Sunday, October 20, 2013

Snake Oil





Back in the day, merchants used to set up their carts and peddle the cure all that cures all ailments. This practice has not stopped. Add scientific language to it and the following sounds both healthy and delectable:


Buy Copernicum. Known to aid with everything, particularly popsiculitis. From the makers of BS Inc.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Predeterminism?

"Using defensive pessimism to harness anxiety and perform at your peak"


There is a book for everyone and everything.

Whether one has a positive or a negative outlook on life; does it make a difference?


Saturday, October 5, 2013

Nice Guys Finish Last?



There are those of us (and I suspect that we are not in the minority), who cannot abide pain and suffering nor would we ever volitionally be the the cause of it. Those of us, who offer help beyond kind words when we watch someone who appears helpless and requires support.

Darwin's theory in the popularized approach is perpetually misinterpreted. Survival of the fittest by his meaning and revolutionary definition is not as is commonly and mistakenly believed survival of the strongest fastest and most vicious.  It is the survival of those who pass on their genes to the greatest number of progeny. Unlike insects, reptiles or amphibians, we do not pass on our genes to thousands of offspring.

Survival of the fittest in the human context ought to apply to communities as a whole. We have however, twisted our humanity into producing cruel and greedy psychopaths, who revel in the pain and suffering of those around them, even those who they are genetically related to. They do not destroy with sharp tools, but with greed and indifference, exploiting those of us who cannot and will not change their nature; those of us to whom integrity, compassion and empathy offers more value than the causation of poverty, pain and suffering.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

When A Tree Falls In The Forest...



I have been thinking about a career change and doing more science writing. The question I have for my fellowers; would there be any interest in a science blog and if so would anyone be willing to subscribe to it?

We all spend countless hours writing for free and because it is fun, but it would be wonderful to be paid for our efforts.

What do you think?

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

About A Brother

In a life imitates art scenario, but without the cliche of good guys always win, one discovers that a brother has been feeding me nothing but lies and appears to be struggling for his position in organized crime.

Now what?

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Notes From The Outback

Rednecks are really nice people. With fewer teeth.

Rural stores are stocked with unhealthy carbs. Somehow counter-intuitive.

One diner, one road and one street sign = small town.
One diner, one road and one traffic light = technologically advanced small town

Discovered new dragonfly species. Has painted wings. Sketched it. Very excited.

Amazing Libella Pulchella    
Nope. Not new species. 12 spotted skimmer dragonfly. Very common.

Mosquitoes are the size of helicopters. Everything bites. Even the shiny iridescent beetle I found. All Fauna is carnivorous, rude and undomesticated. Itchy. Best way to sketch is to pin them. What?! They started it.

Soybeans. Corn. Something edible. Manure. Manure for miles. How do people live on farms with this smell all day?

"Yaoall farm the cidah?"
"What?"
"Yaoall foam da ciiiidah?"
"Uum, yes? That is an interesting accent, where are you from?"
"Local, born and raised."

"Do you have the paper?"
"I don't read much."

Home: 20 brands of sunscreen. Organic fruit. Massaging shower. Soap. Non-abrasive TP. Air conditioner. Restaurants. The things we take for granted or hopelessly urbanized.

Retire in cozy wood cabin in the woods with vegetable garden no longer on bucket list.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Science: 400 ppm And I Blame Star Trek



By Justin Bilicki

"Could you kindly rephrase that in equivocal, inaccurate, vague, self-serving and roundabout terms that we can all understand?"

Certainly.

Science, Technology, Creation and Innovation are our future. I learned that watching Star Trek. Science will let us live longer and eventually better. Science will help us cope with inevitable climate chaos ("change" is for wimps).

If those in power and of influence fund it. Power. I have spent too much time with those that suffer from the illusion of power. I knew that when I joined a global cause a few years ago that we were fighting a losing battle. Groups of us have formed across fields and continents, desperate to share our knowledge with each other.

Fellow geeks who share with child-like abandon. Look what I found! Cool, it's a rock. I found a tadpole. Hey, look at this everyone, the sun is doing something neat right now. Whooooaaa.

Oligopolies do not share with the other children.

We presented. Talked. TED talked. Presentations. Travel. Meetings. Talking. With people who do not understand a single concept and believe that accelerating graphs of over 300 ppm mean that the economy is doing well. During one particularly bored meeting and chronic interruptions by mobile technology, I walked out in the middle of my own presentation. Futile.

