Tuesday, December 29, 2009
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
Sunday, December 20, 2009
This post probably sounds like a consumer alert piece, and it is a little bit, but if you have the gumption to change your own oil you will save money and get a better bang for you buck. I'll leave you with one last cost comparison: WalMart conventional oil change-$30; changing it yourself oil with synthetic oil and fancy filter-$21. Now that's thinkin' with your dipstick!
Sunday, December 13, 2009
Saturday, December 12, 2009
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
motors fire exhaust pipes chant potato-potato-potato
shouts: followin' you
how far can you go before you gotta fill that thing up
what ya mean ya don't know
no speedo no odometer
followin' me then
hows 75-80 suit ya
i prefer 70
yeah that's what we're goin'
ya'll were hittin' 85 passin' that truck
well we had to pass 'em
next stop roswell and the aliens
there's a dealership there
need parts for that old thing
my exhaust clamp snapped
the pipe's shakin' off the front head
better zip up tight dark clouds up the road
leather jackets zipped and belted, motors fire, exhaust pipes chant potato-potato-potato
20 minutes outside roswell new mexico the clouds open up and soak the heros
a rooster-tail streams water into one of their faces
where's my front fender when i need it
looks cool though
at the service counter at the dealership
well it looks like we don't carry parts that old
you got anything else that'll work
i can sell ya this one for $10 but i can't garuantee it'll work
let's go with it
in the parking lot full of leather clad dentists and new machines
he didn't try to sell ya a shirt with that did he
let's bust out the tools and get this rigged up
brake lever detached, old clamp removed, new being pounde like a horseshoe, leather jackets thrown on the wet asphalt as workbenches
you guys know there's a repair shop in the back of the dealership
yes sir we do but we'd rather save the extra $100 for beer and smokes
alright good luck then
30 minutes later the repair is finished, brake lever reattached
looks good man
better than stock
that shit anin't comin' off again
hell yeah man little roadside maintnance
motors fire, exhaust pipes chant potato-potato-potato
25 minutes outside ruidoso the heavy clouds dump a large late-afternoon mountain rain
-shouts-ya look cold man
damn water's runnin' down my back
after 30 minutes of looking for the lodge in the wet crowded streets the heros find it
throw me a beer
that was the shittiest ride i've ever done
two days later they fire up the machines and ride home under a brilliant sky
a falcon attacks a bird in flight
antelope look up from their grazing and gaze at the machines hurling by them, chanting potato-potato-potato at high tempo
one thing or another
little is said of the rally, just as it is written here
Tuesday, September 8, 2009
Friday, July 10, 2009
"This is non-sense," that's all I kept uttering as I gripped my father's swollen hand in the hospital room. He was home when I clocked into work, and in the hospital when I clocked out. So many people's lives changed so quickly without notice.
But there is comfort in the non-sense, tranquility in the uncertainty, and a shining presence in his absence. Of all the deaths my father could've had, in light of all those dark possibilities, I'm glad Dad's death was swift, and I'm glad death found him on his motorcycle: the machine that always made him smile as it carried us hundreds of miles down the highway together.
Dad lived an amazing life, a life that amazed most of the people fortunate enough to befriend him. He constantly amazed me with his hair-brained ideas, and just the right amount of luck and skill to make them happen. Dad always believed in himself, even when he had no sane reason to do so. And that, in my opinion, was Dad's most admirable quality: the ability to face any challenge confidently- with a confidence that bordered on a foreknowledge of success (or at least a good time).
I miss you Dad, and I know a solid handful of your mannerisms live on in me. And your spirit, it too animates me and drives me forward. Everyone loved you, and we all miss you coming through the door.
My father Thomas Neil Burrus II, was killed in a motorcycle accident on 29 June 2009. He was 53 years old. He leaves behind a boat load of friends, family, and my precious mother, all who miss him dearly. He went ahead of me, his proud son- the only one who can claim that honor.
For my father's memorial service, my cousin Amy and I made the following video that was played in the chapel. I hope all of you enjoy seeing Dad smile as he did all the things that made him happy. Please enjoy:
Saturday, June 20, 2009
It was during a wrenching session that I heard a totally insane song called "Stingray." I had no idea who sang it and I had no idea what in the hell the rockers were saying-- except for the word "stingray" haunting the chorus.
I kept singing that one damn word over and over in my head. There was something primal and vicious about the way the singer said that brutal word. Stingray, the word triggered so many images in my mind: a Corvette muscle car; a graceful terror of the sea; and just the pure sleekness and danger inherent in the word itself. A true word, one that expresses its meaning in a vacuum.
