Sunday, November 25, 2012

Making your own Menorah is no longer a Pipe Dream!

With the Jewish Diwali aka Hanukkah well nigh upon us, I was looking to provide my 7 year old son Uriel with a maker angle on the central artifact of the holiday, the Menorah. The Maccabees had hastily hacked together their Menorah by using hollow iron spearheads and I also wanted to capture this improvisational aspect of making the Menorah.

Inspired by Joe Grand's Pipe Menorah we set off to the nearest hardware store to make one of our own.

The guys at the store were kind enough to let us putter around gathering the parts we needed and try them out together.

Very quickly, we had used 1/2 inch steel pipes and connectors to make a Menorah that was able to stand up without tipping over by it's own weight (we had to replace the round base we used initially as it was too unstable). We then assembled a tripod base which proved to be quite solid.

Interestingly, the base for the original Menorah in the Jerusalem temple might have also been a tripod.

Brass connectors for the candletops and cheap Chinese toy finger LEDs as the "candles" completed the build.

Uriel was so proud of his handiwork!

At home I took everything apart and let Uriel build up the pipe Menorah again by himself while oiling and tightening up the parts.

We then had an evening photo shoot with Uriel's sister Rachela who proved herself quite the DJ!

Have fun making your own version - this craziness is sure to make your local hardware store VERY happy:)

Wishing you a happy festival of lights!

Sunday, May 27, 2012

DIY LEGO CUUSOO Star Wars Micro Chess Set

Please support and share my LEGO CUUSOO Star Wars Micro Chess Set project. If the project garners 10,000 supporters it stands a great chance of becoming an official LEGO set!

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, a great battle of good and evil was fought. Now you can relive the struggles of the courageous characters from the Star Wars saga in one of the world's oldest games, brought to life with LEGO Star Wars microfigs. LEGO Star Wars Chess puts you in command of the Rebel Alliance or the evil Galactic Empire! As you craft your strategy at each step, you move your forces to go forth and do battle. Use Chewbacca's skill with the crossbow to take out a sinister Tie Pilot. Or pit Darth Vader in a deadly lightsaber duel against his arch enemy Luke Skywalker!

The LEGO Star Wars Micro Chess Set uses microfigures from the new Battle of Hoth game set. The set includes a 16X16 black & white LEGO Chess baseplate and comes in it's own easy to store and carry box (like the old LEGO tic-tac box).

I used 64 black and white studded plates (32 of each color) sourced via Bricklink for the chessboard, but the grey and blue tiles from the Battle of Hoth gameset will do just as well

I also used female microfigs from other LEGO gamesets for the Queens on each side (as Princess Leia is conspicuously absent from the Battle of Hoth gameset). The Star Wars microfig chess set is highly compact and portable with all the pieces staying secure even while playing in a bus, train or plane. The LEGO Tic Tac Toe Box is a perfect fit for playing while on the go and for storage. LEGO should seriously consider sending one into Space as a gift to the ISS astronauts!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Aristotle's version of the Allegory of the Cave

Suppose there were men who had lived always underground, in good and well-lighted dwellings, adorned with statues and pictures, and furnished with everything in which those who are thought happy abound. Suppose, however, that they had never gone above ground, but had learned by report and hearsay that there is a divine authority and power. Suppose that then, at some time, the jaws of the earth opened, and they were able to escape and make their way from those hidden dwellings into these regions which we inhabit.

When they suddenly saw earth and seas and sky, when they learned the grandeur of clouds and the power of winds, when they saw the sun and learned its grandeur and beauty and the power shown in its filling the sky with light and making day; when, again, night darkened the lands and they saw the whole sky picked out and adorned with stars, and the varying lights of the moon as it waxes and wanes, and the risings and settings of all these bodies, and their courses settled and immutable to all eternity; when they saw those things, most certainly they would have judged both that there are gods and that these great works are the works of gods.
-from Aristotle's "On Philosophy", quoted in Cicero, De Natura Deorum, II 37

Thursday, September 22, 2011

PKD and Abraham Abulafia

p. 225, The Selected Letters of Philip K. Dick: 1977-1979, ed. Don Herron, Underwood Books, 1993.

Monday, August 8, 2011

DIY Steam Copper Coil Engine Boat

Pop-Pop or Phat-Phat boats have been a intriguing steam toy for ages.