I went on hikes, cleared my head and decided that this was not worth my time. It felt right. There was no point explaining to anyone that the earth will be fine, new species will replace us. Nature reclaims.

I watched movies with HQ and the kittehs. Tried to read or paint. Tuned out the floods and the suffering that will follow. Tried to play video games. Thought about video games.

Then 400 ppm came. Still there. Faster than anyone calculated.

Thought about Homo Sapiens and Star Trek and Inception.

We have been treading water, time to learn how to swim again.
 

 

Friday, May 10, 2013

Things To Do When Life Makes You Cranky



1. Read good quotes:

All mankind is divided into three classes: those who are immovable, those that are moveable and those that move. (Benjamin Franklin)

Put 100 clever people into a group; they lose their intelligence. (Carl Jung)

Most people would rather die than think.
In fact they do. (Bertrand Russell)

2. Watch TED talks.
3. Get distracted by the sidebar and watch Einstein, the parrot.
4. Somehow discover that the Mantis Shrimp is your new favorite animal. In a moment of synchronicity, The Oatmeal thought so too.
5. Go hiking to clear thoughts. Scientific evidence of what you already knew. Read blogs and discover a natural place called Flin Flon.
6. Look at or make art.
7. Write lists.
8. Say yes to people in a real crisis. Say no to people who are not.
9. Read The Peter Principle for amusement.
10. Realize that there is a theme here.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Outsourced


Just as I thought I was "winning", they keep calling me back...

Local time: 9:30 pm

"Jennifer": May I speak to Racnaroth Cryptopeles?
Me: Who?
Jennifer: *giggles* Am I pronouncing that correctly?
Me: Sure, if you're looking for Racnaroth Cryptopeles.
Jennifer: We need a moderate payment of 1.50.
Me: If I pay a "moderate" one dollar fifty you'll stop calling me?
Jennifer: *GIGGLES HYSTERICALLY* Noooooooooou!!! A payment of $150 is needed.
Me: You realize that I cancelled your services 3 months ago?
Jennifer: *typing*
Me: Where are you calling from?
Jennifer: St. Louis, Ohio.
Me: They moved St. Louis to Ohio? No wonder...
Jennifer: *click*

Sigh.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Elevator

I am known to wander. I have been accused of wandering in the wrong direction with such confidence that people feel obligated to follow my lead, only to be disappointed that I do not know where I am going either.

I found myself wandering in a high tech building looking for the stairs to exit it. The universal symbol for stairs did not appear to exist. I was thus obligated to seek out one of many confounding elevators, which serviced certain floors but not the one I needed. Finding the right elevator should not be this puzzling in a place where most of its inhabitants appeared as confused as I was.  Finally, I found a set of respectable looking elevators, waited and was confronted by doors opening only to display that they were at their full capacity.

Tired and impatient, I looked around me and saw one elevator awaiting me with open doors.  I quickly stepped in, the doors closed immediately before I had time to notice that it looked somewhat industrial. I pressed "M" and the elevator with me as its lone occupant began to move up instead of down.

Dead Space

I pressed a few useless numbered buttons, next to a card swipe, to prevent it from arriving at the top executive floor. To no avail. The broken elevator was on an ear-popping mission to reach its heavenly destination with me in it.

Top floor. The doors opened wide as did my eyes. It was windy. I was looking at a copter, blades still rotating. Several individuals were running toward me with their cargo. They belonged in this elevator. I clearly did not. I wished I was dreaming or watching a movie. Neither applied.

They were as surprised to see a lone individual in their elevator as I was desperate to be anywhere but in it. I briefly weighed my options:

I am a moron and walked into the wrong elevator. Too honest.
Quality Control. Excellent work, gentlemen. Not credible.
Bond, James Bond...Too cuckoo's nest.

In the end, I opted for silent VIP in suit, pretending that this is exactly where I am supposed to be at this precise moment in time. They were preoccupied and did not ask questions. I offered no explanation.

I waited until they exited at their floor, before I stepped out. I looked back at the elevator.
Instead of call buttons there was a big red sign: FOR STAFF ONLY! TO HELIPAD.

I walked out of this adventure as quickly as I could.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

The Entropy of Life

Wistman's Woods

An annual ritual is to go for a long hike in the woods as soon as spring has confirmed its reappearance for more than 2 days. After just a brief time, the bad things that happen to good people and the good things that happen to bad people seemed irrelevant.

I was watching a Labrador excitedly chasing whatever he was chasing in a shallow river, true to his breed. I smiled as he found a branch. Too big. Another branch. Gotta show master.

