Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Uncanny Valley

1. And today was fair, hot, even; I woke and my fingers were hot and dry to their own touch, like the skin of a stranger.” (Dillard, 260)
2. “I fingered the winter killed grass, looping it round the tip of my finger like hair, ruffling its tips with my palms.”(Dillard, 264)
3. “And like Billy Bray I go my way, and my left foot says ‘Glory,’ and my right foot says ‘Amen’: in and out of Shadow Creek, upstream and down, exultant, in a daze, dancing, to the twin silver trumpets of praise.”(Dillard, 271)

“Oh this is some delicious work”, “Look at that little butt of his don't you just want to eat it up?” Sounds strange right? Both of these statements my IB Literature teacher have said, it always felt weird when she would say it and I could never put my finger on it, but when we started reading “Pilgrim at Tinker Creek”(and when this blog was assigned) I decided to do some research on it.  So, it’s called the uncanny valley, and what it means is adjectives or verbs by themselves or with the normal object or subject  seem alright, but when lines start getting crossed everything can get pretty hairy pretty quick.
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Think of this, when you were younger you probably had a teddy bear, right? Think of your childhood teddy bear. Now put human teeth on him/her, it seemed weird didn't it. Dillard does a lot of this in her book “Pilgrim at Tinker Creek”. She describes things in her memoir with descriptions or words that shouldn’t apply to the subject/object that she is in the process of talking about. For example, in the last chapter of “Pilgrim at Tinker Creek” she is sitting on a grassy in the winter and reflecting on her time at tinker creek when she says, “I fingered the winter killed grass, looping it round the tip of my finger like hair, ruffling its tips with my palms.”(Dillard, 264) Now, I don’t know about you but “fingered” and grass don’t seem to go together nor does the word fingered sound very pleasant. This goes right below the line of human likeness and at the tip of the uncanny valley.

Contact with others, it can be one of the scariest things for some people. Now imagine waking up and when you fingers touch together, it felt like the skin of a stranger. Feels extremely uncomfortable, right? Dillard does this on a day in December in her book, she says, “And today was fair, hot, even; I woke and my fingers were hot and dry to their own touch, like the skin of a stranger.” (Dillard, 260) You can look at your skin and see that it’s yours, but touching it it’s someone else. Now this is one the things at the bottom of the valley.

Dillard is pulling us out of the valley, and ends the book on a very good note. “And like Billy Bray I go my way, and my left foot says ‘Glory,’ and my right foot says ‘Amen’: in and out of Shadow Creek, upstream and down, exultant, in a daze, dancing, to the twin silver trumpets of praise.”(Dillard, 271) This starts to get to the healthy human part. She says that she is walking and references the bible, I feel that this book took the uncanny valley "journey". In some chapters and in via negative areas, Dillard is very strange but I feel that she pulls it out and ends her "Godly" book on a very Godly note.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

The Sociology of Pencil Sharpeners

What is the best way to trim the core of a pencil so that we may be assured of the sharpest image of our intentions on paper? Pencil cores were made of lead, but even that has evolved over the years, due to the dangers of lead. Most pencils are made of graphite now, but the age old question of what to do to trim the middle of the instrument when it becomes too dull to function precisely remains. One thing is certain, it is not pleasant to write with an overly big point in your pencil. Not only does the finished product (i.e. paper) look less professional, but it can become smudged and actually dirty and unkempt. The desire for the sharpest detail has long since been the demand for these reasons. That brings us back to our original question: What is the most effective way to keep a sharp point on a pencil? It is constantly dulling with every mark made, so it is incumbent to have some type of sharpener available if any work at all is to be finished.

The earliest writing was called cuneiform It consisted of making specific marks in wet clay; these pictures were made using a reed implement. Reeds and sticks were used in sand, as well as writing with a person’s own finger. Knives, mostly makeshift, homemade knives, were the first tools used to produce a steady point on them.