I spent the better part of an afternoon searching the web for the song. I came up with some bizarre results, mostly from the 80's when oceanic exploration and imagery ran rampant through American culture. After hours of surfing the stingray-less waters of Internet music charts, my fascination only grew.
Later on the evening whilst playing pool (the game of kings) with my buddies from work, I named my two man team "Stingray." My partner wasn't too thrilled about the moniker at the time, but after we swept the floor with the competition the name stuck. There's something 50's about it, something 80's about it, something hinting into the unknown future about it.
My friend was picking songs at the digital jukebox so I asked him to search for a song called "Stingray." He found it. Static X sings the song, and team Stingray marches the green felt of the pool table to its terrifying refrain.
The video really ties the song together, like a nice rug. It has all the elements needed in a kick-ass hard rock video: a psycho styled lead singer, a trollish bassist, a smoking hot and highly temperamental babe, a muscle car, hints of sex; all set in an abandoned crack house. High octane, neo-primordial symbols of chaos, destruction, danger, and coarse toughness. When I listen to the song I redline the throttle in my brain and I feel every surging blood cell speed through my tense muscles. That's what rock n' roll is about: venting the will to power--the ultimate aim of every organism.
Wednesday, June 3, 2009
As a side note, I'm very disappointed with YouTube and the greedy music industry for muting all videos using unlicensed music. I originally set the video to The Doors "Roadhouse Blues," an amazing song that fully captured the mood and atmosphere of the rally. However, when I uploaded the video with "Roadhouse Blues" onto YouTube it was muted. YouTube sent me an email saying a violated a copyright. What a load of bullshit. I could understand if I was making money off the video but I'm not. This is just another example of the music industry cracking down on audiophiles with the hopes that the public will spend $18 on a CD with only one or two decent songs on it instead of listening to, or downloading, those songs freely on the internet. Shame on you Warner.
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
I chose to illustrate a learning strategy because I think teachers spend to much time assigning homework and not enough time teaching students how to improve the skills needed to complete it. A study found that less than 10% of teaching time is spent teaching students how to improve their skills in a given area. With that said, please enjoy my prize-winning podcast dedicated to helping you read better.
This podcast was entered into the Texas Tech podcast tournament open to all students and spearheaded by the Colleges of English and Education. Six winners were chosen from the thirty plus entries to move on to the Digital Sandbox podcasting tournament which is being held this summer. I'm very pleased that my podcast, as monotonous as it is, was chosen for advancement. If you have iTunes you can listen to and watch the other entries on Texas Tech's iTunes University page.
Friday, May 15, 2009
I had the idea of starting a compost pile while working in the kitchen at my part time job. Over the course of a lunch rush a lot of little bits of food fall on the floor which get swept up and thrown in the dumpster. Tired of seeing all this food go to waste, one day after sweeping the line I put all that waste into an empty pickle bucket, closed the air-tight lid on it, and brought it home for composting.
Composting the process of decomposing organic matter in a controlled way. Decomposition happens naturally in forests and other wild places, but in the city it takes a little effort on our part to occur. The goal of composting is to combine left-over organic matter so that it creates bio-matter, a scientific term for good dirt, which can then be reincorporated into the ecosystem to help plants grow harder, better, faster, and stronger. In a way, compost (the finished product of composting) is like a nutrient rich super fertilizer that can be used with almost any planting application.
I left the bucket on the porch for about week while I went around town gathering discarded shipping pallets that most businesses toss by their dumpsters. After gathering enough pallets I set to work breaking them apart, cutting the pieces to size and building the frame and side slats. Using discarded pallets as material for a compost pile is not only free, but it also keeps those pallets out the landfill as well. It's reusing wood to help reuse organic matter.
My compost pile roughly measures 3' x 3' x 3', and has slatted sides and a chicken-wire back which helps with air flow (an extremely important ingredient in composting). It only took an afternoon to complete the build and only required a hammer, nails, and circular saw for construction. Later I'll hinge the side so I can easily access the finished compost.
There is a whole science to composting which can be intimidating if you lose sight of the fact that you're just making dirt, albeit super dirt. Ideally, a compost pile should have a 3:1 ratio of carbon to nitrogen. Carbon materials (browns) include: dry grass clippings, dry leaves, sawdust, hay, paper, and cornstalks, just to name a few. Some of these materials are difficult to find in the home but should be included in a good batch of compost. To boost the carbon matter in my pile I use sawdust, shredded office paper, and collected dry leaves.
