The Big Think

September 30, 2008

Interview

Filed under: Current Reading — jasony @ 4:21 pm

A rather interesting short interview with Neal Stephenson.

September 26, 2008

Hmmm… Suspicious

Filed under: Humor and Fun — jasony @ 7:29 am

I found a site called Suspicious Vans. This one is especially suspicious:

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Extreme Pen Spinning

Filed under: Hobbies — jasony @ 6:58 am

Kam Kuo, extreme pen spinner. Check out the rubber band thing he does at the end. Incredible!

September 25, 2008

Update

Filed under: Disclosure — jasony @ 5:36 am

Sorry to be offline for so long. Erin’s dad is doing better and the doctors seem to think that he’s out of the woods. They moved him out of the super-intensive I.C.U. to a less intense ICU (that, apparently, saved on budget by dropping the periods). Then a couple of days ago they upgraded him again to a normal room. His numbers (hemoglobin, etc) are all trending in the proper direction and they’re starting him on physical therapy to regain the balance that he lost from being bedridden for a week.

The doctors are actually talking about him going home in the next week or so. I know it seems sudden if you just read my post below, but we’ve been through a whole week since I wrote that and he’s shown good recovery. For an 83 year old he’s strong (and stubborn) as an ox. Wait.. are ox stubborn?

Anyway, thank you all for your prayers, emails, and phone calls of support. It has meant a lot to us to know that we’ve got a web of friends who have our back when we go through something like this.

September 20, 2008

Weekend Update

Filed under: Disclosure — jasony @ 4:46 pm

As some of you know, it’s been a busy few days for us. On tuesday we received a call that Erin’s dad had called 911 and the paramedics came and took him away. At first, the neighbor told us that it had been food poisoning as a result of eating tuna that had not been refrigerated in the aftermath of hurricane Ike. After making a few calls to the ER, we learned that he had been admitted and they were doing tests. Since we couldn’t do anything until we knew more, we stayed by the phone and waited.

A few hours later the call came from the hospital that he had been admitted to the MICU (medical ICU). The preliminary tests indicated a heart attack. We immediately jumped in the car and drove to Houston. When we got there, we were greeted by a very grave-looking doctor and some pretty bad news.

I won’t go into all the details here, except to say that her dad had indeed had a massive heart attack and they are still assessing the damage. He also had internal bleeding and very low blood volume/pressure. We came very close to losing him the first night and it took almost 48 hours until he was even remotely communicative. Thankfully, he’s been moved out of the super-intensive ICU into a less intensive level (but still ICU). His bleeding has stopped for the time being but the doctors have adopted a wait and see approach instead of the more aggressive go-and-look. This is partially due to his age (83), but also because the internal bleed and the heart attack are running counter to each other. They can’t explore the damage to his heart since he’s got a mystery bleed, and they can’t go looking for the bleed since his heart is so weak.

We’ve been on and off the phone with many people these past few days but couldn’t get ahold of everyone. So if this all comes as a surprise to you, and you’re a close friend, please be assured that you haven’t been demoted to the “we’ll call them when it’s all over” level of friendship. You’re all important to us but Erin and I have been in a very intense little circle of doctors, specialists, and each other for the past few days.

Your prayers are very much coveted and appreciated.

One more thing: if you have children or people you care about that may, in the event of your incapacitation, have to take on the responsibility of some pretty major decisions (Do Not Resuscitate orders, living wills, power of attorney, etc), then please- please– make those decisions now while you are healthy and not lying in a hospital bed. Make sure your loved ones know how you feel or at least know where to go to see your wishes. Fifteen minutes of uncomfortable thinking and ten minutes spent with a notary could potentially relieve your loved ones of some soul-crushing decisions. If you want, don’t even make it legal and official (except for the power of attorney). Just writing down your wishes somewhere known could immeasurably help. Please consider this. It doesn’t matter what you decide, but it does matter that your loved ones know you’ve made a decision and don’t have to make it for you in a time of extreme stress.

Jason

September 16, 2008

Are We As Smart As We’re Ever Going to Be?

Filed under: Current Reading,Education,Politics,Science,Technology — jasony @ 10:01 pm

Three hundred years ago, Benjamin Franklin was born into a world where electromagnetism, nuclear physics, and even basic germ theory were completely unknown ideas. Anton van Leeuwenhoek had only done his seminal work on germ theory a generation before, and Isaac Newton’s Philosophae Naturalis Principia Mathematica was fresh off the presses. All kinds of new discoveries could be made by the layman simply because humanity existed in an intellectual universe where there were undiscovered wonders under every rock and behind every tree.

