Friday, December 26, 2008

Nature abhors a vacuum

Objects floating in water experience buoyancy. Buoyancy is the name of the force opposing a boat's will to sink. When an object is immersed in water, it displaces water. If the weight of the water is more than the weight of the object, the object will be forced upward. This force is buoyancy.

If a wine cork were completely submerged under water, it would float back to the top of the water to a point of equilibrium--between the water and the air. Corks are able, because of their material, to displace their weight in water with just a portion of their volume. The remaining part of the cork stays above the water level. If you added weight to the cork, it would float lower in the water.

Balloons float in the air because of buoyancy. They displace air. If the weight of the air that they are displacing is heavier than the weight of the balloon, the balloon will rise to a level of equilibrium (where the weight of air displaced is EQUAL to the weight of the balloon.)

Some balloons are filled with helium gas. They float because the atoms of helium are lighter than the atoms of air (Nitrogen, Oxygen, Carbon dioxide, etc.). Some balloons are filled with hot air. Hot air molecules move faster and take up more space than cold air molecules (a lighter amount of air can take up the same amount of space as a heavier amount of air) so the hot air balloon is forced upwards.

Hot air balloon beside a helium balloon

With this in mind, I would like to propose...The Vacuum Balloon. This would be a balloon shape filled with helium, no hot-air. The only weight would be the skin of the balloon.

The problem I'm finding is that if the air is pumped out of an object, outside air pressure forces the object to collapse! Any ideas?

Thursday, December 18, 2008


My college Weather ("Atmospheric Environment") teacher used to rave that we are on the verge of a new ice age. Prof. Quinn told us about Milankovitch cycles that predicted we are about a hundred years overdue for a Glacial period.

It hasn't happened, some think, because 'global warming' is combating it. However, heating up the earth might serve to send us into intense climate change--according to Prof. Quinn. Not like "The Day After Tomorrow" would have you thinking, but following the same principles (and much more slowly).
Here's a picture of us out sledding around Spokane on Dec. 18th (record snowfall!).

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Oh my gosh!

There is a workshop with one of my ceramics heros, Beth Cavendish Stichter. I met her and found out about the workshop about 6 months ago. Unfortunately, I was expecting it would cost a lot less. I cannot afford the $800 to go. SIGH.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Tea Names

A few years ago Amanda and I compiled a list of catchy names for exotic tea blends on our refrigerator. It's tea weather outside so with no further ado...







Aargh-Me-May-Tea (for pirates)






Gus-tea (cures flatulence)







Reali-tea (bring you back down to earth)




Naked Singulari-tea

Reverse Polari-tea

Populari-tea vs Ignomini-tea




Truss-tea (just a truth serum)



Humpty Dump-tea

Nas-tea (it's GOOD for you)



Go-tea (grows hair on your chin)



2-tea Fru-tea

Saul-tea (salt-water brewed tea)












Ameabili-tea (tea brewed with vodka instead of water)


Get Dir-tea

Be Flir-tea




Kinda Feis-tea

Self Pit-tea

Jimmy Duran-tea (helps dexteri-tea)

High Quali-tea

Sitting Prit-tea

Byoo-tea or Be-you-tea*


Horn of Plen-tea

Down and Dir-tea



Shades of Hypocri-tea

Tone-up-your-uterus Tea







Happy Brewing.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Christ is Love

Memes are units of culture passed on from one person to the other. They are symbols, rules, ways of acting that make us who we are. Memes are the software that works on our human hardware. Example: kids will mimic behavior that strikes them as funny or interesting. This is the passing of a meme.

Sometimes memes are of a scope much larger than any one person could convey. Religions are a form of meme that has outgrown the individual. Since its inception, Christianity has been adapted and changed to maintain itself in the human consciousness (as have all other successful religions). It's current inception holds this basic belief worldwide: Christ is Love. Not the romantic kind, or just between friends, where the mutual benefits are obvious. This love transcends differences, and is between yourself and others whom you may or may not know.

I am not a big fan of the old testament as a way in which to live your life, nor much into prophecy. But the idea of 'love' overcoming all boundaries has practical applications in the modern world.