The nitrogen (greens) half of the ratio is much easier to come by in the common home. Most vegetable and fruit wastes work great for composting, but stay away from meats and dairy products. Another great source of nitrogen matter is coffee grinds and tea leaves, as they decompose quickly and are fine in consistency. A general rule in composting is to break the matter down into as small of bits as possible so that beneficial bacteria have plenty of raw surface area to attack. So any matter you use in your compost, whether it is a carbon or a nitrogen, should be chopped into small bits. No one wants clumpy compost.
So far in my compost mix I have grass clippings, sawdust, leaves, and office paper, balanced with waste food from the restaurant which includes plenty of veggies and some bread. I also added dirt to give the mix consistency and some earthworms from the tackle shop, though the worms aren't required. Along with adding food to the pile, I turn it each day with a pitchfork (which adds to the "I'm a farmer, I work the earth" mentality) and add water to the pile.
Although I've only been composting for a week now, there's already a variety of insects like flies, ants, and worms dwelling in my pile that aid the decomposition process. A compost pile is a miniature and controlled ecosystem in itself, and I'm happy to give these beings a free source of food. Composting places me in symbiotic relationship with the material in the pile and the beings it feeds.
If you're tired of filling landfills with food scraps and grass mulch, I highly recommend composting. All these materials we usually throw away can be used to create nutrient rich planting soil which reincorporates waste into the ecosystem in a beneficial manner. Sure the process may be a little stinky, but it definitely smells better than a landfill.
If you're interested in composting check out the compost manual.
Friday, May 1, 2009
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
Skinner is a polarizing figure among educators because his research and subsequent theories focus solely on observable behaviors, and the powerful role reinforcement plays in shaping those behaviors. Skinner's theory in a nutshell (or in a "skinner bed") follows these lines: to achieve a desired behavior it is essential that proper reinforcements are used to encourage the behavior.
Skinner's research was interesting to say the least. His experimental animal of choice was the common pigeon; the "fresher" the better. He also experimented using rats, but he really loved his pigeons. Based on his studies he found that if you reward desired behaviors the organism will continue to do them because of the positive consequences. The question is knowing which reinforcements will motivate the behavior. Skinner solved this tough question simply by depriving the pigeons of food until they were operating at 80% of their normal body weight. I suppose after a good starving any animal would peck a dot or push a lever for a bite.
Skinner's theory of behavior makes perfect sense; the problem is figuring out what kind of reinforcement will allow students to reach the teacher's behavioral aims. In the following video I try to show how Skinner's theory operates, but I also ask an important question which I do not feel Skinner ever answered, namely: what makes a reinforcement positive?
In the video, the behavior I'm struggling with is studying. The cigarette acts as my positive reinforcement (or reward) for my work. Skinner's analysis of the video would stop here. What I seek to show in the following pictures is that my positive reinforcement actually interferes with the behavior it is supposed to encourage--the studying. Not only that, an addictive behavior begins to form: smoking, which not only interferes with the studying behavior, but has aversive consequences upon my health (the coughing). Now I need a need a positive reinforcement to counteract the smoking behavior which was meant to encourage my study behavior. And the cycle continues.
My conclusion: positive reinforcement must encourage the desired behavior and be healthy for organism doing the behavior; otherwise the adverse side-effects of the reinforcement interfere with the desired behavior (along with poisoning the organism). Of course Skinner never had to worry about figuring out what kind of reinforcement to use; he just deprived his subjects of food, and for some reason I don't think school districts would go along with that kind of teaching method.
I like this picture because Skinner actually made a pigeon-guided bomb for the U.S. Military. The "pigeon-guided bomb" proposal was rejected; but its development demonstrated Skinner's awesome ability to shape pigeon behavior. Imagine a world with pigeon-guided bombs...
Thursday, April 16, 2009
Anime Craze Enriches Small Town Washimiya
J. N. Burrus
On April 6, 2008 over 4000 anime fans gathered at Washinomiya Shrine to walk in the fictional footsteps and meet the real life voices behind the Hiiragi sisters, the lead characters in the smash anime/manga Lucky Star. The event was held at the shrine but organized by the Washimiya Chamber of Commerce. The festivities came after Mayor Kenji Honda made the sisters “special town residents,” solidifying relations with the anime series and easing the locals’ anxiety about the visiting fans and cosplayers. The huge event brought devoted members of the anime sub-culture to the conservative small town that is relishing the attention, and the business.
