One of us on a Tricycle

Yes, in the early days of my life, I recall we got a tricycle for a  birthday or Christmas present.  It was a present that we often had to share, all three of us.  We actually didn’t mind sharing presents, it saved our parents looking stupid for buying 3 identical, or different coloured presents, and it also saved them the hassle of fights due to buying different presents, which would always be compared in fine detail to determine exactly who of the three of us were being favoured.

The metal tricycle we got, was pretty ok.  Usually only two of the three of us wanted to play with it at anyone time, and with three, you could have 3 variations on a theme of two people on a bike at anyone time.  The other resting in between turns and laughing like hell about how awkward the other two would look.

But pure serenity, when the other two were off somewhere, and you could take full command of the tricycle for yourself, your own bell, your own destination, and your own time.  Of course, this led to higher risk elements, and no one holding you back with criticism.  You could wander off into the bush, on a bumpy bush track and try not to crash too hard, with a bell to compete with the galahs hanging around in the trees, and the flies, and lizards wandering in and out of view. The three wheels were ok going slow, but instability increased with speed, resulting inevitably in cuts and scrapes and blood and slight bruising, which of course you would pretend did not happen.

Eventually tired and most probably sore, you would just sit, and listen, leaning on the handlebars, waiting to get your breath back, not talking, just listening, and soon more wondering at the bush around you.   The quiet of the bush on entry would start to give way to more and more sound as the pain gave way, as though your hearing were amplified.  Each chirp or rush of wings, or screech of a cockatoo would impinge on the waiting mind, and become more random, more a total soundscape.

After a while you realised, that the chaos of the Australian bush is not something the eye fathom’s real well.  However the ear is perfect.  Stereo listening with eyes closed gives you the panorama of life and what is happening.  If the wind shifts, so does the sound.  If the light shifts, so does the sound.  You wonder what happens when it all goes silent, and you open your eyes, and blink, looking around to see who or what happened, and even what will happen, as though the bush life can sense something coming, like an earth tremor, or like a storm, or some change in the weather

But you would be sitting on the bike, as if to own it, and to prove to the natural world around that you, man, machine, were one, and ready to hike off back home at any point in time. Ready to return to the world of compromise and cooperation and sharing and scrapes.

Close your eyes. Longer than a minute, and listen to what is happening around you. It will inform you of a reality far beyond sight, which is much better suited for other things, like riding a tricycle.

Note:  The sculpture featured in this post is by Stephen Gregory.  If you happen to be near Goodwood UK you can visit the Cass sculpture park and talk to the all hearing tricycle rider sitting there, who itself is trying to fathom by listening, just what is going on.


The Internet : A Terrestrial Climate Controller ?

Global warming is a result of a set of complex feedback systems on a planetary scale. The earth has an extraordinary number in of feedback mechanisms and energy transfer systems that tend to balance energy storage worldwide, both in terms of oceanic heat, atmospheric heat and the heat in the more solid components of the earth.  It is a relatively closed system with not much coming in and out except perhaps energy from the sun, black body radiation to space.

Models have been developed to simulate and forecast the rise of the heat capacity and temperature of the earth and it’s systems, and the local effects on sea level, and great work of many scientists is starting to reveal the uncomfortable truth that the globe is warming, and we, humans might just be associated with it’s cause. What science now tells us is that global warming is big in scale and has time factors relating to centuries, or many generations, rather than one or even a fraction of a generation.

Let’s say we readers and all few billions of us on the planet know, that we have a causal relationship to the rate of warming, and that as the planet warms further, our children are likely to suffer on mass as a result.

This knowledge is enough for us to be concerned, but not enough to change our behaviour.  Our evolution is not that way inclined.  We tend to change behaviour based on experience, and generally only if we believe a change in behaviour results in a fairly immediate observable impact on our lives and the lives of those around us.

Global warming is big, its’ long term, and for human endeavour to try to change the outcome for the better, we would all need to act.  All people, towns, cities, states, countries, regions.

We have seen that classic governmental lines of control do not cause massive coordinated change in human behaviour worldwide.  However we have also seen that social networking is universal, carried by the internet, and does provide some means of at least coordinating thought in the right direction.

We have seen evidence of global coordination with the rise of ‘earth hour’ which now travels around the planet, country by country, one day a year to promote reduction of power.  The internet allows for this kind of coordination and action, whereby people can get some kind of feedback related to their behaviour.

Is it possible then, that with global internet availability, that this provides people with an opportunity to coordinate globally in terms of global requirements and resolutions.  That the internet would provide at least a mechanism to allow like minded people to gather global support for a particular urgent behaviour.

There is a new campaign to make an immediate behavioural change in Australia, for a carbon tax.  This is sponsored by a #sayyes campaign also as a tag on twitter.  It remains to be seen whether it can get enough steam to cause a revolution, but it is on the Internet, and anyone, Australian or otherwise could have a say.

Innovation 7 – Miles on Fire as Engineering

It was April 1988.  I was working at Costec in Sydney at the time, a company then designing and making custom simulators for the power industry focussed on the idea of it’s two founders. Each one different, using currently available technology, fit for purpose – to train operators, and difficult to create, hours of work, based on a simple idea.  Wonderful time that was.

My first inkling that there was that kind of special thing was when I went to a concert at the time, It was Miles Davis playing in Sydney.  One of two concerts I think.  I had heard some of his music before, but not much.  I had even bought some sheet music of his and tried to play it. Didn’t understand it.

At that concert, I did experience Miles Davis, and got to know him through his music and ways around the stage. The way he kind of orchestrated on the fly, getting through his ideas in such an innovative way, each time he played a number. Here was one of the most intense people I ever saw or met. Someone who seemed to have an idea, and then do his best to express it through the entire composition, components of which were his trumpet playing, others were his sidemen. Music has a quality that is free of language.  Music speaks straight into the mind of the listeners, his kind of music devoid of lyrics and words, it goes straight in, if you let it. I did.

