Archive for July, 2008

Jul 30.08.d211/w31
Arguments of Tanner & Darrell: The Grandma War
Tanner & Darrell, by Michelle Langston of Pondersphere.com

Tanner & Darrell, by Michelle Langston of Pondersphere.com

Note: I wrote the following story in 1997 at the age of 14.

As you know (or will know), Tanner and Darrell are two boys. Tanner is a year older, so he’s taller, leaner and a bit bossier. His hair is perfectly straight and fine, the color of dandelions.

Darrell is a year younger, so he’s shorter, fatter, faster and a teensy bit weaker. His hair is curly and feels like cotton, brown as the Earth upon which he walked.

Now, Tanner and Darrell weren’t enemies, but they weren’t friends either. They lived right across the street from each other, on the same block. One thing Tanner and Darrell did together was compete. This time, it was over whose grandma was better.

It all started one bright spring morning, when Darrell’s mother told him his Gran-Gran was coming to visit. He was so excited he ran to Tanner’s house, knowing he’d be jealous.

But it just so happened that Tanner’s Granny was also coming to visit, and he ran over to Darrell’s house to tell him the news.

They ran smack into each other when each was halfway to the other’s house.

“My Gran-Gran’s coming!” exclaimed Darrell.

“So’s mine!” replied Tanner.

They glared at one another, each realizing that the other wasn’t jealous of him.

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Jul 24.08.d205/w30
Drawing from the mind’s eye: Stephen Wiltshire
Stephen Wiltshire

Stephen Wiltshire

Stephen Wiltshire’s unique artistic talents have fascinated many people worldwide. He has the ability to view a city’s skyline from up in a helicopter or by just walking through the streets, and then creating panoramic drawings of that city entirely from memory. His drawings are precise, often accurate to the smallest detail. Currently, many of his drawings and paintings have sold for thousands of dollars.

Stephen Wiltshire was born in London in 1974 to Geneva and Colvin Wiltshire. When he was 3, he was diagnosed as autistic. His father, Colvin, died in a motorcycle accident shortly after the family received young Stephen’s diagnosis.

At age 5, Stephen attended a primary school for special needs children, the Queensmill School in London. It was there that he expressed an interest in drawing. In fact, drawing became his primary means of communication until he learned to speak around age 9 (his teachers would take away his art supplies so that he would be forced to verbally ask for them back).

Wiltshire’s teachers began to take special interest in him and encouraged him to keep drawing. Among his early projects was a group of drawings depicting London landscapes, one landscape for each letter. He was also very interested in drawing animals, automobiles, buildings and cityscapes devastated by earthquakes.

As the years went on, more people learned of the boy’s extraordinary talents. He appeared on a television show (“The Foolish Wise Ones”) and was introduced to a literary agent interested publishing in some of his drawings in a book. To date, he has published 5 books: Drawings (1987); Cities (1989); Floating Cities (1991); American Dream (1993); and Stephen Wiltshire 2008 Catalog (2008).

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Jul 22.08.d203/w30
All for the love of stir-fry

I wanted to see The Dark Knight. So did everyone in my family. One of my uncles was visiting, and he and my brother made arrangements for us to see the movie in the largest city to the west of us, Greensboro. No one thought that was odd at all. My uncle said that he arranged for us to see the film at this club owned by an Asian man.

“Is it a private screening?” my mom wanted to know.

“No, it’s just a club,” my uncle replied.

So all of us — my mom, brother, Grandmother, uncle and myself (I don’t recall seeing anyone else from the family in the dream) piled up into the car and drove to this club. I don’t remember much about the drive out there…

When we arrived, we were amazed by the quality of the food. Yes, food. Apparently we were having dinner first, before the movie. The interior looked a little like a church fellowship hall, but the food was amazing. It was all Chinese, Japanese and Thai inspired. They brought the food out onto the tables, and people could come and help themselves. I ate some and then I went for seconds.

As I sat down to eat my seconds, I began to wonder if there was a stir-fry station. I am a stir-fry fanatic, and so I imagined that there had to be a stir-fry station somewhere. No sooner did I think that when my uncle sat down with a nice little ruby-colored bowl filled to the brim with — you guessed it — stir-fry. I asked where the stir-fry station was.

