Paintings, Endings, and Thank Yous

I’ve been thinking about endings with this program coming to a close. I thought maybe I could share some peoples last paintings to kind of go with that theme.

Mark Rothko’s last painting, Untitled, 1970. This is his only painting painted in a single color as far as I’m aware. (that is to say, a single paint color, not his only monochromatic painting)

Many believe this to be Van Gogh’s last painting, Wheatfield with Crows, 1890.

Pablo Picasso, Self-Portrait Facing Death, 1972 painted just hours before he passed at 91 years old.

Georgia O’Keeffe. The Beyond, 1972. Oil on canvas, 30 1/16 x 40 3/16 inches. Georgia O’Keeffe Museum. Gift of The Georgia O’Keeffe Foundation. © Georgia O’Keeffe Museum.

Georgia O’Keeffe’s last unassisted painting (to my knowledge) she painted with assistance after going blind, so it’s not the last painting she ever created, but the last she saw.

Modern Art II 1996 Roy Lichtenstein 1923-1997 ARTIST ROOMS Tate and National Galleries of Scotland. Lent by The Roy Lichtenstein Foundation Collection 2015

I’m not 100% sure this is Roy Lichtenstein’s last painting, it’s probably not (turns out its really hard to figure out which one was last unless people are meticulous about dates), but it was painted one year before his death.

Anyway those are some “last” paintings to share on my “last” day, but the thing is it isn’t really my last day like it was for these artists. I still have a lot to go. and I’m excited to see where I end up. Anyway I should probably stop talking about art and start talking about what I had planned to say in my last blog, which is the last few days and thanks to everyone for all they did.

so first, the symposium: The symposium was so scary. Socializing with strangers is difficult for autistic people, myself included. And loud rooms with many conversations are a struggle because I’m hard of hearing. But I think I did okay. And my team really helped out when I couldn’t hear and stepped in when I needed talking breaks. My grandparents came to see the symposium. I didn’t think that I needed someone to come see what is done this summer, so I wasn’t even going to tell anyone, but on a whim I asked my grandparents who live pretty close if they’d want to come to the symposium. It really did feel good having family show up to support me. Grandpa wasn’t able to find parking, so only grandma was able to come in, but it really made the experience a lot less scary for me. And people were very kind to her and everyone wanted to meet her. That made me happy.
Andric and Curtis were amazing at the symposium. I could tell that Andric was struggling with the same social anxiety issues as me but he is so brave when it comes to it. He once said that he even though he’s scared of public speaking he wants to do a good job so he works through it, which is very impressive. Yesterday we have our exit interviews as well, which required sitting in front of a camera all by ourselves as well as in a group. Andric did well both times despite being scared. Curtis, as the only one in our cohort who is an extrovert, was loving the whole thing. And truthfully I was too, albeit in a very different way. Below the fear was excitement that other people were hearing about, understanding, and getting excited about what we were doing. It was scary but fun to talk to people about how we designed our prototype and show them the game asset trailer I made and watch them play the prototype and ask insightful questions. It felt good when Hila and Jorge (the grad mentors on our team) came by to see our poster. Even though they knew what we’d done all summer, they’d been there after all, and helped us make the poster, it was nice to have them come support us. People were overall very supportive. Imtiajul was very excited to be there and smiled practically the whole. We got good questions from Eliot and Stephen. The whole experience, even the bits I was nervous about, was worth repeating. I’d even let people take our pictures again even though I hate being photographed.

We’re having a goodbye lunch today and I’m nervous for it. Like the symposium I just don’t know what to expect. But I’m so thankful for this opportunity and I’m really glad I came here this summer.

now to the thank yous:

