Read Researchers validate ancient astronomical structures (
University of Adelaide research has for the first time statistically proven that the earliest standing stone monuments of Britain, the great circles, were constructed specifically in line with the movements of the Sun and Moon, 5000 years ago.

“These people chose to erect these great stones very precisely within the landscape and in relation to the astronomy they knew. They invested a tremendous amount of effort and work to do so. It tells us about their strong connection with their environment, and how important it must have been to them, for their culture and for their culture’s survival.” 

Connection to environment and importance for culture’s survival.
Annotated on September 18, 2020 at 07:46AM

Replied to a thread by @KerrieDoodles (Twitter)
If people are depressed by this minimal loss since the 60’s, they’re going to explode when they read research like that of Lynne Kelly on what we’ve actually lost from indigenous cultures. Here’s a good place to start: Knowledge and Power in Prehistoric Societies: Orality, Memory and the Transmission of Culture though her TED talk gives a bit of the flavor without the heavier, but worthwhile, reading–in part, because it will give us some ideas about how to turn back the clock and recover some of what we’ve lost.

Annotated The Mabinogion (Oxford University Press)
Sioned Davies is Chair of Welsh at Cardiff University. Her special interest is the interplay between orality and literacy, together with the performance aspects of medieval Welsh narrative. 
Oh! This is fascinating. Perhaps some interesting tidbits for my growing theory about the borders of orality and literacy could be hiding in some of her research?
Watched Improve your memory in 4 minutes with Yanjaa from YouTube
Yanjaa, the IKEA Human Catalogue shares her mind palace technique. Perfect if you want to remember passwords, anniversaries or if you want your child to do well in studies via creative learning.
This is a clever bit of marketing on Ikea’s part. She gets to show of some memory techniques and in doing so she highlights some of their products.
Watched How to learn any language in six months by Chris Lonsdale from TEDxLingnanUniversity | YouTube
Chris Lonsdale is Managing Director of Chris Lonsdale & Associates, a company established to catalyse breakthrough performance for individuals and senior teams. In addition, he has also developed a unique and integrated approach to learning that gives people the means to acquire language or complex technical knowledge in short periods of time.
Attention, meaning, relevance and memory

Five Principles

  1. Focus on language content that is relevant to you (We learn tools fastest when they are relevant to us)
  2. Use your language as a tool to communicate from day 1
  3. When you first understand the message you will unconsciously acquire the language (Krashen ,2013)
  4. physiological training
  5. Psycho-physiological state matters, learn when happy and don’t get frustrated

7 actions for rapid language acquisition

  1.  Listen a lot (brain soaking)
  2. Focus on getting the meaning first (use body language)
  3. Start mixing and be creative
  4.  focus on the core
    1. Week 1: The Tool box (learn to say the following all in the target language)
      * What is this
      * How do you say?
      * I don’t understand
    2. Week 2-3 pronouns, common adverbs, adjectives
    3. Week 4 glue words, but and, though
  5. Get a language parent to help you understand
    1. works to understand what you are saying
    2. does not correct mistakes
    3. confirms understanding by using correct language
    4. uses words the learner knows
  6. Copy the face
    1. Work on the muscles and look at native speakers
  7. Direct connect to mental image (visual association)

A note taking problem and a proposed solution


It’s too painful to quickly get frequent notes into note taking and related platforms. has an open API and a great UI that can be leveraged to simplify note taking processes.

Note taking tools

I’ve been keeping notes in systems like OneNote and Evernote for ages, but for my memory-related research and work in combination with my commonplace book for the last year, I’ve been alternately using TiddlyWiki (with TiddlyBlink) and WordPress (it’s way more than a blog.)

I’ve also dabbled significantly enough with related systems like Roam Research, Obsidian, Org mode/Org Roam, MediaWiki, DocuWiki, and many others to know what I’m looking for.

Many of these, particularly those that can be used alternately as commonplace books and zettelkasten appeal to me greatly when they include the idea of backlinks. (I’ve been using Webmention to leverage that functionality in WordPress settings, and MediaWiki gives it grudgingly with the “what links to this page” basic functionality that can be leveraged into better transclusion if necessary.)

The major problem with most note taking tools

The final remaining problem I’ve found with almost all of these platforms is being able to quickly and easily get data into them so that I can work with or manipulate it. For me the worst part of note taking is the actual taking of notes. Once I’ve got them, I can do some generally useful things with them—it’s literally the physical method of getting data from a web page, book, or other platform into the actual digital notebook that is the most painful, mindless, and useless thing for me.

