Later that day, we went to Microcenter to get some miscellaneous hardware to finish the job. While we were in the store Max said, “Daddy, I want to see the mama-boards...where are they? My next spaceship is going to have, like, four computer brains.”
Peace on Earth.
Happy Holidays 2008 from Jason, Rose, Max & Esmé
Max's first Pac-Man drawing. The legacy continues.
Max has been exploring the scientific method in Kindergarten. One night, he decided he was going to explain it to us. "A hypoposis is...it's like your idea. A hy-pop-osis is your concept, Daddy...and then you have to test it."
These kids are too much. They're my Christmas presents.
I just finished reading it again, and realized, interestingly, that Holden’s little sister Phoebe seems to be the spiritual twin to Esmé in Salinger’s earlier short story bearing that name.
These are intuitive comments, generated from a mix of qualitative information and personal observation. If you think of the earth as an organism, with each component part of human existence being part of that organism (the ecosystem, the political system, the economic system, the technological system, etc.), it boils down to this question: How healthy are we? How healthy, or stressed, is the earth as an organism?
- They have a reasonable amount of confidence about themselves,
- They have a genuine interest in other people,
- They have no agenda to deliver, no big chips on their shoulders,
- And nothing to prove to anyone.
Jet lag is *nasty* after 27 hours of continuous travel, moving from a +13 hour time zone. Special bonus accomplishment while coming home: our 777, thanks to a 170 MPH tail wind, traveled in excess of 700 MPH. So far this is the fastest I've ever traveled, and as close to the speed of sound as I'll likely ever get (unless I hitch a ride in an F-18 some time).
Leaving Seoul and soon-to-be-distant (again) friends. Five year reunion held in the sixth year; hopefully we'll see them again soon. The world is small but still big, and Seoul is a city almost too large to comprehend. Travel takes a lot of energy; we miss home but still wish we could stay longer. Seems like we've been away forever, but the trip went so fast.
Leaving Kyoto for Seoul today; shinkansen to Tokyo then an airplane...long day of travel ahead, but some old friends at the end. Some Kyoto observations:
- I made a Florence reference in my Tokyo entry on 10/6, but that was only referring to the flavor of a relatively small district around Shibuya station. More appropriately, based on my limited observations, I think one could refer to Kyoto as the "Firenze" of Japan.
- Tokyo is a modern city, so the high-tech, the modern, the sometimes-ugly...they all blend together fairly well into a hyper but energetic and attractive mess. In Kyoto, the new and the old do not blend so well. For example, take the Higashiyama district, with its beautiful traditional architecture and multitude of shrines and temples. On its western, southern, and northern edges, it collides with a landscape of 70s-90s vintage horrid-modern masonry and curtain wall mid-rise buildings. And I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the overhead power lines and transformers everywhere.
- In contrast to the above point, one of the most beautiful things about Kyoto is the fact that you can be walking in the midst of what feels like a concrete jungle, and then suddenly come upon a wooded shrine in the least expected place. When this happens, it's like discovering an oasis.
- I can't get the ubiquitous phrase 'onegai shimasu', in that high-pitched 'may I serve you' voice, out of my head. So kind, but so strange.
After five days in Tokyo, we're leaving for Kyoto today. It's been a hybrid relaxing/intense few days, but an amazing experience so far and a lot of fun. Few random observations about an American family traveling in Tokyo with two young children:
- Tokyo's non-orthagonal configuration makes many of its districts feel (but not look) like older European cities. Our first night, wandering around Shibuya station, felt a little like wandering around central Florence (if you squinted your eyes until everything became a little blurry).
- The city, considering its size and intensity, is surprisingly quiet. At Shibuya crossing, thousands cross at every light change without a word--you can almost hear the footsteps. If it weren't for traffic noise, and the blaring noise from video screens on buildings, there wouldn't be much noise at all. Drivers do not honk at each other.
- People move smoothly and efficiently everywhere. Even with the crushing crowds on the metro and Yamanote line, we never felt unsafe or overcrowded, even with kids in a stroller.
