Read Anne Hathaway Recalls Christopher Nolan’s Advice for Playing Catwoman in ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ by Ramin Setoodeh (Variety)
How did Anne Hathaway become Catwoman? To portray Batman’s purring nemesis in Christopher Nolan’s 2012 movie “The Dark Knight Rises,” the actress realized that she needed to…

Hathaway also recalled a specific detail from Nolan’s movie sets. “He doesn’t allow chairs, and his reasoning is, if you have chairs, people will sit, and if they’re sitting, they’re not working,” Hathaway said. “I mean, he has these incredible movies in terms of scope and ambition and technical prowess and emotion. It always arrives at the end under schedule and under budget. I think he’s onto something with the chair thing.”

Read Commonplace Books: Networked Knowledge and Combinatorial Creativity (Farnam Street)
Commonplace books are personal knowledge libraries; notebooks full of collected ideas and bits of wisdom all mixed up together. Here, we take a look at their history and benefits.
There is an old saying that the truest form of poverty is “when you have occasion for anything, you can’t use it...

Early compilations involved various combinations of four crucial operations: storing, sorting, selecting, and summarizing, which I think of as the four S’s of text management. We too store, sort, select, and summarize information, but now we rely not only on human memory, manuscript, and print, as in earlier centuries, but also on computer chips, search functions, data mining, and Wikipedia, along with other electronic techniques. 

Annotated on May 19, 2020 at 10:38PM

“In his influential De Copia (1512),” writes Professor Richard Yeo, “Erasmus advised that an abundant stock of quotations and maxims from classical texts be entered under various loci (places) to assist free-flowing oratory.”
Arranged under ‘Heads’ and recorded as ‘common-places’ (loci communes), these commonplace books could be consulted for speeches and written compositions designed for various situations — in the law court, at ceremonial occasions, or in the dedication of a book to a patron. Typical headings included the classical topics of honour, virtue, beauty, friendship, and Christian ones such as God, Creation, faith, hope, or the names of the virtues and vices. 

Annotated on May 19, 2020 at 10:51PM

Commonplace books, during the Renaissance, were used to enhance the memory. Yeo writes,
This reflected the ancient Greek and Roman heritage. In his Topica, Aristotle formulated a doctrine of ‘places’ (topoi or loci) that incorporated his ten categories. A link was soon drawn between this doctrine of ‘places’ (which were, for Aristotle, ‘seats of arguments’, not quotations from authors) and the art of memory. Cicero built on this in De Oratore, explaining that ‘it is chiefly order that gives distinctness to memory’; and Quintilian’s Institutio Oratoria became an influential formulation. This stress on order and sequence was the crux of what came to be known as ‘topical memory’, cultivated by mnemonic techniques (‘memoria technica’) involving the association of ideas with visual images. These ideas, forms of argument, or literary tropes were ‘placed’ in the memory, conceived in spatial terms as a building, a beehive, or a set of pigeon holes. This imagined space was then searched for the images and ideas it contained…. In the ancient world, the practical application of this art was training in oratory; yet Cicero stressed that the good orator needed knowledge, not just rhetorical skill, so that memory had to be trained to store and retrieve illustrations and arguments of various kinds. Although Erasmus distrusted the mnemonic arts, like all the leading Renaissance humanists, he advocated the keeping of commonplace books as an aid to memory. 

I particularly love the way this highlights the phrase “‘placed’ in the memory” because the idea of loci as a place has been around so long that we tacitly use it as a verb so naturally in conjunction with memory!

Note here how the author Richard Yeo manages not to use the phrase memory palace or method of loci.Was this on purpose?
Annotated on May 19, 2020 at 10:56PM

While calling memory “the store-house of our ideas,” John Locke recognized its limitations.
On the one hand, it was an incredible source of knowledge.
On the other hand, it was weak and fragile. He knew that over time, memory faded and became harder to retrieve, which made it less valuable. 

