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Nearly a Prosthetic Memory

The subtitle of this journal has been "Nearly a Prosthetic Memory" for a good long time, and since I'm updating my userinfo page, I thought this was as good a time as any to ramble about that, for easy reference from the updated userinfo, and for new readers.

I put pretty much everything in this journal. easalle recently said that while she visits the internet, I live here. That's a pretty fair assessment of the situation. I keep the things I need on here, I spend time with my friends on here, I get my news here, and I do recreational reading here. About the only thing that's missing from that picture is work, food, and exercise -- and while I don't plan to get a gaming console that will let me play DDR cross-country with friends (walking about the neighborhood to and from work and on errands is much more entertaining) I must admit that I do swap recipes with my friends, and if an internet-based job should happen to crop up, I'd have to seriously consider it.

LiveJournal has become my homebase, over the years. Most of my friends, even most of the people I know face-to-face, have LJs now. I've met a goodly percentage of the people I consider close friends over the internet, and I do a lot of interaction in LJ and via IM.

I always get boggled when people make the distinction between "online friends" and "real-life friends," because, for me, that is not where the distinction lies. Would most people call the best friend who lives across the country who they spend an hour or two a week chatting on the phone long-distance with a "phone friend", and the friend they see in person regularly a "real-life friend"? I draw the line between people whose company I would seek out and people whose company I would not seek out, and I consider LiveJournal and other means of internet communication merely a delightful assortment of media to augment face-to-face time, paper letters, and the telephone.

I've been known for my exceptionally sharp memory ever since childhood. I store memories of things many people would consider trivial, and I'm the person at work who gets consulted to look up the meaning or spelling of some obscure word. (Usually I can accomplish this without referring to a dictionary, Google, or any other external reference.) I have a habit of remembering socially vital trivia such as food and beverage preferences, or trigger words or topics that shouldn't be used around certain people. I owe a large part of this to my habit of documenting my days in detail.

I started the habit of keeping a detailed memory of my day ready to be brought back up when I started school, and Mama would ask me about my day. I would tell her not just that the day was good or bad, but all about it, in the sort of exhaustive detail that only a small and dedicated child can muster. Thanks to an overactive drama gland, I started a journal the day the first Gulf War began, in the hopes that it would be valuable to my supposed offspring. That journal was originally in a tiny blue memo binder, written in violently pink felt-tipped pen. (I had won the pen at a choir raffle the previous year.) After filling that binder, I went on to fill many other paper volumes of journal, and finally started this LiveJournal on May 2nd, 2001 because my friend godai and my best friend's high school best friend neodragonstar were both on LJ (though in Dennis's case, under a previous journal name). I had just suffered the shock and insult of having the current volume of my journal, complete with the current set of memories-set-to-paper, vanish into thin air, thus losing the prompts to recall all the things that my brain hadn't saved adequately. I was determined that this should never happen to me again.

The observant or nosy will note that the number of public entries on any given day rarely matches up to the number of entries on the calendar, often by a very significant amount. This is because I post all sorts of random snatches of my day on private. I will often wind up putting things that I know I'll need later in chat logs, in random posts, in e-mails archived, most of them carefully backdated to not only the correct date, but the correct time of day so that it makes sense in the context of the rest of my posts.


When Simon Illyan's memory chip failed him, and he was left without the ability to remember his day-to-day activities, Countess Vorkosigan eventually swept in to save his day through technological means. "It's nearly a prosthetic memory!" a delighted Illyan exclaimed of his audio-note filer. Through the magic of LiveJournal and Google, and by re-reading the old entries and revisiting the memories and leaving comments with further information and commentary on my original entries, I have begun to convert this journal from a mere journal into a (necessarily incomplete) log of my life, perhaps not complete enough to re-construct my mind in a cloned child a la Ariane Emory II, but complete enough for me to remember myself, myselves, where body-memory is insufficient to fill in the holes on its own.
Gone away, gone ahead,
Echoes roll unanswered.
Empty, open, dusty, dead.
Why have all the Weyrfolk fled?

Where have dragons gone together
Leaving weyrs to wind and weather,
Setting herdbeasts free of tether;
Gone, our safeguards, gone, but whither?

Have they flown to some new weyr
Where cruel Threads some others fear?
Are they worlds away from here?
Why, oh why the empty weyr?

-- "The Question Song", Anne McCaffrey
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