History of Pencil Sharpener

Historians believe the pencil was invented in the 15th or 16th century. Whittling the wood away with a knife was widely used in the early years to bring the lead to a fine(like me) point. However, it took far too much time, and was very hard to match all sides of the pencil. It was evident, as pencils became used more and more, that a sharpener was needed to be more efficient. A mathematician from Paris, France, patented the first actual pencil sharpener. It was made of two small metal files encased in a block of wood. The files were held securely at ninety-degree angles to grind, or scrape, both the wood and the core of the pencil. This certainly proved to be less dangerous and saved many fingers; however, it was still a tedious task and still took time. Evidently people were so satisfied with the new instrument that little change was implemented until a full ten years had passed. Then, the next pencil sharpener was described in much the same way as the first, “ two sharp files neatly and firmly set together in right angles in a small block of rosewood.” Keep in mind they were hand-held appliances, that were portable and compact. Shavings could be housed inside the block of wood for neat removal, or could actually be peeled directly off into a trash receptacle for easy disposal. The size of the well inside for the waste was indeed limited, and was the greatest problem of these initial sharpeners. They wouldn’t hold enough; plus, still they took both hands to use. The results didn’t last long enough to warrant all the work involved. How can a sharpener of something as narrow as a pencil point be held in place and be made more convenient for the writer or mathematician? There must be a simpler way to get the job done.
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It would be the early 1900’s before the next breakthrough came. The writer would insert the pencil tip into a cylinder designed with two disks which revolved around their axis with one hand, while turning the handle with his other hand. A firm push gave a clean cut with the blades. This manual pencil sharpener had a vast space for pencil shavings and could be used many times daily, and emptied weekly in a typical schoolroom of twenty students. This was a delight for teachers. They became available and popular for home use at this time.

In 1910, the pencil sharpener was brought up to date again by using electricity. Nothing could be easier than plugging the machine into an electrical outlet and pressing the pencil slightly into the provided opening. The motorized cutters grind the core into finer shavings than the older more original knives were able to provide. These models provided huge areas for the leftover trash. They were sleek, like the times! Today, it seems we have come full circle; we are back to a slimline look, compact and portable. It is convenient to use battery-operated sharpeners, which only need the application of slight, steady pressure. They are lightweight and come in many fashionable colors, as does everything these days. 

A writer needs a point on his pencil as sharp as the point he’s trying to make in the article he’s writing! The mathematician, likewise, needs a point as precise as the decimal point in his work. One might say that the more prolific the artist is, the more necessary it becomes for him to STAY SHARP!

Sunday, March 5, 2017


“Knowledge gives us a sense of who we are.” To what extent is this true in the human sciences and one other area of knowledge?

Without knowledge, do we know anything? There is a village that is deep in the jungles of Africa, that is not privy to access information; therefore, they do not know some of the simple things, such as colors. They have six colors that describe every one of the 16.8 million colors. I know it may sound like a dumb question but, does this mean that they can only see six colors? If you cannot describe the colors do they even exist? How is it possible that there could be so many different shades, yet these people can only identify six? How do they account for the extra hues, or tints?

Human sciences are studies of society, rather than being on a personal level. They are considered a soft science compared to natural sciences. Human sciences deal with the mind and human interactions, such as economics, anthropology, or psychology; whereas, natural sciences deal with nature and the logical facts, (often called cold, hard facts because there is no disputing them), They basically tend to be proven with evidence, having more “backing.” The brain adjusts to what it sees, which is one reason people say “seeing is believing.” There may be a lot of truth in that, but how can you explain two people seeing the same accident and giving totally different scenarios of what happened, and in what order? I have often heard of people saying their eyes played tricks on them (meaning when they looked the second time, things didn’t seem to be what they thought.)
The battle of “who we are” is being fought between “materialistic” and “psychological” descriptions. According to Biology, a natural science, “a human being, or human, is any member of the mammalian species Homo sapiens, a group of ground-dwelling, tailless primates that are distributed worldwide and are characterized by bipedalism and the capacity for speech and language, with an erect body carriage that frees the hands for manipulating objects”(Source A). So by being described by the natural sciences, we are just cells that have clumped together and formed a tissue, which formed into an organ, then an organ system and so forth.  However, a sense of identity appears early on in life as the infant begins to separate themselves from their mother(through birth).
Human sciences, Psychology in particular, do attempt to answer questions about why and how people think, feel, and behave as they do. In a sense, they do attempt to give humans a ‘sense of how they behave, but it doesn’t really give us a sense of who we ‘are’. A sense of personality comes from being able to break the societal norms. When French philosopher Rene Descartes said, “I think, therefore I am,” in the early 1600s, he gave us our first look at the sense of identity or a sense of self. He clearly couldn't handle “doubt”, and came to find the only impossible thing to dispute is “I exist.”A certain culture of humans may have a sense of nationalistic or cultural identity; however, each individual is free and entitled to his own rights, opinions and being unrestricted in his thoughts. He is a product of his total sum.
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Debates such as this can go on forever. The question of “nature vs. nurture” comes to mind. While there seems to be plenty of evidence for both sides of the argument, when it comes right down to it, many points cannot be confirmed. Is a child more influenced by the DNA in his body (nature) or by his personal life experiences and childhood (nurture) that may be provided by adoptive parents who are presumably happy and loving? If a child is removed from his parents(such as criminals), early enough, would there be a greater chance of learning the correct behavior and an accepted way of life? The environment of a child’s youth would surely shape him in the right direction.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

