Monday, March 31, 2008

the oldest recorded human voice

big news swept the world of music and recorded sound recently when a 10 second clip of a woman singing a french folk song was played for the first time in 150 years.
the recording of ”au clair de la lune”, or ”by the light of the moon”, was originally recorded in 1860, and is thought to be the oldest known recorded human voice.

there have been several claims previous to this one including that associated with the famous frank lambert who achieved similar results with his experiment of 1878 which resulted in lambert's ”talking clock”.

a phonograph” (ediphone) of thomas edison singing ”mary had a little lamb” in 1877 was previously thought to be the oldest recorded copy of the human voice. three original edison cylinders can be seen here at the national park service website.

this latest find knocks the whole timeline back an incredible 17 years! it turns out that edouard-leon scott de martinville using a phonautograph
recorded la clair de la lune. the phonautograph etched representations of sound waves into paper covered in soot from a burning oil lamp. lines were scratched into the soot by a needle moved by a diaphragm that responded to sound. apparently the recordings were never intended to be played. because phonautograph recordings were made using a hand-cranked device, the speed varied throughout, changing the pitch.

here's a photograph of the actual soot covered pieces of paper that have held the "voice" of this unknown french woman for over 148 years.
photo courtesy isabelle trocheris.
the "phonautograph", was played by american scientists using a "virtual stylus" to read the lines. so here it is - ten seconds of sound recorded an astonishing 148 years ago.

if you’d like to make or buy your very own model of the very far-back-in-time technology that edison used, then this replica kit uses the same technology that edison used, replacing the waxed pipe and stylus with a plastic cup and a needle, but the end results are the same! you record your own voice on a plastic cup -- and play it back! if this appeals to you then buy this kit, step back in time, and record the human voice.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

amazing board games

i paid a visit to pretty patrol this morning and came across some absolutely amazing stuff that might help parents out there longing to drag their kids away from what my wife calls “the screens.”

first up is ”khet”. a sort of high-tech version of chess, the object of the game: "each player begins with 12 egyptian-themed pieces and a laser built into the board. the goal is to arrange your pieces so that the laser's beam bounces off their mirrored sides with the goal of illuminating opponent's pieces to eliminate them from the game."

let’s move on to ”the pillars of the earth. nope, not the oprah book club selection by ken follett -although you’re close - it’s based in part on that weighty tome.

here’s what happens in “pillars” . . .
“prior phillip of kingsbridge has a glorious vision. to build the largest, most beautiful cathedral in (twelfth century) england. to accomplish the task, phillip recruits the most renowned builders in the country. however, the fate of the cathedral is constantly threatened by all manner of catastrophes and oppositions. the pillars of the earth is based on ken follett's best-selling novel. players join together to help build kingsbridge cathedral. using your workmen and resources, you must wisely deploy assets to overcome unexpected difficulties and shortages to prove yourself the greatest builder of them all! will your efforts be recognized when the great cathedral at kingsbridge is complete?”
players report that it takes around two hours for a game and can actually take longer depending on your experience and patience. it looks like excellent fun and challenging as well.

still in the realm of cathedrals comes the game of ”cathedral”. resembling chess in some respects but with an element of land-grabbing to add that lovely element of greed that i always associate with the most emotional games of monopoly. here’s what you can expect in a game of cathedral . . .

“just as it is in a modern metropolis, space is at a premium in the game of cathedral. cathedral challenges two players to place as many buildings as possible within the walls of a medieval city. there are two sets (light and dark) of hardwood buildings of various sizes. to begin the game, one player places the cathedral on the grid of the walled city. then the two players vie for the remaining land. their goal is to place their own buildings while thwarting their opponent's land-grabbing tendencies. if a player can completely surround one of his/her opponent's buildings, that building is removed from the board and the space gobbled up by a different building. the game ends up resembling a puzzle that must be thoughtfully pieced together. The winner is the player whose unplaced buildings would occupy the least amount of space in the city.”

while we’re still looking at amazing board games. if you have ever been drawn to look at illuminations from ireland’s book of kells and been absolutely stunned and mesmerized by their incredible beauty and detail, then you have to see the products of tailten games.

here’s what happens in the game according to online retailer game puzzles from whom you can order this incredible game. “a simply stunning game evoking Irish legends and producing ever-changing celtic knot designs as players build ring forts and link their kingdoms with bridges. every detail has been thought of with consummate artistry for visual, mental and tactile pleasure, even the packaging. two games, 8 variants to play: "sacred hill" and "high kings of tara." score with kingdoms or with knots as the intricate connections intertwine. we first met this game in its deluxe handcrafted version, with pieces like pottery shards. the somewhat smaller plastic edition offered here also has excellent production values, at a popular price.”

the last game i’ll share here could best be described as esoteric playable art.
paradice is one of the most visually and intellectually beautiful games i have come across. it’s creator “see through games” has a website devoted to it where you can see a (much-speeded-up) version of paradice being played.

