Archive for April, 2012

April 23, 2012

Why the Internet is pretty awesome.

For most people, mornings go something like this:

1. Wake up.
2. Check email.
3. Check Facebook.
4. Get out of bed.

For most people who write blogs, mornings go something like this:

1. Wake up.
2. Check blog stats.
3. Check email.
4. Check blog stats.
5. Check Facebook
6. Check blog stats
7. Refresh page
8. Refresh page one more time.
9. Realize it’s not going to change.
10. Get out of bed.

So imagine my surprise when I checked my stats first thing this morning and saw THIS:

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I checked the top referring site… and low and behold it was Reddit. I love you, Reddit.

And my friend Shyal. Who posted it under athiesm. Athiesm on Reddit has 600k+ subscribers and the rest, as they say, is history. The link stayed on the 1st/2nd page for quite a while.

Granted, the traffic was ALL for my last post which was a transcript I wrote for Dr. Tyson’s video. But blog stats are blog stats. I know it wasn’t really my work they were coming to my blog for but it was still my blog they were visiting. It’s like having a really hot friend and telling everyone she’s going to be there when you throw a house party. You know they’re coming to your house for her. but whatever. It’s your house. You’re cool by association.

So I did what I assume most people would do when something like this happens. Sat in front of my computer for the next 3 hours and hit refresh every second and saw the views jump up to 500 views at a time. EVERY SECOND! And let me tell you. It was amazing, guys. It was like being on a high I never wanted to end.

As I type this, it’s still going pretty strong (16,000+ views!!!) but it’s plateaued a bit. My favorite part of blog stats has always been the location section which tells you which countries your visitors are from. Today’s list? Is so unbelievably long. And I can’t correctly pronounce more than half of it.

I’ve always thought the Internet was a pretty cool place… but today, somehow, I felt closer to it all. It’s really humbling that something you type up sitting on the floor of your apartment in Korea could be seen and read by so many people all around the world. Even if it is someone else’s words. Even if all you did was type it up.

In Dr. Tyson’s words: Think About That. It’s not like I’m here and they’re out there. We’re all connected, always. As much as we want to be. We’re able to share thoughts, ideas, a little part of our world and everything in between. In real time. And, that, is pretty awesome.

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April 22, 2012

A fascinatingly disturbing thought by Dr. Neil Degrasse Tyson- Transcript

I discovered this amazing video today and couldn’t find a transcript so I decided to write my own :) Enjoy!

A fascinatingly disturbing thought by Dr. Neil Degrasse Tyson – COMPLETE Transcript

Alright, just a couple of thoughts: one that’s sort of deeply cosmic and another one that is fascinatingly disturbing– I think.

And you’ll be the judge of this.

Consider a couple of fundamental facts that has been gleaned in the past 60 years- that the ingredients- if you had asked your chemistry teacher 50 years ago, once you looked at that mysterious chart of boxes that sat in front of your class, the periodic table of elements- where did those elements come from?

The chemistry teacher would actually not have an answer for you. They’ll say, well, you dig them out of the earth. But that’s not where they come from.

It took modern astrophysics to determine the origin of the chemical elements. We observe stars (and) we know what goes on in their center. They explode, laying bare their contents. And what we have discovered is that the elements of the periodic table -that which we are made of- derive from the actions of stars that have manufactured the elements, exploded (and) scattered their rich guts across the galaxy, contaminating or enriching gas clouds that then form a next generation of stars populated by planets and possibly life.

And so, when you look at the ingredients of the universe, the number one ingredient is hydrogen, next is helium, next is carbon- sorry- hydrogen, helium, oxygen, carbon, nitrogen. Those are the top ingredients in the universe. And you say well, okay, that’s kind of cool. Well, and you look at Earth- cause we like thinking of ourselves as special- we say Oh! we’re special! What are we made of?

