Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Yum Yum For The Brain: Design1o1, Day3

Today's homework became a journey through the treacherous landscape of trial and error (error after error after error!). It ignited my love of a challenge, tested my patience, called on my tenacity, and after many grumblings and crumplings, eventually yielded success.

Crumply Crumplings And Crane.
Success, Basic: I finally managed to transform the square piece of paper into something resembling an Origami crane.

Success, Advanced: I was reminded about the process of learning, and learning how best to learn. I ended up having to use a combination of two separate online Origami resources, a wiki, and a tutorial to actually understand how and where to fold the paper at certain tricky junctures. I kept getting stuck at a certain point with the wiki -- that's where the pile of crumplings happened. After a while, I zoomed out and tried instructions from a different site. Luckily the tutorial provided the key I was missing. Yes, you need to carefully fold the paper... AND you need to go over each fold several times with a ruler to make it super-duper-uber crisp. Otherwise, the paper doesn't respond and you are left with a mess.

Finding that key is so gratifying. I love that moment when precisely at the point where you were so terribly stuck, you now flow through like a river to the sea. In that little moment, at that turning point, larger horizons appear, hope is renewed and optimism soars.

*   *

Feeding At The Trough Of Nature

Then came the photo shoot. Where was I going to put this bird? And this bird is supposed to represent ME? Ok, fun.

I went outside and ended up "Feeding At The Trough Of Nature."

Is this me? Is this not me? Meh. I don't particularly care one way or the other. I'm an overthinker by nature and I am using this course to work on doing the exact opposite.

"Don't think too much, just do! Make a choice and go with it! Quick, quick!" I keep feeling the dizzying, beneficial influence of my ceramic sculpture teacher, Biliana Popova.

*   *

Lastly, the references. References, research, discovery and exploration -- yum yum for the brain! With the addition of the secret sauce Community factor which for me is working mostly via Twitter (as of now, the iversity discussion platform is unfortunately terribly inadequate and cumbersome).

Loved Robert Lang's talk:

Loved Erik Demaine's Computational Origami -- most especially the exquisite circular fold sculptures:

Loved bumping into this recommendation and following up on it (can you spot the other Charles & Ray Eames reference in this post? Hint: It's all the way at the top!):

Finally, loved reading this post by Yusra Mujib, another of my fellow students:

PS: Ummm, what about that 1-hour limit? Yep. Not so much, today! Oh well...!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Eye Of The Beholder: Design1o1, Day 2

I approached the task by making a decision about what I consider to be "a good picture" of me. 

There is already a good picture of me out out there online: it's a professional portrait taken by a fantastic photographer

A. No need to reinvent the wheel, and B. I was simply not inspired by the notion of having this assignment be about the most common meaning assigned to the term "a good portrait."

I'm taking #Design1o1 to deliberately explore the world with a different approach from my same-old same-old. With this exercise, I wanted to learn and convey something about myself and have fun while doing so.

I enjoyed the dual aspect of the assignment. It was with less trepidation than I would have had a few years ago that I gave up control of the shot my friend would take after I explained the assignment to him. 

Maybe I cheated by taking my selfie first. But what it allowed me to do was immediately communicate to him the mood and goal I was aiming for. I then left it up to him. In addition, removing the constraint of the "good portrait" freed me from self-consciousness, vanity, and all that annoying drama we are so good at putting ourselves through.

Here is the picture taken by my friend (it includes another friend -- one with four legs); it was a true collaboration:

Here is the selfie:

I played with both pictures to add another layer to the assignment, or maybe rather, as a comment on it.... the kaleidoscope effect and the many facets of ourselves, including those we inherently have and those which represent us and the infinite ways we might be perceived and by whom.....

By the way.... I am feeling very centered today.... can you tell? ;)

Monday, October 28, 2013

Day of Discovery: Design 1o1, Day 1

Indeed, the Design 1o1 MOOC is far from ordinary. The journey kicked off with the first of its signature Video Dispatches:

It concluded with a seemingly whimsical multiple-choice quiz -- complete with right-up-my-alley answer choices such as: "This question annoys me."

A scroll through the introductions on the course's home page yields hellos from a truly global bunch of enthusiastic participants. I saw all continents represented with people hailing from Nepal, Namibia and everything in between.

And..... I am still trying to process the fact that approximately 27 000, 
yes that is  
T W E N T Y  S E V E N   T H O U S A N D  
people have enrolled.

Deep. Breaths! I am relieved I am not one of the organizers -- I get to do the fun/work without having to worry about infrastructure, functionality, or grumpy participants. I'm also curious to see how many students stick with it all the way -- myself included. It's reassuring to me that the organizers have given some thought to human behavior and warned us from the get go to be aware of time management:

This admonition comes with a reference to something I had never heard of: the Quipu, the ancient Inca necklace-and-knots accounting system. I love discovery!

Which brings me to one of the things I am already enjoying about this course: its reference cornucopia, including its very own "Encyclopedia:"

Another discovery I made: the quiz asked how Sid Vicious ended his performance of My Way at the Olympia in Paris -- something I had never seen:

Knowing Paris like I do, that juxtaposition (whether it actually happened or not) of bourgeois culture and ultimate Punk is fun to behold.

If anything, this course is a social experiment in design, as much as it is a course about design, and it's already generated a slew of interactions -- instructor, Stefano Mirti has expressed the wish that above all, this MOOC is creating a community -- including this great stream launched by srinivasan reghuraman:

What does Design mean to you? I don't have a quick answer to that question. I am still processing.

