We do things differently

Cover of We do things differently Every now and then a book comes along that packs a big enough punch that I feel as if I’m flying through the air. We do things differently: The outsiders rebooting our world has me landing feet first with the feeling I can walk into the future.

Travelling across four continents author Mark Stevenson sets out to meet people who have created, and are using, extraordinary new ways to help our world.

“I had one over riding criterion for inclusion in my itinerary. The innovators had to be succeeding right now in the real world. Whatever their idea, I wanted to be able to touch it, meet the people making and benefiting from it… It had to be working and I had to be able to see it working.”

From growing rice to running machines on air We Do Things Differently is a remarkable look at here and now.

Want to learn more?

*both of the websites above recommended by Mark Stevenson.

More from Mark Stevenson

Cool stuff from the selectors: Fashion, architecture and insects

9780714873343On Eating Insects

In theory I like the idea of eating insects, it makes sense in a world where food could become scarce – it would seem that we are unlikely to run out of insects or plagues of locusts, but what about putting this into practice? “Bee Lave Taco or Moth Mousse” anyone?

On Eating Insects is not just about exotic sounding recipes, it gives us a holistic view of the subject with thought-provoking essays and fascinating stories of field trips into the world of the people who have eaten insects for centuries.  The political, cultural and ecological aspect of eating insects is also examined, creating a book that will leave you thinking, and perhaps looking at that ant nest in your garden in a slightly different light.

9780847858521The Art of Dressing: Ageless, timeless, original style

Style icon Tziporah Salamon profiles the chicest and most celebrated older women of today, while imparting practical tips on how to put together beautiful outfits

With headings such as “Good shoes and a good handbag are a must”, “Consider the whole effect: you are creating a work of art, a painting”, and “Enlist the services of a good seamstress and tailor” you would be forgiven for thinking that this book is not for the average middle-aged woman – and you would probably be right. However if you love to pore over books that include colour, style and a touch of whimsy then this is definitely the one for you.

As an aside, what is it with older women and hats?

9781614282273The big book of the Hamptons

Another book to peruse, salivate over, and wonder how some people have all the luck. I have been obsessed with the Hamptons and their general surrounds since I started reading fiction set in this location. The Hamptons are always depicted as full of beautiful but comfortable homes nestled near the beach, eccentric but lovable families, arty types, romantics….wealthy but not pushy.  This book does not disappoint.  It’s big and it’s full of photos.

There’s a reason why artists and writers, movie stars and moguls, musicians and composers, fashion designers and decorators, architects and craftsmen, fisherman and farmers have flocked to the Hamptons for all these years.  They are drawn by the glorious landscape, the extraordinary light, and the promise of pleasure.

9780714873497Mobitecture: Architecture on the move

The Camper Kart – a pop top in a shopping cart, the QTvan, a camper for mobilty scooters or the A47 mobile library – all the buildings in this book are designed to move.  Some are practical and actually work, some are purely experimental, and others are art installations.  There is sure to be plenty of inspiration for anyone interested in the idea of small houses, camping ideas or houses of the future.

James Gleick at WORD Christchurch: No spoilers for Time Travellers

James Gleick does not want to offend anyone.

The author of numerous books of a scientific bent is careful with his words and keen not to ruffle any feathers. It’s speculation on my part, but I wonder if his experience is that, on the topic of Time Travel, passions might sometimes become inflamed?

A curious full house gather at the Piano for this WORD Christchurch session featuring Gleick and fellow New Yorker Daniel Bernardi (erskine fellow, film and media studies scholar, science fiction expert and documentary filmmaker). They discuss the ins and outs, twists, turns and paradoxes of Time Travel. Before long there is, as is the new tradition when two educated Americans speak in the presence of non-Americans… a jocular swipe at the current US president.

James Gleick and Professor Daniel Bernardi
James Gleick and Professor Daniel Bernardi, Flickr File Reference: 2017-05-16-IMG_0194

Fortunately this science-loving audience is not in the least offended by the joke.

Cover of Time Travel by James GleickGleick’s book Time Travel: A history is an exploration of the literature, science and zeitgeist of Time Travel. It’s far-ranging, smart and brain-expanding.

But what made him want to write on that topic in the first place?

I discovered this weird fact – that Time Travel is a new idea. That didn’t make any sense to me.

Why did it take until H. G. Wells’s novel The Time Machine for people to explore that as an idea? It seems a few things came together: photography and cinema were showing people a slice of the past in the present; instantaneous communication was suddenly possible making the lack of temporal alignment in different places more obvious; and time standards became a thing for the first time. As Gleick puts it, “the way people thought about Time was up for grabs”.

