Thursday, April 30, 2009

Math is Fun

I like math. I've been reviewing pre-algebra for my tests this week to get into the Medical training courses and I'm remembering how much fun math can be. Maybe if I had to study more advanced math I wouldn't feel the same way, but math up through pre-algebra, which is all that's going to be on the test, is great.

I've always been pretty good at math. I never really had to worry about the subject in school, it always came pretty naturally. Kerri, my sister, has a degree in math, so I guess it runs in the family. I hope I'm not jinxing myself by talking about the fact that I feel I'm good at it, when my test is tomorrow, but still I feel pretty confident. Timed tests can be such a pain, since they make you worry too much about how much time you have left. Maybe I'll start giving myself math problems to solve while I'm lounging around the house. it will keep my mind stimulated. Wow, I am such a dork. Jason, aren't you proud?!!

Test Yourself

I enjoy doing personality assessment tests. 

Wow, that sounds thrilling, tell me more, Kate! 

Don't mind if I do, yesterday I had a Career Workshop at the unemployment office and we were asked to answer all these career personality questions.  Such as, Do you enjoy writing or Do you enjoy fixing things, not in that order though.  The similar questions were categorized together. My result in the end said that my #1 was Social, #2 was Artistic, and #3 was Conceptional. So I was S.A.C in that order.  He then handed out a career matching book, I looked for this combination and it equalled a Licensed Practicing Nurse.  I don't know why Artistic would be the 2nd part of a Nurse, but either way it was pretty cool.  You then were told to pick some of the careers that were under different combinations of S.A.C or to look under jobs under your first letter.  There were a lot of teaching and social worker type work.  It was interesting and a fun process.

I'm now reading a career tests book and it goes though similar processes.  Either way I feel that I will at least understand myself better after all this self-analyzing, which I feel is key to discover your true passions. 

Thunderstorms at Night

The fact that I can write this post honestly is a positive all by itself. When our roof was leaking and we were suffering from other rain-related hardships, water from the sky was a mortal enemy. But that's all taken care of now, and I'm glad for all the obvious reasons and because it distressed me to feel angst and worry whenever a thunderstorm rolled through instead of awe and wonder.

I'm glad to say I've now returned to my prior relationship with thunderstorms, and my favorite, the late night or very early morning storm. I love waking up to the sound of thunderclaps off in the distance, lightening illuminating the room at unpredictable intervals. Being inside, in the dark while a tempest boils all around me gives me a warm, cocooned feeling. It sort of heightens the sense of safety you feel sleeping in your own bed, adding an extra, very large element that your blankets and comforters are holding at bay. I guess the widened disparity between inside and outside makes inside seem that much nicer.

Plus the accompanying thrum of rain is a soothing counterpoint to the thunder's violent outbursts. If I wake up in the midst of a pounding storm, I like to just lay there, not necessarily trying to fall back asleep. I focus on the rain sounds. All of the random drips and flows of water through tree limbs and gutters wrapped in the background hiss of the rain on the street. It's a sound that guarantees a return to sleep for me, which allows me to enjoy the occasional jolts back to wakefulness that the thunder and lightening bring.

During the day thunderstorms are mostly a bother. But the night transforms them into a wholly different experience.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Bad Robot

J.J. Abrams' Bad Robot creations are fantastic. I am a fan of everything J.J. touches, if he's producing, writing, directing, it doesn't matter. Lost has been and still is an amazing show. I don't care how lost I get watching it, that's the intriguing grab it has and I can't wait to see how they decide to wrap it up. Fringe, the newest series, is great, I love all the character's and every episode gives you something new to think about. One of his first creations was Felicity, what a great coming-of-age piece. I was in college the whole time it was on so it really hit home for me.

He has also been behind great films, like Cloverfield and the recent Star Trek. Cloverfield was really well done, there were occasional annoying characters, but once they were killed off you were again loving it. Ha, Ha. The effects were extraordinary. Same with Star Trek, I had seen a couple episodes of the series, The Next Generation, but that was it and this film was easy to follow and very enthralling.

I can't wait to see what he and his team at Bad Robot come up with next. Way to keep the audience craving more and way to keep thinking outside the box.

Jason Geeks Out...For Real This Time!

Kate and I just got back from a free advance screening of the new J. J. Abrams movie, Star Trek.



Can't say it enough. AWESOME!

I wasn't a big fan of the original series when I was younger. I think I would appreciate it more now, but it still engenders a certain cheese factor it will never be able to shake. But I was a very big fan of Star Trek: The Next Generation. So, while I wouldn't call myself a treky, I'm definitely predisposed to enjoying this film.

And I did. A lot.

The original series, as cheesy as it seems, was groundbreaking in a lot of ways. For the time it was made, the special effects were first rate. It blazed trails in terms of what was possible on television, and almost singlehandedly propelled science fiction into popular culture.

It was the first network television show to feature a multi-ethnic cast, featuring the first television bi-racial kiss. It imagined a future quite unlike the world as it existed when the show was produced. In the Star Trek universe, mankind no longer wars against itself, and not just because of a new, common, alien enemy, as in movies like "Independence Day." Mankind achieved peace through a maturation of the human psyche. In the Star Trek universe mankind no longer saw itself as separate from the rest of the universe, but as a small part of a much larger, much grander construct, and the peaceful exploration of that construct became much more important than petty human differences.

It's a view of humanity that I'd love to see more people adopt. It places a high value on the human condition, and how we interact with one another. It hold discovery, invention, innovation and understanding in high regard, especially as those concepts pertain to the advancement of human civilization. It holds that no one person, organization, or country is above helping the rest of us along that path, and that as society advances, we succeed or fail together, not at each other's expense. It's a very noble view of humanity.

And the Star Trek universe serves as the perfect setting for one awesome freaking movie!

It opens May 8th. See it and believe.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Yummy Grapes

My favorite fruit is grapes. They are so easy to eat, and in the right season you could have a few different ripe kinds to chose from. I remember working on location in Boulder, Colorado at an organic community and they had grapes growing on there trees outback. It was amazing you could pick them right off the trees and eat them. They had a different taste than any of the other grapes I've had. To have fresh fruit growing on your land is such a dream of mine.

I love the artificial grape flavors as well, like grape bubble gun, grape juice (these usually have some natural favoring), and grape favored candy. I know it tastes very unlike the real thing, but that doesn't stop me from craving it. Grape flavor has always been my top choice.

Now every time I go to the grocery store I get a bag of grapes, tasting them first to make sure they are ripe. They are the best snack food around.

Grow Your Own. Share With Everyone.

Keeping the theme of the some of the last few posts going, I think I should add growing your own food to the list of positives. It's a challenge for many urbanites, us included, but the benefits will far outweigh the hassles.

In our case, we have a reasonably-sized back yard, but, as mentioned before, it gets very little sunlight on the ground due to a dense tree canopy. Our front yard is much more modest. It does get some sun in places, but I'm not sure I want my decorative ornamental plantings to be cucumbers and tomatoes.

So our solution to the problem is to build a large wooden box on legs and grow veggies on our second floor roof. I figure I'll build and place the box so that it's right outside of and level with one of our third floor windows, allowing easy access without having to crawl outside. There's plenty of sunlight because we're above the treeline there, and keeping our produce off the ground should keep more of the spoils in our and our friends' hands and less in those of wandering food pilferers.

I wouldn't know how to accurately calculate the money you can save growing your own food, since I don't know yet what seeds cost, how much water is required, etc. Water in the city is far more expensive than water in Baltimore County (even though we share the same reservoirs (go figure that one.) Still, with food prices climbing higher all the time, growing your own has to be, in the long run, less expensive. Plus, you know where it came from, and you know it's chemical-free (unless you chose to use chemicals.)

