Category Archives: Dreams

The Staggering Tale Of The Armadillo’s Evolution

Trust Your Instincts

Once there was this little armadillo. He had separated from his tribe, and was starting to get a bit worried. He wasn’t old enough to be out by himself after dark, but he was old enough to start feeling a little frustrated and anxious whenever his parents started to boss him around. So while he was getting a bit concerned, part of him kind of secretly relished the idea of facing the elements on his own for the night. He was an armadillo, after all, and I’m sure you know what that means.

Many people aren’t aware that armadillos tend to be loners, and not hang out in packs. They don’t hunt in packs, as they prefer to scavenge alone for various ground dwelling animals, like squirrels and small rabbits. Occasionally an armadillo will survive on only insects, but it much prefers the meaty taste of a ground squirrel, or even a house. (Although mice are the hardest to catch. They seem to have a sixth sense that keeps him just out of reach of the armadillo).

It wasn’t always like that. Back during the heyday of the armadillos’ evolutionary period, it had several different iterations of itself. For a while it was even capable of short flights, up to a hundred meters on occasion. But Mother Nature soon corrected herself, as the flying armadillo didn’t really have any advantage, from a hunter-gatherer standpoint. It was more of a passing fad than anything else.

But our hero of this particular tale was heading due east, away from the setting sun. This had been programmed into the animal’s instincts by Mother Nature herself, as it just made it easier to forage for food. They started out with the sun at their backs, and scavenged around until the sun hit its apex. When the sun was in front of them, they merely turned and headed back the other direction.

This, incidentally, why armadillos only live in areas near the equator. There used to be quite a large armadillo population in the north, but due to the angle of the rising and setting sun, they never quite headed back at the end of the day to the same spot. So for a while, armadillos seemed to migrate in huge arcs across the northern plains, but that was merely due to the structure of their environment. If you happened to build yourself a time machine, as well as a human armadillo communication device, you would likely find that the armadillos didn’t really have any idea what was going on. They just knew that when they went home every single night, somebody had moved their house. So every night they would have to build a new one, only to find the same thing happen the next day.

(Altough, one would tend to wonder why you should build such a device if you had the technology to do so. You may be better of curing cancer or something, rather than going into the past and interviewing armadillos)

So it makes perfect sense as to why this particular species of northern armadillo didn’t survive.

Back to our story.

So as this young armadillo was following his ever-lengthening shadow, he started seeing thing moving about him that he’d never seen before. These small creatures that looked like mice, but they could fly. And they flew in a strange pattern. They didn’t fly in straight lines like insects; they kind of fluttered about as if they couldn’t see where they were going.

He figured if they couldn’t see where they were going, it would be pretty easy to eat them. So he crept a couple of low flying ones that were close by, and just as he stretched out his mouth, they shrieked this really high-pitched screech, and fluttered out of the way.

Try as he might, and despite getting very close to these strange creatures, he couldn’t sink his jaws into them. It was maidenly frustrating.

Then he heard the voice from behind him:

“Young hunter. You will need to determine more stealth to catch your prey. Despite their seeming ineptness, those creatures are equipped with a guidance system much different than yours. If you want to catch them, you must enter their world. You must learn to see in the dark, and respond to sound, and not sight.”

He turned around, and saw just the faint shadow of whatever creature had spoken to him slither off into the darkness.

He turned, and watched all these delicious fluttering entities that so far had proved to be just out of his reach.

Darkness.

The armadillo closed his eyes, and began to listen for the creatures. He heard cacophony he’d never imagined before. The fluttering of their wings, the insects under his feet, the breeze through the cacti. Suddenly, instinctively, he leapt into the air, and sunk his deeply into a fluttering creature of the night.

It was delicious.

The lost armadillo of the day, whose ancestors had followed the sun in circles across the northern plains, was now a hunter of the night.

Wait Your Turn

Outside!

So there I was, waiting for my name to be called. She came out of the small room, reading off several names from a list. Not yet. I looked around the room, nervous people, some chatting some staring blankly off into space. Some studying the backs of their fingernails with feigned interest.

Twenty minutes passed. She came out again, read off another handful of names, then she looked at me, and nodded. It was time.

Sometimes, when I was a kid, I would ride my bike down to the beach to go body surfing. During the summer, the weather was hot, and the water was warm, so I enjoyed it just as much when there weren’t any waves as when there were. Sometimes I just enjoyed floating, letting the slow in and out of the tide move my body about. Every once in a while I would hear somebody say “outside set,” which meant that not the current set of waves, but the next one coming looked to be pretty decent.

Of course, a decent wave to a fourth grader on summer vacation means something completely different than what you may think of as a decent set of waves.

There is an interesting phenomenon regarding wave interference patterns when studying light. There is a famous double slit experiment, where they take a piece of material, and then put two small slits in a certain distance apart. Then they shine some light through on the other side of the slit, and measure the interference pattern on the other side with a special photographic plate. Because light travels in waves (sometimes) when it shows up on the other side, there will be peaks and troughs. The peaks are where the crests of waves coming through slot A line up with the peaks coming through from slot B. The troughs are where the lowest points from A overlap with B. The blank spaces in between are when a peak coming through slot A meets up with a trough from slot B, and they cancel each other out.

You can see this for yourself, by holding up your forefinger and thumb. If you hold you forefinger and thumb as close to your eye as possible, and then look through the space between them at a light source, as you bring your two fingers together, you can see the interference pattern start to form just before your fingers touch. You’ll see a small, but distinct pattern of darker and lighter “lines” between your fingers.

They say that physics is only makes sense because we see it over and over again, on a regular basis. Those that study quantum physics, or particle physics, knows that it follows a set of rules that is completely different than the rules we are used to in the macro world.

Not exactly.

There is the thing called the “correspondence principle,” and basically says that the laws of physics are the same for huge bodies, like planets, people, and trucks, as they are for tiny bodies like neutrons and photons, it’s just that the laws are specific to the condition.