Tuesday, October 28, 2008

On the Properties of Breakfast Cereal

Breakfast cereal was one of my childhood cornerstones.  I was raised on raisin bran!  Sprinkled spoonsful of sugar on my frosted flakes.  My brother and I ate chex like it was going out of style.  Cereal was our meal of choice watching cartoons on Saturday morning.  We ate tons of the stuff just to get to the toy prize at the bottom of the box. 

So I consider myself an aficionado when it comes to the qualities that make a good cereal experience.  One element that remains key to thoroughly enjoying a bowl of cereal is minimizing the splash.  That moment after you've chosen your bowl and spoon, poured the right amount of cereal to just  match the three-serving picture on the box, and gotten out the milk.  Suddenly a feeling of trepidation;  is the milk going to splash out of the bowl?  

Here's a quick ranking of cereals from greatest splash factor to least:
Corn Flakes (or any flake cereals), Frosted Mini Wheats (or Life), Raisin Bran, Cookie Crisp, Honeycomb, Lucky Charms (I swear it's because of the marshmallows), Kix, Cheerios, Rice Crispies (or , Grape Nuts), and finally Chex (surprisingly).

My research (and the frequent presence of near-empty boxes of cereal) led me to blending my cereal mixes.  During commercial breaks on Saturday morning I would race to the kitchen.  Generally I would blend various cereals for their texture (making sure not to put floating cereals like Cheerios or Kix at the bottom of the bowl--of course) layer upon layer, and finish with a non-splashing cereal like Kix or Chex.  (NOTE:  Rice Crispies at the top tended to get everywhere, and meant I couldn't fit as large a quantity of cereal.)

Here are a few of the most intriguing cereal combinations:
TOP:            Corn Chex  
MIDDLE:    Rice Crispies
BOTTOM:   Frosted Mini Wheats

TOP:            Honey Nut Cheerios
MIDDLE:    Raisin Bran (too splashy to be on top!)
BOTTOM:   Grape Nuts

T+M+B:   Quaker "Crunchy" Corn Bran   (It's actually my favorite)

Least Favorites:  
#3 Cap'n Crunch (because it shreds the inside of my mouth!)
#2 Life Cereal (i.e. sweetened wood shavings) followed by 
#1 The the worst cereal experience is pouring out the last of a box of cheerios and getting a large mass of crushed+powdered cheerios on top of your happiness.  

...but I digress.... since it seems I am not the only person who knows about mixing breakfast cereal.  Instead I propose a challenge. The Splash is a function of height, surface tension of the milk, and cereal shape. There must be a use for such exhaustive research on cereal Splash!  Somebody here had better come up with a good application. Discuss.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Each year I end up working on a project that embraces the feeling of Halloween. 

In college I started work on a clay sculpture of a gargoyle that was essentially me channeling this horror show I watched on TV when I was a kid:  The Gargoyles (1972).  The plot synopsis calls it: "A horror tale involving an anthropologist researching his book on demonology with his photographer daughter in a bizarre adventure that has a group of gargoyles, descendants of a monster whose skeleton the two have stumbled on, menacing the pair in order to retrieve the bones of their ancestor."  It scared me [lots]!

I made the hideous clay gargoyle friendly looking and called it Elgin.  Up to last year he sat on the porch of our house.  Then he got stolen!  (The sincerest form of flattery for an artist, right?)

So this year I decided to make another gargoylesque thing out of rolled newspaper tubes and tape.  I call it a "skink".  
Watches Amanda gather leaves.

He's a little camera shy.  

Monday, September 29, 2008

Family Website

I'd like to make a website that looks something like the following:

I. Home Page--This would be a welcome page, showing an overview of the website without giving away too much personal information--just news highlights and whatever's been updated on the website.

II. Login Page--Really secure website. You've got to type your info to get any further. Once in, you are allowed to make changes to the website...add your News, add what you know about a person, post pictures, etc. (Probably have the person's name recorded with the changes they made and the time of the changes--and as webmaster be able to roll back to see a previous entry that got erased--tactfulness, and what have you).
III. News--this page would have a Calendar, allow people to post changes to the calendar, and have a Forum to post messages about what's going on with each branch of the family.