I read an article a few days ago that blasted the food industry for selling sub-par produce. Large factory farms are, over time, creating strains of vegetables that favor faster growth and hardiness over taste and nutrition. Makes sense, given their business model. But why would you want to buy from them? A tomato without flavor or nutrition is just a water balloon. Water balloons are fun, but I don't want them in my salad (unless it's a salad I plan on throwing at someone.)

There are so many different varieties of veggies. Scores of types of heirloom tomatoes. None of which you'll ever find at a grocery store. A good farmer's market, sure. But they'll cost you. Grow your own, and for very little green you'll have plenty of green (and red, and yellow, and purple) for yourself and an army of your closest friends.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Planting Life

I like planting flowers and herbs. It's a new love and hopefully won't go away when they end up dying. Maybe they'll thrive, who knows!? It's a way to create life and give to this ever polluted world. They are so pretty and colorful and can't wait for them to grow and bloom. They are sort of like children or pets, you must watch them closely and keep them well hydrated. Maybe a little gardener was born yesterday, again we'll see. It was a very cool process, even though the 80 degree weather wasn't cool at all. Hard work will hopefully pay off in the the end, gives up luck.

Constant Communication

I read an article a few days ago that lamented the loss of handwriting. The author's position was that electronic communication has nearly eliminated the need for hand writing almost everything, and that the loss of such a tactile, personal expression was saddening.

I get that, but here's the positive spin. What we loose in personal expression, we make up for with immediacy. In some ways it's truly an either/or situation. Handwritten missives capture a part of ourselves that an email misses, but are physical objects that require hand delivery, slowing communication. Ultimately this feels like an issue of someone cleaving to a technology that has already been replaced many times over, from the typewriter to the word processor, to email and beyond. I'm sure some people lamented the loss of the calligraphic quality of handwriting you get with a quill and inkwell when ball point pens were created. But ball point pens were so much faster and more immediate. Eventually calligraphy was relegated to hobbyists. Handwriting now in many ways is akin to washing your clothes by hand in a stream behind your house.

Instant digital communication has opened all new ways to express yourself. Email is the obvious one, but you also have blogs like this one, where self-publishing is a reality. Then you have Facebook and MySpace, websites that allow you to keep in touch with friends and loved ones (and total strangers) and, through photos and quizzes and other little widgets, share parts of yourself with them in ways unheard of before. Twitter is the latest in this line of social media services. Tweat about yourself to an unlimited number of followers on a constant basis in 140 characters or less.

With immediacy, new ways of expressing yourself are born, new ways of injecting personality and individualism into communication. Avatars, virtual representations of ourselves in the digital world can accompany each communication we send. Images and video can be sent just as easily as text. Soon, I suspect, more and more customization, from font choice to formatting and color will be available easily in digital communication, such that eventually each email you receive will be as unique to its sender as a handwritten letter was in the past. They'll never be able to fully replace the handwritten word and it's ability to express meaning, but when you consider all the other benefits, it's a trade-off worth making.

I'll admit that volume doesn't guarantee quality. With all of the streams of communication available, a lot gets said that really doesn't need to be. But that isn't a bad thing. The more we can talk with each other, connect with other people and keep tabs on the people we love, the less isolated we feel. When it comes to communication, more is always better, even if the really good stuff is diluted by a lot more chatter.

It's like the shift from film to video cameras. Home movies shot on film, which was limited, expensive, and had to be developed, were limited to the important bits of our lives for short periods of time. Everything else was necessarily stripped away. With the advent of video, we could leave the camera running. Nothing was left off the tape. Instead of filming only the birthday candles being blown out and a few presents being opened, you now video tape the entire birthday party. A lot of that is unneccesary and uninteresting. But now it can't be forgotten. Instead of having to reduce your life to a few meaty moments, you can remember everything. A little extra clutter is worth it.

Rolling Out the Green Carpet

Sod is great stuff. It's insta-lawn. As I think I said in the post the preceded this one, I've always been more of a red thumb than a green one (plants don't bleed, but if they could I'd have a lot on my hands.) So attempting to raise up an army of grasslets from seed was mostly unthinkable. A comparable feat for me would be raising up a city by planting a bunch of cinder blocks in the dirt. Sod seemed like the only viable option.

And while the prep work; tilling, raking dirt, amending the soil, tilling again, etc. isn't easy work, actually dropping the sod is a piece of cake. And the instant gratification can't be beat. You may not get the satisfaction you'd likely get from nurturing seeds, coddling the young plants as they grow to maturity, sending them off to school and then suffering the bitter disappointment as they throw everything away to pursue their impossible dream of learning to disperse seed in the form of an edible fruit. But you do get a lush new lawn in a day. Let the nanny raise the children.

I just hope the new lawn takes root. We have a couple large trees in the back throwing a lot of shade down on the grass. If the new grass doesn't get enough light, it may start to get patchy. That would be a real shame. Kate and I are going to try and thin out the foliage in the canopy. Then we'll cross our fingers. And water a lot.

NOTE: This picture shows the yard with debris and dirt still all over the concrete paths. Step three involves powerwashing all the concrete and then planting ornamental plants in the strip of dirt we left empty on the right side of the photo. And step four brings a whole-yard privacy fence. Step five is a surprise.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Native American Art

Today got away from us, so Jason and I are having to do yesterday's entry tonight and today's entry tomorrow morning. I hope our reader's forgive us, Jason tilled the front and back yard yesterday while I went and shot a wedding all evening. We had sod for the backyard delivered yesterday evening and when we woke up today we felt the urgency to get the sod put down as soon as possible before it dried out too much. So we proceeded with laying out sod and planting a few annuals and perennials in the front. We worked in the 80 degree weather for 7 hours, we were exhausted. I believe Jason will tell you more in his entry.

I really enjoy the Native American Art from the Northwest Coast tribes. My interest in this art began when I saw a few of the paintings on Jan's wall, Jason's mom. I then found out that Stephanie, Jason's sister, had one of the same prints tattooed on her back. Ever since I saw those few pieces I've been hooked and completely fascinated. Most of the time the paintings are done in red, black and sometimes some yellow. The themes are animal symbols, painted in divided shapes that are all put together to create one animal. They are pretty tribal looking and always pretty trippy. I just love the style of the art, their simple yet so powerful. I just learned that the style is created primarily by Native American artists from Tlingit, Haida, Tsimshian, Kwakwaka'wakw, Nuu-chah-nulth and other First Nations.

I really want to find the perfect one for me one day, so I can have it tattooed. If your a Grey's Anatomy fan you might have seen this kind of art in the background at Seattle Grace. We just watched the last episode, hence why I'm doing this entry. Here are some of the pieces to give you an idea of the style, Stephanie check out this frog I found.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Digging in the Dirt

Kate and I are finally planting and landscaping our yard! No more dirt pit. No more weed farm. I've been looking forward to this for a year and a half. Why that long? Other things to do. Plus, we find it really easy to get mired by the details. Planning our plantings was such a mind-blower, the doing of it never made it out of the gate. I think we finally said to ourselves, let's just put something in the ground and go from there. Let's not try and get it right immediately. Let's let the system evolve, make some mistakes, and eventually end up with a nice front and back yard. Anything is better than our vast collection of nature's scraggly weed pals.

Which is exactly what's cool about landscaping. It evolves over time. It's a living system. It's not a static sculpture. It's a decorative ecosystem, one that's plastic, malleable, and infinitely hot-swappable. I don't know a lot about it yet. What can grow where. What types of soils support what types of plants. But I do know the basics, and that's all you really need. Water, sun, and food. Meet those needs, and nature does the rest. If a certain plant isn't supported by a particular planting location, it will be abundantly obvious very quickly. And, hopefully, that's how we'll learn. There's a billion books on the subject, but my poor brain will only hold so much information. Eventually you have to learn by doing.