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
I chose Japanese Kanji as my example for two reasons: 1) they are pictographic in nature, and 2) this is the way I really learned to read Japanese Kanji - at least the nouns. It's easy to see the chicken and the elephant in the two kanji below, all it takes is a little imagination.
Saturday, March 14, 2009
This is the first video I've ever made on my own. I used Window Movie Maker that came with my 2003 PC. Aside from my computer freezing up on two occasions, the software was super easy to use, and, best of all, I never felt that my creativity was limited by the software's capabilities. Though some the slide transitions are bit choppy and the sounds levels are touch off, I'm really pleased with the video.
The course I'm taking is called "Instructional Theory and Design," and the title is an apt description of the course. Thus far we have studied the learning theories of Dewey, Popham, Vygotsky, and Piaget. By reading these theories about how people develop and learn, we are enacting Dewey's ideal of the "linking science" wherein educators study such theories in order to teach their students better. On the design side of the course, we've mainly dealt with how to present classroom material using self-made videos. My professor Dr. Hamman is a bit of a tech-head and he's trying to pass his passion for technology on to us students. The video "How We Learn" is my midterm project, and for the final project, each of us will make a longer podcast that will be entered into an educational podcast tournament.
Making videos about the class topics isn't the standard for assessing students' comprehension, but it's perfect for this class where we need to know about developmental theories and present those theories with multimedia projects. Creating your own videos is definitely an innovative to reach students and to challenge your own creativity; I just wish the process didn't challenge my computer's processor so much.
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
To the left is a screen shot from Schmap's website displaying my picture of Frost Tower in the top right corner.
The coolest part about this digital publication is that Schmap contacted me about the photo after finding it on Flickr. They emailed me saying that the picture was shortlisted for inclusion in their new Austin guide. About two weeks later it was selected and now flashes before visitors' eyes.
I took "Downtown" in early September while visiting my cousins in Austin, just after returning from Japan. I'm sure I looked like the stereotypical tourist, walking around downtown Austin taking pictures with my big Nikon (standard equipment for all dedicated tourists). A mesh khaki pocket vest would've completed the outfit, but I'll be damned if I wear that without a press pass.
Here is a larger version of "Downtown" complete with a link to my photostream on Flickr:
I took the shot with a Nikon D40 using a polarizing lens. The cloud pattern was not my doing, but being in the right place at the right time is, for better or worse, necessary for taking decent pictures.
So thank you Schmap for selecting my photo for your travel website. Everyone, keep on traveling!
Saturday, February 21, 2009
One example of Holly's inventiveness can be heard on the cheery song "Everyday." The drum beat behind the chimes doesn't quite sound like a heavy drum smack, and that's because it's not. Holly wanted a lighter sound to express the light-hearted spirit of the song, so instead of using drums, he placed a microphone up to his knees and slapped out the beat with his hands, giving him just the sound he wanted. Holly had a clear vision of how he wanted that song to sound, and he devised a way to realize that vision using the resources he had--low tech or not.
Even after learning about Buddy Holly's life, I can't say that his music moves me. It is nice to play while lingering about the house, but it definitely wouldn't carry a road trip. No, his music doesn't make me like him, it's his qualities like his work ethic, his uncompromising devotion to his craft, and his openness to the world that I admire.
Monday, February 16, 2009
-Yeah it's due tomorrow
-Are you kidding me
click click, taka taka toka, dum taka taka click, click, dum toka
erooooun, erooooun, boin
taka taka tic tic tic click boin, erooooun, -um, we'll see what she wants us to do, posterboard
ling ling ling, ling ling ling, ling ling ling, ling li
-hey,...I'm at the library
Friday, February 6, 2009
I have a love / hate relationship with electronic music--a song is either total shit, or a hyper-creative work of mind blowing genius on par with the best of Beethoven or Def Leppard. Since I don't write about shitty things (well there was that one post;), it's safe to say that Daft Punk is a powerful composer of the electronic symphony, an art elegantly unleashed in "Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger (live)." Watch and listen:
Many people I know find techo music annoying, and many of these same people tend to think classical music is boring. I think they feel this way because 1) they haven't heard exemplary pieces from the genres, and 2) because they don't have the mental framework with which to appreciate what they are not hearing. Connecting classical music and techno is not a stretch even though the two genres sound completely different and presented in drastically different atmospheres: you hear techno in dance clubs and classical in concert halls.