Allison: you were a great roommate. You always cleaned up and took out the trash when I forgot and are so sweet in every way. I could not have asked for a better person to share a room with. It was a pleasure getting to know you and I will miss you.
Amy: You’re also a fantastic person to share an apartment with. You never seemed to mind when I make messes or was loud or just a generally bad roommate, so thank you. I loved discussing knitting with you and talking about all the various things that pop into my head. I loved hearing you play the piano the other day. I will miss you as well.
Andric: You made this project a million times more fun. Not that it wasn’t already fun, but I love working with you and collaborating with you. I appreciate your ability to calmly discuss even the things you’re very passionate about. I like how, when we disagreed on things it was never an argument. You always tried to see my point of view and always explained your point of view to me so that we could make the best product possible. I will miss hanging out with you and making you smile.
Curtis: Thank you for always making sure I was able to hear. You would check in and ask about how I was hearing in situations where most people just assume I can, and I appreciate that. You are a very efficient worker and I hope that I learned some of that from you. I also appreciate all your efforts to make people go out and do things. I enjoyed getting to know you a little better at hickory park the other day, as did Jake.
Ayman: It’s been nice having another art person around. I enjoyed talking about ProCreate and drawing and seeing how your friend group did all those amazing animations and stuff. I will also miss you randomly coming up to my computer and asking “what are you doing” every few hours.
Nadya: I loved trying to find a pie with you at the fair, and talking with you at the pool, and just overall spending time with you. While I didn’t get to know you as well as I would have liked, your happy personality makes you so easy to be around. You ask really great questions in luncheon lectures and I will miss seeing your smile.
Rebekah: thank you for being the mom of the group and taking us out to the pool. I really enjoyed being problematic and chaotic at the pool and I liked talking with you about iPads. You’re very fun to talk to and I appreciate how you always ask good questions about grad school in our luncheon lectures.
Tim: it was nice getting to know you. You have interesting perspectives on things and I benefited from learning with you. I enjoyed arguing about what a sandwich is, and I really enjoyed helping you learn how to put your hair into a bun. I think you will do amazing things in the future and I hope you have a good time being an RA this school year.
Kimberly and Evrim: Thank you for having me on your team. I’ve really enjoyed learning about Storm Lake and education. Even with busy summers you both made the time for our group and I appreciate that very much.
Ezequiel, Hila, and Jorge:
Ezequiel, thank you for always explaining things when I didn’t understand, and waiting until I did understand to keep moving forward. I will miss working with you.
Hila, thank you for letting me try out your game. I loved shooting the paintings. And thank you for all your help with Unity and Blender. I really enjoyed learning from you and will miss working with you.
Jorge, Thank you for always answering our questions, even the potentially very dumb ones. You are very kind and always help make things easier for all of us. I enjoyed playing some of the games you suggested we try, and I will miss working with you.
Alex: I really enjoyed learning about SolidWorks (even though it may not have looked like it) and I loved the MCA. I’ve been wanting to learn about additive manufacturing for a long time but haven’t had the opportunity. Thank you for believing in me, and for telling me that you believe in me. I often struggle to believe in myself, so having someone else tell me they think I have what it takes is very impactful. Thank you for making octoXRbunny for us and going the extra mile to make something for us to remember this program by. Also thank you for letting me read your research, as well as suggesting the additive manufacturing book. I really enjoyed reading both (thought I haven’t finished the AM book just yet).
Dr. Gilbert: Thank you for being so kind. I’m grateful that you took the time to check in on all of us and I enjoyed hearing about Namibia and all the things you did there. Thank you for sending me the link to that talk you gave.
Glen: Like you said at the symposium, you kinda snuck into the background, but I know you were doing a lot of stuff there in the background that I’m thankful for. So thank you for that, and for talking to my grandma, and for generally being kind.
Dr. Winer: I appreciate your directness. When I began to talk about what I wanted for my career you noted that engineering would be helpful to add to my education. This was something I hadn’t really thought too much about, but after looking into it I realized how valuable it could be to me, and added biomedical engineering as a minor in my program. I’m already really enjoying learning about it, so thank you for the suggestion.
Heliya: Thank you so much for being so caring for all the interns. I appreciate how supportive you have been and your kindness when my aunt passed away, as well as willingness to help made the whole situation much easier than it otherwise would have been. I am incredibly thankful and will miss talking with you.
Imtiajul: Thank you for always keeping track of the interns and making sure we were safe. I enjoyed listening to you talk about how your daughters educational experience is so different from your own and I appreciate you taking the time to walk my grandma out of the symposium the other day.
Sarah: Thanks for coordinating everything and checking about food allergies and making sure I got messages when I didn’t respond right away (sorry about that). Also thanks for all the food you made us!
Lynn: thanks for checking in on us so often! And for the snacks! And for encouraging me to bring my husband to VRAC to show him around. He LOVED the building and seeing all the engines and stuff. I’m slowly but surely trying to convince him to come back to school, and this definitely helped.
Paul: Thanks for letting us use the assets you had for unity. And thanks for making the filming and photography stuff as painless as possible. As well as setting up different slack channels and stuff, I feel as if the contributions you made to our program were very often unrecognized so if I missed some, thanks for those as well.
Anyone else that I may have missed: I’m sorry there are simply too many people and I’m terrible at names. Everyone who taught us or who gave luncheon lectures or who came to the symposium made this REU special and I’m so thankful to everyone for being so welcoming and encouraging. I am very grateful to have had this experience and to have met all of you.

Anyway, that’s all. I hope to see some of you again when I come back to ISU in the spring as a student!


