Sunday, March 31, 2013

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Word Stacked Metaphors

For a couple years I've taken part in the secret past time of writing poetry under unreasonable deadlines.  I know I need to quit, but it's been hard.  The website I used is called NANOWRIMO, which is short for National November Writing Month.  All participants of this site covenant to give up time towards writing 50000 words.  It could be a novel, play, or short story.  I chose a story one year, and the last time I tried, I attempted to write several poems.

Writing a poem, short summaries of condensed thoughts, to achieve a lofty 50000 word goal should have triggered a warning flag somewhere in my brain to stop and pursue something more possible, but I did it anyways.  And failed to reach my daily quotas.  Which slowly helped me fail to reach the 50000 word goal.  You know, I really hate the word fail, and I'm going to flip it around and redifine the flipped fail to prove my next point.  So fail flipped around is liaf.  And liaf according to urban dictionary is someone who fails repeatedly... there's that negative connotation again!

I will redefine liaf as an acronym for what repeated failures can do for any person, group, or corporation.
L.I.A.F in my book is "Let Inspiration Add Forever".  What I mean by that is yes failures suck.  They result in scars, fears, and low points for a story.  But in the end what ends up happening is life, the creation, or product ends up being a sum of the lessons learned from several failures.  It's through these failures people take the long road enough until they know where the short cuts could be and use those quick routes to help when time is short.  And after fine tuning your skills and figuring out the faster ways to get things done you end up making a lot of stuff.  Eventually the "stuff" is seen and sometimes people like it.  Other times your creations could help someone.  In rare occasions it could end up helping 100s and 1000s of folks just like you who needed help.  You may not see this happening in a day, but if you count all the people you've met and gotten to know in the past 10 years you may find you've already influenced thousands of people.

The actions one is inspired to do are yanked out of failures and added to future creations making making more efficient until... boom.  This thing before your eyes you spent time on isn't that bad. It's actually quite alright.

So my little thing for you... which is kind of OK.. is one of my methods for writing poems.  I called it Word Stacked Metaphors.

When I was into the poetry scene in Worcester, I heard some killer Poetry Slams.  This led me to look into poetry a bit more and I ran into Joni Mitchells timeless metaphor... feather canyons.  How the hell did she come up with that??  In two words, Joni has me drooling all over myself.

There I was, on some November evening, sitting at my computer or sometimes in front of a blank page taking part in NANOWRIMO trying to figure out how I was going come up with another poem.  The pressure was too much and I needed some way to cheat.

Here's the cheat sheet.

I'll explain.  I start with a list of words.  The easiest way is to yank words out of your current surroundings.  I was sitting at a Starbucks in Westford drinking a Venti Iced Americano when I wrote this so the words straw, coffee, star, bucks, west, and ford make an appearance on my top 20 list of words.  I walked to this starbucks and saw piles of salt so 'salt' and 'clumps' make it on the list too.  Three business guys were talking behind me and left while I was writing so "group of three" and "agreement" are on board.

I then proceed to marry these words together.  I don't just put obvious words together like coffee and snack which are both related to something you consume.  I try to get non-obvious pairings like the countless of beautifully mixed race couples I've seen walking about in London.  And with "feather canyons" as a source of inspiration I was off.

Here's the word stack:

group of three

Here are the metaphors from the non-obvious pairings:

submerged breaths
straw stars
crumbly call
coffee ford
group of three unions
salty recoil
breath snack
underground star
crumbling hand
clumpy breath

and here are more I came up with transcribing this list

submerged star
bucking star
group of breaths
salty stars

In the back of my head, I keep in mind there are no wrong metaphors while this list is being made.
If anything, I compare the potency of the metaphors and grab those extremely potent ones to start the poem.  The non-potent metaphors are still equally valuable as they may help in other ways.

Here's the poem that came from staring at the freshly baked metaphors.

