Day 75: Two Scientists, Three Musicians, and Magic

I find Russ relaxing under a redwood tree. He looks pretty good for someone who was in a plane crash this morning.

During low-speed taxi (safely on the ground), his plane hit an airport vehicle, wrecking the nosewheel and causing some other damage. To the passengers, it felt like a crunchy mellow brake malfunction. They were all moved onto an undamaged plane.

Russ resisted the temptation to inflate his life vest, but just barely.

Now Russ and I are standing outside an unmarked building in the technology core of Sunnyvale. After a few minutes, we’re joined by Dave and two other musicians, and we head inside.

It’s time for a little magic.

Once we’re past the security mechanism, we’re met by ████, who is the CTO of an organization called ███ ███████. We’ve got questions for him about devices to read EEG (brain signals) and do some analysis on them in real-time.

He brings us into his office, which is filled with circuit boards, cables, open-case computers which are running, and even a █████ ████, which we probably weren’t supposed to see. There are prototypes on the desk and on the floor. This is my kind of CTO.

The conversation is fascinating, going from developments in the 1930’s to current commonplace technology, and even his visions of far-future advances where hardware won’t be needed at all. And he’s serious. And I think he might be right.

Russ puts the device on. We can see a graph of his tension level, his eye movement, and some jumpy indications of how likely he is to start swearing at us. He tries to control one of the graphs.

We each take a turn. I try to control one of the graph lines , trying to settle it all the way to zero. Russ was able to do this, but it’s not easy. Finally, out of whimsical curiosity, I try thinking of a particular image. The graph sinks to the bottom and stays there. As long as I hold this picture in my mind, I’ve got perfect control and the needle never moves.

What’s the picture? I’m not telling. Besides, it probably won’t work for anyone else. Now that I know, though, I’m going to try using it in everyday life to do… well I don’t know what. Maybe that’ll become clear.

After our excellent meeting, we talk about plans over some Thai food.


Somehow, music fits into everything we’ve seen this morning. Dave knows how.

During lunch, we notice a local gym has set up an information table.

I’m sure they’ve got the word “sis” on a little sign somewhere.
They should probably find it pretty quick.

It’s Wednesday, so flying trapeze is next. (You can see more trapeze details here.)


…and this blurry object is Charles, showing off trampoline superpowers. The non-blurry object is Kelsey.

DSCN1397 DSCN1398

Random assertion: Any plane crash you can walk away from is definitely a good one.

Steganographic data: 1824/1.2

Published in: on August 3, 2008 at 9:23 am  Leave a Comment  
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Day 18: Libraries and Crude Humor

I keep waiting for crappy weather to get some of my computer-related projects done, but that’s clearly never going to happen. Perils of living in California.

If you’re looking for a comfortable place to work on secret plans, with a nice bright private desk and a good internet connection, it’s hard to beat the San Francisco Library.

If you could get a cup of coffee here, it’d be a little too perfect. (I just found the café downstairs.)

You can stay as long as you like (8am-9pm), and get personal help finding any information you’re looking for. They also have movies on DVD, and free online access to the very cool Rosetta Stone language program.

After reading some sci-fi and working on SP159 in the library, I walked over to Yerba Buena Gardens.

The SF Museum of Modern Art is fantastic, but I’ll visit it tomorrow.

Today, I went into the Metreon to see the Harold & Kumar movie.

  • (You’re joking.) Nope.
  • (Was it vulgar and offensive?) Of course.
  • (Was it funny?) Very.
  • (Better than the first one?) No, but that’s a pretty high bar.

On the way home, I got a call from my muse. She was heading for another inventors+investors=sparks party. I swear Christine is going to be personally responsible for more advances in technology than anyone can count.

I headed over, and got the opportunity to talk to a bunch of smart fun people, including the folks who run the excellent Instructables site. I left a little early, to go to an ultra-secret late-night art class.

Random assertion: To scientists who feel awkward listening to gospel music: Relax, enjoy it, and sing along. The music and messages are beautiful. Are there complexities in nature which inspire a sense of awe and beauty for you? That’s what the songs are about, really.

Steganographic data: 1862/5.8

Published in: on June 4, 2008 at 10:55 am  Leave a Comment  
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Day 3: Good friends with special skills

Was contacted by Erick “flying is my day job, but the other stuff I do is even cooler” Methot. Friends in Ixtapa need a flying trapeze catcher for the week. Alas, being “on call” for work means no leaving the country for me. Maybe next time. Erick does a brilliant Austin Powers impression, baby.

Science: Mom and Dad had joined forces to write for three different biotech training grants, and today they were awarded all three. That’ll create a lot of future scientists. That’s something my folks do well.

This post is going to be a little too long (I swear tomorrow will be short), but there are things you need to know about.

Today I went back to the place I met my muse. I go there to get my ass kicked about once a week. For almost fifteen years, here’s where I’ve been going after work for acrobat training:

The location’s not secret (755 Frederick St.) but most people never notice the building. It’s one of those places you just don’t see unless you know to look for it.

Here’s what it looks like on the inside:

Dominic is hanging by his feet, almost 30 feet in the air. He’ll zip toward the ground head first, stopping suddenly just above it.

. .

On his first attempt today, the strap burned right through his glove. Tomorrow he’s going to try another material for the gloves. Where would you use this move? It’s a tall city. Where wouldn’t you use it?

Master Lu Yi and Sam Payne

Sam is a smooth one. I’ve seen him use tango to captivate a lovely woman, without either of them touching the floor. That doesn’t work for everyone.

Master trainer Lu Yi is respected worldwide, and very charming. If you train under him, he will find your weaknesses, and then he’ll pound on them until they are your strengths. Need to learn levitation, vanishing, or telekinesis? Lu Yi can teach you this and more, if you’re dedicated and unafraid. Over the years I’ve watched kids who train with him grow up to be young adults with startling superpowers, each unique.

Master Lu Yi with a student

After acro, I got punched by a standup comedian I work with. (adult content warning for this link) In the evening, I was planning to go to Berkeley for some special skills training, but had to postpone so went to see Goldfinger at the Castro instead.

Random assertion: If you think you don’t know any serious acrobats, you’re probably wrong. They don’t always talk about it.

Lesson taught: These things are going on around us every day, but you won’t see them unless you’re looking.

Steganographic data: 1890/7.0