Then Einstein came along and things got really interesting.

Though Einstein’s theories allowed for the possibility of a sort of Time Travel, Gleick is quick to point out that it’s not the punching-a-date-on-a-machine or opening-a-portal-to-another-era kind. It’s really just the acknowledgement that there is no universal time. Everyone’s experience of time is personal and given the right set of circumstances (speedlight travel, for instance) your version of time can slow down relative to everyone else’s. This means that the Time Travel stories of the “Rip Van Winkle” (or Futurama) kind become technically possible. But Gleick doesn’t believe the imaginary, sci-fi type Time Travel that continues to excite our imaginations exists, or that it will. Though he seems apologetic about it, as if he’s mindful of deflating the aspirations of wannabe Time Travellers in the audience.

On the enduring appeal of Time Travel in literature and popular culture, Gleick feels that it lets people explore many things about families and relationships – it gives you the ability for “a do-over”. Like the movie Groundhog Day. He points out that a lot of Time Travel stories are about fathers and mothers, families and parents.

Take Back to the Future – isn’t this really just a movie about looking at your parents and realising they were once young like me, and wondering “what was that like?”

This is far from the only reference to Time Travel in popular culture, and many in the audience probably come away from this talk with a reading/watching list that includes:

  • A Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood – indicative of pessimism about the future of “our benighted country”.
  • Doomsday book – H. G. Wells never wrote about going into the past but Connie Willis does.
  • “All you zombies” by Robert Heinlein – An early short story that became the movie Predestination and is an interesting example of The Grandfather Paradox.
  • Looper – Movie that nicely skirts over the paradoxical plot difficulties by having Bruce Willis tell his younger self “If we’re going to talk about Time Travel sh*t we’re gonna be sitting here making diagrams with straws all day”.
  • Interstellar – Bernardi’s pick as the film that best visualises the science of Time Travel.
  • The Planet of the Apes series – Bernardi’s favourite for its use of Time Travel to address issues of gender and race.
  • Arrival – A film that Gleick feels works very well in performing a “subtle trick” on the audience. All Time Travel stories have to do this but in this film you barely notice it happening.
  • Twelve Monkeys – Another Bruce Willis film that deals with a Time Travel loop and deals with a death.
  • “Blink” – Gleick’s favourite episode of Doctor Who, in particular a scene set in a spooky old house, “old houses are great time travel machines”. It’s also the first episode in which the phrase “timey-wimey” is used.
James Gleick
James Gleick: a man in want of some straws. Flickr File Reference: 2017-05-16-IMG_0198

Gleick is at great pains to try and describe these stories in a way that does not reveal any important plot twists. In the case of Planet of the Apes this is… is adorable the right word? The movie came out in 1968. But no spoilers!

Another appealing aspect to Time Travel is that it’s a way of escaping death. After all, (spoiler alert!) Time will kill us all in the end.

When we hear Time’s winged chariot it’s not delivering good news.

But what is Time (other than universally deadly)? Scientists may tell you that Time is the 4th dimension and that it’s similar to the other physical dimensions in that we inhabit one spot and the rest stretches out away from us, both backward and forward. This rather flies in the face of what Gleick says we know “in our guts” about Time i.e. that the past has happened and the future hasn’t.

It seems an oddly obvious statement to have to make, and Gleick says it’s not a scientific one but a religious one.

Some of the audience questions delve into this idea of religious thought versus Time Travel and at this point I get lost, draw a spiral in my notebook and label it “loop of confusion”. Questions like “is God in Time with us?” and “doesn’t an interventionist God imply that the future isn’t set?” do somewhat “screw my noodle”. Given the heady topic, it seems inevitable that I lose the thread of the discussion at some point in proceedings. Perhaps it always has, and always did happen?

Other questions posed include one from my colleague Fee (who wrote her own post about James Gleick) and wonders if the future is set, then what about premonition? Which Gleick says (gently) that he does not believe in, though it’s a powerful idea.

Another question asks how it is that Gleick can explain such scientifically complex stuff in ways that non-scientist folk can understand. He says simply that he’s a journalist so he asks lots of questions and that a big part of it is just getting scientists to talk you as they sometimes “live in their own abstruse world”.

