Aesthetics of Everywhere

The urban scene, its people and processes. Based in DC.

Everyday Lessons Learned: January 2011

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It’s true: You learn something new every day. I’m starting a running list of one or two things I learn each day in 2011. Here’s the summary of what I learned each day in January. It’s a long list… click on to see the rest after the first week.

1: Learned what a body roll is (in dance, not automobiles). Also, all real bellydancers should have a belly.

2: I wrote 60 new posts in 2010 and my top ten most popular blog posts of last year were:

Thanks, WordPress stats!

3: Galaxy Hut is a sweet spot in Arlington with a cool (non-bro) crowd and an even cooler beer list. Or, as my friend Hyunoo summed up: I learned that beer is still good.

4: Urban scaling is an alternative way to rank cities – perhaps some of our larger cities are not unusual cases after all. According to this kind of analysis, NYC could be perfectly “normal” for a city of its size.

5: People do a wide range of research projects under the Fulbright Program, including research on topics like fashion. Browsing through some of the project topics is great.

6: Local music appeals to me because of the connections you make with people based on a mutual passion for music and community-building. Writing a nice letter to a stranger can make their day, and a reminder that a friend of a friend isn’t such a stranger after all.

7: Learned what a cassoulet is. “Each bean tastes like it was read a bedtime story.” I also read up on West Timor (the Indonesian part of Timor) and the Indian Ocean earthquake disaster of 2004, which devastated Indonesia.

8: From Kluge: “Evolutionary inertia” is a term that Gary Marcus uses to describe human evolution. He posits that forms do not exist in their current state because they are the most optimal, but rather that evolution simply works upon what is already in existence. Kind of like being stuck on a lower peak in a mountain range.

9: There was a toxic mud spill from a gas well in a town near Surabaya, Indonesia that began in May 2006. It’s known as the Sidoarjo mud flow, or “Lusi” to locals. An Australian company, Santos, was named a source of this toxic mud spill and the event has displaced thousands of residents. The mud flow hasn’t stopped yet, and is predicted to last 30 years.

10: Social media is becoming widely popular and effective for connecting at conventions and expos. Take Twitter and Foursquare as important channels here. Since so many are attending for the purposes of learning, networking, and collaborating, it just makes sense to add another way to smooth the act of connecting with people.

11: The 90-9-1 principle of participation inequality, by Jakob Nielsen, as applied to blogs or wikis.

12: Most blogs won’t generate comments right off the bat. It’s important to stick with it, and it’s exactly this lack of stick-with-it-ness that causes the demise of most new blogs. Heck, less than half of my blog posts don’t get comments, but I know people are reading so I’ll be sticking around. (Testing this: If you do read this post, comment with one thing you learned recently!)

13: The pawpaw tree, of the family Annonaceae, is a tree bearing the largest indigenous fruit in North America.

14: A rostrum is not as dirty as it sounds. It’s the protruding mouthpart of some insects and probably other animals. Learned the difference between a trademark and a copyright.

15: Learned to play the board game Ticket to Ride. Fun stuff! I got 3rd place (of five).

NOMAD X-Ray Machine (or, as I call it, the dentist raygun)16: Never knew what this weird raygun-like machine was called though my dentist would use it sometimes. Presenting the NOMAD handheld X-ray system. Here are some accounts of its uses for humanitarian uses. It’s probably really tough to take a photo of someone with an X-ray machine in their mouth, judging by the number of awkward photos of the machine in-use on the website.

17: A proof-of-concept (PoC) is used in software development to prove the economic viability of a new software product undertaking before proceeding. Building a PoC is a process that involves comprehensive research and a fairly large amount of effort at an early stage, but aids later understanding and direction. Also learned that a roux is a mixture of butter and flour that serves as a base to thicken sauces. For makin’ awesome macaroni and cheese sauce, for example.

18: Apache web server software. It’s probably at least a bit embarrassing that I consider myself a web geek and had no idea what Apache was. It’s the most popular HTTP server software with about 60% market share (as of late 2010).