I relaxed into the soothing tapping of raindrops. Admired the tenacity of life. Listened to birds communicating. Serenity.

I watched as birds hopped on the ground singing to each other and saw them pull earthworms from the wet ground to feed and nurture future generations of feathered singers.

Then I imagined what that experience must be like for the worm.

Totally. Ruined. The. Moment.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

A Box Can Save Your Sanity


Source

On occasion, I catch horrifying mistakes in draft:

The measurements of Dr. Doh may have unintended inaccuracies,
as he claims that: "lkkdidimm, f^%$#.. asssssssspft". The parameters
nnnnnnnolllllllllll5677777 do not apply in this particular case.

Lucky overestimates his trajectory and lands on keyboards. Flirt naps on warm hard drives, keyboards and evacuated office chairs. Unlike dogs, cats do not listen to basic commands such as "STAY OFF THE DESK! I MEAN IT!"

In a delayed moment of problem solving, I remember that cardboard boxes are like magnets for cats. There is a palpable excitement among the felines when a new box arrives. If there is a box, there is a cat in it.

Added to my desk: One box. With occupants.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Evolution Video

Evolution, the name applied to the strange creatures that inhabit this world:




A squeaky toy that does not require squeezing and defends itself with cuteness.

Who says Nature does not have a sense of humor?

Thursday, February 14, 2013

In Case Of Emergency: Find Your Blanket

An unexpected gift arrived. Someone out there had sent me a random act of kindness. I looked at the unassuming cardboard box, but did not recognize the sender. A company that was likely used to package and ship exotic chocolates, coffee or biscuits. Perhaps a technological gadget?

With childlike abandon and exuberance, I unboxed the contents. I dug through environmentally (un)friendly Styrofoam peanuts to discover....

A BLANKET! A blanket?!!?

Not just any blanket. A gender-neutral plaid fleece blanket, rolled up in its very own space-saving bag. Who would send me such a thoughtful gift of warmth?

There was a generic card extending its gratitude for my patronage sent by my insurance company, The Profiteers.

The subliminal message was clear:

Dear customer,
in appreciation for your loyalty please accept our gift made out of plastic, a byproduct of the oil industry. Speaking of the oil industry, while we no longer cover any acts of Man, we are pleased to inform you that in the event of flooding, loss of electricity or flying debris, you are fully covered. With a blanket.

This multipurpose blanket, when spread out, will likely attract your loved ones and your pets. In case of emergency, simply roll up your cats and sprint for your nearest door or window.

Always thinking of you and your loved ones during these climate challenged times. Please remember that as long as you have your blanket, you are not on your own.

With utmost indifference,
The Profiteers

Friday, February 8, 2013

Communicating With Cats


I used to consider myself a dog person. Then I ended up with cats. That is when the confusion set in.

According to scientific anthropological speculation, dogs are better at reading the facial expressions of humans, because they have a longer history with humanity.  Cats are allegedly more intelligent due to the fact that unlike dogs, who are pack scavengers, cats are lone predators that congregate into colonies when feral.  I have read several articles that wild cats rarely vocalize, while our manipulative domestic companions have learned to.

I speak science, some other languages, but mostly science. I can understand dogs, but the language I fail to master is cat.  This does not stop the self-proclaimed most intelligent species on the planet at attempting to communicate with clever cats on a daily basis.

Among one of my most miserable failures at translating Feline into English was a rescued Siamese, who looked like a grey alien crossbred with a vampire bat and sounded like the dissonant bag pipe of the cat world. According to those that love the breed, the emission of unearthly wails of despair were the Siamese equivalent of "talking" and did not require emergency exorcisms for demonic possession.


Random Siamese kitten. Not a Chihuahua.

My attempts to make first contact with the aliens in my home continue to this day.  They blink, I blink back a reassuring I come in peace. Their incessant meows evoke a conditioned repertoire of routine queries: You want food? Here you go. Not this food? You don't want food? You want to play? Want to chase the string or the ball? Neither? You want to be petted. Patted? I DON'T KNOW WHAT YOU WANT! Hey, where are you going?

Misunderstood, tail held high, they walk off. Before I question my sanity, I remind myself that many human conversations are equally inconclusive.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Incredible And Innovative Art

Contemporary art can often be repetitive and unimaginative. Smearing gesso and white paint on a canvas (no matter how skillfully applied), and calling it "The Absence of Something #404" is not terribly innovative. Piling rusting "found objects" onto a modern art gallery floor as a "social commentary on our disposable consumerism...blah blah...yawn...blah blah", is a lazy explanation for re-purposing junk into junk, while making curators and wealthy collectors extremely happy.