IV. Genealogy--I really like the Visual Thesaurus (go here and click 'Look it Up') and would like to see a family tree program like it.   The genealogy page would look like this

excepting that
A. The dot's would represent Unions (marriage) out of which come Children
B. The boxes on the right would show biographical information about whoever you click on.
C. The color of the connecting lines would represent the relationship (parent-child, sibling, married, divorced, etc.)
D. You could add to the tree (just a click and type away), or you could add stuff to the biographical info.
E. Here's what the biographical info would entail:
1. Name, Birthdate, Date of Death, Place of Birth, Place of Death, all that stuff
2. Medical concerns
3. Biographical synopsis of their life
4. Photos, newspaper articles, map of travels
5. List of parents and children, friends, other relationships outside the family
6. Interests and activities
7. Anecdotes from people who knew the biograph-ee

V. Who's Who--this would be an alphabetized phone list, with links to the biographical info above, and give internet presence info too. There would be a section for friends of the family.

VI. Writings--anecdotes written by family members about things like: "How we met", "Growing up with Grandma and Grandpa for parents", "Heirlooms". There would be a different forum started every couple of months.

VII. A timeline with a map--you scroll over the timeline and dots appear on the map (with comments beneath), representing where members of the family are at that time--it could even have search criteria, so you could look at one person, or one branch of the family at a time.

Anyway, that's what I'd like to see.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Yikes! Bikes!

I live in Spokane, WA. At beginning of summer I bought a commuter bike from Pedal-2-People, a non-profit organization geared towards bicycle education and ridership. It's great! (So is P2P!) Since summer started I've biked to work at least 40 times, so that's about 160 miles...about 6 gallons of gas. Oh well. It will add up eventually.

One of the issues with riding a bike is knowing the rules of the road. Today I decided to look them up online. Turns out there are laws governing bikes!

Of equal importance, there is etiquette to riding with traffic, and that's what I'm most interested in with this post. Here's my contribution: "Behavior on the Road". Please feel free to add your bit as a comment.

1. Bikes are a fact of life. For drivers: don't tailgate, they are granted the same rights AND responsibilities under the law (end of story).

2. Be aware that the public opinion of bicycles is newly forming. Anything you do that isn't "Same Rights, Same Rules, Same Road" really undermines that message. Therefore, do STOP at stop signs. Signal at intersections. Don't let cars push you around. Be aware of your less-visible/more-likely-to-get-splattered status and think about the obstacles ahead that might push you out into traffic.

3. Don't be a jerk. In fact, say Hi when you see a fellow biker. You're both in the same situation.

4. Passing--Keep right except to pass or to turn left. And when turning, use your hand signal.

5. Oh yeah, if you're thinking of parking on a bike lane, PLEASE DON'T!

I know I'm running on here, but on a side-note it's pretty cool that cyclers are required to wear helmets. It encourages the question "Why" to which I would answer: out of consideration for others who will have to clean up the mess if you crash.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Quality Programming

As we get older, do we become less impressionable?

Recent exploration of TV programs shows a new line of Reality Television, teams of people (professionals) working together to some goal. I've recently seen "Design Challenge", "Project Runway", "Shear Genius". In these shows are strangely familiar characters in different circumstances. The entertainment factor for me comes from watching these different people cope with the group dynamics, and in being able to predict who won't get through to the next round. In fact, I'm getting pretty good at predicting.

Perhaps the reason for the popularity of reality television is that lingering childhood "need"* to learn behavior by observation.


(*need = latent instinct for it ever entirely surpressed?)

Thursday, September 4, 2008

In passing

Amanda and I are moving to a new apartment. I haven't been posting but have many ideas. More to come.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Musical Robot

Dear Blog,
I had a funny idea today, and I am going to tell you all about it.
Actually, it isn't really developed, buut it is a funny notion...
I thought it would be cool to have a robot that listened to, or watched people cross a room,
and that only had the ability to interact by playing the elevator music faster or slower.
I'm not entirely sure what the machine's purpose would be, but it's actually sounding a little creepy.
Maybe it's not such a good idea after all.
All the same, I'm probably not the ONLY one who thought of it.
Anyway, gotta go.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Tribes:"Jacks-of-all-trades" :: Villiages:Specialization

As people settled themselves in an area and started agriculture there were surpluses (leading to trade, and eventually specialization). Everyone does their own thing and earns their achieve meals, shelter, transportation (the basic needs).
At least this is what I thought when I was a kid.

