A New, More Fascinating Blog

•June 27, 2012 • Leave a Comment


After much silence over here, I’ve decided to get serious about blogging. I have a new domain and focus. Check out selfobserved.org!

Why an Engineer Likes Hayes Valley Farm

•December 20, 2010 • Leave a Comment

I’m on the Hayes Valley Farm blog talking about how they’re using engineering in a good way; check it out!

Why you should come to the fundraiser I’m DJing Saturday

•October 18, 2010 • Leave a Comment

I met Courtney after my first Phish show a few months ago. She was doing a fine job running things on a party bus that wandered the East Bay on its eventual way back to San Francisco. She was also DJing (she does that) and sporting a toga. Legit.

So when she asked me if I’d DJ pro-bono for this fundraiser she’s having, I said sure. I didn’t pay a lot of attention to the cause.

But after the sound check for Courtney’s Little Art Auction Supporting Second-graders (C.L.A.A.S.S.), we chatted about her situation. Her second-grade class is mostly children of recent Mexican immigrants. It’s a bilingual situation; their English-speaking skills vary. Most parents are poor and working hard. Her classroom has a budget of…wait for it…ZERO DOLLARS. So she’s been paying out of her own pocket for the various things I deem essential to a great public-school education. Field trips? Science projects? Crayons??

On top of this, San Francisco teachers took a pay cut this year to avoid widespread layoffs. So Courtney’s been digging into her own pocket even more than before. And this is for kids at serious risk of dropping out before they even hit sixth grade.

Hence her fundraiser. She’s silent-auctioning off the kids’ paintings so they can be involved in the process. There will be tamales, drinks, and me (DJ Space Cat) playing an assortment of funky lounge tunes. (Kids won’t be there.) You should come, really, if just for a short time to support this excellent and LOCAL cause. Details:

C.L.A.A.S.S.: Courtney’s Little Art Auction Supporting Second-graders
Saturday, October 23 4PM-8PM
Artspace 4500
4500 19th St. @ Douglass, San Francisco
$20 suggested donation

You can also donate via Paypal to claassdonation@yahoo.com.

Thanks for supporting local public schools! See you there!

Sustainability Ctd.

•November 5, 2009 • 2 Comments

Thanks to Bradley for this article, maybe-rebuttle to my previous post. I dig its perspective, that we can’t get obsessed with shorter showers when “more than 90 percent of the water used by humans is used by agriculture and industry.” It makes some good points. The important take-away: you can’t content yourself with small personal changes when the vast majority of our unsustainability comes from industry and policy. Okay, great.

But let’s be clear: a lot of that industry is agriculture, and a lot of agriculture is meat. And the way you reduce that is…EAT LESS MEAT! And how do you get people to eat less meat? Be an example! Press businesses to offer more meat-free, low-meat, organic-etc. foods! This is the kind of thing that happens on a community level but results in Big Corn realizing they need to start diversifying.

On the other hand, while it is essential to set an example, encourage your friends and local businesses to support sustainable diets, etc, vegetarians currently encompass what, maybe 10% of the US population at most? (Stats freaks anyone?) And let’s face facts that we rich and educated people may talk to our friends, but we aren’t going to reach the millions who eat at McDonald’s each year. How do we reach them? Well, there are a lot of ways. One is getting out into the community, getting involved in food banks that are giving out more fresh food in deference to processed. Another is changing policy, ending subsidies on corn and soybeans, enacting laws that limit the import of soy grown on freshly-cleared rainforests, etc. That’s where you, the citizen of a government that serves your wishes, comes in. Lobby! Vote! Write your representatives! Et cetera. Obviously this will be met with great opposition by lobbyists. How do we fight that? I’m not sure, I’m trying to figure that out…

A Word for People Concerned about Sustainability

•November 4, 2009 • 1 Comment

I keep getting sustainability-movement/green-tech followers in Twitter. (It may be because I work at Virgance which runs Carrotmob and One Block Off the Grid.) To those people: Hi! If you’re interested in what I’ve got to say on the topic, listen here:

There are some sweet technologies out there. They will get sweeter. If we really invest in clean tech, it’ll help a lot. But let me break some hard news to those who are hoping we can buy our way out of our problems:

You will have to make changes in your lifestyle!

