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Movement Space

I was reading an interesting article by Malinda Markham exploring the possible influence of Chinese/Japanese writing on the development of 20th century American poetry in Kyoto Journal (54), when this caught my eye:

In her article she refers to Inoue Mitsuo’s Space in Japanese Architecture regarding architecture during Japan’s feudal period (1573 -1868) * the most Japanese in history* in which Chinese influences were “abandoned or significantly altered”

In any case she goes on to explain that:

..the main result was a shift in how space was viewed. Instead of seeing space as a geometric, architects gradually developed what (Inoue called) “movement space,” space described in terms of its “irregularity” and “indeterminacy”. If geometric space, seen from above, can be traced onto a grid, movement space means little unless one is directly inside of it. Or in other words, geometric space relates to ideas of order (an axis or pole) outside of itself, and movement space relates to what I think of as a highly subjective space-sensitive or time-sensitive ideas of order.

(Inoue uses the example of train maps):

He writes that movement space is like a train map because what is important to the traveler is not the curve or the angle of the track, but the names of the stations and what order they appear. Train maps, he notes, are not even drawn to scale, since what matters most is one’s destination and the stations adjacent to it, as markers.

Working on my plone site feels like engaging in this “movement space.” The key to it all seems to be about understanding *relative location*, i.e between the Zope Management Interface and Plone, customizing the portal skins, navigating the Wikis etc. Working on plone has been a massive conceptual leap for me as a *non-coder* and I am still endeavouring to come up with something that will allow the user to easily “find their destination and the stations adjacent to it.”
Of course the whole open source movement exists in “movement space.” Things are always shifting and evolving, with every “nightly rebuild” but there is (usually) someone around to help you if you get *lost*
Sometimes when I’m in “movement space”, I feel I need to take a snapshot of the scenery as it hurtles by. This is what this blog is all about.

Laundry drying from a Tokyo “danchi” as I hurtle by on a train

autumn rain

Well the torrential autumn rains are here and the howling south east winds are pounding the island. The power is going on and off and the roads are covered with migrating rough-skinned newts
I’ve always liked having a few ‘monotypic’ trees and shrubs around, particularly those native to the curious Metasequoia area of central China – truly a land of living fossils!
High on my list of favorites, (other than the magnificent Metasequoia itself), is the Decaisnea fargesii – the blue bean tree.
My Decaisnea is sporting its first crop of plump, metallic blue pods, each containing an edible sweet, viscous jelly, that encases numerous dark black seeds. I first came upon this botanical marvel, seven years ago, at Vancouver’s Van Dusen Botanical Gardens. Its fallen blue pods had covered the walkway with a sweet slime, reminiscent of the aftermath of an orgy of slugs. I collected a few seeds which I germinated the following spring (after stratification in my refrigerator.)
The seedlings grew quite rapidly and my present Decaisea is really the result of two (or three) of the original seedlings, having grown into each other into a clump about 2.5 metres high.

My Decaisnea fargesii 10/03
Of course the “living fossil” Metasequoia glyptostroboides continues to enchant me. I now have several growing around our place and they seem to be thriving in our temperate, oceanic climate. Perhaps they ‘remember’ having grown here in prehistory, their genetic databanks attuned to a much greater climate range than is presently experienced in the last wild groves, still growing precariously in the isolated valleys of central China. Unusual among conifers, Metasequoia is deciduous. Their soft needles are now turning to a handsome bronze colour, before they are shed completely for the winter.
I came upon this highly picturesque old specimen on the grounds of the Governor-General’s residence in Victoria BC. It must have been magnificent when dense forests of this now relic species covered Western North America. Although critically endangered in the wild, it is fortunate that Metasequoia is common in cultivation, although most of them are from a dangerously small gene pool. I once found a fossilized imprint of some Metasequoia leaves on a small piece of sandstone, behind a baseball field in the (aptly named) town of Fossil, Oregon which dated from the Tertiary period. They were virtually indistinguishable from the leaves of the tree that you see here.

Picturesque Metasequoia, Victoria BC

I love this tree so much that I decided to use it as my ‘portrait’ for my account in my nascent plone site. My regular readers will have been following my travails with plone, but I finally think I have gotten the hang of it (at least enough to start building a working site.) The great thing about plone is that it enables wikis, (actually Zwikis) , which are easy to use, easy to create, little collaborative websites. These will be hang-out places for my permaculture students and other collaborators where we will be able to compare notes and have linked conversations. I’ll link to through this blog and on my menu page. I realize I’m not really a “dot-com” kind of guy and will slowly map everything over to the .org domain.
But to the unitiated little baby ‘plonista’, like yours truly, there seems to be too much to keep up with. Plone is growing by leaps and bounds and there is an endless process of upgrading and discussion. That’s the beauty of open-source. Still, it’s amazing that I could cobble together an interactive, multi-user, collaborative web site at all, *in just a few days.* And I really don’t know anything. Such is the power of plone.
For many of us, keeping up with all there is read on topics we are interested in, has become well nigh impossible. Apparently my sentiments are shared by much of the scientific community. Enter: ‘text mining’ Unlike simple search engines like Google:

Text-mining programs go further, categorizing information, making links between otherwise unconnected documents and providing visual maps (some look like tree branches or spokes on a wheel) to lead users down new pathways that they might not have been aware of. (and) Lower-cost text-mining tools eventually will be offered to ordinary people who want to dig into medical or political issues using public documents. Madan Pandit, an expert in text analysis in Bangalore, India, who runs a Web site called K-Praxis (, has suggested that text mining could help people make sense of voluminous documents that are already on the Web, like the 858-page report on the congressional inquiry into intelligence failures regarding the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Maybe text mining software will make us all more effective activists. The ‘visual maps’ sound extremely intriguing. The idea of being able to plot (visually) the *relationships* between news items might make it all the easier for us to spot the ‘man behind the curtain.’

