More poetry

Oct. 6th, 2010 12:15 am
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I ran across several Haiku by Kobayashi Issa recently (Ask Metafilter and a street in Seattle, I think) and decide to track down more. A couple I liked quite a bit below the cut.

Poems )

Poem

Oct. 3rd, 2010 12:08 am
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I ran across this poem lately, and quite like it.

You can come if you like, but it is not the best time:
the weather's uncertain
the trees are still teetering on rust's edge
we have cake, but it is not the right cake
and we haven't been cleaning.
But come if you like.
...
http://papersky.livejournal.com/481063.html
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Warning: somewhat full of whining. Sympathy not really needed at this point, although some suggestions (see below) would be much appreciated.

Food based laments )

Two things

Sep. 18th, 2010 10:30 pm
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1) Two of my friends have birthdays within a few weeks of each other - this year, for their 30th, their wives arranged a spy-vs-spy capture the flag like game with dart guns and secret identities. It was amazingly fun! And now we have like 30 dart guns, so we'll be doing it again. :) Racing around MIT in mobs, alternating between hunting futilely for the extremely well hidden trophy and having massive shootouts was delightful (yes, including the futile hunt - it felt very spy movie as we checked every nook and cranny and jumped on table to check tops of cabinets and the like, all the time with front and rear scouts watching for double-crosses or ambushes).

2) Kiva is still one of my favorite charities. They're effective, sustaining and well run, the stuff you want from any charity. It's especially nice now that I've hit the point that loans get repaid a couple times a year and I get to cycle the money around again. It's also special to me because I give my grandmother a gift certificate each Christmas and help her log in and find a group she likes. Good stuff all around.
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I just got The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces from the library, and finished it in maybe an hour or two. It's based on a series of time-lapse studies of different plazas, which were then analyzed to see what makes them work. The answers appear to mainly be linear feet of seating (including lots of not-too-tall and deep enough walls/ledges) and maybe food vendors. Lots of graphs, lots of data, lots of pictures of things working and not. Quiet interesting, if this is at all your kind of thing.

Book rec

Aug. 3rd, 2010 01:11 am
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I just finished Shop Class as Soulcraft: An inquiry into the value of work by Matthew B. Crawford. It's basically a collection of thoughts around what makes work meaningful and valuable from a man who moved from academia to manual trades. I didn't necessarily identify with his picture of white collar work, but I found the things he had to say about thinking and problem solving being constantly necessary for someone like a mechanic or electrician very interesting. It's worth taking a look at.
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Hmm... that looks like an interesting. [click link] Oh, it wants a cookie. Sure, whatever. [click accept for session, with ticky box ticked] Another cookie, mutter, OK. [click same] Another one?! Arg! I don't even care about this page. [clicky, clicky, clicky, clicky] ARG! JUST STOP COMING UP LONG ENOUGH FOR ME TO CLOSE THE TAB! DIE! [clicky, clicky, clicky, clicky, clickty, clickity, clikity click] Gah. Finally. [reads mediocre article, closes tab, salts earth, vows never to come back].


I assume I'm not the only one this happens to. It's hardly fair to the poor website, which presumably doesn't deserve this much rage. Am I doing something wrong? Is there a fix for this?

In general, when I'm browsing, I leave the ticky box saying do this all the time ticked, and I'm usually accepting cookies for the session to avoid having to go back and un-blacklist things that turn out not to work w/o cookies while not just accepting them constantly. What I'd ideally like is a way to get Firefox to give focus back to the tab so I can close it (or even just read other tabs, rather than watching the clicky box). Is there a setting or plug-in that helps? I generally like Firefox, but if other browsers are better, do let me know. Alternately if there's a good reason to always accept/reject, I think there's already a way to do it automatically, but it seems like it might be a nuisance just as often.
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The 2010 Grilled Cheese Invitational is happening this Saturday. It looks like everyone who buys a ticket will get grilled cheese samples from Tillamook, but that the real fun is in competing or judging in the grill-off, both of which require signing up beforehand.
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I gave a quick talk at Barcamp Boston on what puzzle hunts are, and how they work. Unfortunately, the projector completely failed to work, so I wasn't actually able to show puzzles on the big screen. I did collect a pile of links beforehand, and want to throw them up somewhere generally accessible. Anyone else on my friends list have good links I missed? (The Sages wiki has a ton of good stuff, but it'd be poor form for me to copy it without checking with people)

Resources:


Practice hunts, where at least the bulk of the hunt is online:
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From one of the Good Friday readings. Hebrews 10:24 "And let us consider how [we may spur/to provoke] one another [on toward/to] love and good deeds." Have been thinking about a pile of related things with community and cultural norms. Totally out of brain right now, so will just leave this for the moment.
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I just got plane tickets - will be showing up ~noon on Friday and staying at an Ontario hotel, since the Claremont one filled up fast. I'm pretty sure [livejournal.com profile] quartzpebble and [livejournal.com profile] memnus will be around at least some of the time. If you're going to be there, let me know and we can meet up (I have no special interest in overpriced cafeteria dinners, and am happy to coordinate board game excesses. :) )
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I realized recently that my ignorance about basically an entire continent is pretty appalling and have decided to make a start on improving this. For the sake of people in the same situation, I'm throwing some links behind the cut. If you've got references/suggestions for other reading material, please let me know.

Details and links )
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I just finished reading an essay about design by Paul Graham. The essay was OK - it had a few useful bits of information in it, but mostly it reminded me that I've managed to collect several very good books on the topic.