Sometimes one has to know where to look to discover that contemporary art is far from dead, but thriving not so quietly around the world.

Reminiscent of old natural art history illustrations, artist Victor Stankovic cloned cephalopods with insects and created a new species on paper. His on-line animated GIF version only adds to the charm.

Cephalopodoptera by Vladimir Stankovic

This is Vladimir Stankovic's series Cephalopodoptera.

Engineer and sculptor Jonty Hurwitz created an innovative new approach to what Dali achieved without the aid of modern technology. The sculptures reveal their true shape in a reflective surface.

Frogs Are Endangered by Jonti Hurwitz
More can be found at Jontyhurwitz.com

Artist Liu Bolin provides a truly thought-provoking social commentary of a society, where individuals are invisible. His disappearance act uses painstakingly applied paint only.

By Liu Bolin




More of his photographs can be viewed at Thisiscolossal.com

I will see you in a few hours.


Friday, January 25, 2013

Why We Blog


Two years later I am no longer questioning why I invest time in a blog, but remain grateful to those followers who talked me into it. You know who you are.

At the time that I started this blog, I had some time off and life was going according to a flexible plan.  I had envisioned a humorous informative science blog with well written posts, thoughts on art, society and possibly a few experiments in creative writing. I ended up with a 15 minute posts, lists and cat video blog. Sometimes, I combined all three to save time. How did that happen?

Life had happened. An unexpected avalanche of simultaneous and most enlightening exercises in crises management, some great news, some bad news and some ugly news just to make this thing called life a well-rounded experience. By the time I ended up with the additional displeasure of dealing with call centers, (can't you see that I am really busy with important things?) my world was coming to an end. Actually, that is overly dramatic; call centers are just really really irritating.

 ***

I work in a highly competitive accomplishment driven environment. It suits my personality. I was dissatisfied about the quality and content of this blog, complained about the time decent posts take to produce and thought of abandoning it altogether and going back to commenting.

The blog remained and became a learning experience. Within just a few months I had met similarly-minded people, which would have taken me years to meet in RL even if we lived in the same area. My personal challenge was to retrain my brain to switch from scientific, lengthy and precise writing to short, goofy, colloquial (and that's okay) posts. The blogosphere is incredibly supportive, fellowers show up at their own convenience, people take blogging breaks when RL takes precedence and everyone understands.

Blogging is much more than communicating with geographically dislocated strangers. We can access this medium instantaneously when we need to and have time for.  15 minutes or 3 hours at a time. The only deadlines and goals are self-imposed. Post 3 times a week or bimonthly. Finish those posts in draft...or not. 

The blog is there regardless of where and when we are. There are not too many things in life that offer this much freedom, control and choice.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Reverse Prank Calling

Self-initiated global research has revealed that various providers are selling our information for considerable profit and miniscule fines.

There has been a recent increase in calls from companies that bypass any effort at blocking them. The polite and courteous "No, thank you. We're not interested," stopped working. In an effort to stop repetitive autodialed calls from call centers that are located in time zones other than mine, I was forced to take desperate and very rude measures. It occurred to me that creating barriers to communication might actually result in the desired effect of having a commission based employee give up.  It also proved to be highly entertaining, albeit very juvenile.

Foreign non-existent accent:

Me: Haya?
John: This is John from hotairductcleaning, we would like to...
Me: Noo. No duck.
John: This is hotairductcleaning...
Me: Duck.Duck. Haya?
Rude John: Yeeeah. I know, you have chickens and sheep...
Me: Noo Chickan. Have duck.
John: *click*

Age barrier:

Kevin: Hi, this is Kevin from Wedestroycarpets.
Me: 'kay.
Kevin: We have a special offer to clean your rugs and carpets.
Me: 'kay.
Kevin: Would you like to take advantage of this special offer?
Me: 'kay.
Kevin: We can schedule you on Friday between 2 and 5 in the afternoon.
Me: 'kay.
Kevin: That's great. Thank you for choosing Wedestroycarpets. I can confirm the appointment on...
Me: MooooOOOOM!!!! There's a man who wants to come over when you're not home. He says he wants to touch my...
Kevin: *click*

What?

