November 17, 2007

Worst Possible Illusion

Vik Muniz is a Brazillian artist (now US citizen) that deals with how we perceive images and objects. I was introduced to his work through the movie Worst Possible Illusion, a documentary about him and his work, that was played on PBS several years ago. I tried and tried to find some place that sold the video, but it was only available on VHS and the process for getting it was a bit drawn out.

Today, I no longer jones for my own copy. Much to my delight, Muniz has put up the video on his website To see the ~1 hour movie, go to gallery, then select one of his earlier collections (circa 2000), and it should be listed under the Videos. I love his work, and you can see the effort and love he has for connecting with people. I want my work and interactions to have a similar impact on the people around me.

10 things I like about me


1. I'm married.

2. I'm a father.

3. My family and friendships are my most valuable possessions.

4. My perceptiveness. I see lots of details and subtleties that are hidden in seemingly innocuous statements, conversations, mannerisms, and lots of other mediums. And then sometimes I don't see the most obvious happenings right in front of my face.

5. I love my job. And I'm good at it. This is what I should be doing.

6. My mental vision. My mind operates in images and spaces, which means I see ideas and connections almost like you see with your eyes. I create vast expanses to envision the way an idea fits into a sort of global big picture, and then zoom in at various levels to examine attributes, interactions, implications, etc.

7. The way I sleep. I go unconscious fast. I never have problems sleeping, to the point that I have even fallen asleep on my parents' hard linoleum kitchen floor. I move around a considerable amount, and I also speak in clear, distinct sentences for extended periods of time. It should be no surprise that my dreams are quite vivid. I suppose there are perhaps some deleterious consequences for this somnolence, such as elbow-dropping your wife in the face multiple times, destroying the unsuspecting ironing board because a torso-sized tarantula is burrowing into your chest, getting a little too familiar with your brother, and embarrassingly providing for your family's well-being by going through a complete preflight safety announcement.

8. My sense of humor. (see #7)

9. My love for artistic expression.

10. My interests. I'm captivated by very rigorous, challenging activities, both mentally and physically.

I'm pretty sure I was the last to put this up, so I won't bother tagging anybody.

October 29, 2007

Elsa speaks!

Lo! Elsa speaks, and she is heard!

To date Elsa has said a few words here and there, but now she's starting to use them purposefully. And while she's said "neh" for when she wants to eat since practically the beginning, she's moving into the realm of common words. She now says "mama" (very clearly in times of need), and has said "hello", "hey", and "okay" in appropriate and opportune times. And when she's not saying those things, there is a veritable stream of experimentation, babble, and noises.

We also took some wicked footage of her laughing, and hopefully that will be up in the not too distant future.

September 18, 2007

My own Motorcycle Diaries

I asked Katie a question the other day.

N: "Katie, can I get a motorcycle?"
K: "Sure."
N: "...what? Really?"

Totally not the answer I was expecting. This is something I've been thinking about for the last couple of months, and it materialized when I was at lunch, talking with someone I work with who owns an older Suzuki bike. Logistically, it makes a lot of sense for us. I can take it to work and get a really good parking spot, the gas and insurance are a lot cheaper than getting a second car, and Katie would have the use of our car during the day. Plus it would be a blast... in daylight when the roads aren't slick with a helmet and protective clothing, Mom.

So here's the game plan. I'm casually researching for the next few months to get a feel for what are generally things to look for and also what to look out for in a used bike. Then sometime in the spring after I've become the magical 25 for insurance purposes, I'm going to take a motorcycle training class that I found out is fairly cheap to learn some technique. Plus, if you take a training class, you don't have to demonstrate anything at the DMV, just show them the certificate of completion and take the written test. A used bike will do fine, especially since I could get one in good working condition for under $1000, which I think is great for something with generally faster acceleration than most cars under $80,000.

I was joking with Katie that this motorcycle idea is my mid-life crisis. I don't think it is, but that's why I'm prolonging the process of getting one, just in case.

July 9, 2007

Elsa is getting the help she needs

Katie and I had to take Elsa to the emergency room today. Apparently, she just wasn't getting enough food, and she became very dehydrated as a result. She's spending the night in the intensive care unit to make sure her weight stops falling, and then they'll transfer us to a regular room sometime tomorrow if nothing else comes up. They have her on a saline and glucose solution, and we're talking with a lactation specialist in the morning to see what we can do to make sure she gets enough in the future. We'll keep you posted, one way or another.