It turns out, we are so good at meeting our own basic needs, a few people can provide for many.

The remaining people who aren't providing a service still need to work, right? I mean, what good would it be if they didn't work and still got everything they needed? (What fun would that be for the working people?) Enter "The American Dream" and Advertising.

The American Dream is a cultural carrot, encouraging us to work in order to get "stuff" (as listed in the American Dream brochure). It makes use of advertising to show people what's out there and how much enjoyment they will have if they just buy the "stuff" with their money. (Money = work).
A lot of people buy into the idea of the American Dream. (I shall dub them the Hamsters, doing a lot of work but accomplishing little)

However, a lot of people don't buy into the idea. They think..Hey, my basic needs are easy to meet. There's plenty all around me. I don't think I'll work. The unfortunate side effect is as follows:
Socially, the Providers and the Hamsters, who would rather be lounging around too, decide to ostracize the non-workers...labeling them "bums" or "vagrants" because they choose not to work.
Also, the health benefits of being active and thinking highly about yourself are plentiful. However, being called a "bum" and not having anything to do physically just sucks.
Then there's the "stuff". You can tell a "bum" by their lack of house, no health care (which in this country is a luxury), no closets full of clothing. Basically, if you choose to live without working, the only stuff you get is what you can carry with you. People don't invite you into their homes to share their stuff with you...showers, televisions, music. Homeless-->Socially outcast-->Not really nice to be around. If you've chosen the life of a 'bum' then a large portion of society will make it hard to make the return trip.

But they don't need to be working for our society to survive. Do they? So why is there such venom against the homeless?
Anyhow, I'm attempting to answer the question for myself here. Feel free to chime in.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Early Morning Mental Meander

A = 103, B = 109, C=1027, D=102, E=3, F=4, G=8, H=3, I=5, J=???, K=???, L=11, M=106, N=1, O=1, P=1018, Q=1015, R=3, S=6, T=2, U=4, V=5, W=2, X=6, Y=20, Z=???

I woke up and this popped into my head. Two questions:

First, what is the rule?

Second, what are the missing values?

Hint: I excluded the number 0 because, well, it doesn't really count.

First one with the answer gets a star named after him/her.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Another BLAH!

My brain is flying around like a witch on a broom.
How do you keep your focus?
What sort of things can you think to do that
IRON out your brains creases
direct the jets of wind into a thrust
and not lose your momentum--
I admire your ability to do this and cannot
for the life of me--
maintain that pinpoint accuracy that
reads the groove of the
record called my life

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Anger--for better or worse?

I have long held my anger as a part of myself--something that defines me.  In recent times I have found it useful to put aside anger, allowing me a broader ability to accept the world with less clouded a view.  However, I feel like my resolve is crumbling without it.  Where is that inner drive to fight injustice in the world?  How do I protect that innocence inside me if I don't shell it in forceful resolve?  And YES it's worth protecting.  Everyone should have it.  

So how do you separate the "good anger" towards injustice and stupid things you put yourself through from the "bad anger" that threatens to grow into a consuming force of its own?

Monday, July 14, 2008


Just got back from wikipedia. I was trying to answer a question one friend asked: what is the stage of development after chrysalis. Of course it's butterfly, but is there a standard biological term, we wondered?

The answer is imago. Imago is synonymous with the adult (sexually mature, winged) stage of development not just in butterflies, but in all Holometabola (Endopterygota), insects that undergo Holometabolism (metamorphosis).

These include: beetles, flies, lacewings, fleas, caddisflies, mosquitos, ants, bees, and of course butterflies. There are more, but you can just go to the link for a complete list.

So it's embryo (egg), larvae (caterpillar), pupa (chrysalis), and imago (adult).

