Secret Beach

I’ve been on call this week and it has been the most overwhelming weeks I’ve had at work with not enough sleep and too many problems to deal with. So, it’s a good thing I took a bit of time to escape the city this past weekend. My friend Steph and I decided at the last minute to head to the coast (she had just gotten off of being on call, and the Portland heat wave had gotten to me). So, she picked me up, and we headed off. I knew the beach would be packed since it was a weekend, and unseasonably hot, so I steered us on a path less paved to one of my favorite beaches I’ve been to so far. Once we got there, we scarfed down some solid food and were off to travel the path with no footprints.





The clouds in the sky had wonderful patterning and it was fun to just lay in the sand and use our imaginations to come up with pictures in them. We laughed a lot. And then a paraglider scared us. And then we laughed a lot more and learned a bit about paragliding.



I’ve been carrying a toy camera around with me places, and I’m having a blast experimenting with the different images I can create. Here’s one I think turned out pretty cool by accident while I was at the coast. I apparently forgot to advance the film which resulted in a double exposure. I developed the print using a high contrast filter (grade 5), an f=4 aperture, and 9 second exposure.




Darkroom Adventures

Inspired by the disappearing beauty of the tangible, I decided to buy a crappy silly toy camera, a Holga to be specific. Holga cameras were manufactured in the early 80’s and introduced to the Chinese public as an inexpensive medium format camera. Unfortunately, around the same time, 35mm became the film of popularity, which led to the Holga’s demise at the time. The camera is coming back into popularity now among a select group of hobbyists.

‘In a world where technology changes and advances every day, it’s refreshing that a chunky utilitarian camera made almost entirely of plastic has reawakened and is enlightening the analog world of photography. Holga goes back to the bare bones of photography and forces users to stop relying on all the bells and whistles and simply shoot. Holga is for those who play- for those who appreciate light leaks, enjoy slight soft focus and welcome retro vignetting.’

Since forking over $20 for the camera, I’ve been carrying this silly thing around with me everywhere, and I love snapping photos with it. It makes me think twice. ‘Do I really want to take this picture? How shall I frame it? Is the lighting perfect enough?’ I’ve definitely become more selective about the pics I take.


I’ve also really grown to love the film developing process and the photo enlarging experience. The familiarity of doing wet chemistry and the ‘magical’ aspect of not knowing what you’re going to get and getting a little surprise every time excites me to no end. There is a bit of an art to developing too which I’m slowly getting a knack for as I get more experience.


I find spending time in the darkroom itself to be very therapeutic and stress relieving. The methodology is pretty straightforward but there is still quite a bit of room for experimenting (filters/exposure times/apertures/etc)


The enlarger impresses me. It is kind of nice to know that the optics course I took back when I was still in school is slightly useful for something 😉

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I am a bit of a perfectionist; so of course, I begin by making way too many test strips…


And then, I play around in the dark and try not to make too much of a mess 😉


And voila! I have photos :)


Since I had never done this before, there’s been a steep learning curve, but I think I’m making fantastic progress. Now, I just have to not screw up so I don’t keep getting inverted images 😉




On Call

As part of my job, we have ‘on-call’ rotation. This basically boils down to me being glued to my pager/laptop every 3rd week. I found this all extremely stressful at first, but these days, I look forward to my on-call weeks. It gives me a reason to stay in town and do chilled out activities; like going to the driving range and practicing my swing with other on-call engineers/colleagues after work! I think I’m finally getting used to dealing with problems without getting majorly stressing out.


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This weekend I’m not on call, hopefully I’ll have something more exciting to post 😉


Object Permanence

Object permanence is the understanding that objects continue to exist even when they cannot be observed (seen, heard, touched, smelled, or sensed in a way). If you put your pen down on your desk and walk away from it for it and come back, what’s predictable? That the pen is where you left it. So much of one’s security comes from object permanence, that when things change, something feels off and even devastating. We expect that somebody here today will be here the next day, and that the work left to do at your job will still be there tomorrow, and that your job will still remain.

I think that perhaps object permanence is not the right word for the subject on my mind but rather, life permanence, or the idea that our day to day lives will or won’t be constant. It’s changed how I think.
It is impressive how a person’s belongings can mean so much to them and how people can amass estates of things, but when a person leaves, all of these possessions just become things. Junk. It is as though the removal of the person removed all the energy from those things and made them worthless. I guess I think about this now because I realize that the things of value that would remain are the IP on my computer/hard drives, and the people that I impacted in some way, shape, or form. Hopefully in my lifetime, I can create something others won’t mind I leave behind.