I am lucky enough to get the last mic grab of the night and ask my own question (which if I could have a Time Travel do-over for, I would make slightly less waffley). It’s with reference to the way we think about Time in terms of spatial metaphor. In the Western world we conceive of the past as being behind us and the future in front of us but in Māori culture this is flipped around – the past is known and therefore visible before you and it’s the future that approaches you from behind. In the course of researching had he found any other cultures that view Time this way? Gleick replies that the language we use, the words that we use to describe Time really shape how we think about it and that in some Asian languages Time travels on an “up and down” axis or “right to left”.

And if I thought my noodle was screwed before it definitely is now. As I exit the theatre along with the rest of the audience I concentrate on travelling forward through space and backwards/forwards/vertically through time.

More information

Samoan Language Week – Vaiaso o le Gagana Samoa 2017

Talofa. Samoan Language Week 2017 will take place from 28 May to 3 June. Here at Christchurch City Libraries, we welcome you to join us for:

  • Storytimes in Samoan
  • Samoan computer session Thursday 1 June (1PM to 3PM) South Library. We will look at the latest online news, music and videos online from Samoa. E mana’omia lo outou susū mai tatou fa’ailoga fa’atasi le Gagana Samoa ma fa’ata’ita’i le fa’aaogaina o le Komeputa. E a’o’aoina ai le su’eina o tala fou, musika ma nisi mea aoga mai Samoa i luga le upega tafa’ilagi (internet).
  • Samoan Se’evae Tosotoso (Jandal) Craft Activity
    Create and design your own Samoan Se’evae Tosotoso (Jandal). Participate and enjoy learning some new Samoan words and greetings.

See the full list of Samoan Language Week activities.
Subscribe to the Facebook event.

Samoan Language Week

Samoan language resources

Find more information about Samoan Language Week and Samoan language. Our Samoan Language Week webpage includes links to books and resources in Samoan. There is a booklist Samoan language books and resources for children, as well as videos and audio. It features our wonderful colleagues Tai Sila and Jan-Hai Te Ratana performing some short Samoan songs:

Mask Making at the Makerspace Workshop

Come and check out our mask display at the South Learning Centre. Students at the Marker Space Workshop afterschool programme investigated the meaning behind masks and why people wear masks. They then researched and drafted their own mask ideas. Their brief was to incorporate an accessory that could be 3D printed.

masks

Marker Space Workshop afterschool programme delved into the World of Wearable Arts (WOW). But it was more than just costume making – it involved a trip to Creative Junk and sewing lessons with a sewing machine – but also circuit making with LEDs and Arduino chips.

Students were asked to create an Kiwiana outfit which included an electronic circuit with flashing LEDs.

IMG_0148

Booking and enquiries

To book a place on one of our courses please phone (03) 941 5140 or email: learningcentre@ccc.govt.nz.

I draw the line

Art Before BreakfastIn any interaction where I mention that I try to draw every day, there is a point straight after the words leave my lips when I can hear the drawbridge being cranked up, and see the intervening moat filling up with tablets, apps, Pokemon and the sundry small, useless products of 3D printing. And, as if from a distant galaxy, I hear the person on the other side of the moat say some variation of the following: “Oh I can’t draw a thing. I can’t even draw a stick man.”

And let’s say, just for the moment, that you are stick-man challenged, still I bet you had the chance to draw and paint and play music when you were at school. What is a great concern for many educators nowadays is that the swing to a predominantly technology-based education system like STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) means that many children will be deprived of the opportunity to develop their own direct, tactile creativity, and will be doomed to a life of thinking that creativity is the manipulation of someone else’s genius.

ArtlessWhich is why I am such a huge fan of The Big Draw – The world’s largest drawing festival. Most education systems nowadays focus on STEM curricula. The Big Draw is part of an initiative to change STEM to STEAM through the addition of the Arts. And we have a chance to be part of this initiative at Art Box Gallery in Christchurch until Friday 28th October. Art Box is the venue for the Christchurch Big Draw which has invited 20 New Zealand artists to show us just how important drawing is. How we simply cannot afford to let Art slip through the cracks. How the British Arts Education Trust believes  “Art can change lives”.

I went along to The Big Draw with my colleague and art-buddy, Masha. Debra McLeod was in attendance to share some arty gems with us – she is always so welcoming and knowledgeable. It was a struggle to drag Masha past Ina Johann’s Parallel Lines – mapping another life (and it was only exhibit 2 of 20), and I wanted my little drawing books to morph into the likes of Mario Luz’s Sketchbooks.

All the artists in this Big Draw exhibition are known in their field and for sure you will come away with a different slant on life. But here’s an idea – maybe the next Christchurch Big Draw could feature the sketchbooks of ordinary, everyday sketchers: the people who draw though they will never be known for it, and the children who are just starting out on drawing.