- Tokyo doesn't have any public trash cans. You 'pack out' what you use, just like when hiking. Public restrooms don't have paper towels, and often don't have air dryers. You carry a small cloth handkerchief with you to dry your hands. This, and many other examples exist everywhere of efforts to make a small footprint, individually and collectively.
- Service and courtesy are amazing. No less than five separate individuals attend to us on our way from the front door of our hotel to the elevator. But these same people navigate the metro stations without regard to anyone around them, and might just run you over if they're in a hurry.
- Japanese people love our kids; they get a lot of smiles and a lot of photos taken of them.
- Our son Max started Kindergarten
- I started teaching a graduate course at a local university
- We have several improvement & repair projects going on at our house
- I have two major deals underway in the office (one of which recently died, which is always fun)
- We moved a significant amount of money into a real estate investment
- And we’re taking Max & Esmé on a three-week trip to Japan and South Korea to visit some old friends
Ah, the thoughts of a 5-year old.
I told him (in simpler and more explanatory language) that individual people, after they get old and gray, will come to an end and die, but as long as we keep having children and take care of the Earth (and the other planets for that matter), there will always be a tomorrow.
So proud! As promised, he was rewarded for his achievement with a Mars Mission LEGO set.
The longer I do this, the more I suspect that a good part of the "information overload" story is a myth cooked up by folks who don't know how to use the internet well in order to demonize something they don't understand.
And my two cents on the matter:
Productivity is, in a sense, meaningless. Those things which are important to you, or your boss, or your client, as the case may be, get done. Those things which are less important fall by the wayside. In business, most (but not all) things that rise to the level of "important" involve relatively larger sums of money. The above holds true in your personal life as well. If someone tells you they're "too busy" to get together, etc., they're actually informing you (politely) of your relatively low placement within their internal priority list. No reason to be bothered by this--it just 'is what it is', as they say. Everyone does it. People make time for what's most important to them, whether they admit it to themselves or not. So forget about productivity--just get done what's important to you. If you're not satisfied with what's getting done, revisit your priorities.
Esmé & Max looking for Sea Lions.
The best way to live
is to be like water
For water benefits all things
and goes against none of them
It provides for all people
and even cleanses those places
a man is loath to go
-- from the Tao Te Ching, V. 8
Following up on previous posts here and here, I continue to attempt to reconcile...
- The concept of living like water, as expressed in the Tao Te Ching, and
- My intuitive connection with the forms of the natural landscape
Grabbing and stuffing--
there is no end to it
Sharpen a blade too much
and its edge will soon be lost
Fill a house with gold and jade
and no one can protect it
Puff yourself with honor and pride
and no one can save you from a fall
Complete the task at hand
Be selfless in your actions
However, as my brain has passively processed all of this over the past several months, I think I'm finally starting to unify these ideas. I am recognizing that perhaps they do not contain the inherent contradictions I once thought.
Water, the presence and lack thereof, whether liquid, as a flow or a body, or solid, as a glacier, has formed and continues to form the natural landscape in which we live. The cycle of water can be seen as an analogue for certain journeys in life, which can include aspirations.
I am one who seeks like water.
The older I get, the more I realize that things cannot be forced. All we can do is seek out that which fits our life and our context, and then enable it. Through this seeking, and through the un-contrived pursuit of opportunities that fit one's circumstances, each person can achieve a success that resonates with them. The difficult part is the search, and having the wisdom to recognize which aspirations should be pursued (and then enabled), and which should be ignored.
I believe this general concept applies to goals, relationships, and in fact everything in one's life. It is a lesson learned from water, from gravity. It is a cycle, and a journey from high to low. Success comes at the bottom.
- Rain is chaos, the unknown, randomness.
- The Watershed is a flow with resistance, it is seeking, finding one's way. It is the most difficult part of the cycle.
- At the Stream, a way has finally been found. There will be challenges, but gravity is with you.
