An unexpected surprise, a dose of art, and Hawking

Saturday was a beautiful day and we needed to focus on the outside chores…trimming back all of the bushes, some of the trees, beginning the task of getting the pool ready for swimming, etc. I worked on the pool for about an hour before rousting the troops to get on the greenery. After six years living here, I still can’t figure out who plants a sweet gum tree right next to a pool, nor can I understand planting that pernicious weed honeysuckle. Another year for me to dislike it and it hasn’t even starting reeking yet (That’s just me…Andrea likes it). While pulling out some of the long runners from behind a less aggressive bush, I discovered a small moving mass of dark fur.

IExhausted aslepp holding kittent turned out to be FOUR small masses of fur…kittens. Tiny kittens. Probably less than three weeks old. I let them be while we moved on to another part of the back yard, for the mother would show up now and then atop our ten foot wooden fence and look down on her charges.

After we worked our way to the front yard, Drew and Dylan saw the momma racing on the other side of the house, across the street, with one of the kittens in her mouth. Over the next hour or so, she moved two more, but the last one was alone for quite a while.

I read somewhere ages ago that dogs and cats don’t have a concept of four or more – one, two, three…many. The species will propagate fine with those three. Whether or not the counting anecdote is true, this particular mother stopped one short of “many”. When it became apparent that the mother wasn’t coming back, Andrea rescued the six inch long mewler and set about trying to figure out how to care for it and find someone else who could take over the care.

This shot is me, exhausted after all the yard work (unfinished, unfortunately, as we ran out of battery charges for the hedge trimmer), holding the tiny critter as I was “reading” a book on my iPad – note the reading glasses. Meanwhile, Andrea contacted someone who fosters cats/kittens and learned that the kitten might not last the night as it refused the fake milk Andrea got at the pet store. Persistence paid off, though, and Andrea did get the little one to drink some. I didn’t wake nearly as much as Andrea (exhausted, remember? that’s my story), but that tiny critter did survive. And the fostering contact found a host who had a nursing mother cat, so Andrea’s taking the kitten now to meet up and hand off, hopefully to a better life.

An Art Conversation

Andrea and I attended a panel discussion last week, “Dallas Arts: A Creative Conversation“, hosted by Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings as part of Dallas Arts Week. The panel consisted of the director of the Dallas Museum of Art (DMA), and representatives from music, film, theater and visual arts. They looked to answer the questions “how we can attract and get artists to thrive in the city of Dallas?”

Now, even I, with all my …{cough}… experience with the arts saw the flaw in the one premise that so many artists in the audience also saw: Dallas already has artists! Lots of them. Lots of talented artists. And while there are great numbers of artists in Dallas (I am extrapolating beyond the visual arts, as there must be similar percentages in the performing arts) edgy and traditional, for several reasons many feel they have to go to other cities – even where they are one in tens of thousands instead one in a thousand – to get a leg up.

I thought the discussion paid too little attention to answering the most important part: how to help them thrive. Mr. Rawlings observed that he didn’t get how Austin is seen as an arts hub when the money is in places like Dallas. Max Anderson (DMA) tossed out that Dallas is seen in other parts of the country as a “very conservative city — politically, religiously and ideologically”.

Right, and that will continue to dog efforts to change the perspective. And that’s a crime when there is so much money and talent here. The Dallas Fort Worth Metroplex has all the ingredients.

Not coincidentally, Andrea’s big goal with the new non-profit she’s working on (Support the Arts) is to enable artists to make a living with their art. Actually, that’s been an objective of all three of her recent art businesses (four if you count her personal business Become). I’m not sure if there will be any traction from the Arts Week push, but I know Andrea will keep working toward that goal.

Mr. Hawking, I presume

8520362The search engine traffic for this blog has recently swung away from Robert Anton Wilson to Stephen Hawking again. So I’m going to help it this week with something from Mr. Hawking.

I just finished Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow’s The Grand Design. Wonderfully simple and accessible, Hawking and Mlodinow took some heat for apparently dumbing down the subject. Well, to one certain twit on Goodreads, I’m more than certain you wouldn’t understand the math had they not. I don’t and I’ve taken years of differential equations. Hawking also took some heat for saying there didn’t need to be a god for the universe to be. Well, I thought they did a good job, even if they didn’t form an overly convincing argument for universes from nothing.