Evernote and OneNote

Older note taking services like Evernote and OneNote come with browser bookmarklets or mobile share functionality that make taking notes and extracting data from web sources simple and straightforward. Then once the data is in your notebook you can actually do some work with it. Sadly neither of these services has the backlinking functionality that I find has become de rigueur for my note taking or knowledge wrangling needs.


My WordPress solutions are pretty well set since that workflow is entirely web-based and because WordPress has both bookmarklet and Micropub support. There I’m primarily using a variety of feeds and services to format data into a usable form that I can use to ping my Micropub endpoint. The Micropub plugin handles the post and most of the meta data I care about.

It would be great if other web services had support for Micropub this way too, as I could see some massive benefits to MediaWiki, Roam Research, and TiddlyWiki if they had this sort of support. The idea of Micropub has such great potential for great user interfaces. I could also see many of these services modifying projects like Omnibear to extend themselves to create highlighting (quoting) and annotating functionality with a browser extension.

With this said, I’m finding that the user interface piece that I’m missing for almost all of these note taking tools is raw data collection.

I’m not the sort of person whose learning style (or memory) is benefited by writing or typing out notes into my notebooks. I’d far rather just have it magically happen. Even copying and pasting data from a web browser into my digital notebook is a painful and annoying process, especially when you’re reading and collecting/curating as many notes as I tend to. I’d rather be able to highlight, type some thoughts and have it appear in my notebook. This would prevent the flow of my reading, thinking, and short annotations from being subverted by the note collection process.

Different modalities for content consumption and note taking 

Based on my general experience there are only a handful of different spaces where I’m typically making notes.

Reading online

A large portion of my reading these days is done in online settings. From newspapers, magazines, journal articles and more, I’m usually reading them online and taking notes from them there.

.pdf texts

Some texts I want to read (often books and journal articles) only live in .pdf form. While reading them in an app-specific setting has previously been my preference, I’ve taken to reading them from within browsers. I’ll explain why in just a moment, but it has to do with a tool that treats this method the same as the general online modality. I’ll note that most of the .pdf  specific apps have dreadful data export—if any.

Reading e-books (Kindle, e-readers, etc.)

If it’s not online or in .pdf format, I’m usually reading books within a Kindle or other e-reading device. These are usually fairly easy to add highlights, annotations, and notes to. While there are some paid apps that can extract these notes, I don’t find it too difficult to find the raw file and cut and paste the data into my notebook of choice. Once there, going through my notes, reformatting them (if necessary), tagging them and expanding on them is not only relatively straightforward, but it also serves as a simple method for doing a first pass of spaced repetition and review for better long term recall.


Naturally taking notes from live lectures, audiobooks, and other spoken events occurs, but more often in these cases, I’m typically able to type them directly into my notebook of preference or I’m using something like my digital Livescribe pen for notes which get converted by OCR and are easy enough to convert in bulk into a digital notebook. I won’t belabor this part further, though if others have quick methods, I’d love to hear them.

Physical books

While I love a physical book 10x more than the next 100 people, I’ve been trying to stay away from them because I find that though they’re easy to highlight, underline, and annotate the margins, it takes too much time and effort (generally useless for memory purposes for me) to transfer these notes into a digital notebook setting. And after all, it’s the time saving piece I’m after here, so my preference is to read in some digital format if at all possible.

A potential solution for most of these modalities

For several years now, I’ve been enamored of the online annotation tool. It’s open source, allows me reasonable access to my data from the (free) hosted version, and has a simple, beautiful, and fast process for bookmarking, highlighting, and annotating online texts on desktop and mobile. It works exceptionally well for both web pages and when reading .pdf texts within a browser window.

I’ve used it daily to make several thousand annotations on 800+ online web pages and documents. I’m not sure how I managed without it before. It’s the note taking tool I wished I’d always had. It’s a fun and welcome part of my daily life. It does exactly what I want it to and generally stays out of the way otherwise. I love it and recommend it unreservedly. It’s helped me to think more deeply and interact more directly with countless texts.

When reading on desktop or mobile platforms, it’s very simple to tap a browser extension and have all their functionality immediately available. I can quickly highlight a section of a text and their UI pops open to allow me to annotate, tag it, and publish. I feel like it’s even faster than posting something to Twitter. It is fantastically elegant.

The one problem I have with it is that while it’s great for collecting and aggregating my note data into my account, there’s not much I can do with it once it’s there. It’s missing the notebook functionality some of these other services provide. I wish I could plug all my annotation and highlight content into spaced repetition systems or move it around and modify it within a notebook where it might be more interactive and cross linked for the long term. Sadly I don’t think that any of this sort of functionality is on’ roadmap any time soon.

