetition, I recommend you give it a try. Just don’t everyone necessarily make coronavirus ornaments for this year.

Non-Christians could leverage a similar idea for their annual holidays, feasts, or events if they like. Of course, you could follow the Lakota tribe and make a more traditional winter count.

For those interested in some of the further history and description of the idea of an annual count in the framing of mnemotechny, I would recommend LynneKelly’s book Memory Craft or some of her more academic works.