Another day, another art piece on my mind. This one is not terribly famous, but its a favorite none the less. Made in 1907 by Henry Ossawa Tanner the painting is called, “The Disciples See Christ Walking On Water” and it depicts… you guessed it, the disciples seeing Christ walking on water. But the painting has very little grandeur for such a pivotal an event. The monochrome blue of the painting lends a bleakness to the painting that brings to me a feeling of aulasy (yes, I had to go looking for this word to describe what I was feeling, and yes the word is made up, but so are all words). That is what I take away from the painting at least, this feeling of realizing that great events can never be expressed in their fullness to those who didn’t experience them.

Now I’m not saying that this REU is in any way as amazing a moment as seeing Christ walk on water, but the feeling here is the same. We were told that these blogs were twofold in use, one to help us remember what happened during our time here, but also to help future REU students get a sense of what it could be like here for them. So, if you’re from the future and you’ve stumbled upon this blog and are considering this program, be aware that, though we try, we can’t give a full idea of what it’s really like. We’re just out here using our words to paint incomplete pictures of events no one else will feel as deeply as we do.

I hate starting over

I fundamentally disagree with the concept of a “fresh start”. There is no such thing in reality. The idea of a fresh start relies on the premise of being able to truly let go of the burdens of one’s past and just starting over, but one cant unequip themself of the lessons they’ve learned. They can change their job, their school, their friends, their church, whatever, but wherever one goes, they’re still the same person, and they still carry the the same burdens. But, regardless of my feelings about fresh starts, I often still manage to find myself starting over. Just as annoying as a fresh start, but without the hope. This program was always meant to be temporary and I knew that going in, however somehow going back home feels like starting over, which was unanticipated. I have to begin my life again. I’ve been in a VRAC bubble and soon it’s going to pop. I have to resume getting my degree, and then one semester later, start over yet again, with a transfer (hopefully) here to Iowa State. Change is hard for me as it is for most people, but this change is good. This change is a mark of growth. And that I am happy about.

This morning while getting ready for work, my husband asked me if I got what I wanted out of this program, and quite honestly I did not know the answer. I see two reasons for this: first, I think I very much misunderstood what my role here would be when applying and therefore what I wanted was rather limited to imaginary constraints imposed by my own lack of understanding, and second, I can no longer really remember what I had hoped for, because as my understanding of this place grew, I began to forget the ideas I had before. It’s kind of like how, if you read a book before you see the movie, when you imagine the characters, they look one way, but once you watch the movie, you cannot un-see the way the movie made them look. So also is looking back when compared to looking forward. I look back now and I cannot remember how I imagined here to be, since the memory overwrites the dream. [insert “strange the passage of time” gif here]

So after my husband asked me if I got what I wanted out of this program, and after I finally got my brain to stop pondering how it was unable to recall what I had once imagined, he asked me a question that was much easier to answer, “Did you learn?” and the answer is unequivocally, yes. Yes, I learned. I have learned more than I could have imagined about so many different things. I have learned about research, and 3D printing, and rural Iowa. I have learned about blender and unity and grad school… but most importantly I’ve learned about myself. I have learned about my limits and I have learned about when I can push them. I have learned about how I prioritize things and I have learned about what I am actually capable of when I give my best effort. I have learned that I do not have to accept the limits often imposed on me because I am disabled, and I have learned that God will give me the strength as necessary to keep going. Overall, that’s a good list. I think, regardless of if I accomplished what I wanted to, I have accomplished that. So once again, thank you everyone who made this opportunity possible. I am very grateful.

The Treachery of Images

We’re talking about art again, but its a metaphor. There’s a famous painting made in 1929 by René Magritte called “La Trahison des Images” or, in English, “the Treachery of Images” It’s a beige background with a pipe on it. Underneath the pipe it says, “Ceci n’est pas une pipe,”. In English, for the French impaired folks here, that means, “This is not a pipe.” odd for a painting that clearly depicts a pipe. But therein lies the treachery, because it isn’t a pipe, it’s simply a representation of a pipe. You can’t pick it up, you cant load it with tobacco and use it to smoke. It’s not a pipe. Some people were confused at this paintings meaning thinking, what else could it be? they look at it upside down, sideways, try to see in it other images, but they aren’t there, because the only thing in the painting is a pipe (a picture of one, really).

I think about this painting a lot. I wonder how René Magritte would feel about the world now. If he saw a pipe in VR, I wonder if he would still agree that it wasn’t a pipe. You can’t smoke with it, but you can pretend to. You can use your hands and “pick it up” you can “load tobacco into it” and you can even make it appear to be smoking. And you can do all that without actually doing anything at all. I think about how technology gives us so many tools and how those tools are often “fake”, and yet their impact is very real. Anyway, that’s what my nerd brain is hyper-fixating on right now this idea of how virtual reality is somehow both tangible and intangible, and how crazy it is that we are alive in a time where we get to experience it.