The First Thanksgiving

Since Thanksgiving was this week, my immediate family and I were able to spend some extra time with our extended families. It is always nice to get together with our grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends to share a meal and conversations. This time of year brings about special, warm feelings of happiness and cheerfulness about the things we may feel like we have accomplished during the year. More important than feeling cheerful is feeling grateful.
In the book of Luke in the New King James Version of the Holy Bible, there is a story of Jesus healing ten lepers. In Chapter Seventeen, between the verses of eleven and nineteen, Luke describes how Jesus entered a village where some men when who had leprosy called out to Jesus. They asked for Jesus’ mercy on them, to heal them of the disease they carried. He did show them the power of his healing. Jesus sent them to the priests to declare that, indeed, they had been cleansed. It turns out that of the ten lepers, only one returned to Jesus to give his thanks for his healing. A leper was not able to live with his family, or they would be infected. He was not able to hold down a job, or even dwell in the village as a valued countryman. He was reduced to being a beggar on the street to feed himself. The gift Jesus gave in healing these sick men was a renewed lifestyle, as well as a renewed life pain free.
It would seem that the men would be very aware of the miracle of healing. When they were healed, their skin was restored to a healthy glow instead of the pasty white color they had known, covered with scabs and oozing sores. Most of the ill could only think of themselves, though. They mistakenly thought they had not needed anyone or anything else. How quickly they had forgotten what Jesus had done for them.

They had done nothing but ask Jesus for healing. It was by God’s grace and mercy that each one had received an outpouring of love (a gift offered to each one of us, if we only ask). It was ultimately very important, though, to give God the thanks and glory due Him for the undeserved, unexpected health awarded them. Jesus knew they should have fallen to their knees in thanksgiving and praise to God. He was probably saddened to see that most of them didn’t even think of it. The truth is, they thought only of themselves. Unfortunately, though they were healed that day, they were not saved with eternal salvation. It was the act of being truly thankful that saved the one leper who remained to give Jesus the praise He richly deserved. The other nine would go on to lose their lives, eventually.

Monday, November 7, 2016

"The possession of knowledge carries an ethical responsibility."

It is now the time to show political involvement, if you are over eighteen and are a legal citizen in these United States. Simply because we live here, we have a responsibility to our families, neighbors, and countrymen to place over vote for the candidate we consider best able to run our country. Before we are able to make a valid choice, though, we should take the time to get acquainted with the politicians running and the platforms they have put forth.

To paraphrase Luke 12:48 in the New King James Version of the Holy Bible, “For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required, and to whom much has been committed, of him they will ask the more.” While Luke was not one of the twelve disciples of Jesus Christ, it should be noted that he was a physician. He was a learned scholar. He was someone who had worked and studied to become a helper to others. He never personally knew Jesus. He became a follower after Christ’s death, when he met Paul and came to Christianity. It seems that according to Luke, not only do we have the responsibility to use our knowledge-but to take it a step further-that we have the responsibility to gain knowledge. It is no wonder Luke became a saint.
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Some people, for whatever reason, are not as fortunate in life as others. I believe that each person should help others in any way possible. I do believe that it is my duty to offer others any assistance that I am able to offer. To me, like Luke, I have an obligation to better myself by getting as much education as I can. Not only will I be helping myself, but my family, as well. I have been taught to help myself first; then, I can expect help from others. If I am putting forth the effort, I find that others are willing to extend their help. Often, after I try, I find I don’t need others to help, and the satisfaction feels very good. I would like to think that knowledge brings ethic along, but I’m afraid that is wishful thinking. At times, it is the most uneducated person that is most willing to give aid or shelter when needed. I want to be the person who has knowledge, and is using it for the good of others.

