Thursday, February 24, 2005

Fish Perceptions

I wondered if I could add living space to the fish tank by inverting a one-gallon jug filled with water into the tank. Would the fish swim up into it? Could this be the start of Habitrails for fish?

As it turns out, probably not.

My fish "know" when they are about to swim "out of the water." Even when highly incentivized as they pursue food, they duck back under the tank's water level when they swim about in the plastic bottle. I've observed one fish in particular which will swim right at the perceived boundary, but if its eyes lift above the tank water line, it startles and swims out of the wide mouth of the bottle.

Apparently, the perception from the eyes overrides the perception from the mouth and skin. Fully engulfed by water, its eyes can see the boundary of the tank's water level, and this is sufficient to keep it from exploring the greater volume above.

Since the entire fish tank is "above" water, what is different about this extra volume? If I took this tank, and put it in a bigger, shallower tank, would the fish stay beneath the level of water in the larger tank?

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Home of the Future

We live in the home of the future. Built in 1896, with wood harvested from local resources, this house has raised at least four families. It's had some indignities committed against it, but it shows little evidence of giving up soon.

In 1896, did the builders pause to think about the coming era? Otto Lillienthal was experimenting with heavier than air flight, but Orville and Wilbur's flyer was still 7 years in the future. So was the 1939 Chicago World's Fair, spaceflight, and the struggle for equalities of all persuasions.

It's a Home of the Future because it performs the primary requisite task: it limits the ecological footprint of our family of four. In the future, we will all live within the resource budget of the Earth (plus any space resources we learn to harvest!). We'll leave our wild areas wild rather than sprawling in to them, and we'll rehabilitate our urban areas to allow humans and nature to coexist more peacefully. We'll bring a little more wild into our backyards. Driving a motor home with a microwave and TV into the forest for a "vacation" is really an effort to have a wild backyard.

Another thing we'll have to work out is paying for training. How many of us buy new stuff when the old stuff gets a little worn? When the cost to repair an appliance approaches the cost to replace it, don't we go get a new one? The packaging might end up in the recycling, but the old appliance often ends up in landfill.

Our clothes dryer finally gave up a couple days ago, but I had no time to figure out what to do about it. Plus, it's a four-day weekend for some of us, so I really don't feel like solving why the thing doesn't heat up. If I had purchased basic appliance repair training at some point, I bet I could fix it and get back to my life in little or no time. As it stands, I could go to the laundromat. Instead, I pretended I had to solve the problem with what I knew and what I had.

Taking the back off the dryer was easy, and propping the hairdryer into the heating element's housing was easy, and now I have a dryer that's half as good at drying clothes as it was three days ago. I might be burning up the life of the hair dryer too. What I've really done, is to give myself some space to make a long-term choice. Free from the rush to make a decision right now, I can make a choice that uses resources better.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

What else I learned from Dad...

He passed on 8 years ago this February 28th. I miss him, and I miss co-discovering who we are, as I grow and change. I find that I can still mine the recollections of long ago for new lessons, however.

For example, in First or Second grade we were working on our "minusses" and I could see that 3-2 is 1, and 3-1 is 2, so there ought to be an answer to 2-3. I could feel it. Something that "lived," for numbers were alive to me then, on the other side of Zero. Dad was working in the garage, on a car or hanging the garage door or something.

"What's 2 minus 3?" I asked.
"It doesn't have an answer," he said.
"It must have an answer!"
"Nope. You can't take a bigger number from a smaller number," he explained.
"Well, I think there needs to be an answer, so I'll make one up," I told him.

I went away, and came up with a cumbersome system not unlike Roman numerals for these numbers on the other side of Zero. 2 minus 3 was 00 (the first zero is of course zero, acting as a gatekeeper and a sentry, to let us know we've crossed over; the second zero indicates the quantity), 2 minus 4 would be 000, and so on. I wanted something better, but this was the best I could think of on my own. I showed Dad. I don't have any recollection of what he thought about it. That suggests he wasn't terrifically impressed.

I do know that a few years later, when I discovered negative numbers, I was pretty upset with him. He knew about them all along, of course. Why didn't he go into the "teachable moment" with me when I was 8? Why force me to plod along with the dullards? I had a glimpse of something more than the spoonfed information, and he didn't take the time to peel back the curtain a little bit. Grrrr.