Okay so, long story short, I noticed like 2 days into the program that Andric refuses to smile without hiding behind his hands. An example:

So of course, it became my mission to get a picture where he wasn’t hiding his smile. The thing is, it’s really easy to get him to smile. You can literally just say, “Hey, Andric, don’t smile,” and he’ll immediately smile. With how easy it is to get him to smile you’d think taking a picture of it would not be difficult… but it was. First, I reviewed the pictures we took with Paul, but no dice. All those smiles were fake. Then I tried surprising him, but he was faster than me, always catching when I was trying to get a picture. Next I tried reflections. If I was taking pictures of other things, he didn’t seem to react, so all I had to do was catch his reflection in a photo and I was golden. Alas, this didn’t work either. Not only was I never able to locate any reflections in time, but the few times I got close, he still caught me. That is until we went to Storm Lake. I was tasked with taking photos to use on the posters and such. Andric was so engrossed with the game and the students that he didn’t notice when I took his picture most of the time, and I was able to finally get the picture.

There it is! Weeks of attempting to get the picture and all I had to do was make sure he was sufficiently distracted. Anyway, he claims that he saw and just “Didn’t mind anymore” but I don’t believe him. Anyways, this all to say I’ve successfully completed my mission. And Andric, you should really stop hiding your smile 🙂

A Somewhat Obvious Epiphany

Growing up I wanted to be a million different things, and as an adult that hasn’t changed as much as I’d like. I want to believe it’s because I like too many things. The only subject I would say I dislike is math, and once I caught back up, I didn’t dislike it nearly as much (I had an idiopathic stomach condition that started around middle school and continued on into my first year of college which caused me to miss a lot of school, making math very difficult). History is fun because you learn about all these crazy things that went wrong and yet we’re somehow still here. Biology is fun because I get to learn how people work, and that’s unbelievably cool, and there’s always something more to discover. English is fun because reading and writing are how we communicate with the world and books and journals are how others communicate with us. Music was fun because of the people. All these wonderful things, how was I supposed to pick just one to spend my life learning about? The thing is, that question is wrong, only I didn’t realize it until I got here. I don’t know how I got the idea that I can only learn about one thing, or maybe two, but there’s no reason to limit myself in that way. Everything we do requires different parts of the various things we’ve learned. Art and biology and math and history and every language I’ve ever tried to learn is useful. Learning about pottery or history is useful, just like how learning statistics (albeit in a different way) is useful and I don’t have to choose. Maybe this seems obvious to other people, but it never has been for me. The idea that I don’t have to limit my learning to just biology, art, or specifically related things is amazing to me. So that’s the biggest thing I think I’m taking away from this experience. I don’t have to limit myself when it comes to learning, and all the knowledge that I have can be harnessed in some way, even the things I never considered useful. Even pine needle basketry (which btw do not get into unless you’re willing to spend HOURS making a teeny tiny basket. It’s cute but it’s time consuming).

OctoBunny needs a name

Ayman drew this cute bunny with a VR headset. I had to redraw him for our T-Shirt design because he needed to be only one color. Then someone he got tentacles. Idk I redrew him again. This poor bunny has been drawn 3 times and still doesn’t have a name. I think he should be called Marvin, but I’m open to suggestions.

I’m all out of Spoons (I’m so lost without them)

(Title is meant to be read to the tune of “I’m all out of love”)

As many of you are already aware, I am on the autism spectrum. While I’ve mentioned this a of times, I don’t think I’ve really gone into detail of what that means specifically for me. Most of the time, it doesn’t mean much because I have low support needs (I have level 1 autism, which is the “mildest” form of autism) and for the most part, I self-regulate and manage my struggles without too much in terms of accommodations and allowances. But it does mean I have to be careful about how much I commit to and how I schedule big things in my life, as well as it means that I have to work a bit harder at mastering certain social things and I have to be very intentional and strict with myself about my time management. The reason I’m mentioning it now may seem obvious to some of you, and others not so much, but I think I might have flown a little too close to the sun these last few days. I’m finding myself now at a point where I have to be very careful, or else I may end up overwhelming myself. I’m hoping that this blog will serve as a bit of an explanation for how autism personally impacts my life and give a bit of context to some of the more weird choices I may make in the next few days.

