And now, after the holidays, Nathaniel and I leave on a trip to South-Eastern Europe on Monday. Our plan is to hit Rome, Venice, Zagreb, Sarajevo, Split, Podgorica, Belgrade, Sofia, Istanbul, Athens, and Corinth (route map) in two weeks. Insanity.


paper art

Recently Google Chrome came out with beta releases for Mac and Linux.  In playing around with it, I set my theme to be a design by Yulia Brodskaya and then continued to investigate her artwork.  I really like both paper art and illustrative styles, so enjoyed looking through her work, which is wonderfully color and diverse in style.  I might be imagining Slavic influences because I like Russian Lacquer Boxes so much, but this kind of intricacy and color are themes I've seen among the work of some Slavic artists.  Her work reminds me tangentially of some things by Brittany Lee, who often works with paper.


puishment and gender

I read this BBC article on punishing women a few weeks ago, and since then, I've been thinking about the nature of punishment. This is a hard thing to philosophize about because in an ideal world, everyone would behave themselves in the first place. How much can we abstract away before we lose the realism of the situation?

Back to the article, though. I tend to be hesitant about simple declarations that men and women are different, especially when there isn't much elaboration.  I acknowledge that men and women can behave differently, but I like to know the specifics of that behavior so that I can think about how much of that comes from the society in which they live and how much is due to potential inherent differences.

To be fair, I don't think the intent of the article was to be a rigorous argument.  I could poke many-a-hole in it if it was, but then I'd probably go on to poke holes in my own arguments, anyway, so I'll leave that for now.

As per the article, Justice Secretary Jack Straw said the following:
We have to be sensible and humane in getting offending down in men and women, and we have to have different, but firm, approaches.

And the Ministry of Justice stressed:
[O]nly vulnerable women rather than ones who are "serious or dangerous" should be punished in the community.

I agree that punishment should be sensible and humane regardless of gender.  I suppose the reason this article ruffles my feathers is that men are vulnerable in prison too.  They are raped and beaten.  So why focus on the gender distinction if you aren't going to support it with any further details?  I'd rather them consider punishing all vulnerable prisoners in the community.  Is that too scary for the public?


Done. Cooked. Finished.

All my graduate applications are now in!  I just have to play hall monitor for a bit and make sure my transcripts, scores, and recommendations arrive, but that should be straightforward.  Yay!



It's really cold in SF/Berkeley this week.  The prediction is that temperatures won't hit above 50F.  Usually I like colder weather, but the bay area is ill-equipped to deal with it.  For instance, there's no heat and very poor insulation at work.  Imagine typing at 40F.  Not my favorite thing.  However, the frost last night made everything very pretty this morning!


randøm stüf reħash (81-100)

cozy nyc studio
What's the opposite of man?
rotating kitchen
the decline of empires
surprised kitty
paper stop motion ad
the bold italic
internet vices
evolution of storage
giving up the gimp
potential free netbook by google
100 x 100 rooms in china
shotwell review
microsoft patents sudo
funny things from google suggest
google dashboard announcement
shopping while black
how to use an apostrophe
Schrödinger’s Rapist

    Let the festivities begin!

    In my own personal liturgy, I like to mark the beginning of the Christmas season with St. Nicholas day, which is tomorrow, December the 6th. The celebration of Saint Nicholas is where the contemporary conception of Santa Claus, presents in stockings, and much of the gift-giving in general originated (as much as we'd like to give credit to the Magi and cite them as justification, St. Nicolas brought gift giving into modern practice).

    I think my ideal gift-giving pattern for the holidays would be to stuff shoes or stockings on St. Nicolas day, and then on Christmas Day proper only have a few select gifts.  But until I'm, say, a parent, I don't think I can pull off stealing my friends' shoes and sticking candy in them, even though I desperately want to every year.

    In the meanwhile there's still all the food!  Making cinnamon-sugar walnut candies, sticking cloves in oranges and hanging them about, drinking wassail, the chocolate wafer log, hot chocolate, pudding, cakes, cookies, tarts, and pies! I suppose there's a reason it's a "feast day."
    Another reason I love the season is the freshness it brings into homes. The smell of cinnamon, peppermint, apples, and cranberries is amazing. But then you add the garlands, poinsettias, and fir trees, which bring a whole other set of smells, and make the home look more alive. Maybe I just like plants, but I don't think I'm the only one.

    A third reason is the colors. Green and red happen to be my favorite colors, and since they evoke associations with Christmas, most of the year they are considered to be tacky together.  But at Christmas, I can bring together the deep green shades of garlands and fir boughs with the rich reds of ribbons, candles, etc. and trim it all with shades of white and off-white, silver and gold, and it can be quite beautiful and tasteful.

    Finally, there's the general friendliness and goodwill of people in the season. There's a fair amount of grumpy I've-got-to-get-this-present or I-just-don't-like-Christmas people, but for the most part, people like to eat, celebrate, give and get gifts, no matter their religious inclinations, so they tend to be happier and nicer in general.  Unless, of course, the stores start playing Jingle Bells on November 1st, in which case everyone gets Christmas burnout.


    which word?

    We got a Polish Translation for Shotwell this week, which lead to Jim realizing that the word Polish changed meaning completely when it lost its capital: polish.  As in to make things shiny.  Are there any other English words with such a huge change when capitalized?


    Thanksgiving photos

    A slew of people photos, none of them explicitly relating to Thanksgiving.


    two tarts

    Each year, the Berkeley University Ward puts on a "Sub-for-Santa" dinner and actions off all sort of donations to the members of the Stake.  Donations range from music lessons to sailboat rides, handmade quilts to dates with cute girls in the ward.  And for dessert, a wide variety of fancy tasties are brought in and auctioned as well.  Proceeds go to buy presents for less fortunate kids in Oakland.  This year's event happened this past Saturday and was a blast.  We made over 9k total.

    I liked the texture of the lighter tart better and am plotting to make a recipe combining the two: a light textured orange chocolate tart with an almond crust.  I'll experiment over the holidays.  The original recipes are below.


    brain teaser

    The lot of us came up with this at work today.  Can you solve it?

    Fill in the blank: George, Tom,     ?    , Alex, Andy

    Update 9/7/2013: Answer now in notes.


    speaking of quotes...

    I was poking around my sccs account recently and found a old list of Erik Cheever quotes from E12 (Linear Systems).  Brought back memories. Here they are:

    "In the real world, where most of us live..."

    "I can read it, even if you can't 'cause I have x-ray vision."

    "Even though I have x-ray vision, I can't do algebra."

    "I brought a spring in, just to show you that they exist."

    "We can't deal with the sine, we are powerless against it."

    "The only place sinusoids exist in nature is out of a wall socket."

    "Five minutes isn't quite enough to do all of E11."

    Cheever: That's why e+ = e-!
    Julia: Cause there's a heater in there?

    "Last time, i was zero."

    Julia: The bottom one's faster?
    Cheever: The top one's slower.

