Chocolates and Kickstarter

October 5th, 2014

truffles_1

Been a long time since my last blog post. Busy months. Much doing, working, playing, happening.

In May I ran a Kickstarter project to fund a small batch of delicious chocolate truffles. 200 truffles to be exact. 28 chocolate bars, 10 videos, and a set of recipes were also created as part of this endeavor.

The money raised, $1200, was used to cover the costs of raw materials and an assortment of tools. It was not a profitable venture. At many times it was stressful. All-in-all, the experience highly enjoyable. I will do this again.

As of two weeks ago all rewards were fulfilled.

Truffles and chocolate bars were lovingly made and devoured.
Recipes have were carefully recorded and published.
My and my backer’s addictions were decadently enabled.

Here is a link to my favorite update from the project. It shows some nice documentation from our intense chocolate making session during the fourth of July weekend.

Here is a playlist of the videos created as rewards for the enabler-level backers.


Awareness and Equanimity

March 3rd, 2014

In January I wrote a blog post about my practice of adopting yearly themes. I meant to follow-up it up with an update as soon as I selected a theme for 2014. I chose a theme on January 31st and now I’m finally getting around to sharing it.

My theme for 2014 is Awareness and Equanimity.

This theme was inspired by the Vipassana meditation retreat that I attended in November, 2013. The practice of Vipassana meditation is centered around consciously moving one’s attention throughout the body, bringing into awareness physical sensations that are occurring while maintaining an equanimous mind. Equanimity in this practice, involves allowing oneself to experience physical sensations without craving or aversion.

In my limited personal experience, this practice has often involved me focusing on not craving or having aversion to existing conditioned responses (both physical and mental) that themselves are cravings or aversions triggered by other sensations. It has become clear to me that I will often have to contend with many convoluted and conflicting layers of conditioned reactions in this practice. In essence I have embarked on a long process of peeling back the artichoke in a quest to unearth the raw heart.

What is meaningful to me about this theme, is that it is actionable and grounded in reality and truth. It is actionable because I can practice it anytime anywhere simply by focusing my attention on the physical sensations in my body and working on letting things be as they are, free of aversions or cravings. It is grounded in reality and truth because it involves focusing on the direct experience of being, rather than an experience mediated by my mental models and constructed self.

This perspective only serves to tell the story of my inspiration for choosing this theme. Now it’s time to get back to the practice of bringing this theme to life in 2014. If this makes no sense to you that’s ok for me. After all this is my personal exploration into my own expression of the art of living (and it’s pretty late at night already).


Syllabus for Spacebrew Collab at Parsons

January 25th, 2014

This past week Brett and I finished putting together the syllabus for the Spacebrew Collab, the course we’re teaching at Parsons Design & Technology program this semester. We’re both really excited about the opportunity to lead a course focused around Spacebrew.

Our goal with this course is to provide students with hands-on opportunity to contribute to an open source project while also pushing the project forward with the students’ contributions. Here is the course description taken from the syllabus.

This course is an open studio dedicated to exploring the creation of interactive spaces using the Spacebrew platform as a foundation. Spacebrew is an open-source tool for building and experimenting with interactive spaces. It facilitates rapid prototyping of interactive and responsive environments by enabling designers and developers to easily and quickly connect real-time interactive applications across microcontrollers, computers and the cloud. Students will be encouraged to work in interdisciplinary teams to explore the use of emerging technologies and expand their technical skills while contributing to the Spacebrew open-source project.

The class will have three main focus areas. The extent to which each of these areas is explored will be largely driven by student input and interest.

  1. Expanding the use of Spacebrew outside the world of software and hardware development. This will involve designing and building best-in-class examples and use cases, creating tutorials for non-technical users, and developing workshops for interdisciplinary teams.
  2. Developing Spacebrew on a technical level by creating new libraries for different software frameworks, experimenting with connecting Spacebrew to new hardware platforms, and adding features to the existing toolkit.
  3. Exploring the outer limits of Spacebrew, which may include designing speculative near-future scenarios, creating expansion strategies for the project, or creating entirely new tools that expand into unforeseen territories.

Check out the full syllabus for the Spacebrew Collab.


Mediterranean Salad

January 21st, 2014

I love mediterranean salad, which is why I make it so often when I have friends over for dinner and when I am home all by myself. Over the past few months I’ve got a lot of request for the recipe, so today I’m going to share my standard approach along with a few suggested variations.

There are many different names for this salad, I think every middle eastern country tries to claim this salad as their own. I’ve heard it called turkish salad, greek salad, shepherd’s salad, israeli salad, and so on. We won’t get embroiled in any international disputes here today, so I’m going just to call it my mediterranean salad.

Ingredients

  • 3 medium tomatoes
  • 1 medium-sized onions (red, spanish or white)
  • 1 english cucumber
  • 1/2 to 1 cup of parsley
  • 2 tablespoons of lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • pinch of black pepper
  • feta cheese crumbled or grated (recommended)
  • almonds slivered (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon mint (optional)

Instructions

Some people will claim that the order in which you take the following steps is arbitrary. Those people don’t understand the difference between a mediterranean salad that tastes good and one that tastes great. In other words, make sure to follow these steps in order. You’ve officially been warned.