There is some great news however! is open source and has a reasonable API. This portends some exciting things! This means that any of these wiki, zettelkasten, note taking, or spaced repetition services could leverage the UI for collecting data and pipe it into their interfaces for direct use.

As an example, what if I could quickly tell Obsidian to import all my pre-existing and future data directly into my Obsidian vault for manipulating as notes? (And wouldn’t you know, the small atomic notes I get by highlighting and annotating are just the sort that one would like in a zettelkasten!) What if I could pick and choose specific course-related data from my reading and note taking in (perhaps by tag or group) for import into Anki to quickly create some flash cards for spaced repetition review? For me, this combination would be my dream application!

These small pieces, loosely joined can provide some awesome opportunities for knowledge workers, students, researchers, and others. The education focused direction that, many of these note taking platforms, and spaced repetition systems are all facing positions them to make a super-product that we all want and need.

An experiment

So today, as a somewhat limited experiment, I played around with my atom feed (, because you know you want to subscribe to this) and piped it into IFTTT. Each post creates a new document in a OneDrive file which I can convert to a markdown .md file that can be picked up by my Obsidian client. While I can’t easily get the tags the way I’d like (because they’re not included in the feed) and the formatting is incredibly close, but not quite there, the result is actually quite nice.

Since I can “drop” all my new notes into a particular folder, I can easily process them all at a later date/time if necessary. In fact, I find that the fact that I might want to revisit all my notes to do quick tweaks or adding links or additional thoughts provides the added benefit of a first round of spaced repetition for the notes I took.

Some notes may end up being deleted or reshuffled, but one thing is clear: I’ve never been able to so simply highlight, annotate, and take notes on documents online and get them into my notebook so quickly. And when I want to do something with them, there they are, already sitting in my notebook for manipulation, cross-linking, spaced repetition, and review.

So if the developers of any of these platforms are paying attention, I (and I’m sure others) really can’t wait for plugin integrations using the full power of the API that allow us to all leverage’ user interface to make our workflows seamlessly simple.

Read - Reading: Knowledge and Power in Prehistoric Societies: Orality, Memory, and the Transmission of Culture by Lynne Kelly (Cambridge University Press)
Chapter 5: Animal and plant knowledge in oral tradition
Finished chapter 5: Animal and plant knowledge in oral tradition
Some fascinating research here

  • 35.0%
Replied to Learning from indigenous culture by Neil MatherNeil Mather (doubleloop)
Just an interesting linkage that I’ve noticed in a couple of places recently. I’ve seen Chris mention a few times the mnemonic systems used by indigenous peoples. And there was a chapter in Future Histories on lessons to be learned from indigenous communities on ownership and governance.
I read it just after it came out, but Jared Diamond’s book The World Until Yesterday: What Can We Learn from Traditional Societies? has some good material on this topic as well. His work is more toward topics like restorative justice and judicial topics as well as cultural and social pieces we could regain. 

Most of the other work I’m talking about relating to memory methods is less widely known/researched and is closer to the bleeding edge of current anthropology and archaeology. That being said, the research is incredibly compelling.  <>

The Noodlemap is looking pretty cool by the way…

Annotated Cookbooks may make good timeful texts by Andy Matuschak (Andyʼs working notes)
I don’t think the right answer is to use something like the Mnemonic medium to memorize a cookbook’s contents. I think a likelier model is: each time you see a recipe, there’s some chance it’ll trigger an actionable “ooh, I want to make this!”, dependent on seasonality, weather, what else you’ve been cooking recently, etc. A more effective cookbook might simply resurface recipes intermittently over time, creating more opportunities for a good match: e.g. a weekly email with 5-10 cooking ideas, perhaps with some accompanying narrative. Ideally, the cookbook would surface seasonally-appropriate recipes. Seasonality would make the experience of “reading” a cookbook extend over the course of a year—a Timeful text. 
Indigenous peoples not only used holidays and other time-based traditions as a means of spaced repetition, but they also did them for just this purpose of time-based need. Winter’s here and the harvest changes? Your inter-tribal rituals went over your memory palace for just those changes. Songs and dances recalled older dishes and recipes that hadn’t been made in months and brought them into a new rotation.

Anthropologists have collected examples of this specific to hunting seasons and preparations of the hunt in which people would prepare for the types of game they would encounter. Certainly they did this for feast times and seasonal diets as well. Indians in the Americas are documenting having done things like this for planting corn and keeping their corn varieties pure over hundreds of years.