Because I’m autistic sometimes I find that I need breaks at times when other people don’t; things that don’t make other people tired take a lot more out of me. Some of the big spoon thieves in my life (the things that take away my energy) are things like loud spaces, social interaction, presenting things, wearing uncomfortable clothes, and doing new things. In the last two days I’ve encountered all of these things. Because of that, I need a few days to build back up my spoon reserve (if you have no idea what this whole spoons thing means, I’m referring to spoon theory, which you can look up for more info, but basically its just a theory about how people with chronic illness or other conditions, such as autism, have to manage their energy levels and pick and choose what they do in order to prevent themselves from burning out). It’s hard being this busy and this social when I’m autistic because for the most part, people are unaware of my limitations unless I bring them up, and I tend to push myself right up to said limits because I hate the idea that I have them.

While the last week has been great, it’s been pushing at my limits. We didn’t get home from Storm Lake until fairly late last night, and we had a presentation at 9 this morning. Long hours of socializing, presenting and trying new things (Like leading a focus group) have worn away at me. The presentation this morning made me nervous. I am not fond of public speaking. It’s especially hard for me to not fidget (stim) when I talk, and I struggle with making the right amount of eye contact as well when addressing a group. But, thankfully these things are now over and, regardless of the struggles, both the Storm Lake visit and the presentation went over pretty well. It was nice being able to practice giving a presentation before our big serious ones later in the program.

So for the next few days I’m going to focus on recovering spoons. For me, this means a few things. First, I have to cut out all the things in my schedule that I don’t need to do. This means saying no to extra events like hanging out with my fellow interns, or going out for meals or to the movies. It means eating foods that I know won’t bother me. I jokingly call this my “toddler food”, because most of my safe foods are very basic and the kind of food that little kids enjoy (PB&J sandwiches, buttered noodles, chicken nuggets, you get the idea). It means choosing to eat my food at the office or in quiet places instead of going to the cafeteria which has lots of people and loud noises. It means forcing myself not to work after I get home from work, even though I do enjoy it. It means going to bed earlier than normal. And it means being kind to myself and not being mad that I need to take these steps for the sake of my mental health. The good news is that in VRAC I feel as if I can do these things. And what’s even better is the work for the next few days is perfect for this kind of recovery.

Now that the actual data collection is done (yay) its time to analyze it (also yay, but not as loudly). This means that we’ll be taking the answers gathered from our surveys as well as the transcripts from our focus groups and we will be reading and studying them until we figure out what we learned from them that are important. This probably sounds a little vague to some of you, but I’m not really sure how better to explain it. Basically, we gathered a lot of information in a few different forms, and we have to review it and tag it and find patterns, and document the themes and patterns we find. This is the perfect kind of work for when I’m getting to this point. Not only do I love reading and looking for patterns, but the somewhat monotonous solitary tasks are great for allowing me time to recuperate while also still maintaining productivity. Right now I am waiting for the audio file from my focus group to finish transcribing so that I can begin tagging some of the common themes that were touched upon by the students. I am excited to actually get to review what they said and I think it’ll be really fun to try and condense that into it’s most concentrated ideas.

Anyway, this was a bit of a longer blog but I think it’s important that I share a bit how having autism (and ADHD) can impact me, because the way that people learn about these things is through the people around them and I think it’s just nice when people understand a little bit more about how I act and why I do things the way I do. And I also think it’s good to share these things because I didn’t know I was autistic for a long time because I didn’t know that the struggles I faced were not things that everyone went through. It was through hearing about these struggles from other autistic people that I began to understand what was going on. Before then, I believed that these differences were personal flaws that were somehow my fault. I think explaining them and not being ashamed of how I am different is essential to the management of my differences, and explaining my needs helps me later if I do need to advocate for myself. If you actually read all the way through this, I’m impressed and I award you 47 awesome points. Congratulations, and thanks for listening.

Gearing up for the Storm Lake visit

Tomorrow our team is taking a field trip. We’re going to Storm Lake to show some students there the prototype we’re creating and to get their input on what they think would make the best game for them. A lot of what we’ve been working on needs to be done today in order for the visit to go smoothly. It is nerve-racking to think about. A lot of our actual research will be done tomorrow. We’ll be taking Surveys, as well as leading focus groups, demoing our game prototype, and leading a storyboarding activity. I am very nervous about the focus group and storyboarding part of the day. Being AuDHD, I tend to struggle with certain social things, such as managing groups of people, and new people are particularly difficult for me. While I’m fairly used to working with young children, teens are not my forte (not even when I was a teen). I know in the end I’ll be thankful that I’m pushing myself beyond my comfort zone, pushing myself to be social and participate more, but this program has required a lot of that, and right now, I would really like a few days to stop being social.

