Grayson

Grayson is a book by long-distance swimmer Lynne Cox about her encounter with a baby whale and her adventure guiding it back to sea. I came to read it because I’ve been taking my nine-year-old daughter on occasional early-morning swims.

She’s one of those kids who loves the ocean, and really water of any kind. Since she was small, she would spend hours playing in 55-degree Pacific surf. Cold water is no object — in fact, she likes it cold. When we visited Tahoe recently, we had to struggle to get her to come out of the frigid water after an hour of swimming and playing around. We joke that she’s part selkie — the half seal, half human creatures shown in the movie The Secret of Roan
Inish
.

On one of our morning bay swims, I met a swimming coach who noticed my daughter’s love of the water. I was standing on the beach, shivering as I tried to warm up after spending 30 minutes in the 60-degree water. But Clara continued to frolic in the water for another half hour, porpoising around, splashing, doing handstands, and just swimming wherever she felt like going.

The coach suggested Clara might like to read this book, so I got it from the library and read it myself before giving it to her.

Grayson is named after the whale she met, which was 18 feet long, had become separated from its mother and was following Cox dangerously close to the shore. So Cox swam further out, guiding the baby whale, who she names “Grayson,” while looking for his mother.

Along the way, Cox encounters schools of flying fish, grunion, leaping tuna, bat rays, sea turtles, garibaldi, jellies, and a playful pod of dolphins. She swims by an oil-drilling platform and talks to fishermen in their boats. She free-dives deep into the crystal-clear water of the Pacific, far from shore, and describes the many changes the colors go through as she descends. She floats on her back and thinks. She tries talking to the whale by imitating its strange clicks and grunts.

As she describes the ocean and the things she finds there, she drops in little asides about how much power thoughts have, how they radiate out and create other thoughts, and how as a result it’s important to have positive thoughts. She’s trying to help the whale, and she understands she needs to think optimistically as well as swim strongly.

Just 17 at the time, Cox was already an international-class swimmer, having broken records crossing the English Channel and the Catalina Channel. So her abilities to swim for long periods in 55-degree water, in open ocean, are quite a bit greater than most of us. It’s clear her mental and moral training has been strong too.

I was hoping some of that confidence, and positivity, would sink in while Clara read the book. But mostly I was hoping she would see how comfortable in the water a good swimmer could be, and how looking at the ocean, and gazing into it, and paying attention to it could open up vistas of beauty and mystery and life.

I don’t know if she got all that. But when she finished reading it, and I said it had to go back to the library, she told me she wanted a copy of her own to keep.

I’ve already ordered one.

Originally published on The Scuttlefish.

Grayson

A Chip Is Born: Inside a State-of-the-Art Clean Room

If you wish to compose an e-mail, index a database of web pages, stream a kitten video in 720p or render an explosion at 60 frames per second, you must first build a computer.

And to build a computer, you must first design and fabricate the tiny processors that rapidly churn through the millions of discrete computational steps behind every one of those digital actions, taking a new step approximately 3 billion times per second.

To do all this, you are probably going to need chip-manufacturing machines from Applied Materials, one of the main suppliers of such equipment to the semiconductor industry.

Applied’s machines subject silicon wafers (such as the Intel wafer shown below) to incredibly intense vacuums, caustic chemical baths, high-energy plasmas, intense ultraviolet light, and more, taking the wafers through the hundreds of discrete manufacturing steps required to turn them into CPUs, memory chips and graphics processors.

Because those processes aren’t exactly friendly to humans, much of this work happens inside sealed chambers where robot arms move the wafers from one processing station to another. The machines themselves are housed within clean rooms whose scrubbed air (and bunny-suited employees) keep the risk of aerial contamination low: A single dust particle from your hair is all it takes to ruin a CPU that might sell for $500, so companies are eager to minimize how often that happens.

Wired/com recently toured Applied Materials’ Maydan Technology Center, a state-of-the-art clean room in Santa Clara, California, where Applied develops and tests its machines.

Its 39,000 square feet of ultraclean workspace equals about 81 yards of a football field, and is divided into three huge “ballrooms,” each of which is crammed full of Applied’s multimillion-dollar machines, alongside pipes, tubes, spare parts, tanks of caustic chemicals, Craftsman tool chests and huge racks of silicon wafers. To get inside, you must suit up in a bunny suit, with a face mask and goggles, two pairs of gloves, and shoe-covering footies. We couldn’t even take a reporter’s notebook inside: Instead, Applied’s staff gave us a shrink-wrapped, specially sanitized clean-room notebook and clean-room pen to use.

It’s not a manufacturing facility. Instead, this clean room simulates the fabs where Applied’s machines will be used, enabling the company (and its customers) to test out new techniques and processes before putting them on the production line. As such, it provides a rare glimpse inside the world of cutting-edge semiconductor manufacturing.

Photo Gallery: A Chip Is Born: Inside a State-of-the-Art Clean Room | Gadget Lab | Wired.com.

A Chip Is Born: Inside a State-of-the-Art Clean Room

Journalism in the Age of Online Collaboration

Painting of Basho meeting two travelers, from the Library of Congress. http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2008660384/

Savvy journalists have adapted (or have been forced to adapt) to a new, more collaborative publishing model online. Here are my notes from a keynote presentation I delivered on this topic at the OCLC Collaboration Forum, held at the Smithsonian, on September 21.

Matsuo Kinsaku was born around 1644 in Japan. As a young man, he became a master of a form of collaborative poetry.

It was a kind of party game: A poetry master would kick things off with a pithy short verse, and then other people in the group would collaborate (and compete) to come up with subsequent verses, each one subtly or cleverly linked to the one before.

