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Archive for the ‘Romancing the Muse’ Category

Taking Time For Reading

26 Jun
reading dog

Credit: Armstrong Library

Good writers are avid readers.

I don’t have any statistics from scientific studies to throw at you, but based on what I know about the talented writers I’ve encountered, I stand by that statement. For most of us, a penchant for writing was the fruit which grew from our love of reading when we were young. We admired our favorite author’s ability to take us to other places, times, and situations, and we wanted to do this too. So we began crafting stories of our own.

Whether we did so consciously or not, we emulated our literary mentors. As we read their work, we began to dissect their stories, to see how they created the illusions. Like studying a magic act, we wanted to discover the slight-of-word that made it all believable.

Most of us still enjoy reading. Unfortunately, many now do not spend much time reading great novels. We’re spending so much time reading as research, or for education, or as part of our marketing efforts that the great masters lay on a shelf gathering dust. The library is thinking of closing our account because our card has not been used in such a long time. This is a shame.   Read the rest of this entry »

 

Rooted in Minimalism

28 Jan
minimalist sculpture Tony Smith

As you know, Dear Reader, I have recently been looking at and talking about the concepts of minimalism.  While I can not currently claim membership in that club, it is the direction in which I’m moving, and it occurs to me that it is the direction from whence I came.  Yes, I was once a certifiable minimalist – long before it was popular, before there was a fancy nameplate to hang on one’s door to announce it to the world.  It was just the way it was.  No; I didn’t grow up in the Great Depression, it was something far stranger than that.

You see, it began in childhood.  We were an Air Force family and the government has never been any too generous with Non-Com pay rates.  My parent’s always saw that the 4 of us young’uns had what we needed, but frills were few.  Don’t get me wrong; we weren’t raised in a packing crate or anything, we were comfortable and happy.  The only time I ever felt even a little deprived was when a friend came to school wearing a pair of the latest tennis shoes – you know, the ones that make you run like the wind and allow you to leap over small buildings in a single bound, I’d feel a twinge of envy.  But it passed quickly.  My parents raised us with better values than that.  They taught us to find contentment in what we had.  More or less!   Read the rest of this entry »

 

Handy Artistry

17 Jan

Hello Dear Reader. Today is chilly and rainy. The yard work I had planned on doing today has been postponed. So instead I’m going to build a fire in the fireplace and work on an article about making use of what is on hand as a way of simplifying landscaping and construction projects.  While I work on that, I thought you might enjoy this video that emphasizes “on hand” and  artistry.

If you enjoyed that little artistry video (and the surprise ending) please leave a comment below. Thank you for coming to visit and may the Simple Life be yours.

 

Ode to Fred – a Pet Tale

31 Dec

One of my wife’s co-workers recently related an attempt to teach her 10 year old son responsibility.  He wanted a puppy.  She knew a puppy was a large undertaking, so she suggested trying something a little less challenging at first; like a turtle.

turtle, pet, responsibilityShe bought a small turtle and a bowl, he named the turtle Fred.  For a while things went well and she was impressed with the amount of care and attention her son lavished on Fred.  But after a few weeks, that interest began to wane.  After a few more weeks, Fred wasn’t looking so good.  He wasn’t smelling so good either.  She suggested that her son should clean out the bowl.  He reluctantly agreed. Read the rest of this entry »

 

Poking the Muse with a Saturday Joy Ride

30 Aug

Long ago, Dear Reader, in an economy far, far away… Marie and I made a habit of going out for long drives in the country on Sundays after church.  It was one of those simple pleasures in life that we enjoy so much.  We would stop off somewhere and pick up sandwiches and drinks and head out on the highways and byways.  Mostly the byways.  And quite a few back roads, and even a goat path or two.

We loved getting out and seeing what is here and where they keep it.  We would generally spend the rest of the day on these joyrides. But things have gotten tight lately and this practice has been pretty much mothballed.  Pretty much, but not entirely.

Hwy 25E, clinch mountain, tennessee

Hwy 25E on Clinch Mountain

We recently decided to take a Saturday and drive up to the new Highway 25E overlook on Clinch Mountain, near Tazwell Tennessee.  It was a beautiful fall day; the sky was clear and azure.  Trees were starting to turn color, proudly decked out in the deep red of red oaks, the gold-orange of white oaks, hickories and poplar, the bright red of dogwoods and the vivid orange of maple, creating a tapestry of color draped over the mountains like a quilt against the chilly air.  The higher we got the cooler the air became and the more color there was.  Clinch Mountain reaches an elevation of 4,000 feet.  We didn’t get quite that high, but it was pretty chilly when we got out of the truck just the same.  Read the rest of this entry »

 

Why We Aren’t On Mars (Yet)

02 Aug

I wonder if we’ll ever be able to grow black beans on Mars.

