Recalling a Mentor

I think on biographies often of late. Not that I read them much, just occasionally. I’m more attracted to imagining the life maps of people I’ve crossed paths with, sometimes in major encounters but just as likely in subtle, ephemeral ways, like when a billiard ball kisses another in passing on a pool table. As experience grows, so does the depth of meaning one becomes able to infer from these encounters. It was such an imagination which caused to me look up an old high school teacher not long ago…

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Rumanikos Duet

This 3-minute musical snippet is an improvisation from about eight years ago. Entirely spur-of-the-moment, in the living room, and thus the recording is absolutely low tech. Two musicians, both amateurs. Mon amie is playing a hang, a Swiss innovation, which uses the sides and tips of the fingers to sound resonating metallic ringing tones. I’m playing a digital keyboard which had been set to emulate a zither. What unites these two instruments, an uncommon duo, is the scale they are tuned to. More on that after having a listen…

(Listen to hang/zither duet)

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Some Colorful Speech

Close your eyes, figuratively. If I ask you to picture the word green, do you imagine this or perhaps this, or something closer to this? How does your typical green image differ from mine or that of your daughter or a business colleague who lives in Costa Rica? Assuming we could develop a statistical norm for what speakers of American English generally mean by the word (and some studies have tackled this question), it only opens the door to further more interesting psycholinguistic puzzles. For example: has the concept ‘green’ changed subtly since the days of Thomas Jefferson, Shakespeare, or William the Conqueror? Do children conceive ‘green’ differently than senior citizens (perhaps even the same individual at different ages)? How does this compare with a Brazilian person who is thinking of verde? Or a Mongolian pondering ногоон?

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Do Electric Eels Shock Jacques Cousteau?

Maybe you’ve wondered about why speakers of a certain native language, say Portuguese, always seem to have the same specific stumbling blocks when pronouncing certain sounds within a second language, like English. This can be true even decades after they have learned the new language and achieved functional fluency. In fact, it has a lot to do with why we are able to identify charming accents between language pairs. Only a very deliberate study and practice with a language coach can normally overcome these pronunciation tendencies. All this relates to electric eels… how?.

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Heavenly Choreography

“Lonely” Pluto’s been in the news lately due to the fly-by of the U.S. New Horizons probe. Startling images and geological questions have arisen, and two new moons have been photographed. But what piqued my interest was the pronounced wobble in Pluto’s motion, not a new discovery, which has to do with both the proximity and similarity in mass of it’s largest moon Charon. This led to a general investigation into how and why bodies are influenced by each other in space, according to conventional physics.

long-range radio image
pluto and charon
pluto-charon orbits
pluto, charon, and U.S.

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Meditation on Chalk

There is a subtle distancing effect which our numerous online devices and other technologies foist upon our minds regarding the world of everyday objects. Left unchecked, we develop a disregard and disinterest in things and their nature, reflected in the disposable stance many ‘movers and shakers’ adopt towards articles of utility. But imagine if the surrounding world of objects could be reunited with their rightful depths of significance, qualities, and history! Suppose you had to think ONLY about a piece of chalk, to take a mundane example, for 10 full minutes. How difficult would it be, and what could be recovered?
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