Well what’s the number one molecule in the body? It’s water. But what’s water made of? H-2-O. Hydrogen and oxygen. Hm. Hydrogen and oxygen. In fact, if you rank the elements in the human body, with the exception of helium, which is chemically inert- useless to you for any reason other than just to inhale it and sound like Mickey Mouse. You can’t die from helium unless that’s all you breathe. So, number one in the human body is hydrogen. Matches the universe. Number two? Is oxygen. Matches the universe. Number 3? Carbon. Matches the universe. Number 4? Nitrogen. Matches the universe. And for each of us the fifth element- other- is the same in both places. Ok? Other.

So, we learned in the last 50 years that, of course, not only do we exist in this universe. It is the universe itself that exists within us. And had we been made of some rare isotope of bismuth, you’d argue and say hey, we’re something special.

But there are people who are upset by that fact, saying that well does that mean we’re not special? Well, I think it’s special in another kind of way. Because when you look up at the night sky, it’s no longer we’re here and that’s there, it’s that we are part of that. And that association, for me, is actually quite enlightening and enobling and enriching. Like it’s almost spiritual. Looking up at the night sky and finding a sense of belonging, given what we’ve learned about the night sky.

And so now we ask ourselves- are we alone in the universe? We’re made of the most common ingredients there are. And our chemistry is based on carbon. Carbon is the most chemically active ingredient in the entire periodic table. If you were to find a chemistry on which to base something complex called life, you would base it on carbon. Carbon is like the 4th most abundant ingredient in the universe. We’re not rare. You can make more molecules out of carbon than you can all other kinds of molecules combined.

So, if we ask ourselves: are we alone in the universe? It would be, in spite of my diatribe about UFOs, I tell you in the same breath that it would be inexcusably egocentric to suggest that we are alone in the cosmos. The chemistry is too rich to declare that, the universe too vast. There are more stars in the universe than grains of sand in all the beaches of the world. There are more stars in the universe than all the sounds and words ever uttered by all humans who have ever lived. To say we’re alone in the universe… no, we haven’t found life outside of earth, yet. We’re looking- haven’t looked very far, yet. Galaxy is this big. We looked about that far. But we’re looking.

And how about life on earth? How- is it hard to form? Just ’cause we don’t know how to do it in the lab, doesn’t mean nature had problems. So it may be, given that information- that given the right ingredients- which are everywhere, life may be inevitable. An inevitable consequence of complex chemistry.

If that’s the case, we look around our own solar system. We look at Mars- all the evidence suggest that mars was once a wet, fertile place. An oasis. There are dry river beds and flood plains and river deltas and meandering rivers and it’s all bone dried out. Something bad happened on Mars. Some knobs got turned in its environment that left it the way it is right now. Some bad knobs got turned on Venus, too.  Runaway greenhouse effect- you saw the clip on that. Nine hundred degrees farenheit on Venus- something knobs got turned there, too.

People say why spend money up there when we can spend money down here.  Because, up there, we might learn something about down here, okay. I don’t want a runaway greenhouse effect down here. Venus is the best example in the solar system of a planet gone bad. Let’s learn about that, first.

So, it turns out that the moment that asteroids impact- when they hit- (they) can cast rocks in their surrounding areas into space with escape velocity. So they never come back to the planet from which it was launched. If Mars was wet and fertile before Earth was, as all evidence suggests, and if Mars had life before Earth had life, It is possible for there to have been bacterial stowaways in the nooks and crannies of the rocks that were cast into space.

This hardy bacteria that we already know exists on Earth. So by extreme temperatures, pressures, freeze dry- with constituted radiation- the hostile environment of space would be nothing to some of these bacteria. It may be that life on Earth was seeded by bacterial stowaways on rocks that were cast free from mars. This is a plausible scenario that is called panspermia- the transference of life from one planet to the next. If that’s the case, that makes all of us descendants of Martians.

Now let me give you a disturbing thought- a fascinatingly disturbing thought and I will leave you on that note.

