Thursday, January 11

Human Observers See Snowflakes Machines Can't Detect

From today's N.Y. Times Weather Report:

"FOCUS: FIRST SNOW SIGHTING Snowflakes were observed for the first time this winter at the official observation site in New York City's Central Park. This is the latest occurrence on record there for the season's first snow.... While an automated system is now responsible for most of the weather data at Central Park, human observers can augment the observations. Yesterday's snow was apparently too light to be detected by the automated system, but the human observers saw it."

The picture above is not of Central Park but rather my front yard on Tuesday, where even a robot would have been able to sense the snowfall.

I mourn the passing of Cosmo Dogood's Urban Almanac, a day by day calendar and almanac filled with observations of nature at all seasons in the city and decorated with apt quotations and pictures. The Almanac, modeled on the Old Farmer's Almanac, showed how nature is everywhere, that all you have to do is to look up and out and around you and notice what's going on in the natural world in which even a busy crowded city exists.


Bri said...

Yes. At my meditation retreat we had a "Contemplative Photography" outing and my teacher was discussing the gist of this art("Miksang involve nothing fancy, no special setup, just a visual capture, in the proper state of mind, of everyday's reality.") and I suggested this state of mind is one in which you stop naming things, so nothing seems Ho Hum, or old hat, but always new, no matter where you look. Every street, every creature, every face, every tree, is always new in this state of mind. It's a nice way to be in the world.

zack said...

It just means we need to build better machines.

I'm kidding! Kidding. But for real, Bri's comment seems to include the machine as artist: the machine doesn't assign names, a machine would never think that anything was "ho-hum", every net-load of bits and bytes of information is new information to the machine. At least, that's how I printout it all.

I am about to have to type in an eight-digit code for this comment to be posted, rather than rejected--by the machine--as spam. eight single characters with the power to faithfully discern the human mind from the autobot. I think I just might type t. s. elliot poetry into this word verification blank for the next few hours, to see if it realizes that there is no way I can be a machine.

Jane L. Hyde said...

Both the machine and the human are good, are useful, can be symbiotic, but Bri's camera is the human consciousness, which however comparsble to the machine in complexity of invention has also that which except in science-fiction the machine does not -- emotion, consciousness of perception, what we might call "soul".


So, Zack, should I drop the w.v.p.? Just let spam in? I only ever had one or two spams.... Seriously, I'll take your advice.

Wow, the more I reread Bri's account the more I like the idea of Contemplative Photography. And I remember that Bri's photographs have always arisen from the idea of contemp. photog. To "take" pictures like hers, the eye and mind frame one small rectangle of life on earth and give it meaning and interest.