Abandoned houses

April 7, 2010

Seth Clark draws abandoned houses.

Part 1 of a hopefully ongoing series as I continue to document my teaching experiences.

A chuckle; a joke. “Just teach it yourself.”

The words were rolling around my head when I went to bed that night. A few short, fitful bursts of sleep. At 5 AM, I was wide awake.

Just teach it yourself.

I sat down and began to write.

I had my eyes on UCLA’s Undergraduate Student Initiated Education program. Through it, I would work with a faculty mentor to design, propose, and facilitate a 1-unit, 20-person seminar. When my thoughts were finally drained, I hit Publish. And, citing “the pressures of self-doubt,” I allowed myself to forget about it for a while. That was in June.

In July, I received word that I’d be working for NASA in the fall. I had something new to lose sleep over.

The JPL internship was a full-time stint at 40 hours/week. The commute to Pasadena made it more like 50. Suddenly, it was November, and I had a week to submit the application for my class. I hadn’t met with any faculty mentor. I hadn’t brought the idea to anyone’s attention. I couldn’t even articulate my thoughts to myself, much less to a faceless group of judges. I was jingling the keys, afraid to try the first one.

Luckily, my chosen professor was a veteran to this arena. As he looked over my application, he coolly told me that he’d signed on as mentor for three other proposals—one on the brain, another on the Singularity, a third on transhumanism. (For a brief moment, artificial intelligence didn’t seem so cool. I felt fearful again.) We worked, reworked my proposal. “This tells me what you’re going to teach, but you’re writing for the committee. Dumb it down, and make sure they understand why it’s relevant.” Straightforward; no-nonsense. He liked the way I’d structured my ten-week schedule. It was the first time I’d talked to anyone about my ideas, and I was beginning to feel that it might actually work out.

The deadline approached. I must mention here that I am deeply indebted to J., who kindly acted as my proxy—obtaining my transcripts, printing out the application materials, and physically turning them in—since my 9-to-5 job (7-to-7?) precluded me from setting foot on the UCLA campus.

Not two weeks after submitting the application, I received an acceptance notice in my email.

It was on.

To be continued in the next installment.

Back to WordPress

February 13, 2010

My Posterous experiment is now over. As a result, I’ve come back to WordPress a little wearier, but perhaps a little better for the wear.

PEG on Tech has a great article on Posterous’ shortcomings. Specifically, he argues that in comparison to Tumblr, a designed product, Posterous is an engineered product. This rings pretty true in my experience. Posterous has some nice features, but someone didn’t really sit down to think through the process of using them. I used the post-by-email feature perhaps once, and that was supposedly the platform’s great strength. Most of the time, I stuck to sharing snippets through the bookmarklet, which ended up digging at me because it was too “dead simple.”

The automatic excerpt selection feature was pretty good—not unlike Facebook’s—but that began to count for less and less. No rich text editor meant I’d have to hand-code any links and formatting changes. If I wanted to upload my own image, I’d have to resort to the separate and cumbersome email method to create an entirely new post. The alternative is to hotlink an image from another website, and even overlooking my (quaint?) loyalty to Web 1.0 etiquette, I’m concerned about the impermanence there. I want my blog to be a journal, a reference, and an archive, and it can’t be these things if tranches were to ever go missing.

There are still some things that I can’t get over on WordPress.com. For example, the inability to embed; with the exception of YouTube and one or two sites, WordPress.com disables all <embed> and <iframe> tags. It’s really just the general and palpable lack of control that gets my blogging/designing fingers itching to repurchase a domain and start on a new project. I’m also buzzing on imagination today after devouring Robin Sloan’s Annabel Scheme and The Truth About the East Wind, and I feel like this creative edge needs to be given a proper outlet.

Well, the poor carpenter and all that. So, the next thing I intend to write about is my experience designing an undergraduate seminar. (Not the teaching yet—that’s for next quarter.) Stay tuned!

Cloth canvas

February 13, 2010

[Image: Love and Peace, a 22 ft x 12 ft denim Hokusai mosaic, by Caroline Calvin. Via Cool Hunting].

Rhizocarpon geographicum

February 8, 2010

[Image: Yellow map lichen, by Freeman Patterson].

Yellow map or world map lichen is frequently used in lichenometry, a geobotanical technique employed to estimate the age of exposure of a rock surface. Since Rhizocarpon geographicum quickly colonizes newly-exposed rock surfaces and has a known rate of growth, geologists can, for example, examine glacially-deposited rocks and determine the rate of glacial retreat.

via ubcbotanicalgarden.org

Recursive clockface

February 7, 2010

[Image: Tunnels of Time by fdecomite, via Wikipedia].

Sean Noyce

February 5, 2010

via ps1.org