    On Bode Plots: "You gotta embrace these things. The more you fight it, the more you'll suffer."

    "Infinity...yeah, well, I can reach that high."

    "How is this related to that?...*Loud whisper* They're the same!"

    "It's not complicated enough, so I have to make mistakes to make it harder."

    excellent quote

    "I'm glad it works just as well for white-boards as it does for gerbils."
         -Adam, on the autoenhance feature of shotwell and referencing this article.


    highlight of the day

    Climbing down an emergency staircase, onto a ledge, and through a window to open a fellow tenant's door.  (She lost her keys.)  Maybe I should start rock climbing again.


    more on the mormon church and gay rights

    From Miriam: The Mormon Move and Utah Leading on Gay Rights

    I've thought a little more about this issue since my original post.

    One of the reasons I liked the church's actions is that it marked a shift from a "prevent things we don't like" political attitude to a "promote good things" one.  Previously, the church involved itself in maintaining the status-quo:  keeping marriage between a man and a woman, and maintaining that men and women are inherently different.  But the move to support gay rights shows that the church cares about changing the world for the better.

    I don't like the squabble about the word marriage.  I wish we didn't have to deal with this issue.  I wish that everyone could have equal rights that don't interfere.

    But for now, I'll count my pennies, because, as Miriam put it, pennies add up.


    See!  I'm not crazy for smelling books.  Hah!

    "I often noticed that conservators smelled paper during their assessment."

    So. There.

    meanness and panning, or the economics of charity

    A while ago, NPR published an article on the 10 Meanest Cities In America, which I've thought a lot about since reading it.  San Francisco (where I work) comes out number seven and my beloved Berkeley is number ten. Why?

    All of the cities mentioned, except Kalamazoo, Michigan, are in relatively warm climates. Florida, for example, gets a pretty good representation, taking four of the ten. My reason for mentioning this is not as an excuse for the meanness, but as an attempted explanation. Back to the point: warm weather means it's easier for those without homes to survive. I mean, there's a reason why Chicago's not on the list. A couple of reasons actually: one being that I'd imagine people are more charitable to those who are freezing to death. Another being that at some point the homeless there are faced with the choice: leave or freeze to death. Either choice decreases the homeless population in the area.

    The bay area in particular also has a rep for being hippie-tastic, which is often coupled with generosity, love, and all that jazz. That plus warm weather? I'd totally head over here if I were homeless. Everyone else seems to have the same idea, though. Both San Francisco and Berkeley are crawling with panhandlers.

    And having a huge population of needy people then backfires on those in need--it's a lot easier to be hard-hearted when you'd stop twelve times on your way from point A to point B if you weren't. I know that when I see over a dozen panhandlers a day, I'm a lot less likely to hand over my cash. If I was approached twelve times a day and gave a dollar to everyone that approached me, I'd give out more money than I spend on my groceries and gas combined. And a dollar is stingy by today's standard.

    Please note that I'm not passing judgment on what is right or wrong to do, or even declaring what I do for that matter. I'm just trying to explain the situation. Lots of demand decreases supply. It's the economics of charity.

    But the meanness rating was not just about giving to people on the streets, it was also about laws being enacted or considered, but the same rules apply. If there a lot of people living on the streets, it can eventually become a problem, and then legislation comes into play.

    But then again, a bit ago, I saw a cop jump out of his car (partner driving) and cut across my path (inches away) to handcuff a bloodshot-eyed vagrant who was sucking on some ice a few feet away. The policeman said something like, "All right, that's it..." and then a sentence with a conditional and something about the ice-man's actions. The friend I was walking with thought he was joking, and I thought he was being unnecessarily harsh, but then again, I didn't know if the man had done anything prior or had gestured to the police in any way.

    I find myself constantly asking the question, "what is the best we can do within the confines of our society?" And is that good enough?  The same aforementioned friend told me once that what to do is an impossible question.  There are no easy answers that apply to all situations.


    but I be done seen about everything

    I was quite surprised to find an NPR article in my news feed this morning titled Mormon Church Backs Salt Lake City's Gay Rights Law.

    Having been a Mormon in the SF bay area while Prop 8 was going down, I felt like I knew the church's attitude: everyone is a child of God, but only heterosexual marriage is okay.  I didn't get why it was so important for marriage to be only heterosexual, and there was a whole lot of discussion about it, as many of the members in the area are fairly progressive.  Needless to say, it was a time of a lot of conflict between individuals and the institution.

    I knew that the church wasn't against the individuals of the LGBT community, just against homosexual marriage.  (And premarital sex, so it often feels like they're against homosexual relationships, but I sure hope they never get into legislation about that.)  So when I read the aforementioned article, it didn't come as a huge shocker, at least in retrospect; it was consistent enough with their previously declared positions.  

    But it did make me extremely happy that they were making the effort.  The church does see where it could do better, and is having open conversation about it.  If there is one thing that I think the world could use more of, it's the willingness to be a little flexible and converse about differences.  I think knowing your own position and defending it is noble too, but we already have strong tendencies to do that.

    And though I like the call to change, perhaps the church is wise in its decision to go about change slowly--it makes people more open in the long run. 

    Update: NYT article on the topic


    every day is special

    I am 23 years old today.  Twenty-three is a very good number--I shall make it my fifth favorite number.  Like Christmas, graduation days, and anniversaries, birthdays feel a little special.  Today, this happens.  Today, I am changed. 

    And perhaps these things are true.  People act atypically and we feel something in ourselves.  But some of it is just anticipation, and often we are let down by the day.  I thought I would feel different.

    Today being my birthday, I woke up and thought, I am 23 years old.  And through the day, I thought of things I could do to treat myself--nothing too indulgent.  Mostly I just wanted to eat well and enjoy myself.  I have done nothing terribly exciting; I went to work as usual, ate lunch, and then back to work.  Tonight will be simple as well, since I have the CS GRE tomorrow morning.  My fortune cookie at lunch said, "It's nice to be important, but more important to be nice," which I thought was fitting for an important day.

    I feel very peaceful.  No extravagance, just seeing the simple joys.  I should feel this way everyday.  Perhaps tomorrow I shall wake up and think I am 8403 days old today.  I'm bound to fail miserably at keeping every day special--that defies the nature of the beast--but I will try.  It's less special, and more beautiful anyway, and beauty does not exclude those that surround it from being beautiful as well.


    buying bread vs. making bread

    I've been struggling with the dilemma of whether to buy bread or bake bread. Home-made bread tends to be healthier and is obviously more fresh. It can be tastier too, if you're skilled enough, which just comes with time. However, it takes much more time and energy to bake a loaf than it does to go out and buy one (unless you live quite far from a store and consider it exceptionally difficult to deal with the check-out personnel). Unable to make a conclusion, I decided to run some numbers to see which was cheaper, and I thought I'd share.

    The cost of buying bread every week is basically $2.50/loaf for Oroweat 100% Whole Wheat Bread from Safeway. I'd factor in transportation, but I go to the store just as much, whether my bread is bought or baked. That one loaf of bread is 1620 calories, which brings it to .154 cents per calorie.