Underlying techno and classical music is a detailed and delicate mode of progression wherein a theme is built upon, dissolved, and recapitulated in a tsunamic climax. The theme is the baseline, the familiar musical phrase that hooks and carries the listener through the piece's movement. The dissolution of the theme, the breakdown, is the dispersion of the supporting elements built upon it during the rising action. During the breakdown, the artist will slowly and carefully recapitulate the supporting elements of the piece, culminating in a massive emotional climax that hits harder than original theme did in the first place. Different musics with similar underlying structures.
With this structural similarity in mind, I wonder when electronic music will be classified as "classical," or "later classical." Although the genre term "classical" applies to music delivered using traditional instruments, i.e. violins, cellos, pianos, etc., "classical" music wasn't considered "classical" in its own time, it was considered extremely modern.
Moving forward to the present, stop and consider what instruments are used for musical composition: keyboards, synthesizers, electric guitars, and above all, regardless of the genre, the computer. Perhaps someday in the future, when computers become tools of antiquity, techno music will be seen for what it is: the creative use of the era's breakthrough instruments, those powered by electricity whose sounds are compiled in bytes.
The future of music has already arrived, carrying its past upon its technologic shoulders.
Friday, January 30, 2009
Wednesday, January 28, 2009
Over the last 10 nights I've read a chapter out of Robert M. Pirsig's Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance before going to sleep. It's a big book, but at my current pace I'll finish it in a few more weeks. Though this sounds like a slow way to read a book, Zen Moto. is a book that should be read slowly and pondered. It a spiritual journey driven on two wheels across America.
Many times this book has made me pause and reflect on my own life's journey and future course. With this new year comes a new course for America and a new course for my life as well. Three weeks ago I began taking teacher certification classes at Texas Tech University here in Lubbock. Though I've still got a few semesters between me and my goal of teaching high school English, I feel like my life is on a good course.
Pirsig's round and round thoughts on the scientific method and testing hypotheses struck a deep note within me; not because I had never thought about my life in such terms before, but because I know that he has thought about his life in a way I have, too. I've viewed my life as an experiment or a test many times. I didn't start thinking this way until I reached a sort of emotional literacy wherein I'm somewhat capable of relating my innerworkings to external experiences.
My own self literacy began as I packed for my journey to Japan. I was nervous, unsure about my sucess, but confident I would suceed nonetheless. As the plane's wheels left the earth I looked around at the jet load of new JETs flying into the unknown. Everyone seemed pretty excited, and I posed as much. Yet inside I kept asking myself if I had made the right decision. That's when I realized, "This what I feel like when I take tests." I've always passed tests but how well I passed them is another issue. In school I had always envied those kids who walked in, took a test, and walked out like it was no big deal. I always posed and acted as if it wasn't a big deal either.
I had a simuliar feeling when I left Japan, only then I had a tender mass thoughts and emotions running through my 心 that I hadn't experienced before and had nothing to relate them to, except maybe a test I was still taking and wasn't quite sure I was passing.
What Pirsig writes about the struggle in the face of multiplying hyotheses is what I felt, and still feel inside. In the laboratory of life, hypotheses are commonly called "hypothetical situations," and these situations tend to multiply as well. One "What if..." question quickly leads to more "What if..." question until one's whole life is up for grabs. The real problem with multiplying hypotheses is that there is no way to test them all. I am a being in time; I cannot go back and alter my life, nor can I try on different roles and return to point X in time should a role not work out. I am a being in time, and truth is in the present; as Pirsig asks Einstein, "did [you] really mean to state that truth was a function of time?"
It is impossible to test all the hypotheticals in my life or your own. At bottom of all these hypotheticals is "a gap of pure nothing." Maybe you've tried, as I have, imagining a bridge between life and the hypothetical life that might've been or still could be. I've imagined amazing lives for myself, and thus far I feel I'm reasonably passing the "Are you living a fulfilling life test."
Marking this new year, 2009, I've chosen one hypothesis out the infinite before me: to become a high school English teacher. There is no way of knowing now, in the present, if this choice will be better than the other choices might have been. But that is not a question to ponder on too deeply; because like all hypothetical questions it has no bottom. A man is not judged by what he could've done but what he did; for, unfortunately, it is only the man's 心 that judges him by the former.
All qoutations from chapter 10.
If your computer can't read Japanese you will see a box where a more meaningful symbol resides. I feel this Japanese symbol better expresses my sentimets than multiple English words.