Like the speed limit on the highway is 75 miles per hour, but through the small town is 35 miles per hour. They both still fall under the same speed limit law, but the law specifies different behaviors based on the environment.

But when I bought a boogie board, everything changed. Instead of swimming furiously to get to a wave that would only carry my poor body surfing skills so far, I could paddle out a lot quicker, and ride a lot longer. Simply by adding a simple tool to my pastime, I was able to get much more enjoyment, with much less effort. The only thing that became difficult was getting out through the waves as they were coming in. Before, as only a body surfer, I could simply duck under the wave and wait for it to pass over me. But with my boogie board, it became difficult. Many times I would paddle directly at the oncoming wave, only to get knocked back further than where I originally started.

Before, when I was body surfing, and I looked out at the waves coming in, and I wanted to get to a spot out beyond them, I didn’t give the waves a second thought. I just ducked under the water and let them pass over me.

But with my new toy, that made surfing a lot more fun, sometimes it was a hassle. How what used to be nothing more than some simple waves became a complex issue of timing. I had to wait until the waves were just right before I had a chance to paddle out beyond them, and wait until the new set came in.

Until my friend told me the secret. Get this thing called a leash, and attach one end to the boogie board, and the other end to your wrist. Then you could duck under the waves like before, you just had to sometimes fling your board up in the air before you did so.

Kind of like a tool added to a tool to make the tool more useful. With that added skill, boogie boarding was a breeze. And instead of floating just by myself, I could sometimes even pull myself up, lay on my back and stare up at the blue sky as the waves tossed me about.

When she finally called my name, I was about to fall asleep. I went into the small room, and I was surprised to see that it was just like the big room, only smaller. They had magazines, a couple of tables, and one of those bottled water fountains.

Then I had to wait there for another twenty minutes or so, but that is another story.

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The Mountain Man’s Secret

The Fish

Once there was this guy who lived up in the mountains. Through a particularly strange string of events, he’d found himself with quite a bit of money, enough to quit his job for good. At first he spent time traveling around, and learning about different cultures, a few languages here and there. But when the thrill had worn off, he longed for place to spend the rest of his days in quite solitude. On thing he learned about himself was that he rather enjoyed being by himself, and could spend hours just sitting and gazing out at a peaceful meadow or countryside farm.

So he spent time searching for the right place, until he stumbled on this area in a semi rural mountainous area. He bought several hundred acres, after making sure there was sufficient water, and electricity wouldn’t be a problem. He had to contract with some construction engineers to get his electricity and phone lines wired in, but that wasn’t much of a worry.

After everything was built and set up, he had himself a nice cabin that was right on the edge of a large meadow, with a rather large stream running through the middle of it, and a fairly dense forest. Traveling through the meadow, it would become more and more flat after a few miles, and then open up into a large valley, which channeled down to meet the main highway. The road came only part way to the valley, after that there was access only by off road vehicle.

He’d gotten specific permits from the county planning office, and surprisingly had to sign several legal release forms, as for a good part of the winter, his cabin would become completely inaccessible, except by helicopter. That was why he chose to build his cabin on the border between the meadow and the woods.

Should a particular emergency arise, it was still feasible to get to his place by helicopter, even in the deepest snow of winter. But just a mile or so into the woods, he would be completely cut off for until the spring thaw. While he liked the outdoors, and enjoyed being alone for long stretches of time, not having access to emergency medical aid was not something he wanted to worry about.

During the other months, getting from his cabin to the main road through the valley below took a couple hours, and then to the nearest town where he could buy supplies was another hour. So he would make a run every couple of weeks, and load up his pickup truck with as many supplies as he would fit.

Make no mistake, because I’m using the word “supplies,” please don’t picture some scraggly mountain man buying beef jerky and shotgun shells. This guy liked his modern creature comforts just like the rest of us. In his cabin he had a large flat screen TV that was of course connected, as well as his Internet connection via satellite linkup, and having traveled the world extensively, he had acquired a taste for fine foods. He had an industrial size refrigerator, and a large walk in freezer that he kept fully stocked at all times, as well as an impressive wine cellar he had built to specific specifications to match identically that of a restaurant he’d grown quite fond of in the south of France.

But on to our story. One thing he particularly enjoyed was fishing in the stream/river that had started somewhere up in the mountains, ran down in front of his cabin (albeit a couple hundred yards awards away, as recommended by the builders) and became very large sometimes down the meadow.

There were plenty of trout, mostly rainbow, but a few brown trout in the stream. Despite all of the exotic food that he special ordered from time to time from the specialty stores in town, nothing tasted as good as freshly caught trout. He had developed several recipes that he used to prepare them, his most favorite being a simple lemon, garlic and butter concoction.

As he approached the stream, he found spot to start fishing. Long a fan of lures, he chose a spinner of no particular important, loaded it up and tossed it in. He slowly reeled it in, tossed it out again.

He did see a few interested fish, but none of them seemed too interested in his lure. He tried another lure, same thing. This wasn’t out of the ordinary. He’d once gone eight days in a row without catching any fish, so this wasn’t particularly frustrating, or out of the ordinary.

Until he saw it.

As he slowly reeled his lure back, after the 17th cast (had he been counting) there was a very large, very gold/orange fish following his lure. At first he thought it was one of those Japanese carp that some people build ponds for in their back yards, but it’s shape wasn’t quite right. The strange thing about this fish was that it didn’t immediately retreat when his lure drew close to the shore as he reeled it in. it seemed pause a little bit, swim up stream, and then drift just pas the point where the lure was to be pulled from the water. As if it somehow knew in advance where the lure was going to be extracted from the water.

