That Time I Was A Meme

I wrote this post on Medium.

“Is this you?”
“Hey, I think this is you.”
“OMG, I think you are a meme!!!”

Over the past week I’ve received dozens of pings from friends sending me links to a photo with the tagline “No one is born racist” and asking if it’s me. It is, and I have to say that in all the things I ever wished for in life, becoming a meme seen by more than a million people was not one of them. That being said, if it helps to spread a positive message then I’m all for it. Except of course when someone said I have a duck-face (thanks to the person who defended me and said I was probably in mid-sentence).

Admittedly I was shocked when a few commenters have suggested that I am racist because in the photo I am looking away. I am not going to spend an ounce of effort addressing that incorrect assumption, but I will say that I think what’s special about this photo is that the moment captured is between my son and our fellow passenger on the Paris Metro, and I’m just in the background.

I am not sure who posted the photo with the tagline, but for the curious, here is the metadata and narrative of the original work:

The photo was taken by my husband, Sean Bonner with an iPhone. It’s August of 2010, we are on Paris Metro but I don’t recall where we are going. Our son, Rips, who was around 5 months at the time, is sitting on my lap. The stranger’s finger he is holding onto is Parisian, a grand-père with 2 or 3 grandchildren, if I recall correctly. The two of us chatted a bit, he then held out his finger to Rips who clamped on and wouldn’t let go. The man had a great smile that Rips delighted in and he didn’t seem to mind entertaining my baby so I went back to figuring out when we had to depart the train. I think I’m in mid duck-face because our stop was coming up and I was telling Sean that we had to gather all of our things and convince Rips to let go of his new friend’s finger.

 

31 Days To Feeling Physically And Emotionally Lighter

I wrote this article on my Forbes Blog.

Like most of you, I have attempted to participate in all sorts of 21 day, 3 month, 8 week-long programs in order to lose my muffin top, build muscles, increase memory, detox…you name it. I have never completed a single challenge. I get about half way through and then just get bored or can’t keep up with the complicated daily routine or it’s tailored to an eating program or workout that doesn’t fit my lifestyle.

In December of last year I got to thinking: why do I have to follow someone else’s program? We are all unique so why are there so many one-size fits all programs? Why don’t I figure out what I WANT to do and customize it to me. Crazy, I know.

My motivation stemmed from last year, 2013 was a really tough year for me and I felt burnt out for most of it. 2014 is my year to focus on mental health and balance. I wanted to figure out how to be more in the present instead of always thinking ahead and all the many things I needed to get done, reduce stress that was causing shoulder and neck pain and be the easy going person that I preferred.

Requirements

  1. The mind and body are connected so I wanted to develop a program that combined the two.
  2. One month seemed to be just enough time to get into a routine, but not too much time to become miserable if the program wasn’t working well for me. Allowing for adjustments seemed critical to success if I planned to continue after the first month.
  3. I needed a routine that was flexible time-wise, could travel with me and didn’t require a lot of equipment.

Daily Program

  • Yoga – at least 15 minutes
  • Meditation – at least 10 minutes
  • Vitamins – multi-vitamin, B6, B12, Zinc, Biotin, 5-HTP, Flaxseed oil, Vitamin E, Vitamin D, liquid iron, magnesium, calcium.
  • Water 8x/day (wake-up, before breakfast, before shower, enroute to work, before lunch, enroute home, before dinner, before bed)

And to top it all off, I went on a sugar detox and didn’t allow myself to eat anything with the following ingredients: refined sugar, maple syrup, agave, honey. Many people asked me about fruit, and the answer is yes, I ate fruit, lots of it. We are a vegan household and eliminating fruit is not an option. Note that I never drank juice.

Guidance

I relied on a lot of mobile apps or YouTube…basically anything I could access via my iPhone or iPad.

Mindfulness Meditation – There are a variety of apps and classes to support you in pursuing a calm mind. My personal experience dictated that I was most successful and felt the best when I meditated first thing in the morning before checking my phone and the rest of  my family was awake.