Art Collective

I love Saturdays, I take my time waking up, go to the gym shortly thereafter, linger about for a while longer in the shower, cook myself a quality breakfast, and slowly sip my tea. This whole routine carries me until about noon until I actually wake up and decide to do something social/productive/chore-like.

Last Saturday afternoon I headed over to the Wakeman’s house for our once-a-month art collective. It was relaxing to sit in their cozy home (with my back facing against their wood stove heater) and see all of the neat projects people were working on. I myself made a bit of progress on the knitting front as did Miranda, but everyone had something interesting they were working on. Joel was making collages, another was working on an design project for her job as an architect, one girl was making flower hairpins, and quite possibly my fave was listening to Kyle cover the Beatles song ‘When I’m 64’ on his guitar while trying to get the forgotten lyrics off of a phone.

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So, now I’m singing the lyrics ‘You could knit a sweater by the fireside, Sunday mornings go for a ride…’

Music used to be happier and simpler back then. Have a listen and smile :)


Ringing in 2015

I wanted to have fun plans to kick off the New Year. Instead, I ended up being on-call (with major problems at work to deal with), and managed to get a bad case of the H3N2 flu (supposedly the 2014 flu vaccine they’ve been dishing out does a poor job of protecting against the common strains being passed around now – darn mutations). I’m on the mend now, but wow I have not been so severely sick in ages. I was so delirious that I could not get out of bed. So I’ve spent the first 3 days of 2015 in bed either asleep, or dealing with on-call engineer duties. On the bright side, things can definitely get better for me in 2015

Back when I was still in school, I used to dedicate an entire post to reflect on the previous year. However, in 2014, so many things have happened, so many feelings have been experienced, and  so many friends have been made that one post would not do the year justice.

Looking back, I’m impressed with myself for:

  • Leaving a job I did not enjoy at a start-up
  • Not freaking out during many of life’s uncertain curve balls
  • Having the patience to consider my true desires in life
  • Not giving up (even when getting called in for final round interviews at dream jobs and not getting the job)
  • Acknowledging my desire to keeping living on the West Best Coast
  • Learning a new city like the back of my hand
  • Making some incredible friends

There’s a lot more I could put on the list, but 2014 was certainly a year of growth for me.

I have no idea what 2015 has in store, but after last year, I’m game 😉

Bring it.

Crafts, Uncategorized

Building a 3-legged milking stool…with hand tools!

Woodworking had been taking over my thoughts for a few weeks this past month. Everyday after work, I’d rush into the wood shop only to become somewhat frustrated and overwhelmed. Our latest project assigned by our class instructor, Sterling, was to build a 3-legged milking stool. Easy enough was the thought that first came to my mind (especially after seeing Sterling’s sample stool), but the reality of building the stool (with hand tools mind you) was totally different.

We were given rough milled 13x13x2″ poplar (for the seat of the stool), and 3 legs of poplar that were roughly 2x2x8″ for the legs. The first step in the process was to square all of the boards. Luckily, I got quite a bit of practice in doing this when doing the try square project (which I wrote about previously here.) Once the boards were squared up, we were off, marking the stool in such a way to understand placement of the legs, angles the legs would splay out, and dimensions of the mortises.

then we sawed, chiseled, and hammered away:


Too many hours in the shop later, I ended up with this:



I was able to get the tenons to fit into the mortises, however there were still gaps between the edges. To add a bit of flair, highlight the flaws (I wanted to prove that I indeed made the stool entirely by hand of course), and impress people, I added a few wedges of walnut on the edges of the tenon to fill in the gaps.

Overall, I appreciate the aesthetic of the stool, and I think that this idea for a first major beginner project was good. I learned a lot of techniques, I only wished I’d have had more time to work on it. As you can see, there is a bit of wood tear out around the mortises (this can obviously be fixed with a bit of surface planing), and the bottom of the stool shows the edges of the mortises (ideally, the area around the tenon would hide this part). But, I suppose that is why God made wood putty 😉







In the end, despite all the imperfections, I’m rather proud of my stool, because I made it mostly by hand, and because it is an awful lot of work. I’ll likely go back into the shop soon and sand down the edges, and plane away the tear out to make it more aesthetically pleasing.
Now, I only need to find something to do with it, since I don’t see myself milking cows again any time soon. 😉