Peripheral vision

I found this charming old picture in a box of junk, its original provenance long forgotten
It has an aura of lightness and optimism that seems almost archaic now.
The winged sprite, with her impish black mask flitting around a paper Eiffel tower, has doubtlessly long ago disintegrated into dust. The photographer who took the picture, the person who fabricated the cheerful display and the customers (who jauntily dabbed Scent de Paris behind their ears and onto their bosoms) are likewise all (probably) dead.
Were they happy?
Did Scent de Paris infuse them with ‘jouissance’?
Sometimes, when things move forward, they can no longer go back.
A diode works that way. Current can only flow through a diode in one direction. It’s an interesting property of semiconductors. Old style diodes were sometimes called ‘valves’ for that reason.
The human life is like a diode, through which time can only flow in one direction.
Yet we try to achieve our goals. We are a goal obsessed society and are encouraged to stay “goal oriented” and “focussed.” The following of tangents is not encouraged, even though in the greater scheme of things, it is these tangents that can be the key to our survival. Tangent following is a basic mechanism of evolution.
Sometimes the things most worth looking at, just creep in at the side of our gaze. That’s the problem with focus – you miss a lot of interesting stuff.
Night vision is a case in point. In order to see better at night, you have to train your eyes to go crosseyed. In fact there are people who train themselves to develop their night vision to get into a kind of altered state.
Their website contains this reference to The Book of Five Rings, in which:

The Book of Five Rings, Miyamoto Musashi, the legendary swordsman of 16th century Japan, implies that he fought his greatest duels with his eyes crossed, and goes into considerable detail about developing and using this strange ability. He writes somewhat mysteriously about a state he entered while so engaged. He also refers to the two types of sight which he calls Ken and Kan. Ken registers the movements of surface phenomena; it’s the observation of superficial appearance. Kan is the examination of the essence of things, seeing through or into. For Musashi, Ken is seeing with the eyes, Kan is seeing with the mind, a difference paralleling that between style and substance. He gives instructions for developing Kan sight: “It is important to observe both sides without moving the eyes. It is no good trying to learn this kind of thing in great haste. Always be watchful in this manner and under no circumstances alter your point of concentration.”

The nightwalkers say that :

The whole secret to mastering peripheral awareness is keeping one’s visual attention independent from focused vision.

Plone has been in my peripheral awareness for quite some time now, as a way to organize the documentation of my work and to interact with the communites that exist around it. I have been resisting creating an internet accessible archive for years now, mostly because I haven’t found a comfortable platform in which it can exist. I need to disseminate but also to facilitate the creation of an interactive community *all within the context of the site*. I have started building my Plone site, which has vaulted me into a whole new universe of learning. I am taking baby steps towards learning the vicissitudes of Zope and OSX’s ‘terminal’ program and will be uploading my prototype site to a plone-friendly server shortly.

I’ve also been helping take care of an advanced Alzheimer’s patient (my mother-in-law) for a while now, which has got me thinking a lot about memory. While we tend to think of memory as the domain of higher life forms, BBC World recently broadcast an item about the amazing memory of fishes.

According to this report:

Now, fish are regarded as steeped in social intelligence, pursuing Machiavellian strategies of manipulation, punishment and reconciliation, exhibiting stable cultural traditions, and co-operating to inspect predators and catch food.


“fish (are) the most ancient of the major vertebrate groups, giving them “ample time” to evolve complex, adaptable and diverse behaviour patterns that (rival) those of other vertebrates. These developments warrant a re-appraisal of the behavioural flexibility of fishes, and highlight the need for a deeper understanding of the learning processes that underpin the newly recognised behavioural and social sophistication of this taxon.”

Which leads me to wonder:

Maybe we are short-changing *many* other life forms by underestimating their intelligence. While they may have a relatively small number of nodes in their neural nets, the level of connectivity between nodes is probably pretty high. Also with creatures like fish that live in schools or swarms, each individual is a node connected to many other individuals creating a giant component or giant cluster, very quickly. Linked by chemical trails or (in the case of fish) lateral lines, schools of fish can respond en masse (and in an instant), to minor disturbances in the water.

The closest I have ever come to this experience (or rather its human equivalent) was standing in the middle of Tokyo’s Shinjuku Eki (train station) at rush hour. Shinjuku Eki handles 3 million passengers a day. Standing in the midst of a vast corridor seething with humanity, I was dazed by the spectacle but *not a single person bumped into me.*