We have a houseplant that has survived for almost a year. That's a first by a wide margin. Usually plants fear sharing a living space with me. So I'm feeling good. I think our yard has a shot at greatness.

Family is the best!

Family dinners can be so enjoyable. Jason's family is just the greatest, whether it's his mom's or his dad's, it doesn't matter. Tonight Jason had to work a night shift at Renegade so I met his dad's family at the Olive Garden in Columbia. A couple uncles came, an aunt came, a cousin, Grandpa, and Karin and Lou, Jason's step mom and dad. They are all such great company and it was fantastic conversation.

Family can be so loyal and heartfelt. There's nothing stronger than family kindness. I had a blast. I of course talked way too much about what's going with me. Sue, Jason's aunt is in the educational field so I had a chance to talk to her about getting into teaching. Hearing her tell stories about the friendships she's made with a few students made me think about that profession more and more. It's funny cause she's not even a teacher, she's more like an IT specialist at a school and she's still had these great moments with a few of the students.

James, Jason's cousin, is studying to be in the dental field and talking to him about getting into the medical arena was also helpful. Grandpa helped me with gardening advise and as always he was a joy to be around. Jason's family is so warm and funny, I love having them nearby. Thanks for dinner Karin and Lou, you are all the best!!

Friday, April 24, 2009

Breakfast Cereal, Not Just for Deviants Anymore

Here's an odd bit of trivia for you. John Harvey Kellogg, creator of Corn Flakes, was partly inspired by his belief that a cold, plain diet would help quell strong sexual urges. I'm not kidding. That I knew, but it gets stranger. I just learned that three of the first four cold breakfast cereals marketed commercially were invented by sanitarium operators, and one of those was also a former patient! Granula, the first ever cold cereal was created in 1863 by James Caleb Jackson, operator of the Jackson Sanitorium. Kellogg, mentioned before, creator of Granola and Corn Flakes operated the Battle Creek Sanitarium, and a former patient of his, Charles William Post, invented Grape-Nuts.

They're all a little Grape-Nuts, it sounds like. To be fair, though, sanitariums back before the turn of the century were more like health spas than nut houses. But they did have some strange "treatment" ideas. But one man's pre-turn of the century anti-viagra is another man's delicious answer to "what should I eat?"

I love cold cereal in the morning. I'm sure it's partly out of laziness. Cooking something requires effort. Cold cereal requires next to none. But I'm also a huge grains fan, so any opportunity to shovel down some wheat, rice or corn (not technically a grain, I don't think) is welcome. No sugar either, please. If I wanted dessert I'd eat pudding for breakfast. Not a bad idea, necessarily, but not what I'm looking for. I want the pure, unadulterated grain experience. Just shuck a little wheat and pour on the milk. That's breakfast.

But why limit yourself. Cold cereal makes an excellent in-a-pinch dinner, or a midnight snack. Have it for lunch, why don't ya? Think outside the cereal box. The word "breakfast" printed on the front isn't a command. It's more of a suggestion. Plus, those "urges" have a mind of their own. Better have a box of Cheerios, or your significant other, on hand at all times.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

P is for Positive

Hey, shouldn't this blog also be about positive moments in our everyday life? I feel that using this as a time to reflect on the positive aspects of my day will be therapeutic. My few positives for today pretty much add up to one complete positive and it's all about getting me back on the right track. I've been pretty down in the dumps the past couple of weeks trying to figure out what I want to do with the rest of my life.  

I had a meeting today with a training course counselor and I still don't know exactly what direction I am going, but she made me feel better about my choices and made me open my eyes to my options.  The deal is as long as I'm unemployed they, they being unemployment, will give me money towards a training class that will further my ability to land work.  It's pretty awesome and since I'm still young I feel I should take advantage to this deal, so I am considering going into one of the Medical Training programs, such as Medical Assistant.  You leave the classes with certificates that will help you land a job or it can be a step towards getting more certificates and medical training.  I am now highly considering this and it's an exciting new change.  I do want to sit and think about my options still because I'm not dead set on it yet, but the positive news is I'm getting there and feel better about my future.  

The next positive is I think I found my bike, I'm going to check it out in the morning and it looks perfect in the picture.  It doesn't have those crazy circular handlebars either.  I'm so excited and I really think it's a winner.  

I went through the photos for my 2nd wedding today and I feel really good about a few of the shots. Some turned out very stunning and it makes me feel like I might possibly have a chance to make this dream of mine come to life. 

I did a lot of talking to myself this evening since Jason is working nights and it's made my feel more confident and alive inside and out. Thank you Kate, you are the bomb and you're officially going crazy, but that's cool. 

I want to rap this up by saying that Baby Mama is a great warm and fuzzy comedy, Tina and Amy were fantastic! 

Jason Geeks Out, Part 3

I've always had a thing for simulation games. Any game that takes a real world process, replicates it, and hands the controls over to you. And while there are some great simulation board games, like my favorite Republic of Rome, I'm mainly drawn to the computer variety. With sim games, it's all about the authenticity. The more closely you can model whatever system you're replicating, the more fun the game is, and with board games there's always a level of abstraction that pulls you out of the experience.

Wow, Jason. Your cold, technical analysis of sim games makes them sound like such a hoot, tell me more!

Oh, you have no idea. Actually, I don't either. Sometimes I wonder what's so enticing about this genre of games. They often, but not always, model relatively obscure experiences. SimTower was a favorite of mine years ago. It put you in charge of constructing a 100 floor skyscraper. As you built each new floor you had to decide how to distribute the space between office, retail, infrastructure and other categories. You had to design the elevator and escalator layouts to efficiently move people around the building, as well as take care of mundane details like trash collection. The goal was to finish all 100 floors, be profitable, and keep your tower dwellers happy. I don't think I ever got past the 35th floor.

Another game I played a decade or so ago was SimAnt. An ant colony simulation. No, not a digital version of the narrow, glass enclosed toy you might have had as a kid (though equally as pointless probably.) This was a faithful recreation of the day-to-day life of a colony as it attempts to spread itself across some hapless human's yard. Through resource management, queen movement, and ant specialization you slowly establish new hives. Once you've amassed a large enough colony and manage to infest hapless human's house, you win. I know. It sounds more like an episode of "Nature" than a game. But it was a lot of fun. I guess if sim games are your thing.

There are sims for almost everything you can think of. Some of my other favorites included Caesar II, a Roman city building sim, SimEarth, an planetary evolution sim, SimCity, the mother of all sim games, which takes city building and management as far as it can go, and of course, The Sims.

The Sims is the strangest of all the sim games, in my mind, for two reasons. One, because you play sim games to temporarily escape real life and The Sims simulates...real life! And two, because it was wildly popular, even among people that generally don't fall into the sim game contingent. If you haven't seen it, imagine this. A game that let's you create families, build them houses, buy them stuff, find them jobs and friends, and generally help them live their lives. They pay bills, have to call repairmen for plumbing leaks, and get fired if they consistently miss work. All the joys and troubles of life, manageably modeled in miniature.

It gets old after a while, but while the gloss is fresh, it is so addictive. The urge to play must be related to the urge that parents have, trying to make sure their kid's lives are better than their own. You get to live vicariously through any number of simulated people, letting them do all the things you can't, or won't. Or you can just set things up for them, and watch as at all falls apart.

The next logical step from The Sims is SimGamer. A sim game that models the life of a geeky sim gamer as he or she attempts to beat the latest sim experience, wasting hours of their lives in the process. Can't wait.