Incidentally, the plural of imago is imagines.
Also, the pupa stage of a mosquito is called a 'tumbler', FYI.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008


A game to kill time and turn your grey matter soupy:

Start with the name of a country.
Merge it with the name of an animal.

or alternately...

Start with the name of an animal
Merge it with the name of a country.

For example:



(both of which are already in use on the internet)

...and Uz-gecko-stan

(which, incidently, is entirely new to the blogosphere!)


Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Teaching Methodology

"I know the subject matter and I can convey it to children." This is all that the hiring people want to hear.

Why would a class full of 3rd graders want to do what I say they should do?

How do you build that trust?

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Yee Haw

It has been a good couple of days.  I have been with friends and riding that wave of perpetual awareness of what I should be doing... you all know what I'm talking about.

If you feel like you're in the right place at the right time
Or if you have the option to do something, and you take it,
Or if you decide not to get on that airplane and it plummets out of the sky in a fiery blaze,
Or if you're walking through a crowd and you just feel right, and every move you make puts you in contact with another friend,
Or if you have the inkling to visit the childhood house of your friend (whom you haven't even thought about for a few months) and she happens to be visiting her folks for three hours before heading back to college (in another state).

What do you call these moments of 'synchronicity' in which everything is propelled along nicely, like you're surfing a wave of euphoria?  

I have it when I feel like I did something for someone else... and I like it. 

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

How to originate a "new" idea: Synthesizing Bruno's Mnemonics with Hegel's Dialectic Method

I've been reading various articles online to try and better understand what's been said in this book I'm reading.

The author painted an image, firstly, of Giordani Bruno (an italian philosopher from the 1500's). Bruno developed a mnemonic device to help him remember things. Good so far. The trick was to visualize a wheel. You simply think of the thing you want to memorize, affix it to your mental wheel, and leave it there. Then when you want to remember the thing (be it a name, factoid, date, or whatever) you could mentally rotate the wheel and...voila!

And here I'll stop until I re-read that section...

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Surprise! A Splotchy Web Virus

Unexpectedly, today I was given a virus unlike any I have experienced. I am obligated to contribute to a story and then pass it to someone else. All thanks to Splotchy who engineered the virus in a lab somewhere. Here's how it goes...

The story:

I had been shuffling around the house for a few hours and already felt tired. The doorbell rang. I opened the front door and saw a figure striding away from the house, quickly and purposefully. I looked down and saw a bulky envelope. I picked it up. The handwriting was smudged and cramped, and I could only make out a few words.
"Interesting", I thought to myself, "I don't know anybody named Ted Kaczynski." Unless it's going to clear this damn sinus infection in my head, I'll have to open it later.I set it on the kitchen table, and prepared my tincture of herbal tea remedies.
As I watched the lengthy glossop of honey slather into my tea I heard a rustling noise behind me. Having spent my childhood in a rotating house (due to some awkward foundations) I am quite adept at craning my neck and utilised this skill in the current situation, looking behind myself like a six-foot-tall owl.
The envelope - so stationary seconds before - had started to move, an event that I found somewhat odd, given that I was four days away from celebrating a year of sobriety. I picked up the nearest implement of swatting size without thinking, and slowly approached the bubble-wrapped delivery.The envelope continued to shuffle and shake as I stood poised with the potato masher held in readiness over my head. A small bead of sweat edged down my temple, hitting the floor at the same time as a lump of congealed potato from my weapon. There was a tearing sound, and I froze, unable to move, as a disembodied hand broke through my mysterious delivery. I blinked, and the thumb and forefinger of the hand formed a mouth.
"Hey, dude, what's up?" The Hand/Mouth said. I just stared, perplexed and terrified. "You got any grub? I'm starving!"
At this point, my fear got the better of me and I swung the potato masher down fiercely, knocking the hand/mouth (still partially in the packaging) off the counter and onto the floor. Screaming at the top of my lungs, I ran to the kitchen stool and stood on top of it, still grasping the potato masher with white-knuckled terror.
"Not cool, man," said the thing.
I stood transfixed in horror. The hand now started to inch across the floor towards my stool.
Ring, ring! On the wall across the kitchen the telephone began to ring, breaking me free from the icy grip of fear.