July 6, 2007

At last

Elsa Zadi Bishop was born on Monday, July 2nd at 10:46 pm. Katie was absolutely amazing. I think we did an incredible job working together to make sure she was completely relaxed during the contractions and attentive to what her body needed to do. The labor was only 4 hours 15 mintues long, and had we known what each stage of labor was really like, the labor could have been an hour shorter still. Elsa is here. She is here.

I have had the most radical shift in focus over the last few weeks. I like change, I like going with the flow, but the currents are starting to ebb and fade. I've felt for a long time that I was older than what I looked like, like I've been a young adult instead of a youth for the last seven or eight years. Now I'm no longer a part of the typical social or scholastic circles that we typically affiliate with youth, and to some extent my new situation is liberating me from being typified as an adolescent and a student and the assumptions and other people's baggage of what that stage "naturally" entails about my identity. I won't miss that condescension. But more and more, I'm exposed to the trappings on the other side of the fence, a whole new set of questions and expectations, not just for me but for my family and now for my child. I just want to be without at best politely and at worst, recalling my not too distant past, forcibly going along with expectations and priorities that aren't my own and prevent me from being myself.

I miss Illinois so much.

July 2, 2007

So much to say, so much to say, so much to say...

"People who are ready for things would be laughing at us right now." Said by me when Katie's uncle Mark visited us last week and asked if we were ready.

It's on. Katie is showing signs of pre-labor, but she hasn't had any birthing contractions yet. She's been Braxton-Hicks'ing for the last few weeks, though. Katie doesn't think anything will happen for the next couple of days, but she's pretty sure that when the birth does happen, it will be fairly quick.

June 17, 2007


1. I have been to a reggae festival in Windsor, Canada.

2. I need sleep more than I like to admit.

3. I love the new HBO show Flight of the Conchords. We've had the lavish (but most of the time, I find not so lavish) luxury of HBO the last couple of weeks in the hotel, so we got to see the premiere of the show last night.

4. I once "played" a wind chime with a 9 foot long branch in public... without pants. Really.

5. I have nearly died instantly several times in my life, but after each time, I've walked away completely unharmed.

6. I've been in two original bands: Table 6 in high school, and Les Seducion Mechanique in college. Both played hole in the wall coffee shops, but they were very different musically.

7. I had a rat tail for about 8 years. Never too long, just a tasteful 6 inches or so. There was even an attempt to add a Nike swoosh to the back of my head to add to the ensemble, but it ended up looking like a crooked smiley face. Katie considers it divine intervention that that cut, in the long run, didn't pan out.

June 9, 2007

Home away from home

Things have been going great. We've finalized the lease for our house in Greenlake, and our things should arrive on Monday. We're living in the great extended stay hotel near downtown. We've gone to the birth center, and while it's further away than what I'd like, the midwife we met with was excellent as were the birthing suites. PLUS, it's going to be about $10,000 LESS having the baby there than what it would have cost us at the hospital in Urbana. Seriously, a third of the cost, and our insurance should cover it. It would be about a sixth of the cost if we had the birth at home, but I think we'll be much more comfortable at the center.

We start our birthing class, plan to visit a good friend, and go to Feast tomorrow. On Sunday, more relaxing at the hotel and experimenting with our friends' new Wii. We are very lucky.

June 3, 2007

Miracles do happen

I completed all of my experimental work in the early evening of the very last day I could be in Urbana. While it's disappointing I couldn't make it up to Chicago to give proper goodbyes, I now have what I need to write my thesis and complete my degree. We fly to Seattle tomorrow morning to start our new lives, now ruled by Elsa the benevolent dictator whose mere presence has overthrown my former advisor's iron-fisted strangle hold on our daily affairs. Long live Elsa!

May 20, 2007

Battle of the bulge

It happens tonight... and probably tomorrow.

...and the day after tomorrow and the day after that if need be.

I have half of the work completed, but there are serious problems with the second half. I'm going to try a couple of modifications, but I'm not holding my breath. Today's fortune cookie from lunch says: "A good beginning is half the task." What a wise cookie.

[further update]
I don't know if I'm going to graduate. I fully reduced the data of one of my drag runs and compared it with published data. While I can reproduce my data very well, it doesn't match the published data. The profile drag (read drag caused by air friction) looks acceptable, but the induced drag (read drag due to lift) is much too high, again in comparison to the published data. Perhaps not coincidentally, I'm measuring the lift to be much higher than what it should be.

