Monday, June 1, 2015

Ladybirds, and 'The Shallows'

The ladybirds are still hard at work on the aphids in our garden. They really are bug-eating machines. There's a visible difference on all the plants. Dave ordered a second box of ladybirds, and we'll release them when they arrive, probably this afternoon. Hopefully there are enough aphids to go around!

I slept really well last night. I was exhausted. Yesterday was another busy day, beginning with a dog walk to the cemetery (no squirrel death) and then a 2 1/2-hour high school music concert. (Long, but excellent.) Dave still has three more concerts to go this week -- all middle school -- so I'll be making dinner and watching Seinfeld (or reading, or maybe even studying my French) on my own! I'm kind of looking forward to the alone time.

Anyway, yeah, I slept really well and I had some bizarre dreams about Florida. It's interesting that I never dream about New York City, where I lived for ten years. I always dream about Florida. It's still home to me.

I also finished Nicholas Carr's book "The Shallows," about the ways Internet use is rewiring the human brain. It was a little heavy on neurobiology for me, but the ideas are interesting. Basically Carr says the Internet -- with its hyperlinks, flashy pop-ups and cluttered pages -- trains our minds to flit from one thing to another rather than concentrate on a single task or topic for a long period of time. And it's not a matter of forming a short-term habit -- rather it's a retraining, a rewiring going on in our brains.

I'm sure there's some truth to it. I've heard enough people say that they have trouble reading long books or articles these days. I myself notice that I don't concentrate as easily as I used to, and (contrary to appearances!) I don't think I'm even a heavy Web user. But there's also something to be said for the vast knowledge -- or at least the vast collection of facts -- the Internet puts at our fingertips.

I heard a teacher at school say the other day that we no longer need to teach kids things like the capital of Nicaragua, because the Internet makes such facts easily available. Now the emphasis in education should be on finding and  processing information, rather than storing it, she said. I'm not sure I agree with that -- don't thought and imagination arise from collections of facts we store in our heads? How would we write a novel if we didn't know enough to build a plot? But it's one of the changes Carr also discusses -- we shuffle facts in and out through our short-term memory, but less and less is being preserved.

(Addendum: I just realized the ladybird in the picture is not one we released. All ours were two-spots, or orange on black, and this one has many more spots. Interloper!)


  1. I'm torn between the marvel of the internet where much information is readily available and the other side of he coin, not bothering to remember anything because it is all on line.

    And I feel compelled to send this fox link from another English blog which I read.

    Many foxes in many British neighbourhoods.I was hugely amused by this old fox.

    Ms Soup

  2. I love the thought of ordering bugs and adding them to your garden. I just wish there was a ladybug I could get to eat all our snails...

  3. Fascinating about the ladybugs! What is the visible difference in the plants? And that's a really interesting discussion of how our brains are being retired and retrained. I cannot imagine how writers of research heavy books managed in days gone by. They'd have to basically live in libraries whereas I can go to the Internet for any random passing fact. I can spend an hour or more looking up background on a topic that will ultimately yield a single sentence, but at least I'll know that sentence is accurate! If I had to go to a physical stack to find a book or microfiche to contextualuze every such detail I think writing would be a lot less fun. Or would take ten times as long! Does microfiche even still exist?

  4. I need lady bugs. And whatever eats tomato hornworms. And every other garden pest which has just showed up and is threatening to destroy all of my hard work.
    Oh, Steve- my dreams last night were so bad and so filled with horror that I can't even clear my mind. I have no idea where they were set. Didn't look like any place I've ever lived.
    Thank god.

  5. I'm on the computer just about all day. well, not all day but many hours spread out through the day. depends on what my work for the day is and where I'm doing it but the point is, I have no trouble concentrating on a single task for hours! we got our first computer in 1984 (I was 34) so it's not from lack of exposure. maybe I already had good focus. I wonder about kids growing up today though. they seem to have lost a lot of skills like counting change without a machine telling them how much to give back among other things.

  6. The word must have spread, there's and aphid feast in your garden!

  7. What happens when you lock your keys & phone inside your car & the only tool available to you is an old fashioned telephone? I had to think for a bit before I remembered that I could dial information to get AAA's number. Ha!

  8. Our grown-up son was out of school for a number of years and when he returned, he had to re-learn how to concentrate. He has talked to us of exactly what you described. It took awhile, but he is doing much better now. That's one comfort - the brain is re-trainable - but it takes willpower and dedication and practice.

    What a striking photo of "the bud and the bug"!