21 August 2012

On tangibility and engineering inspiration

Every now and then, I think about how few of my blogger friends from ~2006 write consistently anymore. I have always blamed it on the fact that as we've become responsible for a lot more over the years, we have had less time to ruminate and get our thoughts down. I have noticed for a while that the more overwhelmed I am, the less frequently I feel inspired enough to start diving down rabbit holes.

A little over three years ago, I saw Zach Klein and Casey Pugh talk about physical computing and Arduino at a Creative Mornings. It was fascinating, and I thought about it all the time over the years.

My Daft Punk helmet from Casey Pugh on Vimeo.

Cue to a few months ago. My friend Jim and I led a project at work to make a small GE fridge smarter (you can read Jim's awesome blog post about it here), and hired a phsyical computer to build it. The entire time, my head was spinning as I watched him solder things together, move wires around, and type endless strings of code. I was simultaneously furious and jealous about the fact that I didn't understand what he was doing.

Getting there!

So I signed up for an Arduino class at 3rd Ward. With so little time on my hands, I needed some kind of structure if I was to ever learn.

Arduino is an open-source electronics prototyping platform.

I have thought about so much stuff over the past few weeks I've been taking the class. I have made little LEDs turn on, seen how tweaks in code could fade them in and out at different speeds, and can now understand the tiniest bit about currents, resistors, actuators, and pulse wave modulation (any Arduino expert is probably laughing at how beginner-level I sound). And now I can't stop thinking of all the things I want to connect an Arduino to.

220/366: I made something that did something!

Now to my point. Two things I realized as a result of taking this class --

1. It's ok to make inspiration come to you.

I can't afford to let my mind wander all day long anymore, waiting for interesting thoughts to come together and form an idea. Putting structure around activities that I know I will find interesting has done wonders for my extracurricular thoughts – I've been thinking about all sorts of things since pointedly seeking something like this out.

2. Tangibility is important for strategists.

For the past six years, I have worked at strategy-only companies – ones in which we only do strategy, and outsource production to partners. I love this for many reasons, but one byproduct of it is that you're removed from the tinkering energy that working at a full-service shop can expose you to. We are "making things" more and more at Undercurrent (mostly in the name of curiosity and experimentation), but I am still a few degrees of separation away from stuff like hardware laying around, photography studios, and prototypes. As a strategist, you spend a lot of time in your head, and being at a strategy-only company only intensifies that.

My physical computing box

That's why Arduino has been so great. As I mentioned in my Hackers post, I have a pure love of technology and the Internet, and I'm just plain interested in it. Learning how to use this platform not only has me buried in code again, but I'm also physically touching wires and turning knobs - it brings a delightful balance and feeling of I-made-a-thing-that-does-a-thing to my days.

Arduino celebrates Christmas in August.

I'm planning to take more circuitry classes at 3rd Ward to keep the inspiration and tangibility up (like Intro to Circuits and Electronics). I'll be writing a lot more about 3rd Ward in general and these classes too, so stay tuned for that. I guess this was just a little kick start into what feels like hanging out with an old friend again. :)

10 August 2012

Project 366: July

Hello again. Here's July in pictures - much more energy, visually, this time!

Project 366: July

Here's the highlight photo; timing worked out really well here (I say timing because I was in a moving car, flying down the FDR) --

191/366: Welcome home.

191/366: Welcome home.

9 July 2012

Our drive back from Montreal took less time than the one up; we stopped at some small town in upstate NY for pulled pork sandwiches halfway through. Driving down the FDR, I saw the Empire State Building peeking out from behind another, next to the sunset. Definitely bittersweet.

I had only intended to shoot the Empire State Building, but If you read the comments, you'll see that it was very close to Manhattanhenge (July 12th). A fortunate accident – the sun looked even more on fire than it usually is.

Here are two others I really liked from the month; coincidentally both from Instagram --

185/366: sherbet Baby-G
I just found out yesterday that this year is GShock's 30th birthday. Which, as Hodinkee says, is "the only digital watch that matters."

198/366: iPad case as clutch
My favorite fashion blogger, Ivania, first brought this vinyl iPad case to my attention (inspired by furoshiki, or Japanese cloth wrapping) as a clutch (post here). Couldn't resist ;)

Ok, phew I'm caught up. Here are some July highlights: I saw 4th of July fireworks from a sick rooftop in Williamsburg. I went to Montreal for a long weekend. Had imported Czech absinthe, prepared the proper way. Met my pen pal, Julie, for the first time. (I should stop calling her my pen pal and just refer to her as my friend from now on. It feels more official somehow, now that we've met). Saw Patricia Field in front of her store on the Bowery. Flew to Cleveland again. Had a delicious sour Belgian beer. Flew to San Jose again. Had phenomenal fish tacos and Thai food while there. Celebrated two years with Mister Cellar Door at a whiskey bar. Saw Mice Parade in a very small (venue and crowd) environment. Cooked a meal for maybe the 2nd time since I've lived in this apartment ;)

That's all for now. See you sooner than next month; I have a bunch swimming around in my mind and don't want to lose it!

09 August 2012

Project 366: June

Good grief, I have done it again. I had to go back eight pages in my Flickr account to start putting this one together. Time flies when you're having fun? Here's June --

Project 366: June

Things definitely happened – so continued my summer of traveling – but looking at these, I didn't get a swooping sweep of nostalgia like I sometimes do with the Project 366 mosaics. In any case, here's my favorite of the month:

157/366: New York.

157/366: New York.

5 June 2012

It's chilly in June, and there are puddles everywhere from the rains we had yesterday. I looked down while waiting for the light to cross the street, and saw a coffee cup lid and cigarette floating. It seemed perfect.

When I looked at the picture later on in the day, I noticed that the building across the street (my destination) turned up in the puddle's reflection as well. There is almost always a puddle in this exact spot, and I find myself looking at it frequently now, to see the rest of the neighborhood around me reflected in it. Looking up while looking down.

Some other things that happened in June: I started a Soviet 24-hour mechanical watch collection (I can say this because now I have two and intend to purchase more). I found a quiet, secret cavernous room in which to eat breakfast. I went to the New York City Ballet for the first time and was blown away by A Midsummer Night's Dream. Was gifted a Peter Sellers biography. Found a lip balm I'd been hunting all over drug stores for. Saw an icon I helped design clung to a window in Cleveland. Met a cute little dog named Spider. Saw Laura and Hobe sing dirty children's music with toy instruments. Started a weekly breakfast ritual with Leila. Went to San Jose again and did work by a swimming pool. Had In-N-Out again! Saw a friend's first solo photo show. Spent time with an old friend as he ran sound for a band.

See? Lots of stuff but somehow I blame my pictures for not capturing the energy well enough. See you very soon for July's recap!

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