  1. Dice the tomatoes, place them in large bowl and add the salt. Let it sit for 15 to 20 minutes while you prepare the other stuff. The resting time is important. It allows the salt and tomatoes to develop a beautiful friendship, so that the tomato opens up to reveal its full flavor.
  2. Make the vinaigrette by mixing the lemon juice, olive oil, and black pepper. Make sure to mix them together well. I usually put them into a small spill-proof plastic container and shake them up like a maraca.
  3. Dice the onions and place them in a medium sized bowl. Add the vinaigrette to the bowl with the onions. Let them sit for 10 to 15 minutes. Again the timing is important. When the onions gets cozy with the vinaigrette it sweetens up a little bit.
  4. Next peel and dice the cucumbers and place them in their own medium sized bowl. Set aside.
  5. Remove the parsley leaves from the stems and place them into a tea cup – if you are planning on using mint, add it here as well. Once you’ve filled the tea cup with herbs use a pair of scissors to mince them.
  6. Add the onions to the large bowl with the tomatoes. Mix them up a bit and then let them sit for about 5 minutes.
    1. Note: Usually, you can do this while you are dealing with the parsley since preparing the cucumber and parsley takes about 10 minutes – unless you have some mad food prep skills.  
  7. Add the cucumbers and parsley to the large bowl. Add salt and pepper to taste. Mix all the ingredients together.
  8. Optionally add feta cheese and slivered almonds. I recommend that you add both because they taste great, especially the cheese.
    1. Note: If you are making the salad for yourself and you expect to have leftovers, only add these ingredients after serving because they don’t keep as well as the other ingredients.

Here are some concluding thoughts. The order really matters, the relative amount of each ingredient depends on your taste. I love this salad with a lot of onions and parsley, some of my friends have bad taste and they prefer it with almost no onions and more cucumber. You get the gist, experiment so that you can find the best combination for you.


Caipirinha and French 75

January 19th, 2014

Here are the recipes for the two cocktails that were far and away the most popular at last night’s “fancy drinks” cocktail face-off: the Caipirinha and French 75. Surprisingly, these were also the first cocktails that we served, meaning that sobriety (or lack thereof) had no impact in their success.

Caipirinha
This is Brasil’s most famous drink, and definitely my signature drink (if I can call it that). I am the official caipirinha maker at family events, an honor handed down to me from my father. To start off here is a stopmotion instructional video that I created with Erik Mika while at ITP. It shows the process in action, and it also features a love story. Below the video are the written instructions.

Ingredients:

  • 1 lime
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons of sugar
  • 2 to 3 oz. cachaça (or vodka)
  • lots of ice

Instructions:

Scalp the lime to remove the top and bottom stem then cut it into 8 slivers. Add the lime and sugar to a cup or cocktail shaker, make sure the cup can withstand muddling. Muddle the lime together with the sugar. Add the cachaça (or vodka) and stir to combine. Pour into a cup with ice.

French 75
The French 75 is a delicious brunch drink with a kick. It is really easy to make, you just need dry gin, sparkling wine, and a lemon. This recipe is taken from the Schiller’s Liquor Bar Cocktail Book.

Ingredients:

  • 1 oz. dry gin
  • 1/2 oz. simple syrup
  • 1/4 oz. lemon juice
  • 3 oz. sparkling wine
  • 1 lemon twist
  • lots of ice

Instructions:

Pour ice, gin, simple syrup and lime juice into a cocktail shaker. Shake well. Strain into a glass, preferably a champagne flute. Top off with sparkling wine, and garnish with the lemon.


Adopting Yearly Themes

January 16th, 2014

Themes are short and meaningful collection of words meant to inspire and guide you throughout the year. About 10 years ago I gave up on new year resolutions and switched over to yearly themes. I created this idea on a whim – it is not based on any deep set of beliefs or intellectual framework. I just tried it out and found that my theme remained relevant to me during the entire year, offered me meaningful guidance in a wide-range of situations. In comparison, resolutions feel overly prescriptive and constricting, and often loose relevance quickly.

So here is how I put themes to action in my life.

The most important and difficult step has always been choosing a theme that is truly meaningful. This is not an easy task because it requires a good amount of introspection and soul searching. In other words, it requires that I devote time to myself – time to identify 5 to 10 theme candidates, and then time to let them germinate. The first month of the year is devoted to this process – I have I’ve skipped a few years because I did not carve out the time and effort required to choose the right theme.

For 2014 here is the short list of theme ideas that I have planted:

  • Equanimity
  • Flow
  • Freedom
  • Self-Love
  • Foundation / Roots
  • Balance

Once chosen my theme doesn’t stay on my mind all the time. It doesn’t even show up every day. That said, like a new plant I make sure that I water it with my conscious attention every couple of days, especially at the beginning of the year. I do this by finding creative ways to remind myself about my theme. I’ve created simple posters and hung them up in around my apartment. I’ve taken pictures of things that remind me of my theme. I’ve made calendar alerts and printed reminder cards that I keep in my wallet.