If you look at the closest genetic relative to human beings- the chimpanzees- we share like 98+% identical DNA, we are smarter than a chimpanzee.  Let’s invent a measure of intelligence that make humans unique. Let’s say intelligence is your ability to compose poetry, symphonies, do art, math and science, let’s say. Let’s make that as the arbitrary definition of intelligence for the moment. Chimps can’t do any of that. Yet we share 98/99% identical DNA. The most brilliant chimp there ever was, maybe can do sign language. Well, our toddlers can do that. Toddlers. So, here’s what concerns me deeply. Deeply.

Everything that we are, that distinguishes us from chimps, emerges from that 1% difference in DNA. It has to because that’s the difference. The Hubble telescope, the grand… that’s in that 1%. Maybe, everything that we are that is not the chimp is not as smart compared to the chimp as we tell ourselves it is. Maybe the difference between constructing and launching a Hubble telescope and a chimp combining two finger motions as sign language- maybe that difference is not all that great. We tell ourselves it is. Just the same way we label our books optical illusions. We tell ourselves it’s a lot. Maybe it’s almost nothing.

How would we decide that? Imagine another life form. That’s 1% different from us. In the direction that we are different from the chimp. Think about that. We have 1% difference and we are building the Hubble telescope. Go another 1%. What are we to they? We would be drooling, blithering idiots in their presence. That’s what we would be.

They would take Stephen Hawking and roll him in front of their primate researchers and say well this one is like the most brilliant among them ’cause he can sorta do astrophysics in his head. Aw. Isn’t that cute. Little Johnny can do that too. Well that’s so cute. In fact, Johnny just did that… let me just get it… it’s on the refrigerator door. Here it is. He did it in his elementary school class. Think about how smart they would be. Quantum mechanics would be intuitive to their toddlers. Whole symphonies would be written by their children. And like I said, just put up on the refrigerator door- the way our pasta collages are on our refrigerator doors.

So, the notion that we’re gonna find some intelligent life and have a conversation with it? When was the last time you stopped to have a conversation with a worm? Or a bird? Well, you might have had a conversation but I don’t think you expected an answer, alright. So, we don’t have conversations with any other species on earth with whom we have DNA in common. To believe that some intelligent other species is gonna be interested in us, enough to have a conversation, they’ll look at our Hubble telescope and say, “isn’t that quaint… look at what they’re doing.”

So, I lay awake at nights wondering whether we as a species are simply too stupid to figure out the universe that we’re investigating. And maybe we need some other species 1% smarter than we are for, which string theory would be intuitive, for which all the greatest mysteries of the universe… from dark matter, dark energy, the origins of life, and all the frontiers of our thought would be something that they would just self intuit.

I’m jealous of that possibility because I want to be around for those discoveries.

April 19, 2012

Why life as a twenty something is pretty awesome.

I love taking pictures at the airport right before a vacation because I know that when I look back at my vacation pictures, that’s the picture I’ll want to relive most.

And heres why.

The endless preparation is behind me. No more hotel reviews to read, the search for the cheapest, fastest flight is over and my bags are packed and checked in. I’ve crossed off all the items on my to-pack list, I’m done with the frantic last minute shopping runs. And perhaps the most dreaded of all: my bags are under the luggage weight limit! I don’t know about you but I’m more afraid of the scale at the check-in counter than the one in my washroom.

And while I’m no fan of sitting in an uncomfortable chair for hours on end, I know that at the other end of that flight lies a great adventure. That is what is so special about the airport moment: anything is possible beyond it. But so often we focus on the check in lines, the security lines, the washroom lines, the crowds of people and the overpriced airport food that we forget about the exciting journey we’re about to embark on.

Being a twenty something is a lot like that airport moment.

We’ve put ourselves through years and years of school, went to saturday morning heritage classes and took some form of extracurricular activity to become a well rounded person.