Make your own simple steam pulse engine boat using a refrigeration copper coil, tealight candle, aluminium baking pan and binder clip.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Jacob Klein on Wonder

"I have said before that within the confines of our horizon there is the expected as well as the unexpected, the old and the new, the known and the unknown, the familiar and the unfamiliar. We do, however, experience a kind of question which, as it were, tends to smash the bounds that limit us. We do occasionally stop altogether and face the familiar as if for the first time — anything: a person, a street, the sky, a fly. The overwhelming impression on such occasions is the strangeness of the thing we contemplate. This state of mind requires detachment, and I am not at all certain to what extent we can contrive its presence. We suddenly do not feel at home in this world of ours. We take a deep look at things, at people, at words, with eyes blind to the familiar. We re-flect.

Plato has a word for it: metastrophe or periagoge, a turnabout, a conversion. We detach ourselves from all that is familiar to us; we change the direction of our inquiry; we do not explore the unknown any more; on the contrary, we convert the known into an unknown. We wonder. And we burst out with that inexorable question: Why is that so?

To be sure, we have raised the question "why" before. I can certainly ask: Why did it snow yesterday and does not snow today? Why did Mr. X say this or that to Mr. Y? But this "why" I am talking about now is of a different kind. It does not lead to any discovery or recovery. It calls myself in question with all my questioning. It compels me to detach myself from myself, to transcend the limits of my horizon; that is, it educates me. It gives me the freedom to go to the roots of all my questioning.

I can begin to understand that even our gossiping may ultimately rest on the transcendent power of this "why"; that even the children's "why", repeated endlessly to the disgust of their mothers and fathers, may ultimately derive from the human possibility of a total conversion."
-Jacob Klein "The Idea of Liberal Education"

Friday, August 20, 2010

Space Remix Series

Dr. Edgar Mitchell Apollo 14 Astronaut's 'Earth from Space' guided meditation:
"Yes,it is not difficult.Having the image of Earth displayed, just relax into a meditative state. Then I guide the audience through a step by step procedure of feeling themselves detached from Earth, and experiencing it from the distant vantage point. Practiced meditators will sometimes go into a samadhi state during the process."

Monday, October 5, 2009

How to Grow your own Food with Sub-Irrigating Planters

It's always a good idea to try and grow some of your own food to cultivate your sense of independence.

President Truman urges Americans to grow food

Many are daunted by this 'complicated' prospect and give up on the idea prematurely. But there is a simple, 'slam dunk' way to grow your own food: using Sub-Irrigating Planters or SIPs.

A SIP Patent from 1917

You can make your own SIPs from open-source instructions using 5 gallon buckets and Earthtainers or buy commercial models like the EarthBox or Grow Box.

Sub-Irrigating Planters have a water compartment on the bottom with a "wick" of wet soil that lets the plants water themselves as needed using the power of capillary action. A water overflow hole indicates that the SIP is full and prevents you from drowning the plants:)

Self-Irrigating Planters can be easily setup even in high-rise apartments, eliminate weeds and pests, give high yields of organic "local" fruits and vegetables and save you money. All you have to do is to water them every few days and pick the harvest!

I setup four EarthBoxes early this spring on my South Street apartment's deck and reaped great results as you can see.

South Street Brandywine Tomatoes

We have also enjoyed many intangible blessings like witnessing the miraculous visits of butterflies and bees to pollinate the tomatoes. There is nothing like the delectable satisfaction of watching and eating food you have grown. Bon appetit!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Birthing a Mother: Surrogacy in Israel

My wife Dr. Elly Teman's superb ethnography of Surrogate Motherhood is now available on Amazon:)

Birthing a Mother is the first ethnography to probe the intimate experience of gestational surrogate motherhood.

In this beautifully written and insightful book, Dr. Elly Teman shows how surrogates and intended mothers carefully negotiate their cooperative endeavor.

Drawing on anthropological fieldwork among Jewish-Israeli women, interspersed with cross-cultural perspectives of surrogacy in the global context, Teman traces the processes by which surrogates relinquish any maternal claim to the baby even as intended mothers accomplish a complicated transition to motherhood.

Teman's groundbreaking analysis reveals that as surrogates psychologically and emotionally disengage from the fetus they carry, they develop a profound and lasting bond with the intended mother.

Teman shows how a potentially alienating experience for the surrogate becomes empowering and how the experience is transformed into a "hero's journey" through which they overcome very real personal obstacles with commitment and determination.

The result is a book that demolishes the myth of the "womb for rent" and powerfully affirms a joint project in which one woman assists another, through sacrifice and instruction, to become-also-a mother.