Tonight son Nicholas was working on Least Common Multiples, and he asked me if a positive and negative number could have a LCM. I asked if "least" meant closest to zero, or if it meant "lowest." He decided it meant closest to zero. He worked out then, that the LCM for 3 and -4 has two answers, 12 and -12. He was quite pleased that even though it was a two-answer problem, he'd been able to extend his learning into some new territory. I told him that I thought this new idea was pretty cool.

This then, is what this nearly 40 year old exchange between Dad and me teaches me now. To take the time to explore seemingly insignificant questions between a father and son. To help my son think his question through until he comes up with a satisfying answer, and to support him as his mind extends the concepts he's learning.

I'm sure, 40 odd years ago, I'd have wanted the answer about negative numbers more than this lesson. But would I have carried it for so long?

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Helping Shelley get to Periwinkle.


I've taken the image from the email and rotated the hue towards the blues. The numerical values correspond to the Hue slider bar in Photoshop. On my monitor, the -20 value looks the most like your business card.

I want you to take some time and look at this on lots of different computers, so you can make an informed choice about which version looks best to you. Then you can ask the web designer to simply rotate the color on the art and repopulate the pages.

The content area looks too saturated, to my eye. Did you want that much color in there? That's a separate issue, but easily solvable. They ought to be able to show you a short set of swatches.

I love the sun, mountain, water and rocks together. Looks nice! Too bad the navigation has to be buttons instead of CSS rollovers (it would be so cool as pale purple text that bumped larger and white), but it's not really that important.

Well, I hope this helps you get what you want.

Monday, February 14, 2005

People LOVE the Misery box!

Yes, I have access and can post pictures again. I had to fiddle with some settings I've never touched before.

My son got into a mindlock while washing dishes, and decided it was going to be miserable. I watched him, and worked with him, and talked with him; I was amazed at how committed he was to having a miserable time. I made him stop working for as long as he was miserable. He got so beside himself that he couldn't go be miserable while washing dishes that he grabbed a handful of hair off of his head!

The poor boy!

It took nearly an hour, but with me, his mom and him all staying present to the emotions and the whatever else you want to call it, we got him calmed to where we could peacefully resume washing the dishes.

I got to thinking about Misery. Why is it so attractive? Happy is simple, and costs less. But look how pretty the Misery box is! And how big! And it costs more! It's gotta be better, right?

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Lost FTP

I use a solar-powered service to host my websites. It's a commitment on my part, since it costs a little bit more. But the biggest hurdle is that they don't support Macintosh. So all the web consoles, any tutorials, any scripts, are all for Windows. Most of the time this is okay, since I've got a pretty good handle on what I'm doing.

Right now, though, I've lost the ability to get in to the site to make changes. I can't post fresh pictures to this blog!

Tech support tells me that nothing has changed in the last few weeks, but I know nothing has changed at my end either. It could be my cable service. Sometimes these things get solved all on their own. For the next few days, I'm going to work on paying jobs and hope no one needs me to make changes to their websites.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Evaluating the evening

Ever read a book in which there were really great characters, but you just wished something would happen? That's sort of how I feel about the evening I arranged at SOL. Jennifer Radtke of Biofuel Oasis was there, Geri the "Queen of Alameda" from the Reuse People, and Christopher Shein, one of the pillars of the permaculture movement, too.

My moderator got sick, so I had to run the brainstorm, and I know that she would have done a much better job. I came away with a couple of things though: I really am fed up with using so many of the Earth's resources, and I really have no idea how to use less. I mean, I have ideas, but I have no discernable path about how to get there, without literally jumping ship and starting fresh.

Perhaps it's time to stop fearing the disruptive event approach.

Saturday, February 05, 2005


I have a theory that, similar to spoken slips of the tongue, we can have typed slips of the fingers. These slips can inform us about hidden hopes, fears, and ideas. For example, I might be writing an email to someone who has got me really ticked off and I'm trying desperately to maintain my professional, courteous edge.

Here's a sample without a misstype
Here's a sampkr ejth a misstype

When you read the out-of-place letters backwards, they spell "jerk." I've had backwards writing, transliterative spellings, homonyms, and cryptic license-plate like spellings show up in what I write. They are signals to me, that part of me is not at peace with what I'm going about, or that there is a hidden thing for me to find.

So I typed "Extrepreneurs" and I knew it was wrong, but I kept looking at the eu ue part. I had to re-read it the next day to pick up the "Extre" part.