The period from Gallileo to Einstein was an era of great scientific discovery as humanity first started to make major inroads into the wilderness of knowledge, and while 400 years may seem like a long time, it’s the blink of an eye compared to the tens of thousands of years that homo sapiens sapiens has been roaming the planet.

So along comes the first few generations of people born into a world that has the technology to begin delving into the universe in a truly “scientific” way. Copernicus used simple observations to deduce that the sun was at the center of our local neighborhood. Discovery. Gallileo ground up some lenses and saw the moons of Jupiter. Discovery. Brahe (old metal-nose himself) and his assistant Johannes Kepler built on this work to deduce the laws of motion. Discovery. Newton rolled all of these observations up into some useful mathematical tools that really set things in motion (heh). Just as soon as Newton’s Mechanics and Calculus became widely known, the pace picked up and suddenly all kinds of discoveries were being made: under this stump was uncovered the orbits of the planets, behind this boulder was the first thermodynamics, the principles of pneumatics and hydraulics and then electromagnetism allowed the construction of more useful tools for experimenting. These in turn fed on themselves to create even more methods of discovery. Eventually Einstein wrote down his famous equation and seemed to upset the whole thing. But wait! Einstein was only describing a larger universe that encompassed all of Newton (who had encompassed all of Copernicus before him). Soon Heisenberg and Feynman, et. al. would encompass even Einstein’s landscape in a gigantic theory of tiny things- quantum mechanics.

At every one of these stages it became more and more important to know what had come before. You couldn’t be Gallileo and royally torque off the Church without understanding Copernicus. Brahe built on the work of Gallileo (and Copernicus). Kepler built on Brahe (who built on Gallileo and Copernicus). Today, people like Steven Wolfram build on Hawking, who build on Feynman, who built on Bohrs, who built on Einstein, who built on Newton, and so on down the line to the first guy to bang two shiny rocks together and notice a tiny silver spark. We’ve journeyed a long way, and at each step scientists had to know and understand what came before.

The wonderful result is this: if you pay attention in an average well-taught high school physics class, you can come out knowing more about the world than just about any of the Really Smart People before, say, 1900. You might not be as good with the math or as insightful about the processes involved, but you’ll have a clearer picture of how the universe is put together than the men and women who fought through the initial discoveries. A little more study in college and you, yes, even you, could have an intelligent discussion with Einstein. Study a bit more and you could even impress the old coot. Think about that. The tools to understand creation- tools that were centuries in development and cost generations of intellectual muscle-are handed, sharp, shiny, and clean…. to a sixteen year old. These students then take the intellectual discoveries of Copernicus-Gallileo-Newton-Brahe-Kepler-Einstein-Bohrs-Feynman-Heisenberg-Hawking and use them to create some truly big tools:

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That’s ATLAS, the main detector at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider. It’s been called the single most complex object humanity has ever created. This 7000 ton, 80’x130′ monster is about half as big as Notre Dame cathedral. Pause for a moment and consider that.

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In fact, the 17 mile diameter instrument is almost as big as Paris itself! (Faint red ring):

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In many ways, CERN’s Large Hadron Collider and ATLAS represent the capstone of human achievement. You’re looking at the culmination of ten thousand years of technological development, folks, none of which would have been possible without knowing, and understanding, all of the discoveries that were painfully, laboriously unearthed over generations. ATLAS will be used to plumb the very bedrock of matter, and will hopefully give us some answers that are suspected, but not yet proven. Scientists hope the instrument will then open the doors to parts of the map where before there were only the ghostly outlines of dragons.

Four hundred years ago, if you wanted to discover something that had never been seen, the only tools needed were a ramp, a reasonably round object, and an accurate clock. Now, in order to make a new discovery, you need a tool that takes thousands of scientist, millions of man hours, billions of dollars, and the cooperation of dozens of nation-states. We’ve come a long way, baby.

So now what?

Let’s say you’re an aspiring scientist in high school who wants to work on the frontiers of discovery. You want to go where no one has been, dig in a place where the soil is undisturbed, and uncover something new. Write your own Principia Mathematica for the modern age. Here’s a pretty good map to the frontier:

• Spend the first five years of your life learning how to walk, talk, reason, and not soil yourself too often.

