Thursday, January 19, 2012

New Blog: malcolmocean.com

I have a new blog! It's at malcolmocean.com, my personal site. The site/blog has actually been up since last summer, but I just realized I hadn't linked forward to it, so here I am, doing so. Now go! Shooo! Read my new stuff!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Beating Fear Of Rejection

Ha. Here's a funny idea.


Have some sort of thing in opposite-sex friendships where both people periodically submit a piece of paper to a third party (who potentially could not even know the people, if they're afraid of word getting out or something) describing whether or not they have romantic (or otherwise complicated) feelings for each other. Then the third party responds one of two ways: if both are interested, both are notified "just say it!" in some way or another so that they don't waste time being awkward and trying to hide their feelings. if either (or both) are just feeling platonic-ness, then the report says "romance no-go" or "let's just be friends!".

The third party could even just be an internet form of some sort or another that would have little tick boxes then would submit an automated response to the participants based on the responses. Either way, this would help eliminate the whole fear of rejection thing that normally accompanies telling somebody you like them.

[extract from an email to a friend]

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Thoughts on improving society...

I think the best way for a country to improve its social and economic situation is to make a massive investment in the education system, not so much financially as by taking the time to examine different strategies and ensure that the methods used are effective. This requires looking critically at learning institutions and asking "Are we doing the best job we possibly can of teaching our children? How can we do better?" ... a process of constant evaluation and improvement.

Not surprisingly, then, I think that the most important role of the government is to facilitate development of creativity and critical thinking among its population -- this ensures a continuing intellectual capital within the country, and helps perpetuate an effective, democratic government. That said, despotic regimes are of course not going to do this for that exact reason, but we're all idealists here right?

(My responses to questions from a Greenpeace survey)

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Everyone can learn math.

I saw a really cool presentation by a fellow named John Mighton, who is a successful playwright as well as mathematician. He founded the JUMPMath program - a way that you can teach math to everyone. The way he does it is not complicated, but the results are incredible.

Case study: A grade 4 class. Their average and standard deviation on a standardized math test were 66 and 12. Such a high standard deviation essentially meant that the level of math ability spanned 3-4 grade-levels among the students. After doing JUMP for a year, the class took the next year standardized test, and had an average of 98, sd. 1.2 ...and some of the children in the class had previously been classified as learning-disable (in fact, he has taught fractions to kids who, weeks prior, couldn't count by twos on their fingers).

He has consistently repeated these kinds of results with other classes, and is training teachers to use these methods too. Many thoughts come to mind on this topic:
  • Some school boards have actually banned JUMP. One of the main principles of JUMP is that everyone can learn to do math well and understand it. Modern-day schooling supports the idea that some people just "aren't as good" as others in math. The truth is that they just aren't as comfortable with the way it's being taught, or even that very early on they had a bad experience (or bad teacher) and have distrusted math ever since. Anyway, apparently school boards don't like the idea that everyone could succeed.
  • What if everyone succeeded? JUMP can teach the material far faster than our present system manages to not teach the material — at this rate, students could be doing calculus by grade 8.... and loving it. That's the thing — one of the reasons the JUMP philosophy is so successful is that it makes kids enjoy math. Just imagine if students could learn so much more math by the time they reach high school? What about other subjects? Doesn't it seem like all of us have been (and are being) cheated out of an education we could have easily had?
  • What are tests for? Mighton suggests that tests should still be used in math, but that everyone should gets As. The test should be a test not of a student's "ability", but of the success of the education system in teaching the student! After all, JUMP has proven empirically that everyone can learn math well. How then, can we still pretend that failing grades in elementary school represent a failure of the student?

Monday, November 29, 2010

On Reducing Hot-Water Usage

(First post in quite awhile. Wow.)