Title: Circles

The crumbly call placed a coastal chain
from the rocks of Maine to Oregon's rain

A friend's voice, a father's choice
A permanent stain, surrounded by skin

He said, "If we view life only as strife
left behind by a dull knife
we miss arrays of year-long plays
about goodness and where it stays."

My silence strewn
under stars
straw drips of light
on darkened cars
gave way to consent
what I called bent
was a circle in motion and never spent.

© 2013, Ruben A. Brito

Now that may be the crappiest poem you've ever read, but it summarizes a very important call I made to a close friend who currently lives in Oregon.  He helped me see the larger arc past my bad experiences as a child to asking these questions, "Am I better off now then when I was younger?" and "Is my son better off now than my father was when he was a child?".

Change over time

There are some things the rational mind is good for and others where it falls short.

Like how someone can maintain the same personality and yet change over time.

With each breath, meal, encounter, thought, or word, we release who we thought we were and enter into a new space.  This may not be obvious over a day, but over a month you start to see it.  Over a season? Most definitely.  Over a year?  The change is hard to verbalize.

These are the thoughts I have after seeing this image by John Maeda.

I love creating and making new things.  I didn't know this in my youth or in my teens.  I started to get a glimpse of it in college.  When I met my wife and as we traveled  lived in the city, and now in the suburbs, I know I love creating things with computers and definitely with my hands.

Dinosaur King Gen 1 and Gen 2 card readers and cards made for my son, Max. : )
What I failed to realize is with each creation -- be it code or collage -- the person who I was before making the thing says sayonara.  Now as someone who is reborn, I sit with the thing I made from yesterday, staring back at me, along with an ever present desire to create.

This is most pronounced when I'm experiencing someone else's creation.  I can explain to you how I learned a piece of software added a plugin and learned how to render.  Or how I watched 2 seasons of Dinosaur King with my son and used cardboard, tape, and markers to make a dinosaur card reader for my son.  But when I hear Radiohead's Pyramid Song... it totally floors me.  I am quite detached from Thom Yorke's experiences leading to this song and even though I've heard it 50-60 times, it still moves me in a profound way.

The song is profound enough to take the worries I had leading up to each listen those overwhelming emotions and pressures tucked in my chest shove them off into nothingness... helping me stand up a as new person.

Pyramid Song by Radiohead on Grooveshark

Monday, March 25, 2013

Latest idea bids at

It seems like ideas are very similar to dandelions... pluck one up and more sprout in its place.  That has been my experience this month and there are several catalyst to idea generation I'd like to share.

1) Sitting with an empty page and sharpie at a coffee shop:

There's something about watching people flow about the small space where I sit.  They drink their orders, or eat and sit.  Often shrouded in silence.  Some read, others are on their phone.  It reminds me of a temple if I don't think about the money exchanged.

2) The moment after I've read several chapters in a book:

I've read Richard Florida's Who's Your City, and I'm halfway through The Creative Class.  Several times after getting up from the book to take a break an idea will strike me in such a way all my senses get it.  It's as though the silence I wear to listen to the authors thoughts, becomes a bucket to see my environment in a new light.

3) Shower

It's where everyone sings and day dreams.  It's also the place I forget ideas since I don't want to spend money on a water proof notepad.

4) After a meeting

Don't tell anyone, but if I'm at a meeting where I'm not being addressed.  I doodle to stay awake, and it works.

5) Mind Maps

Drawing a mind map and exploding various areas where I cook, play, and garden often opens up my mind to see my environment in a non-linear way.

6) 1 Answer, 2 Questions.

This comes from Kevin Kelly's post about solutions bringing up more problems.  If I have an idea, I pretend it exists and start saying, "Now that I have this thing to fix my issues, what problems will I find if I explore this new world?".  The pretend product should at least generate 2 new questions which need answers.

7) Collaboration

Working with others has often taken me through dry spells where I was either spent from generating ideas or was generating ideas that were too similar.  Often when someone else is on fire, it helps me out of my rut as I help them with brainstorming or renders.