When thinking about my theme in relation to my life, my sensations, my emotions, my thoughts, my plans, and my actions, I don’t think in terms of right and wrong. My theme is not a ruler that I use to judge myself but rather it should function like a street sign pointing in a direction that I’ve identified as important. Judging myself for not walking in the appropriate direction will not help me start moving on the path I’ve chosen, it will only disempower me.

Ultimately, my theme is tool for personal commitment and empowerment. I’ll let you know when I choose my theme for 2014. If you find this idea interesting give it a try.


Deluxx Fluxx Miami [FAILE & Bast]

December 22nd, 2013

Over the past several months I have been collaborating with a few friends on an art installation called Deluxx Fluxx Miami, created by the artists FAILE and BAST. I was thrilled when Eric brought me on this project because I am a longtime fan of these artists. The installation was completed in the first week of December. Below is the video of the finished work first. In a future post I’ll dive a bit deeper into the creative process and the tools that we used for this project.

We originally meant to share more about this project during the development process, however, as these things go, the work itself was a little more involved than we expected. This meant that our work-in-progress documentation fell by the wayside.

Below is a list of the collaborators on the game development and electronics team. It was a real pleasure to work with all of these guys during the past few months.

  • Matthew Cooley (software)
  • Eric Ishii-Eckhardt (software)
  • Quin Kennedy (software / electronics)
  • Julio Terra (software / electronics)
  • Seth Jabour (sound)

I want to send out a special thanks to Eric for bringing me on this project; he and Matt worked with FAILE and BAST on the previous iterations of Deluxx Fluxx in London and NYC. I also want to give a shout out to Dave Baach from Tilt Warning Customs, who worked on the amazing pinball machines for the installation.


Kickstarter [week one]

September 16th, 2013

Last week was my first full week as a Project Specialist at Kickstarter. I am happy to report that it has been an awesome and exciting start. The company has an open, vibrant and welcoming culture. Everyone with whom I’ve had a chance to connect seems to have a real passion for the work that we do – providing a platform for bringing creative projects to life. As you can tell I have definitely drank the kool-aid and I am enjoying the taste.

I am working on the Community team. Along with the other Project Specialists, my primary responsibility is reviewing project submissions. My focus is on projects from the Design and Technology categories. Aside from reviewing projects, I will be doing a fair amount of community outreach at technology and design events. Another exciting part of the job is that I will participate in the on-going discussions about how to apply the guidelines to enable the Kickstarter community to continue to thrive.

Here are some pictures from the Kickstarter Hack Day at Hack Manhattan that I hosted along with Aurora and John. This event, which took place on Saturday, was planned to celebrate Maker week in NYC – the week leading up to the Maker Faire. We had a lot of fun making stuff with the Hack Manhattan team and all of our guests. Thanks to everyone who joined us. We hope to see many of you at the Maker Faire.


Start a Chain Reaction with Spacebrew [@ CHI-NYC]

September 9th, 2013

Thanks to everyone who participated in the Spacebrew Workshop at the CHI-NYC event last Thursday. We greatly enjoyed participating in the event, sharing with you about the LAB’s design process and leading the hands-on Spacebrew workshop. We hope that you found the workshop worth your time and effort.

We are sorry about the technical difficulties, such as having my laptop crash on numerous occasions during the workshop. That said, it seemed like we were able to get most everyone to connect their sketches to one of the other apps running the space.

Below I’ve included the Spacebrew presentation that we shared during the workshop. This presentation features an overview of how Spacebrew works, followed by the workshop slides. If you want more information, tutorials, or code associated to Spacebrew just checkout the  website website or Github repo.



Here is the final Processing sketch, which includes all Spacebrew functionality baked in.

For more information about Spacebrew check out the website or the github repo.


Passing the Ball at ITP Camp

June 28th, 2013

On Tuesday night I had a great time leading a Spacebrew workshop at ITP Camp. This was the first time that I attended an ITP Camp event. At the workshop I had the privilege of working with a diverse, engaged, and smart group of students. The focus of the session was on using Spacebrew to prototype applications for interactive spaces.

We spent the first 20 minutes going over how Spacebrew works from a conceptual standpoint. The hands-on part of the workshop focused on how to use Spacebrew to choreograph applications running on different computers in a physical environment. We adapted the Processing bouncing ball example to pass the ball to another application, whenever the ball reached the left or right edge of the screen. To look at the code from the workshop just scroll down below the pictures.

Thanks to everyone who joined on Monday. I was happy to see that pretty much everyone was able to get the sketch running. Please feel free to reach out to me with any comments about the session. If you have any  questions about Spacebrew please submit them to the Spacebrew Google Group at https://groups.google.com/forum/#!forum/spacebrew-cc.

Workshop Sketch
Here is the pass the ball sketch that we created in the workshop. This is the Nature of Code Bouncing Ball sketch that has been adapted so that it sends a spacebrew message whenever the ball exits the screen to the left or right side