After he set his rod for another cast the fish quickly darted back down stream. But when he cast and reeled in his line again, there was the same fish. Except this time, he was the only fish there. He performed the same peculiar behavior following the lure in, and then darting upstream, and drifting down just to the point of extraction. Then he (it) would linger just long enough, and then literally turn and dart downstream.

This went on for about more casts, when he decided to try another spot. He walked down stream for about thirty minutes, and found a spot where there was a large bend in the stream, where the flow slowed considerably, enough for large pool to form, much like a small lake.

He walked around the lake, stopping in several places. Each time the same thing happened. He’d cast out his lure, reel it, and it would be followed by the same peculiar fish, that would do the same peculiar thing.

Finally he decided to call it quits, as the sun would be setting within an hour or so. He walked back up stream toward his cabin. Just before he arrived, he decided he’d try one last cast. But there was that same fish, only this time, it didn’t dart away so quickly when he pulled is lure from the water.

He swam back and forth, seemingly agitated, jumping from the water at each turn. Perplexed, the stood and stared.

And then it happened.

There was a monstrous earthquake, that seemed to last several minutes. He could hear the rocks up through the forest come tumbling down the hillside, the loud cracking of trees as they plowed relentlessly through the woods.

When the shaking stopped, the fisherman looked down at the valley where he’d been fishing all day. All along the side of the river, as far as he could see, almost exactly parallel to the river, was a giant crevice that had opened up in the earth, and was slowly pulling all the water from the stream into it. Pretty soon the stream, now a gushing river, had completely changed direction.

He turned, quite shaken, and walked slowly back to his cabin, not sure what had just happened. One thing he did know, and that was he didn’t think he’d be eating fish any time soon.

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Don’t Look Behind You

A Pillar Of Salt

The other day I was out on my regular morning walk, a little earlier than usual. For some reason I had woken up about twenty minutes before my alarm went off, and I figured since I was already up, there was no point in going back to sleep. So I hauled myself out of bed and began my daily routine. Because everything was twenty minutes earlier, it was the same, only slightly different. The sun was a little bit more below the horizon, so it was a little bit darker. I didn’t see the same people I usually see, everything else was just slightly different.

Until I saw him.

Or rather, he saw me.

I was walking through these rice fields, and a few farmers put up scarecrow for obvious reasons. As I was walking down this road, I noticed a scarecrow that I hadn’t noticed before. It looked very much like a real person, almost. There was something about it that made it obvious that it was not real, but it looked close enough to give you the creeps.

If you are walking down the street, and you see some guy standing on the corner, and he turns and waves at you as you walk by, it wouldn’t be such a big deal. But something that is obviously not real, but looks as though it might turn and wave at you radiates a particularly unique kind of creepiness that you don’t come across too much in your daily life.

Other animals are pretty easy to fool. Ducks, insects, various mammals are all easily misled by accurate (or not so accurate) representations of it’s own species.

And humans aren’t the only ones that take advantage of how easy it is to fool other creatures. There is a certain variety of plant that tricks a certain variety of wasp into spreading its pollen. The flower gives off a scent that makes the wasp think it is a female wasp. The wasp buzzes in, does his business, and goes off to the next plant. In the process, all the flowers get pollinated. If the poor guy only knew, his friends would never let him hear the end of it.

It’s well known that for many animals, the first thing they see that moves will make an impression of its mother. Baby chicks are often cited example of this. If you have a hatchery (or whatever you call those things baby chicks are born in) and there’s no chicken around when they hatch, then start to follow around the first big thing that moves. Which doesn’t work out so well if the first thing that moves is a cat or a poultry farmer.

For some reason, I just couldn’t keep from frequently turning to look at that particular scarecrow. It was much more detailed than the rest of the scarecrows. I doubt the crows could tell much difference, although they are pretty smart. They have been known to distinguish between farmers with hoes and rakes, and hunters with guns. You’d think that a bird would see both entities as the same, but I guess not.

About the third glance toward this incredibly realistic scarecrow is when I began to lose grips with reality. On the third, (or maybe the fourth) glance, I had noticed that he was facing a different direction. Not his (its) whole body, just the head. Ok, maybe I was seeing things. The sun was about ten minutes under the horizon, and the shadows were different than I’m used to, as I was twenty minutes early.

The fifth time I glanced at him, he was staring straight at me. OK, so maybe it wasn’t a scarecrow. Maybe it was just some creepy guy standing as still as possible in the middle of a rice field at six in the morning. That may even be more dangerous that a scarecrow that has come to life. I tried to stare him (it) down, but I could only look in his (its) general direction for a couple moments before turning away. Finally when I had walked sufficient distance past him, I couldn’t help but think that he was still watching me. I felt like that lady in the Old Testament story that wasn’t supposed to look back. I felt as if I looked back, something spooky would happen, like he would be right behind me, staring at me and waiting to drag me to the deep depths of everlasting insanity and mental torture. Generally not the way I like to end my morning walks.

As tough as it was, I ignored the impulse to spin around and look. For some reason I was reminded of Schroedinger’s cat. This is a famous experiment of quantum physics. They’ve (they being really smart physicists) done plenty of experiments regarding the dual nature of light. Sometimes light behaves as a wave, and sometimes light behaves as a particle. Light generally behaves as a wave, but when you set up specific equipment to measure it, on a really small level, it turns into a particle. It’s almost as if simply observing the event changes it. This can also be extended to other particles, like orbiting electrons. They are sometimes discreet particles, but other times exist only as a probability wave. Only when they specifically interact with other particles, or are observed by humans does their probability wave coalesce into an event, or a probability of 1.0.

This guy Schroedinger explained like having a cat in a box. If you don’t look in the box, there is only a probability of cat being in there. But as soon as you open up the top and look inside, the probability immediatley goes to 1.0, and the cat exists. This goes way beyond that old “tree in the forest falling” metaphor. On the level of quantum physics, things really don’t exist in discreet form unless they are observed.