Here's the fruit from these 7 idea generation techniques.  Mind you, they aren't completed products, but concept renders being considered and voted for by the community.  I will post the top three based on highest votes:

Future Solutions

"We haven't reached our maximum ignorance." Kevin Kelly

The more we know the less we know.  Each hack or tech advance brings us to the place where we are asking new questions and finding larger problems that we wouldn't have imagined before.  This creates an exponentially growing space for more solutions and hacks.  

Thus inventions are always around, not just among us, but hiding beyond the future inventions we create.  Being optimistic about the future isn't just a choice to envision the best case scenario.  It is the only way we can navigate our current unknowns to get to future solutions. 

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Creativity: How do I love you, tempura? Let me fry the ways.

As a parent, I love stepping out of the way when teaching something to my kids.  This is the only way to see where my kids minds are and let them appreciate the fruits of their own creativity.

9 times out of 10, I'll use the Joy of Cooking for basic food recipes,  but recently I grabbed an old $40 Japanese cookbook.  I probably would never spend that much on a book today, so I figured I'd get some use out of it.

Bookmarked with a paper fan, was the page on making tempura.  There was a description of how Spanish and Portuguese missionaries brought frying into the Japanese culture, but I jumped to the section I underlined years ago with the instructions on how to prepare the batter and make ingredient stations.

A few minutes later, my stations were stocked with carrots, red and green peppers, and cranberries.  My kids made their own stations of animal crackers, bananas, chocolate, and sesame seeds with oatmeal.

The experiment was beautiful, because in a matter morsel moments, I got to revisit something my wife and I probably took for granted before kids: being able to insert some food in the mouth and being 100% sensitive to the new textures and tastes.  Banana tempura was a hit for me, because it was crunchy on the outside and warm, sweet, and gooey on the inside.

I was so inspired, I proceeded to toss blobs of batter in the sunflower oil and after it was fried I placed a large amount of sliced cheese on top.  My son and I fell in love with the melted cheese tempura as well and I hope to repeat this experiment soon.

Timelessness: Reading Others Thoughts

I have a horrible attention span, but I'm pretty decent at read blogs.  Bloggers write about food, life, design, inventions, and technology will eventually reference a good book.  These good books have been ones so potent even a horrible reader like me can finish a 300 page book in 2 days.

My current tastes have been leaning towards thought provoking essays and posts.  Timeless in ways that force me to think about my previous 20 years, with all that has changed and stayed the same, and try to position myself for the next 20 years.  Forecasting is very hard, and the last person that asked me for my 10 year plan (Tufts graduate I met in high school) got a really half baked answer.

When I think about what I was doing 20 years ago I start to see the benefits of long term thinking.  20 years ago I was 13 with a slow hand me down computer and begging my friend for hand me down modems so I could increase my bandwidth while chatting on BBS or playing the text based game LORD.  In contrast, last night I was watching Netflix, while creating mind maps on my cell phone from the comfort of my couch.  3 dedicated pieces of hardware (apple tv, iPhone, flat screen tv) easily doing what would be impossible with my one piece of hardware I had 20 years ago.

20 years ago, I was biking to school and biking all over my town.  I most likely was playing 10 hours of basketball a day with the friends I had at the time.  I also loved video games like Secret of Mana, Killer Instinct, F-Zero, and whatever was released from the Mario series.

The hardware and software I enjoyed have changed, but what has stayed the same?  I still love technology.  I still love new ideas.  What will I be doing in 20 years when I'm 53?  I'll probably have some used convertible red mid-life crisis mobile that drives itself.  Forcasting that far into the future is challenging.  There is quite a bit that could happen in 20 years.  The tools I use now like the iPhone, apple TV, and flat screen will be a joke compared to what I'll be sitting in front of, walking with, or riding in the future.  This trend of tools dying off has really challenged me lately all due to blog posts from Kevin Kelly.