• The next twelve years of your life (in the American system of education, at least), are spent learning the basics. Language, arts, literature, and an exposure to introductory physics and math. Hopefully you’ll have some logic courses because they’ll be very useful later.

• Next, do your undergraduate studies. You’ll take some english and literature and maybe even a few courses in the arts, but the vast majority of your next four years will be spent learning to understand the scientific rules that govern how the universe works.

• Now, the work really starts. In grad school you start to focus a lot on the higher reaches of modern science. Advanced physics, higher math, relativity, the quantum universe.

• Your doctoral and post-doc time is spent specializing in one area and getting to know that area as well as humanly possible. Who made the big discoveries? Why are they important? Learn these esoteric theories completely and then incorporate them into your knowledge base. My friend Matt was kind enough to send along the following list of the courses required in order to get a fundamental grounding sufficient to make original contributions in String Theory (just one small subset of physics, though I imagine that there would be a lot of overlap if you saw a list of, say, particle physics or cosmology):

Here is a list of directed (graduate only) courses one needs to do string theory (I’m leaving off several topics that may not be be necessary, though they would be helpful)

PHYSICS
Classical Mechanics
Classical Electromagnetism
Statistical Mechanics
Mathematical Physics
Non-Relativistic Quantum Mechanics
Relativistic Quantum Mechanics
Special Relativity
General Relativity
Astrophysics
Cosmology
Quantum Field Theory
Gauge Field Theory
Particle Physics
Intro String/M-Theory
Conformal Field Theory
String Cosmology
(each would be 2-3 semesters if you actually took all of these classes… though most of us learn a lot of this by reading)

MATHEMATICS
Complex Analysis
Linear Algebra
Ordinary Differential Equations
Partial Differential Equations
Topology
Abstract Algebra
Algebraic Topology
Differential Topology
Differential Geometry
Algebraic Geometry
Lie Group Theory

At the graduate level, the above mentioned math classes should cover the basic ideas of the following, but you’ll need a fairly advanced knowledge of the following (in no particular order);

Group Theory
Differential Forms
Rational Homotopy Theory
Tensor Theory
Differentiable Manifold (Real and Complex Manifolds)
Riemann Surfaces
Kahler Manifolds
Characteristic Classes
Homology
Cohomology
Fibre Bundle Theory
Noncommutative Geometry
Representation Theory
Calabi-Yau Manifold Theory
Enumerative Geometry
Loop Theory
Knot Theory
Topological Quantum Field Theory
Topological String Theory
Conformal Group Theory
K-Theory
Kac-Moody Theory
Quantum Group Theory
Information Theory

The first third of your life is over and you’re just now ready to begin. Congratulations!

As you advance in school, the amount you learn is utterly dwarfed by the amount that is known. It’s like doing search-and-rescue. You start from a single point of last-known-location and begin to spiral out. Each step from the center of the circle dramatically increases the total area of the circle. To be a modern scientist at the frontier requires that you have a good understanding of as much of the circle as possible, but there are still areas of the landscape that will be forever unknown to you, simply because the circle of knowledge is so big that nobody can know it. Thomas Young is generally regarded as the last man to know everything and while “everything” is a tall order, good old Tom was well-versed in just about every major field of knowledge during his time: 1773-1829. He had a grasp on the overall map of science and made significant contributions all over the place. As a result of his contributions, knowledge soon grew too vast for one person to get the big picture.

Matt, a trained scientist and string theorist, told me that he had been in school for his entire life (minus the first five years). That makes an ongoing twenty year education. He’s just now getting to the point where he knows enough about his chosen field to make a serious contribution. Matt tells me that he didn’t really start to get a picture of how things fit together until he was well into his doctoral studies. Four hundred years ago, you could learn everything there was to know about a subject in a few years, then spend the rest of your life expanding the borders. A hundred years ago it took a bit more time to get to this point, but there was still enough of your lifetime left to make new discoveries (and more important, enough mental agility- most mathematicians, for instance, do their best work before the age of thirty).