I want to suck your blood...

Vampires are so cool, I'd say they are my favorite mythological figure. They are mysterious, sexy, beautiful at times (Twilight), their pale and seemingly fragile yet extremely deadly. I've always been a fan of Vampire movies, my favs are Interview with a Vampire (Tom and Brad could not be any sexier in that film) and then there's Bram Stoker's Dracula with the awe so dark and mysterious, Gary Oldman. Lost Boys is also a great flick for the younger generation. In that film you don't necessarily want the Vampire's to win, Keifer Sutherland and his gang of vamps are malicious and scary.

Female vampires are intriguing too. When I was in high school I did a vampire role-playing game during Halloween and I came as Nadja, a female vampire. I don't remember the story around Nadja, but it was a fun experience. I got the idea of her from a movie of the same title.

From movie to movie or story to story they're always differences between the vampires capabilities or what kills them or if they fly or turn into bats or even sometimes if they have fangs or not. In the Twilight series they don't have fangs and the can go out in the daylight but their skin glows when they do.  I like how mythology of these creatures can change from story to story.  Maybe I'll take a stab at coming up with my own backstory.  Love between vampires and humans is always been a hot idea to me.  It's so forbidden and dangerous. Twilight really has turned the notch up on that concept, the mysterious forbidden territory of true devotional love.  I just can't get enough of it, I can't wait for the next movies to come out. 

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Music in General

My post yesterday got me thinking more generally about sound and music (and the sound of music, but not The Sound of Music.) What is it in the human brain the differentiates random ambient sound, like that thrown off by old computer equipment in the course of normal operation, and music, when that same grouping of equipment is altered to play Bohemiam Rhapsody?

Obviously Bohemian Rhapsody has a perceivable, ordered structure that random office noise doesn't. And while the root of any musical system is somewhat arbitrary (Middle C could have been an infinite number of frequencies), once established, its internal divisions of tone and rhythm are absolute. As a demonstration, imagine a guitar string. You can tune the string to any number of tensions, creating an infinite number of base tones. But the fret tone relationships don't change. You're simply transposing the entire system.

It's all math. If you take a string of any length and divide it in half, the new string vibrates with similar acoustic properties. It is one octave up from the original tone. So Middle C is the original string, and the new string is the next C up on the scale. Other logical divisions of the string create other notes with harmonic properties. And rhythm is also created by regular divisions of a base pulse.

So why do our brains enjoy this structure? It lies in our ability to distinguish and unquenchable hunger for patterns. In fact, I think it's safe to say that "music" only exists in our pattern hungry brains. Naturally occurring sounds can be structured. The sound of water dripping can be regular and rhythmic. Bird song is tonal and ordered. Those sounds are quickly decoded by our brains as "musical." But even more random sounds have musical properties. Water tinkling randomly over rocks has certain musical overtones. Music is pattern, and it's our brains which decides which patterns are pleasing.

Which is why so many forms of music, from classical to free jazz to industrial "noise" music exist. Even the most dissonant, jumbled conglomerations of notes and beats can be musical to some people. It all depends on the patterns you recognize, and your brain's definition of "music."

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Love for Chuck

Chuck is a great show; it's filled with action-packed excitement, toe curling love scenes, and many funny moments. Yes, the concept is a little far fetched and you can't help but think "really, okay I don't buy that", but seriously it doesn't matter how unbelievable the concept is because it's such a well written show. The actors are great and the character's are played out perfectly. I have a huge crush on Zachery Levi, the actor that plays Chuck. I just watched the latest episode, and next week is the 2nd Season Finale. I hope it doesn't get canceled, it unfortunately seems to be wrapping up a few too many loose ends in the plot which is making me nervous. They already took the fantastic Pushing Daisies from me, they can't take Chuck too.

The romance going on in Chuck is so powerful. They are not allowed to be together and they have only shared a few kisses, but seriously the sexual tension is out of this world. I want to thank the writers for the recent interaction between the two. I'm now impatiently waiting for the Season Finale.

Spoiler Alert. If you ever want to catch up on the show or if you've never seen it and would like to some day then I recommend not watching the below video.

Here's the latest scene from Chuck that left me hot and bothered.

The Saturn Vue is my cup of tea

I really like orange Saturn Vue's old or new. My good friend, Brooke had one while we were in college together and we spent so much time in it. I could never drive it because it was a stick, but just being the passenger all the time was great. I always thought they were really slick inside and have the perfect amount of space. One day I would love a new automatic orange Saturn Vue Hybrid.

Today I attended a day run-through at a company called Aerus. They sell high quality vacuums and air purifiers, amongst other things. The girl I followed around of course drove a brand new orange Saturn Vue. It was great seeing the difference between her new one and Brooke's older model. They both drive very smoothly. Man, I want one. Better get a job first, by the way it's decided that I will not be selling vacuums for a living. They were very nice, the products were great, but it's not my cup of tea.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Music (and Binary) are Universal Languages

I'm not going to do this often, basing an entire entry on a single YouTube video, but this has to be heard to be believed. It's a positive because it's proof that music exists everywhere, and that you don't really have to look that hard to find it (although sometimes you do need an advanced degree in electronic engineering and antiquated programming languages.)

The creator of this video managed to get a rag tag bunch of vintage computer equipment to perform Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody", altering the speeds of different constituent gears and motors to create the differing pitches needed for the song. Never before has a hard drive, a flat bed scanner, an oscilliscope, and some other stuff I can't identify sounded so sweet.

This is a great example of human ingenuity, and an affirmation that art can be created anytime, from absolutely anything.

Mr Don

My uncle Don is an awesome guy. He was the relative I moved in with when I came to Baltimore 5 years ago. He is a genuinely nice guy. We've always been pretty close, but in these past 5 years we've grown to be great friends as well. It's great having a relative on the same wave length as you. He is very smart just like my dad. We have a lot in common and relate on many levels. It's hard to get him out of his neighborhood, but finally yesterday he showed up at our 2nd movie night. It was great to hang with him and I think he had such a good time that he might even come again. Thanks Don for being a great uncle and friend, I love you very much!

Bill Maher

Yes, he's snarky, and more than a little arrogant. He can be abrasive, if you don't agree with him, and his sense of humor leans toward the cynical (which, while out of place for this blog, isn't a bad thing.) But in a world of conservative pundits not afraid to say whatever it is they want, with very little regard for the consequences, we need more positive, fearless influences from the right.

Bill demonstrated his fearlessness with "Religulous", one of the docs we watched at our Sunday night movie night. I won't get into any specifics regarding the film, but I will recommend that everyone see it. It's a brilliant piece of documentary work presented, I think, very fairly. It's a starting point for a debate this country and the rest of the world needs to tackle one day. Whether you're religious, spiritual, a semi-believer or have no religious affiliation, you should rent the film. It raises questions that any thinking person should at least be able to answer adequately in their own hearts.

I wouldn't be surprised if Bill now has a fatwa on his head. This permission slip from Islamic leaders to the Muslim devout to kill an individual is the retribution Salman Rushdie incurred after publishing his "Satanic Verses". The questions Bill publicly raises about Islam in the film are just the sort of thing "infidels" are murdered over. Which is why I say Bill is a courageous guy for releasing the movie. The fact that such fatwas exist illuminate the necessity of the work Bill is doing.

Go see Religulous. And watch it all the way through. The ending is especially potent. Don't let fear or close-mindedness cause you to stop somewhere in the middle. It's worth the ride, even if it's uncomfortable.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

The Burn Lets You Know It's Working

As I think I said in an earlier post, pain is not my thing. I don't necessarily go out of my way to avoid it, but I definitely don't seek it out. But there is one sort of pain that actually feels great.