Birthing a Mother: The Surrogate Body and the Pregnant Self
by Dr. Elly Teman
University of California Press, 2010

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Esther: A Spy Story?

Some things in the Scroll of Esther make sense only on the assumption that Mordechai was running a spy ring in the royal palace that included the enuchs and that Esther was a newly minted spy on her first, crucial assignment:

- How exactly was Ahasuerus' order to Vashti worded by the enuchs who delivered the message to her?(1.10-12)

-Memucam suggests and the King accepts(1.21 )

-The servants suggest and the King accepts, Hegai is nominated(2.4)

-Mordechai has daily channels of communication with Esther(2.11)

-Esther follows Hegai's advice(2.15)

-Esther obeys Mordechai( 2.20)

-How did Mordechai know all about Haman's plot, including access to secret royal documents(4.7-8)

-Mordechai prods a reluctant Esther to act(4.13-14)

-Esther might have given an anti-sleep potion to Ahasuerus at the first wine feast( 6.1)

-How did the King's servants know to open the annals exactly on Mordechai's page?(6.2)

-Esther compromises Haman(7.8)

Purim Sameach!

Friday, January 30, 2009

'Regimen of Health' by Maimonides

". . . It is known to our sovereign, may God prolong his days, that the passions of the soul greatly alter the body in ways obvious to any observer. Consider a man with a powerful build, booming voice, and radiant face. If he were suddenly to receive news which greatly saddened him, in that instant you would see his complexion become pale, the radiance of his face fade, his bearing slacken, and his voice drop. Even if he were to struggle to raise his voice, he would not be able to. His strength would wane, he might tremble because of weakness, his pulse would diminish, his eyes would become hollow, his lids would become too heavy to move, his skin would turn cold, and his appetite would subside. The cause of all of these effects would be the natural heat and the blood withdrawing deeper into the body.

Conversely, consider an individual with a weak body, pale complexion, and feeble voice. If he were notified about something which greatly delighted him, you would see his body become strong, his voice rise, his face brighten, his movements quicken, his pulse increase, his skin warm up, and joy and delight become so apparent that he would not be able to conceal them. The cause of all of these effects would be the movement of the natural heat and the blood toward the surface of the body.

The characteristics of the fearful, anxious person and of the confident, relaxed person are known; similarly, the characteristics of the vanquished and of the victorious are obvious. Whoever is vanquished can hardly see anythings because his visual spirit is diminished and dissipated. However, the vision of the victorious person increases in such a massive way that the light of the atmosphere appears to have increased and grown. This is so obvious that it is not necessary to dwell on it.

For this reason physicians have recommended constant concern for, and awareness about, the soul's movements, as well as concern for putting them into equilibrium at the time of health and sickness-giving no other treatment precedence in any way. The physician should desire that every sick person and every healthy person be constantly cheerful and relieved of the passions of the soul causing depression. In this way the health of the healthy will endure. This is foremost in curing every sick person, especially those whose sickness pertains to the soul-like those with hypochondria and morbid melancholia. Indeed, concern about the soul's movements ought to be strongest for these people, as well as for anyone overwhelmed by worry, obsessive thoughts, apprehension about things not such as to produce apprehension, or anyone who is only slightly cheerful about cheerful things. For all of these people, the skillful physician should place nothing ahead of improving the condition of their souls by removing these passions.

However, insofar as he is a physician, the physician ought not to expect his art to provide knowledge of how to remove these passions. Indeed, this understanding is acquired from practical philosophy and from the admonitions and disciplines of the Law. For just as the philosophers have composed books about the various sciences, so too have they composed many books about improving moral habits and disciplining the soul to acquire the moral virtues so that only good actions stem from it.

They warn against the moral imperfections and teach every man who finds one of these moral habits in his soul the way to eradicate it so that the state of character leading to all evil actions disappears. Similarly, the disciplines of the Law, admonitions, maxims taken from the prophets (may peace be upon them) or from their followers, and knowledge of their virtuous lives improve the moral habits of the soul so that it obtains virtuous dispositions and only good actions stem from it.

Therefore you find these passions have a very great influence only on those individuals having no knowledge of philosophic ethics or the disciplines and admonitions of the Law-such as youths, women, and foolish men. For due to the excessive tenderness of their souls, these people become anxious and despair. If harm touches them and one of the calamities of this world befalls them, anxiety increases and that they cry out, weep, slap their cheeks, and beat their breasts. Sometimes the misfortunes become so great in their eyes that one of them dies, either immediately or after a while, due to the worry and grief which overwhelm him.

