Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Happy Halloween

Here's an interactive card we made using Scratch

Help Miles catch the pumpkins to play you a Halloween tune. When he catches candy corn, the instrument changes.

- Use the left and right arrow keys on your keyboard to move Miles around.
- To set it back to the beginning, click on the green flag in the gray bar.
- To stop click on the red stop sign next to the green flag

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Ahhh....the west coast

Last weekend we went to Cardiff-by-the-Sea for Linda aand Rudolf's wedding. We also squeezed in some time at Legoland and at the beach.

We really loved being on the west coast again. You know California drivers aren't really so bad. And everyone was so friendly. Miles spent much of the weekend trying to convince us to drive to Seattle to visit friends.

UPDATE: I realize that I forgot to mention our very fun visit to the Museum of Making is definitely worth a visit if you're in the area. The museum has a ton of instruments on display, including the larget ukele collection you might ever see and walks you through various eras in music starting with Sousa (did that his dad added the USA to the family name "So" when he immigrated to the US?) Anyway the best part is that at the end there is a room filled with musical instruments that you can play. Among the instruments we played a theremin(so cool!), DJ turntable/mixer system, electric cello, drumset, violin, and so on. We easily spent more than an hour in that room alone.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The tenth month has a different name in Boston

Saw this very tall bike on the way to class today. Seems like it might be hard to find just the right spot to park and lock it.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Keith visits the Media Lab

As one of the Knight program’s twice-weekly seminars, we had a fun tour of a program at MIT called the Media Lab. It’s kind of a misleading name, since most of the research underway there has very little connection with what you might think of as media. Instead, it’s all about the intersection of technology and humans. Our group met with four of the researchers there (out of 25 on the faculty).

One interesting project is by Deb Roy, who has been recording every second of his baby’s life. Actually, the baby is now almost 2-1/2, and the recording phase is winding down. He’s hoping to to shed light on childhood language acquisition. His specialty is interactive robots, and he wired his suburban hosue with a ceiling camera in every room. They can be switched off, but he basically has recorded nearly every moment of family life with his son over the past couple years. There’s a whole room at MIT holding the computers that have all that data. His wife is a speech pathologist, so it’s a team effort. In the meantime, he’s developing creative computer techniques to sort and analyze massive amounts of video and audio. The project is titled, "The Human Speechome."

The whole Media Lab is self-consciously promoting itself as “creative,” which is annoying at first, and using the image to solicit corporate contributions. But after talking to the people there, it really does feel like an incredibly creative place, where people are living up to their principles, to work collaboratively across fields and define problems in new ways.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Walking on Water

Visited Fort Point Open Studios today and saw some interesting (and some not so interesting) work. The bubbles above are part of an installation in Fort Point Channel for the Open Studios. The artist's name is Lisa Greenfield.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Head of the Charles & Heads at City Hall

Spent much of the day hanging out with a 3/4 of a really nice family we've met here. Hmmm...didn't mean for that to sound as though only 3/4 of the family is nice...all of them are nice, but only three of them were with us today.

Anyway, we watched a bit of the Head of the Charles regatta...

...and then went over to the Boston City Hall where thousands of jack o'lanterns lined a tall scaffold and the steps outside the City Hall.

Friday, October 19, 2007

That's the number of times this month that I've been hit by a bicyclist while walking. Month as in October...not the past 30 days.

Oktoberfest in Harvard Square

Been meaning to post these for awhile. A couple weekends ago, we went to Oktoberfest in Harvard Square. There was a raucous honkband parade. I guess the real honkband action was the previous night in Davis Square. Anyway, it was quite fun. Camera ran out of memory, so there was much more that we couldn't photograph.

More of our pictures here. More Honk!band images here.
Here's a video that shows a lot of the stuff we couldn't capture

I had no idea it was a movement before this. Here's more about some of the Honkbands we saw and the roots of Honk!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

The Gullibles

Miles and his friends at school have made up a series of characters called "The Gullibles". The Gullibles include Gullible Donut (seen above), Gullible Muffin, Gullible Scone, Gullible Grappling Hook, Gullible Martian, and Gullible White Blood Cell. More characters are being added all the time.

This week's Gullible's segment: "Gullible Donut & His Hatred of Stairs" (as dictated by Miles)

Gullible Donut (aka GD) hates climbing stairs, so he removed the stairs in the Gullibles house. This meant everyone was using the banisters, but GD hates banisters,too. So, he placed a trampoline outside his second floor bedroom window and placed a cannon behind it. Every morning when GD wants to go downstairs, he jumps out his bedroom window, bounces off the trampoline and lands on the ground.

When GD wanted to go back to his room, he climbed into the cannon and pushed a button to shoot himself through his bedroom window and into his bed. Some of the other Gullibles decided to move the cannon closer, which caused him to fly over his bed and smack into the wall.

GD is not the sharpest knife in the drawer (he hates when we say that because he has a fear of knives...look at the shape of his head and you'll see why), so when he went back and adjusted the cannon, he moved it a little too far. The next attempt to get back upstairs, he smacked into the side of the house, slid down the wall, and landed flat on his face with great force on the trampoline. Of course, he started to bounce. He bounced up onto the roof and down the chimney. It just so happened to be Christmas eve so all the other Gullibles thought it was Santa and came down to greet him. Instead they found GD sitting in the fireplace looking in their stockings and removing the things he liked.

Moral of the story: Never move a cannon...and don't remove stairs without a smart plan to replace them.