No! Not that. Jeez, what? No!* I'm talking about the all-over body buzz you get after a really good day of hard work. It's a pain you wear as a badge of honor. As a reminder that you (hopefully) accomplished something that day. Or even if you didn't, you at least put yourself in forward motion. You worked and slaved, doing whatever important or unimportant thing you did, and you are left with a fully tactile reminder for at least the next few days.

Same thing with working out. You know you got things right at the gym or the courts or the pool or the laser tag tournament when you wake up sore and stiff the next morning. When "a little hair of the dog that bit ya" would actually send you to the hospital. That's a good workout. Pain is your bodies way of telling you that something needed fixing, and you broke out the right tools.

The moral is, just like peroxide on a gaping flesh wound, you have to feel the burn in order to know it's working.

*Sorry. No judgment here. If that's your sort of thing, have at it. As long as you, and her and her, and him, the hermit crab and that roving band of gypsies are okay with it, and no one gets hurt any more than they sign on for, knock yourself out (or have them knock you out.)

Maryland seafood, seafood like no other!

This entry goes out to one of the main reasons I came back to Maryland, for its amazing seafood! Maryland is the only place to get real steamed Old Bay covered crabs. They are so incredibly good especially when you're enjoying them at a big table with friends and family with a few pitchers of beer. Jason and I somehow missed having this last season so this season we better do it at least twice to make up for it. How tragic it is to miss out on the Maryland Crab experience when you live here!

I am also a huge fan of how they cook shrimp here covered in Old Bay and sauteed onions. And when Maryland gets shrimp salad right it's nothing but extraordinary. There's a dive bar in Parkville called Linway that has forever made the best shrimp salad sandwiches. Whenever my family came here to visit that was always a mandatory stop. Jason and I splurge and get one every so often. It's a must.

A couple days ago Jason, our friend Andre, his girlfriend Cassie, and I went to eat at a restaurant called Bertha's Mussels in Fell's Point. I had heard great things or at least I had seen many locals with bumper stickers that promoted their mussels. I had to see for myself if they were in fact all that. They were in fact the best mussels I'd ever had. You can get them with different dipping sauces. We had one with a Guinness and Old Bay, one with a butter and capers, and one with sour cream and chives. All were stupendous especially the one with butter and capers. For my main course I went with the shrimp in a sherry cream sauce. The cream sauce was to die for. I have never tasted anything so good in my life. There's a possibility I might be over-exaggerating, but I don't know. Everyone else couldn't stop taking spoonfuls of my sauce either, I really think it was Heaven on a plate.

This entry once again goes out to all the fantastic chefs and the amazing seafood traditions of Maryland, I thank you dearly for the years of making my mouth water! Oh, and I almost forgot to mention the crab cakes, the vegetable crab soup, and the cream of crab soup, you are also loves of mine.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Twittering Notables

I signed up for a Twitter account a few months ago and found that I had nothing to say. Nothing important or interesting anyway. So after maybe three tweets I went dormant.

Until a few days ago. I've been steadily accumulating followers (it just happens as people find's through no effort on my part) and I started feeling crusty for not giving the people a good show. It's funny. You start to feel mildly guilty if you're not tweeting. It's sort of like climbing up on stage in front of a crowd of people and then just standing there, silent.

So I started tweeting again and found that when you don't worry about saying the right thing, you've got plenty to tweet about. But the really interesting bit is following other people. And more specifically following celebrities and other notables. Most of these famous-owned Twitter accounts are broadcasted by the celebs themselves. And it's really interesting to follow their daily thoughts. I was just reading some the recent tweets from Kevin Smith (director of Clerks and Dogma, among others) and the dude is hilarious! I mean you'd expect that, based on his films, but to actually interact with him on a nearly one-on-one basis is a totally different experience. In fact, I just killed a half an hour jumping from one notable to another when I should have been writing this blog entry.

I'm not celebrity-obsessed by any means. But Twitter is an opportunity to tune into the daily lives of people you'd never get a chance to chat with in real life. It just so happens that most of the famous people twittering today happen to be actors and entertainers. If there were notable physicists or doctors, or luminaries in other fields twittering I'd love to follow them, too.

And tuning into your friends and family is a trip, too. It's just another way to stay connected in an increasingly fractured existence.

If you want to start tweeting and following, go to When you get an account, look me up. My username is jdbloom, and Kate, who just started tweeting a few days ago, is KateCzek.

New Neighbor Friends

I don't want to jinx it, but yesterday I hung out with a sweet girl I met through my volleyball team who, come to find out, lives 10 or so houses down from us. Her name is Mia and her and her husband, David own the house like we do and I'm hoping we'll continue our friendship. It was our last game on Thursday so to celebrate our many losing games we went to drink together. We were talking about where we live and Mia just happen to live right down the street. It's such a small world. Oh yea, Mia is also a member of the unemployment team. So we could have been hanging out for the past couple of months if we had known.

She invited me to drink champagne over her house yesterday and I gladly agreed since I was already planning on a day of relaxation since Julianna was coming over for lunch. So Mia and I started at 11am talking and drinking and then Julianna came around 1 and we all then continued to talk and drink. We all got along so well we talked about books, sex, religion, anything you could imagine. We were all still there when Jason got home at 6:30 so he joined us so he could also meet the neighbors. It was great fun and I really think we will continue our friendship.

Friday, April 17, 2009

80 Movies that Rock

I love old 80s movies that make me think of my childhood. Last night Jason and I watched The Burbs with Tom Hanks, one he had never seen before. It was still a classic in my eyes. The other Tom Hanks movie from that same time was The Money Pit. What a forever hilarious movie. Watching these movies again just make me feel good and recall the days when things were more simple. Others that bring me back are The Goonies, Labyrinth, Pretty in Pink, Dream a Little Dream, License to Drive, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, The Neverending Story, Mannequin, The Lost Boys, Stand By Me, Project X, The Toy, and Teen Wolf, to name a few. One I'm somewhat ashamed of is my obsession for The Pirate Movie. I watch this movie over and over again and sing along with it. had a little girl crush on the two leads, Kristy McNichol and Christopher Atkins.

Hey Jason, are there any of these movies above you haven't seen? I would love to continue to educate you on bad 80s movies and don't worry I won't subject you to The Pirate Movie again.

I Don't Have to Ride the Bus

I'm so grateful that I don't have to ride the bus. Does that sound elitist? I don't mean it to be. I know plenty of people who use the bus system, one in particular, on a regular basis. It's just not the mode of transport for me. Living in the city now, I see the masses of people waiting at decrepit bus stops, surrounded by strangers. And I've heard the horror stories. Female patrons getting luridly hit on, riders getting threatened with violence, and the ever-present chance that you'll have to sit next to some unsavory character, unsavory in ways that could fill a large list of unsavory characteristics.

I just managed to use the words "violence", "unsavory", "horror", and "luridly" in the first paragraph of an ostensibly positive article. Not such a stellar start. Let me try and salvage something useful from all this.

The scale of positive and negative shifts from person to person. What's great for me might not be for you. I love pesto pasta (eating it and saying it.) You might not. My sister and brother-in-law hate "Dude, Where's My Car." Think it's one of the worst, most vapid movies ever made. I...don't agree. Some of the entries Kate and I have made to this blog over the last couple months might not live in the "positives" category for other people.

So I don't want to ride the bus. Ever, if I can avoid it. Train? Awesome. Plane? Fine. Other people might not share my aversion to buses. Great. The mass-transit system needs riders to support it, and plenty of people need the buses. But I'm grateful that I can avoid some of the things in life that I find less than desirable, and hope that I find ways to fit in more of my preferred experiences. And I wish that for everyone. Life is only worth living if you can find ways to overshadow the perceived negatives with more positive influences. For yourself and everyone around you.