I did some thinking in the shower this morning. The nozzle is one of those adjustable-by-twisting ones, and it appeared to be stuck in a mode that was more like a fine spray than the jet I prefer. I found as a result that I had to turn the handle to a much hotter setting than I usually do. That is to say, the hot water naturally cools down (in the cold air) before reaching my body, and the increased surface area of the finer spray caused an increased amount of heat loss. Several ideas of how to conserve hot water occurred to me just then:

  • Design a showerhead that emphasizes thick streams of water as opposed to thin ones. This would be the ideal way because it would only involve a change in the device, not in heating policy or insulation.
  • A more drastic idea is to insulate your bathroom better and keep it warmer. What I am as yet unsure of is the cost ratio of heating the air versus the water. I suspect that if the air were kept warmer, it would reduce the cost of the water, but without some kind of testing I can't say for sure.
Yay thoughts!

Monday, April 19, 2010

A song about my idea to fix long-distance relationships...





Check out more of my music at http://mccalum.bandcamp.com.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Different Greetings for Different Meetings

I read recently that the word Hello came into usage with the telephone. That is, it originated as a telephone greeting. That seemed reasonable to me, as it is the most common greeting one hears on the phone. Today, while greeting a friend in instant messaging, I said "Hey", and then it struck me that Hey is the most common greeting for chat. I wondered if other mediums had their own general greetings, then thought about letters: Dear. Emails don't really have one single main greeting - I've found those who grew up writing letters often say "Dear", which sounds absurdly formal to the rest of us.


I thought it was neat how we have certain customs for certain media, and even though they are somewhat unofficial, we stick to them nonetheless.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Smoothie Dispenser

There should be smoothie dispensers. I don't want cola from a pop machine, or chips from one of those snack machines. I want a smoothie.


Picture a machine about the same size as the aforementioned ones. You approach it, select a size and insert your money. You pick 2-5 ingredients (and possibly some supplement powder or something to add too) and—before your very eyes—the machine combines the various fresh (and frozen) fruits and blenderizes them until they are a smoothie. The liquid is poured into a cup which you can then take and enjoy.

How awesome would that be?

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Do you eat to live or live to eat?

Some people don't really like food. They eat only because failure to do so would be unhealthy and ultimately dangerous. However, they miss out on the joys that mindful eating can provide.


Other people absolutely love food, almost to the point where it could be said that they basically live only for eating. At any rate, they spend a great deal of time looking forward to their next meal, or snack. Looking forward to things all of the time won't make you happy.

Purpose

Eating only to live, or living only to eat is missing the point of both activities. Food isn't enjoyable when it's just to keep you alive, and life isn't enjoyable when spent in pursuit of something (in this case, food).

What we must do, rather, is eat to eat, and live to live. Both activities certainly contain enough awesomeness that they can be fine on their own. In fact, eating becomes much more pleasurable if you see it not as being a means to an end (nourishment) but as being the end itself. Eat to eat.

And life? How could life be more amazing than when it is lived simply to live. Living for anything other than life is missing the point of life. Life is not, first and foremost, a means to an end, but is that end.

The best way to live life is to live it. I mean, it sounds obvious when said like that, but so often we forget and think something else is more important in life than life itself.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Zero-G Art

I was thinking about life without gravity awhile ago, and I had a really cool thought: Zero-Gravity Art would be amazing. For example, you could just randomly assemble things in mid-air and they would stay there. You could "balance" a ridiculous amount of things on top of a pencil (although it's worth noting that that's only cool because of the impossibility of it).


What I really thought though, was the use of viscous liquids in the air would be really neat. Consider, for example, a spoonful of maple syrup. You could wave it in the air and a swirly pattern would form.

Even better: Ketchup and Mustard. If you had one of each of the classic dispensers attached to something that would spin, and then you squeezed the tubes while pulling the whole device backward, it would create a double helix in mid-air, of condiments.

Then, to complete the DNA model, take toothpicks or something and carefully place them joining the two spirals. A neat thought is that you could go to one end and blow sharply, and it would tear apart the construction.

