Tuesday, November 29, 2011

A virtual breath of fresh air.

Ingenious! (Hint: Look real hard at the billboard in the background.)
Details here at Bldg Blog. Billboard design by Susanna Battin.

Flowchart: Where should you post your status?

Flowcharts rule! (Thanks to George Takei.)

Interview with Stephen Pinker

I've written about Stephen Pinker in my other blog, MythMagMar. This is an interview on the New York Times website by Carl Zimmer: Human Nature's Pathologist.

...He came to Harvard after graduating from McGill University in 1976. At the time, he was convinced that a life in psychology would allow him to ask the big questions about the mind and answer them with scientific rigor. “It was the sweet spot for me in trying to understand human nature,” he said...
...This research [with children] helped to convince Dr. Pinker that language has deep biological roots. Some linguists argued that language simply emerged as a byproduct of an increasingly sophisticated brain, but he rejected that idea. “Language is so woven into what makes humans human,” he said, “that it struck me as inconceivable that it was just an accident.”...
...In a way, “The Better Angels of Our Nature,” is a response to this kind of critique. He says the idea for the book took root in his mind around the time of his debate with Dr. Spelke, when he stumbled across graphs of historical rates of violence. In England, for example, homicide rates are about a hundredth of what they were in 1400...
...Human violence started dropping thousands of years ago with the formation of the first states, Dr. Pinker argues. For evidence, he points to archaeological studies and observations of stateless societies today. With the birth of the first states, rates of violence began to fall, and they have dropped in fits and starts ever since...
...Dr. Pinker grants that these results may be hard to believe, but he thinks that is more a matter of psychology than of data. The emotional power in stories of violence — whether on the nightly news or on “Law and Order” — can distract us from the long-term decline...

Today a chair--tomorrow the world....

Fascinating documentary about a couple, architect and painter, who transformed modern design. eames-07
I don't know how many variants of this one design I've seen, but I've spent a lot of time in high-tech jobs and chairs like these are everywhere.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

When will we see this full-scale?

Like something out of a '50's Popular Science magazine--but it's really happening:
Something like this was used by James P. Hogan in his sci-fi novel, The Two Faces of Tomorrow.
The Two Faces of Tomorrow

How much longer can I survive...?

My favorite coffee-shop, Wicked Gelato, is still closed for rennovation.
I don't know how much longer I can go on without it....

Gov't Exercise Wheel

Thanks to TPM:
Matt Wuerker
I love how a simple graphic can explain more efficiently than several blocks of text.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Ammo Altar

Another fascinating untitled installation in the Flex Room of the Emery Community Arts Center. I call it "Ammo Altar" but I'm told it's untitled. I hope to speak to the artist soon.

Paintings and Video Fly-bys

There are two paintings by the same artist hanging side by side in Emery Community Arts Center. I hope to speak to the artist soon. Here images of them. The full image is a still picture. The close-ups to show the brushwork and working surface are stills from videos.

Determine These Confines.

Like Evolution Never Happened.

I found the best way to study the brushwork and composition with video "fly-bys" was to hold the cmaera at a slight angle to the painting surface. The close-ups on Like Evolution Never Happened are to show how the artist used hot-glue as a texturing medium to create a bas-relief of the primodial creatures swimming in the deeps.

Caffeine withdrawal

Arrrgh! Wicked Gelato is closed for remodeling--and won't re-open until Friday after Thanksgiving.

There's this big void in my science-fiction now.

My daughter sent me a text message late at night: Anne McCaffrey has died. Although my wife was sleeping, I woke her up to tell her. We called our daughter and talked to her about Anne McCaffrey and how she influenced our reading.

When Dragonriders of Pern first came out with the awful cover of a woman wearing gauzy strips of cloth and riding side-saddle on a small dragon, I was not impressed. But friends persuaded me to try the book. "Really, it's not like the cover art or the blurb," they told me.

I was introduced to the indomitable Flessa and the implacable F'lar, and their quest to rid their beautiful world of a terrible invasion of silvery thread-spores that would consume anything organic. The dragons were not small--they were huge, immense engines of flaming destruction. The dragonriders wore furs and leathers as armor against the cold and thread-spores. Their dragons and riders drilled in constant preparation for flying against thread.

All of this was nearly lost after a 400 year hiatus where nearly everyone came to believe Thread would come to Pern no more. Enter Lessa, the heroine. Lessa was not some cowering female becoming strong only thanks to her male companion. She was not some sultry vamp who manipulated men by sex appeal. Nor was she some sexless termagant, all muscles and no gender. Lessa was a person of immense willpower and fortitude.

Anne did not hesitate to portray both the good and the bad of Lessa. Lessa's far-sighted strategy and tactical planning also carried a vindictive streak a mile wide and a tendency to nurse grudges. Able to coldly assess situations and size up potential opponents, she also carried her heart on her  sleeve and made no secret of her feelings. Lessa's life was dominated by her passions, but not ruled by her appetites. Her growth as a character was not only to learn to command, but also to become diplomatic, to make concessions to achieve a greater goal.

For Lessa's saving grace was she cared. She cared deeply about Pern and it's people. For all her insistence on the rights and perogatives of dragonriders--and queenriders in particular--without hesitation she cast herself and her dragon back 400 years in time to bring forward the needed weyrs to fight the modern-day menace of Thread, to save her world.

After Anne McCaffrey's writings I never looked at female heroines the same way again. Her characters are real, not the stereotypical "real" where everything about the female character is in contrast to the male character, but real where the character is able to stand alone, make long-range plans not based on revenge or romantic conquest but to save a world and it's people--no matter the cost to herself.

Egg flats, feathers and space

At the Emery Community Arts Center: This fascinating sculpture on the fragility of industrial farming has been up for some time. I've tried to talk to the artist, but the timing always seemed to be off.  I also have a video "walk-by" to post once the installation is taken down.

Monday, November 21, 2011

How can...?

Thanks to Loki Freign:

Plants help detect old ruins

Fascinating post on Bldg Blog on how chemical analysis of plants can point to buried ruins:

"The brief article goes on to tell the story of two archaeologists, who, in collecting plants in Greenland, made the chemical discovery: 'Some of their samples were unusually rich in nitrogen-15, and subsequent digs revealed that these plants had been growing above long-abandoned Norse farmsteads.'"

Occupy protest art made on-site

Excellent post by Meteorblades on how much of the Occupy Wall-Street placards and shirts are made on-site by volunteer printers.

For instance, earlier this month, Molly Fair of the 26-member Just Seeds Artists Cooperative highlighted a reflection by David Spataro, an "Occuprinter," about the experience of skilled printers working with new arrivals at Zuccotti Park:
"What is the best way to demonstrate to people that they should jump in? To demonstrate that the person printing in front of them actually just jumped in an hour ago – they were where you are and now they're printing! Who needs what kinds of push and when? It's simple and complicated at the same time. I needed Jesse and Josh in the diner telling me to chill out. That it's fine to start printing with an incomplete process, because the simplest solutions will get you out there faster and because other people will help you when you hit a wall. And for that I owe them, and all the other relentless self-organizers out there, immensely."

Vitodito - Valencia (eleven.five Remix)

If we can keep making music like this, then I still have hope for our future.