In approximate order of exposure:

* Edward Tufte's work (The Visual Display of Quantitative Information, Visual Explanations: Images and Quantities, Evidence and Narrative, among others): These books basically do what the title says - they show you ways to display quantitative information visually, and how design choices affect comprehension. The difference between a clear, readable, honest and immediately useful graph and one obscured by tiny bad design choices is really vivid when you see them side by side. This point was driven home in Bio lab, where we got a full page front and back checklist which we were required to complete point by point for every graph in our reports. The importance of consistency and clarity in writeups or graphs from these lessons has helped me more with the working world than most classes I've taken.

The biggest difficulty with these books is that they tend to follow the model of "good example, bad example", without a specific description of what makes each good and bad. A little more explicit explanation would go a long way.

* A Pattern Language, by Christopher Alexander: I think I accidentally convinced an architect I was flirting with him because of my fanatical enthusiasm for this book. It basically consists of 250 specific ideas or patterns about architecture and design, ranging from the mega (how towns should be distributed) to the micro (the right size for window trim). This book resonates with me on at least two levels. Many of the individual patterns, especially at the house or room scale, give me terminology - something to point at and say "This! This is why I like this so much". Many nooks and crannies I'm particularly fond of happen to embody one of the specific patterns laid out. The second level is my awe at the overall structure. It isn't just a dictionary, a pile of architectural terms stuck all together. They're beautifully cross-referenced, and really fit together as a cohesive whole. It's a pity the website is a bit of a jumbled mess - this book cries out for something like the web, where you can follow dozens of branching paths and see how they all fit together.

As far as negatives go, this books is in some ways very rooted in what I'd guess is 1970s California. A few of the patterns clearly don't work in places with large amounts of regular snow, though others are excellent fits. The 1970s bit shows up more in ideas about how work home and school should relate to each other, which I don't think holds together as well as the rest.

That said - there's a reason I try to shove this book on anyone who will hold still. It's not only fascinating as theory, it's changed how I look at both spaces and social interactions. It's where I've derived many ideas about how much environments affect how people interact.

* The Design of Everyday Things by Donald A. Norman: This book focuses on physical objects, from doors to stoves to overhead projectors, and how their basic shape and design encodes assumptions about how they work. When your assumptions don't match, you're more likely to make a mistake. Norman's point is that it's the designer's responsibility to make objects that encourage correct use, and discourage mistakes. In the process, he talks about typical failure modes, which basically boil down to the types of mistakes humans are particularly good at making. The case studies and examples are fascinating.

Not sure this book has many obvious downsides. It's solid and practical, and the examples are fascinating. For some reason, I have a harder time applying lessons from this than from the others. Am guessing this has more to do with the type of things I'm thinking about making than anything.


----

As a bonus, I also picked up a small but interesting picture book about design - it's not in the same class as the ones above, but worth a look.

* Thoughtless Acts? by Jane Fulton Suri and IDEO: This book is a bit smaller than a paperback. Each chapter consists of nothing but full-page images illustrating some theme. In the back, there's a sentence or so about each picture, but it's good to first go through without and absorb what you see. The chapter themes are reacting, responding, co-opting, exploiting, adapting, conforming and signaling. They show how people respond to typically un-thought-through aspects of the objects around them. Most are very small, like balancing a coffee cup on the car while you unlock it, or the temptation to walk along a line, rather than next to it.
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I'm 90% sure I'm going to alumni weekend this year - it's officially my 5 year anniversary, and it would be nice to see folks from my year who I haven't seen much of in the meanwhile.

Is anyone else planning on going?

If there were a day or two of hanging out before/after (in the spirit of the Paso trip - playing board games, eating tasty food and doing amusing things), would people be interested?
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I value making and doing things, the general category of creation. The counterpoint to this is that I *enjoy* reading and learning things much more. There's a bit more to it than that, I realize, as I try to write it down, but it's one fundamental contradiction in my head at the moment.

Having a concrete way of thinking about this may help me handle the contrast between my List 'o Crazy Schemes and what I actually spend my time on. In particular, I have a feeling I'll feel less guilty that I'd rather read than make wacky things, and may quite possibly get more done when I *do* have the energy for it.
lorimt: (yarn)
First off - see userpic. I made that! The colors are absolutely incredible - if you happen to be around, and I haven't already shoved samples under your nose, let me know, and you can see the whole pile.

Second off, if you like Science Fiction, you like fabulous prizes, and you like ducks and goats and people, you should go look at Patrick Rothfuss's giant fundraiser of doom, called Worldbuilders. He's matching 50% of all donations made through his page at Heifer International, and *also* giving away over a thousand prizes in a donation-based lottery. The prizes are mostly Science Fiction novels, from a huge range of authors, many of whom are quite well know, including ARCs for several books not out yet and the occasional original manuscript. Patrick Rothfuss, in case you don't remember, is the author of "The Name of the Wind", which is one of books I've been shoving incessantly at people, because it's just that good. I've donated $30, and am seriously considering throwing in a bit more. The deadline for fabulous prizes is January 15, which is this Friday, so if this looks as cool to you as it does to me, go make your donation now!
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I decided to go see a bunch of theater this fall, much of it of completely unknown quality. The short answer is that I really liked the ART shows I saw, and overall enjoyed the piles of theater immensely. Goldstar half-price tickets and community theater mean you can try a lot of different things for under $20. Even without that, the ART tickets are probably worth it if the show looks appealing...

Read more... )
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Have a video of objects and the sounds they make. Trust me - this is *way* more awesome than you'd expect.
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I just remembered I *have* read something really good lately-ish that I haven't pushed excessively on people. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. I'd tell you about it, but wouldn't do it justice. It's a YA novel that manages to be very dark, and still hopeful, in addition to really really good. I'm reading the sequel (Catching Fire) now - it isn't quite as good, but is still excellent.

Also excellent - the poem My Elf Policy, and the one in the comments it inspired.

Anyone read anything amazing lately? Because clearly my giant stack of reading material isn't big enough...
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