Now if only space-travel wasn't so expensive... what would you do if everything floated? Second on my list would probably be to sit on the ceiling.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

More often than you'd think....

I get a really strong urge to do something that just can't be done... like lay on the ceiling.

Monday, November 9, 2009

...I Admonished

Tonight I had the somewhat sad realization that I'm not a character in a novel. I was saying something, and I wanted to admonish it, but I realized that I don't get to choose what verb gets places after the hypothetical quotes.

"Get some sleep!" she bid him
"Same to you," he admonished.

Life would be so much more epic that way, I insist.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Living in Future's Past

Patrick Swayze died today. However, if you look at his Wikipedia article, it says in past tense: "...he died from the disease on September 14, 2009". When I read this, I was like "Whoa, that's today!" because it felt really weird to read about the present in past tense.

I found an even weirder sentence on the page about a show he was in that was cancelled due to his illness: "On June 15, 2009, Entertainment Tonight announced [...]. Swayze died of the disease on September 14 of that year." ..."that year" is this year.

I understand that they have to write the articles in a way that will still be accurate tomorrow, but I find it really weird to read it that way, today. It gives me an odd feeling of perspective, realizing that as this moment ends it becomes part of history... part of the past.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

What is Love?

Awhile ago I posted something on love. I have, not surprisingly, further and more refined thoughts. This is based on Plato's Symposium (it was the bonus question of an assignment for my Theory of Knowledge class)

What is love? Baby don't hurt me, don't hurt me, no more. This is not love.

Love is a kind of bond that occurs from a person's acceptance of someone or something. It could also be called interpersonal peace, and comes simultaneously with inner peace. When one is in a state of acceptance, love abounds.

People have very little idea of what love is these days, but one fundamental way we do understand love is the idea of “love you for who you are”. However, this isn't quite right. Rather, love is when somebody “loves you – and you are”. Loving somebody for who they are implies that you might not love them if they were were different. This means that you are attracted to their characteristics, not to them.

Trying to change somebody is alright, and can still fall within the boundaries of love. Most of the time, though, it does not. This is because we typically try to change people without any respect or acceptance that they're in the current state they're in. This means, simply, that we are trying to fix them, for we have labeled their condition a problem without coming to terms with the situation. With love, one first accepts that the person is how they are, and this love allows the person to change.

As Diotima says, eventually one will develop a love for all beautiful things. This is easy. What is more difficult is to also love things that are not beautiful, or even things that are ugly, for they are much harder to accept. When we live without love we live in a state of denial, ascribing random value to things based on their perceived beauty. This is inaccurate and is fundamentally flawed. Somewhat like Descartes says in Meditations, facets of objects are not the objects themselves. This is a basic part of the deceit of the senses. We look at things and perceive them, but frequently we are not looking at an object itself, but merely examining some qualities it happens to possess. Love is beyond this.

However, there is a place for physical form in love, it is just not that of beauty. Anything that has a physical form is presenting itself to us openly. At each moment, we are bombarded sensually by everything. To not accept and love everything is to create hell. There is far too much coming to individually address everything, but with love one can take some moments to accept a few things. Loving in this way will allow you to move freely through life. If one stops at each moment and hates things (or does not accept them) then there is far too much resistance on the journey of life.

“If you love someone, set them free.” Richard Bach, in saying this, makes a very good point about acceptance and love – that if you love something you will also accept its departure. However, he continues to say “If they come back they're yours; if they don't they never were” which is not at all true. The very nature of love is incompatible with ownership.

It has also been said that “love is an verb”. This is somewhat true, but not entirely. Love certainly is not an adjective, and the term “in love” almost infallibly refers to infatuation. However, love is not a verb, because there really is no sole action that is “love”. If I said “I love you”, does that inherently mean that there is any specific action I'm performing toward you? There may be some general actions that go along with love, but really,




love is an attitude.