24 Hours of Work

I learned something about my little ants. They naturally take shifts when working on the tunnels. At first I thought that I just had some lazy ants, but it turns out that while some sleep, others will work. Then they will switch.

So it has been 24 hours on a rotating shift, and they have one very long tunnel to show for it. It’s fun to watch them go into the tunnel and ball up the gel and bring it back up. By request, I’ve taken some more photos of their work, and also took some close up ones. I suggest that you click on the close up pictures and view the extra large size of the photos. You can see how sharp their pinchers are and you can even see the eyes on a couple. (The close up pictures are not incredibly clear because the plastic throws off the focus.)

Ant Farm

Ant Farm

Ant Farm

Ant Farm

Ant Farm

Meet My Friends

For Christmas, my sister gave me a very fun gift. It is an ant farm….but not just any ant farm. This one uses a gel rather than sand. And it is lit from the bottom so it has a really neat glow.

A couple weeks ago, I sent for the ants in the mail. I just got back from San Francisco last night and they were waiting for me on my desk. I put the ants into the ant farm and I’m very excited to watch them do their work. Although, so far, they haven’t done much work. These harvester ants will die of famine if they don’t get to work.

I’ll keep you all updated on the progress. Anyone have an idea of how long this might take? At the rate they’re going, I’m going to have to plan for their food money in my retirement fund.

Here are a couple pictures of the little guys in their new home.

My Buddies

My Buddies

Update: 24 hours of work

Don’t Want to Do It, Just Do It

As you start writing your thank you notes for your Christmas gifts, try to avoid a too commonly used phrase. Instead of writing “I just wanted to write and thank you for the shirt”, try writing “Thank you for the shirt.” It comes across more powerful this way.

It is also true when you make phone calls or deliver speeches. Avoid the “I just wanted to _________” and just get right to it.

How Would I Have Responded in History

Over the weekend, I read a book called Hübener vs.Hitler: A Biography of Helmuth Hübener, Mormon Teenage Resistance Leader. It was a fascinating book about a young LDS boy that was beyond his years. He was the branch clerk for a small branch in Hamburg, Germany during the WWII years. With the typewriter he was given to do branch reports, he typed up leaflets after illegally listening to the London BBC on a radio that he had hidden in his room. He recruited friends and associates to distribute thousands of leaflets that spoke bad about Hitler, the Gestapo, and the war in general.

As you would imagine, all of these things were incredibly illegal and the books talks about the capture of Helmuth and a few of his friends, some of the tortures they went through, a trial with the highest court in the land and 16 year old Helmuth standing strong and defiant until the very last moment. I always enjoy books on history, but this one was especially interesting to me because it was a young man taking on the great Nazi party and their sadistic leader.

It got me wondering, how would I have responded in the pages of history. I’d like to think that I would have stood up for what is right, but it’s really hard to tell. Would I have found ways to undermine the Nazis?

Over the last few days I’ve been letting my mind wander to different stages in history and placing myself in those times. Try it yourself. It is an interesting means to a self inventory.

School vs Real Life

I recognized something in my learning process that has been very very good for me. I realized that I pay much better attention to individual tasks when I am doing two things at once, rather than just trying to focus on one thing at a time. For example, if I was sitting in a class in college and trying to just listen to the lecture I would have a hard time focusing on what was being said. On the other hand, If I was listening to a lecture AND playing a little tetris game on my computer, I’d be able to give full attention to both of them. This doesn’t just pertain to school either.

When I’m just watching a ball game, my mind can wander. But if I am watching the ball game AND tracking the movement of a certain player I focus well on both.

If I am listening to a talk in church, I do much better if I am also reading a essay on photography fundamentals.

I think this is why I got into so many pranks and games in high school. The teachers were so adamant about students focusing only on the lecture and doing nothing else. In search of a parallel thought process, I’d usually resort to planning the next great prank. If the teachers had just let me play a game boy or even fold papers into shapes we both would have been much better off.

This is also why I like computers so much. It is very easy to have more than one process flowing at the same time and switching to any of them is just a key or two away.

Once I realized this (and got rid of pesky teachers) I’ve been able to learn much more thorough and effective. Strangely, focusing on two things at once helps me to give 100% to both. The alternative is to focus on one thing and only giving 50% to the item and the other 50% to the wind.

Rebirth Of The Photoblog

As much as I like Flickr (and if you’ve been reading recently, you know that I do), it seems that with all the pictures that are uploaded, sometimes the best ones can get lost in the mix. For this purpose, I’ve rebuilt a photoblog where I can post my favorite ones from Flickr. I hope that you’ll visit and give me any comments, including constructive criticism.

The new photoblog is in the same place as the old one, http://www.brianstucki.com/photoblog . And of course there is an RSS feed here. (What is RSS?)

Often Imitated Never Duplicated

Over the weekend, “The Wizard Of Oz” was on television. I had a good time watching the film, as it had been a long time. I’ll tell you what, the sets are much more fake looking when you are older. Oh well, great movie.