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And while most of us are still unsure of where life our lives are headed, we have a vague idea of what we want and know that the road to wherever that is will be filled with lots of laughs and tears. Sometimes more of the latter than the former.

But that’s ok because if airport moments and vacations are anything to go by, I know that at the end of this vacation we call life, the memories I’ll most want to relive are these. Because it encompasses all the work we put in to get here and the anticipation of all the possibilities that lie ahead.

We’ll look back at these 20 something years and wonder why we worried so much. Because everything turned out alright. Because the decisions we made were the right ones. Because we ended up with the right people. And because these really were the good old days.

April 19, 2012

My Fav Videos on Vimeo

I’ve been kinda obsessed with discovering new videos on Vimeo lately.

So what’s the  big deal with Vimeo and how is it different from YouTube?

For starters and the way I see it- Vimeo has quality video. The videos are shot and edited  by professionals and the videos alone are real works of art. (whereas on youtube it’s usually about what and/or who is infront of the camera and as a result, the video quality usually sucks.)

However, I’ve yet to find a whole channel I like. That’s what I’ve found particularly difficult about Vimeo- discovering new videos. I’m still pretty new to this whole discovering-new-videos-on-Vimeo-thing but here are a few I’ve really enjoyed.

1. a story for tomorrow

Video Description: This video was written and produced while traveling through Chile & Patagonia with my girlfriend. We spent 5 weeks exploring this amazing country, and this is how we chose to document it.

Why I love it: Dare I say it, (because my fav videos are always changing) but this is by far my most favorite video right now. It has all the elements of a good video: a solid story, great narration and incredible cinematography. I also love the two questions: 1) Is it possible to be happy with this life? and 2) Did you enjoy your story?

I checked out gnarly bay’s  channel and they have quite a few other travel videos that are just as good. This one is from their time in Thailand. And it’s amazing.

2. Move. Eat. Learn.

(**There are three separate videos linked above. One under each word.**)

Video Description: 3 guys, 44 days, 11 countries, 18 flights, 38 thousand miles, an exploding volcano, 2 cameras and almost a terabyte of footage… all to turn 3 ambitious linear concepts based on movement, learning and food ….into 3 beautiful and hopefully compelling short films….. = a trip of a lifetime.

Why I love it: Watching these makes you want to a) book a ticket and discover some place new b) eat something delicious or c) learn something new. Isn’t that the point of life?

3. Frame of Mind

Video Description: Ben and I taking photos in different locations in Hawaii.

Why I love it: I have no idea how they did the transitions. The shots are seamless and as a result the viewer is mezmerized, unable to take her eyes off the screen for the entire duration of the video.

4. Caine’s Arcade

Video Description: A 9 year old boy – who built an elaborate cardboard arcade inside his dad’s used auto part store – is about to have the best day of his life.

Why I love it: The story is heartwarming and that boy’s smile is absolutely adorable.

5. Love your story

Video description: Lorimerworks filmed this piece for Jasmine in October of 2010, shot primarily in Tuscany.

Why I love it: Jasmine Star is one of my favorite wedding photographers. I’m not sure if I like her blog or her actual photographs more- but this video was beautifully written and I love the story.

So there you have it- some of my favorite videos on Vimeo. The underlying theme in my favs is definitely a good inspirational story.  What are some of your favorites? And how do you discover more of what you like?

April 3, 2012

Guess what!?!?!?!

My laptop is no longer fried.

So after weeks of hair dryering, rice packing, and turning on successfully… only to have my laptop die within minutes…

My laptop has finally finally finally been on (and working) for more than 15 minutes. (and this warranted a blog post. obviously)

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I can’t help but think that it’ll turn off again. That I must use every second with diligence. Make use of every moment I have with it.

And as I took a break to make myself a drink, I couldn’t help but think…

… that’s probably how we should treat life. With gratitude for each extra second we have. As if it could all vanish any second.

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