    The cost of making bread is a little more complicated. There are a million permutations, but I'll just consider two: buying your yeast and keeping a yeast starter.  Also note that I'm not counting the cost of water.

    Weekly bread ingredients: packaged yeast: $0.44, 1.25 lb flour = $1.12, 2T honey = $0.25
    Calories: 2200 calories

    This comes to about .082 cents per calorie.  Additionally, you can factor in your time into the cost, but I enjoy baking enough not to do that.

    Weekly yeast maintenance: .25 lb flour = $0.22
    Weekly bread ingredients: 1lb flour = $0.90, 2T honey = $0.25
    Calories: 2200 calories

    Once you get the routine going, it comes to .062 cents per calorie. There is a startup cost of getting your yeast going, but you might be able to find someone to give you some of theirs to start. 

    It's hard to grasp the cost of things when we're talking fractions of cents, but think of it this way: an individual consumes about 14000 calories a week.  If one-tenth of your caloric intake comes from bread, the difference between buying bread and baking bread is about $1.29 a week, or $67 a year.  If half of your caloric intake is from bread, it comes to $6.44 a week, or $335 a year.  It's counting pennies, but more information never hurts.

    As for me, I'm going to see if I can get a yeast starter going.


    Shotwell 0.3!

    Yorba has released Shotwell 0.3.0, a major update to our digital photo organizer.  Yay!  Check it out:


    it's easier to draw it than to write its name

    I'm on an errand to buy a can of air, so I swing by Office Depot. Standard procedure. I pick up the can and go to check out, a nice lady ringing me up. She's doing her thing, then asks me, "You 18?" Umb, I'm over 18 if that's what you mean. "Yeah," I say. "Of course," says my face. I didn't know you had to be of age to buy air. I don't even get carded when I buy cooking wine.

    Okay, so it's not actually air; it's 1,1,1,2-Tetrafluoroethane, or CH2FCF3. And I guess it makes sense to double check that kids aren't buying turn the can upside down and spray a liquid stream that is colder than 100 below (F). Maybe I'll start carrying one of these around instead of mace. Anyway, people should be smart enough not to sell the things to eight-year-olds that are looking mischievous, or if they are going to have a government or company policy, they should actually check ID. Having faith in people is good, but laws that people don't take seriously are silly.


    C3PO's girlfriend

    Jeremy Mayer "disassemble[s] typewriters and then reassemble[s] them into full-scale, anatomically correct human figures. [He] do[es] not solder, weld, or glue these assemblages together- the process is entirely cold assembly." Way cool.

    Some parts of the sculptures feel a little sterile--the faces mostly--but that happens easily with rigid parts. Overall, very nice.


    media madness

    Recently I've been thinking a lot about art and media with regards to copyrights. In the digital age, artists that create or sell their work electronically are faced with a huge hurdle of protecting their creations and performances so they can still profit from them and continue to pursue their lifestyles.

    However, it seems that everyone has become hyper-sensitive in protecting their creations, particularly in the realm of music. It's no longer about protecting recordings of specific performances, but about the songs themselves. Recently, there was the story of a UK shop worker singing regularly at work being asked not to sing without a performance licence. Thankfully, the PRS realized they made a mistake, but that fact that they asked her to stop in the first place signals to me that something is very, very wrong. I can't tell if it's greed or if people are just worried about giving an inch and then being walked over by the public.

    On the complete other end of the spectrum, Yoko Ono's Plastic Ono band is has released a track under CC Attribution-NonCommercial license and is asking people to remix it. That pushes some of my happy buttons. So why is it that so few artists release their work under CC?

    First, let's think about why CC works so well for software (which is just as valuable as music in many ways). First: there is substantial community support for it. When something is released under CC, the releasers get lots and lots of gold star stickers. Second: software code lends itself well to sharing. If someone else already solved a problem, no reason to reinvent the wheel. Third: Anybody with a computer can use it or generate it. Forth: it's inconspicuous to do. The CC notice is like having the bibliography of a written work be inherent in the paper rather than being printed on top of it. That's just a cursory list.

    And how about music? I think that all of the reasons I mentioned above could easily be applied to music as well. So why don't we do it? Why is software considered to be something that should belong to everyone and music should belong to those that pay? Is software more "needed"? I think that those who argue that music is more of a luxury commodity than software need to look closer. Song and music has been part of human culture from the very beginning. I'd argue that we need it more than we need software, but that its digital forms are on par with software in terms of "need." Artists and record companies just need to relax a little.

    One reason that they can't relax, however, is that there is no equivalent way of citing sources the way we can with software. To re-use some code, the CC blip is already there. You use it and that's it. I think we could use a similar system for music. You just have the original files tagged, and then when you generate music, or any other virtual media using that source, it propagates the tag and you can tack on your own. Done. Easy. Imagine the day when school paper bibliographies are as easy as this.

    Well, what if you make a "hard copy" of the media? What, you going to print out that eBook and sell it? Don't think so. And your remixed song? Umb, CD's are still digital, so burning it isn't a problem. You'd have to play it out and re-record it to get rid of the tag, probably decreasing the quality of the piece in the process. Or you could perform it live, in which case I think you should have all the rights to it, even if you're performing another person's work. It's only if you try to sell the results that it'd get hairy.

    Digital media should all be CC'ed in my opinion. People are going remix song and frankenstein other digital media for personal use anyway, so why not encourage them, so long as they can't sell the result? Oh wait, people want to be paid for their media. That's right. Well, people will buy your merchandise, tickets to your show, and they'll still buy your music, even if you release it under CC. Why? Because they'll like you and want to support you.


    dijon chicken spin

    My mom makes a mean Dijon Chicken, but I've put a spin on it recently that I really like. Here's the new recipe--the amounts are just my best guess

    Serves four.

    4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
    2 t Dijon Mustard
    4-6oz mozzarella cheese (the hard kind, not the soft fresh variety) cut into strips
    4 longs strips of prosciutto
    1 egg
    1/4 c flour
    1-2 T olive oil

    Hammer the breasts flat. Spread 1/2 teaspoon of Dijon Mustard on each breast. Place a few strips of mozzarella at one end of each breast and roll them individually. If some cheese sticks out, that's fine--it'll lead to tasty crispiness later. Wrap each roll in the opposite direction in a slice of prosciutto. If the rolls do not stay secure, use toothpicks to keep them together.

    Whip the egg in a small bowl until fully scrambled. Dip the rolls in the egg, coating each roll entirely. Dust the chicken rolls in the flour by rolling them lightly through it, again covering them entirely.

    Fry the chicken rolls in olive oil until cooked through. If there is extra cheese, you can use it by letting it melt in the pan and form a crispy coating to the rolls.

    Doing this on a smaller scale might be fun for hors d'oeuvres.


    What do people have against headwear?

