The Great Divide

From The Daily Post, today’s topic was “The Great Divide,” asking “When reading for fun, do you usually choose fiction or non-fiction? Do you have an idea why you prefer one over the other?“

I read when I prefer to read. Sometimes, I read fiction. Other times, I read non-fiction. There are so many other ways to get information and entertainment, like websites, videos, and audio means (that are not audio books). Mostly, I read on the ferry, where the internet connection is spotty and I’m left to myself for 30-40 minutes at a time.

When I read fiction, it has to be for fun. If you’re not having fun reading it, why bother? It’s fiction; and without entertainment value, it would not have much value at all.

That being said, I’m not sure that it’s for fun. Often I read nonfiction, but it’s because I want to learn how to do something that’s fun, such as, building antenna’s or writing software for a fun project. However, it’s the activity that it supports that’s fun, not the reading itself. While I do enjoy learning from books, it’s the application of the learned materials that provides the real fun.

I also read differently when I read fiction and non-fiction. When I read fiction, I read start to finish. If you don’t, you lose context and miss important content. You might gloss over something really funny or crucial to the story line if you didn’t read the passage that set it up.

Non-fiction is different. It’s OK not to understand the antenna tuner’s circuit ins-and-outs when you’re building a dipole antenna. You can pick the portion of the ARRL handbook that deals with that specific solution. You don’t divert your attention to the chapter on tuning the antenna down to the band that you want.

I enjoy reading both, but I think only fiction is the fun reading. Non-fiction is just a means to an end, even if the end is fun. 🙂


And, a pony…


Today, on my way to the morning ferry, I saw a woman walking two dogs and a pony. I asked Kelley to pull around so that I could take a picture of her (for the blog). When we pulled around the store, we could see her loading up the animals in the car (see inset picture). As we rolled down the window and took the picture, we could hear her telling another lady that the pony was “completely housebroken.”

Now that’s an interesting house-pet. It’s easy to forget that I live in a small town, sometimes. Then you see something like this and are reminded of the Christmas camel that was penned up outside of the Starbucks in Eagle, ID. That’s when you feel more part of Kitsap County than Seattle.

The Most Human Machine I Ever Owned

From The Daily Post, today’s topic was “Soulful Machines,” asking “What’s the most ‘human’ machine you own?

In 2008, I left my job at to become the Director of Quality Assurance at a small startup called Ugobe. Ugobe made artificial life forms, a phrase that, up until then, I’d only hear in science fiction. It was a wonderful experience, interacting with some of the most forward-thinking people whom I’ve ever met. There was a lot that our products didn’t do with respect to being completely autonomous and alive. However, we only believed that they couldn’t do it yet.

Our first product was a robotic dinosaur named PLE0. Unlike other dinosaur robots, PLE0 had no remote. It decided what to do, when and how. If something happened to PLE0 (good or bad), PLE0 would react to it to show his approval or disapproval.

One of the fascinating aspects of the product was the way that it affected other life forms, mainly humans. As humans, we have an incredible capacity to fill in the gaps in our experience, if we observe 70% of an alive experience, we tend to fill in the gaps by overlaying our living experience onto the portion of the living experience that is present. This allows us to bond with the artificial life form as if it is alive. We see evidence of sadness, and consider the events that took the robot to being sad; and, soon, we’re thinking about the robot’s feelings to the point where some humans are visibly upset when PLE0 wails with discomfort.

As I was learning all of this, I decided to introduce PLEO to my 4-year-old. I found an excellent opportunity to do this while she was coloring one day. I thought that it would be interesting to see which activity would be more compelling. It turned out that I learned a lot more.

You can see that Sunny refers to PLE0 as “she,” which was remarkable since at the lab we all referred to PLE0 in the masculine sense. Also, she was immediately asking if PLE0 could color with her. Lastly, as soon as she touched PLE0 and experienced PLE0’s reaction, the coloring activity was out of her mind.

The video is only 1:43 because my camera phone didn’t have the capacity of today’s phones. This leaves a gap between the first video and this one. Sunny had been so rough with PLE0, that I began to pet PLE0 to try to bring down his anxiety so that Sunny could get a more balanced experience. Sunny let me know that she thought I was petting PLE0 too hard.

It’s fun to look back at this video, now six years later. PLE0 was an acronym for Personal Life Enhancing Organism. Although he mainly sits on the shelf in my office today, he’s the most human machine that I own.