I had been in the middle of moving into a new home, in a fairly clean neighborhood. Kids on bikes, 2 cars in every garage. This hand was not something I had expected to be dealing with.

Ring! The phone rang again.
Cautiously, I climbed onto the counter, stepping over boxes and the empty sink to answer. "Hello?" I shouted into the receiver, intently aware of the scrabbling fingers below me.

"Mr. Newman, I have a proposition to make."

Thanks for passing it this way, Jillian!
On to you, Herbal-Amanda!

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Our humble abode

This apartment reminds me of living in a collapsed star. Everything overlaps.
The [living room/computer room/bedroom/laundry drying room]is cluttered with shoes and maps.

I am bigger than the kitchen which is a stove, sink, and refrigerator stuffed into one cubby. Around the corner is a fold-up wall-table like our friend Caitlyn's, stools, a washing machine/extractor, shoe cubby/dresser, closet, spots-for-the-dishes (I'm sooo grateful for the dishes!), pantry, and appliances.

The bathroom really minimizes on space as well, with pull-out drying racks on the side of the sink, and a sitting shower/bath. The drying rack resides here when not in use.

On arriving we realized our European electrical converter wouldn't work, and the stores didn't have a French adaptor, so we improvised. Now our cameras and phones can recharge, although Amanda's phone still can't find a signal.

Amazingly enough, none of this really matters because we're having a great time.
Lots of love to all you readers.--Sean

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

James Ensor--Still is Belgium's Famous Painter

We went to the Musee D'Orsay today and while there stumbled upon this remarkable find.
It's James Ensor's "The Lady in Distress".

What? You don't know about James Ensor? Here's a little about the artist: James Ensor was most famously an early expressionist(ic) painter from the late 1800's. He produced his most successful work s up until his 40's and declined in vivacity from there. (Is that just the way of it?) Largely this is because he'd already become famous, and he decided to move into making music. His new work was kind of a softened repetition of earlier works, with a few goodies here and there. Musically, he was gifted at improvising on the "harmonium" and performed for guests. (If you trust Wikipedia).

Some of James Ensor's works can be found here, on this Danish website, and if you're not totally impressed by this, "Meet James Ensor" kind of puts things into perspective.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Dream about Mapping the 10th Dimension

A "bad guy" was looking for someone to take over the mapping of the 10th dimension project (using a big computer) and found a British man who aparently had no credentials... a janitor of sorts. However, you and I know him as Dr. Who, the hero of our story. He, unfortunately, does not realize his own importance and goes to work for this fellow.

In working, the Dr. produces several artistic chaotic renderings and a diagram of a city. The bad guy asks how he did these so quickly (quicker, his cronies say, than any other computer tech so far), to which the Dr. explains it just came naturally. He did it entirely without the computer, which is still broken.

The bad guy looks at the papers as imaginary rubbish. [I assume the bad guy will throw him out, only to discover the true worth of the drawings later, but we'll never know, will we? 'Cause I woke up!]

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

"Bon soir" --good evening

First evening in Paris, I'm feeling slightly discombobulated. The streets aren't straight, and we got quite lost on the way to the apartment *home* this evening.

First impressions of Parisians-- there was graffiti everywhere on the train ride into the city (like it's not controlled much).

Parents are very allowing of children to be outspoken--the light in babies faces is very different from USA babies-- parents allow the kids to be more determined--it's very hard to describe this difference.

There are many subtle language differences as well but I don't have command of the language so I digress. It seems to express similar ideas to our language but it does so in a way that is unique to being French.

I love it here.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Digestible chunks of reality

Buzz Zap!!! We were talking about robots after being inspired by this video on you-tube. It shows a robot able to cover a variety of terrains without falling over. Wow!

Being nerdy, we all had our input into the conversation. Here are a few of the things I took from us talking:

--memory and learning are simpler than you might think--Rosenfield uses a constructivist approach to explain how memory is built. His take is that memory is made up of the connections between neurons (rather than just being a retrieval system) and is therefore constantly being created by simultaneous stimuli that create a unique pathway in your brain.