After the Storm Lake visit, you might think we get a bit of a break, but not really. While the other two projects have been able to get a head start on their posters and presentations for our various events, our team hasn’t been able to do much, because a lot of the presentation will be about stuff we have yet to do. So once we do have our visit, we’ll immediately have to start analyzing the data from our visit, gathering that information, finding out what there is to learn from it, putting it into our presentation, and getting ready for the end of this program. It’s crazy to think we’re so close to finished already. I feel like we only just began a few weeks ago. looking back, It’s been a very difficult summer for me, being away from my husband, dealing with the loss of a loved one, being put into situations that are not the most comfortable for me, working full time again (I wasn’t because of school). But the things that have been the hardest are the things I’ve learned the most from. So hopefully, this visit tomorrow will continue that pattern.

Anyway, hopefully I’ll have good news to report in a few days. As for now, I should get back to making sure everything is set for tomorrow.

Oh, I re-drew an old drawing this weekend and even though it’s like 5 years old I still love it. I call it Emo Ariel. If you laugh, you probably have the same sense of humor as I do. if you can’t read it, she’s saying, “I wanna be where the people aren’t”.

Thank You

This week has been tough, as I’m sure those keeping up with this blog can tell, and I just want to take a minute to be thankful for the care I’m getting while I’m here. The grad mentors care about me, check in on me regularly, and listen when I express frustrations. Because of this, when I needed time off this week to see a sick relative, I felt safe enough to do so, which isn’t a given for me. Instead of worrying about what would happen if I dared to ask for time off, I was able to get it, and with very little hassle. And when the family member took a turn for the worse and the scheduled time off I was granted didn’t work out, I was able to easily change that time to be sooner so that I could see my aunt one last time before she passed. I am so grateful that not only I was given this chance, but that I was reminded multiple times it was okay to ask. I was reminded the importance of family and reassured that asking for this time wasn’t somehow a failure on my part, and I didn’t feel as if the request would be used against me later. This has not always been my experience. Requesting time off has been a hassle, has been something I dread doing, and something I avoid at all costs. In the past, taking, or even asking for a day off has resulted in passive aggressive comments about my commitment to my job, or other punishments (though, of course they’re never called this) to make up for the request. I am beyond grateful for how supported I feel in this environment, by these people, and in the REU. So this post is just to say thank you to everyone who is making this program so supportive and making VRAC such a nice place to work at.

When we got here someone said that this REU was an effort of love, and I honestly thought it sounded disingenuous to say that, but I see it now. The people here really care about us, individually, and care for us, and try to give us the best training they can. We are given homemade meals regularly, they check in on us individually on a regular basis. When we express concerns or frustrations they listen, and they give us advice. It is truly wonderful to be in a work environment that actually feels positive for once. So yeah, thanks everyone. I really appreciate it.

photo of my mother, grandma, and me from yesterday when I went to see my family. Even though the reason was sad, I want thankful to be able to see my family.

No thoughts, empty head

I feel as if last week leeched me of all my creativity. I want a nap. I don’t know how the shortest week of our program felt like the longest. Speaking of short, so is this blog post. Now a haiku:

my mind is tired 
i'm trying hard to think right
slowly my eyes close

(my mind is tired Haiku by sami girl, 2008)

Short week, long days

This week is almost over. I am shocked. This happens basically whenever we have long weekends, but I find myself confused about what day it is and thinking it is earlier or later than it really is. Like for instance, yesterday (Thursday) I called the optometrist (because I ran out of contacts and spent the whole day saying “yes I do wear glasses” which got annoying very quickly) and I scheduled an appointment for today, because my brain had confused Thursday for Friday… and then I had to call the optometrist back and reschedule my appointment for a Saturday instead… But even though the week has flown by the days have been LONG. I’m working on both my MCA (which I’m presenting today) and my internship long research project. I’m having a good time, but as expected, I am very tired. I also took a pasta making class last night that two of the folks here at VRAC put on for us. It was fun. I haven’t made pasta in a while. I tried to make orecchiette pasta with limited success. It took a lot to get the pasta to stay in the shape, so I only ended up making a few. They cooked up nicely though, so that was fun. I also helped make some bowtie pasta which was a lot easier. It reminded me of making dumplings. The idea is very similar, just different folds and a slightly different dough. I think it would be interesting to experiment with making dumplings using pasta dough and typical pasta ingredients as the filling. I think it could be faster than making ravioli and also, maybe just as good, but who knows, maybe its disgusting.

