Expect the Unexpected

Carl Sagan“Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known.”
― Carl Sagan (via Goodreads)

In sixth grade science students are still learning the basics of the scientific process, which in our curriculum involves six steps: problem, hypothesis, materials, procedure, data, conclusion. We really try to hammer home all these parts in sixth grade, so that in seventh and eighth they can begin designing their own experiments with control and experimental sets and carefully measured data.

When we start any lab we alway start with the problem, which is a question that the students hope be able to answer by the end of the lab. Then comes the hypothesis, which is the prediction (educated guess) to the question they’ve asked. We ask them to write down what they think is going to happen and why.

Later on during the conclusion portion students are usually asked to reflect back on their hypothesis and decide if they were right or not. Often times they feel that if they have gotten the hypothesis wrong then they have somehow failed the experiment, but this is totally backward. It is through the observation of the unexpected that scientific knowledge is advanced. If the experiment goes exactly according to plan and the hypothesis is totally correct, then we have learned nothing. It is only by observing what we don’t expect that we learn anything at all.

Of course the sad part is most people only see what they want to see, which is what they expect to see. When you expect the unexpected you may actually learn something new, so search for the unexpected, not only in the science lab, but in all aspects of life. Expect the unexpected.

Science experiments can be truly amazing! (by George Thomas on Flickr – CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

The Power of the Deadline

As a writer, one thing I need to stay productive is a deadline. The common meaning of deadline is a measure of the latest time a given project can be completed. Another less known meaning of deadline is an imaginary line drawn around a prison beyond which prisoners are likely to be shot. As a writer I find both types of deadline the most inspirational cattle prods available to force my words out into the world. I like to set my timer and draw a line around my computer. I ask my wife to shoot me if I venture past the line but apparently we don’t own a gun. Instead she shoots me with her evil eye, and I sit my ass back down and get back to work.

At first I was very good about posting things without a deadline, but now that summer vacation has begun I have lost all motivation to keep up with life. Not just writing, but all aspects of daily living. I can barely get out of bed in the morning to make coffee and use the bathroom, let alone sit at a keyboard and coordinate letters into the sequences necessary to impart meaning. I usually have to do some serious research just to figure out what day of the week it is. I have been quite busy writing, but I’m currently working on much longer pieces (a never-ending 90 page essay, a novel, my manifesto) that don’t really fit into this short form blog format. But I want to change this.

So in order to keep a consistent flow of words emanating from my keyboard I will be following this self imposed schedule of postings to keep myself moving forward. There may be additional posts if the muse slaps me with her lugubrious smooches of inspiration, but no guarantees. Please keep a look out for my posts, and feel free to shoot me should I wander past any of these deadlines.

  • Monday =====> some manner of fictional story
  • Wednesday ===>  rants and existential crises
  • Friday =======> DP weekly writing challenge  (or other writing exercise)
  • Sunday =======> DP weekly photo challenge (or other visual proof of the universe)

I love deadlines (by vapour trail on Flickr)

Letters to an Angry Beast


I took these photos at the Cal Academy of Sciences a few years back when they had a Climate Change exhibit. The above quote is from climate scientist Dr. Wallace S. Broecker. Here is a fuller quote:

The climate system is an angry beast and we are poking it with sticks,” said Dr. Wallace S. Broecker of Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, who was one of the first to raise the alarm about abrupt climate change. ”We don’t know whether it’s going to pay attention to the pokes. But if it does, it might rise up and do something we don’t like.” -via NY Times Archives

Screen shot 2014-04-26 at 6.01.22 AM In another part of the exhibit visitors were invited to write a small note, to share some idea that could possibly help slow down changes to our atmosphere and help to save the natural environment of our planet.

My personal favorite: Cut down on Homework. Homework kills trees. Probably written by one of my students. I also like Don’t waste paper by using these. 

I love the thought that some small idea from a fresh perspective can save us all. I always tell my students that they are our only hope. The nearsighted practices of the past have gotten us into this mess, and now it’s up to you. What will you do to help save the world?

DP Weekly Photo Challenge: Letters

The Package

What we have here is a failure to communicate.” –Cool Hand Luke (1967)

How can two people communicate when the word one says means something different than the word another hears? We take these things for granted, the fact that we are all speaking the same language, but just because we can use the same words doesn’t mean we are really communicating. We package our ideas into words and send them across space to other people, hoping that when they unwrap the present they will see what we intended them to see. But we all package and unwrap our ideas a little differently, and we all find something a little bit different inside the package when we open it. I send you an orange across space, and you peel the layers away to reveal the sweet fruit inside, and instead you discover a lemon.

So what is really inside the package?

Package! (by lemonhalf on Flickr)

Upon Closer Inspection

A DP Weekly Photo Challenge: Perspective

These medusoid euphorbias aren’t as striking as some of the colorful flowers and succulents planted around the Ruth Bancroft Garden. But if you take a closer look and really pay attention to the details, your opinion might be changed.

“We can complain because rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice because thorn bushes have roses.” ― Abraham Lincoln (via Goodreads)