And this means more than recycling and using both sides of the paper. It will mean biking or taking public transit to places you would much rather drive. It will mean giving up your car entirely, not buying the problem away with a Prius. It will mean reducing your home energy usage, not just buying solar panels. It will mean going vegetarian/vegan or at the very least significantly reducing your meat intake. And in addition to this, obviously, buying local, organic, “happy” meat when you do eat it. Same goes for all the food you eat.

I can’t say I’m the model of the sustainable citizen; few of us are I’m sure. It’s very hard to do so while living in a city, for one thing. But I really don’t think cap and trade or green-tech investments or Priuses or anything you can BUY is going to fix things in the way they really need to be fixed. I could begin to go on about the insaaaaane overcrowding wall we’re about to hit. We’re gonna have to deal with that soon, too, and it’s gonna hurt when there isn’t enough water for all the people in the developed world (as well as the developing which doesn’t have enough already). You won’t be able to water your lawn. You won’t be able to play golf in a desert. Sorry!

Follow Me On The Twitter

•June 23, 2009 • Leave a Comment

I’ve had enough of this full-sized blogging crap! I’m a busy man!

Well yeah, I find the desire to post highly-revised content means I’m not touching on enough stuff. So micro-blogging it is. I’ll post here as I can but Twitter will give you a more up-to-date rundown on my thoughts, which you want of course. I’m displaying it to the right or you can click here.

Star-Studded No-On-8 Mini-Musical!

•December 3, 2008 • 13 Comments


(I’m back! And trying less-involved post content to acheive more frequent posts.)

This is It.

•November 7, 2008 • Leave a Comment

Read this fascinating letter from Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to President-Elect Barack Obama. It’s interesting—definitely aggressive; not exactly polite. But it sort of passive-aggressively says, “I hope we can reach a peaceful situation.” Not a bad sign from a feared dictator.

Listen. We have the opportunity to really work to bring about peace in the world. I think electing Barack Obama as President of the United States could be the start of a great era on Earth. What if we said to the other major leaders of the world, “Look, how do we get peace with you? Let’s do it. (Yes) We can.”

Imagine of John McCain lead an intiative for all the people who voted for him: “Look, you voted for me, and we lost. But now we’ve still got to do what we said we would: work together to come up with solutions that will make this country work. I want to join hands with Barack Obama and make this happen. With your help, (yes) we can.”

This election will be remembered. But imagine if it marks the start of a new era in not just American, but World politics—one in which the entire world realizes that we can work together to solve the great challenges of our generation–to bring about peace and prosperity to all.

The time has come. We are too smart to let the world continue in upheaval as it has. We are smart enough to figure out ways to keep the world peaceful and prosperous. For all the intelligence built up in millions of well-educated and wise thinkers around the globe, we can find a way to make our global society work.

Leaders of the world, and particularly President-Elect Obama, I urge you to make this kind of change an important part of your agenda. (Yes) We can do this.

Horton hears an underground rumble from miles away

•May 6, 2008 • Leave a Comment


Elephants communicate with infrasound, rumblings at frequencies too low for us to hear. The sounds travel at least 4 km (2.5 mi) through the ground; elephants listen for these with extra-sensitive feet. Each species has a complex library of calls–greetings, mating announcements, long-range group coordination–and can recognize the “voices” of family members. Check out the Elephant Listening Project, where you can listen to recordings of calls.

Mechanical Mirrors

•April 29, 2008 • Leave a Comment

This is beautiful, stunning, computer-aided mechanical art. See your face in blocks of wood. This one‘s my favorite video, but check out all of Daniel Rozin’s mechanical mirrors and other cool interactive art.


•March 25, 2008 • 1 Comment

On the Road Scroll

Jack Kerouac is an essential American author. You can read a scanned image of the first page-worth of the 120-foot scroll on which he typed On the Road in a single paragraph. They’ve come out with a book that recreates the scroll.

