Going beyond the Keyboard

Things I've been doing outside of programming


This is my premise for learning skills that extend beyond just the keyboard.If I was stranded in a society without computers or modern day technology, would I survive? That’s why I began spending less time at the computer over the past month and began expanding my skill set to include a better array of things that I could do. I guess I just want to diversify my portfolio.

Dusting the Old Guitar

A couple years ago, when I was in middle school, I was fooling around with my newly bought guitar. I kept playing with the different tuning pegs on the guitar - intrigued by how the sound changes with the tension of the strings. To my misfortune, I got carried away and managed to break my High E string. That was it. I packed my guitar in its case and hid it in a dark corner in some closet. I was too afraid to tell my dad that I broke a string. It didn’t help that I wasn’t doing too hot in guitar class as well. I was pretty behind in the class.After a couple of lessons, I was stuck on the same homework for more than 3 weeks. I was just demoralized.

To my surprise, a couple weeks ago, I found my guitar staring back at me in my room sitting in a chair. Apparently, my mom had dug it up from the closet and was going to put it in the attic (haha, that would have been the end of this story). My dad said he insisted she put it in my room instead.

Here’s how I found it on the chair: My Guitar

Anyways, I opened the case, and it was in the exact same condition I had left it in 4 years ago. I felt very nostalgic. Running my fingers down the frets, strumming those old strings once more, something about the guitar was very attractive to me. So, I drove to Guitar Center the next day and got that high E string. I didn’t remember anything from the lessons anymore besides learning how to press down on the frets. I opened some youtube videos, watched some tutorials, and practiced. At the end, I realized that I really like playing the guitar.

I shelved my guitar for the wrong reasons. If I can go back in time, I would probably slap middle school myself. All these years, I packed up a skill that I could have picked up years ago. I’m going to keep at it. I know that I won’t be the best musician in town, but I play the guitar because it gives me some sense of satisfaction, a bit of stress relief and a diversion from my mundane computer life. If the internet were to go down today, I could probably strum a couple chords on the road to entertain and make people happy. I won’t be rich, but maybe it is possible to survive with the guitar.

Magic Mirror with Magical People

I bought the materials to make a magic mirror a couple months ago. What is a magic mirror? It’s basically an LCD screen that has a mirror coating on it. It makes the mirror look like it’s displaying useful information while still looking like a mirror. Here’s the basic idea. Anyways, I finally got the chance to make it last weekend.

Of course, my limited skill set doesn’t allow me to go really beyond working buying materials and programming the final product, so I was a little stumped when it came down to building a wooden frame for the mirror. That’s when I was able to work on in the UTD Makerspace’s machine shop. I didn’t have the right certifications to use the machines or use any of the tools. However,I managed to meet some great people who were certified, and they helped me finish my project. They basically built the entire frame for me. I recall one of them was working on a custom Scrabble board for her family in her free time. Very cool, given the only I thing I could probably make for my entire family is perhaps a batch of nutella sandwiches.

Here’s a picture of them working on it:

Building the Frame

That’s when I thought that I too needed to learn how to use these tools. Operating Table saws, power tools, rotary machines and dremels are just a couple of things I could get out from the training. I was very inspired by these girls who chose to spend Friday nights supervising the machine shop at UTD so people like me could get to make what we wanted. I’m going to be beginning my training sessions soon too, and I can’t wait to become a certified tool member! I know I could definitely survive with some carpentry skills. Don’t be surprised if I start a furniture chain down the line.

On the other hand, I did end up learning some Javascript to make the final magic mirror work. It’s a very cool project, and if you have some time, I would suggest making one yourself. Here’s the final version:

The Final Product

The code is on github. I’ll try making my first instructables post to say how I made it sometime soon.

Growing Food for the World

I ran into the girl next door the other day and she said she was on her way to take part in pet shelter volunteering. Great! She’s doing something meaningful that’s going to help people. I was probably just going to spend my afternoon trying to think of the next game-changing app. Of course that too I’ll probably won’t do, because I’ll be hastily thinking of ideas that’ll make me rich and famous. Yeah, that shouldn’t be the reason why I want to make apps, but at a point you realize that tech isn’t taking you where you really want to. You just feel like that you’ve been doing it for long enough and need to hit it big. This was definitely stressing me out a bit, so I decided I should branch out some more. I should get out more, do something more valuable with my time that really benefits people. So that’s when I started looking for volunteer opportunities.

That’s when I came across the UTD community garden. I reached out the person in charge. It sounded very cool! I could take up my own plot and tend to it. There are monthly gardening meetings when I get to meet other gardeners. I also need to attend an orientation. I’m super excited to learn about the techniques and equipment used for gardening. I know that it is going to be a great life skill that I’m going to pick up. I know I’ll be branching out my set of skills (no pun intended).

Bottom Line

This turned out to be a very long post, but really I’m just trying to go beyond the realms of my keyboard. At the end I just want to learn more, more about the world and the people in it. I’m excited to meet the people I’ll meet when I try to pick up these new skills. Computers or not, I think I might manage to survive somehow.

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