Mary: This is Mary. You have won a trip to our time-share resort in Puerto Furtivo.
Me: Maaary, love. How are you?
Mary: We would like to congratulate you...
Me: ETHEL!!! Pack your bags. Your sister Mary invited us to Bali for your birthday.
Mary: Uum..No. You won a 3 night stay at the time-share in Puerto Furtivo.
Me: Eeeh? When did you move to Portugal? ETHEEEL! Did you know that Mary moved to Portugal?
Mary: *click*

Several months later: Antares: 3. "John, Kevin and Mary": Silent.
WINNING!

Saturday, January 12, 2013

What Defines A Great Book?


This is a question that thankfully arises frequently, particularly when I am asked or ask for recommendations. A question that I suppose is as unanswerable as "What is Art?"

At a precocious age I took it upon myself to read the great classics. The canon of (mostly English) literature, followed by the best of world literature. In hindsight, I would have to agree with Churchill that some books are read too young.  Some require life experience to be understood, others remain as unrelatable then as they are now and many hold up to a reread years later.  I loved The Fountainhead, Moby Dick, Huck Finn, Notes from the Underground, To Kill a Mockingbird, 100 Years of Solitude and 1984. They are among the great books that were formative and that inspired me. I appreciated Jane Austin as a great writer, even though I could not relate to the social issues of her time.

Two books, however, that I despised as a teen and gleefully continue to despise as an adult are Catcher in the Rye and The Great Gatsby. In the unlikely event that a self-important literary critic stumbles upon this blog; there are better books to teach teens about alienation and rebellion. Holden is a whiny brat and should pick a fight with Howard Roark. 

As to The Great Gatsby, here is the book review that I never got to write: The pursuit of materialism is a futile endeavor. *Yawn* It is lonely at the top. Never pursue anyone named Daisy. Rosebud. Look what happened to Smeagol.

Rant over.

To those readers who enjoyed two great classics of American literature that I passionately dislike, I am glad that you enjoyed them.

Where was I?

Individual taste and personal choice. It is important to read books that should be part of our collective consciousness, but what I consider to be a great book is a book that is memorable and thought-provoking. It inspires, reveals, introduces new ideas and changes world views.

Since I am always looking for recommendations, which books are on your great book list?

Saturday, January 5, 2013

The Un-Resolution List 2013


Things I will never do, because I do not want to:

1. Swim in or travel to the Amazon.
There are too many lifeforms that can get into and up a human being. Armchair travel suffices and I leave the experience to travel writers and National Geographic journalists.

2. Eat Fugu.
Puffer fish are droll; the fish that turns into a balloon when stressed and paralyzes you if you did not get the hint.

3. Go bungee jumping.
It is not like flying. It is a high speed spine adjustment.

4. Eat anything endangered.
That is how most species became endangered to begin with.

5. Go unexplored cave spelunking.
Toxic guano fumes, spores and methane gas. Also, I watched "The Descent". Creepy white things without eyes are creepy, despite natural selection and the wonders of evolution.

6. Take a wilderness survival course.
I do not believe in reenacting the past without costumes until I have to.

7. Always write a list of 10.
Who came up with that rule?

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Science Fiction And Fantasy Movies of 2012

Good Science Fiction and Fantasy movies fall into two basic categories for me; thought provoking or mindlessly entertaining. The latter includes spectacular things going "boom", especially when aliens make humans go "boom". Fun stuff.

Here are some of my picks for 2012. As someone who despises spoilers, all of my recommendations are spoiler and allergen free.

Prometheus
Ridley Scott waited 30 years to return to the scifi genre. I suspect that most people expected another alien movie. Instead, Scott addressed the questions that have preoccupied him since Bladerunner. What makes us human? Who is the creator? How do we use our scientific innovations? Where is our place in the universe?


The Cabin in the Woods
Joss Whedon makes a horror movie. Need I say more, Whedonites? For those who do not watch horror movies this is not...it is...it is funny. Just watch it.

The Avengers
Joss Whedon creates a truly enjoyable romp. Yes. I am a Joss Whedon fan.

Snowhite and the Huntsman
A visually beautiful film with stunning cinematography. Possibly not the greatest acting or story line but the visuals almost make up for it.

Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter
The title alone made me cringe. It should not work, but does. Stylistically it reminded me of Ritchie's re-invention of Sherlock Holmes.

TV series:
Game of Thrones
Probably one of the best and most cleverly written shows in a long time. Current status: Symptoms of GOT withdrawal.

The Walking Dead
Pure exaggerated horror (of life). The basic premise: What if it does not get better?

Still on my list:
The Dark Knight Rises
Hugo
Looper (or Sprite starts chanting)