Headspace
I finished the free 10 day program. I liked it because it helped train me to always go back to my breath when my mind wandered. They offer  subscription to continue on for another 355 days.
Calm.com
If I really want to focus on something for the day, this app has all sorts of great topics including focus, gratitude, reduce stress and more. The free apps comes with a handful of sessions and you can subscribe to download additional sessions.
Mindfulness Meditation App
This is a no fuss app. The free version comes with a timer so if you don’t want any guidance, you can just set your alarm to the amount of time you want to practice.
Walking Meditation by Meditation Oasis
Once a week I walk to the train station at 7am and so I am able to combine walking and meditation. I started listening to Meditation Oasis podcasts years ago and really like how easy going the guide’s voice is so was OK paying 99 cents for the app.

Yoga – I’ve been practicing ashtanga yoga off and on for about 20 years but have never been consistent past a few months. I think part of the reason was having to make my way to a studio and they tend to be on the expensive side. Thankfully now there are tons of YouTube videos and apps to follow along to and so if I don’t have the time or inclination to head to class I can do it at home.

Do You Yoga
There was a 30 day challenge last year and all of the videos are available online. The instructor, Erin Motz, is adorable and easy to follow.

Rodney Yee
I have had his DVDs for a decade and have always enjoyed his easy going teaching method.

Local Gym
My yoga instructor is also named Tara and she runs 1 and 2 hour classes. This is an affordable option because yoga is included in my monthly membership which is much less than a yoga studio membership.

LA River Walk
There are yoga pose signs along the river and sometimes when I am walking my dog with my young son, we stop at each sign, do the pose and move onto the next one. It’s a fun family activity.

Tracking
Instead of using an app, I marked on my physical calendar when I finished something for the day. There is something about making an X with a pen on paper that bring a feeling of satisfaction that a finger swipe will never bring.

I tracked my weight using the Fitbit Aria scale which I really like. It can detect me versus my husband and son and the online dashboard is comprehensive. My husband happily took my body measurements with an old fashioned tape measure. I’d like a more accurate way to do this because I’m not sure he wrapped the tape around the exact same spot each time. There are some guides online that can help.

Results
Weight: down 5.9 pounds
Size: 2 inches off my waist (my pants fit much better!)
Jiggle test: when I walk and run my belly no longer feels like a bowl of jelly

Mental Health – I am astounded and thrilled about how good I feel. I am one of those people that boils, boils, boils and then explodes. I also tend to hone in on something that is irritating me and let it eat away at me causing me to get stressed. Mindfulness meditation is teaching me to allow thoughts to come in but to gently let them go. This practice is bleeding into my day and I think that I am just more level-headed and don’t let issues eat away at me. I am learning to be more in the present and focusing on the people I’m with and what they are saying and perhaps even interrupt less during a conversation.

Yoga – has helped me build my core, and along with meditation, I have become a better breather. I have been going to a structural body therapist and recently he focused on my ribs and diaphragm and I can breather deeper now. I learned from him that many women like myself that wear underwire bras have shallow breathing because their rib cages are being constricted. (side note: Can someone please design a bra that allows us to breathe unencumbered??). Breathing is one of the most crucial, healthy and FREE things we can do for our body and mind yet so many of us practice shallow breathing.

Vitamins – I was sick a lot last year and I thought maybe it was because I wasn’t taking my vitamins. I didn’t get sick this month, except for on one of the last days of the month I was feeling a bit rotten, but I think I was more tired than anything. I think perhaps my sugar break wasn’t so difficult because I was taking the right vitamins to eliminate any cravings – B, magnesium and zinc.

Water – I believe that because I was drinking probably closer to the amount of water that I should intake than I ever have before, that my body was functioning more smoothly. I’m sorry for the TMI here, but elimination was a heck of a lot easier and regular. I would guess that also helped with weight loss.

Sugar Break – It’s hard to say how I benefited from a sugar fast this month, but I do know that there is a link between mood and blood sugar balance so if I feel more ‘even’ then it may have had an impact in conjunction with the meditation practice. It wasn’t as hard as I thought to reduce my sugar intake. One night about 2 weeks in I had a really crazy craving for hot chocolate which was resolved by making a vegan, sugar free drink. It was delicious.

Verification
As long as I am feeling better, that is good enough for me, but it’s still always nice to see if anyone else noticed a difference. I asked my husband if he noticed any difference in my ‘tude and he said that I seem more positive, happier, I manage my anger better and my sex drive is up. Not too shabby.

Next
If I had to choose one thing to continue with on a daily basis it would be meditation practice. It truly has helped me and I know it’s just the beginning of what I hope becomes a deeper practice. I plan to attend a weekend meditation retreat and look into joining a local mediation center.