    Okay, I understand the need for safety, but I think this goes a little far. For those who don't want to read the article, UK colleges are trying to implement a "hoodies down" rule. The primary reason for hoodies, may I remind you, is for use as both a sweater and a head warmer. I can't tell you how many times I've seen normal, non-gang students wearing hoodies to keep warm. But maybe that's just in the States. Still, this combined with the history of controversies over the wearing of Islamic head scarves makes one wonder if there really is a ploy against headwear. Many schools already ban hats, so if we have no hats, hoods, or scarves, then are students expected to just lose massive amounts of body heat in cold weather?

    holes in our lives

    This past Sunday, I hit the local Quaker meeting. I went to a few of them at College, and loved them. The seats are arranged in a few consecutive circles, and people share their thoughts when moved.

    For those familiar with the Mormon tradition of fast and testimony meetings, Quaker meetings are similar, except people tend to be more articulate, they have more discretion in sharing thoughts so a higher proportion of them are relatively profound, and no one feels the need to break the silence to prevent awkwardness. In fact, the silence is encouraged and part of the service.

    Anyway, the service was beautiful, and one woman talked about filling the holes in our lives. She said that we all have holes and that we often try to fill them with things that do not quench the thirst or feed the hunger. She said that she herself played computer games, ate food she shouldn't, and chatted about silly things to fill holes. (No, this woman was not me.)

    She said that we need to seek out the living water, the things that do fill the holes, and ground ourselves in those things. I love that this philosophy can be applied to anything in life, and I think it's beautiful. For the hole of actual, physical hunger, feed yourself with good food: whole grains, vegetables, etc.. If you are tired, sleep instead of having a stimulant. For the hole of loneliness, develop meaningful relationships with depth and breadth to them. Spiritual holes, mental holes, physical holes--this theory works for all of them.

    If we achieve this ideal of always filling ourselves with things that truly quench our thirsts, rather than just delaying them, we will always be growing, expanding, and improving.


    slashed tires

    Two tires were slashed on my car Saturday evening--both on the passenger side. This was a pain because I couldn't simply put on the spare and continue on my merry way until I had time to get it fixed. All that aside, it wasn't so bad.

    It did leave me frustrated with random and not-so-random acts of violence. The only justification I can conjure up is that my car is fairly nice and I live (and park) in a lower-middle class neighborhood. It was probably some punk teenagers getting their thrills, and picking on the person that they thought could afford it. There are other less generous, class-warfare interpretations, but I'll stick with the punk teenagers.

    Violence frustrates me. What do people think it will accomplish? Certainly not a change in their situation, nor much of a change in mine. At most, it makes me mad for a matter of minutes and sad for a considerable amount of time--not much of that being fiscal sadness. So perhaps they were correct in picking their victim, but not for the reasons they had supposed.

    I suppose what saddens me the most is that there is nothing I can do. I can't prevent this from happening to others and I can't help those who did the act. The situation is stagnant. All I can do is protect my own, which breeds nothing other than paranoia.


    yorba's new website

    It's been a week of new, shiny things at yorba. First, our new website, then the blog, and then we got business cards! I'll be encouraged to blog for work as well, though less regularly than, say, this blog. I worry that I won't have interesting things to say or that I'll be completely unprofessional, but we'll just have to find out!


    a tribute to summer

    Harken back to the days of summer yore! I spent a lot of time out of doors then, which was wonderful. Here are some pictures from Big Basin and Redwood Regional, respectively. There should be a law requiring all parks to be named as alliterations.

    Also, can you name this species?

    Update: Tara's blog entry on the redwood adventure.


    Electronic books. Bah.

    Real, tangible, books will never go out of style. Even Google realizes this. There's just something awe-inspiring about a floor-to-ceiling library, piles of books in a used book store, or a single copy of an old hardback tome. Something about propping the book open by sticking it under the lip of your dinner plate, using your finger to hold your place, licking your finger to turn a page. Something about getting mad when it gets wet, crying when a page falls out, or finding someone else's notes in the margin. I love the way the pages feel, how the binding glue smells, and how you can feel the weight of it. There's a history to physical objects, and a surety of your ownership. Admittedly, I wouldn't have minded a kindle for my textbooks in College, but even still, I'm glad I still have them. I'll always have them. I love my books.

    10/21 update: Okay, I admit, this is cool. Sharing ebooks? Thank heavens. So I can see a world in which we aren't burdened by as many physical objects. Less clutter, less hassle while moving. There are definitely some advantages. It would still make me sad not to have a big ol' library, not to smell the books, but I could deal. In order for me to convert completely, there are a few rules. 1) The must sell obscure and out of print books like "China Court" and "Mormon Sisters." eBook selection is still severly lacking. 2) They must sell books for as cheap or cheaper than I can get them at used book stores and library sales. I can get 50 cent paperbacks and dollar hardbacks easily. I'd settle for $1.50 for a novel since electronic format would last longer, but the current prices are nowhere near that low. Anyone see a market niche for a book selling equivalent of iTunes? iBooks, maybe? Or are we moving away from the app world?


    back to page x

    This morning I was taking the bart to work, per usual. It was crowded, so I was doing the surfing stance, balancing my open book in one hand and clinging to one of the vertical rods with the other.

    A guy leans in and tells me he likes my hair bun. Thanks, I smile politely and turn back to my book. Then he says something else about it being fancy or something. It's the easiest thing to do with sopping wet hair, I tell him. Back to the book for a delicious few seconds.

    So are you going to work or school? Wait, are you still talking to me? I'm going to work, and you? To work. Book. Do you work at a green place? Are you asking me this because I'm wearing a green sweater with a leaf on it? Umb, I work at a nonprofit. Oh, what do you do? Software development. Book. I didn't know there were non-profit software companies. Leave me alone.

    I spend the next five minutes telling him how yorba works. We're open-source. No, we don't sell our product. Yes, that means people can use it for free. That's why we're a non-profit. Admittedly, lots of non-profits sell things, but I had to repeat a lot of stuff in order for him to get the idea. And I wanted to read my freaking book.

    My favorite was when I said "Linux," he told me about how someone in India had fixed his Windows machine remotely. Because linux is apparently related to IT. And then when he asked what we developed, I told him multimedia apps and listed organizer, video editor, audio editor...then he pipes in "online social networking?" No, not that. And then he wants us to set up an online social networking site for his company. You aren't available are you? No, we aren't.

    Then he asked what I studied. Computer programming? Computer science. I left off the engineering for brevity. But despite that, he praises me and does a little mock worshiping bow. And then finally the conversation stops and I can go back to reading. I get through a paragraph before he hands me his card. Without saying anything, wonder of wonders. I say thank you, and he leaves me alone.

    There's a shuffle as passengers get off. I sit down. He sits down in the same row, across the isle. We go for a bit, I let someone out and move closer to the window. He takes the seat next to me. Let me see if I can guess your name, he says. Oh boy. Cythia...Sally...on and on, all starting with C/S/T sounds. He tries a couple others and then asks for the first letter. A. Angelina, Amanda... Finally, I just tell him.