Which is what I was trying really hard to convince myself regarding that creepy guy/scarecrow/guide to everlasting insanity who was behind me. So long as I didn’t turn around, he wouldn’t be there. But if I did, he would be standing right behind me, and I would be dragged (not kicking and screaming, but most likely comatose from shock) deep into the place that does not exist unless you go there.

Finally I ended up at the convenience store, and bought a small yogurt. As I was standing outside, sipping it down, I felt an odd sensation just off to my left. I turned, and there he was. The man/scarecrow/entity. He was looking at me calmly. And strangely enough, I didn’t quickly lapse into a fear-induced coma, although I was particularly frozen.

He smiled, slowly at first, and then breaking into warm, wide, teeth bearing grin. Almost. You can always tell a real smile from a fake smile by looking at the lines around the eyes. If the eyes are crinkled, then it’s a genuine, happy smile. If the eyes are open wide, and the lines (strangely enough called crow’s-feet) don’t crinkle up, then somebody’s lying. And this scarecrow didn’t have any crow’s-feet.

In his eyes was pure, unabashed evil. But for some reason, I took the evil to be extremely patient evil.

“Not today.” It said.
“Maybe not tomorrow.”
“Maybe not ever.”

Then it laughed, turned and walked away.

Needless to say, I try not to wake up early anymore.

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The Road, The Inn, And The Psychotic Jazz Musicians

Where To Now?

Once, many many years ago, I took a road trip with a bunch of friends from college. Not really friends, although we referred to each other as friends at the time. More like contextual friends. Dorm friends. As soon as we moved out of he dormitory (at my particular school, they only let you stay in the dorms one or two years) we kind of drifted apart.

Groups are kind of funny like that. They can form for a specific purpose, and so long as that purpose exists, everybody can get along great, hang out during off times (off times from whatever the group was formed for), and even meet up with each other’s families on occasion. But once the purpose for the group goes away, so does the group.

I saw this once in action when I got a book signed by a famous author of a cooking show on TV. In order to get his signature, you had to wait in this long line, twice. Once in the morning to get your particular number, and then later in the afternoon, when you came back to get in line based on your number.

So the people you stood in line in the morning were the same people you stood in line in the evening. And both times the waiting was quite lengthy, giving everybody ample time to start conversations beyond mere politeness. And having everybody leave and then come back in the afternoon was another factor that added to the feeling of “closeness.”

The people I was standing next to in line had formed this small “group” of about six or eight people. In the two hours or so we spent together, we became like best friends. Exchanged emails, showed each other family pictures, the whole deal. But as soon as the purpose for our group vanished, (we got our books signed) the closeness and feelings of camaraderie vanished as well. Boom. See ya.

That was kind of like the group I went on this road trip with. The purpose for our group lasted much longer, two full semesters, but it vanished just as quickly as the book-signing group once the reason for the group’s existence.

But while we hung out together, it was fun. We shared common enough interests (music, alcohol, girls) and disinterests (school, studying) that it was enough.

So it seemed like a great idea to take a road trip when there was a holiday on a Monday, giving us three days to goof off. One of the guys had recently bought this big van, and we talked him into driving somewhere. We didn’t know where, only that we wanted to go on road trip.

Since we were all pretty broke, we figured we’d have to sleep on the ground, instead of staying indoors, so our only requirement was that we would end up at some open place or campground where we wouldn’t get into too much trouble with our music other loud noise. The problem was that none of us were quite sure where that was.

We knew that in three out of the four possible directions we could go in would lead us to pretty large areas with no houses, but beyond that we didn’t have a clue. So we started driving, not knowing where we were going. Only that we had three days to kill before we got there and back, wherever there turned out to be.

One of the guys was majoring in Jazz, and he was telling us about this period in Jazz history where it was all the rage to play completely extemporaneous music. No notes, no predetermined set of beats or melody (I’m not sure if that is even the right terminology). Just four or five guys playing whatever they felt like playing. Sometimes it would coalesce into something that sounded pretty cool, but most of the time it would sound like utter nonsense, according to this guy.

He said that period in Jazz didn’t last long, as least they didn’t produce a lot of records, because nobody bought them. A few people that were really into the scene thought it was cool, but he explained that it never caught on big enough for that to be any musician’s main playing style.

He did bring a tape for us to listen to, and I have to agree it sounded pretty awful. Not really awful, but like completely nonsensical. Nothing you listen to music for, to relax, to be inspired, to pump up your emotions, would be satisfied by listening to a bunch of guys completely out of sync. It sounded like that brief second or two they sometimes leave on the record when an orchestra is warming up, just before the conductor takes over and leads everyone to play some masterpiece together.

It’s kind of cool, as it adds a sense of so many different people with so many different instruments out there, that suddenly come together and play as one entity. But a whole album of that stuff? No thanks.

We found out that without a specific destination, the novelty quickly wore off. Pretty soon finding a destination became our destination. Our requirements became less and less restricted, and any place that was flat. At first we wanted a place with a nice fire ring, so we could have a fire, but as it got later and later, we just wanted to get out of this guys van. It was one of those vans that didn’t have any chairs or windows in the back, so we were all sitting on the floor.

Pretty soon we just pulled off to the side of the road, sat on the ground, drank our alcohol, and fell asleep.

When they say that the road is better than the inn, I think it’s a given you have to have a pretty decent inn that you are going to. Otherwise the road can be a pretty boring and pointless journey.

The funny thing is, is that you really never even have to get to the inn. So long as you have a solid idea of where you’re going, that’s good enough. But without a known destination, it can get pretty boring, pretty quickly.

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Eyes On The Prize

Focus

Once I had this friend of mine that came in to stay with me from out of town. I never really understood this guy, as he had quite a bit of money, but whenever the traveled, he would stay at friends’ houses. You’d think a guy like that could afford hotels. I know that I much prefer staying at hotels than with friends, but that’s just me. You never know when you are going to get yelled at for raiding the fridge in the middle of the night. At least at a hotel, you know the price of everything on the inside.