I’d like to continue daily yoga but I would like to include bike riding so I may opt to choose either yoga or a bike ride. I continually remind myself that I can’t do it all.  Regardless, I am going to ensure I practice good breathing techniques every day. When I’m feeling anxious or stressed, I pause and take 5 to 10 deep breaths and calm my mind. It really works.

I will continue to watch my sugar in-take, but Saturday is going to be the day I can drink a latte, douse my pancakes in syrup and eat a tasty cupcake. I did notice after allowing myself to eat some sugar on Saturday, Feb. 1st that I felt agitated and even irritated and anxious.

I really hate taking vitamins, so I am going to review the ones I have been taking and decide on which ones I’ll continue with.  There is a wonderful interactive graph that uses scientific data to display the benefits of supplements (or lack thereof) that I have been studying and highly recommend.

Advice
If you learned anything from what I just wrote, you should now go and design your own program that is tailored just for you and what you want to accomplish. I also recommend being kind to yourself. And breathe.

SparkFun Hackers-In-Residence: The Finale

After two fantastic weeks hacking away at SparkFun Electronics, our time has come to an end. It was hard to say goodbye to the Mother of Hacker supplies, but our dog, plants, jobs and friends back in LA were feeling neglected.

When we first showed up at SparkFun and had the pleasure of meeting the Founder and CEO, Nathan Seidle, we told him about our project and that we planned on reaching our prototype goal in two weeks. He was surprised at the short time frame and wished us luck </ smirk>.  We are proud to report that we met the goals that we originally proposed and feel that we have the basis to go forward with additional prototyping.

We successfully hacked the quadcopter to be powered by a tether and thus allow it to fly indefinitely, not being restricted by battery life, and added a payload (improved optics) to a height of 20 feet. Win!

To be fair, we sped up the process by using off the shelf / ready to go platforms like the Parrot AR Drone and Dropcam. Had we started at scratch, it likely would have taken a lot longer to get going.

Doc Shawn and Sean flying the beast.

TUTORIAL

We wrote a tutorial for anyone that is interested in trying out and improving on what we did. That will be going up on SparkFun shortly and we’ll be linking to it here.

LESSONS LEARNED

If we had to do it all again, we definitely would! But seriously, there are probably a couple of things we would have done differently. Going in with a better knowledge of amps and volts and all that other electrical know-how would have been helpful. Thankfully there were enough experts at SparkFun to fill that knowledge gap and it’s motivation to take a course like this one.

Pretty quickly we learned that the balloon/blimp option wasn’t an option at all – No where near enough lift provided by the crappy consumer grade helium we had access to (aka Balloon Time helium from Target), thus no realistic way to let other people try it at home and we really wanted people to be able to try whatever we did on their own and improve on our mistakes.

As we were prototyping we kept the Interwebz informed and a few nice people pitched in with some comments related to our experimenting with the power tether:

  • Juan Carlos Paco: Put a tiny Stirling Generator there, cut the Wire, Profit.

  • Thomas Edwards: Cool concept!  You could use an adjustable power supply with a higher voltage to make up for the I^2*R losses in the cable.

  • Naim Busek: Send a full 110v up and split at the top, then you won’t have to worry resistance on the line at all.

  • Joseph Chiu of ToyBuilder Labs: Raise the voltage to minimize the power drop across the umbilical. By using higher voltages, you can deliver power with less voltage drop on the umbilical.  So instead of 12V, go to 48V, or even higher. And then use a DC:DC converter to bring power down to what the system needs. You suffer some power loss in the conversion process, so it’s not foolproof. But depending on how much power you are losing in the umbilical, it might still be worth it.

I think it would have been helpful to do a daily check-in on Google+ Hangouts where we could share real-time what we were doing and get feedback from the public on how to move things forward. Or maybe that is a terrible idea as it would have just confused us more and we would have been chasing ideas down rabbit holes. Come to think of it, the videos and tweets were probably sufficient.

So this was it, our final test to prove that we could in fact power a quadcopter and dropcam with a power cable, and then, someone had to go potty…

NEXT STEPS

SparkFun was kind enough to allow us to bring the quadcopter back to LA with us so we can continue to hack away at it. We need to continue working on the power tether and figure out how to get enough power up 50 feet of wire. Thankfully there are some smart people at Crash Space and LA Makerspace and the likelihood of this happening is very high. Now that we know the quadcopter can handle the weight of a Dropcam, we want to add some sensors to it and see what kind of data we can collect over a significant period of time. After that we need to consider raising some funds so we can really take it to the next level and write some software to make the user experience seamless between the quadcopter and whatever sensors are onboard. Sound good? We think so too. Stay tuned!

