Several Noticeably Different Day-To-Day Things About Europe

I love the variety and unique nature of all of the different countries and cultures on our planet—learning how other people groups structure their lives and go about their day-to-day activities is fascinating.

As I’ve walked around Europe for the last two weeks, I’ve kept mental notes on a few differences in daily life that caught my attention more than once. Here they are:

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Testing Un-tailored Search with DuckDuckGo

Two days ago I wrote an article1 about the risk of the internet presenting homogeneity to individuals as opposed to varying opinions and ‘balanced’ content in response to search.

This is a vast subject, many parts of which I am unqualified to address. The topic does fascinate me, though, especially related to searches I make about the code school industry. Increasingly biased information related to our market or my perception of it is an interesting phenomenon to think about.

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1. Read my full post about the Internet as an echo chamber for individuals.

The Internet as a Giant Echo Chamber for Individuals

I’ve long held that media in and of themselves are morally neutral: they can be used for good or for bad. They can, of course, influence the message as Marshall McLuhan noted2, but the actual machinery of the channels of communication aren’t right or wrong in and of themselves—it’s the content that matters.

The internet as a machine of information exchange promises infinite openness and sharing of ideas, but the actual experience people are having might not be living up to that promise.

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1. Read more about Marshall McLuhan on Wikipedia.

What to Expect from this Blog

One truism that I harp on relentlessly focuses on expectations:

All frustration is the result of unmet expectation.

Or, said another way, setting expectations well provides a great platform for relationship—to others, to work, to things we consume, to our time and so-on.

Recently I read a blog that I really enjoyed and the author did a very good job of explaining what his readers could expect in the about section. I really appreciated that because it gave me a context for evaluating how much time I wanted to invest in following and reading that author’s work. (As I’ve said before, we each have a limited number of precious hours to spend.)

I thought I’d take a cue from that experience and do the same thing here.

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A Pirate Needs the Sight of the Sea

I’m always fascinated by a writer’s ability to say so much with so few words. The following quote from Brian Andreas gives me several moments of contemplative pause every time I run across it. On the one hand it reveals childlike wonder, and on the other it reveals something deeper about humanity and adventure.

There was a single blue line of crayon drawn across every wall in the house. What does it mean? I asked. A pirate needs the sight of the sea, he said and then he pulled his eye patch down and turned and sailed away.

—Brian Andreas, Story People


Airplane Propellers as a Nearly Perfect Version One

I rode in a small pond hopper this morning. The gigantic propellers looked beautiful against the deep blue morning sky.

I recently wrote about the strange comfort I find in ships and the fact that on a basic level they’ve remained largely the same for thousands of years. Airplane propellers are similar.

The propeller as a mechanical device has been used in aquatic applications for a long time, beginning with Archimedes’ Screw (in the 3rd century A.D.) and being used to propel watercraft as early as the 1600s.

The aeronautic propeller, though, is a relatively young invention, pioneered in part by the Wright brothers at the beginning of the 20th century. Interestingly, their success didn’t come from drawing on knowledge about propellers for boats, but from the characteristics of the wings that they had already studied carefully.

Here’s the incredible thing: modern-day recreations of their original design have only achieved 5% more efficiency than the ones the Wright brothers built in the early 1900s. Although this is true, the advancements in flight and aerospace is daily, with companies like WG Henschen manufacturing aerospace and military defense jet parts, the next aviation revolution should be close.(Read the full story of the Wright Brother’s invention process.)

The inventors’ accuracy is certainly impressive considering the crude nature of their tools and resources (as compared with our modern machinery) and much more limited access to scientific information. Also, “the Wright brothers knew mathematics only as far as algebra and trigonometry. They made all of their calculations by hand.” Physics is physics and you don’t need a computer to produce precision, but the minimal difference in efficiency is still astounding.

There are certainly new and different types of propellers for airplanes that take advantage of more powerful engines, stronger materials and advances in our knowledge of physics and science. In a world that runs largely on updates, improvements and forward progress, though, it’s fascinating to encounter an object that was almost perfect at version one and to which modern science can only provide arguably negligible improvements.

User Experience Fail: No Ice Cream for You

It’s hard to call any machine that gives you ice cream a failure, but this one is about as close as they come. (Your product shouldn’t need Sharpie scrawled all over it just to be useable).

What’s truly remarkable is that the machine is simple: it only has one lever that goes up and down. Design is a fascinating thing.

And yes, that red dot is an infrared sensor that keeps the machine from operating unless it is covered with precision.

A Shared Calendar for Political Elections

Lately I’ve been taking dedicated time to think through different areas of my life—family, finances, spirtuality, etc. One area where I’m much less proactive than I’d like to admit is civic duty (a fancy way of saying I don’t research my representatives or prepare for elections well).

Many people my age (late 20s) are burned out on politics in general. The flow of constant, extreme polarization wears me out too.

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The Music of Western North Carolina

I’m not much a radio listener, but there’s one station we get in Upstate South Carolina that makes me smile every time I tune in. Most of the time they play mountain music—bluegrass, authentic country and Americana. A fair number of songs they play come straight from the heart of the Appalachian region that the radio waves cover.

There are other types of music I listen to more often, but there’s something about mountain music that’s hard to describe. It feels deep-rooted and full of story.

A few weeks ago I ran across a quote in a magazine that described it beautifully:

It’s found where the distance between saint and sinner is no further than the space between frets, where backsliders and Baptists sit together, right up on one another, listening to a mandolin that sounds like angels dancing on the rim of a Mason jar.It’s wound around the country lyrics of a story song, of folks leaving town on a ghost train or the wings of a dove. And it lives in the wail of the bastard child called rock and roll, whose family tree branches into juke joints and smoke-filled bars,its roots prying up the floorboards of front porches and barn dances.

The music that lives in Western North Carolina, either by birth or divine guidance, is as good at it is varied. The sound comes form the instruments, but the music comes fromthe souls of the boys pulling the strings. It rolls down the mountains and through the hills and and takes hold before the soil turns to sand, remaining on the solid ground it knows well. Let others shag on boardwalks. We pound boots on quartz and clay,nodding our heads in time and agreement. So it has been and so it shall be, forever and always. Amen.

—Shari Smith

Red Sky by Morning

The sky outside my kitchen window this morning was a brilliant pinkish red. As I grabbed a pair of shoes so I could enjoy the view outside, I remembered a phrase I’d heard many times before:

“Red sky by night, sailors delight. Red sky by morning, sailors take warning.”

I checked the forecast later, and sure enough, rain was on the way. I decided to look at the science behind the saying to see if the adage was a reliable meteoralogical predictor.

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