“the game of give and take (pictured above) is a strategy game like no other, equally esoteric and artful. in a world of four forests, each with a forest spirit, players compete to become the giver, who gives trees, and to bring human beings eye-to-eye to form the blue pyramid -- before the taker, who takes trees and draws human beings apart, stops them, that is. of course, on any roll of the die the circumstance changer can cause the opportunity for givers to become takers, and vice versa. thus, each player experiences both points of view in a single game. the beautiful challenge is that only the giver can win the game. meditate on this powerful goal, you shall!”

many of these games can be purchased through amazon and if not then i have linked them to their manufacturers for you in the text. game on!!

Saturday, March 29, 2008

leonardo da vinci's automobile

leonardo di ser piero da vinci, was born on april 15, 1452 - and died on may 2, 1519. da vinci was an italian polymath: scientist, mathematician, engineer, inventor, anatomist, painter, sculptor, architect, musician, and writer.
leonardo da vinci painted by himself.
drawn and engraved by charles townley

as the artist responsible for painting “the mona lisa”, da vinci’s fame could have and likely would have been secured by that single contribution. however, his extraordinary legacy is actually much greater as da vinci was in fact a creative genius whose mind wandered widely over the landscape of invention.

here is one of my favourite examples. a spring powered automobile . . . . the mechanical elements of its design are familiar to most children, consisting as it does of a spring whose capacity to store energy when coiled is released thereby driving the vehicle. da vinci made plans to employ the coiled energy of a spring in several other machines, notably a flying machine.

history's first self-propelled vehicle was sketched by leonardo around 1478.
(photo: institute and museum of the history of science in florence)

this cutaway image reveals the simple yet purposeful design of the vehicle.
© 2004 - Istituto e Museo di Storia della Scienza (testi e fotografie)
© 2004 - Studioddm (modelli 3d ed immagini digitali)

the vehicle was supposedly developed as an amusement for the royal court rather than as a serious means of transportation but i have to wonder, given da vinci’s adroit sense of personal and political survival, whether he couched his presentation of such objects in terms that made them more palatable to his benefactors. many of his incredible inventions were presented as toys or having some military benefit.

here is some video footage of a wonderful model of what is considered to be the first truly self-propelled vehicle. this particular version of da vinci’s vehicle is a one-third scale model and as such is 1.68m long and 1.49m wide. the springs are wound up by rotating the wheels in the opposite direction to the one in which it is meant to go.

a lovely and informative gallery of leonardo’s other inventions is maintained at the samuel c. williams library.

the binary plants of alex dragulescu

alex dragulescu takes data that arrives in his in-box and transforms it from its humdrum binary sets into things of beauty. by applying techniques in computational modeling and information visualization he has created an entirely new form of artistic expression. visiting dragulescu’s website reveals an extraordinary set of five galleries, each devoted to recording the results of transforming digital rubbish into art.

begin with malwarez in which he has transformed worms, viruses, trojans and spyware code into organisms. for each piece of disassembled code, api calls, memory addresses and subroutines are tracked and analyzed. he then maps their frequency, density and grouping to the inputs of an algorithm that grows a virtual organism.

here are three examples . . .

more here . . .

then i recommend moving on to the very pretty “spam plants”. “spam plants” grow out of the ascii values found in the text of spam messages which in turn determine the attributes and qualities of the “plants” . . .

more here . . .

right now he's working on a software agent that can "write" experimental graphical novels based on a melange of text culled from thousands of like-minded blogs across the net. the program, called blogbot, applies computational linguistics to the blog text, so that it extracts meaning from the text. the results of his first project with blogbot are here.