Sunday, October 23, 2016


To what extent does the presentation of the seller determine how much a consumer will purchase?

This morning as my brother and I were bemoaning the fact that we had to sell popcorn for the Boy Scouts today, I wondered if it really made a difference what we wore. I know it is policy to wear the scout uniform during council sales (such as popcorn or campcards). I had always assumed it was proof that we were selling popcorn that was designated by the Scout brand. I now know it is much more important than that.

When I got home today I went to the computer and did a little research in the Principles of Marketing book by Neeru Kapoor. I found that there are basically two types of motivations for buying products: rational, and emotional. Rational is reserved for any products that are deemed necessary, such as food, housing or clothing. Yes, there are emotional aspects to every purchase, such as what you want to buy to eat, or which house you like most, or which style of clothing to wear. However, an emotional motivation is clearly more complicated and more of an impulse type of transaction.

Certainly, I can appreciate that someone had rather deal with someone clean, instead of an unkempt slob. That was never the issue for us selling our popcorn, though. We have been taught to smile and greet each potential buyer with a warm, sincere smile and pleasant attitude. We’ve got that. Undoubtedly, there must be more. The flimsy idea that everyone likes to snack, or it's an indulgence didn’t satisfy my question of what attracts a consumer for a spur-of-the-moment grab. What entices a man or woman to spend his/her hard earned cash?

Presentation of a product could be as simple as giving a sample, or as lengthy as showing a demonstration. It may be a thought off the top of someone’s head, or an intense well-thought out plan. Different approaches are necessary, depending on the demographics of the sales area. The bottom line is that items such as coffee might be a hot seller in some areas, while iced coffee my be the biggest hit in others.

The strategy doesn’t have to be dramatic. To market the merchandise, there could be a gimmick that catches the eye of a consumer walking by the window of a shop. Having a seductive model to feign interest in a product can never hurt. The truth is, though, there are umpteen reasons for an emotional purchase. Influence could be caused by mood, activity, appetite or visual patterns. Sometimes, just being in the right place at the right time is the key. Imagine having a snack shop adjacent to the marijuana stores in Colorado.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

While Chase, Maria, and I were making our ways of knowing project, we were trying to find a way to promote audience participation. Maria had the thought, because she is really smart, to make origami birds with questions in them. This would accomplish asking questions and getting replied answers in a unique and fun way. It seemed to work because most everyone was participated, making it a game and heightening expectations. The birds randomized the order that everyone had to speak in. Afterwards, we showed a silent movie clip that was watched. I think it worked successfully, because most spoke about the subject, giving input on his individual feelings.

The TED talk started off good at the beginning, but appeared to drag on too long a little while inside.Some people began to get bored with it, and lost interest. I suggest that if we split the TED talk into pieces, and put them at different parts in the presentation, we could have worked more diligently(rather than sitting for 25 min). I am convinced getting back up to teach prolonged our talk and everyone lost interest and zoned us out; by that time most were bored and tired of listening to us. The class would certainly be more attentive if it were broken up better, and not drug out so long. We sort of lost the class’s attention at the end.

I wish we could have found some games to go along with emotion but that is kinda hard to do especially since everyone has different feelings toward the same thing based upon their previous experiences. The games that memory did was different and gave everyone a chance to get up and use their minds rather than sitting and listening to the entire class.

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There was actually nothing that I thought we should drop, but I do feel that we should have reorganized areas. I understand looking back on it that we could have positioned sections in different parts of the presentation to get a better feed back for it.

As far as a teacher standpoint goes, I teach every Monday night at Boy Scouts and each time I take away something that I can change and do better for the next time.I have learned a lot by watching my scouts to see how much they are absorbing what I am trying to teach them. If they are not responding correctly to me, I know I am doing something wrong and need to change my teaching technique. A teacher can surely tell when his teaching falls flat. A teacher learns best from his students.