Similarly, if these individuals obtain one of the goods of this world, their joy thereby increases. Due to their souls being poorly disciplined, such individuals suppose that they have obtained a very great good, and their wonder and exultation greatly magnify what they have obtained. Because of that, they are greatly moved and their laughter and frivolity increase to the point that some of them die from excessive joy. This is due to exhaustion of the spirit from the intensity of its suddenly tending to be outside of itself, as Galen mentioned. The cause of all this is the soul's excessive tenderness and its ignorance of the truth of things.

Now it is persons trained in philosophic ethics or in the disciplines and admonitions of the Law whose souls acquire courage. These are the truly courageous; their souls are only swayed and affected in the slightest possible way. The more training an individual has, the less he is affected by either of the two conditions-I mean, the condition of prosperity or of adversity. Even if he obtains one of the greater goods of this world, which are the ones the philosophers call presumed goods, he is not moved by that; nor do those goods become great in his eyes. Similarly, if one of the greater evils of this world befalls him, which are the ones the philosophers call presumed evils, he does not become anxious nor despair, but endures it nobly.

A man acquires this disposition in his soul by considering the truth of things and by knowing the nature of existence. Even if a man possessed the greatest good of this world during his whole life, it would be very insignificant, because it is a perishable thing and because man, like all the other kinds of animals, must die. Similarly, if the greatest evil of this world is contrasted with death, which is inevitable, that evil is undoubtedly inferior to death. Therefore one should be less affected by that evil, since it is inferior to what is inevitable.

It is fitting that the philosophers called the goods and evils of this world, presumed goods and presumed evils. Indeed, how many of those goods are presumed to be good while being in truth evil, and how many of those evils are presumed to be evil while being in truth good? Again, how vast an amount of money and how many vain possessions has a man acquired which caused the corruption of his body, the degeneration of his soul through moral imperfections, the shortening of his life, his drawing away from God (may He be exalted), and separation between him and his Creator? Does that not give him everlasting misery? Moreover, how much money has been stolen from a man or how many possessions wrested away which caused the improvement of his body, the ennobling of his soul with moral virtues, the lengthening of his life, and his coming closer to his Creator by devoting himself to His worship? Does that not give him everlasting happiness?

Now the servant could speak about the length or shortness of life only by relying upon the opinion of the physicians, the philosophers, and some of the adherents of the religious laws prior to Islam. In sum, most of what the multitude presumes to be happiness is in truth misery, while most of what it presumes to be misery is in truth happiness.

It is not the purpose of this treatise to explain the truth of these matters, to comment on them, and to teach the ways to them. Much has already been composed concerning this in every age and by every wise nation which has studied the sciences. The servant only offered this advice as an indication of how to accustom the soul to diminish the passions by studying books on ethics, the disciplines of the Law, the admonitions, and the maxims spoken by intelligent men. In that way the soul will be strengthened and will see the true as true and the false as false. Thus the passions will diminish, (obsessive)thoughts will disappear, apprehension will be removed, and the soul will be cheerful in whatever condition a man happens to be.

Here is a very good thing to reflect upon. By it, bad thoughts, worries, and griefs are diminished. Sometimes they can even be completely destroyed, if a man holds this reflection foremost in his mind: Namely, whenever a man thinks about something that distresses him, and worry, grief, or sadness crop up in him, it can be due only to one of two things: either he is thinking about a matter that has already taken place, like someone who thinks about something that happened to him, such as the loss of his money, or about the death of someone dear to him; or else he is thinking about matters he expects and whose advent he dreads, like someone who thinks and talks about the advent of any disaster he expects. Now intellectual reflection teaches that thinking about what has taken place and has happened is of no benefit at all, and that sadness and grief about matters that have passed and gone are due to faulty understanding. There is no difference between a man's being grieved because of the loss of his money or similar things and his being grieved because he is a man and not an angel or a planet, or similar thinking about impossible things.

On the basis of this reflection, acts of thinking leading to depression about something that is expected to come to pass in the future ought also to be abandoned. That is because everything that a man expects is within the realm of possibility: it may take place or it may not take place. Hence, just as he becomes distressed and grieves lest what he expects occur, so too he ought to delight his soul with anticipation and hope that perhaps the opposite of what he expects will take place. After all, the expected matter and its opposite are both possible."

-Maimonides, On the Management of Health, Chapter 3