Jill Bolte Taylor

•March 13, 2008 • 5 Comments

Jill Bolte Taylor

Jill Bolte Taylor is a neuroanatomist who had a stroke and remembers the whole process. Her talk at TED is absolutely fascinating and inspiring.

Thanks to Matt for the tip.

Albert Hofmann

•March 3, 2008 • Leave a Comment

Lysergic acid diethylamide<–from Wikipedia

Dr. Albert Hofmann, on the occasion of celebrating the 50th anniversary of his famous bicycle ride: “You, my dear friends, and millions all over the world who now commemorate the 50th birthday of ergot’s child, we all testify gratefully that we got valuable help on the way to what Aldous Huxley said is the end and the ultimate purpose of human life–enlightenment, beatific vision, love. I think all these joyful testimonies of invaluable help by LSD should be enough to convince the health authorities, finally, of the nonsense of the prohibition of LSD and of similar psychedelics.”

The Oldest Living Animal

•October 31, 2007 • 1 Comment

A clam was found in Iceland, cut open, and had its rings counted. It was over 400 years old. Sadly, the procedure killed the creature. Who knows how much longer it would’ve lived?


•September 7, 2007 • Leave a Comment

Did you know? The USA PATRIOT Act is an acronym? That is, the Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act. Wonder how long it took ’em to work that one out.  Oh well; this article hepped me to the acronym-ness and the news that a judge just struck down key parts of the act. It’s a start.


•September 6, 2007 • 1 Comment

Blocks3 Originally uploaded by erawk

Some of these are teeny, some are 5 feet tall. I walked around them all week and never stood in the place where you actually see what’s going on. Yay Burning Man!

uʍop ǝpısdn

•July 19, 2007 • 1 Comment

¡ʇxǝʇ ɥsılƃuǝ uʍop ǝsıpdn ǝʞıl ʇol ɐ ʞool oʇ suǝddɐɥ ʇɐɥʇ ʇxǝʇ ǝpoɔıun ɟo ɥɔunq
ɐ ʇsnɾ ʎllɐǝɹ s,ʇı ʇnq uʍop ǝpısdn s,ʇı ǝʞıl ʞool ʎɐɯ ʇxǝʇ sıɥʇ

Oh Unicode. You so crazy. Thanks Antonio.


•July 7, 2007 • 1 Comment

Psilocybin Molecule

Friends, I’d like to tell you about psilocybin. It’s the active molecule in psychedelic mushrooms and the focus of a 2006 study by Roland Griffiths and others at Johns Hopkins University. Most participants in the double-blind study, full text here, reported having mystical experiences—for many, the most profound experiences of their lives. Follow-ups with the participants several months later indicated they were happier and more productive; this was corroborated by interviews with friends, family, and co-workers.

More studies must be conducted to investigate how psilocybin and other psychoactives have the potential for positive impact on society. The government also needs to get its head out of its ass and let its citizens do what they want.

Here’s Q&A with Griffiths, who headed the study. Here’s the Wikipedia article on psilocybin. Here’s an Independent article outlining some of the positive benefits and research possibilities of several other controlled substances.

Swarm Theory

•July 7, 2007 • Leave a Comment

Starling Flock

Swarm theory has been around for a while, but this National Geographic article is the first comprehensive piece I’ve read on it. Smart swarms occur in all kinds of creature societies, including our own, and the theory has useful applications in lots of human endeavors. I’m interested in training people to use swarm theory when they’re in large groups—say, at Burning Man.

Scope their cool photos too—above is a flock of starlings!

My one problem with the article: they’re so matter-of-fact about how it “wasn’t intuitive” for delivery truck drivers to travel way farther than they had before–but “the savings have been impressive”!

Patrick Smith

•June 29, 2007 • Leave a Comment

It’s been a while since my last post. REAL life’s been so fascinating, I’ve hardly any time to relate its wonders electronically! Fret not; I’m saving things up and will dispense as I can. Since you’re hanging on my every post and all.

Anyway, I just randomly stumbled across cartoons by Patrick Smith and was struck by their imagery and storytelling. Here’s a fun one:

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