Friday, March 28, 2008

the twelfth late friday night eclectic buffet

hey it's friday night and the late friday night eclectic buffet is here again! lots of products to share that i think are cool and some nice pics of canada's wintery spring.

wooteik lim, the designer over at korea’s designodoubt has come up with a winning design that solves a perennial problem; what do you do when those little pieces of soap start gathering in the soapholders around your home?

featuring a holder for the bars that are still big enough to qualify for daily use, the holder also features a place to store those little nuggets of scented goodness. simply rubbing your hands together around the meshed enclosure produces a foamy mittful that you can then apply to yourself.

so simple! so clever!

the same designer has also created a solution to carrying a mouse around with you. to save space you simply deflate it as necessary and reinflate it when you get to your place of work - or play! imagine the looks on the faces of your colleagues as you blow up your mouse . . . . .

and finally, this very lovely alternative to traditional clothes hanger design . . . “the kiss bird” . . . . .

laptop users might be interested in this product which extends the function of the tracker pad and makes for a more intuitive relationship with the interface between your mind and the functions of the computer. more importantly, it addresses the problem of space for laptop users who typically work in space-deficient areas.

developed by simtrix, a new zealand firm specializing in electronics peripherals, the two swiftpoint models have a radical look about them that translates directly into their function.

the swiftpoint tripod looks like it would work a lot like a pen while the slider has more mouse-like stylistic cues, but as you’ll see, actually works a lot differently.

more information is available at future mouse.

as the proud owner (and sometimes maintainer) of two aquariums currently home to eight fish, i have to tell you that even the minimal amount of maintenance required by my fishy friends - six of whom are goldfish (and look at the name of this blog for goodness sakes!!!) - escapes me at times. they are always fed and their water levels are maintained at a reasonable level, but the cleaning and the ahem decorating of their worlds is sadly lacking at times.

still, i am drawn to the world of aquascaping as an ideal that i would one day like to be a part of. the stunningly detailed and immaculate little worlds that some aquascapists create leaves me gobsmacked and ever so slightly guilty about the homely little establishments my eight mates swim about in. it’s no wonder they can hardly look me in the eye . . . .

i’m especially glad that they can’t see these . . .

if you would like to know about the technical details of creating and maintaining these lovely watery worlds then this is the place!
if you’re content to look at other people’s aquascapes then you definitely need to look at this lovely gallery.

now from those watery worlds - which you know would be nice and warm and - well fishy, but still warm to look at, you get to go to some pictures i took this past week of the cold snowy "spring"/winter scenes around my home. late march snow one:
late march snow two:
late march snow three:
late march snow four:


the latest episode of a terrific online comic called “freakangels” written by warren ellis and illustrated by paul duffield has just arrived on my desktop. freakangels depicts a world in which a group of teenagers are some of the last remaining people after a catastrophic flood has left most of england uninhabitable.

written by warren ellis and illustrated by paul duffield, freekangels (although published through avatar press), is online, serialized weekly and available for free.

ellis is a prolific author with a fairly massive list of credits to his name. visitors to ellis's website will find links to several of his online efforts including freakangels.

duffield also maintains a fascinating web presence with links to freakangels as well as to this animated short . . .

for more information and to get your name on the distribution list for freakangels go to the freakangels homepage.

honda cub redesigned

there are lots of ways to get around from one place to another. clearly it is becoming more and more urgent to have a means of transportation that is efficient, appropriate (in the manner that it meets your needs), and kind to the environment. for most people - whether they see it or not - the vehicles they choose are too big, use too much gas, create too much pollution at the point of manufacture and on the road, and place demands on the infrastructure both social and economic that are out of balance.

the honda cub has a heritage and a reputation that precedes it world wide. in production from 1958 to the present-day, there have been more than fifty million honda cubs manufactured - that’s almost a million a year!

it should come as no surprise then that the cub has been subject to a radical makeover at the hands of a transportation design student at northumbria university. sam jilbert wanted to take the venerable cub concept a step further by incorporating a more modern design ethos that applied current technology. the result, a very interesting looking small motor scooter that runs on hydrogen fuel cells. it’s just a concept but good ideas have to have a beginning somewhere. it is definitely the right time to develop a green scooter.