So my MCA (stands for main course activity, and is basically a self guided project I get to do while I’m here), which I’ve talked a bit about but not really explained, is a 3D printed camera with replaceable lenses so that I can test out how effective 3D printed translucent plastic is and being translucent. (spoiler alert: it’s not great). The original plan was to print the camera, print the lenses, and then use a light meter to test the lux inside the camera with each different lens, and then without a lens to see how much light is or isn’t making it into the camera. I hit a few snares, like the fact that none of the lenses are actually useful as lenses (shocking, I know) and that I couldn’t find a light meter that was small enough to fit inside the camera. But, I learned a lot about printing and I made a really cool camera that actually works. Or well, it will work once I get film. That’s one of the things I like about the camera obscura (the kind of camera I built), that it actually doesn’t need a lens in order to work, so event though the lenses I created aren’t functional, I still was able to print a working camera.

also, I’ve been working on some drawings and design stuff for my main research project. I will share some of the doodles I worked on, but suffice to say I’m really enjoying it.

This is the camera I printed! It may not look like a lot but trust me it’s one of the coolest thing’s I’ve ever made.

And this is one of the characters I drew for the game. She’s a cyborg, which is why she has the glove on. The design is a bit messy and I’m trying really hard not to focus too much on all the things that are wrong, which is something I have done in my art for a long time. I try to remember that a year ago, two years ago, I used to dream of being able to draw the way I do now. And its hard to remember that when it feels from my perspective that I haven’t been getting better at art in a long time. But, this picture I liked making and even though there are parts that I see as wrong I’m trying to focus on that.

The Acquired Inability to Escape

in 1991, Damien Hirst created the artwork, “The Acquired Inability to Escape” which was an artwork consisting of a glass office cubicle that had an ash tray and cigarettes on top of a desk with a swivel chair next to it. As an art piece, its not much to look at and honestly, it’s pretty depressing, but I love the name. The Acquired Inability to Escape. Sometimes that’s how I feel about different things in my life, that I, by my own choices, have acquired the inability to escape them. But what if we had changed the art and kept the name? What if, instead of an office, it was a house, and what if, instead of cigarettes, it was a family? Would we still see tragedy? Or, would we think, “yes, this is a good thing to be inescapably linked to”? I like to believe that if Damien Hirst had continued his series, he would have eventually gotten around to homes and families, and I like to believe that it would have juxtaposed the bleakness of his office related work with bright living rooms, vibrantly colored kitchens, and cozy dining rooms. Although, based upon his other work, that’s probably not true. All this to say, I think I have quite recently acquired a new inability to escape.

The Acquired Inability to Escape 1991 Damien Hirst

I think, that after this internship I will be trapped in research. I took this internship specifically to find out if it was something I truly wanted to do for a living (because guys, it soooo much school and wouldn’t it just be the worst to go through all that school only to find out that I hate research?) so I’m glad that I’m having as much fun as I am and I’m glad that I seem to love this kind of work. Now of course, this is only a taste, so grain of salt, but I love learning, and research seems like a way to spend my whole life learning. How could I say no to that? So yeah I think I love research and I think I might be hooked. I love feeling as if I am helping to discover something unknown. I love to think that instead of just consuming from the wealth of knowledge in the world, I could one day contribute to it. I don’t have much more to say, honestly, just wanted to put this out there. I love my job and I’m going to be sad when it’s over. But I’m pretty sure this experience has given me a better idea of the trajectory of my career, so I’m also really grateful too. That’s all. See y’all later!

It’s been an eventful week

This week has been crazy. I have felt busy basically from the beginning of this REU but this week was more. We had our regular tasks, but our MCA really started this week and also some students from storm lake came and visited us. The MCA took a lot of brain power and the students took a lot of time. I’m not complaining, it’s been good. I enjoy feeling like I’ve accomplished something by the end of the day.

Because of how busy we’ve been I honestly kind of lost track of the blog. Then I woke up today and realized it’s been a minute. But honestly there’s not a lot to tell. Meeting the storm lake students and working with them on co-designing the game was amazing and thought provoking, and has made me realize just how complex getting into and going to college can be. I mostly escaped that because when I first applied, I only applied to Faith. There wasn’t really any concern I wouldn’t get it because they have high acceptance rates and because I was a third generation student at that school (which they say doesn’t make a difference but I’m skeptical that it truly doesn’t) the other programs and schools I went to had relatively easy applications and I never really applied to more than one school at a time. I always just knew what programs I wanted to be in and never really shopped around for colleges. Not that this is inherently bad, but I guess I never realized how rare that is.