As most humanists of the time may have had incredibly well-trained memories (particularly in comparison with the general loss of the art now), this is particularly interesting to me. Having had a great memory, the real value of these writings and materials is to help their memories dramatically outlive their own lifetimes. This is particularly useful as their systems of passing down ideas via memory was dramatically different than those of indigenous peoples who had a much more institutionalized version of memory methods and passing along their knowledge.

Annotated on May 19, 2020 at 11:00PM

“Extraordinary Commonplaces,” Robert Darnton 

Annotated on May 19, 2020 at 11:03PM

Neither ought anything to be collected whilst you are busied in reading; if by taking the pen in hand the thread of your reading be broken off, for that will make the reading both tedious and unpleasant. 

This is incredibly important for me, though in a more technology friendly age, I’ve got tools like Hypothes.is for quickly highlighting and annotating pages and can then later collect them into my commonplace book as notes to work with and manage after-the-fact.

Annotated on May 19, 2020 at 11:07PM

The aim of these books wasn’t regurgitation but rather combinatorial creativity. People were encouraged to improvise on themes and topics. Gathering raw material alone — in this case, information — is not enough. We must transform it into something new. It is in this light that Seneca advised copying the bee and Einstein advised combinatorial play. 

I was really hoping for so much more in this essay on the combinatorial creativity, espcially since the author threw the idea into the title. The real meat must be in the two linked articles about Seneca and Einstein.

There is a slight mention of combinatorics in the justaposition of pieces within one’s commonplace book, and a mention that these books may date back to the 12th century where they were probably more influenced by the combinatoric creativity of Raymond Lull. It’s still an open question for me just how far back the idea of commonplaces goes as well as how far back Lull’s combinatoric pieces go…

Annotated on May 19, 2020 at 11:13PM

Read Building a Day Log Habit by Ton Zijlstra (zylstra.org)
Last week I joined an IndieWeb conversation on blogs and wikis. I ended up with three take-aways. One of them was a tip by another participant to keep a day log as a means to add more to the wiki, do more wiki gardening. Writing a list of things you do during the day as you go along, you can then us...
Writing into a wiki can become a bit addictive as a thinking and logging tool. I’m finding that some are better than others. Ease-of-use and user interface are certainly important. There are a few I like more than others, but I’m also still experimenting with a few. The ease of copy/pasting data into them is an important feature for me.

I’m also trying to find the balance between public/private as well.

Read Overview: Zettelkasten Method (zettelkasten.de)

Using a Zettelkasten is about optimizing a workflow of learning and producing knowledge. The products are texts, mostly. The categories we find fit the process well at the moment are the following:

Knowledge Management: general information about what it means to work and learn efficiently.
Writing: posts on the production of lasting knowledge, and about sharing it with others through your own texts.
Reading: posts about the process of acquisition of new things and the organization of sources.

Bookmarked Notational Velocity by Zachary Schneirov (notational.net)
Notational Velocity is an application that stores and retrieves notes.
It is an attempt to loosen the mental blockages to recording information and to scrape away the tartar of convention that handicaps its retrieval. The solution is by nature nonconformist.
Recommended to me by Jeremy Cherfas.
Listened to Microcast #082 – Nodenoggin by Doug Belshaw from Thought Schrapnel

This week, I’ve been delighted to be able to catch up with Adam Procter, academic, games designer, open advocate, and long-time supporter of Thought Shrapnel.

We discussed everything from the IndieWeb to his PhD project, with relevant links below!

Show notes

Read Building a personal knowledge base by Kirill Maltsev (kirillmaltsev.net)
I try to unload all information that has any meaning to me from my brain to external storage because I don’t like to rely on my memory nor do I trust it. In this blog post, I’m going to describe my current approach of working with a personal knowledge base.
He’s got a solid listing of tools here, many I’ve either tried or am currently using myself. Looks like he hasn’t come across Roam yet which I like for it’s ability to change tags across many linked pages. I wish other tools had that one killer feature.
Listened to Episode 7: Don't Accentuate the Positive by Dr Laurie SantosDr Laurie Santos from The Happiness Lab

We often think positive thinking is the best way to achieve our ambitions - but the science shows it holds us all back. Dr Laurie Santos hears how champion swimmer Michael Phelps imagined the worst to help make his Olympic dreams come true.