    And then he gets off, saying goodbye to me by name. He talked to me from MacArthur to Civic Center. Over 20 minutes, 2/3 my commute. While I was fairly obviously trying to read. Who does that??


    not as they seem

    My coworker Rob and I went to grab burritos for lunch today. The place was Pancho Villa Taqueria, in the Mission and it was quite delicious. As we were finishing up, a gentleman came to buss our dishes. He looked like he was a little mentally slower than average, and I was a touch startled when he asked Rob, "What your birthday?" Rob told him, and he said, "Next year, that's on a Saturday." Then he turned to me, and asked for mine. "Friday." After we left, Rob pulled out his iPhone and checked. He was spot on for both days.

    The moral: "Things are not always what they seem; the first appearance deceives many; the intelligence of a few perceives what has been carefully hidden..."


    accounts - what's the point?

    I was traveling by plane this weekend, spending 13+ hours in those delightful vehicles. We (boy and self) had picked AirTran and the ghastly SF to Altanta to Boston route in order to save on money. Such is life.

    The planes, we discovered, had Gogo inflight wireless, which despite having a terribly nondescriptive name, was interesting. For an entire flight, the cost was just under $6, which would be great for really long flights, but since we were taking smaller hops, it didn't make sense. And I never like paying for wireless anyway, so I didn't want to buy it on principle.

    Curious, I tried to access the internet, and was met with a Gogo screen, with login, prices, etc. Pretty standard. Bored, and with a lot of free time on my hands, I attempted to log in as someone else. Login name: jsmith. Password: password. (When I worked IT, I'd say 1/3 the people used "password" as their password...sad and scary, but that was also 4 years ago). Expectedly, the login failed. So I clicked the "Forgot your password?" link. Given the situation, they couldn't email the new password, so I was hopeful.

    I was met with a question, "What was the name of your first pet?" Fluffy, Spot, Fido, Rover, Jimmy, Sally, Bob. No dice. I start again with Login name "jdoe," and I was met with an even harder question, "what was the name of your first school?" Way too many permutations on that one. Then Naychay had the bright idea to check to see if the system gives you questions even for bogus logins. He tried "etuiyiqwt5xxx," or something to that effect, and it doesn't register, which is good news for us.

    This time I tried ksmith. The question: "What city were you born in?" Luck at last. People tend to say large cities instead of suburbs, so I began to guess. Atlanta, Boston, San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York, Chicago. The last one gives us a reset password menu. And we're in business. Setting the password to password (whaddyaknow?), I explored around. By the way, I'm sorry ksmith, but you'll see below why you shouldn't be too worried or offended.

    I had no intention of using the account if there were, say, credit card numbers linked to it, I just wanted to crack the system to see if I could. But there were no real account settings at all. Other than the user name and password, it appeared that Gogo didn't stash anything else. You had to re-enter credit card info every time you used the system, and there was no place to edit or view settings. My conclusion: there was no motivation for users to create an account. Perhaps Gogo used the info to track use, but it would just be an annoyance to users to need to log in. And if anyone tries to make an argument that it makes Gogo more secure, I can't wait to hear you opinions on using a sheet of paper as shield against a bullet.

    I've seen so many websites or systems that require users to set up a login, and then don't offer any additional convenience to users when logging into the least other than not needing to create an account each time, which many of them probably end up doing anyway. I think Amazon and many others got it right when they allow you to check out as a guest. And offer the convenience upon logging in of remembering credit card and shipping info.

    The point of all this is the following: don't require users to set up a username and password if you don't intend to save info between sessions. Maybe Gogo is still developing and will allow users to do that in the future, but wait until those features are there to implement the requirement to log in.


    an evening thought

    Unix is like eunuchs...they're both good for security. Do I really need to take that any further?


    External Barriers Experienced by Gifted and Talented Girls & Women

    I found a paper recently called External Barriers Experienced by Gifted and Talented Girls & Women by Sally M. Reis. It's been around for a bit, but I hadn't read it before. An interesting and funny quote:

    "Hartmann (1981) compared statistics on different types of households and found that the presence of an adult male creates more work for a woman than the presence of a child under ten, even when the man believes himself to be sharing the housework equally."

    This next one didn't surprise me too much, but I didn't expect the effect to be as strong as they found it to be.

    "Even in college or university classes in which women outnumber men, women are outtalked in class. Catherine Krupnick (1984, 1992) studied talented women at Harvard and found that they speak less and are interrupted more. She also studied the classroom dynamics of coed seminars that resulted from the decision to change Wheaton College to a coeducational environment. She had expected to find greater classroom equity than she had seen elsewhere because the student body and faculty were still predominately female. Her results showed the opposite however, as even when men made up just one to two ninths of the seminar classes she studied, they did one third to one half of the talking."

    There's also stuff on women making less money than men, but that's well known at this point. Doesn't make in unimportant or not worth mentioning, though.


    Holy Smokes!

    Walking to work from the train this morning I see a beautiful firetruck. One of those deep crimson ones with gold lettering and chrome trim. I smile and keep walking as it drives by. Then I see another one, parked. I would compare it to seeing two rare birds in a row, but then again it was more like seeing a rare flock.

    Anyway, firetruck. Parked. In front of my building. Wait, what?! There were half a dozen firefolk standing outside and a stream of water and charred flakes flowing out from the door into a messy wooden pile at their feet. Speechless, I make eye contact and point at the door. They tell me I can go in.

    The river of sopping wet carpet decorated with singed chips flows down the first floor hallway and then up the stairs, around the bend, and low-and-behold, into the actors' studio. Surprise, surprise. Except, as much as I love to blame everything on them, they probably didn't actually cause it.

    Their studio is directly below our space. Story goes that Adam, our founder, smelled smoke and then 20 seconds later, thought, "Wait a minute....I'm actually in a burning building." He and another resident called 911, and three minutes later the firefolk streamed in as a horde of 40 or so, found a warm wall, and broke it down, revealing flames inside.

    The guess is that someone threw a cigarette butt between the buildings (the adjacent building's roof is decked up as a hang out pad, and it runs up against that wall) and it kindled over the night. But, then again, that theory doesn't exclude the actors entirely.

    So our office is smokey, which is kind of fun because it's a good-smelling smoke. I've answered two firetruck chaser's calls already--restoration and smoke smell removal.

    Babara, another tenant, came up and talked to us for a bit. She had a funny story about another fire that happened a bit ago. There were some pot growers who's irrigation system caught on fire. Yeah, I know, irrigation...on fire. Anyway, the sprinklers went off and the guy there split, boalting the door behind him, since he didn't want to be caught with the pot.

    The tenants below just happen to notice the gallons of water dripping from the roof onto their electrical equipment, and the firefolk were called into action. The door was metal and boalted, so they went around, and one of the younger firefolk cames back with saucer eyes saying, "There was a lot of pot." The police were theoretically called, but men dressed in black came and wrapped the stuff up in burlap and threw it into a black van. Interesting.


    acrobatic snails

    Just a pair of snails I saw on the way to work today.