19: “‘Overhead’ is a familiar technical term in newspaper work. It describes a report flashed to a newspaper directly by commercial telegraph instead of through the regular channels of a wire service.” (HT: Futility Closet) Also, another thing that’s quite interesting is that in some places in Africa (such as in Kenya), the mobile payment system M-PESA is widely helping the people make instantaneous payments and transfers with little need for a bank. NPR coins it a “mobile money revolution.

20: Limited fixed Internet access means a dominant mobile Internet market: in India, for example, almost 90% of all Internet users accessed the Internet through mobile devices. (Juniper Research)

21: Two new words:
Sconce: light fixture attached to the wall.
Charette: from the French word for the cart that would transport architecture students. Often, when an assignment was due to the professor, students would be working right up to deadline even while riding en charette in the cart that brought them to school. Being “en charette” in the architecture industry means you’re in that intense period close to deadline.

22: The steps to the illusion (don’t call it “magic”) in a slight of hand trick include these seven principles described by Penn & Teller:

Palm – To hold an object in an apparently empty hand.
Ditch – To secretly dispose of an unneeded object.
Steal – To secretly obtain a needed object.
Load – To secretly move an object to where it is needed.
Simulation – To give the impression that something has happened that has not.
Misdirection – To lead attention away from a secret move.
Switch – To secretly exchange one object for another.

23: Just random bits about gambling and working a registration desk. Not too much that day.

24: Thanks to my general health and youth, I can still work for 14 hours on my feet. Afterwards, however, I’m too tired to do so much as hold a conversation.

25: Conference parties (probably most big parties and nightclubs) are 10x more fun when you take time to walk around a few times and meet new people… it’s not to say that there’s no value in long conversations with one person or group, but the loud music makes it difficult to hold a conversation anyway.

26: The “GmbH” after German company names is similar to the “Inc.” (incorporated) after American company names. What it stands for is very long and sounds really fun when spoken: Gesellschaft mit beschränkter Haftung. My friend from Cologne pronounced it for me, but I still don’t have it down. Also learned how to play craps! If you’re in Vegas, 3$ craps tables make Casino Royale a good place to learn.

27: By the way voting’s been going, Sudan is on the path to splitting relatively soon into north and south. There are likely to be issues around resources, of course, between the landlocked yet oil-rich southern Sudan and the northern part of the country, which has better access. Not sure what will happen around the contentious Abyei region nestled on the currently projected north and south dividing line.

28: United Airlines has stopped serving any free food on flights. Taking a four-hour flight with them apparently doesn’t even earn you a mini bag of mini-pretzels. Bummer.

29: Greenpeace owns a few ships that they use for awareness-raising campaigns, bearing witness to environmental destruction, and conducting research. We visited one of them, the Arctic Sunrise, while it was stationed in Philadelphia’s Penn’s Landing harbor on its “Coal Free Future” Tour. The Arctic Sunrise is an ice-breaker, a type of ship meant to navigate through ice in the polar waters by breaking it with its specially-designed hull. The hull of this ship is smooth and egg-shaped, meaning when it meets ice it rises up onto it and then comes down, breaking it and directing the pieces away from the path of the ship. However, it also means that the ship gets thrown around a lot even when waters are fairly calm. The Arctic Sunrise is, for that reason, nicknamed “the washing machine.”

30: Pittsburgh is cool. Or so I hear from two people who moved there and are big fans of the city. They describe it as kind of a smaller version of Chicago, which motivates me to visit soon.

31: The oils in coffee beans are very volatile, which is why different techniques of coffee brewing (there are six) can make the same kinds of beans taste so different. I had never heard of vacuum brewing before – read about that here; it sounds ultra futuristic. Even as a committed coffee drinker, I’d only ever heard of drip coffee, French press, and Turkish brewing.

Whew, long post. Maybe I’ll do this summary weekly instead of monthly.

Written by Crystal Bae

January 31st, 2011 at 9:17 pm

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  1. [...] From one of my best friends (who is an amazing cook and the one who taught me what a roux is), I learned that there are five sauces known as the mother sauces in French [...]

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