He was very successful and popular, but around 1682 Matsuo became dissatisfied and started traveling around Japan.

As he went, he wrote compressed travelogues interspersed with very short poems. They were kind of like those kick-off verses, except they stood on their own.

Over time, his new approach gained popularity, power and subtlety. He took on the poetic name of Basho, and his artform is known today as haiku.

Since the 17th century it’s been primarily an individual activity, like other poetry.

But in my work over the past decade publishing an online journal of haiku, tinywords, I’ve seen haiku come full circle. On tinywords.com, haiku are published as poems, like on any other literary journal. But like many websites, we also allow readers to post comments, or as I like to call them, “responses.”

In some cases, those responses are simply comments like “great work” or “beautiful imagery.” But sometimes, people post their own haiku in response. On occasion, that’s sparked a whole chain of linked verses, each one responding to the one that came before.

Sound familiar?

A similar thing, I think, is happening in journalism.

Continue reading “Journalism in the Age of Online Collaboration”

Journalism in the Age of Online Collaboration

October 7, 1954: IBM Gets Transistorized | This Day In Tech | Wired.com

1954: IBM builds the first calculating machine to use solid-state transistors instead of vacuum tubes.

IBM already had a business selling calculating machines, and it was humming along quite nicely. The IBM 604 Electronic Calculating Punch, which IBM introduced in 1948, was a desk-sized cabinet that ate and spat out punch cards in its single-minded mission of calculating math problems — 20 to 40 addition, subtraction, multiplication or division problems for each card. Since it could process 100 cards per second, that was a lot of math … for the time.

via October 7, 1954: IBM Gets Transistorized | This Day In Tech | Wired.com.

October 7, 1954: IBM Gets Transistorized | This Day In Tech | Wired.com

.haiku column No. 1 – Haiku Society of America

Thanks to the internet, haiku is making a return to the kind of collaborative, interactive spirit out of which it originally emerged almost four centuries ago.

As the editor of tinywords, I’ve seen this kind of evolution emerge spontaneously on many occasions.

To see what I mean, let’s first rewind the calendar a few hundred years.

Before haiku was a genre of its own, before people thought that a 17-syllable (or shorter) poem could stand on its own alongside triolets, sonnets, sestinas, ballads and epics, there was an art form in Japan called haikai no renga.

<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haikai>

It was a kind of party game: A poetry master would kick things off with a pithy short verse, and then other people in the group would collaborate (and compete) to come up with subsequent verses, each one subtly or cleverly linked to the one before.

Matsuo Kinsaku was a master of this form of poetry, and attracted many students and supporters. (In those days, it was actually possible to make a living as a poetry master!) But around 1682 Matsuo became dissatisfied and started traveling around Japan.

As he went, he wrote compressed travelogues interspersed with very short poems. They were kind of like those initial verses, except instead of being used to start a collaborative chain of linked verses, they stood on their own.

Over time, his new approach gained popularity, power and subtlety. His students collected his verses into volumes, and added their own — except now, instead of the short verses being linked together into chains, each one stood on its own. The concept of haiku, as a standalone poem, was born.

Since the 17th century it’s been primarily an individual activity, like other poetry: The poet, transfixed in a moment of solitary inspiration, writes a haiku and then, later, publishes it.

Of course it doesn’t always happen exactly like that, but that’s generally the outline of how we think of haiku — and other poems. They’re the product of one mind, usually, and they stand on their own.

But on the internet, haiku don’t have to be like that. Indeed, one haiku may spark a whole chain of responses, turning it into something more than just a poem on a page.

On tinywords.com, haiku are published as poems, like on any other literary journal. But like many websites, we also allow readers to post comments, or as I like to call them, responses.

In some cases, those responses are simply comments like “beautiful imagery” or “I loved this one.” But sometimes, people post their own haiku in response. On occasion, that’s sparked a whole chain of linked verses, each one responding to the one that came before.

The most spectacular example is this haiku by Patricia Prime, which was published in 2005 on tinywords:

hail storm

tiny white balls

bounce on the deck

<http://tinywords.com/haiku/2005/06/21/>

Five years later, my tastes have shifted somewhat, and the haiku feels a little flat to me: It’s one-dimensional. It presents a vivid image but there’s no contrast or tension. But it clearly struck a note with the readers, who immediately started posting their haiku in response, many of them quite lovely:

white out

a windstorm of

pear blossoms

–Kate

On a sheet of ice

the chick trying to free itself

from its mother’s claws

–R.K. Singh

a bearded iris

sporting new growth–

cottonwood fluff

–Ed Schwellenbach

<http://tinywords.com/haiku/2005/06/21/?comments=all>

And those are just the first three. Eventually, a back-and-forth developed between the haiku’s author and a frequent commenter, and the chain of verses extended to more than 300 in all.

That was a completely spontaneous happening. No one said, “Let’s have an online renga,” or “let’s see how long we can keep this going.” It just happened.

It wasn’t the only time that a chain of responses emerged on tinywords like this. But it doesn’t happen as frequently as I’d like, and I’ll admit that the reasons for that are somewhat elusive.

Part of it has to do with the spirit of the commenters: Whether they are moved to contribute their own haiku or simply comment, in the manner of workshop participants.

Partly is has to do with whether the language and interface of the journal encourage that kind of call-and-response.

But part of it is just magic. When it happens, the literary journal turns into something more — a community — and the haiku takes on a communal life through the screens of those reading it.

It’s a wonderful thing.

Originally published at Haiku Society of America tweney haiku column.

.haiku column No. 1 – Haiku Society of America