My MCA has been really fun. I attempted to make a functional gimbal and despite seeming easy it’s been… well not great. I won’t go into too much detail but basically the print just keeps falling apart and I went to alter the files to fix it in blender and because of the way the file was saved I’m not able to fix it. The pieces are too lose so I thought making the print smaller would help but not only did it *not* solve the problem but the entire print basically just melted. Not sure what that was about, but I’m going to pretend it was the machines fault and not mine. After that (don’t worry, I will make a functional gimbal, just maybe not soon) I started working in making an embossing machine. That worked… sorta. The prints were fine but they didn’t slot together as perfectly as I would have liked. Next week I’m making a pinhole camera. I could talk about cameras all day, but I’ll be brief. For this I’m making a pinhole camera that’s been adapted to hold lenses. Pinhole cameras don’t actually have lenses which is unbelievably cool, but I got curious about how different lenses affect how much light gets exposed onto a piece of film. So basically I’m going to to get a bunch of different lenses and test them out with a light meter. Also, I’m planning on printing one with transparent plastic. I also want to test diffraction grating to see how that alters the amount of light being exposed.

Anyway, that will be fun, but what I’m really excited about is testing out my camera with thermal film. While the plastic im using to make my camera is opaque to visible light, the Google rabbit hole I accidentally fell into the other day taught me that PLA isn’t always IR opaque, meaning that sometimes infrared light can travel thought it, sometimes it can’t, and sometimes it can but not very well. I wanna experiment and see if this camera would make a decent thermal camera if I wanted to (because thermal film makes the COOLEST looking pictures and if you don’t believe me look it up.) I know I could always just use one of my other film cameras if it doesn’t work, but the idea of doing it on my own is significantly cooler.

Aside from that the only thing that happened this week is I hit a 500 day streak of German on Duolingo. That was fun. Makes me feel like I can actually say “yes” if people ask if I know some German. So yeah it’s been a week, it’s been great and I’ve done a lot. I’m thankful for the long weekend and I will probably spend the entire time thinking about cameras and storm lake and steampunk (it’s related to our game, promise). Hope y’all have a great holiday weekend too!

3D Printing and Thermal Cameras (plus who won the game)

So here’s a thing I’m super excited about: my deeper dive group is in 3D Printing. For those of you following along at home, our deeper dive is a project that we get to do where we get to actually decide what we’re doing, as apposed to being told what to learn about or do. I was assigned to the 3D printing group which was the one I really really wanted to do. I love learning about additive manufacturing and I’m having so much fun thinking of different things I could do once I learn how to print well. As previously mentioned, it’s something I’ve been interested in for a while. Anyway I’ve got a ton of ideas of things I can do for that.

On a related note, I got to play with a thermal imaging camera today. I’ve never actually used one before so that was really fun! I took a few videos and pictures. I don’t know exactly what I expected from a thermal camera but it definitely was more fun than I thought it would be.

I am aware of how derpy I look in the photo. Idk what to say I hadn’t really figured out how to calibrate the lines to the thermal, plus well the face I was making didn’t help.

Now for the part you’ve all been waiting for so patiently (note: this is to be read sarcastically): Who guessed the lie? And the winner is: Nadya! Congrats. Here’s a refresh on the statements along with if they’re true or not.

  1. My favorite color is orange. This is true. Has been since like 5th grade.
  2. I was the first girl born into my father’s family in 144 years. Also true! Tracing back to before the American Civil War, there are no women in my dad’s family that didn’t marry into the family. All the children born were boys for generation after generation, until me.
  3. I wear mismatched socks everyday. Yep, this is true! started in 4th grade, Mom thought it was a phase. I have yet to get over the phase.
  4. I’ve attended 4 colleges as a student, a total of 5 different times (this is to say 4 schools and one of them twice). True. I went to CCH for film school, then FBBC study Biblical Worldviews, then DMACC to get EMT training, then Oxford University for art history, then back to DMACC for an associates that will fold into the bachelors in pre-medical illustration that I’m hoping to get.
  5. When I was in 8th grade, I wanted to be a medical examiner until I realized how smelly morgues are. I was a weirdo, and this is true.
  6. I have 5 left handed siblings. This one seems more shocking than it really is, but it’s true! I have two younger sisters, both lefthanded, two younger brothers, also left handed, and one older brother who is also left handed. Conversely, I’m right handed.
  7. My favorite numbers are 7, 21, 27, and 47. True, but honestly there’s not much to say about it. They’re just good numbers.
  8. I am older than Google by less than a week. This is false. Google is older than me. Just barely! in fact, according to my mother, I was due to be born the day BEFORE google, but I guess I decided to cook a little longer.
  9. I HATE cilantro. (aka coriander) True. it’s nasty. Tastes like someone poured dish soap on raw onions and then presented it as a meal. Don’t know why people like it so much
  10. I have every word to the 2005 movie adaptation of Pride and Prejudice memorized to the point that given silence and two hours, I can play the entire movie in my head like I am a DVD or streaming service. This is true. I’ve done it three times. The first on a random day just to see if I could, and the other two times on a transatlantic flight after finishing the books I packed.

Anyway. That was fun! thanks for playing! talk later.