here’s a link to a page of work developed by the graduating class of which jilbert was a member in a show featuring their designs.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

leah buechler's wearable electronics

the for me happy-making sight of the great snow piles slowly peeling back and away from the curbsides means that the great dirty rotten teeth-like mountains of snow that have been gradually but inexorably melting are maybe just maybe on their way back into the air and the rivers. the weather people are trying their very best to keep us aware of the very real chance that snow will come again - a bit here - a bigger bit there - and that in fact a lot of snow can fall in march, april, and even in may! but spring and its big brother summer are definitely on the way!

all of this to get to the fact that i was talking about biking with a couple of my bike buddies the other day, and the inevitable discussion around gear cropped up. safety, and coolness (appearing cool, not necessarily feeling cool) are very high up on the gear-you-wear lists. so i was mighty happy to talk about this latest piece of cool wear from led artist/craftsperson leah buechley.

i found out about it from the good people over at talk2myshirt, who blog about wearable electronics - a topic that i find really interesting and which they cover better than anyone - that leah has recently developed a turn-signal jacket for cyclists. now, as one of the respondents to her posting on her own flickr site points out, a us patent already exists for such a beast.

i still think that it’s a worthy garment and i’d like to see something put together that has more all-weather features. i would also like to see it integrated with some form of solar panels integrated into either the bike, or the clothing itself. for now though it makes sense that the signals be up on the body of the rider and probably larger than she has them set up right now. visibility is key to survival on most busy roads.

if wearable electronics is something you’ve thought of or not, you really should check out leah’s amazing work and especially her very generously provided diy pages.

leah is seen here in a video in which she proudly shows off a few wearable electronic textiles including a very cool led-studded t shirt. on this same page you’ll see links to a complete how-to-make-your-own wearable electronic impregnated clothing. that has huge potential for anyone wanting to make a quick dent in a market that is literally lighting up. did i say that? on re-reading this it appears that i did!

here's "the lilypad", the heart of wearable clothing that could be designed by you . . . . .

if that idea leaps out and grabs you then you should also look here for another diy page for those of you interested in building electronic clothing using supplies that you buy here .

design manifesto

the mercury bound “messenger” spacecraft flew by earth back in august of 2005 and took several hundred pictures as it left us on its long journey towards the sun. the resulting images were stitched together to produce this very short but powerful sequence.

to identify this period of human history as “a critical juncture” might not place enough emphasis on the dire straits we find the big systems of our planet in or certainly moving towards. arguably there have been many other critical junctures of even greater import to the human race and to the planet but this is one that places people squarely in the driver’s seat.

looking around me at the necessary and unnecessary material possessions that have accrued to me over the course of my life, i can say with confidence that the human race has the capacity to invent. but does it also possess the capacity to reinvent - particularly to reinvent itself? to me that’s the (if you’ll forgive the awful pun) burning question as climate change - which is only one of several indicators that we have headed into a box canyon in terms of our decisions related to solving the challenges of meeting our basic needs - that people around the world should be asking themselves. it isn’t simply a question of halting practices that we always knew came with a price tag as much as it is, can we actually replace those practices with solutions that more seamlessly embed themselves within the existing natural infrastructure?

a redefining of expectations - practical and philosophical - an undoing of the relationship between man and nature or at the very least a restructuring of that relationship seems inevitable. the challenge is in part one of scale and then of place in the socio-economic order.

i have a special interest in design and so it is really refreshing to find that several companies, primarily on the order of small scale companies, have developed approaches (some of which have emerged as full-fledged products) to redefining the niche designers play in the broader economic ecology which we now know is firmly enmeshed in the natural ecology.

one such company is thomas matthews, a design group located in london, england. wandering through their site i think you’ll be impressed at the amount of thought you’ll encounter. detailed explanations of the practicalities of the process of sourcing and preparing the materials that leave their studio, alongside similarly detailed explanations of the specifics of their design.

an example of this can be seen in their beautifully designed (you should read how they sourced out the materials for this book!)
sustainability booklet.

it should come as no surprise that the senior designer at thomas matthews, mark beever, was associated with thomas mau’s massive change project which first drew attention to the obvious - for most people, design is invisible. design has become second nature, ever-present, inevitable, taken for granted. simply put, massive change seeks to place design as a major element of the need to both articulate and then act on the role of design in the earth’s future. as buckminster fuller once said: “the best way to predict the future is to design it.” wikipedia opens this out nicely by observig that “throughout his life, fuller was concerned with the question "does humanity have a chance to survive lastingly and successfully on planet earth, and if so, how?" considering himself an average individual without special monetary means or academic degree, he chose to devote his life to this question, trying to find out what an individual like him could do to improve humanity's condition in a way that large organizations, governments, or private enterprises inherently could not do.”

