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About downhousesoftware

Hi, my name is Jack. I'm a biology instructor for a small college in the southern metro area of Kansas City where I've been teaching for about three years now. When I started it was a struggle to get back to basics and remember all the general material that I'd forgotten long ago, but in time I've come to really love being in front of a class and helping people get to know a subject that I love. I'm also the founder of DHS, a fledgling startup business creating educational software for iOS devices as well as other educational content. My goal is to make the software that I wish I had to use in my class to reinforce ideas about genetics and heredity. My background is science - I've been working in laboratories since I was an undergraduate at the University of Delaware. My primary interest has been immunology and how the immune system and its components can be of use in fighting cancer and infectious diseases. I received my PhD in 2010 and have since been working as an educator bringing life science awareness to the largest audience possible.

SciFlix Movie of the Month: Soylent Green

SciFlix Movie of the Month: Soylent Green

Relax. It’s just people.

This month’s film will be the 1973 adaptation of Harry Harrison’s novel, Make Room! Make Room! Charleton Heston plays a 21st-century police detective working the massively overpopulated New York City. A murder sparks an investigation that cuts to the heart of the world’s population problem: How to feed it?

The Soylent Corporation just released its new product, a plankton-based biscuit made from a harvest from the world’s oceans, Soylent Green. Nutritious! Delicious! Friday, February 10th is Soylent Green Day.

Film Starts at 6:30pm

Regnier Auditorium

12610 Quivira Rd., Overland Park, KS 66213

Discussion to follow – What is the role of the government in providing food safety and biosecurity to a growing population? And what ethics govern a runaway population? Come hear Professors from KU and K-State discuss these questions and answer your questions.

 
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Posted by on February 5, 2017 in Education, tv, Uncategorized

 

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The Great American Melting Pot

After searching for the Schoolhouse Rock episode on base-12 mentioned in the previous post, I was reminded of this other episode that still resonates today.

Music & lyrics by Lynn Ahrens. Vocals by Lori Lieberman. ABC-TV, 1977

 
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Posted by on December 28, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

Hey Little 12 Toes

12-numberI was recently reminded of a schoolhouse rock episode about a base 12 numbering system. It wasn’t an episode that caught on, but it made a mark on me throughout my school years. Specifically with respect to how arbitrary any base numbering system was. Of course, this doesn’t mean that our use of base 10 is arbitrary – but that our having five fingers and five toes on each limb is arbitrary. And if we had more or less, that our numbering system would reflect it.

What made me think of schoolhouse rock was a short discussion of base-12 numbering (a dozenal, or duodecimal system) by James Grimes. (I apologize for including a video with such restless camerawork that you may need a Dramamine to watch. However, Dr. Grimes does an excellent job explaining what can be a confusing topic.)

The video from my childhood that this reminded me of is ‘Little 12 Toes.’

The music accompanying this video holds up extraordinarily well and adds something trippy to the lesson.

Another appeal for a base 12 system comes from ParchitaFM, who apparently is mostly into music – and base 12…? That’s interesting.

Lastly, check out the Dozenal Society of America to see more from people who would like to adopt this system universally. I would remind the DSA that people have been trying to promote adoption of the metric system in the USA for at least 40 years. A change to the metric system faces far fewer barriers to acceptance than a base 12 system would, yet we remain (along with what, Somalia and Burma?), as one of the last countries clinging to the unwieldy imperial system.

No – I just looked it up. Somalia is metric – Liberia is not. Burma, I was right about.

 
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Posted by on December 28, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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“Many Bothans died” – no wait, this is Death Star I …

How to discuss this without giving anything away?

The family and I saw Rogue One tonight at 7 pm. It’s a small victory of mine that I’ve managed to get my wife to accept that this is something that I really can’t let pass without seeing the first available time of premier night. So that’s a good start right there.

This evening went without the fanfare that would have come had we gone to a larger theater or seen it on IMAX in 3D while drinking a film-based beverage and wearing our galaxy premier sweatshirts. (That was The Force Awakens at Cinetopia last year) Instead, we were in the small theater right down the road from our house and only one person was wearing anything approaching cosplay. I admit that I wish we had done the big theater thing again, but I was a day late getting tickets and we had to go where we could to get a 7 pm showtime.