So it has taken  about 25 years for me to figure out what it was I heard.  What I heard was the physical expression of a burning idea through music. I am sure that non of it that I heard would be repeatable, without the man at the centre of it.  Since it was not just about the music, it was also his attitude, stance, control, and direction of that idea, his total focus on it, in order to have his musicians play it the way he saw it.  There I saw a match and its consequent fire of an idea, a physical thing.  It is here now, and tomorrow it will be there as well, but it may be modified, discarded for a better one, developed. I could be better tomorrow, it could be irrelevant, but for sure, there is a strong will about that idea that has to get out.

Since that time, I have come to understand about innovation in a similar abstraction.

Take an idea and then think about how you would tell someone about that idea musically.  Would it be noise, a lone trumpet song, and orchestra playing, a symphonic movement, which one, first or last ? How solid is the idea.  If someone kicks it, will it last, will it just blow away in the wind ? How permanent is the idea or its expression.  How quick does it have to be made ? How long does it have to last ? What color is it ? How much of that color is in fashion ? When will it go out of fashion ?……

Would you care ?

Innovations are true to the idea, its clarity and purpose. They reflect the idea so that others can see it.  The innovation itself has a timeframe, a purpose and a reason. So engineering too, it full of innovation and surprise, resulting in physical things others can see and appreciate, for what they are worth, their repeatability, and value, and for how long they are around.

Ferodo and The Michaelangelo Teleporter

Leaf 1 – Kaosiung Taiwan

Ferodo was discussing the architecture of Michaelango with his friend Alynn.  They were actually in Kaosiung Taiwan for a conference on manufacturing.

At the end of the day it was now dark and raining out side, Alynn had wanted to go for a walk, but they caught the subway itself.  They had got off the train at R10, and while still in the subway had came accross the most beautiful stained glass dome.  It was massive and filled the whole station with light.  Alynn wandered off for a bit, and Ferodo was just thinking about the time.  Stained glass, all very well, but he was getting hungry.  He got distracted by one of the panels of blue with things that looked a bit like panels.

Ferodo tried to touch the glass overhead, he looked more and more carefully, and thought he could see the reflection of Alynn in the glass.  He really wasn’t sure why he had started thinking about Michaelangelo.  TS Elliot perhaps, the poet, that was probably it. “In the room the women come and go. Talking of Michelangelo. The yellow fog that rubs its 

He suddenly relaxed, but felt a rush of energy and then all of a sudden, he was inside the glass, all colors of the rainbow, but like a yellow fog of Ferodo, all mixed up in the glass but moving through it, like the eastern current of “Finding Nemo” he thought… hey dudes.. I got to get off !.  As he travelled through it was like he could get off at many stops, there were fast moving tributaries of glass of different colours.  It was hot and his misty body was feeling more like a thought than a reality.

As he travelled, he saw his watch going backward, the digits counting backward at reasonable speed, like about 1 hour per second. and the glass, originally bathed in the light of the subway became dark, and then gradually brighter and brighter, like the sun was just shining through the colored walls of it all.

The character of the glass changed from being like a long transporting tube, to a more flat space with Roman Numerals scattered around like a dial of some kind. He could see more and more through it and sped toward a large yellow disk in the centre of the dial.

He crashed through the glass disk and his misty self suddenly recoalesced into a different place. He was on the floor of a large vestibule where a tour group were.  Mostly women.  He looked up and could make out a large dome, with a disk of stained glass at the top.  It was he felt sure the disk he had just crashed through, but was complete and whole, with a collection of maybe planetary bodies on it’s outer rim.

Well for a start Alynn was not there.  He looked around, calling out.  The noise of the evening railway station was gone, replaced by chattering tourists in the classroom. The people were speaking Italian, and a choir was singing what sounded like hymns to a large organ sound filling the space. Alynn wandered in asking, “would you like to go to a small cafe, not far from here” she said.  “It’s on the via Nazionale, just down the road.”

Leaf 2 – Roma Italy and the fixed Teleporter

Ferodo looked up at the skylight above, all round like a portal, and felt the cold hard floor he was sitting on, with women all around, stopped in their reverie of the amazing paintings and colors all over the walls, who quickly rushed to his help.  Alynn, kind of got pushed back out of the way, and the others helped Ferodo to his feet, speaking Italian, and all concerned.

Alynn pushed through the crowd inside and grabbed Ferodo.  She said “Look you’ll be fine !, same thing happened to me just before you.  Let’s go.” She dragged Ferodo outside, in the sunshine, none of this looked familiar to him, he certainly was not in Taiwan, where he was a few minutes ago.  The bright sun shone down and it appeared to be late morning.  He looked back at the door he had just come through and looked up at what appeared to be a fairly modern facade in an ancient building.

Alynn stopped, “look she said, we’re in Roma, lovely Rome, and we just arrived on the Michaelangelo Teleporter, it’s been there a few years, since the skylight was put in.  The same artist for the Kaohsiung subway light dome, and this Roman church skylight, I think that is the connection, was involved.  Michaelangelo designed the church, but originally it was the Diocletian baths.  Now it is the bassilica, St Mary, Angels and Martyrs.  Come on, lets go”.

This was all happening pretty fast, but then life was like that.  A door opened, a portal opened, what was the difference. Only about 6000 miles.  But it looked like time and date were the same, it was Monday morning instead of Monday evening. Now he was in sunny Rome instead of darkening Kaohsiung.

The new question, should he come, or go.  He had come, but he didn’t choose to come, did he ? Could he go back ?