Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Low-def Photos

In addition to the hi-def images from my new camera, I've been taking some low-definition photos with my cell-phone. I finally took some time to upload them. There's something nice about just taking an image and sending it "straight to press" ... something old-fashioned, like taking pictures with a disposable camera, and just accepting the output.

Some really neat effects also happened as a result of the fact that the camera is built into the body of the phone, which has become really scratched up, diffusing light sources to a glow and blurring edges.

Berlin from the roof of Club Weekend:


Beach in Warnemünde:


My little sculpture:


My train's arriving!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Gahaaa!

Cool stuff: http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2009/06/highaltitudewindpower/

Busy times in Berlin. Yesterday I handed in fourteen pages of pure German text for my two literature courses. I wrote it all by myself :) - 1.5 spacing, which the Germans prefer. Makes me pretty happy, but I still have one more paper of about equal length to write by next Tuesday for my "German-American Relations" course. I'm doing research into the so-called "degenerate art" of the Nazi period, which for the most part was sold off to the United States, because the Nazis didn't want it. As a result, American museums have the most extensive collections of German expressionist and dada art from the early 20th century.

I turn in that paper next week, during final exams.

My Professor for Art History asked us to do an art project in lieu of writing a paper, which is a godsend for me! I'm experimenting with video in PureData, and I'm planning on doing some kind of interactive video and sound installation using a live feed from a webcam. It's coming along nicely, though I haven't quite decided on a concept. So far, I've just been playing with the technology.

We're going to have a little gallery party sometime next week, and then it's all over for IES courses here in Berlin.

But even after that, I'll be sticking with the internship at the Oberschule until school ends on the 15th. I am also working on a research project for that. For this, I've decided to interview some of the kids about their future prospects. You know, "what do you wanna be when you grow up?" "Do you think school is helping you achieve your goals?" etc. Once I've collected their comments, I have to do a little write-up and an in-class presentation of the results. Should be interesting.

Sylvia is flying in on 10th of July, while I'm wrapping up my internship. After the 17th, it'll all be over and we'll be able to go travelling around - I can't wait!

Wow, the time flew by quickly, and I kind of regret not blogging more often about it, but then that's how it goes. Goes to show how busy I was - more doing, less writing!

Friday, May 29, 2009

On the Art Front

Berkeley Student Yotam Mann created this multi-touch instrument with some cardboard, a couple of lasers, and a webcam. It's not clear to me how he interpreted the image from the webcam, but what got my attention was the "instrument" part, which was programmed in MAX/MSP/Jitter, a program that I've used in past art projects, check it out:

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Wolfram Alpha Computational Search Engine

Okay, all the blogs have been buzzing about this being the "future of the internet," and I've ignored it up until now. Today, I finally caved to the mountain of links asking me to take a look, and I was very impressed. I think everyone should definitely see this.

Wolf Alfram is a new kind of computational search engine. Some people think it's going to save Google from anti-trust lawsuits, because of the potentially stiff competition that the idea offers. Check it out this video first: Introduction to Wolfram Alpha

And then try out Wolfram Alpha for yourself here (that's right, it's already available in its baby form): Wolfram Alpha Home

As the guy points out, the engine is in it's early stages, but that doesn't make it any less WOW. :)

Friday, May 15, 2009

Announcement For My Upcoming Book

My upcoming book, Womenfolk and Such-Like is due for release some time next Spring. I just have to write it, find a publisher, and have it distributed to bookstores. Stay tuned for details!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Part II of the Oberschule Saga

Okay, I owe you the rest of the story....

Well, after a while, the two girls had a pretty good idea of what they were doing. I still had to walk them through a few questions, but they were very productive even without my help.

But Patrick still could not focus. Either he was bothering the kids in the row in front of him, or they were twisted in their chairs talking to him. I wasn't really bothered by this, I'm not the strict teacher type. Occasionally I would turn to Patrick and the others and give them a mock-stern look and then point at their papers with a smile. They seemed to respect this for as long as their attention spans lasted.

