Saturday, July 30, 2011

return to my usual programming

wow, that was some week.

somehow i managed to get signed on as the head instructor for the essex rec department's week-long geocaching day camp. i am still a little fuzzy as to how that happened, but it did.

if you are interested in seeing my online materials for that, you may find them here.

without crashco i think i would have been dead in the water, but with him i think it went all right. i have all my experience in education and all that to draw from, but when it comes to putting all the containers and clues and such out in the field, it becomes a mighty big job for one person.

with many of the other camps you can just take all the kids outside to play a game and one adult is sufficient oversight, but geocaching done properly means a lot of wandering around in the woods and if you need to keep track of twelve middle school kids, three adults is just about right.

anyway, today was my first day back to "normal", and i have celebrated by catching up in the reading of the blogs i read, doing some light housework including laundry and cleaning the upstairs bathroom and washing the windows (inside and out) in the front room as well as organizing and clocking the january 2011 photos from the thirteen project, and editing them into video.

normally doing a month of thirteen photos takes me three days if i don't dawdle, but i guess i'm just on fire today, nevermind that last night i celebrated the end of the week by making split pea soup, zucchini bread, a batch of ginger ale, and a new experimental lavender-rosemary cooler that i hope will be light and refreshing.

now if you'll excuse me, i have to go make a different zucchini bread and maybe some more soup or maybe some cookies or something.

and i have to call my chicken guy because i'm out of eggs.

Monday, July 25, 2011

art and artificial intelligence

art. where to start? art. art. art.

so i was doing what i always do, which is a lot of random stuff, and i saw this website that takes images and "textifies" them. simple enough. it's fun to play with, and you can configure it a little and save the image.

here's a photo i took, modified with textify it.

kind of nice, yes?

and then i saw to really astounding interactive art projects:

the first is an interactive film that uses google earth imagery and music video. you should run it in chrome, but it is so cool that it's worth firing up a second browser and shutting down everything else you're doing just to see it.

the wilderness downtown

the other is the johnny cash project, which i might could describe, but you really should go see it for yourself. i am not kidding about this.

but yesterday i was listening to a radiolab podcast about talking to machines and heard about cleverbot. it's fairly astounding, and you can talk to it from here.

cleverbot is pretty far along in its learning, but if you want you can talk to a newer avatar called evie. she isn't trained as well, but every conversation you have helps her learn.

you may not wish to assist in developing artificial intelligence. it's interesting, though.

i had a very weird experience with her tonight in which she asked me my name. i told her i was called flask, which i am. and she said "hello, (my given name)". given what little i know about how her training works, that's a really bizarre coincidence, even if she did follow it up with asking me why people call me harper, which to my knowledge nobody has ever done.

that's it for me.

you can call me harper if you like. evie says she only did it because she's nice.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

it isn't just chimps and us anymore.

there's been a lot of hoo-hah about lots of species using tools, which is one of the things we used to think made us special.

as far as i know, though, we are still the only species to construct tools for use and distribution on the internet, although there are lots of videos these days of various critters from octopus to lion recording themselves and lots of discussions about who holds the copyright for images that a gorilla makes.

uh, anyway.

my point? it was really to talk about some little tools i have open on my desktop but was waiting to tell you about.

of course there's a cute little map tool that tells you how far two points are from each other, which is super handy.

and if you're worried about security, you might think about your passwords.

and librarians? librarians are awesome. they care about your privacy, even when the government doesn't.

and maybe this isn't so useful, but it's kind of cool. the colour clock. and as long as i'm talking about clocks (wasn't i just?), i just heard about this today. i am sad that it is not playing near my house.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

simple solutions

aside from stopping the stupid stinking expensive war that is the death of the republic and the downfall of the empire (didn't ANYBODY learn anything from rome?)

-uh, aside from THAT, we could actually be helping people. here are some projects that take small practical approaches to big problems, and while they don't solve the cause of world poverty, they increase the standard of living for people who really need it.

these people make and ship low-cost wheelchairs to people in developing countries. it's not state-of-the-art-insurance-is-paying-for-it perfect fitted medical supplies, but a lawn chair fitted with bike wheels is perfectly serviceable and a cheap alternative.

and even during daylight hours it's DARK inside a lot of people's homes, where electricity is either expensive or unavailable. these people have come up with a cheap solution that helps.

and while we're at it, the problem of clean drinking water is a major one in much of the world. you don't hear much about this solution to the problem, but i think one of the reasons you don't hear a lot about it is that nobody is going to make a lot of money from it.

and in the developed world, people with diseases like ALS or MS typically can't get access to those spiffy computer-assisted communication devices that would make their remaining days better. those machines are expensive and your insurance won't cover them, so unless you're rich, you're out of luck.

so these guys developed a cheap DIY version you can make yourself or have made for under $100.

Friday, July 22, 2011

hard travelin'

here's today's work:

this is the posted video of december from my thirteen project. it is difficult to wade through those images and see the hours crawl by knowing what it was like to be living in that room with barred windows, to be separated from my loved ones, and the general grimness of the atmosphere in the halfway house over christmas and new year's.

since they took my camera away while i was inside, i snuck some illegal external shots later and modified those to represent the hours i was still marking inside.

there are "normal" pictures taken in parking lots, but i know where they are and when they are: they are the hours between session and curfew when i had to go out to get groceries, medications, supplies, and just to get out.

checking my email meant sitting in a parking place curbside at an open network, usually at the library.

you see pictures of sunshine and ice fisherman, but they're taken from inside a session room. it's done quickly, under the notice of the staff. the patients don't care; they're not in the picture.

it's hard to see those images.