78c208f13001c91231299bd2eb476c19What was important? … The fact that I still got goosebumps when the lights went down. And for a moment, I was in the aisle seat in the back of one of the Chestnut Hill twin theaters with my grandmother in 1977.

Did it last? Not entirely. There wasn’t a screen crawl (something that had gotten to be painfully de rigueur for Star Wars films), the music was noticably different, and I was thrown a bit off by the quick changes from one planet to another as the various pieces were laid out chaotically like a myopic view of a skein of multicolored yarn. I was tempted to despair.

Luckily, this was short-lived. As the film progressed, some ancillary characters and cities were culled revealing how the many parts came together into a meaningful story arc. And despite the pace picking up, some character development brought you into the protagonist’s lives enough to care about them.

The droid we learn to love this time is K-2SO, a reprogrammed imperial unit with a drollness that reminded me (but only slightly) of the original C3PO  – as opposed to the buffoon he / its become. K2 was the show stealer whose personality was possibly the most fleshed out of all the characters onscreen.

tarkinThere were also familiar faces. Odd familiar faces. Grand Moff Tarkin, for instance, who looked as if Peter Cushing might have spent time with Joan Rivers’ plastic surgeon who did one hell of a job making him not only young again, but much less dead. On the one hand, the CGI that made this possible was pretty amazing. On the other, we were still caught in the upward slope of the uncanny valley.

The same can be said for Leia, who we (thankfully) only see for a very short time, but in such a well lit close up that they are daring you to look – and you do.

Red and Gold Leaders are also brought back for a space fight over an imperial base. But rather than recreate them on top of other actors, they were simply cut into their  scenes – rather effectively, I have to admit.

Lastly, Cornelius Evazan and Ponda Baba (who both have way too much backstory on Wookipedia), the toughs from the cantina on Tatooine, get a quick cameo appearance in a  street shot. These guys just can’t stand not being in a fight, but manage to rein themselves in a little quicker this time.

Overall, I think I may like this even more than I liked The Force Awakens, which was the film that gave us all a new hope after Lucas was bought out. The Force Awakens was a lot of fun and took the theater’s breath away when the Millenium Falcon revealed herself. Rogue One, on the other hand, took a small piece from the original Star Wars and delivered a beautifully tragic exegesis. Clear, well-defined, and raw.

I’m looking forward to another viewing soon. Thumbs up.

 

 

 
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Posted by on December 16, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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Ever have one of those days?

… days when you feel like the only thing that will make the world feel right is if you have a pocket full of outdated tools and you’re wearing broken-in comfortable clothes that your big brother handed down to you?

Well, what if you’re early middle-aged and you don’t even have a big brother, but you do have expendable income at your disposal? If that’s the case, the carbon2cobalt catalog was made for you.Their motto: “Effortlessly Cool Men’s Clothes, Footwear and Accessories,” because it would be a damned hassle to collect all this stuff honestly.

Screen Shot 2016-11-28 at 9.08.35 PM.pngConsider the Vintage British Ruler. For just $69 they point out helpfully that they can solve one of the first world’s greatest problems. “Got a gadget-lover that has everything? Pretty good chance they won’t have one of these. Made in England circa 1900-1950, these authentic vintage folding rulers are made of boxwood with brass hardware.”

At this point, I have to admit that I actually do own one of these already. I don’t know that it’s actually of British origin, but it is actually vintage (not just recreated in the style of an inconvenient means of measuring things). I inherited mine as one of several tools I got inexplicably from my great-grandfather. So, don’t buy me this, anyone.

When you’re finished measuring stuff in the Imperial System – proof that you live in one of “only three backwaters still use the archaic Imperial system of weights and measures: Liberia. Myanmar (a.k.a. “the country formerly known as Burma”) the United States of America,” (source) perhaps you’d like to cruise down to the beach (or shore if you live in Jersey) for some serious-as-a-heart attack paddleball in the sand.