The reason this guy was in town was that he was at this inventor’s convention. It was a convention for people that were struggling with getting their inventions the patent stage and into the production stage. Most people think that getting a patent is a great milestone, but it’s not really that complicated. All you have to do is prove that it’s a new idea, and you were the one that thought of it. It depends on the country, but usually showing something written down in a notebook is sufficient to show originality of an idea.

And the kind of originality is pretty staggering, and not in the way you’d expect. If all bicycles happen to be made with a certain metal in the chain, and you come up with an idea for a new chain with a unique metal, then that is enough to warrant a patent. I used to work for this biomedical engineering company, and the smallest changes in plastic molded parts that warranted their own patent was mind-boggling. Before, I though that getting a patent was some kind of genius level milestone. But if you can change the angle slightly on a barbed connector for medical tubing and get a patent for it, there can’t be much to it.

Some companies use patents strictly for marketing purposes. They get as many patents as they can, useless as they may be, just so they can use them in their marketing literature. Product X has seventeen patented parts that you won’t find anyplace else.

There’s even companies that have a business model of creating ideas, and filing patents for simple household items, and then doing nothing except to wait for another company to independently come up with the idea, and start selling the product. Then the original company simply has to show that it was there idea, sue them, and forever collect a percentage of the profits.

It would seem that there is more to it than simply building a better mousetrap and waiting for he world to beat a path to your door. I suppose if the world you happened to live in was infested with disease carrying mice that ate your eyeballs while you slept, and your particular idea for a mousetrap would guarantee a mouse free house with little cost, then maybe you might have something. But when you come up with a patent for the new design for that little plastic thing that goes on the end of your shoelaces, then you’ve got some marketing work ahead of you.

Which was basically the gist of the seminar my freeloading friend was going to. It was primarily for people that came up with patents that they thought were marketable enough to invest some time and money in, but hadn’t picked up any kind of corporate sponsorship. Even if you come up with the greatest idea since sliced bread, you’ve still got to figure out a way to market it and manufacture it on a large scale.

If you have a product that is very similar to other products, and it is an improved version, like a bicycle tire that will never go flat, then it may be a little easier to sell. All you’d need to do is create some fliers, mass mail them to bike shops, bicycle manufacturers, etc, and hope they buy enough of your product to make it worthwhile. If you can get enough pre orders to pay for your production, so much the better.

But if you come up with a new environmentally friendly way to cook bacon, you’ve got your work cut out for you.

My friend has been doing this for quite a while, and he does pretty well. He has about twenty patents, three of which were picked up by large manufacturers. Two of them he got paid a nice lump sum, and the other one he got a really good deal where he gets a certain percentage of every sale. This of course gives him plenty of motivation to keep thinking and trying to figure out how to come up with new ideas.

He said that the hardest part is the time when he has an idea, that he is sure will eventually make money, but he’s been working on it for a while, and poured in a significant amount of time and money, and hasn’t seen anything yet for his efforts. He said that all three of his big money makers were like this. He had a great idea, asked a few of his friends, and asked a few people in the particular industry he was targeting, and they all enthusiastically agreed that he had a winner. But each one took more than a year of effort, and lot of time, money, and many, many rejections.

But he said that once he gets one that works, and a company either buys it outright, or pays him per sale, it’s all worth it. He said that is the biggest cause for failure among all the other inventors he meets at these conventions. They all have great ideas, but they give up way to easily, and way to quickly. If they would only try a few more weeks, or even days, they might get a break that would make all the difference. But he said that most people still believe in that old mousetrap myth. They think just because they have an idea, somehow the population at large should get some telepathic message from the gods, and each send them a dollar or something. They don’t understand that coming up with a good idea is not good enough. You’ve got to come up with a good idea, and then convince everybody else that it’s a good idea.

I asked him how he was able to push through those early days when all he had was an idea, and no money, and he said it was his imagination that pulled him through. He would imagine himself in the future, already successful, and looking back on his tough startup times with fondness. He created a vision of the future, and focused on it above all else, and never let anything distract him.

Maybe that’s why he likes staying at his friends’ houses instead of hotels, because it keeps him grounded or something. Because he is as creative and energetic as ever. Every time he visits, he talks about his new ideas as if they are his first one, and he is as hungry as ever. You would never know by this guys clothes that he’s worth several million dollars, but I guess that’s what it takes to keep pushing ahead.

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There Is Treasure

You’ll Never Know Until You Look

Once there were these two guys that were on this bicycle trip. They didn’t really cycle all that much, but they’d seen a documentary on TV about this particular scenic route through the country where they lived. It was an area that they were both familiar with, as they’d driven through there numerous times. But as I’m sure you know, driving through a place, especially when your mind is on your destination, and you ears are filled with music from your CD player, it can be difficult to really appreciate the scenery as you are traveling through.

I suppose that could be said for any area through which you pass on the way to someplace else. You never know what’s around unless you have a reason to take your eyes of the distant future, and pay attention to what is around at any particular instant.

Once I had a friend who was driving an old VW bus on the way through a particularly large city. He lived in the suburbs, and this particular route took him through some areas that he would never go to. But one day, his VW suddenly started having problems. He just barely pulled off the freeway, when he saw this old VW shop. Luckily, the guy had extended hours, and was able to help him.

This guy had been in business for several years, and was an expert on all things VW. My friend, not being the most astute mechanic, learned quite a bit from this guy, and returned to his shop several times in the future for repairs and fine tuning of his classic van. Had it not been for the engine trouble he had on that day, he likely would never have found that guys shop, and wouldn’t’ still be driving his VW bus to this day. That shop seemed to awaken an interest in engine mechanics in him, and he has been tinkering ever since.