When Columbus, Magellan, and Marco Polo set off on their great journeys of exploration, the world was largely unknown. Most people were born, lived, and died within sight of the same church tower, and “far away” meant the neighboring country. A mere one hundred years ago mankind hadn’t yet set foot on the highest place on the map. Or the lowest. Or either pole, for that matter. In the time of my grandparents there remained significant portions of the planet that were unexplored. Today, a simple visit to google earth can reveal any corner of the globe that you want to see, down to an amazing level of detail. Granted, we still don’t have a truly detailed map of the ocean floor, but to any reasonable degree we have “discovered” the surface of our planet. Writer David Brin puts it this way:

“Jungles crash to make way for houses. The world sweats in every pore the breath and touch of humanity. There’s not a single place left where you can go and say to a new part of the universe- “Hello, we’ve never met. Let me introduce myself. I am Man.”
David Brin Earth, p. 272

And yet! Even though each corner of the map has been photographed and measured, cataloged and recorded, there is still an unending amount of work to be done to see how it all fits together. Once the great Age of Exploration of the earth was over, we had really only just begun to see the world. We’re still only just beginning.

However, within a generation or so, the amount of scientific knowledge that will have to be known will be so great, the distance to the edge of the metaphorical map so vast, that the very brightest among us will have to study for literally their entire lives before their education will incorporate what they need to know to be sure they’re not just duplicating past effort. What will science do in this kind of world? Will we constantly be rediscovering the same rock or tree but from different directions? It’s impossible for physicists to keep up with everything that’s going on in biology or math, to say nothing even of their own field, so it’s not uncommon for a scientist in each field to discover the same thing from different angles. Usually they figure things out when somebody points out the similarities, but often these overlaps will go undiscovered for years. In a very real way, we might be approaching the time when new scientific discoveries end, not because there’s nothing new to be discovered (as John Horgan argues in his book, The End of Science), but because, like outer space, the next frontier might simply be too hard to reach. Indeed, particle physicists tell us that we could go on building bigger and bigger ATLAS’s, attached to more titanic Colliders, and still never reach the true foundation of matter, but at some point it becomes impossible to do so (I read somewhere that in order to reach the energy necessary to see the smallest subatomic particle, you’d need to build a particle collider the diameter of the universe. That’s most likely not a bid that would make it past the various budgetary committees.).

Now that we’re facing the possibility that our “local map” might become unmanageably large, how is the scientific community addressing it? How are we making sure that our finite resources are not being focused on overlapping priorities? What should we as a species do to insure that we’re making the most efficient use of the people at the frontiers? I have a few suggestions.

Communicate across disciplines. First, let me suggest that it’s even more important that we get the disparate fields talking to one another. Not only will this keep them from wasting resources by avoiding overlapping discoveries, but combining experts in many different fields can often spur new thinking that leads to new discoveries. The annual TED conference has been doing this sort of thing for over a decade, and has wisely started posting its famous (and famously expensive-to-attend) conferences for free on the internet. Get them direct from the website, or in podcast/vidcast format via iTunes. Some of the talks can be of a more artistic nature, and some are even silly (wonderfully so, sometimes), but there are plenty of examples of experts reporting back from their slice of the frontier.

Open up education. MIT’s Open Courseware project makes it possible to get an advanced education in many different fields. An MIT education, to boot. We need to encourage every university to do this, not only because it’s the right thing to do (and arguments about intellectual property and marketplace competitiveness are unconvincing- it hasn’t hurt MIT at all), but because it seems like a good way to raise the general level of education- the rising tide that floats all boats. Getting the “free” MIT education does come with some drawbacks, namely the inability to interact directly with the professor or students, but come on… it’s a free MIT education!

Leverage the internet: While still in its infancy, the internet is the single greatest tool for improving the human condition since soap. Google, with its amazing search technology and plans to scan every book in the library of congress, Microsoft’s Live Search, the Internet Archive, and Project Gutenberg, are all examples of technologies that leverage the capability of the internet to collate, organize, and search-enable knowledge. We need to broaden and deepen this technology to include every word in every language ever written, every picture and movie, every sound recording, and then develop ways to reliably translate between them all so that nothing that is discovered is forgotten and everything ever learned is as accessible as a simple search.

Develop better systems of analyzing what we already know: In his book The Age of Spiritual Machines, Ray Kurzweil argues that future artificial intelligence will spend its time collating and analyzing the discoveries that have been made, not making new ones. We need to begin this process by making access to discovery as open, free, and unencumbered as possible. If basic research (sometimes even basic research that has been paid for by public money) is locked up by very expensive subscription services, the pace of discovery and innovation will slow down and only be accessible to those with deep pockets. The technology mentioned above is the basic beginning. Next we need to figure out ways to start comparing what we know so that those of us not on the frontiers (the vast majority), can more effectively analyze what has already been discovered. Just finding a lost tree or valley is great but exploiting this new knowledge is where humanity is benefitted.