Now the question at hand: Is what I'm measuring real? Can the small deviations and oscillations of the wing really cause the lift to be twice as much? And even if they are, can my thesis be based on unsteady (read time dependent) phenomenon that may be difficult for other academics to reproduce if not impossible for industry to apply? I'll present my case tomorrow. I hope it doesn't turn into the Nuremberg of my proverbial Battle of the Bulge.

[even further update]
The verdict: I was right, AND I have to fix it if I'm going to finish my thesis. I know exactly what I need to fix/address, but whether or not I can do it effectively is another question. I think I can, and I should know yea or nay in the next couple of days.

[el update ultimo (the last, but maybe the ultimate too) ]
It's been a couple of days, and the problems are addressed. I need to confirm that they're addressed, and then I take benchmark data to see how it compares to what's available in the "literature." I feel good, I feel great, I feel wonderful. I feel...

May 7, 2007

Dude, that's like....

Even though I am a grad student, I've been fairly insulated from the... ambiance of a traditional college setting. This is a good thing. In the last year though, this insular bubble I've been living in has definitely shrunk. The historically quiet neighborhood has had an influx of younger students, and with them have come late night parties and a little more ruckus tone to the neighborhood.

But tonight, as I write my term paper for aeroelasticity, the porch drama groupies across the street are having a particularly productive night. Here is a sampling of the many tasty morsels served up. Each comment came about an hour apart. I'll add more if anything else rings golden.

"Man, just one molecule of that s***..."
"S*** happens, it happens."
"Heroin is just bad for you. I mean..."
"Dude, it is so hard being in a band."

"F*** you." [said by everyone greeting a new comer in sporadic unison]
"Pirates of the Caribbean is so f******* bad."

May 3, 2007

Patience when none can be had.

The last week and some has been horrible. I haven't been able to work when I've needed to, and I haven't been able to do work on a term paper when I've had to. I'm somewhat better since I've effectively taken the last week off, but not remotely near to what I should be. I haven't fought like this since my sophomore year, four years ago before I got my pump. Given my current circumstances compounding the matter, I'd say this is the worst I've ever been. And as bad as I make this sound, I doubt there would have been any other circumstances for me to reflect as intensely as I have on virtually every aspect of my life. I know what I want to do, operating conditions that I perform best under, support apparati that are necessary for those operating conditions, and also conditions that I'm not willing to accept nor will I endure.

Working with my advisor is generally not rewarding, and that is by far the most challenging component of my entire experience at U of I. Had this not been the case, my thesis would have been finished by now, and the other projects I was working on would have been completed as well. I don't mean this as a cop-out of my responsibilities (I'm very well aware that I haven't followed through with some of the responsibilities given to me); rather, this is merely the reason driving my lack of steady progress. It drives to the very heart of what motivates me, and more importantly, who and why they motivate me. I rarely do anything for myself, so for me, the motivation for performing a task comes from interactions with the person I'm doing the task for. For the most part, this is a rewarding process, but when that interpersonal exchange isn't enlightened, substantive, meaningful, compassionate, instructive, or even mutual, I have some difficulty completing the task. Furthermore, the task becomes immensely more difficult when the exchange is clouded by distance, manipulation, innuendo, doublespeak, and half-truths. Far from environment that I need to perform well, my situation could not have been more discouraging, though I doubt few would reach the same conclusions examining it from an outside perspective. In addition to all of this, working alone has intensified the process of self-destruction I've fallen into.

So it is not unexpected that I am scrambling to finish my thesis in the next two weeks. My situation is not uncommon though. At least three of my advisor's recent grad students did not finish their thesis or dissertation, and by his own admission, they were very intelligent, capable individuals. I have no intention to be the next.

"The Patient" by Tool

A groan of tedium escapes me, startling the fearful.
Is this a test?
It has to be. Otherwise I can't go on.
Draining patience. drain vitality.
this paranoid, paralyzed vampire act's a little old.

But I'm still right here, giving blood and keeping faith. And I'm still right here.
But I'm still right here, giving blood and keeping faith. And I'm still right here.

I'm gonna wait it out

If there were no rewards to reap,
no loving embrace to see me through this tedious path I've chosen here,
I certainly would've walked away by now.

I'm gonna wait it out

If there were no desire to heal
The damaged and broken met along this tedious path I've chosen here,
I certainly would've walked away by now.

I still may. And I still may.
Be patient.

I must keep reminding myself of this...