So it was with our two characters of this story. Neither one of them had ever though much about the rolling countryside through which they drove on a regular basis, until they both coincidently saw the same documentary regarding the various farming and mining industries that had been developed over the past several hundred years in this area. The next time they met, they decided to go on a cycling tour through the area. They had discussed the best way to visit, and despite neither of them being avid cyclists, they figured that would be the way to go.

This took quite a bit of planning, as they reckoned it would take about a week to wind their way through all the back roads off the main highway on their bicycles. Since they both had full time jobs that only came with the minimum amount of vacation time, it took a few months to coordinate. But they finally did, and that’s how they came to discover what you’re about to find out.

The area was presently used as various orchard farms, and a couple vineyards. Nothing world famous, but enough for the local farmers to make a decent living. They did produce a really good merlot from time to time. Before being a vineyard, the area was a copper mine for a time. A developer from back east came in and decided to mine for copper, as copper back in those days was worth quite a bit, and technology at the time was heavily dependent on copper. So the developer figured that if he got lucky, and tapped into a large source of copper, then he might become a big player in the realm of precious metals. Who knows, he may even discover oil.

It’s not widely known that most of the early oil tycoons of previous years started out as miners. Gold, silver, copper, these were all extremely profitable metals back in those days. But with the advent of the railroad, and later the gasoline powered automobile, crude oil became huge. And still is, obviously.

However, this particular entrepreneur never quite made enough to break even. For a while, he was mining enough copper to make a tidy profit, and pay all the workers, and keep his family fed, but most of the time it was a struggle. So after a few years, he finally gave up, which left several untended mines in the area.

Later, of course, farmers moved in and found the soil particularly useful for growing citrus and grapes, as they do to this day.

So on their third day out, camping in some places and staying at cozy bed and breakfasts on other days, our two friends were cycling along, when they came across an abandoned copper mine. Naturally, being on vacation, they decided to take a look.

It was a relatively large opening, and easy enough to walk down into. They had a couple flashlights, as their guidebooks suggested for this very occasion. They had walked about a half a kilometer down into the mine when the earthquake hit.

At first they were terrified. Then the shaking stop, and the dust settled, they realize they were still safe. But they noticed a crack in the small excavated room they were standing in. It was a crack that seemed to open up to another natural pocket in the earth. One of them wriggled his head and his arm in, and shone the light around.

Despite the darkness, his friend could read the astonishment on his face.
“What is it?” he asked.
“Take a look.” He looked. What he saw made him gasp audibly. For inside the recently opened natural space deep under the earth, were mounds and mounds of raw gold.

“Yea, but, this isn’t ours, is it?” He asked. Unsure of the property laws and who owned what and whose farm they might be on.
“Check the guide book.” He checked. They were astonished that the copper mines, which had fallen into disrepair, had been passed from owner to owner, and since fifty years had passed since anyone had supported the property with any maintenance (which is required for mines due to some insurance law of antiquity) they had fallen into the public domain.

“So, we can keep all this?” he asked, incredulous.
“I guess so.” They looked at each other, and looked around for left over mining equipment, and got to work.

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What Happens When You See The Light?

Self Interference Patterns

Once I was walking down the street, and I bumped into this guy with this big, purple hat. It was kind of a fedora, but not quite. It was a very nice looking purple hat on an otherwise unremarkable wardrobe. The interesting thing about it was how it reflected the light. If you looked at it from different angles, it appeared to sift between purple and a kind of green. When I asked him where he got the hat, I was surprised at his answer.

I had a shirt like that once. I bought it with one of those professional shoppers they have in department stores, for guys like me that couldn’t match colors to save their lives. I had this shirt that was purple, but had this kind of sheen to it that made it look different colors depending on how you looked at it. The great part was that the tie she picked out matched the color regardless of which direction you looked at the shirt. Needless to say, I always wore that tie with that shirt. For my current job I don’t need to wear a tie (thank goodness) so I’m sure what happened to that odd combination. I’ll never forget how that shirt helped me to make a very large sale, earning me a very large commission.

I was reading this interesting essay about the mysteries of physics the other day. I was talking about light, and all of its strange behaviors. To make the essay accessible to people without PhD’s in advanced optics, it was written in a very clear to understand form. It was talking about light waves and light particles as if they had a conscious mind of their own. Like when beam of light enters into a translucent material like glass, water, it will “bend” to match the particular density of the material. The question is how does the light know which angle to bend? As much they can tell, it bends automatically when it enters into the material, as if it has some previously learned information about the material. I don’t know about you, but I don’t usually know which way I walk into a room until I get inside and look around for a little bit.

Another strange thing about light is how it refracts with itself. If you send light through two different pinpoint holes, it will refract with itself. That is the light waves coming out of one hole with eventually meet up with the light waves coming out of another hole. And they behave just like waves of water do. When two peaks meet, they reinforce each other. When two troughs meet, they also reinforce each other. But when a peak meets a trough, they cancel each other out.

So for one hole, you’d have a bunch of concentric circles emanating out. But when you get two holes, the two circles form a specific pattern. And when they put some film on the far side, the pattern emerges when the interfering light crashes up against the film. There are lines where the peaks meet up, and where the troughs meet up, but when a trough meets a peek, there is nothing. So you get a bunch of discreet lines against the film.

So far, this is easy to understand. But what happens when they turn down the energy of the light, so that instead of coming through in waves, it comes through in particles? One particle of light will go through one hole, then a second later another particle will go through the other hole. What is the pattern that emerges on the film?

You’d expect that it would be a big blog of hits downstream from each hole. A photon, or light particle, would go through the hole, and then smash into the film in front of the hole. Likewise for the other hole. After a while, you’d expect two big collections of dots in two relatively small areas.

But that isn’t what happens. Each photon, as is goes through the hole, immediately changes course and hits a specific point on the screen. When they let the experiment run long enough, they eventually make the exact same pattern that the waves made. A bunch of discreet lines.