- The Body of Water, at the low point, at the terminus of the stream, is a temporary end, a reward. Life's rewards can be found in low places. This resting place, being low, is also a type of death. Death leads to rebirth.
- Through Rebirth, evaporation, we are led back to chaos, and the cycle begins again.
Last night, I managed to drag my sorry hide downstairs and we watched BSG Razor (awesome). Rose gave me a little sarcastic remark like, "Nice to have you awake for the whole movie..." To this I replied, "It's easy to stay awake when you have a knot in your stomach," referring of course to how one feels when watching BSG. It's a good knot.
Season 4 starts this week. I've never before been excited for the new season of a television show. Time to format the DVR's hard drive.
I'm truly passionate about coffee, and have learned a lot over the years. I realize that I have almost nothing to say that hasn't already been better said by others, so I link to them below.
After struggling with (and wearing out from over-use) no less than three consumer-grade espresso machines, I finally broke down and invested in a decent prosumer machine with a heat-exchanger (HX) and E-61 group head.
Originally, my wife was not happy with the fact that I took out of commission one entire worksurface in our relatively small kitchen... However, now that she's had more than a few of my espresso drinks she's learning to live with the configuration.
I continue to humbly pursue excellence in my own espresso-making. Please follow these links for excellent coffee resources:
- Gimme! Coffee - Excellent educational PDFs. If you make it to Ithaca or Brooklyn from time to time, stop in to their espresso bar and have some of the best drinks in the eastern United States. Did I mention that they do mail-order beans as well?
- David Schomer - An espresso sage. Be sure to read his MSNBC story.
- Coffee Geek - Once you get serious about coffee you'll spend hours (days) here. See my review of the Anita and the Quick Mill doserless grinder.
- Whole Latte Love - Check out this tutorial on the golden rule of espresso.
- Home Barista - How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love Heat Exchangers.
Incidentally, if you like bouncing balls, check out some of George Rhoads' sculpture, another Ithaca resident. (previously)
...Over the next 10-50 years this could be a real issue.
I feel as if I already operate using the 'external collective brain' to some degree. Using my 3G smartphone and Google, I can look up, in about 30 seconds or less, just about any miscellaneous fact that I need. Maps (GPS phone), images and videos included. The weak link in the interface is the fact that this is still done using a device and my fingers, so the input is slow. When you think about it, all that's needed to make this a reality is a faster interface--brain implant, eye gestures, etc.
As we rely on external sources for basic factual information (still of course using our minds for logic and analysis), I do worry that we'll begin to lose something. For example, the portions of our brain responsible for wrote memorization: will they atrophy due to the fact that we don't memorize much any more? Will this inflict currently unforeseen collateral damage on other parts of our brain? Perhaps contemporary neuroscientists have already studied this...
Has anyone seen the 'Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex' series? Worth watching in it's own right, but particularly interesting in relation to this particular discussion. The series deals with computer-human hybrid brain issues, in a very trenchant manner. There is even some thought given to future diseases that may be caused by 'cyberization' of the brain.
I recall one scene in particular involving 3 characters: two of them are having a complex discussion in involving a barrage of literary and cultural references. The third character, eaves-dropping, interjects and remarks that they're having a fascinating discussion, but he couldn't follow it because he didn't have an 'external memory device'. In other words, he understood the logic and essence of the conversation, but his brain wasn't connected to the internet, so he couldn't 'look up' a lot of the specific references.
Perhaps a scene from our not-to-distant future... Funny thing is, I can recall at least two times in the past 3 months that I've been in a group discussion and I snuck out my phone to Google a historical reference that I didn't get at first. I looked it up on the sly and kept plugging right away at the discussion without missing a beat. Would have been easier with a brain implant...
This morning, Max sketched his design for a train track on paper, then we built it.
There is no such thing as success. There are no rewards, there are no punishments. There are only actions and consequences.
What's inside will show through to the outside.
This morning I woke up and the fountain pen on my desk was clink, clink, clinking in its metal spring holder as I typed, and the soup pot atop the refrigerator was resonating with the vibration from the compressor. I have never noticed these sounds before.