I know it's a positive thing that a mass transit system exists, and that it functions, relatively speaking, as well as it does. It has its flaws, but what doesn't?

And I'm glad to live in a country where I don't have to use it if I don't want to.

And I'm glad that puppies and kittens exist.

Did I pull this one out of the gutter?

Thursday, April 16, 2009

My daytime friends

I like having my cats to keep me company during my unemployment days.  DB, J's cat, really communicates, don't ask me what he's saying, but he is a real talker.  His crazy noises keep me laughing throughout the day.  It was sounds like something must be wrong, but really I believe he's just an old grump who likes to complain a lot.  Here's one of my translations for him "hey, hey, where you go, come back to bed, where's dad, I need dad, come up here and pet me, I need constant stimulation, I'm old, take care of me"  or something like that. Midnight on the other hand likes to follow me everywhere I go and she also wants constant attention when she's not sleeping or eating of course. Food to vital to her, she is indeed a pig.  I love them both, I just wish they could really communicate since I get pretty lonely not having human interaction all day, but I am happy to have them around to keep me company. 

Jackson at Two Months

Well, nearly two months. You all remember Jackson, my new-to-the-planet nephew. I was just looking over his website, and I couldn't think of a more positive thing to share tonight.

Jackson, thanks to his parents, is such an endearing little guy. They've done such a great job capturing his essence in his online presence. The writing demonstrates a deep understanding of someone who until very recently...wasn't. It's amazing to me how fast parents and kids bond.

My favorite part of the site is the photos. The shots of my sister and Jackson get me in a way I've never really experienced. They just seem...right. Almost as if Jackson's always been there, pressed up against Steph's cheek, wide-eyed and dazzled by the world, and it's just taken all of us 32 years to notice him.

I'm not going to say a lot tonight. I'm going to let Jackson carry this entry. Here's Jackson, as penned by Jackson.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Fun with Scale

So here's what I woke up thinking about. Ants and bees, among others, are high-functioning creatures, especially when viewed from the societal level. They possess specialization of function. Career paths, if you will. And yet, they are so small, relative to us and our over-sized world.

But why must we rate everything in comparison to ourselves? What makes us think that, if we ever discovered extra-terrestrial life, it would always exist at our scale? Much larger planets with much stronger gravity could create extremely large animals.* Our planet supported dinosaurs. How much larger could organisms grow on other worlds? How big would a creature have to be so that the relative size difference between and it and us was the same as between us and ants?

Wow, Jason. That's a perfectly useless question. Let's find out!

Ants, according to a random website I found, weigh on average three milligrams, or .003 grams. I, a premium specimen of human being, weigh 91 kilograms, or 91,000 grams. This makes me 30,333,333 times more massive than an ant. Applying that difference to ourselves and our alien interlopers, we find that our soon to be slavemasters would weigh in at a continent crushing 2,760,333,303,000 grams, or 6,085,493,240 pounds (by earth's gravity.)

Six billion pounds. To put that in terms we can process, the Empire State Building is estimated to weigh 365,000,000 kilograms, or 804,687,257 pounds. Our imaginary Meganism is almost eight times more massive than that. So how tall (or long) would it likely be?

Well, since multi-legged critters are measured head to butt, I lopped off our legs temporarily for a truer comparison. Ants are .006 meters long. With my legs removed I'm about .91 meters tall. This makes me 151 times longer than Mr. Ant. Our Meganism then would be roughly 137.5 meters (451 feet) long, or, with legs added back on for an erect walking species, about 275 meters (902 feet) tall. Again, for scale, the Empire State Building is 1,250 feet tall to the roof. So an erect Meganism would be roughly 3/4 the height of the Empire State Building, and eight times as heavy.

Are these numbers right? Who knows. Who cares. Even if I'm off by a full half, the Giganthors will crush us under their mansion-sized Reeboks. It is interesting how much faster weight grows compared with height or length. I'm sure the width, which we didn't look at, would have something to do with the disparity.

Aren't you glad you finished this?

*I'm not sure I'm right here. Would titanic creatures be more likely on a larger planet with stronger gravity or a smaller planet with weaker gravity? A stronger gravitational pull could might force the indigenous animals to evolve stronger and larger to bear the extra burden. But larger means heavier, and you'd expect evolution to favor lighter creatures on a planet with strong gravity. So maybe a weaker gravitional pull would evolve gigantic creatures, freeing them of the need to be extremely strong and giving more leeway to weight. Anyone know?

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Enjoy the outdoor beauty!

I enjoy exploring beautiful natural landscapes. Trees changing colors with the seasons (recently all the Cherry Blossom Trees are blooming), beautiful beaches that stretch for miles, mountainous landscapes, summer gardens in full bloom, and beautiful bodies of water. Mother nature has created such glorious things, it's a shame not to appreciate it every once in a while.

Hiking and taking walks is so therapeutic. I think my main reason for writing about this topic is because I feel I've been spending all my days inside searching for work and building on my photography that I've forgotten to go outside at all some days, I need to start taking walks or at least run an errand or two. There just does not seem to be enough hours in each day to do all the things I want to do. Everyone should take an hour out of each day to enjoy the beautiful outside worlds that surround us. I'll take this time starting tomorrow by walking around and taking pictures of the Cherry Blossoms.

Freedom of Swimming

Swimming feels so amazing.  I don't care if I'm swimming in a lake, the ocean, or a pool, I just love the feeling it gives you. It makes you feel so fresh and alive.  It seems this love for swimming grows stronger and stronger as I get older.  

I used to be somewhat afraid of the water.  Even through my family had a pool in my earlier years it took me a while to learn to swim.  I still have some hang-ups with swimming.  I have a fear of diving, but really that does not stop me from loving the water.  

Jason is also a big fan of swimming. Anytime we go on vacation where there's a pool we can hang out in it for hours.  It's a great common interest we have.  I can't wait till it gets warmer outside to swim in my Uncle Don's pool, which ironically is the same pool I learned to swim in years ago. It's going to be a great summer.  

Landlording...with GOOD Tenants

That's the most important element to making landlording work. Good tenants. But nearly as important is a property that's not falling in on itself. If you can put those two together, landlording is a great way to make a little extra scratch.

Most of you know, but for those of that don't, the house Kate and I live in now used to be a rental property I bought about seven years ago. At some point in the past a previous owner built partition walls, turning each floor into a separate apartment. So four apartments, four groups of tenants, and more than a handful of headaches.

The problem there was two-fold. I had some good tenants mixed with a few bad apples, and a house with a leaky roof, leaky basement, old plumbing, etc. I got calls fairly often to either fix things or arbitrate disagreements. After years of putting up with this I decided to convert it back into a single family home, fixing all the issues at the same time.

So a year ago, around the same time Kate and I were looking to move into University and sell Stevenson the housing market tanked. Selling was not longer a viable option, so I opted to rent out Stevenson. Towson University is right there, so there's always a big demand for housing. We screened prospective tenants very carefully, finally settling on a group of four Towson students.

What a difference! The girls take impeccable care of the house, pay rent on time, don't have any issues with the neighbors, and are all-around great people. And since Stevenson is good shape, I almost never hear from them. Other than a few months ago when the hot water heater started to die, the issues they call about are all very minor. Today I stopped by to drop off their water bill and tighten up the front door knob, which had gotten very loose. A two minute repair.

Especially now, with real estate prices back in realistic levels and interest rates at an almost all-time low, buying rental property is a great idea. Just get a good house and screen for good tenants. It makes all the difference.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Dave, the family Chef.

