Comfort and Labelblitz

 

image

 

Like most aspects of this year’s field mission, one of the strangest continual feelings I have is that of comfort. The previous two years kept me in a mad daze struggling to bounce around scientists and sneak space for myself to setup places for electronics and coding. Now I feel like all these rich crazy experiences of the past years have molded me into a lean machine for this research. Just like I no longer flinch at carrying 90 pound backpacks loaded with batteries and harddrives straight through airport security, getting back into the lab and organizing hundreds of tiny electrical parts just feels familiar. Part of me worries about doing anything that feels easy. I bet people training for marathons experience similar anxieties where despite being able to run for many kilometers more than before, the fact that it feels easier than when they were just starting is a bit unnverving.

There was a cosmic reversal of fortune that has been following me since I got to go to Ben and Kristy’s Lake house a few days before flying down. We spent memorial day there with terrific friends secluded in luxury, lakes, and amazing food in the middle of Alabama. Before, the diminishing time was an angry elephant sitting on my chest and fattening itself on problems compounding before the trip. Despite my Fellow status this year (which I figured would make things easier), STRI forgot to help find me housing. Our new prototype with Comingle was facing new hardships everyday. I barely had anything packed, and what I had was already hundreds of pounds more than what was allowed for a person on Spirit airlines. Also I began to REALLY not be looking forward to not seeing Kitty for 2 solid months. But something magical seemed to have happened by forcing myself to divorce work-Andy from just fun-Andy for 3 solid days, and then things started coming together, and they just kept it up!

image

These electronics compartments drawers are super integral to any decent workshop. While moving in my gear, I realized that just setting up all this stuff, and getting a hand and a little bit of directed attention to each of these bits was integral to being able to think with them later. This gave me the idea to get the people that I was going to be working with involved in this process. I set up a simple “game” where Peter, May, and Ummat (Zoe jumped in too!) would take markers, pull out the blank drawers, ask me what the hell the parts were in those drawers, and then label them.

I set up a timer for 30 minutes, and we tried to see how many drawers we could do in this short time. The time component of this Labelblitz kept us from lingering too long on a simple article (which was easy to do) and helped these scientist buddy get immersed in the language of physical computing.

image

Beforehand Peter and I had a talk about other people’s research we encountered that brought about existential strangeness in ourselves, but didn’t seem to affect the researchers telling us about this. Most of this talk seemed to revolve around all the different projects we encountered where people kept brains alive in jars. I remember Liz telling me about frog brains in jars which still sent out mating call signals, and peter mentioned how they could keep fruit fly brains alive for days, and program the larvae to respond to incredibly particular stimuli, like when it is 27 degrees Celsius, or when the color blue is present. Looking back at the pictures, it seems my papaya half sitting in a vat of soy milk may have had some influence on this talk.