09 March 2007

Where the time goes

For the past few months my life has experienced a bit of rerouting, straight down Aurora Ave and to a little place called the Public N3rd Area.

Last weekend, we had a test launch for a high altitude weather balloon carrying excessive amounts of electronics.

Bre's podcast:


or just look for tags ahab and balloonsinspace on flickr

Our wiki is at balloon.pbwiki.com

video from the payload, pointing down during launch (fast forward through first few minutes before it reaches the air)

We were foiled by bad weather, but we rallied with the test. Next launch is planned for April 7/8.

I'm having more fun than I can remember having for a long time. And I'm learning more than I did in any pursuit of a degree.

When I walked out of class yesterday, I talked to a friend. And I said this:
I'm done teaching for 18 months.
I'm going to spend the next 18 months learning.

I hope PNA is where much of that will happen.

Magic begins

Today is my last day at work for a while. As I mentioned in the last post.

It feels nothing short of magic, to be where I am right now.

Where I was last night, though, was out with some friends, and carrying around a magic wand that seems somewhat emblematic of what I'm feeling.

The wand might very well be the best score ever from helping a friend move. Wednesday night I am helping Bre pack up for his move to NYC. Odds and ends mercilessly tossed to the street corner as giveaways. But then he finds a magic wand. And offers it to me. At first, I consider giving it to a friend's daughter. Then, I decide I need a little magic in my life. So it's with me for the time being. I took it to class yesterday. I had it in my purse when I met a friend for dinner, and then went to meet some folks later that evening at another bar. And before I could say anything about it, at each site someone would ask almost immediately, "is that a magic wand in your bag?" The magic must indeed be palpable, even from a distance.

So I am taking great pleasure in going up to people and asking them if they have a wish (they can keep it secret if they want), and waving my magic wand. Granting wishes seems like a fine way to share the delight of my new adventure. I feel like the luckiest girl on earth, a little startled at how I came to be staring at this amazing gift of 18 months. Eighteen months. Imagine. *Everything* can change in 18 months. I expect everything will.

Stay tuned. And watch.

Avalanche of the quarter

The term got the better of me, as it often does. Time to catch up. Several posts at once...

But the HCI class was, well...amazing. We started out with a bunch of flickr assignments that had the students out taking photos of:
tech used as part of everyday routines
things being used in the manner for which they were not designed
ubicomp about which they had some curiosity

If you want to see some of their sets, check out the contacts for flickr user tc319 (http://www.flickr.com/photos/friends/)

The students did an amazing job with a syllabus that really asked them to do some unusual things. One of the assignments was a fieldtrip of their choosing. Left totally open-ended, their task was to go out into the world and learn something about how people use info/comm technology, and then to come back and tell us what they learned. Fieldtrips included visits to the new Seattle Sculpture Park, the Weird Science Fair, the Telephone Museum (aka, Museum of Telecommunications), 911 Media Arts Center, and other cool places and events in town.

They did lots of presentations -- on class readings, readings they found on their own, their design projects. And we had some amazing guest speakers, including 3ric and Pablos from the Shmoo Group, Christina Drummond who is Seattle director of the ACLU program on Technology and Freedom, and Emma Rose from AnthroTech. I took one group over to Microsoft Research one day because their project had some overlaps with Aura, and some students came down to the Public N3rd Area on various weekends. It was a pretty amazing quarter. And I even got a round of applause on the last day.
There's an abbreviated version of the syllabus at courses.washington.edu/tc319/syllabus.html if you want to see any details. The readings actually worked *really* well.

It was a great class. Really great. A terrific way to start the next 18 months.

Yes, 18 months of sabbatical is what starts after today.
Well, 3 months at Microsoft Research. Then 15 months of sabbatical. But, 18 months away from my everyday routine.

I have, um, literally been hopping with excitement. It makes people laugh-- to see me standing there, talking or listening, and then suddenly give a little hop in the air. Their laughter, however, doesn't hold a candle to the absolute, sheer exhilaration I feel.