Matrices, Patterns, and Consciousness

The overriding joy of pursuing my master’s degree is the forays into matrices, patterns, and consciousness that I’ve been able to take while examining the idea of the lived experience of problem solving. These have been valuable adventures for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the foundation that patterns and consciousness have beneath the way each person lives.

In other words, the patterns of our experiences and our conscious understanding of those patterns allow us the ability to engage with and solve problems. In order for me to understand the process of living with and engaging problems, I need to understand the way consciousness is derived, how it adds to the matrices and patterns of life, and thus how that affects problem solving. There’s the added bonus of both consciousness and patterns being applicable to my work as a User Experience Designer, as well.

At any rate, here are two presentations I’ve given to my seminar on patterns (October, 2013), and consciousness (March, 2014).

Posted in complexity, consciousness, masters, matrices, philosophy | Leave a comment

Victor Densmore’s latest poetry reviewed in Hardwick Gazette

My father’s poetry was reviewed this week in The Hardwick Gazette. Ms. Cook does a great job of capturing what he’s about.

His current book is still available on Amazon (http://amzn.com/1257919350), and we’re working on finding a publisher for his latest group of poems.

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Posted in family, poetry, vermont | Leave a comment

Response to fuel-efficient super trucks

(Source: February 2014 Truck report)

Energy conservation is a really, really good and absolutely necessary idea. And it’s an idea that Americans need to spend more time getting used to. That being said, it’s not an idea that can be brought about by focusing so heavily on its cost savings. The fact is that conserving energy is a change in lifestyle that will in the short-term raise costs in some cases, and require adjustments to ways of life.

The retrieval, transport, delivery, and consumption of energy is a very large and complex process involving thousands of interactions and touch points. Any change we make in one of these touch points will have an impact on the machinations in another. Adding to the complexity, it is a system that is not closed. That is, it is beholden to influences outside of itself. The diagram above oversimplifies this situation. In reality, the calculation of the depicted numbers involves multiple moving pieces: truck owners, shipping companies, fuel prices, fuel company profits, truck manufacturing profits, engine manufacturing, metals industry, just to name a few of the more obvious ones. Unfortunately, the associate report does not go into detail about how the numbers are derived.

Given the complexity, it is entirely possible that if all long-haul truckers drove these trucks, then profit margins for fuel companies would go down due to the reduction in fuel purchasing frequency. Dropping profit margins are anathema to publicly-traded companies, so fuel prices would likely rise to offset the change in the purchase frequency. Also, any savings would likely take years to materialize given the nature of ownership of these trucks and the initial costs to own them. It is entirely likely that private contractors would not be able to afford the short-term costs and be driven out of business (not dissimilar to smaller fishing concerns in Gloucester, MA have been due to increased restrictions and fuel costs), thus paving the way for larger conglomerate companies who can afford the short-term cost increase.

So yes, we will see a reduction in fuel use and an increase in distance between fill-ups, but at a cost that is perhaps not sustainable in our current system of business ownership and relationships.

A better long-term solution is to drastically alter our reliance on fuel of this kind. To take a look at those things outside this system and see how changes there could have an affect on what we do. Simply using less fuel in a more efficient way will not — in a long-term view — get us where we need to be. At least until our current concepts of business and profit get in the way of true, unadulterated, energy advances.

How about long-haul trucks that are powered by the same kind of solar technology that goes into the pan-Australian race? The fastest car (from the Netherlands) had an average speed of just over 55 MPH. With further research, this can only get better. With better advances in wind power technology, perhaps a solution could be offered that provides on-the-go reserve batter charging for when the sun is down or clouds are above. Perhaps more research into long-distance maglev trains for shipping.

My point is that no matter what solution we propose, there are countless impacts on the existing system that have to be accounted for. A simple poster does not provide an accurate view of what will happen if we enact such things.

This comparison chart from Consumer Reports shows the vast range of differences in cost of ownership across hybrid, standard-, and deisel-fueled models. It’s too long to show here, so I’ll wait. I’m not going anywhere.

As you — hopefully — have seen, the chart shows that the impact of fuel-type on cost is not always positive. There are definitely benefits that owners can realize (financial, environmental, etc.), but it’s disingenuous to say that there will always be a cost benefit. That being the case, I submit that it is just as disingenuous to say the same for owning a hybrid truck.

The argument for hybrid engines — regardless of vehicle type — needs to go beyond cost. There are too many variables to make clear predictions and the historical results are too varied to make a broad statement that it is cost-efficient to own and drive hybrid. Much better arguments are that we are looking to have cleaner air, increase distance between refueling, or use fewer fossil fuels in cars. And if we begin to use these arguments for reasons to own hybrids, it opens up the discussion for other alternative fuels and vehicles such as solar, or mass transit solutions.

Posted in complexity, environment, politics, systems | Leave a comment

And now begins the research

Yesterday my proposal for research was approved by the Johnson State College Institutional Review Board (IRB), and now I begin my foray into the recruiting and research aspects of the process. The end product is some months away, but it feels very very good to be on this road finally.

The process of getting research approved is necessary and harrowing. It’s having your ideas and perceptions of procedure peered at and dissected in ways that either you were unready for or perhaps unwilling to hear. Once the dust settles, though, there is a great deal of pride in knowing that the thesis topic that has plagued you for so many years can finally begin to take shape and direction.

At any rate, it’s a good thing and now on to the recruiting.