So how does each particular photon know where to go when it goes through the whole? It’s like it can look into the future and see what would happen if it were a high energy wave, and go there. It’s like it interacts with it’s future self to figure out where to go.

I took a seminar in goal setting once, and that’s one method that the teacher suggested. Imagine yourself in the future, having achieved all the goals you want to achieve in life. Then just sit down and have a conversation with your future self to figure out how you got there. The only rule is that you have to have got to where you will be only by doing things on your own. Like you can’t win the lotto, or be discovered by a movie producer. You’ve got get in on your own steam. I don’t know if you are into setting goals or anything, but that seemed to be a pretty interesting way to look at things. You can also talk to your future self whenever you run into troubles, and ask yourself advice. Since they’ve already accomplished what you are about to accomplish, they should know what they are talking about.

Light interference patterns have always been an interest of mine. It has been said that Einstein came up with most of his theories by imaging really bizarre and abstract interactions with himself and a beam of light. When you get down to it, light is a really strange and cool thing.

So I was wearing my shirt, and this guy came into the car dealership where I worked. Maybe I was feeling good, because it was the first time I’d worn that shirt/tie combination and had received a bunch of compliments, but the shirt somehow made the guy feel comfortable asking me a bunch of questions about this car he wanted to buy, and eventually bought, making me nice commission.

And the guy wearing the purple hat said he bought it at the goodwill store downtown, for a dollar. He was surprised that nobody else had snatched it up. We got to talking about how you can really find some good stuff all around you if you only keep your eyes peeled and your mind open.

What Magic Lies In Sleep?

What Do Your Dreams Mean?

I went to a lecture once about how to interpret dreams. The famous Dr. Crick, the co-discoverer of DNA, along with Dr. Watson, gave it. The lecture wasn’t about how to look into them like tea leaves, but rather how the brain was structured and why dreams have such a disjointed story line to them.

I don’t know if you remember you dreams. I usually do, at least for the first few minutes when I wake up. Unless it’s a particularly strange dream that seems to have obvious symbolic meaning, I’ll usually forget it in a few moments. Usually by the time I get to the bathroom. Sometimes, though, I’ll have a dream that has obvious significance to a problem that I’ve been giving a lot of conscious thought to, and many times the dream will contain a solution. When that happens, it’s pretty lucky.

Some people completely discount dreams as meaningless jumbles of random images that they can’t remember. Others treat dreams with as much respect as Neo treated the Oracle. I once saw this huge book, over a thousand pages, filled with dream symbols and what they mean.

That is another whole discussion in and of itself. If I dream of a purple teapot, and you dream of a purple teapot, do they have the same significance? Do they mean the same thing? I would suggest they don’t, but many think that they do.

The whole of Jungian psychoanalysis is based on the idea of “archetypes.” After listening to many hundreds and perhaps thousands of patients, he noticed they many of the same images appeared when they described their dreams. That led him to his theory of archetypes, or some kind of large, shared symbolic library that all of us have access to. This is the idea of some kind of “superconscious” or “infinite intelligence,” as Napoleon Hill described it in “Think and Grow Rich.”

If you read any work by Joseph Campbell, he comes to the same conclusion, that we all share a similar set of symbols and stories, but his reasoning is different than a “superconscious.”

If you aren’t familiar with Campbell’s work, he studied mythology from several cultures around the world, and discovered that they are all very similar in structure. The stories are the same, the characters are the same, and the underlying messages of the stories are basically the same. His reasoning was that since all humans share similar structures in our brains, and a similar experience of how we come into the world and learn to fight for our survival, we al develop the same stories and symbols, regardless of which culture and time we come from.

A good example would be a pasta machine (A what?). A pasta machine. Imagine you have a pasta machine that is set to produce a certain kind of macaroni. You dump in your pasta mix, hit the start button, and then out comes the macaroni. You put the macaroni in a bag, and stick it in the cupboard to eat later. Then you clean the pasta machine and put it away. Somebody else comes along, and makes another batch of pasta. Except they use completely different ingredients, so it comes out smelling and looking and tasting different. But they don’t change the filter on the pasta machine, so it comes out looking the same as your macaroni. Same length, same shape, same curvature. And then they stick it in the cupboard next to yours.

This happen several different times, until there are about twenty different bags of pasta in the cupboard. Then somebody steals the pasta machine and sells it at a garage sale to gamble on dog racing, or something. A few years pass, and the house I bought buy an amateur scientist. He happens to be from Mars, and doesn’t know a thing about pasta. He notices that despite having different flavors and smells, each pasta is shaped the same way.

So he assumes that all the pasta came from the same source. The same person made all the pasta. There must be some grand wizard that has some mysterious combination of all the different pasta’s. He starts to imagine what he great god of pasta must be like to have create all these different kinds of pasta from the same source. There must be some “super pasta source” or “infinite dough” somewhere to produce all these similar pasta.

Of course, his theory is incorrect. Different people made different pasta using different ingredients that they bought from different stores. They just squeezed them all through the same filter that they were too lazy to change.

Campbell’s conclusion was similar. We are all squeezed through the same filter. Namely the process of being born, struggling for several years learning to walk and talk and wipe our own asses and make money and buy food, and keep people from stealing our stuff. So consequently, we have similar ideas and visions and symbolisms about the world.

To him the idea of a superconscious is merely a placeholder in our minds to describe the confounding fact that despite never having come in contact until the last few hundred years both eastern tradition and western tradition both developed mythologies of giant dangerous dragons, which were both basically huge snakes or lizards.

The Jungian would explain this as some deep superconscious symbolism of a dragon being evil (even in the garden of Eden the snake was the bad guy) because of some metaphysical cosmic reason.