--actually the other way of dealing with learning robots makes sense too. We have instincts which are 'hard-wired' into our mind--like little subroutines that can be 'called' when they're needed

--Lego robots--modular electronic components fused with legos, that could be built lego-style into a circuit--would be pretty cool. Kids could learn how to build working robots, people could make robots based on the need of the day

This morning I was thinking back on all of this and realized that going from simultaneous stimuli like Rosenfield talks about to actual stimulus & response behavior --it's all about the coding. How can you take impressions of the big world and make them digestible for a computer brain to decide what actions to take? What is the streamline-iest way to make a robot learn? Could we make a rubber-band powered robot?

Nerdy nerdy nerdy

As for making the big world digestible, I think the next big wave is going to skip reading research articles and just reading reviews of these articles, because there's too much to go through. That's what I'm doing for now anyway.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Just a Quick Update

Blah blah blah...I've re-read my recent posts and it's way too dry. Not a lot of vivaciousness to be sure, dear reader.

Here's an update about why I haven't been posting lately. I'm doing too much!

1) I learned to bake for Bouzies Bakery and covered for Thomas who was in France for 3 weeks

2) We're re-painting the house in expectation of Kathy's birthday extravaganza

3) I'm also delivery driving for the bakery

4) and applying for teaching jobs for this fall

5) and volunteering on Mondays, tutoring on Tuesdays, and whenever possible working with my dad on the weekends

It's enough to wear me out!

All that aside, my wife Amanda and I are going to FRANCE for too weeks! (After all this house-fixing is over we're renting an apartment near the Arch du Triomph and practicing our French. Amanda's Blog is more loquacious about this adventure.)

So kind reader, I hitherforth will try to write stuff that has more vim to it, for your sake.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Illness = Creativity ?

One day I went into the art studio sick, and thus worked in an altered state throughout the day. A few days later I saw the art I had made and thought --hey that is really cool! I've since wondered if being sick had something to do with being creative.

10 minutes browsing only found two other people who think the same thing, here and here. But then I finally found some research on the subject.

In his journal article When Walls Become Doorways: Creativity, Chaos Theory, and Physical Illness, Tobi Zausner addresses the idea of the connection between illness and creativity by researching the lives of 21 visual artists. The artists fell into four categories:
"The artists studied clustered into four patterns. First, a
period of illness preceded choice of a career in art.
Second, illness transformed the creative process and
the art produced. Third, for some artists, illness became
life's focus, with negative consequences to the artists
and their art. Fourth, artists who remained creative
during an incapacitating or terminal illness produced
work in an entirely new medium."

Because the sample size in this study is only 21 people, Zausner concludes that the study is preliminary to actual research about creativity and illness.

Although the idea of creativity when you're sick is counter-intuitive, I thought of a mechanism for the correspondence: being sick activates your immune system, a great heaving part of which is your you use more of the entirety of your noggin when you're sick. Plus, if you're resting to get well, that's a lot of unused energy looking for ways to get out.

So, if you're sick today, rest up, drink lots of fluids, and play around with a new art medium. You never know what good may come of it.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Style Track

Each year a photo is taken of the high-school graduating class, and you can see the current trends in hairstyle and clothing. Ten years pass, and there is usually a reunion photo, showing the updated styles.

What gets me is when the classmates with similar hairstyles, although separated by distance, will often end up with the same hairstyle.

I suppose this could be just the overwhelming pressure of mass media, targeting a frequency I don't perceive, that affects graduates of the same age.

Pop Culture pushes our perceptions here and there, but we are the ones that make the ultimate choice as to our appearance. Or are we? Is there something even more sinister, an unknown force that already has us in its grip? ...A demonic waste-product of Popular Culture that has infiltrated our decision making processes. I call this the "style track".

If you meet up with someone from your generation, and you see the similarity, run! Fight! Flee! Change! Dig deep!

Sunday, February 24, 2008


This concept has been bothering me for a while--I'd like to know what you who read this think.