Read Timeful Texts by Andy Matuschak, Michael Nielsen (
How might one escape a book’s shackled sense of time, extending the authored experience over weeks and months?
It looks to me like Andy and Michael are grasping at recreating with modern technology and tools what many (most? all?) indigenous cultures around the world used to ritually learn and memorize their culture’s knowledge. Mnemonics, spaced repetition, graded initiation, orality, dance, and song were all used as a cohesive whole to do this.

The best introduction to many of these methods and their pedagogic uses is best described by Lynne Kelly‘s book Knowledge and Power in Prehistoric Societies: Orality, Memory, and the Transmission of Culture (Cambridge University Press, 2015).

If they take her ideas as a basis and then layer on their own thinking, I think they’ll get much further much quicker. Based on my reading of their work thus far, they’re limiting themselves solely with western and modern cultures or at least those of a post-Peter Ramus world.

As an example, I’ve recently been passively watching the Netflix series The Who Was? Show which is geared toward children, but it does a phenomenal job of creating entertaining visuals, costumes, jokes, songs, dances, over-the-top theatricality, and small mnemonic snippets to teach children about famous people in our culture. Naturally this is geared toward neophytes, but it’s memorable, especially when watched with some spaced repetition. To follow it up properly it needs the next 10 layers of content and information to provide the additional depth to move it from children’s knowledge to adult and more sophisticated knowledge. Naturally this should be done at a level appropriate to the learner and their age and sophistication and include relevant related associative memory techniques, but it’s a start.

I’ll note that our educational system’s inability to connect (or associate) new knowledge with previous knowledge is a major drawback. 

Read Francis James Child (Wikipedia)
Francis James Child (February 1, 1825 – September 11, 1896) was an American scholar, educator, and folklorist, best known today for his collection of English and Scottish ballads now known as the Child Ballads. Child was Boylston professor of rhetoric and oratory at Harvard University, where he produced influential editions of English poetry. In 1876 he was named Harvard's first Professor of English, a position which allowed him to focus on academic research. It was during this time that he began work on the Child Ballads. The Child Ballads were published in five volumes between 1882 and 1898. While Child was primarily a literary scholar with little interest in the music of the ballads, his work became a major contribution to the study of English-language folk music.
Interesting that Johns Hopkins tried to recruit him and Harvard created a new position and title in an effort to keep him.

Child considered that folk ballads came from a more democratic time in the past when society was not so rigidly segregated into classes, and the “true voice” of the people could therefore be heard. He conceived “the people” as comprising all the classes of society, rich, middle, and poor, and not only those engaged in manual labor as Marxists sometimes use the word. 

Annotated on August 04, 2020 at 09:31AM

Though there were no graduate schools in America at the time, a loan from a benefactor, Jonathan I. Bowditch, to whom the book was dedicated, enabled Child to take a leave of absence from his teaching duties to pursue his studies in Germany. There Child studied English drama and Germanic philology at the University of Göttingen, which conferred on him an honorary doctorate, and at Humboldt University, Berlin, where he heard lectures by the linguists Grimm and was much influenced by them. 

Annotated on August 04, 2020 at 09:33AM

Elizabeth Freeman (Mum Bett), the first enslaved African American to sue for her freedom in the courts based on the law of the 1780 constitution of the state of Massachusetts, which held that “all men are born free and equal.” The Jury agreed and in 1781 she won her freedom. Her lawyer had been Theodore Sedgwick. 

Annotated on August 04, 2020 at 09:35AM

Read - Reading: Knowledge and Power in Prehistoric Societies: Orality, Memory, and the Transmission of Culture by Lynne Kelly (Cambridge University Press)
Chapter 1: Primary orality in the archaeological context
10% done; Finished Chapter 1
I appreciate the additional detail and references here. To an uninitiated audience it feels like she should have spent some time exploring the idea of mnemonic earlier, but I’m fine without it.
Read Brain Expert Jim Kwik on How to Take Notes You'll Remember by Minda Zetlin (
In a new Inc. webinar, Limitless author and memory expert Jim Kwik taught the audience a new way to take notes so as to get the most value out of them. You should start using it immediately -- I know I'm going to. It all begins with drawing a line down the center of the page.
C’mon Inc. this author and the article are too credulous, at best Kwik’s method is the slightest modification of Cornell Notes…
Watched The Celtic World by Jennifer Paxton from The Teaching Company, LLC.
Lecture 14: Medieval Irish Literature
The early Irish prized literary skill just as much as prowess in warfare, and lords were judged by the quality of poet they could hire. This lecture gives a glimpse into the diverse genres of Irish literature, from epics about mythological heroes to exciting tales designed to warn kings about the dangers of ruling unjustly.
58% Done

Interesting idea about memory here between 6 an 12 minutes.
One of the stories has someone ask to be taught about farming as a condition which says something about information spread and education.