Human Book

I enjoyed being a "human book" recently. I spoke to a series of grade nine students about my so-called career path, at least bits that related to science. I don’t know whether if they got anything out of me talking about myself and attempting to make sense of my life. It seems like such a good idea to have students meet people in different kinds of occupations to consider possibilities. I told them how I went to school before the Internet. Interestingly, they seemed to think life was better then because you could spend time with people in person.

 "Once upon a time, I melted fire bricks with a CO2 laser...

 "Once upon a time, I melted fire bricks with a CO2 laser...

Curious Collisions

Such a beautiful idea of bringing together people with diverse interests. Blind date between a painter into brains and a line following robot. Maybe you could make the robot follow a pattern that it paints? An artist in astronomical observatory. I wonder if I could do one at an Aquarium or science centre? A rocket scientist and a puppeteer collaborated to produce N-body pornography in two weeks. Awesomeness. I did my bit at open mic to tell them about the Science Borealis web site for Canadian Science blogs and in particular my interest in multimedia formats for science communications.

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The Martian

I enjoyed the movie. Couldn’t finish the book. Just seemed like one thing after another. Just found it exhausting. Didn’t particularly care if he lived or died. I should have been intrigued by all the science. I don’t know why that didn’t grab me. But I liked how they established the other players earlier in the movie. I appreciated that they had some women in important roles and people of colour doing significant things in this fudture. The decisions were emotional and made for a more satisfying story, but maybe a little hard to swallow. But it is a story.

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A Brief History of Oscar Wao

Fascinating and disturbing. Only thing I knew about the Dominican Republic was that they had resorts and it shared half an island with Haiti. I had no idea about the horrific dictator Trujillo and the long period of atrocities. Felt relieved to not have been born in that time and place. Some interesting stylistic devices with the narrators and the combination of Spanish and geek slang. The writer threw in a lot of Spanish without translating. Some I understood by context. Understood more of the nerdy book references of the protagonist to Lord of the Rings, Dune, and the Watchmen.

Could have looked up a mongoose reference. 

Could have looked up a mongoose reference. 

Nerd Nite Live Science Cartoon

I wasn’t sure how this was going to turn out because I was depending on the feedback of the audience. I let myself fall and they caught me. Turned out they had great ideas. Took the first few randomly picked suggestions and went by applause which ones to develop. I might have just refined it more on stage, but I wasn’t so familiar with the interface and stopped when they had the idea. They seemed to enjoy it and I could hear a lot of laughing. It was a really fun experience. I cleaned up the drawings and text here.

 

Animal Angst

Animal Angst

Sharing microbiomes

Sharing microbiomes

Chappie

This starts with competing approaches to robotics in law enforcement, like Robocop. Many themes similar to District 9. Guy from Slumdog Millionaire as naive genius programmer. The robot becomes the most sympathetic character. Programmers think software can simulate anything. Even if a program for acquiring experience were discrete, the acquisition of consciousness seems like it would require myriad interconnections. The singularity would be exciting to see, but it could get us in big trouble. I am hoping consciousness is too difficult to create in my lifetime, maybe forever. I wonder if consciousness has improved or diminished our chances for survival.

Inside Out

This is a very emotional movie. Specifically, the emotions Joy, Sadness, Fear, Disgust and Anger. It took me a long time to realize that people are stupid and this idea of being driven by emotions helps me understand it. It happens to deal with a girl the same age as my daughter, who sometimes makes me crazy. This movie seemed to more for the parents than the kids. Maybe it could be a good starting point for talking about issues. What I found most intriguing is the acceptance of sadness as an important part of life.

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Paddington

I enjoyed this movie, which had some whimsy that reminded me of Wes Anderson. I have not read any Paddington books but I was intrigued to know he had come from darkest Peru, having once visited there. I did not meet any talking bears, but apparently they are quite rare. Anyway, it was mostly about Paddington coming to London and hoping to find a home. This theme of being an outsider feels particularly poignant with all the news of Syrian refugees lately. Unfortunately, the villain is a curator at the magnificent British Museum, where I once examined sand dollar specimens.

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The First Bad Man

I was so impressed with this audiobook, though or maybe because, I sometimes I felt like I shouldn't be hearing it, like I was peeking through a keyhole at things I was not supposed to know, especially as a male. Maybe having the author reading added to this. The first person narration included funny similes, and quirky little fantasies. It begins with a meek, lonely Cheryl leading a tedious life, but it transforms dramatically as the intimidating grown daughter of Cheryl's bosses moves in for an indeterminate amount of time. Things become much more emotionally complicated than I was expecting.

Colourless Tsukuru Tazaki

Other Haruki Murakami stories I have enjoyed contain something profoundly weird in their world. Colourless Tsukuru Tazaki is not like this, though I kept expecting it to be. Also this story seemed more Japanese in its outlook with the yearning to belong to a group and the reluctance to express feelings. It has some odd situations, which I imagined would lead to some bizarre explanation, but instead, they were just left unexplained. This culminated with an abrupt ending. I was especially surprised because I was listening to it as an audiobook so I didn't know when the end was coming.

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What We Do in the Shadows

I loved how this perfectly plays the "dead" pan documentary style of showing regular folk in action and interviewing them individually about their lives. Except in this case, the subjects are vampires who have been around for hundreds of years and are now sharing a flat in contemporary New Zealand, feeding on unsuspecting humans. I hardly recognized Jemaine Clement from Flight of the Conchords in his Musketeer hair, a vampire who has unresolved issues with one he calls the Beast. The group has issues with vampire hunters, the newly undead, attracting victims, harassing werewolves, and washing the blood off everything.

 

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The Search for General Tso's Chicken

The Search for General Tso's Chicken is a documentary about what it says and more. I had never heard of this dish but it is possible I have eaten it. They were saying it is hugely popular in the United States. It was an intriguing history of the relationship of Chinese food in the U.S. Bottom line was that a chef from Hunan where General Tso was an important figure, moved to Taiwan and created this dish. It was copied by a chef who set up shop in New York and apparently has spread and morphed after Nixon visited China.

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