Revamp the broken copyright system: Cory Doctorow and Lawrence Lessig have been tireless warriors in the battle against the completely broken copyright mess, but they need help. We need to completely overhaul the system and come up with laws that balance the right of the creators/copyright holders (not always the same entity) with the good of society. There are many creative suggestions that would address this balance, but so far money and political influence have stood in the way of real change. Why is this important? Can you imagine how hard it would have been to make real progress hundreds of years ago if every idea and discovery was locked down to a fare-thee-well with restrictive copyright? True, you can’t copyright a natural fact or discovery, but it only takes one creative lawyer to confuse “natural fact” with “method of doing business”. Once this happens it tends to scare off innovators who maybe don’t have the resources to fight the system. Case in point: your own genome might soon become the property of a drug company. Other companies will then have to pay to use the “natural fact” of a specific sequence of your ATTGATTACA’s in order to develop new medical treatments.

“An old tradition and a new technology have converged to make possible an unprecedented public good. The old tradition is the willingness of scientists and scholars to publish the fruits of their research in scholarly journals without payment, for the sake of inquiry and knowledge. The new technology is the internet. The public good they make possible is the world-wide electronic distribution of the peer-reviewed journal literature and completely free and unrestricted access to it by all scientists, scholars, teachers, students, and other curious minds. Removing access barriers to this literature will accelerate research, enrich education, share the learning of the rich with the poor and the poor with the rich, make this literature as useful as it can be, and lay the foundation for uniting humanity in a common intellectual conversation and quest for knowledge.” (From the Budapest Open Access Initiative Web site at http://www.soros.org/openaccess/).

Capitalism is great, and I’m all for it, but I believe there’s a balance between the right of a guy to make a buck and the right of society to build upon past discovery.

Fix the educational system. This is a whole post by itself, and there have been intellectual wars fought over how to do this, but one thing is very clear: our educational system worldwide stinks. In some countries (America among them), you are highly unusual if you possess a high school diploma and college degree. MIT’s idea is a start, but we need to take education more seriously than just the latest demand by the entrenched teacher’s unions or political special interests. I spent five years getting an education degree and what this showed me was that there is a lot of work to be done in improving the system. To that end we need to develop ways to…

Optimize our brains: A recent Wired article interviewed Piotr Wozniak about Supermemo. Supermemo is a computer program that uses the latest cognitive research in learning theory to optimize your memory. Used consistently, Supermemo can help you remember things better. Enter something that you want to remember (Mozart’s dates, the mass of the hydrogen atom, or new vocabulary words), and Supermemo will become your perfect teacher, reminding you of these facts at neurally-optimal intervals. The program is still in its infancy and reportedly very user-unfriendly, but if we can develop ways to optimize how we learn then we can shorten the period of time it takes to get out to the frontier.

The human species is rapidly approaching a point where the quantity of knowledge is so great that we lose our ability to usefully learn anything new. When that happens, humanity may stagnate. It seems clear that we must soon take steps to change our current systems of learning and intellectual exchange so that we can continue to push our frontiers out a little farther.

September 12, 2008

LHC

Filed under: Science — jasony @ 8:53 pm

The single best video I’ve seen describing how the new LHC operates. Awesome!

Visiting CERN

Filed under: Science — jasony @ 6:15 pm

PHD Comics has a righteous 5 part comic strip (think Scott McCloud-style) that goes behind the scenes at the LHC. According to my super secret physics insiders (hi Matt), a bit of the info isn’t exactly on the money, but the spirit is there. Good stuff!

Norm!

Filed under: Woodworking — jasony @ 7:44 am

Wood magazine posts an interview with the Godfather of woodworking, Norm Abrahm.

September 11, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — jasony @ 6:17 am

American Flag by Micah.jpg

September 10, 2008

Thirty Nine, Watch Me Shine

Filed under: Disclosure — jasony @ 6:22 am

Welcome!

Today I am 39.

Today my blog is 5.

It just seems like a year ago that I was writing that. Ah, how fast they grow.

So this year has been another great one. We’re fortunate that there haven’t been any major calamities or hardships, and we’re very grateful to continue that streak. Here’s a quick rundown of what’s gone on this past twelvemonth.