it’s encouraging that design groups like thomas matthews have immersed themselves and their clients in the sensible and thoughtful actualization of that approach.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

sky sails

i was just skimming through a news item that mentioned that the first sky-sails equipped freighter has just returned to its home port in germany after having sailed to venezuela, the united states and norway. this is a promising development to a story that can be read in full here.

skysail’s claim that reductions in fuel consumption of up to 10- 35% can be achieved over the course of a year depending on wind conditions. they also claim that under optimal wind conditions, fuel consumption can temporarily be reduced by up to 50%. this apparently translates to savings around 280,000 euros annually, even on a small, 87 metre cargo ship. and of course the corollary savings to our environment in reduced emissions. "the shipping industry emits 800 million tonnes of co2 now and that will rise to over 1 billion tonnes in five years," says niels stolberg, a company rep.

each kite will cost about 500,000 euros, paying for itself over three years. the kite flies at around 300 meters in the sky where it it is filled with powerful ocean-driven winds.

to learn more about this very positive step in the right direction for the shipping industry you should visit the sky sails site.

dried flowers

as the snow is wind-whipping in sparkly white vortices outside in the evening becoming, i have a chance to look around our house. all over the place, in corners, on shelves, are little collections of dried flowers. . . each flower with its own associations . . . memories in the eyes and hearts and souls of the reciever and the giver . . . . collected together they form a colourful depiction of acknowledgements, remembrances, sorrows allayed, love celebrated.

not so very long ago, dried flowers were something i associated more with endings, death, emptiness. no more. words from wiser people prevailed and opened my eyes.

the poet basho said “the temple bell stops but i still hear the sound coming out of the flowers.” 

adabella radici observed that “a flower's appeal is in its contradictions - so delicate in form yet strong in fragrance, so small in size yet big in beauty, so short in life yet long on effect.”

o me! o life!
o me! o life!... of the questions of these recurring;
of the endless trains of the faithless--of cities fill'd with the
of myself forever reproaching myself, (for who more foolish than I,
and who more faithless?)
of eyes that vainly crave the light--of the objects mean--of the
struggle ever renew'd;
of the poor results of all--of the plodding and sordid crowds I see
around me;
of the empty and useless years of the rest--with the rest me
the question, o me! so sad, recurring--what good amid these, o me, o


that you are here--that life exists, and identity;
that the powerful play goes on, and you will contribute a verse.

walt whitman

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

islands fold

islands fold publishing is one of those lovely little treasures that you find on the west coast that somehow dives under the radar while doing everyone the huge favour of existing.

islands fold is an independent publisher and artist residency created and operated by angela conley and luke ramsey. islands fold carries a wide range of small books, prints, and even tees that are created by artists who are members of the i.f. stable of chums and associates, or who are actually living in-residence supported by those people who choose to purchase their publications and products online.

what’s very cool about this company is that islands fold invites artists to their residency free of charge, where they get to collaborate and produce unique art. it’s an admirable model that may or may not be producing wealthy artists but it is producing amazing art works at very reasonable prices.

i’ve bought several items from islands fold and they arrive in plain envelopes that have been handwritten - well of course - but there’s little doodles on the envelope and a thoughtful little note on the receipt that tells me that this is a very human arts/business.

my favourite item so far has been a book called the diamond. illustrated by english artist jim stoten. islands fold’s eleventh artist-in-residence, the diamond is a graphically gorgeous book that incidentally contains a story about searching for all the wrong things in all the right places. it starts off with three characters who discover a large diamond floating up high in the trees. they are unable to reach the diamond and the story unfolds from there. the comic took jim two years to create. the book design was made by luke ramsey. each book takes about 25 minutes to assemble by hand! did i say that it's a stunning, beautiful, and lovely little book?!!
the end product is sensational!

jim’s site is eclectic and full of his art - finished and in-progress - and there's even a downloadable book of his.

be sure to visit islands fold and scour the site. there are gems and even diamonds to be found there!