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Jul 20.08.d201/w29
The Magic Pot
Italian Farmhouse by *mountainlegend

Italian Farmhouse by *mountainlegend

The story of the Magic Pot begins in a small village long ago, in a valley deep in the mountains of Italy. The folks living in this valley make a living by farming and trading. It is the only way to earn a salary. The bottom line is — you got no crops, you got no cash.

One family has no crops. They have no farmers. It is a major rule in this village that men do the farming; women the cooking and children the housework. Well, this particular family consists of Fiona, the mother, and her two children — beautiful little Vanna and tiny baby Phonsi. Fiona must take care of Vanna and Phonsi all by her lonesome — last month her husband Slyvester died of terrible cholera. When will they ever cure that sucker?

Fiona is faced with a serious problem: she cannot farm. Even if she is able to, she isn’t allowed to. A woman in those days did not have the same rights as a man. “What shall I do?” Fiona thinks. “We will not be able to make money enough to keep us from starvation.”

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Jul 19.08.d200/w29
Ways of “knowing”
Illusion of Reality, by Vijaybhai Kochar, Hyderabad, India

Illusion of Reality, by Vijaybhai Kochar, Hyderabad, India

Pretend, for a moment, that the Internet represents reality — the universe, all that exists and ever will exist. No one knows exactly what the Internet really looks like. How the Internet appears to any given user depends on the physical properties of the computer he or she uses to access it. A user who has only viewed the Internet through a monochrome computer that just displays text does not even have the concept of an Internet with graphics and colors. To him or her, “reality” is black and white and full of words. If this user never comes into contact with someone who views the Internet through a graphics-capable computer, the concept of graphics will never be known to him or her. Infact, he or she would never even know they aren’t seeing the “full” reality.

Likewise, any theory this monochrome, text-only user develops about the Internet (“reality”) will certainy not be the entire story, because he or she is unware that the story is incomplete. There is nothing in the monochrome, text-only user’s reality that matches the experience of the graphic user’s reality.

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Jul 15.08.d196/w29
How I Came to Hear

When I was in kindergarten, my teacher told my mother that it seemed like I seemed like I wasn’t paying attention in class, and that I sometimes seemed to have trouble understanding oral directions. My mother decided to take me in for a hearing test.

The audiologist was very nice. I got to wear huge headphones and raise my hand whenever I heard a noise. I had a lot of fun because it was the first hearing test I remember having!

At the end, she brought my mother into the room and announced the test results – I had hearing loss. The doctor said that because my loss was mild to moderate, hearing aids would be the key to a normal life. No one knows HOW I’d lost my hearing – I could’ve been born with it or it could’ve been the result of multiple viruses I’d gotten as an infant.

I wasn’t fazed – at that time, I was old enough to have a general idea of what was going on, but too young to worry about what the kids in my class would say. A few days later we were back to see the audiologist. She put this turquoise molding material my ears, and I couldn’t hear a thing. I was confused because I thought that stuff was my hearing aids. I waited for her to turn it on. Instead, she took it out of my ears several minutes later. It had hardened into an exact shape of my ear canal! I asked if that was my hearing aid. She said nope, this is just a mold that we’re going to send off to the company so they make your hearing aids the right size.

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Jul 14.08.d195/w29
Novae

Star StructureBefore the Nova

Stars shine as a result of nuclear fusion reactions taking place inside their cores. Fusion involves hydrogen molecules fusing (smashing together) to form helium molecules, releasing enormous energy in the form of heat and light. This “cooking”  within the star creates an intense outward pressure, as the gases struggle to shoot out into space. Gravity acts as a counter force. The delicate balance between gravity and the outward pressure emanating from the core holds the star together throughout its lifetime.