THANKS

We want to send a huge thank you to Lindsay, Shawn, Nathan, Alicia, Joel, Stephen, Brian, Jeff, all the dogs and everyone else at SparkFun that made our stay fantastic and thought our idea was at least sorta cool.

SparkFun’s Director of Education, Lindsay Levkoff

ABOUT

Sean Bonner

http://seanbonner.com

@seanbonner

In 2010 Sean co-founded the first hackerspace in Los Angeles, Crash Space. Sean is co-founder and director of Safecast, a nonprofit environmental monitoring company. They have been prototyping a number of drones for Safecast that will carry radiation and air quality sensors to hard to reach locations.

Tara Tiger Brown

http://taratigerbrown.com

@tara

Tara is co-founder and Chief Encouragement Officer at LA Makerspace, a family friendly hackerspace in Los Angeles, and co-created Represent.LA to connect and promote the Los Angeles tech startup community. Tara has been working with youth on DIY skill building and following their passionate interests through the LA Makerspace and MacArthur funded Digital Media Learning Research Hub. She is a Forbes Contributor where she writes about Women in Technology and other tech tidbits.

Parrot Drone Power Tethered

We wanted to get the Parror AR Drone to fly with a power tether so we can exponentially increase the time in the air that we get out of the battery (15 mins).

Here you go!

10 ft of 18 gauge wire

We’ll keep working towards our goal of 30 ft.

SparkFun Hackers-in-Residence Part 1

Sean Bonner and I are currently in Boulder, CO at SparkFun. This is the first post that goes over the prototype that we’re working on.

PROTOTYPE PROPOSAL

We’ve been thinking about personal drones and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) a lot recently. Both in the context of how these devices could be useful around a house or neighborhood, as well as how they can help with volunteer projects like Safecast – and if these use cases might apply elsewhere. When SparkFun invited us to help kick off their new ‘Hacker In Residence’ program exploring this drone question a bit more seemed like the ideal project to work on. There are a number of personal drone options available on the market, but for the most part they are either difficult to work with or limited in functionality. Weight restrictions and limited flight time is a big issue with most commercial options. We wanted to see if we could easily hack an out of the box platform like the Parrot AR Drone to add extra functionality or if it made more sense to approach this problem from another direction entirely.

Mary Meeker announced in her recent Internet Trends report that we are entering a third computing cycle of ‘Wearables/Drivables/Flyables/Scannables.’ As founders of member-driven community spaces, Crash Space and LA Makerspace, we see these technologies being used first-hand and hacked on by both hobbyists and experienced hardware engineers. The scope of where they are headed is infinite.

In the days leading up to our arrival we had to seriously think about the use cases. SparkFun carries a wide variety of environmental sensors (temperature, humidity, barometric pressure), Safecast has high quality compact radiation sensors… but would this appeal to a less scientific or less niche group of people? And what about the device itself – do we want something with extreme maneuverability? Or something with autopilot? The options were really unlimited.

We decided that the focus for our two weeks of prototyping should be to add a much better downward facing camera to a device that could remain airborne for a period of time well beyond the normal battery life. This would enable high-res event documentation from a previously unreachable aerial view or new avenues for personal security surveillance. We thought if we could solve this first use case, then it would be easy to swap out the camera for any number of other sensors.

SPARKFUN

We received a wonderful welcome when we arrived in Boulder. In addition to providing us with a place to sleep while in town, SparkFun gave us a dedicated room to work from at their offices. Upon arrival we got the full tour of the building – from Engineering to Shipping – everyone was super welcoming and it was awesome to see where all the red box magic happens.

The team at SparkFun have been incredibly friendly, helpful and accommodating every step of the way, especially considering we’re pretty much making this up as we go. They also provided us with everything from a shopping list we gave them filled with parts from their catalog as well as bits and pieces from all over the web. We’d like to give an extra special shout-out to SparkFun’s Director of Education, Lindsay Levkoff for setting this whole gig up!

