Friday, October 26, 2007

Computer Boys

I am taking a computer course. In the classroom there are rows and rows of computers. We each sit behind a computer and beside us there is someone else sitting behind a computer. We have in-class projects that we have to figure out and there is a certain communal mood to the course. People are always leaning over and asking their neighbor if they got theirs to work correctly. Talking and typing are done with equal bursts of fierceness.

But, I have noticed another trend in this course. I wont drag this out-the conclusion is that most sexism is this large swash of subtle grey oppression and not the overt “you are stupid because you are a girl” that we could all sink our claws into.

I was working on my project and I tried one thing and it did not work. This man next to me leaned over and looked at my screen. I must also say that I dont know this person at all. Next thing I knew he was grabbing my keyboard and typing away and then I was pathetically and meekly leaning back and thanking him for helping me.

BUT I didnt ask for help in the first place and had I had 3 more seconds to focus on what I was doing, I know I would have solved my problem without his intervention. Sadly, I thought about this after class for a few hours and came to the absolute conclusion that this keyboard grabbing and immediate assistance just would not have happened if I were a man and I would never ever do that to someone else.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Ignorance is the Answer

I was at a friend’s family event the other day. I sat across from a very eccentric cousin who is/was a physicist. He began talking very abruptly and loudly about things that no one wanted to hear about, religion, science, politics, genetics, etc. He was going around the table and putting people on the spot. Everyone around just wanted to enjoy the warm food and familiar faces; it was the lunch after a funeral.

I knew the inevitable was coming, that he was going to ask me what I did. And he did. Then he immediately began spouting off loudly and excitedly about what I do. When I told him that I went to art school first, he reminded me that it was one of Einstein’s assertions that it is of the utmost importance to bring imagination to science. This was very nice to hear again, I had not bargained for this conversation when I envisioned the day.

But it led me to a place. It led me to think about discovery again. I know that this is science at its most ideal form and there is so much that I have to do in the trenches before I ever get to this point. But, if we don’t think about these things, then what keeps us going really?

I thought about how every discovery started with someone asking a question that no one knew the answer to. I had a flash that there is a humble similarity between that activity and the questions we must ask along the way when we are learning. I know this link may seem trite, but I just have such a hard time asking questions and admitting ignorance, but I realized that this is the very same place we go to when walking to the door of discovery. Admitting you don’t know is actually one of the most productive things you can do, either for your own edification or perhaps for the rest of the worlds too.

And I love this quote:

{No pessimist ever discovered the secret of the stars or sailed an uncharted land, or opened a new doorway for the human spirit.}—Helen Keller (1880 - 1968)

Friday, October 19, 2007

Love before Aptitude

I am trying to investigate the relationship between being interested in something, enough to pursue it, and being good at it.

It is kind of like the same principle as liking a dress because you know this particular style will look good on you.

Are we ever so fiercely interested in something we are terrible at? Does being good at something make you like it more? Does liking something make you good at it?

True, you dont always know whether or not you are good at something unless you try it, but lets say you have tried it and you are terrible at it. Will you still love it for bigger reasons than yourself?

I say that these two things are inextricably tied to one another. But what of the poor fool who does something they are terrible at relative to other people in the field but still holds on to some idealisic love?

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

There is No Outside of this Box

I think there is too much emphasis in our society on thinking outside of the box. I know what you are thinking, I have finally stepped out of my artistic clothing into the dry world of science forever. You would be wrong.

I am not shunning creativity, its just the opposite actually. But, I think that sometimes you have to think within some kind of known framework and then figure out ways to be creative within that.

This is truly the hard part I believe. You have to know the boundaries of the box and then figure out how to stretch in ways that reach new parts of the box.

Oftentimes, if you want to solve an existing problem, there is a box that you have to consider, lets just be real.

But maybe thinking something is outside of the box is really the fallacy, maybe there is no outside of the box.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Putting the Tree in Its Forest

I cringe slightly when people say that they are a good judge of character, as if character is one universal ideal that we judge all persons against. Some people are better at judging than others, thats for sure, but the character they speak of can only be the criteria that they specifically are concerned with. Someone only has “good character” relative to what someone else thinks. Its like saying I am a good judge of height, from where I stand he looks tall. You get the idea.

I realized that I am a bad judge of something else concerning individuals, actually many things, but I will only focus on one here. I am terrible at figuring out what larger framework someone’s views represent.

As in, I can asses your views and what I think of them in our small conversation over tea, but I am not also realizing that the views that you speak of represent a certain political leaning, philosophy or world-view. In a way this may lead to less stereotyping, because I dont know with what stereotype to associate someone with. This phenomenon is especially apparent when I am dealing with older, seasoned people who have some rich history of knowledge and are aware where they themselves fall in the order of things. Its probably exacerbated by my lack of knowledge of the history of thought in general. I should probably learn more about each forest so when I meet a tree I know where it belongs.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

less is more...more or less

Sometimes simple ideas, solutions, drawings or sentences are brilliant and you are kicking yourself for not thinking of them, but sometimes very simple ideas seem unfinished and childlike and well...simple.

You know when someone explains something complicated in a simple way and you understand it clearly? and the reason that they can explain it that way is because they understand the complexity of the concept and are then able to reduce it to its important parts and themes. Sometimes people are able to make effective analogies that sum ideas up in an instant. These are smart people usually.

But then there is the horror of oversimplification, where the concept suffers, in some kind of integral way, from being reduced too much and the main point is missed or obscured.

It is so interesting to me to think about simplification as something to strive for in essence, but not too much or what you are doing will seem too reductionist and foolish.

As you stand in the class with a bright shiny apple on the desk, “this is what I invented”, you say, and everyone else has some kind of small machine whirring or chirping in the background. Your apple sits like a stupid stone, until someone is brave enough to take a bite or a sniff and appreciate the subtlety and innovation of your minimal masterpiece.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Its a Potato World

How do you maintain the same enthusiasm that you had for something before you knew all about it? When something captivated you in its original mystery, when the edges of it shimmered with gold but then you pulled it out of the ground and realized that the rest of it is made out of potato and not the gold that you imagined.

How do you operate day to day among all of the pitiful pettiness, meaninglessness, obstacles and egos and remember what it is that you came for? You can never be the you that didnt know all the details again, who loved it with swelling ignorance and irrationally. Now it is real and what are you left with?

What inspires you to raise that potato up to the sky and to see a world in it?

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

I Just Do

You know when something is going well, like at work or perhaps school, and then you find yourself liking all aspects of that something?

So, its not that you like all aspects first and then things go well, its the other way around I think. Some little reason like someone made you laugh or a project worked out well or you had a good day and the next thing you know you are singing the praises of your little company and talking about how much you like to write with a certain pen or how you actually enjoy your commute in the morning, because it gives you time to think.

And I love when you cant really reason out why something is working out, or why you like someone for that matter. I love when you just do.