What is an Extrepreneur? Well, judging by the number of misstypes and their meanings over the last few sentences (I've removed them. They're mine) an extrepreneur is someone who is extremely entrepreneurial. Powerful, undeniable, unidirectional, capable of drawing lots of people and processes into their wake. They concatenate parts until they become a cultural force of social change. They jangle people. Images of trains blasting by fill the minds of those in their wake.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Finding the right flow

I went to the Conga Lounge at Happy Hour to visit with folks from the Sustainable Business Allliance. I couldn't break in to their group. I did have a nice chat with someone else who couldn't break in, either, Tim Duffy of the California Coastal Conservancy. Nice guy. Friendly, upbeat, personable.

He was really tweaked that this table full of women wouldn't give us the time of day. He had a point: he'd gone out of his way to get there, he'd been hoping to make a connection and find some like-minded people regarding conservation and sustainablity, and he was coming up dry. We even introduced ourselves and turned our stools so we could be part of the group, but they really did close ranks and wall us out.

I suppose I've felt walled out so many times, that I take a longer term, more patient perspective. Those people, having such a good time with each other, without me, does that diminish me in some way? Do I need to do something, to become part of the community? Do I really want, or need, to break in? To assert myself?

I can enjoy that other people are having a good time.

I don't have any shared history with them, so all their laughter has no foundation for me. But I can still enjoy it, knowing that they are linked to me through Universal Mind, and they are expressing wonderfully, connections with each other and their collective past. I can't add to that experience. In fact, my meddling can subtract from it!

So for me, the evening was "successful." I got to meet Tim, we shared conversation about some important issues and some non-important ones too, We discovered ways we can be useful to each other, and we got to have $2 beer. I got to listen to a dozen women laughing and carrying on and modeling how to be really great people.

Not every minute has to be about me, afterall.


I've managed to set up a dinner salon with a few folks from the sustainability/green business/permaculture/social equity spheres. We're meeting tomorrow at SOL, a place where a few Slide Ranch "graduates" are living. What will we discuss?

I don't exactly know.

What I've noticed is that the way we live our American lifestsyle is non-sustainable. If 6 billion people lived the way we do, it would require the resources of 7 Earths! Thinking of the Earth as a loan, we've borrowed against her so heavily, that she has almost no principle left. We need to build that up again, and re-learn how to live off the interest.

We've exported our TV and our communication culture to more than half the planet. More than 3 billion people are being taught to want the lifestyle we have. How will they get it? What if they can't? What will they do?

I feel that effects ripple from even the smallest actions, so I'm trying to find a way to reduce an American lifestyle down to an equitable share of the planet's resources. And then, show how that works, so others can experience it, learn from it, make it better and unique to their situation.

How do we create and honor abundance, so that it continues to multiply?

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

I know what I don't know!

When I start working with someone, I have a "fixed cost" of discovering what their entreprenuerial style is. I do this so I can build exactly the tools they need, and avoid charging them for work they don't need. Over the course of an often lengthy conversation, I uncover whether they go to mixers, whether they like making cold calls, or direct mail campaigns, or deal just with friends.

Nika, my business development coach, uncovered with me that this "backstory" can come to the front, and make the early stages of my work go much more smoothly.

We got to have this conversation because I suddenly realized yesterday what I really do for work. Here's how that came about:

In an email to a prospect and I wrote "think of me as a sort of freelance art director." I wrote a couple more sentences and suddenly couldn't stay in my chair. I jumped up and started pacing. A beat had formed in my head, and was growing stronger, and wouldn't be denied: BIM-bim BIM BIM-bim-bim! What did it mean? Why was I so agitated? What secret was at the fringe of my awareness?

BIM-bim BIM BIM-bim-bim
BIM-bim BIM BIM-bim-bim

I let the rythm continue, and I sat down. I re-read my email to capture where I'd been headed with my thoughts. I read:

BIM-bim BIM BIM-bim-bim
Freelance Art Director

And the drums stopped! Well, folks, that's what I am: a Freelance Art Director for Entreprenuers and Small Business.

Knowing that's my job, now I get to explore how I do that job. Two early realizations are that I do accept the responsibility to archive all the work, so the client doesn't have to, and that I readily identify what is the client contact style of my client. Meet n' greeters need a strong business card, and lots of them. Broadcasters need a consistent email marketing tool and strong identity through their direct amil campaign. Hobby businesses need to offload "sales" onto a website. I know these and the other types, and I already support them in how they want to run their business. Now I have a new tool to initiate our transaction so they know I'm not trying to upsell them, or do work that has little or now value for them.