If there were no rewards to reap,
no loving embrace to see me through this tedious path I've chosen here,
I certainly would've walked away by now.
And I still may. And I still may. And I still may.

I'm gonna wait it out.
I'm gonna wait it out.
Gonna wait it out.
Gonna wait it out.

April 25, 2007

Man in comfortable shoes

I got the thumbs up for my drag design and results from my advisor. There's still some things that need to be investigated, but overall we can consider the design a success. And that feels good. Really good. So good that my blood sugars have ceased to be mind-numbingly erratic for the past couple of days. The path to the end is still a considerable journey, and I won't be able to submit my thesis while I'm here in Urbana (I just don't have the time to get data and write it), but the path is clear and well defined. And that feels good.

Seeing as Katie will only be working at Heel to Toe for a couple of weeks, I ordered a pair of nice Footprints (one of the Birkenstock spinoff companies) a couple of weeks ago to take advantage of the family discount while we still have it. They came in yesterday, and they are [begin French accent] very nice [end French accent]. This, combined with getting approval from my advisor the day before, put me in a pretty good mood.

So on my way home from the shoe store, I stopped by a used music store. Perusing through the various sections, I found a couple cds that I just had to get. The first is Medicine Music by Bobby McFerrin, an album that we used to listen to all the time. The second is Down the Road by Andy Narell, a steel drum virtuoso whose love of the music and people of Trinidad, the Caribbean, and the West Indies is always first and foremost in his music. I've been looking for music to play with Elsa, and these two will do nicely. I've also been jones-ing for a couple of stories called How the Camel Got its Hump and How the Rhinoceros Got its Skin, narrated by Jack Nicholson with music and sound effects by Bobby McFerrin. We had them on LP, and while they made a VHS of the stories, they haven't been released on cd at all. We'll have to dub our old LPs if Elsa wants to get a taste of these delicacies. I love these kind of stories more than anything else, stories of origins, explanations of natural processes, because it provides such a sense of cultural identity, brings the subject to life and gives it character, describes complex processes with such elegance, and encourages an inquisitive view of the world where "What is that? Why is it that way?" are the two questions always on your mind.

I just thought of a The Onion headline: "Omniscient God Faces Charges of Insider Trading."

April 18, 2007

The simple things

Katie and I "purchased" a painting at a fundraiser a couple of days ago. It's called "Painting for a White Wall #2 (The Bird)", and it was painted by Eleanor Hutchens in 1978. It's an abstract painting of a bird with amorphous shapes representing (remember, abstractly) various physical characteristics in red, blue, yellow, leaf green, and hunter green that swirl around, more or less, a bird's eye. At first glance, it's a nice, interesting painting, but when I look at it for more than 2 seconds, I lose myself in it. No kidding. My first impression was that the quality of the painting was in the hobbyist realm, but once I got past those first two seconds, I realized I was looking at something much more significant. Not only that, but simple brush strokes that initially appeared simple or even incongruous revealed themselves to be something else entirely. And this happens every time I look at it. It's kind of like when I sit in either of the two blue chairs we have in our living room: every time I sit down in them, it's a special treat. Really, I get goosebumps. I kid you not.

I'll take a picture and post it soon.

April 11, 2007

"Beware, O people of Baha, lest ye walk in the ways of them whose words differ from their deeds."

I think there are some moments in life that require a moment of silence and reflection. One of those moments happened five minutes ago. The profundity, though, was not due to some existential or esoteric context; instead, I was holding the reality of my decisions in my hands. I was watching Why We Fight which is a movie examining the steady (and at times not so steady) build up of American military technology and infrastructure. There's a section in the beginning of the film when they introduce a few of the major corporations that receive the bulk of defense contracts: Lockheed Martin, Northrup Grumman, Haliburton, KBR, Raytheon, and Boeing, which is no news to me being an aerospace student. At the very instant they transitioned to another segment in the movie, THE very instant, the doorbell rang. It was FedEx delivering my new Boeing company credit card.

April 8, 2007

Look what I... I mean, Liza, can do.

Suspended 2, originally uploaded by nathanbe.

I've finally uploaded some pictures from our camera. It's been since the summer that I've even transfered pictures onto the computer. The above picture is in a set of pictures that Liza took using our camera early last spring in Michigan. Pretty sweet, but now I no longer have the ability to blame the camera when a picture doesn't come out right.

And speaking of things being suspended, Katie and I rented the Illusionist, and it was great. One of the best parts was how the special lighting effects brought out the atmosphere, and the acting was really well done. I dig magic, too, and even though most was computer generated, the subtle tricks they snuck in were tres cool.