Bob Bowman’s book

Kristin Beck | Wikipedia

Gabriele Oettingen’s website

Dr. Santos mentions Norman Vincent Peale and his book The Power of Positive Thinking (1952) as one of the earliest in this space. I might suggest that Napoleon Hill’s Think and Grow Rich (1937) was a natural precursor to this and these ideas of visualizing what you want as a means of helping to get it. His work assuredly influenced Peale’s and probably sells as well today.


 It takes what it takes. 

–Bob Bowman, swimming coach of 23-time Olympic medal winning swimmer Michael Phelps


On planning:

Hope is not a course of action.

–Kristin Beck, Senior chief petty officer, United States Navy SEAL, ret.


Gabriele Oettingen’s work and the Woop concept  (Wish, Outcome, Obstacle, Plan) sound interesting. Perhaps worth reading some of her work: 

Oettingen, G. (2015). Rethinking positive thinking: Inside the new science of motivation. Current.

“You name the goal, and research shows that positive thinking makes it less likely you’ll reach it.”

Oettingen, G., & Mayer, D. (2002). The motivating function of thinking about the future: Expectations versus fantasies. Journal of personality and social psychology, 83(5), 1198

Oettingen, G., & Wadden, T. A. (1991). Expectation, fantasy, and weight loss: Is the impact of positive thinking always positive?. Cognitive Therapy and Research, 15(2), 167-175

Oettingen, G., Mayer, D., & Portnow, S. (2016). Pleasure now, pain later: Positive fantasies about the future predict symptoms of depression. Psychological Science, 27(3), 345-353.

“It’s a strategy Gabrielle calls “mental contrasting.”

Oettingen, G., Mayer, D., Timur Sevincer, A., Stephens, E. J., Pak, H. J., & Hagenah, M. (2009). Mental contrasting and goal commitment: The mediating role of energization. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 35(5), 608-622.

“In addition to simulating the obstacles, Gabrielle also recommends taking time to imagine— very intentionally— what it would feel like to implement our plan whenever the obstacle comes up.”

Oettingen, G., & Gollwitzer, P. (2010). Strategies of setting and implementing goals: Mental contrasting and implementation intentions (pp. 114-135).

Some of the ideas behind the WOOP concept remind me of some tangential sounding philosophy and framing that Matt Maldre wrote about in his recent posts about New Year’s resolutions. [1] [2]

WOOP also seems tangential to some areas of memory research as the visualization can tend to create “false” memories that one can look back on as experience when moving toward a particular goal. I often found that in my diving practices in college I did significantly better on new dives when I visualized them or practiced them in my mind several days and even the night before practices.

Replied to Do you keep a diary? Or a life log? by Matt Maldre (Spudart)
Do you keep a daily diary? I have a couple questions for you: Length: Do you keep it really short? Or do you write longer form? Medium: Where do you write it? In a physical notebook? Or maybe online in a blog? Maybe some sort of software, or Google Drive. The short diary in a …
I keep the sort of diary/commonplace book you’re talking about. Generally it lives in two places. The biggest portion lives on my website where I can generally quickly bookmark almost everything I read, listen to, watch, annotate, reply to, or deal with online in some fashion. Not all of my posts there are public, but they’re archived there privately for search. 

My secondary backup is on OneNote (I’d used Evernote in the past and I find them roughly similar), where I’ll tend to keep some personal daily to do lists (not too dissimilar from a digital bullet journal) and other private things that are easier to keep there than on my own website.

I like that both OneNote and my website are available on almost all the platforms I regularly use, so they’re always accessible to me.

Read 6 tips for low-cost academic blogging by Matt Might (matt.might.net)

The secret to low-cost academic blogging is to make blogging a natural byproduct of all the things that academics already do.

  • Doing an interesting lecture? Put your lecture notes in a blog post.
  • Writing a detailed email reply? "Reply to public" with a blog post.
  • Answering the same question a second time? Put it in a blog post.
  • Writing interesting code? Comment a snippet into a post.
  • Doing something geeky at home? Blog about what you learned.