I admire people that cook with such great care and precision. Cooks with talent and food knowledge from years of experience. My uncle Dave is one of these cooks. Jason and I went to my aunt Dawn's house yesterday for Easter and Dave is always there early getting food together for the evening Dinner. He is a fantastic cook. He's always worked as a chef and I know he's studied in Paris for a bit. Watching him work is so amazing and he is so willing to help and teach us his methods as he proceeds. He made beef tenderloin, lamb, and I believe a few of the side dishes, but I'm not positive. The lamb and beef just melted in your mouth. Thanks Dave for another stupendous meal. I can only dream of being such a patient and talented chef like yourself one day.

The smart Car

In August of '01 I took a 3 1/2 week long trip across Europe, starting in Copenhagen, Denmark, and finishing in Grenada, Spain. It was during my stay in Amsterdam, the second city I visited, where I first saw a smart Car. It was love at first sight. For me, at least. The vehicle's emotions were very hard to read.

Smart Gmbh, the company that originally produced the smart, was a partnership of Daimler and Swatch. Apparently the car was Swatch's idea, not Daimler's. The former approached the latter about production and distribution. Swatch's original concept was to create a vehicle under 250 cm in length, short enough to fit "nose-in" to what would normally be a parallel parking spot. The idea was to enable three smart cars to park where one standard vehicle would normally fit.

The model that I first saw, the Fortwo, pictured at the top, was also designed to be extremely fuel-efficient, safe (on European roads), and affordable. Playing to its younger target demographic, the Fortwo was easily customizable, sporting snap-off exchangable colored plastic body panels. A hybrid engine was planned, but never implemented.

After our torrid, if one-sided love affair was sparked, I was hooked. I wanted to own one so badly, but importing into the US meant costly shipping fees, and extensive customization to meet U.S. road requirements. All I could do was sit drearily at home, watching the uninteresting U.S. street legal cars buzz past my window, and fantasize about that bright day in the future when either the U.S. was annexed by Germany, or Smart rekenoodled their cars for the U.S. market.

Thankfully the latter (and not the former) has arrived, as I'm sure anyone with eyes and a brain is aware of. The new smart Fortwo is a bit longer than the original (8.8 feet as opposed to 8.2 feet), and considerably heavier, but still all smart. The interchangeable exterior panels are still there (I'm pretty sure), and the interior is just as mod as the original. It's now rated as having the highest fuel efficiency of any vehicle in its class (hybrids aren't included in this), and it gets very high safety ratings.

Plus the price is right, starting at under $12,000. Unfortunately, my original infatuation has been tempered by pragmatism. Not that the car itself wouldn't fulfill my vehicular needs. It's just that my Civic is nearly paid off, and the thought of living without a car payment is extremely sexy. Sexier than that smart little vixen, much to my chagrin.

One day though.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Foreign Cinema

I like foreign films. When I was in college I took a french film class, which got me really into watching foreign films for a while. Some favorites I can recall were Godard's Breathless, The Dreamlife of Angels, Truffaut's 400 Blows, Wim Wender's Wings of Desire, and Run Lola Run. There's many more, but that's all I can think about at the moment. Foreign films make you think a bit more, since you have to read and view the scene at the same time. You have to be hyper aware to achieve this, which I believe makes you more engrossed. The tone of foreign films seem more complelling to me, they don't jump right into plots points like most American cinema does. They take there time and analyze every aspect. Most regular movie watcher's think this type a analyical structure is boring and pointless and would rather a film get right to the meat of the story. I rather respect and enjoy thinking films. I like the challenge of watching something with many layers.

I was once obsessed with French New Wave, wikipedia discribes it as "a fresh look to cinema with improvised dialogue, rapid changes of scene, and shots that go beyond the common 180ยบ axis. The camera was used not to mesmerize the audience with elaborate narrative and illusory images, but to play with and break past the common expectations of cinema. The techniques used to shock the audience out of submission and awe were so bold and direct that Jean-Luc Godard has been accused of having contempt for his audience. His stylistic approach can be seen as a desperate struggle against the mainstream cinema of the time, or a degrading attack on the viewer's naivete. Either way, the challenging awareness represented by this movement remains in cinema today. Effects that now seem either trite or commonplace, such as a character stepping out of her role in order to address the audience directly, were radically innovative at the time."

I really respect new cinematic approaches, and we rarely get shocked anymore by out of the box thinking, I guess it's because we've seen about all there is to see. I do believe there's some styles not explored and I can't wait to see the next filmic discovery.

Challenge yourself and watch a foreign film you might be pleasantly surprise. Jason and I watched the Swedish horror film "Let the Right One In" yesterday. It was a great vampire coming of age story, I really recommend it.

The Hypnagogic State

When you're right on the border between being asleep and awake, directly before plunging into full sleep, you're mind is hypnagogic. Different people experience it differently. Some experience a very brief period of full on hallucinations, both visual and auditory. Most simply find their mind straying into strange and unusual thought patterns with brief visual flashes. That's my experience, and I think that very brief period is a gift.

It's not that I ever take a lot from the experience. You usually can't. While hypnagogic there are only two things that can happen to you. Either you fall asleep or you wake up again, quickly forgetting whatever it was you were thinking or experiencing seconds earlier. For me though, this lack of permanence is exactly what I like. I'm always struck by how ephemeral brain processes can be. One moment, enlightenment. Next moment, nothing. Profound understanding gives way to complete ignorance with the flick of a switch. Awakening from a hynagogic experience gives me that sort of profound, eerie feeling of knowing without knowing. As if I'd just worked out some deep riddle, and then wiped it from my memory.

My guess is, even if we could remember what we were thinking about, we'd discover it was just nonsense. That's the sense I get, from the little tidbits I can hold on to. It's total randomness, jumbled up and served up as illumination. Which I think is really cool, too. It shows that profundity is a feeling...a state of mind, something not necessarily tied to any particular content.

I love that.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Say Cheese!

I don't have much on my mind right now to write about. Rainy Saturday mornings make it harder to get enthused. So here's an easy subject for me to swallow right now. 

Cheese, I love cheese.  My favorites are mozzarella, Muenster, Havarti, and brie. Grilled cheeses are delicious. As I've already said in a past entry I love cheese omelets. Cheese is fantastic with crackers, jelly, and grapes with a glass of red wine. Man, I'm getting hungry.  

What Are We Missing?

I'm not sure that this topic, in itself, qualifies as a positive (though it's not a negative either) but I've always thought the conclusion was pretty interesting, so I see it as positive in that sense.

When we train any one of our senses on the outside world, we assume we're experiencing our surroundings as they are. We see in color. The world is in color. We see in three dimensions. The world matches that observation. We smell something only if it's giving off a scent. The world is simply sitting there, apart from us, waiting to be sensed. It is as we sense it to be.

Other creatures, if they shared our capacity for consciousness, would feel the same way, but their perception of the world can be quite different. Simple eyes on simple creatures can only sense light and dark, or movement. Other animals don't have the capacity to see color. Further, animals lacking stereoscopic vision can't truly experience the world in three dimensions. There are large swathes of possible experience that these creatures will never know, will never know that they don't know, and wouldn't understand even if they did. Their perceived world, as it exists for them, seems whole and complete. But arguably it isn't.

So what are we missing? Some things we know. Certain animals can see in the infrared and ultraviolet spectrums. We can't. Many animal species, such as homing pigeons, can sense the earth's magnetic field, almost like an internal compass. It's almost a sixth sense, and it's one that we don't share. Echolocation, used by bats and dolphins, and the ability to sense electric fields are other examples of senses we don't have access to.