April 7, 2007

Blades of Awesomeness

Katie and I went to go check out Blades of Glory last night, and it was glorious. Everything you want in a good bad movie. Will Ferrel, John Heder, Will Arndt, AmyPoehler, and Jenna Fischer. What more could you ask for? And what could make a better good bad movie subject than figure skating? I ask you, good people.

On the other side of things, Katie and I also went to a video rental store and saw this title: "Flight of Fury", the tag line: "A Flight Plan to Freedom." and starring... wait for it... Steven Seagal. I got chills just looking at it. This is an example of a bad bad movie, and I don't need to see it to tell you that. And neither should you.

April 4, 2007

Success... in the future!

Don't get excited. I still have virtually all of my thesis to write still, and I still don't have any data. But I do have a job officially, and Katie and I are going to get going with the relocation process. Now if only I could get going with this thesis... How about now? Yeah, now's good.

March 29, 2007

Steez and Crackers

If I ever have a band again, that's what it'll be called.

Race is becoming the number one issue in the Seattle school district, which is really a byproduct of poor/non-white neighborhoods that have been confiscated by re-gentrification, which is a byproduct of America's most challenging issue. Check it out:
"Race, class splinter Madrona School"
"Racism tough to tackle — or even talk about — for Seattle School Board"

I thought about all movies that I really love and have owned, and they all scarily fall into the same category. Each centers around a hero who is estranged from his surrounding and tries to either discover or overcome the sources of his unrest (Motorcycle Diaries, Brick, Garden State, Lost in Translation, Stranger than Fiction, Groundhog Day, Roxanne, Life is Beautiful) or is woefully oblivious that he is estranged at all (The Man Who Knew Too Little, The Three Amigos, Arrested Development, The Office, and Being There, although its an inverted situation with Being There because his surroundings are oblivious to Peter Seller's condition, not him). I think it's pretty safe to say that I like a movie in direct proportion to how much I see myself in the characters. Most people like me not versed in cinematic technique probably operate the same way, I bet.

A much more troubling realization is that all of these movies have white actors, and that when I think about it, I don't really relate with the same intensity when I watch a movie with mostly black actors. I don't see myself collectively in those movies, apparently. Is that a symptom of my own racism, or is it due to the posturing, violent, two dimensional characters that hollywood so often uses to portray black men? To me it seems like both, but even then, is that conclusion made to lessen the burden of responsibility on my shoulders? "I'm not a racist...", or "This has nothing to do with race...", or "Everybody is given the same chance to succeed...". How many times do we hear that? As far as I'm concerned, anytime anybody starts a sentence with phrases like those, they might as well stop talking, because whatever comes out will be a direct contradiction of whatever they just said. WILL BE a direct contradiction of whatever they just said. The trouble is, I'm more racist than I'm willing to admit, and I have the impression that it goes even farther for most whites. If you're unsure yourself, try to get an idea for what your subconscious tendencies are, and check out Project Implicit at Harvard. They have all sorts of tests designed to show preferences on age, race, gender, etc.

But time and time again, I "begin with words and end with words." A few years ago, I said, "You know, I don't have any connections with the black community. There is not a single black person in any of my classes, or in my neighborhood. I have to change my behavior, my patterns, and my decisions to make it happen." I'm in exactly the same situation now. My thought is that, when we move to Seattle, we'll try to move into an area that has at least some diversity (where I work makes it exceedingly difficult to live in the very diverse neighborhoods due to traffic), and we'll start making connections in the neighborhood. But then we'll just be another white couple moving into the area, looking to make something our own, and in the process, further erasing what cultural identity was once there.

March 26, 2007

Mean muggin'

Mean muggin', originally uploaded by nathanbe.

More flicka tests. Looks like I got this one figured out. No effects on the picture either. Saturday mornings when school isn't in session flat out rock.

Just trying stuff out

Link test, and the picture looks like it looses a lot of resolution even when linked. Apparently you don't get to directly link to a picture elsewhere. I'll try something else next time.

Mixing things up

I know I said in the past that I was abandoning this site. This was a lie. While I'm still coming to grips with my old blog's terminal illness, this site will now be renamed "I said what?" It doesn't have the charm the old blog had, but it does have connections with all things google, namely youtube, and picasa. Combine this with audio posting abilities, and it makes for endless multimedia possibilities. Once my thesis blows over, look out.