• Went to Ireland- Erin and I spent an enchanting 20 days on the Emerald Isle driving over 1000 miles and seeing just about every major and minor interesting thing on the southern half of the island. More than anything, the trip showed me that the world is very big and, since we went during the olympics and got to see that spectacle from a foreign perspective, very small.

• Did another documentary- I’m about 60% finished with the 8 minute Young Life/Military film. Another rewarding experience that reinforced to me again how much I enjoy branching out and finding new and different ways to earn a living. The other day one of our neighbors introduced me to someone by saying “and this is Jason… he’s what we call a Renaissance Man”. Made my day, it did.

• Built a Really Big Thing. I embarked on a 6 month quest to build a solid wood entertainment center. It’s currently on partial hold as I get buried with work responsibilities, but it’s going to be a thing of beauty when it’s done. From the very beginning I made it a priority to build it as well as my current skills allow. It may not be as good as it’s possible to make it, but it’s as well built as my skills allow. I’m proud of it now and can’t wait to see it in the house.

• Passed out from the pain- from the now-it-can-be-told dept. A few months ago I got out of my desk chair and felt a pain in my left leg. A very bad pain. On a scale of 1 to 10 this one was probably a fifty-seven. Normally if I do something stupid like stub my toe or crack my knee, Erin will hear my muffled exclamations and ask if I’m okay. When she heard a weird noise from upstairs and I didn’t answer, she came up to find me doubled over in my chair breathing heavily. I managed to croak out a few mumbled words and then promptly went limp. Not something that you want your wife to witness. She said that I spent the next 20 seconds making gurgling sounds and she thought for all the world that she had just witnessed me having a stroke. The next thing I remember was Erin’s face a few inches from mine yelling our phone number into the phone. In the brief time I had been out she’d called 911 and shaken me back to consciousness. I managed to crawl/worm my way into the bedroom and before too long the room was filled with four paramedics and three very large firefighters. They hooked me up to an EKG machine, pulse, blood ox, etc, and determined that I’d be able to keep my brain after all. It wasn’t a stroke.
Ultimately it was determined that I had torn my left quadracep muscle and the pain from this had sent me away for awhile. It took me a couple weeks of hobbling around before I felt normal again. Not something I really want to repeat.

• Tripped- friend Sean invited me to be one of the Stupid Guys on his Stupid Guy Trip- an annual meeting of friends-of-Sean. They decide on one town to meet and jet off for a longish weekend of hanging out, deep discussions, and general guy-ness. I was most grateful to be included and count it as one of the highlights of the year. Plus, I got to see Milwaukee, which was wonderful in a Laverne and Shirley kind of way.

• Saw an audience see my work- my normal job involves playing music that I’ve arranged for an audience of 2000 people and seeing the reaction. It’s a tremendously gratifying thing and I always enjoy hearing them gasp or laugh or giggle at just the right moment, but this past summer I got to witness something different. I got to stand at the back of a room full of 150 people and watch them watch the first Military Video I did for Young Life three years ago. It’s the first time I’ve seen it in the presence of an audience. My heart was racing and my palms were clammy and at the end there wasn’t a dry eye in the house, including mine. Truly something humbling and wonderful and memorable to see something that I’ve sweated over for so many hours being used to touch people.

• Continued Making- Sean and I built a hovercraft and I learned all kinds of cool new skills. From learning RTV moulding to figuring out how to melt and cast lead from tire weights, I added some pretty nifty skills to my bag of tricks. My big birthday present this year is a new Scroll saw, and I plan on trying my hand at clock making soon.

• Propped- I got to build some really nifty props. A 6 foot diameter chandelier and a huge lighted prop clock that probably weighed 200 pounds, plus several tables and platforms. It’s such a joy to see the stuff that started life as vague thoughts an images in my mind become real and add something important to a show.

• Got my work published- most of the music I write is only for a season. I spend my time working on and playing the show, then the winners re-perform their act six months later. After this, the acts all go down in history and we begin again. There’s a record of the acts on DVD, which is a nice reminder, but Sing is really designed to see with a live audience. So when I was given the chance to orchestrate two hymns for the new Baptist/non-Baptist hymnal (they put different names on the cover depending on what churches buy them), I jumped at the chance. I ended up orchestrating “Soldiers of Christ” and “Grace that is Greater than All My Sin”. So if you’re ever in church and hear an orchestra play either one of those hymns, that’s my arrangement! Patrick brought me one of the hymnals a few months ago and right there on page seven under “orchestrators” and above a “famous name” is my very own name. I’m published! Neat!

