Friday, March 27, 2009

TED for Underprivileged Kids, and other Brainstorms

My girlfriend Tricia and I have both been enjoying the TED videos for a while. It's great that the otherwise expensive and exclusive TED Conference can be viewed by anyone with broadband Internet access, but this week was TED's first foray into bringing the live experience to a university setting, where students and some of the more general public can attend.

Still, something feels amiss. We had a conversation this morning -- what about the kids in bad neighborhoods, in bad schools? Who is bringing great ideas and inspiration to them? What TED-like experience could be brought to them and would it have an impact on their literacy, their motivation, and future success in life?

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posted by Brian at 6:46 PM 1 comments links to this post

Saturday, February 07, 2009

What Pixar Looks For...






Randy Nelson, head of Pixar University, talks about the traits and characteristics of people they hire at Pixar Animation Studio. Interestingly (and in contrast to some production companies I've worked for), they look for the ability to collaborate -- specifically, the ability to amplify the expression of others on your team through your unique talents and experiences. They want people are are interested, not necessarily interesting. And of course, they want folks who have mastered some particular discipline (be it animation, photography, design, story-telling, mathematics) but are well-versed in others.

via Cartoon Brew

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Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Support Mentors!

Please help support Citizen School's mentoring campaign by clicking on the link above and voting. Only 140 60 22 more votes needed to get their cause to the next level! Now in 2nd place and off to the second round, but please vote if you haven't yet!

UPDATE:Thanks for voting! Citizen School made it to the next round and needs about 200 more votes to be in the top 10 of all ideas in the running. Please vote on the widget to the right.

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Monday, March 24, 2008

TED: Dave Eggers and his After-School Pirate Supply Store Writing Center


A few years ago I went to a Revenge of the Bookeaters fund-raising event for Dave Eggers' 826 Valencia project, an after school writing program for kids. Dave put both a magazine and a tutoring center in one place so that kids could have one-on-one access with professional writers. What's novel about the San Francisco location is that it's not "Center for Teaching Kids Writing" or some dull name -- it's a crazy cool pirate accessory store! Having that sort of atmosphere expands kids' imaginations, and writing just becomes a means to express and dignify children's ideas. Other places have opened around the country and even Ireland, all with a nifty theme. One is time travellers accessory store, another a superhero store with a capery... I love it!

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posted by Brian at 9:00 AM 0 comments links to this post

Friday, January 25, 2008

My DJ Education Continues

Last year I took a DJ 101 class at the Scratch Academy after work to avoid the horrendous traffic between Santa Monica and Hollywood. Tried the next level class but found that they were trying to teach two many skills at the same time: beatmatching, vinyl hunting, and song selection. It was just too much for me and I dropped out about half way. It would be way cool if they taught beatmatching class where they provided you with the song list, and everybody focused on just getting them to flow into one another. That alone takes a lot of practice! Trying to do that when you're hunting for records, not knowing exactly what tempos they will be, getting them home, then finding the tempos are two far apart... starting over... and then going to class being expected to have your chain of songs with one added song each week, practiced and sounding good. Aaaaah! Too much.

But now I'm at it again. Familiar faces from 101 class are in my DJ 202 Scratching class taught by the acclaimed DJ Shortee, the most famous female DJ and scratch master (featured in the Hip Hop documentary movie Scratch). So far, it's great! Much easier for me to learn with specific drills that we do together and then sequentially.

Of course, to practice reliably I need a turntable and a good quality, scratch-worthy needle, like the Shure M477 or M44G. So this week I've been looking for a used Technics turntable and a mixer. Missed a few good deals on Craigslist last week, but finally a single, black Technics 1200 Mk2 in excellent condition showed up for a very good price. Even better, it included a good (albeit older model) Stanton Battle-mixer. Tonight, it's mine! Whohoo!

Now the tricky part... how to set it up properly.

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Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Tom Lehrer's "L-Y" on The Electric Company


One of my favorites.

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Saturday, September 29, 2007

Pen Spinning 102: The Thumbaround Harmonic


Pen Spinning (or Pen Twirling as we called it) was something many of the guys in debate team did while I was in High School in Texas. Or more accurately, we stuck to what seems to be now called the Thumbaround. (We had no such nomenclature for our useless habit.) Eventually, I would discover people could do all sorts of pen tricks, particularly my Asian friends.

It took lots of practice during Physics, Chemistry, and Debate classes, as well as the noise of countless pencils flinging across the room, hitting the floor, but I finally managed to do Thumbarounds. My colleagues and I on the Debate team would travel to other schools for competitions, and in between sets we'd watch people doing Thumbarounds. Me and one guy hypothesized that it might be possible, but highly unlikely, that one could do it in reverse. But we decided it was probably impossible to to go back and forth quickly.

Until one night. I was sitting with a table of debaters from another school. Suddenly, there it was! Forward, backward, forward, backward, around and around until he lost control and dropped it. A-ha! It was possible.

So back I went. I practiced and practiced until finally... I got it. Now, decades later, people where I work are impressed. Some of them can do the fancy Korean-style finger flips, but nobody can do the elusive Thumbaround Harmonic.

This is not to be confused with the Thumbaround Reverse (which I cannot do, though it's probably easier). That's where you start at standard position, then immediately spin the pen backwards. The Harmonic, done properly is NOT Thumbarounds followed by Reverses over and over -- that's too controlled, with catches in between. No, as described in this video, the fingering is very subtle squeezing such that the pen is kept in constant non-stop motion, no catches.

YouTube is a veritable training ground for Pen Spinning, so get out there* and study Pennastics.

* Has anyone noticed I keep ending blog posts with that phrase? Your homework is to count how many times and leave a comment. Seriously, I do not want to become a formulaic writer, like Cary did on the show Sex and the City.

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posted by Brian at 10:07 PM 0 comments links to this post

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

The Year 2000 as predicted in 1910


French artist Villenard painted these lovely images of what life might be like in the year 2000. I love this depiction of high tech education -- putting books into a hand-cranked mechanical grinder that converts them into audio-books for children to listen to.

via BoingBoing.

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posted by Brian at 9:30 AM 0 comments links to this post