Friday, November 22, 2013

Baked Goods and Half-Baked Ideas

I love baking. The idea of chemical reactions in a ceramic bowl, the precise measuring of powder ingredients like in a lab, the not so precise act of "tweaking," and the magic ability of heat to turn delicious dough into lodestones of human gratitude. I feel like the mad scientist researcher I always wanted to be-- but didn't want to be when I found out research meant waiting for nothing to happen then understanding why nothing happened, and, most terrifyingly, explaining to others why nothing happened. Bakers get (comparatively) instant gratification and work in much more enticing conditions. That is, in the lab I was never allowed to deeply inhale anything (without scientifically wafting) and I couldn't sneak tastes of any powders-- without reading the MSDS, of course!

With the quick approach of Christmas I've been preparing myself for the onslaught of mint chocolate chip cookies and snicker doodles-- last winter I literally made millions (read: hundreds) of cookies for my friends, self, family, and parents' work. I spent time tweaking my two recipes until I mastered them. I had no clue what the hell was happening at the molecular level, but considering I lost all my mental notes from last year, hopefully this video will help me...

Gotta love TED.

Putting the cookies on the backburner for a bit... I've been looking at graduate school programs. Currently I'm considering a Food Studies program and a Digital Media Design for Learning program at NYU. I'm torn because neither are something I'm particularly knowledgeable of, nor something my parents would consider "useful." Even though I wouldn't be asking my parents for tuition if I ever do attend, I feel that their ideal of usefulness is unfairly ingrained in my head and leaves me torn between what I find interesting vs. useful.

At 23, I still ask myself what I want to do in life. Strangely enough I think I'm more afraid now than when I was 18, not because I'm older, but because I forced myself to go after a degree I did not want to do, and I lived through those "consequences" the hard way. So looking at these very non-engineer/lawyer/doctor graduate programs surface the question, "is this what I want?" Right now I'm leaning toward yes. Clearly, I'm interested in food (did I just call myself fat?), and the videos I've posted lately have used graphic design to teach.

I can feel a tingle. I'm not entirely sure, but I'm starting to appreciate this blog for the reason I started it-- to show me what I want to do with this life.

PS. More cookie science from those textbook people here

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Iridescence in the Gulf: BP Oil Spill

Here's a haiku of what I know about the BP (Deepwater Horizon) oil spill.
People were angry.
Dawn can be used to clean ducks.
How to cap this shit?
Twenty year old me knew nothing about this huge event in my own country, the largest oil spill in US history-- and I had every opportunity to get knowledge. I was a student at a university that prided sustainability and research. I lived with hundreds of students, so chances of an activist/environmentalist lurking among them was considerate. I was an engineering student. I even visited and toured the BP Cherry Point Refinery a mere FOUR MONTHS after the event (April 20, 2010). There are millions of photos showing the spill, its far reaches, and animals slicked in the brown stuff. Yet, the only image I can think of?

And this ad campaign started before the BP oil spill! Tut-tut Past Ignorant Donelyn all you want, but can you really blame me? Here's a great video I happened upon via I truly applaud the candidness of Fareed Zakaria, but more importantly standing up to those in his field. The media is a daunting beast for anyone to tackle, but especially so for someone with stake in it.

Like many things in my life thus far, I feed on the memory of emotion and not details. As a conscious adult, am I to blame? I cuddashuddawould've bought TIME or at least ventured, but even if I did, would I have been met with the same emotion-driven feels as was bubbling in the Dawn commercial? My culture/society values the intellect-- or at least someone who can carry conversation...

*Tangent* Whilst I was a resident adviser in the dorms, one of my residents (who I adore), bluntly told me, "You should research a bit on music, so you could contribute to the conversation." CALLED OUT.

We all want to be smart, scalers of the ivory tower, but just as this ideal is a huge part of culture, so is the grasp of media on that culture. News is where my battle between being a well-informed citizen and looking the part comes to fruition; I bookmark CNN. I like Facebook statuses that scream political controversy. I'm even on the Amnesty International mailing list. When the mask comes off, my opinion whittles down to "This topic is ... [insert "Good" or "Bad"]."

Don't get me wrong. We all have to start somewhere and creating a foundation of good and evil is a pretty solid place to start. Yet it was in the same classroom that I learned about an "ivory tower" when I realized life isn't just black and ivory. An idea that issues don't just have sides, but ins, outs, transparency, weight. Sometimes many times, issues can even be iridescent. Shining a spectrum of colors based on what light you hold it in.

Oil'd from Chris Harmon on Vimeo.

This last video is an example of how design and social media can help our society see the iridescence of life. How we can start to see our world through a critical lens, and then, most importantly, take that information for the better. Measuring whether an issue is mostly bad or mostly good can be irrelevant and sometimes naiive-- it's how we move forward with conversation and action that matters.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Ode to the Teacher Man

I'm back in time for the new school year! No, I'm no longer in school (got that diploma, what what!?), nor am I a teacher (funemployed, yeah yuh!). But the teacher man in my life is employed and his students are in school. This post is dedicated to them.

If you know Teacher Man, you know that he is humbler than apple pie-- even more modest than your bundled up grandmother eating apple pie outside on a snowy day because there were no more available chairs at the dinner party she was hosting in her own humble home. Yeah, THAT humble. Anywho, he's entering his second year of educating our future movers and shakers so we decided to bedeck his room with posters. These are the masterpieces...

The printed ones were designed with Power Point (good stuff), printed via Staples, and turned out mighty huge at 24"x36". Keep Calm, Just du It and the iTest posters are ideas we found floating around the interwebs and Pinterest. Each one has a little "Mr. B Approved" stamped at the bottom. From what Teacher Man tells me, the students are really digging them. And I quote,
"Mr. B, that is too much."
Which in Oldspeak translates to, "How delightfully witty and humorous these posters are. They surely brighten up my learning environment."
These posters aren't exactly feats of design, or wonders of science, or even mentions of social justice, but considering it's been a year since I last posted I figure I'd start off with something (-one) I'm very proud of.

Classroom posters are difficult to make. They have to be attention grabbing (but not disruptive) and informative (but quick to the point). Even more important than being memorable, these posters have to be, above all, NOTICED. They have to be noticeable because if you pick them as carefully as Teacher Man and I have, the posters become a reflection of you. Everyone needs recognition. Teacher Man's heart doesn't just sit on his sleeve, but it also adorns the walls of his room. These posters mirror his excitement for the classroom, his love for math, and his quirky humor that is just "too much."

Teacher Man, I recognize you.

You're insecure, I don't know what for. Teacher Man, you enlighten my world like nobody else...
The way that you teach math makes me understand,
But when you sigh at the lesson plan I can tell!
You don't know, oh no, you don't know you're wonderful.
If only you felt what I believe,
You'll understand why you plus me is less than 3.
Right now I'm proud of you and I can't conceive
That you don't know, oh, joon,
You don't know you're educational.
You have always been wonderful.