Here in list of what I'm reading now.

Current Reads:
- (Kevin Kelly is the founding editor of Wired)
- Who's Your City by Richard Florida.
- What We Talk About When We Talk About God by Rob Bell
- Whole Earth Catalog

Monday, March 11, 2013

Current idea bids at quirky

Not sure if I've ever posted these items, but I'll throw them up anyway.  I've been contributing to an idea site recently and have been doing so on and off for about 3 years.  The site is called and I've been using a somewhat old tool to hop to more interesting product ideas.

Quirky takes ideas from it's community and chooses the ones it wants to invest in.  The community can support and contribute to the product's development and earn royalties when the product is released.  It takes the heavy lifting out of inventing, but puts the product in someone else's hands.  Here's my profile.

The mind map has been great for me since a lot of my ideas have been generated by reviewing what was done in the previous day and finding out what was really pissing me off.  With the mind map I now focus on specific areas that I interact with and jump to solutions.  I spend a lot of time in the kitchen, in the garden, and playing with new tech so my ideas reflect this truth.  Mind maps help you move through your experiences in a non-linear way and thus accelerate the idea finding necessary to find the big ideas that solve problems for hundreds of others besides your self.

Here are some of the current idea bids I have up.  Some expire in 2 weeks and others in a month.

These are some of the ideas I have up now.  Please please don't steal these and take them to China and make a million dollars.  I will tell on you.

The feedback I've gotten from these idea submissions has been wonderful.  I now know that from all these ideas, people really want a good quality fruit peeler (300+ votes) and would love a sci-fi looking pokemon inspired hemisphere to hang their cook ware (400+ votes).  When I say votes I mean, whoever votes for these suckers gets a cut from the royalties if the product is chosen... so get over to quirky sign up and get in on the action!


Imagination: New assigned seating

I was sitting in church yesterday and I wanted to test out my imagination a bit.  So instead of the blue cushioned seats I imagined the 400-500 people were all laying in hammocks.

Keep in mind this church has very tall ceilings so the chords would have to be 40 or 50 long.  The first problem I thought of was controlling which way we would be facing, since I figure we'd want to see our preacher while he spoke.  I was thinking may be some iPhone app controlled device could be attached to the ceiling to adjust the position of the hammocks.

In my nice pew hammock, with a fresh glass of kombucha I am now ready to listen. : )

Friday, March 1, 2013

Streaming Royalties + Thoughts on Music

I had post a couple albums on CdBaby just to see them show up on  iTunes.  For me, being on iTunes meant anyone who had an iPhone could instantly hear my music made years ago and hear my latest material from their phone.  The album showed up on iTunes, but the surprising thing was seeing streaming services pay me royalties for music plays.

Up until then, I was a die hard Grooveshark fan. Now I see and read that Grooveshark doesn't pay any royalties to artist in their catalog. I was quite happy to see that Rhapsody, Spotify, and Doozer do pay royalties. I have a few cents as proof.

I rarely shared my albums with anyone other than friends so I decided to change things a bit. Two of the albums I've made are on Youtube.

Selling albums or songs is a nice benefit, but the heart of making music is about exploration. Taking sine waves and effects and bending them into something new. Seeing what beats make others dance versus what patterns make them think. Taking new sounds and evolving them and building around them. This is the motivation behind the album I'll be releasing this year and since my kids positively affect my happiness, this album will be more dance-able than my previous releases.

Dancing was always difficult for me as a big boy. I would always rather play an instrument than jump on the dance floor, but watching my kids dance is such a pleasure. To see their freedom in a pure illogical response to a beat is fascinating! The music from this year's album has been heavily tested on my kiddos and I know I'm on to something if they start dancing or jump on a chair and wiggle around to the beat.

It is that freedom that I seek when I'm profoundly impressed by new music (Shabazz Palaces, Blue Scholars). And it is that freedom I work towards and hope to learn to express through music.