The Campbellian would point out that coming up with a mythology of huge dangerous reptiles would be natural if you live in an area where some seemingly small and harmless animal like a snake could kill you with one bite, hence giving it some mythologically dark properties.

Which brings me back to Dr. Crick. He was explaining that we have such messed up dreams because of the lattice structure of the brain. Everything isn’t neatly stacked into different piles separate from each other. All the information is cris-crossed all over the place. So remembering one thing may cause you to remember something completely different (Just like on Monty Python).

His theory was that dreams are merely a kind of disk defrag that our brains do naturally while we sleep. However, there have been many people throughout history who have solved complex problems, and made breakthrough discoveries by paying attention to their dreams.

It could be the when we have problems, we know the answer on some level, but we just don’t know how to express it. Because our brains are largely based on images, the solutions naturally come to us through all the various pictures and memories that we have stored in our brains.

For example, the guy who invented the sewing machine had a dream he was in the jungle, and the natives were throwing spears at him with holes in the tips. The guy that came up with the structure for benzene, and pretty much started the whole study of organic chemistry dreamed of a snake eating its tale.

Whether our dreams come from some collective intelligence, or they are merely remnants of our evolutionary past, they can give us very powerful messages. You just need to be creative enough to interpret them. A good strategy would be to ask yourself a question while you are falling asleep, and just pay attention when you wake up. Perhaps you dreamed the solution in the form of images and weird story lines.

The bottom line is that whatever you think about dreams, they can be a powerful tool that most people never choose to utilize. Just by asking some good questions as you fall asleep, and paying attention to any answers that may come in the morning, you might find yourself creating all kinds of good things in your life.

How To Always Expand Your Horizons

The Beauty Of Never Ending Progress

So this morning I was out on my morning walk, like normal. And I came across this guy that was building this model airplane. Not just a regular model airplane that you build and put it up on your shelf. This was the kind that had an engine, and a propeller, and a remote control to fly it. It wasn’t quite like most remote controlled airplanes that you buy straight out of the box and send flying. This was the kind you have to build from the ground up.

I asked him now long he’d been working on it, and he said for a few weeks. He mentioned that he had flown other planes, the out of the box kind, but they didn’t quite give him the pleasure of actually building something from scratch, and then seeing it take off. He said the possibility of making a mistake is enough motivation to get him to focus on his project so he makes sure to put it together correctly.

I remember once I had this kid when I was a kid. It was a 75 in 1 electronics kit from Radio Shack, which is a chain of small electronics shops. You could build lots of things, from a simple light with a push button switch, to a lie detector, where you could actually hook up the electrodes to people and question them regarding there whereabouts on the night of August 17th, or whatever.

I seem to remember that at first, when I built simple things like the push button light bulb, it gave me a pretty quick sense of accomplishment, but it was short lived. After all, it only required hooking up three wires. Anybody could do that. The lie detector was a bit more complicated, and took almost an hour to set up the first time. After a couple of times, though, that became pretty easy as well, and didn’t quite give the initial satisfaction that it did the first time.

So of course, I moved on to bigger things. I tried taking my regular bedside lamp, cutting the plug that went into the wall socket, and running it through the switch. When I realized that it worked, I was amazed. I actually had built an additional switch into my bedside lamp. I tried it again with the strobe light circuit. And it worked. Now I had a strobe light in my bedroom. My mind spun with the possibilities.

Here I was looking at this kit, inside this wooden box with a built in circuit board that was supposed to be used only with the self-contained things in that kit. Nowhere in the instructions did it say it was ok to take normal, everyday object like a light and run it through these small circuits, but I did it anyway.

And it worked.

Thinking of this story reminds me of this book about evolution I was reading the other day. One of the many books by Richard Dawkins. Be careful of reading him if you are of any kind of a religious mind, because he makes it quite clear where he stands on that particular set of beliefs.

But what he was talking about in this book is the problem that keeps coming up among evolutionary biologists. Why did man become the predominant species on the planet? What was it about homo sapiens sapiens that made us be able to build cars and houses and waffle makers?

Many argue that one that humans have developed, that no others animals have developed is adaptability. We can (and have) survive; even thrive, in pretty much any environment. If you take a bunch of penguins or polar bears, and stick them in the Sahara desert, they won’t last long. If you take a sidewinder snake and put him on the North Pole, he’ll be dead in a few hours.

But humans are different. We have learned to adapt, to change, and to expand to match the size of our containers, until we break the container and expand even further. How else would some societies be able to dig holes and live in the sides of cliffs?

When you realize that your human potential comes pre programmed with the capacity to learn from, use and overcome your environment, you can gain massive amounts of clarity when it comes to facing the challenges of everyday life. The history of humanity is filled with examples of people meeting the challenges of their environment or situation, and overcoming them with incredibly innovate solutions, many of which eventually make it into mainstream consciousness.

If you look at a shark from a million years ago, they still swam around hunting in exactly the same way they do today. Prehistoric bees still made honey the same way they make it today. Humankind, on the other hand, seems to make huge progress with every generation, the current generation being no exception.

Even if you look at your own life, I’m sure you can find plenty of examples of things that you are more than capable of excelling at today, that you had no clue how to do only a short time ago. When you compare the skills you have today to only a couple of years ago, just imagine what you’ll be like five years from now?

After I had success with my bedside lamp, I tried to run it through the handheld speed control on my electric race care set. It was this track with cars that ran around it through this slot, which were connected to a hand held speed control. I wondered what would happen if I ran the hand held speed control through my Radio Shack electronics kit. Unfortunately, it didn’t quite work out so well. The first time I tried it, it literally burst into flames in my hand. I was dejected, but vowed to continue.

And the guy I saw on my walk this morning got pretty excited when he started telling me about this model airplane convention he is going to in a couple weeks. They’ll be a lot of like-minded people there to share new ideas and tips, as well as many vendors with the latest gadgets and accessories. It should be interesting to see what happens.