Well, the crux of this story has lost its punch in the past week, but I'll tell it as I experienced it anyway. At one point, Patrick tried to ask one of the boys in front of him a question. He blew him off, saying, Shush! Halts Maul! Denk an Döner! - Shut up! Think about döner!

Now döner is a "Turkish Specialty," which as far as anyone can tell was invented in Germany. It´s essentially falafel meat wrapped in a pita and laden with salad. All the döner stands in Berlin are run by Turks. Initially, I was unsure about how to handle this situation because on the surface it appeared to be an incidence of racism (the kid actually said it twice). I also considered the possibility that these kids were friends, and that this statement may not have been malicious. Still, I didn´t want to take any chances and so I paid more attention to Patrick and kept him focused on his work.

As it turned out, Patrick and this other kid whose name, I learned, is Klaus, are actually good friends, so the situation was probably not as bad as it seemed. Still, it´s worth pointing out that racism and xenophobia are just as much a subject in Germany as it is in the United States.

Anyway, the school periods are just too short. The two girls hardly finished correcting their mistakes - I say mistakes, but they really left huge tracts of their test incomplete. They checked-out before the period ended and sat in the corner giggling, when I asked them to answer the last few questions.

My host sister told me about her math test yesterday in what appeared to be Pre-Calc. She told me that she probably "wrote a six," which is the equivalent of a big fat F. She said it was fun, though, because she had time to just sit there and daydream. "So you just gave up?" I asked. "Yes, of course," she said, "Math´s just not my subject...."

My conversation with Stella reminded me of the girls at the Oberschule and their attitude towards their English tests. It seems that if a student feels like a subject just "isn´t their area," then they won´t even try. They will simply accept the failing grade and concentrate on their strong subjects. I think that in the United States, the mentality is different. The focus is on the average, so one cannot afford to let a grade slip below a C.

That said, it is also easier to get good grades in the American school system due to the widely accepted phenomenon of "grade inflation." The differences in attitude can also probably be traced to the fundamental differences between school systems. But as this post is getting too long, I think this will need to be a discussion for another time and another post.

Ciao!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Some Observations from the Oberschule

Well, I'm feeling a little productive, so I decided to write another little post. A little more about my experience at the Oberschule:

In the third period on Monday I was helping out with a 7th grade class. Half of the class left within 15 minutes, because it was picture day for them. Curiously enough, it was not picture day for the other half of the class. They stayed in the room and I helped them correct their English tests. I was assigned to two girls and a Turkish boy named Patrick.

Patrick, whose name is not very Turkish, did not look very Turkish (except for his gelled-up fo-hawk), and he didn't have a Turkish accent. He, as well as the two very German girls, did not get a very good grades on their English Test - they were all deep in F territory.

Now, what is one supposed to do when confronted with such "poor students?" Well, the best they can, naturally. Patrick sat to the side, quietly confused, but rather unworried by his terrible grade. The two girls also didn't seem to mind, even though one of them had received a 29 out of 100. The assignment was for each of them to redo the second and third sections.

I watched as the girls copied the seven English sentences, in which they were supposed to find and correct errors. They were very concentrated and their handwriting was flawless. They finished copying the sentences within 10 minutes, but Patrick had hardly made any progress. He was distracted by the other boys in the classroom, I didn't really pay attention to what they were talking about. Occasionally, I would glance over at Patrick and direct him back to his paper, where he had written the numbers 1-10.

Looking closer, Patrick scratched out 8, 9, and 10, realizing that he only needed those up until seven. He started copying down the sentences. The girls, meanwhile, were using fountain pens with a special ink-eraser to correct their mistakes. I helped them correct the sentences. They hadn't even understood the assignment!

Okay, first translate the sentence into German. Alright, now go back to the dialog and find the related sentence.... Ok, I'll help you, this one here. Translate that into German.... Exactly, now you see what's wrong....

------------------

Well, I haven't mentioned yet that we spent this weekend in Warnemuende once again. Our train leaves shortly, so I will have to finish this post a little later.

Until then!
--William