But for me, Design is about making things, making things better, identifying problems, problem solving, ingenuity, imagination, cross-disciplinary collaboration, elegant solutions... 

Design is also about making things FOR a purpose; FOR users/people and so usability is inherent in it.

For many, Design is about style, and yes, style (elegance of form?) is crucial, but -- at least as I think on it right now, style on its own, style for its own sake is not enough.

NOTE: The images on this page are screenshots of today's Design1o1 Brief. If anyone can point me to its web home to link to, please do.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Design 101: Adventure Awaits!

Screenshot from:

I just signed up for my first MOOC, aka Massive Open Online Course. I found it listed here, along with this screenshot which explains what a MOOC actually is.

I've worked in Design for years but have never taken a design course. I'm also obsessed with Innovation and there's nothing quite as thrilling as daring oneself to go on an adventure and try something new. Beginner's Mind is not necessarily an easy or comfortable place to live... but who said life was supposed to be comfortable??

Adventures are thrilling because they test our fears and our willingness to move out of our comfort zones. They are also thrilling because there's nothing like that adrenaline rush of accomplishment once we've done so and find ourselves still breathing.

Given the whole MOOC meme -- no big surprise to find a Pinterest Board dedicated to it -- I scoured the internet and found a course that sounds right up my alley: Design 101 (or Design Basics) on the iversity platform.

I also found a thought-provoking opinion piece about Design and eLearning on Dezeen, and it mentions this particular course:
Stefano Mirti's "Design 101" course, for Iversity via Accademia di Belle Arti in Catania, indicates some of the promise for design education in this medium. Irresistibly Italian in presentation, Design 101 provides challenging briefs of things to make, with Mirti supplying context and inspiration.

After reading about the course, its founder, Stefano Mirti, and viewing its fantastic introductory video, I enrolled today (it starts on Monday October 28th) and so my adventure begins. I can't wait to get started.

Luckily, this team seems to mean serious business and is offering a series of preparatory exercises. I dared myself to complete one today.

Here's the tweet with the exercise:

And here is my submission -- It was a dare and a thrill to complete because I have a huge mental block when it comes to drawing and sketching. But I pushed myself to just get over it and DO IT.

The submissions are posted here. It's interesting to see how different people approach a given exercise.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

UPDATE re: Quick Post: Seeing RED (I mean, PINK)

Thank you to City of Hope for quoting me in their Breakthroughs Blog

If the link in the tweet above does not work, please try this one.

And, here is a screenshot of the relevant paragraph:

Monday, October 14, 2013

Quick Post: Seeing RED (I mean, PINK)

Begin disclaimer: Yes, this is a rant. End disclaimer.

Begin rant:

Grr! Yes, it's Breast Cancer Awareness Month again, and I have been protecting myself by staying out of the fray as best as possible. But like some of my fellow grumbly sisters out there, all it takes is that one tweet, that one ad, that one poster, that one pinkified thing to set off a rant.

And here it is. In and of itself, perfectly benign, if you'll pardon me the anti-pun:
Now, it's not the seeing of the tweet that provoked my rant -- as a matter of fact, the announcement of the tweetchat activated my interminable curiosity. As a member of the #BCSM community since day one, I was intrigued by the announcement of a chat about breast cancer with a different hashtag. (For the record, I think a more elegant hashtag would have been a better choice -- #breastchat just doesn't do it for me. Yes, I know, it's easy to grumble and criticize, but this is a rant. Remember? I qualified this upfront.)

So, I clicked on the link and found this:

Image from
I don't doubt, given the source -- City of Hope is a highly regarded organization -- that intentions are excellent and information is reliable. But, I have had it up to my nosehairs with all this talk of Breast Cancer Prevention already.

Of course, if anything will help to prevent Breast Cancer, I'm all for it. However, what does all of that prevention really mean and what does it give us? As for me, I ate broccoli as a kid, I've always been healthy, I've gone through a few cycles of gaining and losing some excess weight, I've always been active blah blah blah. And, I still got Breast Cancer three separate times over the course of 19 years.

When I asked one of my cancer specialists about the link between physical fitness and a reduced risk of breast cancer -- telling her that I was at my most fit, with an athlete's resting pulse, before my 2nd diagnosis -- she remarked that perhaps it was my level of fitness that had given me such a long break (11 years) between my first and second diagnoses. So, while it might not have prevented it altogether, it might have bought me some time.

But, is that really prevention?
Image from

When I think of prevention, call me naive, call me an idealist, I think about something that will actually prevent the thing you want to prevent from ever happening.

I am just concerned that this "prevention" is closer to a bill of goods than I would like. A bill of goods that lulls the general population into a false sense of security. "If I follow these guidelines to the T, it means I won't get Breast Cancer, right?" Please, please, correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't believe we're there, or anywhere close to there, yet.

What I want is some real-live, actionable, guaranteed PREVENTION. Some prevention that will actually PREVENT Breast Cancer. That will actually STOP IT FROM HAPPENING. That will actually STOP IT FROM METASTASIZING.

Until then, I'd prefer a more accurate choice of words. Instead of prevention, let's call it like it is:

Things to do to (hopefully) reduce your risk of getting breast cancer due to some (but definitely not all) of its known associated risk factors that might be susceptible to as of yet un-knowable levels of reduction if you do actually do the things we're telling you to do but which might not be. Or something like that. Results Not Guaranteed. No Refunds.

End rant.

IMPORTANT UPDATE: Please see City Of Hope's incredible response to this post.