If you want to read a good book on that, I suggest Lawrence Krauss’s A Universe from Nothing: Why There Is Something Rather Than Nothing. Great stuff, more science than this and more engaging. Less readable than Hawking/Mlodinow but more convincing.

Design book of the week

Not a book on design, The New Business of Design is a collection of transcripts of presentations at the Forty-fifth International Design Conference in Aspen about design and the thoughts on “where do we go from here?” (“here” being 1995). I found it when I read Managing as Designing (an awfully dull academic plod) and several of those papers mentioned Tom Peters’s keynote address “Design Mindfulness” from that IDCA in 1995. Being a Peters fan, and a practitioner of design mindfulness, I wanted to see what he had to say on the subject.

He had a lot to say…35 points to illustrate the theme. And unlike the Managing as Designing collection, pretty much every other contributor at that conference had something valuable to add to the discussion. It also happens to be a good glance at the early Internet, pre-Facebook, pre-Web 2.0 world and where they thought they were going. Some things were spot on and some are still somewhere out there in the future.

{Warning: the next bit is political…you might want to skip it if you are adverse to gun control discussions…}

I did find one quote timely, and probably the best summation I’ve come across to silence one tiresome refrain. Jivan Tabibian said that when he hears “Guns don’t kill; people kill”

While it’s true that people pull the trigger, guns have a function built into them. When the function of an instrument is to kill, its function eliminates its neutrality. Objects, designs and procedures have functions. And functions are not neutral. Functions are loaded with meaning and intention.

“…eliminates its neutrality.” Yep.

Catching up on the rest of the finished bookshelf

Three weeks ago, I mentioned I was looking forward to Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness by Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein. I was sadly disappointed. Weak collection, simple examples (except for investing and health care which were overly complicated – as if someone else wrote those sections). Not recommended.

Last August, New Scientist blog Culture Lab posted a panel-selected list of the Top 25 Most Influential Popular Science books (the reader voted top ten can be found here.) I’ve determined to read all of them…re-read in a few cases…and the latest cross-off is The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat and Other Clinical Tales by Oliver Sacks. You might be familiar with Sacks from the 1990 film “Awakenings” starring Robin Williams and Robert Di Niro. While that movie was interesting, I’m not sure why Mistook was on the list of 25. It was also interesting, but not influential in my mind. I’m thinking Weinberg’s The First Three Minutes might be next. It might actually be one of those re-reads because I think I read it back in high school. We’ll see.

A better read than Sacks was Mario Livio’s Is God a Mathematician? A nice survey of math history, if a little less casual at the end when he delves into statistics. I did think the discussion of how the universe fits the math was a little wasted. If the math – or science – doesn’t work, discard it and find something that does. Of course it fits.

My one fiction entry was not an Arthur C. Clarke, but Jack Chalker’s Echoes of the Well of Souls. I’ve been trying to start Clarke’s Rama II, but can’t seem to get into it. So, I went back to the Well of Souls series. And this time, I enjoyed the first of the second series more than I remembered, so I bumped it up a star on my Goodreads rating.

And finally the beers

I’m a self-admitted coffee snob – I grind my own beans and use an Aeropress. It makes good coffee taste better and even bad coffee taste passable. I am not a connoisseur, but as I said, I am a snob.

I’m also a chocolate snob. See‘s is the best. You cannot argue with me on that.

IMG_1322 IMG_1320

And while I am also not a connoisseur of beer, I am most certainly a snob on that front. I do not drink the stuff that is advertised during the Super Bowl.

And a beer snob should not drink anything that has a twist-off cap. Still, when the Blue Moon Winter Variety pack dropped to $20 a case a Costco, I thought, “How bad can it be?” That it’s made in Golden, Colorado (of the … shudder… Coors fame) and distributed by Molson-Coors shouldn’t color my opinion. I used to like Molson thirty years ago.

Well, it’s not too bad, but not something I expect I’ll buy again. The Winter Abbey Ale (on the left) is a light flavored ale with little character to back up the nice deep color. The Spiced Amber Ale (on the right) was a beautiful red color, with a cinnamon caramel apple aroma, and crisp but also too light of a flavor for an ale. Not bad for a commercial brew masquerading as a craft. The other two varieties in the pack were the standard Belgian White Ale (weak) and something called a Belgian Pale Ale (also weak…especially for a pale.)


One response to “An unexpected surprise, a dose of art, and Hawking

  1. Pingback: The Quality of the Day | Random (and not) Musings

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