Walter Anderson and seeing things differently

Pine tree with tabby cat, Walter Inglis Anderson (American, 1903–1965)

There is a picture that has stayed with me for decades now. This isn’t that painting – the one I saw is in a private collection – but a very similar work by the same artist. And it’s an illustration of how enlightening a simple change of view can be. When I first saw the work up close, it looked very strange to me. It’s just a close-up water color of a pine tree. The same trees I saw hundreds of times a day. Except that it was painted in yellows and purples and greens. Sure, there was plenty of brown. But all of these other colors, what kind of artistic license was that? Except it wasn’t. It took me exactly until the next time I walked outside to realize that Anderson saw what I had not. The trees are not brown! They are an explosion of colors. The first pine tree I saw after clearly had yellows and purples and greens. And so did every other after it. It is impossible for me to see the trees otherwise now. What was just brown is now a collage of bright and interesting colors. It was an epiphany for me that just a few moments could seemingly change my very eyesight so dramatically!

Walter Anderson himself was the subject of a similar realization for me. I was familiar with a handful of his watercolors. They were mostly of the wildlife he saw around him. Lots of birds and fish, the occasional rabbit or octopus. I thought of him as a folk artist – interesting, but not too different from what I might find at a local arts fair. Then I went to the Walter Anderson Museum. Entering the lobby, I saw three huge works that I recognized immediately drew from ancient Egyptian styles. Then works drawing from the impressionists. As I progressed through the museum, I realized this was a man who had thoroughly studied his craft, who had traveled the world to do so. And knowing that, I started to see a lot more in the same paintings I had seen as just “folk art” before. Just as with the pine tree, the information allowed me, forced me even, to see things differently.

There are few things I love more than these types of realizations. Those things that change me irrevocably. Sometimes they take years to happen. I can study something for ages before I get that eureka moment. But sometimes, it just takes a glimpse.

Learn Morse Code with Google

Learn Morse Code with Google!

This is my latest addiction. I’ve wanted to learn Morse for years. Now Google has made a wonderfully addicting tool for just that. I’ve been working on it for a week, and have more of my letters and all numbers down pat. I just need an occasional reminder. I’m currently working on punctuation. Once I pull the site up, it’s hard to stop. I always want to do just one more word. I find it every bit as fun as any iphone game, but at the end, I’ve learned something new. I really want this to be the future of education!

British school gets cyber security education right!

At the next stage – the children then learnt how to, momentarily, become spooks: “By teaching children Python, we could enable them to hack into these toys and turn them into covert listening and recording devices,” said Alan.
Then the youngsters were asked to think of the worst-case scenario – if someone could hack into such a toy, then it could be possible for it to chat with, say, another smart voice enabled device. If that device was already set up for home shopping – then potentially the hacker could go on a spending spree.

I love this approach. Allowing the students to get into the mindset of the hacker opens up all kinds of new possibilities. When they see things from new perspectives, they learn to think in new and interesting ways. And in this case, they learn what they need to protect themselves against in a way I don’t think can be grasped fully without that perspective.

‘Fortnite’ and the collapse of parenting

‘Fortnite’ and the collapse of parenting

The article raises some interesting points, between the fear-mongering and anti-game bias I’ve come to expect. Video-game addiction can be a huge problem, as can the loss of sleep, competitive stress, and horrible chat and comments often involved with intensive gaming. The article focuses on only one game, suggesting that it is the problem. It also suggests that there is no middle ground between cutting off gaming completely or allowing compulsive gaming to go unchecked. This is a real missed opportunity for a lot of parents, who could be prompted to use this to teach good habits.

I will link here to a blog post from a good friend of mine on how his family handled their son’s screen time. I can find no better example of how this should be handled. For that matter, the child concerned is now a young man, and the stellar results of this approach to parenting are very apparent!

A great way to start the morning!

It’s a promising day when the first issue is a 3rd grader coming to me to change his password, because a friend saw it. I’ve talked a good bit about password security lately, and apparently it’s sinking in! Second issue was a fifth grader who’s been helping his younger brother do some 3D design looking for some advice. If the whole day goes like this, I’ll be flying home tonight!

Mad-Eye Moody

My Halloween costume may have cut too close to home! I think Mad-Eye Moody may be my favorite Harry Potter character, though, and is certainly in line with what I spend nearly every day trying to teach my kids. Constant Vigilance! 

This getup is a few weeks of work altogether. The centerpiece is the eye, of course, which was made with Adafruit’s Hallowing and splicing together some awesome 3D models. The staff is wood, a model of a ram skull, and lots of Bondo. The attitude is all my own.

Chromebook stand

I’ve wanted to create a better looking Chromebook stand to replace my old solution for quite a while. I’ve finally got one! I designed these in Illustrator and cut them on my Glowforge laser cutter. They cost about $50 in materials. I’m looking into whether I might be able to make them a bit cheaper through a service bureau, but I suspect that’s about as cheap as I can go. That’s quite a bit more than the last solution, so I’m not sure if this will be my final design or not.