A star does not have endless supply of hydrogen, so once it fuses all of its hydrogen into helium, it will reach the end of its life and start to “die.” How a star dies depends on its mass. For a medium-mass star like our sun, when it has fused all of its hydrogen into helium, the outward pressure weakens, and gravity wins out. This causes the star to start collapsing in on itself. The collapsing re-ignites the star, and any hydrogen residue remaining in the core undergoes the fusion reaction. This causes the outward layers of a star to expand. Soon, the star will become a red giant. Red giants are cooler because heat is more spread-out throughout their wider, less-compacted surface area. Gradually, the star starts to “cook” every other element remaining in its core until it completely exhausts them. At this point, gravity once again wins the game, and the star implodes until all that remains is the sweltering core. This core is now known as a “white dwarf.” One well-known white dwarf is Sirius B from the Sirius star system. White dwarfs will eventually cool off and become dark.

Formation of a Nova

Making a NovaThe word “nova” means “new” in Latin. The term was first thrown out by 16th century Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe, who wrote a book about the supernova SN1572 in the constellation Cassiopeia titled De Stella Nova, or “concerning the new star.” The publication of this book led to the term “nova” being used to refer to new stars in the sky.

Novae are referred to as “new stars” because they are white dwarf stars that suddenly become bright again after lying dim and dormant for so long.

Some white dwarf stars live in a “binary” system. A binary system occurs when a pair of stars orbit around each other. If the white dwarf star’s partner becomes a red giant and starts expanding, the white dwarf’s gravity may start to “eat” some of the hydrogen from the red giant’s atmosphere. Now remember, the white dwarf’s surface is extremely hot. So the hydrogen gas quickly ignites upon contact with the surface, creating a brilliant nuclear explosion — bright enough to be seen light years away. This is what we call a “nova”, a seemingly “new” star in the night sky.

A nova’s brightness can last anywhere from several weeks to several years, after which the white dwarf gradually dims. The cycle then repeats weeks or years later.

Nova in M31

All images from the Wikimedia Commons.

Jul 11.08.d192/w28
Lady of Light and Shadows by C.L. Wilson

Lady of Light and ShadowsA little less than a month ago, I posted a review of C.L. Wilson’s novel, Lord of the Fading Lands, the first book in the Tairen Soul series. I thoroughly enjoyed it and couldn’t wait to read the second, Lady of Light and Shadows. Yesterday I finished it, and here is my review!

In Lord of the Fading Lands, we met Rain Tairen Soul, King of the Fey, and his newly claimed truemate, Ellysetta (Ellie) Baristani. The Tairen and the Fey are in danger of dying out, and when Rain appealed to the gods for a way to save his people, they led him to Celieria City in the land of Celieria — and to Ellysetta, a peasant, a woodcutter’s daughter.

The first novel spent a lot of time introducing Ellie and Rain and the tensions caused by their mating. In Celieria, the social class structure is very rigid, and many of the nobles weren’t willing to welcome someone they considered a common peasant among their ranks. But at Rain’s insistence, people gradually start to warm up to the idea. Dorian, the King of Celieria, is also part Fey and so he’s sympathetic as well. Ellie is trying her hardest to become “cultured” into the noble society. Plans for her and Rain’s wedding are under way. After the wedding, the two will head to the Fading Lands, where Rain hopes Ellie can help him figure out a way to save the Tairen and the Fey.

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Jul 08.08.d189/w28
50 fresh social-networking and online community sites

Social networking sites have become so popular on today’s web. These sites allow members to register and connect with other users of the site in a real way — by sharing aspects of their lives or something specific, such as videos, photos, text or a combination of media types.

YouTube, Craigslist, Flickr, Digg, Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, Last.fm, Yahoo! Answers and Stickam are just a few of today’s social networking sites that are on their way towards becoming household names. However these aren’t the only online communities out there. Here are 50 fresh faces, all from my bookmarks on del.icio.us.

Academic

  • Connexions – Share educational content on the web in the form of books, reports, courses, etc. Site content is provided under a Creative Commons license.
  • LearnHub – A network centered around learning. Share your knowledge with other people, and learn things in return! For students and educators. Learn about a wide variety of topics, from colleges to individual subjects.
  • NoteSwap – A site where college students can share class notes.
  • SlideShare – Share your PowerPoint presentations with the wide web. Join groups, participate in contests and more.

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Jul 04.08.d185/w27
Happy 4th of July!

It’s Independence Day! Hope everyone is having a wonderful holiday.

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