Friday, July 14, 2006

Hens and Chicks

The picture is a clump of Hens and Chicks growing in the wall by my front door. I've got Hens and chicks growing in dry stonewalls in my garden and the colonies started with a couple of tiny plants haphazardly planted in the rough stone near my little house. The botanical name for them is Sempervivum which means always living. What prompted me to take the photograph was the the rosette going into flower. Sempervium are hardy alpine plants; my careless gardening technique is evidence indeed that they are hardy. The plants are monocarpic, meaning the rosette that sends up a flower stalk will die having completed it's mission, giving lie to the plant's name.

There are so many cultivars and they are so easy, I really should go out of my way to add some cool looking ones to the colonies. There's a good picture of Sempervivum flowers at a page at North Hills Nursery and their collection of cultivars remarkable. I'm rather lazy about being a plant collector, but I encourage the habit in others anticipating gifts from their gardens.

This week my brother-in-law came to visit with two of his grandchildren. I rather like the fact that I'm a great-uncle, but my mind still hasn't wrapped around the idea of grand-nieces and nephews. I remember being a bratty little boy when my brother-in-law was courting my sister, it doesn't seem so long ago. The kids who came to visit are 15 and 13. They remind me that while I have memories of my own teen years, I've forgotten what it's like to be a teenager.

Great fun to watch online activities behind their backs. They love MySpace. I can't figure the place out. I don't think I'm alone in that. I've heard parents complain about their kids and the place and how perplexed they are by MySpace. I didn't learn much by watching them interact with the site and people online, but it sure was fun. It makes me want to check out MySpace a little more and also dozens of other places in the online social networking scene I've been missing. Tonight I downloaded LastFM.

My nephew said he wanted to "pimp my MySpace profile." I sorry now that we didn't get around to that. He said he'd put up a reggae song there. Interesting what that says about the way he imagines me because what kind of music people identify with is extraordinarily important to both my niece and nephew--can't quite manage to say grand. They like emo music. I've often thought what I need is a teenager to guide me through the perplexing online world. But since he left without pimping my profile, I had to explore the the music section on MySpace alone. So cool that there are bands from all over and so many songs to listen to. My friend Pingting who does his illustration work at his computer for long hours sometimes refers to the computer as a "time suck." There is only so much time for attention.

It's been a long time since posting on my blog. I'm out of practice and this post seems awfully hard. There's so much I want to talk about; not posting on my blog doesn't mean I haven't been reading blogs all this time. I've been tuning into all sorts of interesting discussions and of course busy corresponding with my online social network. Parents and more sensible adults than I worry about how Internet rambling cuts into the time for productive activities.

The ever thoughtful Phil Jones in recent posts provides an interesting perspective reframing the subject of productivity. He writes at Platform Wars:
The more effective the internet and the web are at helping us communicate and co-ordinate, the less money will be involved. Because ultimately the economy is a communication network and money is its protocol

The network is not the means to the end of money.

Instead, money and IP are rival protocols in rival networks which are means to the same end : that of articulating human labour to create more wealth for humanity. Money isn't wealth, it's just a kind of signal which can be used to help identify good ideas and channel more resources to them. On the internet we are increasingly finding alternative ways of identifying and signalling what things are worthwhile.
And in a continuing post writes:
Behind all the familiar phrases like "peer production" and "attention economy" and "amateur journalism" is the basic fact : people are being motivated to produce stuff by something other than money.
I have few illusions about how valuable my blog or my other online production are, still they have some "value" but precisely zero monetary value to me. I'm sure my nieces and nephews value their MySpace pages and other online production too.

Like most kids my neice and nephew understand well that money is a communication network. We were going out and the niece wanted to wear the nephew's metal studded belt. "Oh no," he said "I paid thirty dollars for it." I heard arguments about the value of their MySpace pages too: "Why is he your friend and not mine?" The willingness to collaborate on things they were doing on their MySpace pages was prescribed. Both were quick to share "how to" information but loathe to cede any authority on judgments about how the pages should look. Of course the point is to make the pages exactly how they want them.

Most American kids are involved producing stuff to put up on the Internet. People the age of great-uncles less so. We miss something very significant when we imagine Internet use as unproductive. Kids today natively understand the value of Internet production. It's quite a shift in perspective. I've not been very successful in convincing my friends "of a certain age" that participating online is a valuable activity worthy of their attention. As a baby-boomer "the generation gap" was a hot topic in my teens. With the recent visit of my nephew and niece, I'm beginning to see how vast the generation gap is today.

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