Forty Two Days – Week Four

Perception and reality were the ideas that I enjoyed playing with last week. This week, the same topic of perception and reality has morphed into something totally different. Same subject, completely different content.

Rather than referring to how we perceive the material world around us, this week’s version of “perception” refers to how we expect a probable future state to feel, look, taste, or be. Reality, too, gets a slightly different definition. Rather than explaining how the perceived material world is now, reality’s new role has to do with how that future state will feel, look, taste, or be. In a nutshell, this week’s thoughts were concerned with what you expect versus what you get.

Perhaps you’re psychic or just downright lucky and your future perceptions and realities align pretty well. That’s not always the case for me. My previous futures (i.e. the past) have been vastly different from how I expected them to be. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not complaining, because my previous futures have been pretty great for the most part. Anyway, I’ve been nurturing a perception for the past few months. The perception has to do with living in a small home on wheels and going out into the wide world to seek my fortune as a cameraman/video editor/web designer. The perception is really fun. I have this cool little house on a trailer. It has a kitchen, a bathroom, a living area, and bedroom in a loft. The floors are walnut. The walls and ceiling are cottonwood. There is a tiny wood stove that keeps the place warm. Somewhere in this small space is a storage area where I can keep my camera, tripod, and audio kit. My Mac lives on the little table in the living room, and I use it daily to crank out creative and artistic projects. The perception is liberating and creative. The perception sees me as a very happy person. But before getting carried away by this, I have to remember that the perception is just that – a perception: a preconceived idea about how the future might be.

But then there’s the reality. I can’t be sure what reality will be, since I’m not there yet. Perhaps I never build this perceived little house. Or perhaps I’m wrong about how fun it would be to live in a space smaller than my current bedroom. Would I be able to keep clutter to a minimum or would my tiny house become a giant waste bin, a cacophony of disorganized papers, dirty mugs, and clutter to which I’m emotionally attached? Where am I going to park a house on a trailer? Where will my water and electricity come from? Where will wastewater go? (Tiny house people have this shocking proclivity for talking about this one!) Will there even be space for my camera gear after I’ve gotten dishes, clothes, cleaning supplies and food crammed in?

These are pretty big questions that must be answered before flinging $15,000-$20,000 at a perception of a fun, creative life in a tiny house. To help introduce reality into my future expectations, I’ve been researching tiny house living pretty heavily. Most things have sane solutions. You can modify the layout of the house to keep all the pipes in one place and then put extra insulation in that place so your pipes don’t freeze. You can overcome trailer height restrictions of 13.5 feet by changing wall height and roof pitch. You can even overcome the waste problem by building in a composting toilet. But then there are grey areas. Building codes and insurance policies aren’t sure where to place tiny houses. Are these structures trailers, mobile homes, or what? It’s not legal to live out of one of these tiny houses inside city limits of most cities. But at the same time it’s perfectly legal to park a tiny house inside city limits. Likewise, insurance is a problem. Do you buy a home insurance policy, or insure your tiny house as a “load” of “materials” on your trailer? From what I’ve seen, everyone treats these solution-less problems a little differently. Of the tiny house people who’ve shared their philosophy about zoning, I get the idea that people just have to be courteous and hope for the best – apparently city officials don’t have much clout when it comes to evicting tiny houses from a yard. Even so, these are considerations which will vastly affect reality and may not be figured into a perception.

On the bright side, thinking about tiny house living has motivated me to do a lot of research, and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the thought that’s gone into it. Now in the event that I do pursue building a tiny house, I can do so with a perception that’s not wildly out of tune with reality. Hopefully that’ll steer me clear of big problems down the road.




Forty Two Days – Week Three

Thoughts this week had to do with reality and perception. I’ve been reading through a layman’s explanation of some of the more unusual findings in quantum mechanics. My first response was amazement, my second, the question, “So what?”
From the reading I did, I gathered that “reality” and our perceptions are often vastly different. Consider findings concerning locality. Locality is the concept that physical influence requires a spatial connection. For one particle or thing to influence another, there must be a direct connection between the two particles or things. If particle one is completely isolated from particle two, then one should not be able to influence two. The mathematics behind quantum mechanics, however, suggest otherwise. Experiments on infinitesimally small particles (namely electrons) show that spatially isolated particles can be linked, and if one particle is acted upon and a change takes place, a change will instantaneously take place in another particle which is somehow non-spatially linked to it. Another example of the weirdness would be time asynchrony. Perception suggests that time is linear. Though we always feel as though we’re in the “present,” time moves from past to future. But apparently higher mathematics suggest that this isn’t the case, either. Though it sounds deceptively simple, motion bends time, meaning that “right now” for different entities moving at different speeds can encompass pretty much all of time.
That takes care of my response of amazement. Now on to part two: “So what?” Our perceptions of the world have been good enough that we humans are pretty functional. Does it benefit us to try and throw out our perceptions of how things are and instead force our brains to think of the world as working differently than it appears to? Back in the day, the mind bending new discovery was the spherical nature of the earth. That was hard for people to accept, just as non-locality and time asynchrony are hard to accept. But to what degree have people accepted the spherical nature of earth? Unless you’re atop a huge mountain or out at sea, you can’t tell the earth is curved. It seems flat. And for everyday living, it doesn’t make a big difference whether we think of the world as round or flat. Gravity holds us down as if the world is flat, so people “down under” in Australia don’t have to walk upside down. Other than not worrying about falling off the edge of the world, it doesn’t make much of a difference. Granted, airplane navigators have to take geodesics and the earth’s roundness into account when charting courses, and long range missile operators have to watch out that the curvature of the earth doesn’t interfere, but these situations are the exception, not the rule. The rule is that the earth seems flat, and as long as we can recognize that it is round and this applies to some situations, we can keep thinking of the earth as flat in most situations.
Perhaps the same is true of locality. We can recognize that time can be bent or particles can be “magically” linked, and yet continue living as if these aren’t true. Except in specialized situations, people can continue to live as if perception is reality, while recognizing that while a good approximation, this doesn’t always hold true.