    These photos were edited using Shotwell. One of the great new features is being able to edit a few photos without needing to import them into your library.


    bike! bike! bike!

    I've wanted to get a bike for a while, and my boy (who is really into road biking) encouraging me to get one was enough to push me over the edge.

    Craigslist is a beautiful thing: I found a 2008 Schwinn listed at $400, and barely used (He said his wife rode it maybe six times). New, that thing would have cost about 750 plus tax. I get to the seller's friend's home (he's playing poker) and try it out. It's pretty and red. It's in really good condition. I ask him if I can cut him a check. He'll give it to me for 360 if I pay cash. Umb, ATM please? To do the math, that's less than 45% of what I would have payed for a new one. All I can say is I hope he didn't lose it all in the poker game.


    berkeley flowers

    Some photos I've taken recently of dem Berkeley flowers.
    (click photo for Picasa album)


    making money with colored pencils

    Last week I stumbled upon an online article highlighting Jennifer Maestre. Some of the article's images are poor quality, but the portfolio on her website is beautiful. Inspired by sea urchins, she sharpens colored pencils and threads them with wire to create prickly but organic forms. I wish I could earn $5k for making art out of colored pencils.


    the future is here

    The Wii was the most recent commercially successful step that consumers saw in the evolution of the human-computer interface. It felt pretty revolutionary--it used natural human motions instead of adapting our motions to the interface. But it was definitely a step in the right direction.

    Some of the interfaces displayed at Siggraph this month show amazing potential to revolutionize input all over again. We have touchable holography (there is still a long way to go until we reach holodeck levels), augmented reality, hyper-realistic virtual reality, 3D teleconferencing, and scratchable input. Just wait until they start releasing scents with that last one--it'd be the best scratch-n-sniff ever.


    on the mercuriality of moral caliber in our beloved republic

    My apologies for the title. Magniloquence is always so incredibly tempting.

    The thought thread began with an BBC article about a US gang rape case. It was sad enough that an eight year old girl was raped, but then came the worst of it, in my opinion: she is in the care of the Arizona Child Protective Service, according to the article, after her parents said she had shamed them and they did not want her back. As if she wont be screwed up the rest of her life because of the rape alone.

    What kind of parents would abandon an eight year old girl because she got raped? Okay, so maybe it might be justified if they knew that they wouldn't be capable of giving her the support she needed growing up--pick a reason, any reason. (We could discuss what role the government should have in supporting them, financially and with services, but that's a whole 'nother tangent.) But giving up a child willingly for no other reason than it is shameful to them?

    I understand that cultures are different. I grew up in a culture in which the family came first and love was the highest virtue--fairly common in America. But some cultures place honor higher on the virtue hierarchy. It just surprises me that cultural tradition could cause a parent to want to completely abandon their child when something happened to the child rather than because of the child. Sure, the daughter could have potentially avoided the situation by not following the boys, but the same thing could have happened just as easily without any choice whatsoever on the girl's part.

    So then what do you do? Since we like having choices, we can look at the parents' actions either as a person within the society or as a governing political body. Do we force them to think like us? (Or do I force them to think like me, since you might not be on board with my crusade, you never know.)

    I think that if anyone feels that their position or take on a situation is superior to another person, they should share it with them. Quantifiable positions, like financial or scientific opinions, for instance, are a lot easier to justify since there usually exists fairly direct evidence for or against one's position. But when it comes to judging morality to be better or worse than another person's, we hit really, really dangerous ground. It's hard to say, "I think the way to think about the world is like this rather than like that," but I believe that if we truly feel that way, we have an obligation to share. That's a moral opinion in itself, but I'm being consistent by sharing it here and now.

    Anyway, I believe that in a case such as this, people should try to help the parents by sharing their opinions. Phrases as such, I'm calling everyone to write letters, send emails, etc. to this poor couple, but that's not what I mean. I mean that local individuals or people who are close with the family should help them come to a decision about what they think is right. People never liked to be told what to do in the time of a decision, but opening up and sharing these things before and even a bit after periods of moral decision-making is fairly normal and helps all parties understand each other and grow.

    I guess I am saying that members of a society have an obligation to discus morality with each other in order for the morals of a society to evolve. At least, under my moral schema, which deems the evolution of morality or seeking more enlightened moral schemas to be a good thing.

    After we do our best to grown our own understanding of morality and that of those around us, we can only leave it up to them to choose the course of action that they think is best. I believe that any reasonable person confronted with two takes on morality will always be able to see two things: which is easier, and which is morally better--easier and better having no relation. Armed with that understanding, they may choose.

    It's a bit circular, I know. People judge a moral schema with one they already have, so perhaps nothing will ever happen. But things do happen and people's actions change. The morality of the United States as a whole is constantly evolving, changing, shifting. will it every settle in and find what is most absolutely right, or will morals always evolve? Have we long past the most moral state, or are we still heading there?

    Now comes the question of what to do as a governing body. We've got to respect traditions and cultural ideals, but keep order at the same time. At some point, all we can do is establish limits according to popular acceptance. That's all laws really are in a democracy--the morals of the majority. So if most of the people in the United States think that the actions of the parents of this girl are immoral, should there be a law about it? Or do we just silently judge them? We obviously don't take that route for the extreme example of murder, so where to we draw the line? Again, majority.

    In my decision making at least, the line is where an action harms other people. This situation is kind of on the fence because I believe that it is wrong to abandon a child, but I cannot fully reject the possibility that she is better off being raised by someone who will love her, care about her, and help her deal with the scars of rape rather than by a set of parents who are ashamed of her. It's still disgusting that parents would do that, but I think there should be no legal ramification, just social.

    This system would break down if and when individuals create a majority that would not naturally exist, but again, that's another kettle of fish. The issues of an artificial majority and the aforementioned government's role in supporting parents are tricky, but I shan't discuss them here and now. For the time being, all we can do is probe our own morals, constantly evolving them, hopefully for the better.


    integrated art

    I really love Jan Vormann's artwork. This art is of the kind that is truly alive in the world, that makes us love and appreciate things we see. It transforms the mundane into something beautiful, or brings our attention to the beauty that already exists. I also just really like Lego building blocks.

    Browsing the aforementioned website reminded me of some works I've seen in Emeryville, Signs of the Times. A thought-provoking series forged from the pedestrian. Ba-dum-ch!


    Adventures of the Tea Seeker

    This week the office has been really cold, at least for me. Thus something hot to drink was a necessity. We had coffee in our kitchen but no tea, so I went off to Full-screenMuisca Cafe, a few blocks away. Pretty tasty. Afterward, I had the brilliant idea of getting looseleaf in bulk and just keeping it around. Bwaha! Looking for local places, I discovered the San Francisco Herb Co., a short stint away, so I decide to take a break and go for a walk.