Many other species possess versions of our standard five senses that far outperform their human counterparts. Certain sharks can detect prey scent diluted in water one part per 10 billion. And while a normal human auditory frequency range is 20 Hz. to 20,000 Hz., certain pigeons can hear sounds at frequencies as low as 0.1 Hz., while certain moth species can hear frequencies up to 240,000 Hz.

Buzzards can spot small rodents from an altitude of 15,000 feet. Dogs can be trained to smell cancerous tissues. Cockroaches can detect movement as small as 2,000 times the diameter of a hydrogen atom. That one is staggering! And this list goes on.

The point is, there is a lot of available information out there that we already know we're missing. How much more is there we're completely unaware of? Probably not a lot, I'll grant you. We're intellectually aware of many other varieties of sensible radiation and other phenomena that no animal species can detect. Emissions that only our technology allows us to percieve. So, in that sense, we've eclipsed every other species on the planet. Our technology extends our senses beyond the capabilities of even the most prodigious critter.

But for my money, using mechanized contraptions to sense the world around us is a poor substitute for direct experience. Using a compass to sense magnetic north works great, but imagine what it would feel like to just know where north lay. To feel it innately inside you. Infrared cameras convert heat information into the visible spectrum. We then see it as blotches of yellow and red on a computer monitor. But what does it actually look like to a creature that can sense it directly?

Here's what I think all of this teaches us. While it's true that the world is just sitting out there, emitting particles, waiting to be sensed, it doesn't actually look or smell or sound or taste like anything. All of that happens on the back end of experience, in our brains, and is a complete fabrication. What happens is our tongue touches NaCl, sodium chloride, better known as table salt. We taste something salty. That "taste" doesn't exist as a necessary component of NaCl. It could taste, because of differing chemical reactions in differing brains, very different for other creatures. There's no way of knowing for sure whether my experience of salt is even the same as another human being's. Further, an animal that can perceive salt's weak electric field may experience it in a way that we can't even imagine.

So I guess the answer to my original question, what are we missing, is "nothing". And everything. But since we have no real sense of what experience could be outside of our own heads, we're not really missing it.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Outdoor Seating

I love restaurants and bars that have nice outdoor seating. Yesterday was finally nice April weather and when I drove past Canton on my way to my volleyball game their were tons of people sitting outside. It was so NY, I became so jealous of all of them. We seriously need to get a group together to enjoy this experience together. Unfortunately there don't seem to be any restaurants near us like this. But once we both have bikes we will be able to ride over to Canton and enjoy a nice outdoor meal. I bet Fell's Point would be another place with great outside seating. I can't wait to explore the city on our bikes this Summer. If anyone knows of a woman's bike on sale, please let me know.

As Hot as You Can Stand It (And Then Subtract a Bit)

I love a really hot shower in the morning. And I stress the temperature, because a shower is just a means to stay clean. A really hot shower is much more. It's a stress reliever, a muscle relaxant, a decongestant, and an exfoliate, depending on just how hot you can stand it.

For me, on a scale from 1 to 10, 1 being absolute zero Kelvin, or −459.67° Fahrenheit, and 10 being the temperature of a star at supernova, or three billion degrees Fahrenheit, my preferred shower temp would fall right around 1.2. Doesn't sound very impressive, I know, and points to a possible flaw in my scale selection. Trust me's a scalder.

It's not quite hot enough to braise a chicken, but it's close. I often have major knots in my neck and spine when I wake up, and a hot shower is the only thing that adequately loosens up my muscles and melts the tension. Plus the steam opens up your airways and soothes a cough, if you have one. And the shock of nearly burning away your outer layer of skin does a nice job of waking you up.

I don't take it that hot. That was just for effect.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Eggs, I love!

I love eggs, especially when they're hard-boiled. I also am a big fan of cheese omelets. I could get eggs for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Last night we celebrated Passover Seder at a family friend's house, The Juran's, and hard-boiled eggs are part of the tradition. We had a fabulous time by the way, it was probably my favorite Passover so far, but of course I've only been to 3. Anyways back to eggs being wonderful. I love hard-boiled eggs with salt and pepper. When I was younger, meaning just last year, I ate them by picking the whites apart and dipping them in salt and then eating the yolk separately. I think I've finally gotten over that tradition and now enjoy eating the whites and yolks together. I guess I'm finally growing up.

American cheese omelets are the best. I prefer nothing else in the omelets, but can handle it when Jason makes them with some onion and peppers, but that's the extent of it.

I also quite like eggs over easy. I love soaking up the broken yolk with white buttered toast. Yummy!

A Slightly Coerced Shout Out to Rich

Our friend Rich made a comment about wanting to get into a blog post. So this short entry is all about the power of asking for what you want. A lot of people don't bother, or are too scared to ask for things. For help. For advice. For emotional...stuff. For money. Whatever. If you want or need something and someone else either has it or can help you in your pursuit, ask them. More than likely they'll say yes. But only if you open your mouth.

People, at least the people worth knowing, are inherently good, I think, and are willing to do more than most other people give them credit for, as long as they know what you need. Life is far more enjoyable if you start with the premise that other people are there to help you, and you for them. Then life is just one big back scratch.

Rich also asked us not to mention his chronic flatulence and almost primate-like toes. The lesson here is that asking is the first step toward getting what you want...but it's not a guarantee.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

The Resilience of Life

During the Permian Extinction, a mass extinction event which occurred roughly 251 million years ago, 96% of marine species were lost and 70% of vertebrate land-dwelling species were killed. It was the worst mass extinction the planet has ever seen.

And yet, here we are.

The Permian Extinction is by far the worst extinction event the planet has ever seen, but it's by no means the only. The most recent, which occurred 65 million years ago, wiped out the dinosaurs. There have been five major extinction events since life first percolated in earth's primordial seas, and many other smaller events. In total 99% of the species that have ever existed on earth are now extinct.

But life still flourishes.

I like to remember that when I start worrying about mankind's impact on the planet. We can do, and are actively doing a lot of damage to earth's ecosystem, and if we don't get ourselves in check it's just going to get worse. But even if we manage to pull off destruction on the scale of the Permian Extinction, which would be very difficult, life would manage to soldier on and reblossom after we're gone.

Please don't misunderstand. I'm not trying to provide an excuse for inaction. As a species we have unprecedented power over the well-being of our planet. We need to be good stewards of the world that birthed and sustains us, if not for its sake, than for ours. Continuing down our current path leads nowhere good. If we're not careful our species could end up on the pointy end of major mass extinction event number six.

But my point is that, even if this happens, life will rebound and repopulate with new forms and shapes we can't imagine. Life will continue to exist.

Until the sun supernovas and earth is swallowed whole. But that mother-of-all mass extinctions is a long way off.

Wow Craig, who knew?

I know Jason has already done this entry, but I have to give it props, too. is the bees knees, meaning it's the best web resource I've ever come across. And, come to find out, not everyone in the world knows about it yet. I was shocked to not see it not on the list of job search sites in yesterday's unemployment class. Why in the world it wasn't listed is beyond me. Then I got the crazy notion to keep the fantastic "underground" site to myself. Ha Ha, I am queen of Craigslist. I know many others are using it as a resource, but the intelligent older lady next to me had never heard of it.

I've been in search of a bike for a while and Craigslist is a great way to find a used cheap one, that hopefully still functions fine. I also have found tons of Administration job ads in there, and even though I've applied to about 30 or so I've only heard back from a few. I don't blame that on Craigslist by any means, I blame it on the enormous amount of employed folks out there.

Craigslist in a wonderful way to find any thing you could possible need. Babysitting services to apartments for rent to a love seat for sale to used camera equipment. I'm a huge fan. Check it out, but keep it on the down low, I don't want the whole world to find out our secret.