bran mere's c-thru carbon bicycle

there’s several feet of snow still on the ground although it’s gradually, oh so gradually melting and evaporating away (although i hear we’re getting a few centimetres today) and the only guys you see out on bikes have a look about them that compels you to give them lots and lots of room and don’t - whatever you do - don’t look them in the eye. but the heart grows fonder for what is oh-so-close and yet so-very-far-away and that would be a dry warm road with a bike being propelled by my very own whipcord legs.

to assuage that craving i’ve been wandering around the ‘net looking for a bike for this summer as i have a trip planned that requires a touring bike. i’ve pretty much set my heart on one but i’m keeping my options open. the final choice will be revealed on this blog when the big purchase happens. for now though i’d like to share a bike that genetically is a distant cousin of the previously featured arantix.

developed by bran meres engineering and design, the carbon c-thru road frame has a much more linear geometric structure than the arantix. for that reason, to my eyes it is less appealing if only because it resembles crane gantries in its uniformity. having said that, i think that if i were lined up at a tri or a 100k race and saw this badboy pull up i’d be quaking in my clip-ons.

Monday, March 24, 2008

three monasteries

i’m currently reading a book entitled ”desert father: a journey in the wilderness with saint anthony” by james cowan.

the book examines the motivations behind the men collectively referred to as “the desert fathers” and their pursuit of escape from the illusion of time and space in the desert. reading that after just finishing edward abbey’s ”desert solitaire: a season in the wilderness” has made for a sandy escapist week of books!

perhaps it’s my englishness, perhaps it’s a feature of the legacy of my religious background, or perhaps it’s an unfulfilled wish that has to do with the needs of my soul as it hurtles along on its earthly trajectory. but i’ve long been drawn to the idea of a spiritual retreat, a freeing of the soul. the desert has often served as a place of retreat, with its apparent barrenness, its isolation, and its purity about which t.e. lawrence as portrayed in the film lawrence of arabia is famously cited as having uttered “it’s clean”.

through an obscure route, that brings me to today’s writing which is about monasteries - monasteries that are beautiful, albeit somewhat isolated.

the first is situated in armenia, a country that can trace its settled history back to 1200 b.c.. named haghartsin monastery, this lovely old building has provided sanctuary and stillness since the year 1281. the buildings associated with haghartsin were constructed between the 10th and 14th century under the auspices (and with the financial backing of) the bagratid family who claimed to be descended from king david of the hebrew bible.

image courtesy the armenian club.

next we visit the meteora monasteries in greece, my favourite among which is the varlaam monastery. astonishingly built into the side and top of an ancient rock pinnacle formed about 60 million years ago through a series of earth movements that pushed the seabed upwards, varlaam was originally inhabited by hermits, who lived in hollows and fissures in the rock towers, some of which reach 550 metres above the plain.
according to unesco who administer the meteora monasteries as a world heritage site, "the net in which intrepid pilgrims were hoisted up vertically alongside the 373-meter cliff where the varlaam monastery dominates the valley symbolizes the fragility of a traditional way of life that is threatened with extinction". i would add that it also describes a tremendous act of faith!

the current structures were established in the fourteenth century.

the last spot i’ll visit today is st george monastery in the wadi qilt. the wadi qilt is a long canyon stretching from the spring of ein farah, south of the jerusalem suburb of anata, down to jericho in the east. "wadi" is Arabic for a creek bed or ravine. the wadi qilt is an extraordinary repository of history, both religious and secular.

among its many treasures is the extraordinary st. george monastery.

st. george monastery was built in the late 5th century a.d. by john of thebes. john became a hermit and moved here from egypt in 480 a.d. the monastery was named st. george after the most famous monk who lived at the site – gorgias of coziba. the persians destroyed the monastery in 614 a.d. the monastery was rebuilt during the crusader period by the emperor manuel I comnenus . sadly, it fell into disuse after the expulsion of the crusaders and it wasn’t until a greek monk named kalinikos restored the monastery between 1878 and 1901 that the monastery took up its original purpose as a focal point for a monastic brotherhood.

st. george monastery . . .
st. george monastery . . .
st. george monastery (image courtesy of luminata) . . .

these monasteries reflect as much as anything the need for people to congregate while still espousing the need for a degree of isolation. although the hermit eschews contact in honouring the desert spirituality of the old testament that promoted the practice of wandering fourty years in the desert to test the heart, there is something in the human spirit that requires the establishment of verity in personal practice in the broader social context of clusterings of people, like-minded or otherwise.