But after watching that film again, I added one more phrase to my “Movie Phrases That Are Often Quoted But Never Done Well” list. As you would expect, the list is quotes from movies that people always recognize, but not because they sound similar to the original. My List so far:

  1. “Say hello to my little friend!” -Scarface
  2. “AHHHHHHHHHH!!!” -Kevin from Home Alone putting on after shave
  3. “I’ll get you my pretty, and your little dog too!” -the Wicked Witch of The West from The Wizard Of Oz
  4. “Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father: prepare to die.” -Inigo Montoya, The Princess Bride

I will add to this list as necessary.

How To Find New Music

I am constantly on the look out for new music. The three best ways to find new music that you’ll like are:

  1. XM Radio- Because they don’t make money by playing the music that record producers want them to play, there is a lot more variety on the channels. And with over 100 channels, you have a lot to choose from. My favorite music channels are Hank’s Place (Ch 13), The Loft (Ch 50) and Hear Music (Ch 75). (Most of the time I listen to NPR and ESPNRadio on XM) Be sure that you have XM Radio in the next car that you by. IT makes driving much much much more pleasant when you can avoid all those annoying radio commercials.
  2. Mixes on iTunes- iTunes allows for users to put together mixes of music that they like for others to pander in. I usually find an artist I like, go to his main page in iTunes, and then look at the lists that include his music. Like all other songs on iTunes, you can preview any song on the list and get a feel for the music of the artist.
  3. Pandora.comPandora.com is the most useful website that I have seen in a long long time. You pick an artist that you like, and they will play a song from that artist and then follow it with music that has the same style. It really is quite good at getting the style and I have found quite a few good artists there that I have never heard of before. THey play the full song for you then move on to the next one. It really is just like having a radio station that is catered to your liking. It’s a free service so you can go to the website and start it up and leave it playing while you do your other work. YOu can click on any song and buy the song straight from iTunes. I suppose that is how they make the money. They figure that good music, when heard, sells itself. I agree.

Now that you know my three main secrets, I’ll expect to hear about some new gems.

Rudolph Redone

I have featured Jack Johnson in my Gems a few times before (1,2), but I can’t help it. He is absolutely one of my favorite artists.

You can imagine how excited to I was to hear that Jack Johnson will be doing the soundtrack for the upcoming Curious George movie. You can see the trailer (with some of the music) here. This will be double sweet for me because Curious George books were may FAVORITE books when I was growing up. My middle name is George and I always felt a little connection with that monkey.

The reason I like Jack Johnson so much is them same reason that I like a lot of my favorite artists. They have an original sound and they put their own magic on whatever they play. I can immediately pick out James Taylor playing the guitar, even if it is as a back up. I can quickly identify a Norah Jones drum rhythm. An I can certainly hear the smooth groove of a Jack Johnson strum. All of these sounds are hard to duplicate.

As an example, let me give you the gem this week. Since this is the first day of Decemeber, as a christmas gift I present a classic Christmas song with a Jack Johnson twist. Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer. This was recently posted on iTunes and I was alerted of it. If you’ve never checked out Jack Johnson on the iTunes store, you’re missing out on some of his best music that is only available there. A lot of great live stuff.

iTunes Link: (iTunes Originals – Jack Johnson)

How To Keep A History Of Yourself

About 8 months ago, I was reading a book by my ancestor John S. Stucki. He lived in Switzerland and was one of my first ancestors to come to America. The book was his history and was a large part in why I wanted to visit Switzerland so much.

When I got done reading the book, I wondered what stories of me would be remembered in five generations from now. After thinking about it, I realized that I was starting to forget things that happened just five years ago so how would they know about me? So I made a plan.

Since that time I have kept two journals each day. One is a journal that recaps the day’s events. It has been good timing to start one now as I have had some major things happen in the last year. Writing in a journal is a very good practice to keep. It is more than a chronology of your day. As you write, you realize how you can plan your day better and you give yourself a good gauge at how you are doing in your life with your standards and your goals. I felt this as I wrote on my mission, and feel the same way now as I have restarted the habit.

The other journal was a new idea for me, and I have enjoyed it just as much. I call it my Memory Journal. I realized that I have already forgotten quite a bit from the first 25 years of my life. If those memories are fading already, I can’t imagine what it will be like in 25 more years. That thought scared me.

My memory journal consists of memories that I have never written down but would like to remember. Each day, I think of something to write. Some of my posts have been my first plane ride, the first time that I got in big trouble, the names of my elementary teachers and something they taught me, etc. You’d be surprised at how much comes rolling back when you think about it.

I don’t write really long entries, but I put enough detail in there so that I will remember it when I’m fifty. And I write as if someone is reading it for the first time. It should be clear enough to give them the story, but not too long to bore them.

To write these journals, I use a program called MacJournal. It is free and makes it very simple to keep a daily digest. If you don’t have a Mac, you can use a plain word document.

I keep a good backup of my computers, but also I print the full document out every two weeks so I am sure to not lose any of it.

One final tip would be to find a way to remind yourself each day. Personally, I don’t like to have too many emails in my inbox so I have an email sent to me each day and my rule is that I can’t erase it until I have written the entries. To do this, I use a cron job, but you can use iCal or a free online service like Memotome.com. They’ll send you an email every day at the same time.

If emailing isn’t a daily thing for you, you can try an old fashion way like a rock on your pillow that can’t be moved until you write in it. Or keep your iPod and iTunes collection off limits until you get the writing done.

I hope that your great-great-great grandkids will know that you existed.