• Audioed- I was able to continue my audio boom and post production work on several projects. The most interesting was a two night (all night) 15 minute film. The crew was great, the budget was big enough to pay my normal rate plus my bag rental fee (which helps pay for the gear), and the director of photography was a joy to work with. It was even fun, in a perverse kind of way, to soldier through the night with the 30 other people and try to keep focused on the technical aspects. Definitely worth it.

• Got my A/C fixed. I’ve been without an air conditioner in my truck for over three years now, and it finally just became intolerable. So I went down to the mechanic and had them give me an estimate. I should have done it years ago. It only cost me $350 to repair and recharge/convert the system. And while that’s $350 I could have spent on something much more fun (or saved), there’s really nothing like sitting in my car on a 110 degree day and not turning into a puddle. It’s been four months since I got it fixed and every time I get in there and flip the switch it still feels like a small miracle.

• Discovered Toffee Rolos- In Ireland I came across toffee Rolo’s. They’re only available in Europe and I positively lived on them for the 20 days that we were there. I bought a bunch of rolls (which must have looked alarming going through the X-ray machine) and regrettably finished off the last one not long ago. I’ll miss you, sweet toffee Rolos!

• Finally- finally- got new sunglasses- I was the dork wearing two pairs of glasses because 1: I loved my Serengeti’s that my dad bought for me over a decade ago. Hmm… well over a decade, and 2: I’m too cheap to buy a new pair. This would involve a trip to the eye doctor for a new prescription, a new set of normal glasses, and a pair of decent (maybe Serengeti’s again?) glasses. All told I was looking at many hundreds of dollars spent. When I happened upon a pair of clip on glasses the other day I gave them a try and $16 later I no longer look like a total tool. They’re polarized, which means I see all kinds of neat rainbow effects off of different surfaces, but I no longer have to deal with a pair of super scratched lenses and a missing temple piece. Told you I was cheap.

Lots more about this year, but as you can see it’s been a good one. I kind of like the idea of doing a “what I did this year” post on my birthday instead of on December 31st. With your indulgence I’d like to continue. Heck, if you get bored, just ignore me. If my reader numbers are any indication you’ve been doing that anyway (hi Mom and…uh, nobody else).

So 39 is here! Next year is a Big One and I’m strangely looking forward to it. A lot.

*follow up* As soon as I posted this it started pouring down rain. I love the rain. Twelve minutes into my birthday and I have my first present. 🙂

September 9, 2008

Shop Time

Filed under: Woodworking — jasony @ 10:09 pm

I haven’t posted on the entertainment center in a while, but it’s not for a lack of work. I’ve put approximately 3 more hours into the finish and both of the bookshelf carcasses are finished! I still have to do the center section, tops, and the doors.
Total time 151 hours, I think.

Kablooey

Filed under: Science — jasony @ 9:07 pm

The best- and worst- case scenarios of the Large Hadron Collider.

Falling Behind?

Filed under: Education,Science — jasony @ 7:44 pm

Science Blog asks the question: does it matter if America falls behind in Science?

Up a Tree

Filed under: Hobbies,Woodworking — jasony @ 7:41 pm

Massive 2 story treehouse.

Quantum Lego

Filed under: Humor and Fun,Science — jasony @ 7:39 pm

Doing the quantum erasure experiment using Lego and the Lego Mindstorms kit.
Freak out, Poindexter!

Lego Simpsons

Filed under: Humor and Fun,Movies — jasony @ 7:33 pm

The Simpsons intro done in Lego. Brilliant!

Big Govt.

Filed under: Politics — jasony @ 3:03 pm

The feds will rescue anyone, it seems, except those suckers who dutifully mail their mortgage checks in on time every month.

article here.

Anathem

Filed under: Current Reading — jasony @ 2:58 pm

Neal Stephenson has a new book out. Anathem looks like a thousand pages of reading fun. It’s getting good reviews. Can’t wait until it hits paperback!

Moving the Secret Recipe

Filed under: Humor and Fun — jasony @ 9:17 am

KFC is transporting its famous Secret Recipe. Funny the levels of security that go into moving a single piece of yellowed paper.

Also interesting that it would probably have been better, from a security standpoint, not to have written a story about it for the internet. I mean, if you want something to be truly secure, why even broadcast any information? Of course, putting something like this out there tends to generate lots of interest in a product complete with news stories and blog posts/links from gullible bloggers who…

wait a second….

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