A lot of value has been placed on material goods--things we're used to having to pay for [like cheese, furniture, and marble countertops]--
while many services have a fee associated with them [electricity, massage, dentistry, and taxi rides]--
In practice, once someone decides to start charging for something, it's value is determined by the invisible hand of economics--supply and demand.

However, there are a lot of things we haven't placed a monetary value on that are very worthwhile [like the air we breathe, social cohesiveness, the value of free speech, etc.]
and I'm wondering if we should assign a value # to them, in order to give these topics fair measure against economically valued items. I mean, if someone intends to extinguish a species, I want to know what it's worth to them.

I have yet to see some other discussion about this, so let's have it out here...
Off-limits topicEconomic vested interest
Breath of fresh air$1.00
Peace and quiet$5.00
First amendment right to free speech$25
Snake River salmon migration route$100
Free internet$1000
A kiss from my sweetie$10,000 (if they brushed their teeth)

Of course these are made up numbers. To get a real idea of the values to assign things, a token economy would need to be set up and lots of trading done.

But that's the basic notion. What do you think?

Monday, February 18, 2008

Tough Shit

Tough Shit

would be a pretty cool name for a line of durable---



camping gear,


Pretty much anything durable could be sold under the label "Tough Shit" and it would catch on quickly.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Amid the Noise and Haste

Got to a box while cleaning, and inside was my high school yearbook.  
I know my high school experience wasn't the greatest of my life.  I was in a state of angst up to transferring to a new school in 11th grade, and had no friends for the first 3 months there.  But since then, time has passed.  I sat looking back at the experience with a sense of...not nostalgia.

Nostalgia is a feeling on the surface.  What I got was something so much deeper.  Reading the comments people had written, I began to embody the self I was in the 1990's.   This dusty part of my memory was like one of the boxes, just waiting there for me to delve into.  I've gotten this kind of memory before.  Every memory has its own distinct flavor, and I could taste what it felt like to be that kid.  It was refreshing.  I began at once to want to go running, and to do ridiculous amounts of math.  

So I can see why people sigh longingly over their high school years.  I think some part of my brain has transferred all these memories into a 'good' folder.  Egocentrically, I can say 'this is part of what made ME, so of course it's good.'  However, even stuff I went through 2 years ago, or 6 months ago, have their own memory-taste.  Call it place-ness or once-ness...whatever.  I am not in the best place I've ever been in my life (I mean it's okay...), yet I expect the overall sensations of this moment will seem good when I look back on them 10 years from now.

Friday, February 15, 2008

What you eat.

During the week sometime I began running on low energy.  During this time I felt like buying a big screen television and voting for Ron Paul.  What the...?!  It appears I'm highly susceptible to advertising when I'm exhausted.

When I woke up this morning, however, I was alert.  My senses were heightened, and even the slightest movements caught my attention.  Usually I wake up pretty alert, but this was different.  My vision and hearing were acute.  I felt I was prey.  
Then I remembered what we ate for dinner last night: Steak.  It was as if all the body chemicals from the meat had entered my system, and I was feeling things the meat felt before becoming food.  Alert to predators, and looking for my herd.
Something I heard about Druidic folklore said that when you eat of an animal, you take on its traits in some way.  What a  trip! 

Is there any research about this?  And is there a practical use for it?  I smell a great conspiracy theory creeping up!  If we could be kept exhausted and eating lots of bovine meat, we would all be susceptible to advertising and act like herd animals.  

Oh, wait...

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Shrink to Fit

The art of rearranging things to fit into a space.
If there was a word to match that definition, I would have entitled my blog that.

I've been, more or less, cleaning my way through the house.  Currently I'm finding clever ways to stack boxes in the basement and bedroom, since it's easier than thinking about what to throw away.  Generally this process will result in a few extra square-feet of space to stack something else.

Would it be called "puzzle-boxing?"

One might suggest getting rid of the things would be more practical, since this would result in more space, and (more importantly) more time to do things other than puzzle-boxing the junk in the basement.  Yes, dear reader, but what would I do then?  At least with this mind-taxing task, I will be sure to have something engaging to do. . . forever.

Got to run now, stuff's a-waiting.