The topic of my research is preliminary titled “The puzzles that matter: Qualitative research into the nature of the relationship people have with everyday problems.” It is a phenomenological study into the lived experiences of problem-solving. While there has been much research into the methodology of problem-solving, there has been scant little done on the experience of that methodology. It is our human experience that influences and brings our methodology to bear, so it is our experience that is most cogent in revealing methodological tendencies. It is in this vein that I’m running the study.

The structure of the research is a conversation over the course of 60 – 90 minutes about recurring, everyday problems. The conversation is recorded and then transcribed. All personally identifiable information is removed. Of course, participants can withdraw at any time during or after the interview. All notes and recordings of withdrawn participants are destroyed.

If you’re interested in participating, or know someone who is, please feel free to contact me via Google+, Facebook, or Twitter (links above). Conversely, you can use the call widget on this page to contact me.

Google+

Posted in recruit, research, thesis, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Curry!

One of the meals that has become a staple for our family is my chicken curry. In the spirit of deliciousness, and because I just made some and it’s warming my belly as I type, I would like to share my recipe. I’m not saying it’s the best curry, nor the most authentic. It’s just, well, mine. So here it is. Very simple.

2 largish chicken breasts (deboned and skinned)
2 medium sized carrots
1 medium red pepper (sweet)
8 oz or so of broccoli (fresh or frozen: whichever you can get)
1 can of chicken broth or 1 Tbsp of Better than Boullion + 2 cups water
1 can of coconut milk
basmati rice
soy sauce
coconut oil
onion powder
curry powder (yellow)
cumin
corn starch

Gather all of that stuff up. Get a large frying pan, a 1 cup dry measuring cup, a 2 cup liquid measuring cup, a Tbsp, a wooden spoon, or whatever else you think you’ll need to cook some rice and fry some chicken and carrots up.

The first thing you’ll want to do is cook the rice. The following steps will take about as long as two cups of rice take in a rice cooker. I use basmati rice as my go-to choice, but wild, jasmine, and sushi rice have all been good in a pinch.

Once the rice is going, go ahead and heat 2 Tbsp or so of coconut oil in the frying pan over medium heat (see those pretty flames!) and chop up the two carrots while that warms up.

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When the coconut oil has completely melted and sizzles when you flip a drop of water into it (careful!), drop the carrots into the middle of the pan, and coat liberally with the curry powder. Add a dash of the onion powder, too. In the background you can see my cheapo tea kettle and the grill I made my daughter’s grilled cheese on (they stuck a bit).

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Stir that around until the carrots are completely coated in the oil and the curry powder and onion. Let ‘em sizzle while you chop up the chicken.

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I cross-cut the chicken, and then cube it from there. I use a scary-ass knife, too. And yes, please PLEASE make sure you use a clean cutting board. Or at least one that was clean before you cut up the carrots on it. Remember my handy rhyme: “Cut veggies ‘fore meat, both safe to eat. Cut meat ‘fore veggies, salmonella.”

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Once the chicken is cubed up, toss it into the frying pan with the by-now-should-be-nearly-soft-but-not-too-much-so carrots. Another sprinkle (read Tbsp) of curry powder.

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I mean, I just ate this and it’s looking really good to me. Anyhow. The next step. You need to stir fry the carrots and chicken over medium heat until the largest piece of chicken is just barely cooked through. You don’t want any even close to being raw pieces for the next step. This should take about 8 minutes or so.

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Once that’s done, go ahead and add two cups of chicken broth (or warm water and one Tbsp of Better than Bouillon) and a can of coconut milk (I’ve used Goya and Thai Kitchen and I have no preference). It helps if you have your son do the dishes during this part.

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Stir that around and add in some more curry powder, a Tbsp or so of cornstarch and a few dashes of cumin. Go wash your cutting board (you should do the washing in this instance).

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Once it’s simmering, drop in the broccoli and sliced red pepper. I cut the pepper whole into rings and then cut each ring in half and drop those in there. It’s okay to save a few pieces for yourself at this point. Red pepper is delicious. Also, remember to clean the griddle off after making grilled cheese sandwiches and before you take pictures. I promise you, the griddle was used not five minutes before I started the curry. Can you spot the corn starch I spilled?

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At this point, the rice should be done, so turn the flame down low, get a pretty bowl, and scoop about a cup of rice into the depths of it. Don’t pack it in, because you want the curry sauce to begin trickling down through the grains. We use a fork and a spoon to eat this, so pick one or both at your pleasure.

Next comes the doling of the curry. Taste is as much the look as it is the smell and flavor. I like to practice a little Wabi Sabi with my serving skills. This is the bowl I handed to my wife. She’s partial to the broccoli and sauce.

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And that’s it! It seems like a lot, but I swear it’s only about 15 – 20 minutes of prep if you use fresh chicken, half an hour if you need to thaw it first. If you start the rice just before chopping the carrots, you can have a pretty tasty meal in about 30 minutes.

The portions here will serve about 6 people with 1 cup of rice and 1 cup of curry each, 4 people if you’re super hungry and/or selfish.

That’s it for now. As I said, I’m not claiming this to be anything more than the recipe I use to dash off a chicken curry for us. It is neither authentic nor researched: I just threw it together about five years ago on a whim and have been tweaking the recipe since. My wife likes it with soy sauce. I can go either way.

Posted in curry, recipe, yummy | Leave a comment

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