More bad Boeing news

I just read that the Boeing surplus store is closing on Dec. 21. Well before we can get back for one last visit, no less! One more cool old Seattle (actually Kent) institution gone for good.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Young Paparazzo

Lately Miles has been a bit of a camera hog, endlessly snapping shots. His favorite subjects are architecture (there are loads shots of buildings and bridges on our hard-drive) and portaits. With Miles behind the camera, NO one gets to look good -- this is even true of his self-portraits. He shoves the camera in your face and makes you look like a troll.

Whale Watching

We went to Gloucester on Sunday and had a great time on a whale-watching boat. Well, I did...when I wasn't feeling queasy. The boat rocked quite a lot when we sat to watch whales. Here's a bit that Keith caught on the camera...a hard thing to do when the boat is rocking. We saw about 5 Humpback whales, two (a mother named Tulip and her calf) swam up close and then under the boat. We also saw a few Minke whales.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

More details on Keith's classes

Since several friends have asked what I ended up studying, here's a list of the actual classes.

I've been doing the textbook reading for the first two of these, while the rest are more like lecture series for me (and I do read bits and pieces of the readings for them, if it looks interesting):

- Intro to Biology (MIT)
- Intro to Neuroscience (MIT)
- Neurobiology (Harvard Med School) ... this conflicts with MIT Biology, so I'm attending about half the lectures (it's 3 hours every Mon, Wed, Fri), and it's been great for deepening what I'm getting from the Neuroscience class
- Human Physiology (Harvard)
- Madness and Medicine (Harvard) ...It's a history of the psychiatric profession and of asylums
- Paleobiology ... Ecology and Evolution (Harvard ) (this is mostly about the fossil record)

I guess you could say I'm studying biology and neurobiology, and learning about the rest. I'm happy to say that the classes are comlementing each other ... with the vocabulary I build in one class helping me understand the next.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

I'm learning SO much science ...

I can't believe how much science I've learned in just 5-6 weeks. If I had to leave now, it already would be an incredibly productive year.

I'm attending six classes, but not all of them full-time. And I'm doing the readings for two or three of them. Of course, I have no tests or papers or grades, so it's low stress. My focus is on the fundamentals of life itself, and the brain specifically. So, I have two biology classes, two introductory neuroscience classes, a history of psychiatry class called Madness and Medicine, and a class that focuses on fossils and how changing ecosystems have affected evolution.

Plus, we have our own series of twice-weekly seminars, organized by the Knight program director, and that’s been outstanding. (Here’s the agenda, if you’re interested

I’m just about at the point where I can have a conversation with a scientist and understand all the vocabulary!

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Space 1957

When we were crusing through the infintite corridor on the 50th anniversary of the launch of Sputnik (Oct. 4, 1957), Miles and I saw the scale model hanging with beeping emanating from it. Miles loudly exclaimed, "Wow, that is THE largest foil ball I've ever seen." After I explained the significance, his reaction was, "That was the first launch into space? That just looks like a plain old satellite. I'd love to just throw it or scrunch it up. When do you think they'll take it down?" Well, at least the foil ball aspect impressed him.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

My sister is running the Portland marathon on Sunday

A marathon is an amazing feat for anyone, but especially for Jenn. She has had major nerve problems with her spine and the bottoms of her feet (neuropathy), so even just standing or walking is intensely painful. The doctors have told her they can't do anything for her except help her manage the pain with very stong medications. About two years ago, she decided that since she was going to be stuck with the pain the rest of her life she was going to mentally push through the pain and try to get something of a normal life back for herself. Running the Portland Marathon became one of her goals.

She's running on Sunday, if you want to track her progress on race day, enter bib # 8482 7647 when you go to

I think Jenn's committment and stamina is impressive and inspiring.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Community run artist billboards

I love this idea...every city should have a few of of these scattered about. If you go to their site, you'll see that they also put up billboards designed by children. Beats hanging your art on the refrigerator any day!

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Portrait of M

This is the typical "look" for him these days. Thank you J.K. Rowling for only writing seven books. I can't wait to see my son's face again!

Side note: When I snapped this pic, from behind the book came the question, "Are you going to put this on the blog?" Of course I am!

Miles experiments on the waitstaff

Miles and I went to Wagamama for dinner tonight (Keith is at Woods Hole with the rest of the Fellows). The waiters write numbers on your placemats, and there is no explanation given. We wondered: were those numbers our orders?...our rating as customers?...our estimated IQ's? Miles decided it would be interesting to turn the placemats over so the numbers were not visible and see if anything happened. I was surprised when it actually threw some of the waitstaff off a bit. But then they started marking on our placemat again. Another reminder of how kids are natural testers, every boundary or system is just something else to experiment with.

As far as the food goes, the curry and the raw salad were great. The yakiudon had too many competing spices/flavors and was not very tasty.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Ideas to take home

These aren't original ideas, just ideas I've come in contact with here that inspire me:

1. Mother/son bookclub: Miles and I are participating in one here, and though we've only been to one meeting, I know I want to spin one up (or join one) when we get home.

2. Inspired by my class with Mitch Resnick (where I'm learning about Constructionist learning theory and getting to play with tools like Scratch and Pico Crickets ), as well as this blog post and this one, as well as I think I might like to look into to starting an after-school club at Lowell that uses these tools (among others).

More ideas still percolating, but I literally have to run and get Miles from school.