Wednesday, November 22

In better news

I had a colonoscopy last week. No, that's not the good news, but don't worry - I will spare my delicate flower readers any description of the process beyond it was not my idea of fun. The good news is that the doctor found a lot less inflammation than last time. The upper two thirds of my gut are apparently now normal-looking, so next week we'll try some changes to the medication and see if I can take less and/or reduce the symptoms further, by targeting better.
posted @ 7:01 PM -
The lessons of Vietnam
posted @ 10:03 AM -

Tuesday, November 21


Is not very exciting. All this birthday has really done is rub in quite how irritatingly slow my progress towards finishing my PhD is, and make me that much more sad about not being as cool as this guy, considering that I'm now twelve years older than him. I mean, it's one thing watching Wayne Rooney, when I never really had any ambition to be an athlete, but man! Nuclear fusion! And here I am, 12 years older than him, still struggling to get a few computers to work reliably.


Update: the day did get better. Still not impressed with the milestone though.
posted @ 6:12 PM -

Thursday, November 2

There's ups and there's downs

Work continues to grind me down, because my experiments are taking forever (where forever means as long as 4 weeks in some cases) with a very poor success rate (though at least I have one! run doing something good). I'm finding myself wondering how to tell the difference between temporary setback and time I abandoned this project and found something else to write a thesis about.

The computers on my wall are being more unreliable than before, but still failing infrequently enough to make finding the problem an annoyingly slow task.

I spent most of two days this week playing travel agent, because I found out that I had been poorly advised about the Green Card process, and it will interfere more with my travels than I had expected. To cut a long story short, it is in my interest to start the process as soon as possible (as soon as we have spoken to a second lawyer, because there were a few things the first didn't mention, and that worries me), and after I start the process, I won't be able to leave the country for n months, where n varies but is typically around 6 for here and now. Trouble is I had two trips to Canada planned for that time; one was very expensive and had a large non-refundable deposit, the other involved several family members all meeting up in one place, so I've been scrambling to organise a satisfactory plan B for it. I think I managed, and I at least am looking forward to plan B, but if the lawyer's office had given me correct advice back in August I wouldn't have had this mad scramble, and this week would have been far more pleasant.

I've also managed to render one of my bikes temporarily unusable by attempting to install fenders. The intention is to only need waterproofs when it's actually raining, not when there's just water on the road from recent rain, but right now the effect is to permanently apply the brakes because getting the positioning right is unexpectedly difficult, so there's a fender constantly pushing on the tyre.

All this has been weighing on me a great deal. I've been quite deeply down for the past couple of weeks; the combination of these things, a few other stress sources that are at least over, and a general wave of pessimism about things has me over-reacting to each part, as the whole becomes something overpowering.

So it's time for some more propaganda-to-myself, in which I remind myself once again that there are good things going on too. This one will be about Dorkbot.

Dorkbot was something I started going to shortly after arriving in Seattle. Actually it was before that—when we visited Seattle for Melinda's job interview Ella brought me along to People Doing Strange Things With Electricity II which was a great introduction—but very shortly after arriving in town we went to one of their monthly meetings, at which Bill Beaty's unwise microwave oven experiments made a particular impression. I was hooked, and kept going to the meetings. In the process, I noticed that the curator sounded like a Londoner, so at one of the social meets I cornered her and got her life story.

Anyway, a few months later it transpired that Kate, the original curator, was going to move out of town and needed to hand over administration of Dorkbot-Seattle. She handed it over to a committee of 'overlords' (and I must say that having had a hand in this I'm extremely impressed that she managed to keep it going for three years solo), and for some reason entrusted me with a seat at that table. I say for some reason because although I love the idea of being involved, I had no prior experience with anything like this. That's also why I jumped at the chance: I'm not an artist, I can't afford to be an impressario in the traditional sense, and I didn't know many people in the arts scene, but I really wanted some way of participating in this thing that I enjoyed so much as a spectator.

The primary way the overlords share work is that we take turns 'curating' the monthly meetings, which in practice is as much an organisational job as it is curating in the traditional sense of inviting and selecting exhibitors. I avoided taking this on before the wedding, because I was busy enough, but after the honeymoon it was time to step up. Nervously, because I still don't know enough potential speakers, and was still worried about my lack of experience.

In the end, finding speakers was the easy part. I'm lucky enough to be doing this in a city with a large community of people who do things that fit the broad description of technological art, two pairs of speakers were suggested to me by other overlords, and I found a third via his website. So the lineup was fixed within a few days of starting to work on it, and only required the sending of a handful of emails. Getting talk outlines and bios from the speakers required one reminder email, but no more chasing than that, so rather less hassle than I expected. The snag turned out to be the venue, because our usual venue doesn't have enough space for us right now because the exhibits fill up the volume of its gallery more than usual. I only found this out by chance (one of the other overlords happened to have a chat with one of the exhibitors, who happened to mention that her installation was rather large) last week. Cue a scramble (yes, I've had too many of these lately) to find an alternate venue at the last minute.

On the night, it all turned out rather well. The alternate venue worked out very well; well enough that I took up one of my fellow overlords's suggestion to open a discussion at the end about whether we should move there in the long term. The speakers were all great—highly entertaining and at the same time informative enough to really help anyone who might want to build similar things to those presented—and having a 7-foot stunt blimp fly around inside the room and a helium balloon tethered to a borgesque golf cart on the street added just the right dose of circus. And everything ran smoothly enough that I was able to enjoy it myself.

There were mistakes I can learn from. Specifically, next time I'll make sure I get presenters' mobile phone numbers, when a venue says they can supply a projector I'll check what inputs it takes, and when we're not in our usual venue someone needs to put a sign up on the usual venue's door giving directions. But still, this was a first time for me, and unusual circumstances made it more work than usual, and it was still rewarding enough to have been well worth the effort. I have both the egotistical satisfaction of having my name and face attached to something cool that around 60 people came to see, and the more selfless satisfaction of having given something back to a community that's given me a lot over the past year-and-a-bit.
posted @ 9:28 PM -
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