Mars, HAB units, Mars UndergroundThis afternoon – during the girls (and Cochise’s) nap time I shelled a basket of black beans.  The yield was about a half of a zip-lock sandwich baggie of dried beans.  A little disappointing, but under the weather conditions we’ve had… eh, better than nothing at all, and there are many more bean plants to harvest yet.  I’ll probably get a jar full to tuck away for winter soup making.  While shelling these I watched a YouTube video called Mars Underground.

I was hoping it was a Sci-Fi movie.  It started off like a sci-fi movie, then turned documentary.  Then it started sounding like one of those conspiracy flicks and I expected them to say “We don’t need to go to Mars, Martians are already here and in control of our Government.”  And I was prepared to believe it because that’s one of the better excuses for the US government’s insane behavior.   Read the rest of this entry »

 

Robots of the Not Too Distant Future

19 Jul

In part 2 of this series we looked at robots and robotic devices that are available today.  Some, like the robotic training aids in use to teach people CPR, medical diagnostics, dentistry and even child birth are fairly sophisticated.  The Geminoid line of robots are incredibly life-like.

If you’re  wondering whether this was in fact a real robot, or actually a person pretending to be a robot; it is not a fake.  This is the latest iteration of the Geminoid series of ultra-realistic androids from Japanese firm Kokoro and Osaka University mad scientist roboticist Hiroshi Ishiguro.  Specifically, this is Geminoid DK, which was constructed to look exactly like associate professor Henrik Scharfe of Aalborg University in Denmark.

Prof. Scharfe confirmed: “No, it is not a hoax,” adding that he and colleagues in Denmark and Japan have been working on the project since 2010.  His Geminoid, which cost some US $200,000, is going to be used for studying human-robot interaction, in particular people’s emotional responses when they face an android representing another person.  Prof. Scharfe wants to find out if the robot can transmit a person’s “presence” to a remote location and whether cultural differences in people’s acceptance of robots make a difference.[1]

Have you seen the movie Surrogates? Read the rest of this entry »

 

Robots as Servants: the Current Standing

12 Jul
robots, industrial

Scara Industrial Robot

Robots have been in service in industry such as assembly lines for some time, but they are not “intelligent” nor are they mobile. They are programmed to perform a single task – make a series of welds on an auto body, for example – over and over with great speed and accuracy. Their advantage is that they don’t get bored, tired or distracted and don’t require a potty break every 30 minutes.

Americans are quite familiar with such devices as the Roomba robotic vacuum cleaner by iRobot, a similar unit will clean your pool. These are true robots as they do work independently of your input, they are not merely remote control devices, nor do they wander about aimlessly hoping to get the entire floor clean – eventually.  While they do manage to go around obstacles, get themselves unstuck and run a spiral “grid” of sorts to be sure the entire area is cleaned, they don’t seek out dirt to collect, just suck up what they encounter.  Another brand (Neato Robots) claims it’s version does not need to bump into obstacles, but uses laser range finding to explore the room ahead of it and map out a course to avoid contacting your furniture. Read the rest of this entry »

 

Are There Robots In Your Future?

05 Jul

robots, sci-fi, householdHuman shaped robots that are capable of independent thought and mobility so they can perform tasks for us around the home or job site have been fodder for science fiction writers for several decades. The public seems fascinated by the idea of a robotic servant. But is there any real hope that such a thing is possible, and if so is it safe? After all, many of those same sci-fi movies and books are about robots that run amok. Do we really need or want such a possibility in our home?

This is part one of a three part series of articles. Part one looks at our need for robots, part two will explore what robotic science has for us today, and part three will look at the near and foreseeable future of robots. For the far-off future of robots, pick up any good robots sci-fi book! Read the rest of this entry »

 

Making Things Bigger, Badder, Better

21 Jun

One of my favorite books is James Burke’s The Day the Universe Changed, which looks at the effects that certain changes in prevailing thoughts, and a few inventions, had on society as a whole.  It is amazing what changes can be effected with small shifts in thought and deed.

science fiction

Jump Point by Oscar Cafaro

In a similar fashion, it can take some innovative thinking to take our mechanical monstrosities to their next level.  Lately I’ve been deriding Sci-Fi writers who take the “because I say so” approach to technology in their novels.  I admit to being something of a ‘wet blanket’, as Greta playfully put it.  At least, I hope she was being playful!

Now that I’ve examined a whole host of the challenges that will need to be met in order for humankind to go frolicking about in deep space, let’s take a look at what we will have to do to meet those challenges.  To attack this subject head-on regarding space travel, would involve a huge, stinking, pile of speculation about what we might know and what we might have at our disposal in another hundred years.

We do have some inklings of what might be possible through research channels.  But most of the cutting edge stuff is being done by the government in the form or weapons research or reverse engineering alien spacecraft; and governments, especially the American government, are notoriously tight lipped about such research.  It isn’t until new technologies show up in our consumer products that we are clued in that they exist.  And they will never admit that velcro was a Vulcan invention. Read the rest of this entry »