    Pittering around 14th street, unable to find the shop, I stumbled upon an independent tea shop that looked really cute. I was betting they'd know where the shop was. The place was really adorable, but the two people inside were stuffed. "Welcome," the worker said in a voice deeper and different than her own. The were their own puppets, playing pretentious roles that they could not actually fill. The man knelled on his padded stool reading about the tarot. The woman poured tea dramatically, spilling all over the place in her little marble basin. It was designed for her tactics, obviously, but it looked terrible. Who wants to drink tea poured in a marsh? Crazy kids.

    They had no idea where the place was, and tried to sell me looseleaf, although the only herbal they sold smelled iffy. She was going to let me try it, but when I said I had very little cash, she let her voice deflate, and it was apparent that it was time for me to go.

    I found another tea/coffee shop a ways down, this time they were helpful, although tried to tell me it was closed now and that they had a bag of chamomile to sell. I went back to find the shop almost exactly across the street from the stuffed tea shop. Le sigh.

    When I get there, I get a tea ball, a pound each of Honeybush, Rooibos, dried ginger, chamomile, cinnamon sticks, and Herbes de Provence. For $25. Amazing. I'll be going back and if anyone wants stuff, I can get it for you!


    William Something Something

    Last night I was getting gas when a homeless man toting a bike came up to me. I expected the usual spiel, "Can you help a poor man out?" But instead, he said, "Today's my birthday! I am Fifty. Two. Years old today!"

    Leaning back on my car as it guzzled thirstily, tube hanging between me and the man, "Well congratulations, Happy Birthday!" I said with a smile. He went on for a while, and when he was getting to the point of asking for something, I ask, "Have you had dinner yet? Let me buy you dinner." Or something like that.

    He pauses for a moment, then agrees, hailing his friend off near the edge of the gas station, "I'm gunna go get Dinner! For my Birth. Day." He tells me his name, William something something--I couldnt hear the rest. We agree on a Chinese place a few blocks down, and off we go, him on his bike, my following him in my car. Slow going, but it works.

    Only two people are in the restaurant, both employees. The woman, who seats us and is a little wary of William, and the man, whos pressence is assuring. I realize it isn't the safest thing to do, taking an unknown man to dinner.

    He gets wonton soup and shrimp fried rice, I stick with veggie chow mein. 25.60. He does most of the talking, and he does so in cycles. I can smell alcohol on his breath, but not as bad as many I've smelt--I had been talking with him a good ten minutes before noticing. Anyway, the cycles go first, thanking me, telling me God loves all, giving me advice, telling me something deeply tragic about his life, getting really upset, silence. And none of the phases in the cycle were brief, they each had their bulk.

    Thanking me included calling me an/his angel and simple thank yous. The "God loves all" cycle include him saying this phrase repeatedly with elongated emphasis on the word "all." And lots of nodding. His advice included going to school (When I told him I had already graduated, he said, go back and stay there. Apparently I'm to be a professional student.), taking care of my parents, and playing the numbers we got in our fortune cookies.

    One tragic thing in his life was being in Desert Storm with his brother and his brother dying there (and the dead children on the streets, and how didn't want to shoot anyone, "but you gotta do what you gotta do" times five plus tears). He talk about how his dad was dead, how he used to have a dogwhen he was a kid, how he knew he drank a little too much and couldn't keep a job anymore. Other tidbits about his life is that he has at least one daughter and used to do sheet metal work. And that he sleeps under the bridge at Gilman street most of the time, unless the cops come and he has to move on.

    After dinner, he showed me how to play the numbers on our fontune cookie papers, and I gave him more cash than I should have. I met his nephew, who was drunk and who William sent off on his way. He said if he won the lottery, he'd help every homeless man. I don't know if I would have that kind of generosity, and that scared me. I didn't win anything, but I'm glad of it.

    There's got to be a better way to help people than giving them cash. I liked that I took William to dinner, that was good, but giving him cash in the end cheapened it for me. I don't think cash is service. It can certainly help, but it can also enable people in bad ways. How does one decide what to do?


    not all yelows are ugly

    I've heard lots of stories about my female friends being haggled in cities or while riding public transit, but I had never really experienced it until today, only the second day of my working at my new job in the city.

    While I was walking from bart to my office, an ugly-yellow (because not all yellows are ugly) blinged up SUV pulls up while I'm walking and the man inside starts talking to me. He said, I kid you not, "What's a pretty thing like you doing here?" I tell him I work here and that I need to go. He says, "What, you don't want my number?" "Uhhh....I need go to work. I like your car!" and with a smile, I turn to unlock the door to the office. Mostly harmless--a little flattering and a little scary. Don't worry, Mom, I'll get some mace.


    naïvety of pure democracy

    The recent news about the troubles of keeping information about a kidnapping off Wikipedia, in particular the quote that "the idea of a pure openness, a pure democracy, is a naïve one," got me thinking.

    Obviously some people know or care more about the small picture, about being right and getting what they think they need, over the big picture, or what is best for the majority of people. Since what is best is subjective anyway, who do we let decide this?

    Most western people probably have similar opinions on the Iranian presidential election, for example. The thought of one's vote being stolen or cheated from us is appalling. And yet, what if Ahmadinejad is a more enlightened person than Mousavi and would take better care of the nation? I'm not saying it's right, but if it were as important to protect the Iranian people by cheating the votes as it was to keep the kidnapping new off of Wikipedia, wouldn't it seem more justified? After all, we are talking about a nation being potentially saved, instead of just a man.

    Case by case--there is always more information than we think there is. Hard lines made turn out to be wrinkled and blurred. The people with power always end up making the biggest decisions anyway, but how do we let them get there? When do we retract the gift of power? And how? How can we ever truly know if our actions and decisions are right? At some level, we will never know, and must trust ourselves to act with the information we have, with faith that those impacted by our decisions will understand that our knowledge is not perfect.


    energy storage

    A friend of mine recently pointed out that the real problem with energy is not its creation. Wind and solar are great, but on windless or cloudy days, we're up a creek without a paddle. And then there are source of energy everywhere, from treadmills to lightening. The problem is partially collection, but mostly storage.

    We use fuels because they're easy to transport and relatively efficient. The problem is usually that use have to burn them to get the energy. This article talks about the related problem of storing hydrogen as a fuel, and a possible solution. It's not so nice to the chickens, but it may prove to be useful.


    What did I do?

    Yesterday, I was basking in the glow of having just received an Amazon package with all sorts of delicious things in it: A wacom tablet, a Spanish edition of Don Quixote and accompanying dictionary, and my very own set of the Abhorsen trilogy. I was driving off from work in a very good mood, singing along to the radio and everything.

    And then about ten minutes into my drive, I was stopped at a red light, behind a few other cars. I fleetingly notice a lady start to cross the street the next lane over, not in the crosswalk, but in between the cars. Dumb, but whatever, it's her life, I think. I'm completely stopped, and stare off at the light, waiting for it to change. Maybe my gaze strays somewhere, but I've always got my the light in the corner of my eye.

    The lady crosses in front of me. She turn and I look at her. "Bitch," she mouths at me. "What?!" I mouth at her, totally flabbergasted as to why she did that. She then flips me off and pasts her butt at me, obviously really pissed about something.