Forty-Two Days: Week 2

This week was devoted to thoughts on color. I also took some time to mess with color swatches and experiment with color within a set framework of shapes. Of all the ones I made, this is my favorite:

Color Swatch

I recently took part in a discussion about scientific “facts.” One of the people present was having difficulty grasping what could be considered scientifically factual. He therefore posed a question, asking if one could consider it a “fact” that the color of the sky was blue. The discussion proceeded, but my mind took a different path, getting stuck on the subject of color.

You see, my passion is filmmaking, a process which involves using light to capture and re-display motion, sound, and color. A corollary interest involves light-duty graphic design – mostly for websites. Like filmmaking, color is one of the core components of design. Therefore, in all likelihood, color will play a large role in my future.

My first thought was that for color in design, form should be dictated by function. Easily said, but not so easily figured out. As I continued pondering, I ran into some writings about color,  stating that color is a perception which can evoke different things in different people. I paired this with psychologists’ assertion that roughly half of what we “see” or perceive is actual sensory input, while the other half comes from memories already stored in the brain. This other half of perception that comes from memory won’t be factually accurate. What we see is heavily influenced by our previous experiences. The resulting conclusion is that how people perceive color depends heavily upon where they’ve seen that color or combination of colors in the past.

It’s easy to glibly state that different people see the same color differently, but let us consider for a moment the implications of color for a visual artist, whether filmmaker, graphic designer, web designer, or artist. Color is subject to the same influences as other perceptions, and therefore the color choices I make in visual imagery will be interpreted not necessarily as I perceive them or intend them to be, but according to the previous experiences of my audience. As a beginning filmmaker and web designer, my projects aren’t likely to have the scope of undertakings like the Facebook website or Avatar. Smaller projects will likely be aimed at relatively specific target groups, right? But as I thought about this, I realized that even a small website will attract a wide range of people with an equally wide range of perceptions about color.

Since I’m in a (prolonged) planning stage for my own site, I started thinking about what groups might visit it, and therefore how color might be perceived by my visitors. I concluded that small businesses (and whoever is in charge of advertising/websites for those businesses) were my target – from construction companies to quilt shops, from hunting TV shows to authors of children’s books.

The take-home point here for me was that I need to study perception of color and come to an understanding of how different groups perceive color and combinations of color.

Forty Two Days – Week One

Well, it’s happened again. I’ve told myself* I’ll start forming a new good habit. Starting new (good) habits is such an enticing idea. I’m easily drawn in to delusions that I’ll embark on some grand good habit forming project.  

For the past few years, I’ve kept a list of ideas to be written about and contemplated “later.” Guess what, now is later: this is the first week of 42 days (7 weeks) where I’ve committed to writing down, pondering, and or researching a new idea every day. So what’s an idea anyway? There’s no hard and fast definition of an idea, but I’ll list a few characteristics of the ideas i’ve made friends with in the past couple years.


1) Ideas are intellectual endeavors that get me very excited and launch me into research, writing, deep conversations, and the occasional rant.


2) Ideas are concepts that I can barely wrap my brain around, and thus feel compelled to spend time learning about (someday) in the future.


3) Ideas fall into several categories, including self-introspective ideas, positions on society, ethics, and morality, scientific concepts, and creative 


4) Ideas aren’t generally topics I share with just anyone – especially the more developed ones that I’ve invested time in. This is less true of the scientific and creative ideas, and more true of the self-introspective and ethical ideas.


When habit-forming plans (inevitably) start crashing down around me, I console myself by noting how many demands I have on my time. How convenient it is to omit the relevant fact that almost everyone has a lot of demands on their time – especially productive creative types. This week, I’m spending at least a little time every day with my trusty group of ideas. Yesterday evening was a particularly good evening for ideas – the lyrics to a song really got me thinking about perception and value and resulted in the skeleton of a paper on the topic.




*Telling myself I’ll start a new habit is quite palatable – I rather prefer couching an assignment to start a new habit in terms that make me sound like a motivated fellow with strength of will and improving character. 🙂