Screen Shot 2016-11-28 at 9.16.58 PM.pngSure, you could pick up the old standby Pro-Kadima paddles for $7.99 at almost any store. But, do they really mean PRO-Kadima? I mean, are these the paddles the actual professionals use? Because that’s the kind of standard you want to set when you crush your sister’s kid into the sand. No – you need Pro League Paddles. At $99.99, they might cost a bit more, but that’s the price you pay to steal away any hopes that little squirt might excuse his loss on account of using unsanctioned paddles.  Carbon2cobalt’s paddles are “made of high-quality lacquered bamboo … [and] feature rubberized grips for optimum handling. Paddles come boxed with two rubberized balls. Imported.”

To my surprise, there actually is a professional league of players in Israel, where they call the sport ‘Matkot’. Here’s a quick video of the organisers of the league:

These guys eschew the wooden paddles in favor of paddles made of indestructible carbon fiber.

But that’s all beside the point. You’re in this for the appearance of quality, not to actually play against these guys. So, Pro League Paddles it is.

Screen Shot 2016-11-28 at 9.48.38 PM.pngAnd, to ensure that your paddles are perfectly flat, why not invest the $79 to make assessing the level of objects look effortlessly cool? Get the Vintage Carpenter’s Level and don’t stop to ask why the hell the actual level is not itself a level surface. There could be a reason, but it’s not evident.

It’s hard to imagine why carbon2cobalt is such a successful company when it seems to sell only the most ridiculous items for insane prices, but then you remember that gadget-lover who has everything.

http://images.satisfaction.com/christmas-countdown-generator/countdown2.swf?x=http://images.satisfaction.com
Christmas Countdown

 
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Posted by on November 28, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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“Don’t get cheap on me now Dodgson

… that was Hammond’s mistake.” The SciFlix movie of the month, Jurassic Park, was shown last night at the Edwards Campus of the University of Kansas to a good crowd of 50 attendee…

Source: “Don’t get cheap on me now Dodgson

 
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Posted by on November 19, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

The Marriage of Figaro at KC’s Lyric Opera

It’s an unexpectedly pleasant thing that I have come to expect good things from Kansas City’s Lyric Opera. Rarely have I felt like this company has delivered the best operatic performances, but it seldom rates as the worst either.

This weekend I was lucky enough to be taken to see the latest production of this opera by my wife and son for a birthday present (amazingly, Figaro has come on or near my birthday many years now). I don’t think I’ve properly thanked them for this gift, but I very much appreciate it and had a great time.

My favorite part of the Lyric’s production this year was the return to a traditional setting but with a spectacular set design that suggested the change in aristocracy occurring at the time while still delivering on a class-stratified society complete with the trappings of a legacy of what we now call old money. The co-production with Opera Philadelphia, San Diego Opera and Palm Beach Opera truly delivered in this respect.

 

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An excellent effort! But, how does one say … ?

Unfortunately, the performance, while uniformly good, failed to achieve greatness at any point. On the ride home, we all agreed that it was a perplexing combination of all members of the cast ‘delivering’ but still missing the mark. I personally believe that Figaro is one of the more laugh-out-loud funny operas you can see. But where the comedy of Cheribino’s  near-capture and incredible escape and coverup should have brought down the house, I think I merely smiled.

 

Figaro is written for show-stealing performances. In its original production – in contrast to the portrayal in Peter Schaffer’s Amadeus, there were so many encores in its premier showings that Emporer Joseph insisted that these be limited due to the already long running time of the performance. Cheribino, a soprano en travesti, is almost uniformly the most beloved character in the Opera delivering two perfect arias, Non so più cosa son and Voi che sapete che cosa è amor voicing his struggle to keep up with his wildly raging hormones. Samantha Gossard gave a lovely performance that was well done, but oddly unextraordinary. 

 

Bartolo and Marcellina are two other characters who almost uniformly steal the show for their comedic performances. In last evening’s performance, the two were delightful, but also failed to win the night. One exception to all the ‘merely solid’ performances was the scene in which it is revealed that Figaro is Rafaello, the long-lost illegitimate son of Bartolo and Marcellina. Amazingly, it wasn’t the two older players who made the scene work, but the Count who brought everything together in his whole-hearted display of despair in ever figuring out what the hell was going on around him. In fact, I would say that it was Baritone Edward Parks’ Count Almaviva who rose above all others to make the night a success.

Overall, I’d say the Lyric’s Figaro was a musical success surrounded by beautiful sets, but inhabited by mundane performances.

ps – bring back the chair.

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Posted by on November 14, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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