    *Pop* goes my good mood. What had I done? I wasn't rolling forward, I wasn't making faces, I think I have even stopped singing at this moment. I had done nothing at all connected with her other than glance at her, and she wasn't even looking at me then. Hell, I think I even made sure there was enough room for her in between my car and the one in front of me. It blows my mind to think that I could have so offended someone without meaning to.

    I've had another situation this past year when someone I knew called me out on treating them as inferior, when I thought there had been mutual ambivalence. At least I knew this person, though. Am I just oblivious? Or are both of these people self-absorbed?

    When I make mistakes, it's not like I aim that at people. Do people think I try to hurt them? I consider myself to be pretty nice on the whole, and before these two incidences, I felt like I had a good gauge on how people feel about me. When I say or do offensive things, I usually know it or have a good guess as to what was offensive, regardless of intent. So it weirds me out when there's a mismatch.

    It makes sense that people focus on themselves, that they rarely put themselves in other's shoes. Everyone thinks about how a comment that was just made relates to them, it's how we're trained to think. Joe just said he hates trains. Golly, I have this great story where trains are featured as evil. Let me tell it to gain his approval! That could be one train *cough* of thought. Another could go more like this: Joe just said he hates trains. Didn't he know my dad was a train engineer? I told him that like two months ago at Bill's party. Ugh, that's really low. I love trains. How could he not know that? He must be trying to get at me for not hanging out with him last week when I had to work late. There are lots of possible reactions. In reality, Joe might just be making conversation, or might be trying to hit on the girl standing next to him who had previously said that she has a fear of trains--that is, right before you walked up. Not everything has an ulterior motive, and not everything has to do with you. Or me. Or Joe. Or the girl with siderodromophobia.

    I try to give people the benefit of the doubt. Like the lady crossing the street--she was probably having a pretty bad day. That said, I like also assume that people aren't intentionally mean, which sometime they are. Sometimes Joe might actually hate me. But it doesn't matter, cause I should treat him like he doesn't. As long as they aren't taking advantage of me, I want to play it nice. Doesn't mean that I always do, but that's the goal.


    miniature time lapse

    I stumbled upon some time lapse videos of a peculiar sort. First, I found this video, for which my thought process was something along the lines of "Oh! Time-lapse! I love time lapse! It looks so miniature...wait a minute....okay that helicopter is totally just a toy. I wonder how they did the ocean, maybe a comp of with a real time lapse?" Then I realized that the scenes were just way too crazy complicated to be stop motion. Instead, this was done with tilt shift miniature faking.

    I found Keith Loutit's Vimeo page with a whole slew of these videos--time lapses that look like miniature stop motion animation. Pretty incredible. Everything looks miniature, from the vehicles to the people, but it's all real, as he says. Amazing.


    critic or carper?

    We are all critics. Some people like to pick apart movies, assess the quality of meals, or ponder the beauties and flaws of pieces of art. Some people have a tendency to universally approve of everything, and others the inclination to disapprove. You will never meet a person with no opinions on anything. And if you have, they're probably hiding something. Or you haven't actually been able to communicate with them.

    What interests me is the nature of the highly critical individuals, particularly those with the tendency to disapprove or find fault. It seems common that being highly critical in this fashion is a cool, intellectual, highly-informed thing to do. Skepticism is in. And if you're being critical of other critics, then you must be way super rad. But it is not in an attempt to be way super rad that I write this. I make a lot of judgments myself, so this is just as much a reflection on my own psyche as it is on those of others.

    My biggest question is what do we gain from negatively critical of things? Books, food, art--there is so much to approve of, why bother tearing down things? It doesn't seem like it's worth the time. I could see people trying to get an in with someone or some group by having equal levels of criticality--this happens all the time--but why not share things you enjoy instead? Unless everything is beneath you, of course.

    Of particular interest is the inclination to criticize other people: they way they look or dress, the way they act and speak, and their mindsets. From this comes the organization of more-cynical-than-thou cliques that permeate society. How many times has a bond been formed with another person over criticizing someone? Sure, criticizing non-human things forms a bond, but confiding to a friend, "I really think that Suzy doesn't know as much as she pretends to know" is a socially charged statement and begs for an alliance not only with the speaker, but with the speaker against another holder of opinions. Alliances are made, a line is drawn. Us vs. Suzy.

    On the other side of the room, Suzy may be telling everybody how prestigious her research is. We might be justified in taking an alliance against her. She's arrogant and puts down those around her. But when she goes home that night, maybe she cries because she doesn't feel a connection with anyone. She's lonely. Maybe if we talked to her instead of about her, she'd move past her facade and be interesting. By no means am I saying that all arrogant people are really lonely inside. Or that everyone's faults go away upon closer acquaintance. My point is that we always have a small clip of the picture, and that people tend to get better if you not only get to know them more, but give them room to make mistakes. I'm sure not perfect.

    So that's one social example. But what if somebody is truly taking advantage of me? When does it become okay or even good to criticize others? I've surely improved my own character by watching the mistakes of others. If I had universally approved of everyone, I'd probably be pretty boring, if not unpleasant to be around. So where is the line? I'd argue that it's hatred. It's okay to realize that your friends make mistakes, and what the causes of those mistakes are. It's okay to think "I'd never do that." But when contempt starts to wiggle its way into my heart, I know something is wrong.

    Then comes the question of once the opinions are held, what do we do with them? If I keep thinking the Suzy is arrogant and don't tell anyone, I might fester. If I tell someone, I might negatively impact their views of Suzy, or even of myself. Sure, I could write it down, but that isn't very satisfying and it's potentially dangerous. Unless I light the paper on fire afterwards. To this I have no answer but to trust in an individual's judgment.

    I could argue that actions are only bad when they harm someone, but that is not a clear line, because some forms of hurt help overall. Suzy probably wouldn't like to hear that she's arrogant, but even if it hurt her a lot, she might end up correcting her behavior. Or she could be thrown into a depression. Is it in my realm of responsibility to determine what is good for her? Again, it comes down to judging case-by-case.

    The only thing that I can actually conclude is that loving and trying to understand people is the best path, at least for me.


    Stereotypical Teenagers

    The line divides the cool from the uncool. I apologize for the color choices, it goes with the theme...

    8/10/09 - Why teenagers?


    sticks but not stones

    I've been taking an art class on nests and nestmaking. As to be expected, we covered a fair amount of Patrick Dougherty's work. These sculptures are are incredibly impressive and inspiring to me. I want to go live in one.
    My biggest question is: Where does he get all the willow branches to make his sculptures? I presume they aren't all willow, but with so much material going into these structures, it must take a small logistic miracle every time one goes up.
    I think that one of the things I like best about his work is that it photographs so well. The image in this post make it look like those giant tree-sized structures are almost miniature. I wonder if any of the beauty would be lost in real life. I doubt it, but I could potentially see how a rough structure would be less impressive close up.