Park Afternoon

2008 May 24

Yesterday Jessica's mom arrived from Germany. When she got here, it was proper Seattle weather - grey skies and a little bit of rain. However, today was brilliant and warm, so we went to St. Edwards State Park.

We sat in the shade, petted the dogs, played a card game, played some guitar and really enjoyed each other's company.

Sitting around a picnic table

Squirrel Diversity

2008 May 2

I was watching a couple of squirrels playing in a tree outside my window and remembered a comment I had read in the paper about how the common squirrels we see in the Pacific Northwest are not native to this area. They are an aggressive new-comer that has pushed out two other native species. The writer was saying this is bad and that we should not encourage the interlopers.

Ahh, but isn't that evolution in action? Darwinian evolution is the natural course of events and has been going on for millions of years successfully diversifying the bio-system, right? Why should we ineffectually subvert what should be happening?

In addition, it has always been the case that various species have traveled as baggage of other more-mobile species. For example, seeds travel in the guts of birds. Even if the new squirrels in this area arrived as baggage of traveling humans, isn't that is an established mechanism of evolution? Therefore we should let evolution have its course and let the new squirrels take over.


The truth is that we instinctively see this explanation as doubtful. If Darwinian evolution was actually the origin of life, then we would not being living in a diverse eco-system. The aggressive species would long ago have eliminated the weaker species. What we actually observe is an eco-system that was more diverse in the past (as shown by fossils). It is still quite diverse, but is becoming less so (by extinctions).

We know this "naive" line of reasoning regarding evolution (above) was wrong. It is desirable to preserve existing species because we don't see Darwinian evolution producing new ones like the old ones. Evolution's explanation for the origin of the diversity of life seems incorrect.

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Cognitive Surplus & Sharing of Creativity

2008 Apr 26

So I have my website (that your are reading) with stuff from my life on it. Others have Facebook pages or they make videos and put them on YouTube.

Where does all this stuff come from? According to this interesting article Gin, Television, and Social Surplus (a speech by Clay Shirky), it comes from a cognitive surplus in society. The interesting thing is that he says that there have been other civic surpluses. Initially society didn't know what to do with them and for a time wasted them. But then people found out how to put these surpluses to good use for everybody.

With the Internet, there is the capability to use excess cognitive energy to benefit a wide swath of people. People create media and literature to share. Because the Internet collapses distances, there are more opportunities to discuss common interests with other people. Projects such as Wikipedia and MIT OpenCourseWare provide aggregated human knowledge at no cost to the user.

Early in my life, I could only participate in consumption of mass media. Now we all

"just assume that media includes consuming, producing and sharing".

I like that idea better.

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April Snows

2008 Apr 18

This April is very crazy!

Last Saturday was an exceptionally warm day. Today was an exceptionally wintery day! We had frozen precipitation most of the day. This is the view in front of our house.

Snowy on grass and road