Back we meandered to Central Library Manchester – just that little bit altered. There to search out more beautiful drawing books. Paul Klee is reputed to have said that drawing  “is the act of  taking a line for a walk”. To-day Masha and I took a walk for the lines!

Roberta and Masha with Sandra Thomson's Coral Reef and Fated.
Roberta and Masha with Sandra Thomson’s Coral Reef and Fated.

Inspiring girls to work in STEM – Ada Lovelace Day 2016

Today is Ada Lovelace Day – a celebration of the achievements of women in science, technology, engineering and science. It’s celebrated on the second Tuesday in October.

STEM (Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) is a field that needs more women. Careers NZ looks at where women are working in STEM, and job opportunities.

Having inspiring examples for girls and young women is an important part of adding balance into the sector. Curious  Minds – He Hihiri i te Mahara does it well – Increasing girls’ and women’s participation in STEM publishes profiles of women in science, technology and engineering, and new profiles are added each week. Dr Victoria Metcalf’s New Zealand women in STEM – talented and diverse is a cool look into Curious Minds.
Like Curious Minds on Facebook and follow on Twitter.

Fabriko Electronic Stickers Fun Palace
Fabriko Electronic Stickers Fun Palace, Central Library Peterborough. Sunday 2 October 2016. Flickr 2016-10-2-IMG_6300

STEM at libraries and learning centres

Science Snippets in the library hosted by Science Alive! After school sessions start back next week Monday 17 October.

Anna and Gen from Science Alive!
Anna and Gen from Science Alive!

See also:

Books to give girls STEM inspiration

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Our previous Ada Lovelace Day posts

Fun Palaces – Saturday 1 and Sunday 2 October 2016

Celebrate art, science and creativity at this year’s Fun Palaces festival! All activities are fun, free and suitable for all ages. Central Library Peterborough will be a Fun Palace from 10am to 2pm on the weekend of Saturday 1 and Sunday 2 October (it’s the middle weekend of the school holidays).

Fun Palaces

Here’s the schedule for Fun Palaces 2016:

Saturday 1 October

Fabriko Electronic Sticker Fun Palace

Make a card, paper critter or a fan that will light up with a special electronic circuit you make with stickers, batteries and LEDs! Both days, 10am – 2pm

Spider Phobia Demonstration

Who’s afraid of spiders? Don’t miss out on this experience to have Virtual Spiders creep and crawl all over a desk and up your arms! Both days, 10am – 2pm

Nao Robots

A HUGE success last year! Swing by and interact with these incredible humanoid robots! Both days, 10am – 12pm

Nao Robots - Fun Palaces at Central Library Peterborough

Interactive Trampoline Gaming

Come alone and have a try of the world’s first interactive, digital gaming system designed for a trampoline. Saturday 10am – 2pm

Springfree

Quiver Augmented Reality

Experience the exciting world of Augmented Reality! Colour in images the ‘old school’ way and then watch them come to life using Quiver! This is a magical and engaging 3D experience. Saturday 10am – 12pm

MineCraft

Get imaginative and create your own Fun Palace through MineCraft. Work on your own or with friends to create the MOST fun environment you can think of! Only 20 computers available. Saturday 10 – 11.15am and 11.30am – 12.45pm

HTC VIVE

Experience a 360-degree virtual world! This is the very latest in augmented reality technology. Both days, 12 – 2pm

Sunday 2 October

Fabriko Electronic Sticker Fun Palace

Make a card, paper critter or a fan that will light up with a special electronic circuit you make with stickers, batteries and LEDs! Both days, 10am – 2pm

Spider Phobia Demonstration

Who’s afraid of spiders? Don’t miss out on this experience to have Virtual Spiders creep and crawl all over a desk and up your arms! Both days, 10am – 2pm

Virtual spiders - Fun Palaces, Central Library Peterborough

Nao Robots

A HUGE success last year! Swing by and interact with these incredible humanoid robots! Both days, 10am – 12pm

HTC VIVE

Experience a 360-degree virtual world! This is the very latest in augmented reality technology. Both days, 12 – 2pm

Bee-Bots!