Thursday, July 21, 2011


i don't care how hot it is during the day.

really,  i don't. over a hundred degrees? awesome day for a road bike ride.

but it's nighttime and i want to sleep, you know?

i wouldn't bother to mention it, except  that there's an interesting little temperature thing going on here:

if i walk out my front door it's just about as beastly hot outside as it is inside, but here at my desk only one floor up and on the same side of the building what's coming through the window feels like a cool breeze. there is some difference between the upstairs temperature and the downstairs temperature, but not enough i don't think to account for the difference.

in the basement, however, it's about twenty degrees cooler, so i'll be sleeping down there.

overnight the temperatures are supposed to fall into the low 60s so it will give the rest of the house a little chance to cool before i shut it all up in the morning starting on the sunny side of the house and then all the way around when the outside temperature draws near the inside temperature and of course as the evening cools i go through the reverse process, testing every window and door and opening everything where it's cooler outside.

yes, i have considered a/c.

...for about ten minutes.

what? i should get a/c for the three days a year it's above 50 degrees here at night?

i don't think so.

i don't even bother most days to wear short sleeves, let alone shorts. today called for short sleeves, but still long pants.  as far as i'm concerned, if it's july and i can wear turtlenecks, i'm happy. if there's a light frost on the grass in early august i am ecstatic.

wednesday night my friends and i were laughing about our definition of what constitutes "the south": bennington and brattleboro counties.

and beyond that, you might as well be at the equator.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

we're having a heat wave!

tonight at my race i was talking with my friends and while we're not really happy about the temperatures, we thought it would be really funny for all of us here in northern new england to get on the interwebs and complain about the heat.

and the weather.

today it must have been eighty-five degrees here at my house! and it's sunny every day except for the afternoons when it rains, so the grass is lush and green and at this time of year golden topped in the sunset hours.

blast the heat. eighty-five degrees is about fifteen degrees warmer than i like it.

it's july, which means i watch a lot of TV. the whole reason i pay for he cable package i do is because i have to watch the tour every july.

every day.

today i have to catch the primetime coverage because i had to miss the live coverage because yesterday i got a flat tire on my way to my race and today i had to get it fixed AND i had to take my bike into the shop for repairs.

in my spare time, i'm editing the song i wrote and i'm organizing and clocking photos for the thirteen project. if you're just joining us, i take a picture every thirteen hours. i have been doing this for eighteen months now. i'm behind in the organizing, mostly because i got bottled up behind the Very Bad Thing; in order to clock the photos from november and december i have to come face to face with it and the subsequent prolonged stay in the crazy house where they took away my camera, so i've had to come up with a way to represent the weeks behind bars in a way that preserves the spirit of the project.

yesterday i posted november to youtube; tomorrow i'll get a good start on clocking december.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

old news

since i took five weeks off, i have kind of a backlog of things on my desk. none of this is particularly fresh, but i think it's worth mentioning.

first, i heard a really interesting podcast on studio 360 about three-dimensional sound. it's worth going to their page to have a listen.

and i don't care if you are allergic to cute and fluffy kitties and fuzzy puppies give you hives. you should go play sissy's magical ponycorn adventure, which is a game designed by a five year old girl. if you're interested in the story of how it came to be created, her father wrote about it here.

recently i burned up a lot of time looking at some maps. uh, really, if you know me, you know that i habitually burn a lot of time looking at maps. in this particular instance, though, i had been to campobello island, NB and eastport ME among other places and i had taken a picture of a navigational marker out in the channel by the old sow and i thought i'd look it up and the next thing i knew i had two things on my screen: a complete description of the coast of maine and new brunswick from quoddy narrow to calais, and the accompanying chart 13396. taken together, you can have hours of charty fun.

if you like your maps on a smaller scale, you maybe would like the atlas of the habitual.

Monday, July 18, 2011

time off

ok, so i took five weeks off.

if you really wanted to follow what i was writing, you could have been reading my geocaching logs, which are now all caught up. it's kind of like blogging, except that each entry is attached to a place i went and tells part of the story of a day. most of my logs also include pictures, many of which i post to panoramio, and many of those get onto google earth.

speaking of google earth, i also did a little map project with that about our two days playing geocache battleship.

View battleship! in a larger map

i also made a little tour in google earth, which you can download as .kmz here and play for yourself.

tuesdays and wednesdays i still go out and run a 5k trail run and mountain bike race, respectively, and i still go out and play disc golf a couple of times a week.

in other news, i made a  new ice cream flavor that's kind of complicated but very good. i call it "hot chocolate".  basically it's a very chocolate ice cream with arbol peppers and cinnamon. it's complicated because in order for the custard to hold as much chocolate as it does, you have to melt the chocolate in the milk and temper it. in order to get the pepper taste in there properly, you have to slow simmer the peppers and cinnamon and other spices in scalded milk. and in order to carry all that chocolate, you have to use egg yolks, which have to be tempered as well. then the whole thing has to be combined cooled and after it cools you have to run the combined custard through the blender because some of the chocolate will have precipitated.

THEN you can add the cream and toss it in the ice cream maker.

it's time consuming, but very, very good.

 the thing about it, though, is that it is so smooth going down you don't even hardly notice the peppers until you have already swallowed it, so if you don't enjoy a stealth kick, you ought to be careful. and for heaven's sake don't get any in your eyes when you're busy licking the bowl.

oh, and i wrote a new song.

outside of all that, though, things haven't been going so well for me and i just didn't want to write to you about that. it's bad enough that i have to know about it without depressing you, too.


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