Crafts, Uncategorized

Woodworking 101: Handtools, try-squares, and try, try again

I don’t think I realized how much of a ‘builder’ or ‘tinkerer’ I am since I left grad school. Now that I’m transitioning out of doing my own research and doing things with my own hands, I find myself jonesing to make and build. I think it is a part of my nature, my mother even tells me so by recounting stories from my childhood where I would spend hours building puzzles, making art, and playing with Erector sets. I’m older now, yet all of this still excites me. Strangely enough, my engineering job keeps me away from doing much tinkering, so I decided to branch out…

It all started when months, after living in an apartment with hardly any furniture (I’ve put off buying any because IKEA puts me off, and the fine furniture I admire puts my wallet off), I thought it might be nice to build furniture of my own. I naively signed up to take a woodworking class at the Oregon College of Art and Craft; it was a 10 week class focused on hand tools, and taught by a really passionate instructor, Sterling Collins (you can see his professional work here). The class started off slow (at least in my own mind), I mean, we did spend an entire class learning how to sharpen chisels, but I’m glad I got to get started in the craft with hand tools as opposed to power tools. I feel like I was able to gain a solid appreciation for the craft, an intuitive feel for the wood, and I think there is something beautifully primitive in being ‘one with the wood’. Don’t get me wrong, it is tough work, my arms got quite the workout initially, but over time, this was an incredible experience.


Practicing sharpening chisels.Way more important than I ever would have thought!

One of things I really enjoyed about the class was that we actually made a try-square (a measuring device)…by using our hand tools! It was challenging to get the angle to be flat and a perfect 90 degrees, but it was such an accomplishment when all was said and done. I learned how to use a saw (it takes more skill than you’d think), how to carve a mortise to a tenon, and how to put pins in for added stability. 




Finally, I used a coping saw to add a bit of flair to the end of the try-square. This try-square was made after this model. I’d been reading a lot of literature on hand-tools (what’s worth buying, techniques, etc), and Chris Schwarz books and ethos have really spoken to me. He has written much on the beauty of making one’s own tools and he is a strong advocate of using hand tools. He is apparently visiting Portland in April, I’m hoping to find time to make it to one of his workshops!

Until then, I suppose I’ll admire my finished try-square :)



Brain fart Friday: Thoughts on Leadership, Courage, Single-tasking, & Online Garbage

It is the day after Thanksgiving and I’ve eaten my weight in green bean casserole, sweet potatoes, quiche, and pumpkin pie. The post-Thanksgiving lethargy has me ruminating over several thoughts that I thought are worth noting here.

It all started on the topic of leadership. It’s been on the forefront of my mind lately, not because I’m in any particular leadership role (in fact, I left my previous role that was ‘leadership-heavy’ to take on a less stressful gig), but because now that I find myself in a position where I’m not having to make substantial decisions I feel rather ordinary.

I’d venture to say that most educational institutions (and the way I was conditioned to think), teaches us that leadership involves being able to climb that greasy pole of whatever hierarchy one decides to attach themselves to (i.e. partner in a law firm, physician in practice, head of ____ bureaucracy). My Alma Mater’s catch phrase is ‘What starts here changes the world’… it is almost as if their mission is about educating people who can then make a big name for themselves in the world, people with impressive titles, people the university can brag about.

This definition of leadership that I was conditioned to believe is no longer how I define leadership (otherwise, everyone with a college education would be ‘leading’). In fact, I feel that the formulaic and homogenized upbringing of the American millenial has caused us to become complacent, and that for too long we have been training leaders who only know how to keep the routine going.

What we have now are the greatest technocrats the world has ever seen, people who have been trained to be incredibly good at one specific thing, but who have no interest in anything beyond their area of exper­tise. What we don’t have are leaders. This is why I quit graduate school.

Now, I’m thinking about courage and how leadership so gracefully segues into such a word. Because it seems that what makes people thinkers—and leaders – is precisely having the ability to think things through for oneself. Because when you do this, you develop the confidence, the courage, to argue for your ideas even when they aren’t popular. Even when they don’t please your superiors.

So true leadership means being able to think for yourself and act on your convictions.
Q: How then does one think?
A: Not by multitasking.

Thinking means concentrating on one thing long enough to develop an idea about it. Not learning other people’s ideas, or memorizing a body of information, however much those may sometimes be useful. Developing your own ideas. In short, thinking for yourself. This is why I no longer own a television (why should I allow Hollywood and the likes of a handful of ad execs influence my decision making), and why I should probably get off the internet.

But I can’t give up the internet. Because unlike books that stand against the conventional wisdom of today simply because they’re not from today, the internet is interactive and I like to read the silly comments section in the Atlantic and Circuit 😉