Come and learn about Robot technology by having a play with these cute little guys! Sunday 10.30 – 11.30am and 1 – 2pm

3D Printing Demonstration

What’s all the hype about 3D printing? Come in and see yourself during a live demonstration. Learn a little about how these cool machines work, what we use and other facts about this exciting technology. Sunday 11am – 1pm
Fun Palaces at Central Library Peterborough

Kitchen Science Lab – Solar Oven

Build your very own solar oven and harness the power of the sun to cook yourself a wee treat. Sunday 12 – 2pm

Adult Learners go mad on 3D

My colleague Katie and I learnt something new this Adult Learners Week – how to make stuff and 3D print it! We visited the learning centre at Te Hāpua: Halswell Centre. Thanks to excellent training from Danny McNeil, Learning Specialist (and 3D wiz), we went through the whole process of creating an object and printing it. We learned how to design stuff using 123D (software now on library computers) and Inkscape.

Words like extrude and chamfer are now in my vocabulary. I saw how a background in gaming – particularly Minecraft – can help kids (and adults) design. It gets you familiar with working in a three dimensional space –  orbiting, rotating, and viewing objects from all angles can be tricksy and new when you are not used to it.

3D printing
Designing a cat toy in 123D – involves some maths!

Danny took us through the process from woah to go – you can watch his how-to videos 3D modelling a step by step guide and have a try. People who’ve done his class have gone on to make all sorts of interesting things – new bits for their tools, flying vehicles, and more.

3D printing
Ready, set, 3D print!

I highly recommend getting out of your comfort zone and learning something new – this week or any time!

3D printing
3D printed cat toy

3D printing
3D printing

More photos from our training.

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Remembering Richard Pearse 1877 to 1953

My name is Richard William Pearse and today it will be 63 years since my death. You know me because I was one of the first people in the world to fly a powered aircraft. Some of you even believe that my flight preceded that of the Wright Brothers and you would be right, it did by several months.

Richard Pearse 80 cent stamp
Richard Pearse stamp, 1990. Image used by permission of New Zealand Post.

But many years ago I conceded quite publicly that by my own rigorous standards I hadn’t achieved controlled and sustained flight. It was quite a ride though when I did achieve take off and stayed in the air for over a hundred metres before ‘landing’ atop the large gorse hedge that bordered my property in Waitohi. My collarbone and I fared about as well as my plane did when I hit the hedge and we were both the worse for wear afterwards.

So while I could obviously get my plane in the air I needed to set about solving the problem of aerial navigation. Despite my work, this is where my well funded counterparts in the Northern Hemisphere had the advantage until finally as I wrote in the Evening Star on 10th May 1915;

…as aerial navigation was already an accomplished fact, I decided to give up the struggle, as it was useless to continue against men who had factories at their backs.

But other events would also define my life. In 1910 I became very ill with typhoid and spent three months in bed and a further six months convalescing. It was with particular significance that only a couple of years later Wilbur Wright died from the same illness. I moved to Milton, Otago not long afterwards to farm sheep and took my designs and aircraft with me but the landscape was unsuitable for trial flights. I put my efforts into inventing farm machinery instead.

Richard Pearse Patent Drawing1906
Richard Pearse’s Fantastic Flying Machine, drawing from Richard Pearse’s patent, July 1906 [patent number #21476], Archives New Zealand (CC BY-SA 2.0)
In 1917 I was conscripted into the army and was placed with the Otago Infantry Regiment. I am 40 years old and despite enjoying walking the hills around my home and playing golf and tennis; I am unprepared for the toll army training will take on me. It soon became apparent that the typhoid had left its mark and I was eventually found to be physically unfit for further military service and discharged. I was home by the end of 1918.

By 1921 wool prices were plummeting so I decided it was time to sell up and I relocated to Christchurch. Here I eventually purchased three houses, two of which I rented out and lived off the proceeds so that I could continue my work. I dreamed of a plane in every home, but this was not to be. As time passed and my work continued to reside in relative obscurity; I became unwell and lived out my years at Sunnyside Hospital. I died here on 29th July, 1953.

But in a strange twist of fate my work lives on and is celebrated today. The recognition that eluded me in my lifetime has been heaped upon me in death. My utility plane and my years of research were discovered at my Christchurch home and a dump in Waitohi with thanks largely to my champion George Bolt. A replica of my plane was constructed in the mid 1970s, it toured the country and is now on display at Auckland’s Museum of Transport and Technology. They even tested it in a wind tunnel to see if it would fly. Unsurprisingly, it did.

Richard Pearse's Aeroplane No. 1 replica, MOTAT, Auckland, New Zealand, 5 April 2010 photo by Phillip Capper
Richard Pearse’s Aeroplane No. 1 replica, MOTAT, Auckland, New Zealand, 5 April 2010 photo by Phillip Capper (CC BY 2.0)

More information on Richard Pearse