TWO PRONGED APPROACH

Two weeks isn’t a terribly long time to solve a problem like this from scratch, so it’s lucky that we’re not starting entirely from scratch having messed around with some of these devices before and relying on some already ready to go solutions like Dropcam which we hoped would save us some time, rather than spending a week (or months) reinventing the wheel.

In anticipation of things not working out exactly perfect the very first time we decided that a two pronged approach would keep things moving in the event that we ran into any major hurdles. The breakout looks like this:

PRÖNG 1\\\

Quadcopter as platform.

We are using a Parrot AR Drone as the base because it just works right out of the box with no tinkering and is something that pretty much anyone with $300 to blow can get ahold of. Having spent time with several other brands of quad and hex copters, we knew that not having to spend a week calibrating and fine tuning balance was crucial to making this work in our 2 week window.

We hypothesized that removing the battery and adding a tether for power might give us more weight to play with as well as extended flight time. For the camera we decided on using a Dropcam because of similar out of the box instant functionality and the bonus of live video over wifi. Combining the power source for both of these devices which have different requirements would be the main trick. For very specific movement control, this plan definitely comes out ahead.

The Parrot works great as is, but is perfectly balanced for it’s own weight, and we want to add more to that. By stripping off the top hull entirely we save some weight, and luckily the Dropcam that we’re adding is fairly light on it’s own. There’s also a good bit of space between the circuit board and the plastic bottom of the Parrot, so by cutting out a small circle and sliding the Dropcam behind it we were able to attach the camera without any additional materials.

 

After we confirmed that the Parrot was able to lift the Dropcam and it’s own battery, we quickly moved onto attaching the power cord so we could extend the time in the air (battery life maxes out at about 15 mins). After stripping wires, soldering, hot glue gunning and zip tying, we got the power cord split into 11v (Parrot) and 5v (Dropcam) and were ready to test.

 


The Parrot turned on and we heard the sweet sound of the initialization tones, then the propellers started going and we thought we’d see lift. Unfortunately after it draws power and goes into lift mode a brownout occurred. We’re currently attaching things to a scope to see what is going wrong.

PRÖNG B\\\

Balloon as platform.

Quadcopters are cool for sure, but they require effort to actually fly. We wondered if removing that concern entirely might be a successful approach. Using the hardware from a microblimp as the drive controls and a weather balloon filled with helium for the lift, we thought perhaps this would just stay up on it’s own, allowing us to spend all the time on perfecting the payload. We decided to mount a Hack HD camera to the bottom for our improved visuals, though logged to a card rather than live (a problem we’d need to address later). As a bonus, both the camera and motors run off 3.7v which we hoped would simplify things. While the balloon approach lacks the fine tuned movement of a quadcopter, it completely solves the “how do we keep this up in the air for a long time” problem without even trying.

 

HackHD – 1080p Camera Module Test

 

We’ve been trying to use components that anyone can get their hands-on so we bought some helium used for party balloons but quickly found out that it’s not even close to being pure and the tank we got didn’t come close to filling the 5 ft in diameter, 100g weather balloon. The weather balloon barely floated and thus the cardboard case with the HackHD Camera and Microblimp didn’t lift off the ground. We spoke to a company that sells helium and they said that they would sell some to us if we were using it for scientific purposes and it would cost about $100 to fill our balloon. At this point we are reconsidering the balloon platform and how to fill it without having to purchase a gas. Maybe hot air?…of course that will lead to a whole other set of tests.

NEXT

We have 6 working days left at SparkFun and we will continue to hack away at our prototypes. We already have some possible solutions in the works but would love to get any feedback or ideas from the Interwebz on how to solve our issues!

ABOUT

Sean Bonner
http://seanbonner.com
@seanbonner

In 2010 Sean co-founded the first hackerspace in Los Angeles, Crash Space. Sean is co-founder and director of Safecast, a nonprofit environmental monitoring company. They have been prototyping a number of drones for Safecast that will carry radiation and air quality sensors to hard to reach locations.

Tara Tiger Brown
http://taratigerbrown.com
@tara

Tara is co-founder and Chief Encouragement Officer at LA Makerspace, a family friendly hackerspace in Los Angeles, and co-created Represent.LA to connect and promote the Los Angeles tech startup community. Tara has been working with youth on DIY skill building and following their passionate interests through the LA Makerspace and MacArthur funded Digital Media Learning Research Hub. She is a Forbes Contributor where she writes about Women in Technology and other tech tidbits.