The low-down: Where have I been? Answered
It may be a bit narcissistic for me to think anyone missed me or even noticed I was gone, but for those of you that did notice heres the low-down.
Without a doubt, the time I spent working at Instructables last summer was the most fun I have ever had in my life. It was the perfect combination of working among smart creative individuals ( Eric, Christy, Tim, Paul, and Noah), having such an open ended job where I was actually paid to do what I love, and being in bright sunny free thinking northern California. The cherry on top of this summer of awesomeness was going to Burning Man (see pic below). It was something I had wanted to do ever since I had read about it online many years ago, and, as fate would have it, I ended up going the first year I was actually old enough to.
I don't think I am ever going to forget driving Tim's manual truck (I don't know how to drive stick) on a deserted road in Nevada, at 3:30 am Sunday morning, the energy drinks wearing off and Tim sleeping peacefully in the passenger seat, while it rained intermittently, with only a vague idea where I was going, and doing this all with just a NY state learners permit. Nor will I forget getting my first sight of the playa, just as the sun was coming up, with all the massive metallic sculptures glistening on the horizion. The week that followed was just pure surreal amazingness. Anything I wrote about my first Burning Man experience wouldn't give it justice, but Tim describes it nicely in his Burning Man instructable.
The most surprising thing about the summer though, was that by the end of it I actually looked forward to going back to school. I wanted to learn circuit building and other cool electrical engineering skills that I could incorporate into my future Instructables projects. I wanted to be able to post impressive electronic projects, instead of just minor circuit hacks like the tazer glove and capacitor charger. I wanted to master the movement of the electron.
One plane trip from SFO to JFK later, I'm back home. The contrast between Frisco and NY was staggering. If there was one word to describe how NY looked to me at that time it would be "gray". The experience was like watching the Wizard of Oz in reverse, going from the bright, colorful, surreal land of Oz back to black and white Kansas. Don't get me wrong, I love my hometown. I am of the opinion that NYC is the single greatest city in the world (California wins as a state, but in terms of a single city nothing can compare to NY). If you don't agree with me, stand in the center of the Brooklyn Bridge and turn around to get a full 360 degree perspective. Your opinion will be swayed if not changed.
Still, September 07 was a very gray month for me. It took me a few weeks to wade through the bureaucratic bullshit of Brooklyn Poly and finally get registered for classes. The classes I did get registered for were all prerequisites and nowhere near my area of interest. I know I am going to have to suck it up and complete them eventually (especially now that my school has merged with NYU, so I get to graduate with a much more impressive degree then the school I was originally accepted into), but at the time I was just too miserable and distracted to pay attention in class.
It was even hard for me to respond to e-mails from summertime coworkers because hearing about the activities at the tower brought back memories of a happier time. I was in a state of near-complete mental shutdown, my creativity was shot, and I was depressed. I decided that I needed to take a break from school, so I took a leave of absence for the Spring semester.
That leave of absence bought me a time period of 8 months to do whatever I wanted. I figure why not live out my weaboo fantasy, and travel to Japan. I can not say exactly when my obsession with Japanese culture began. Maybe it was subconsciously planted in my brain with the cherry tree in front of my childhood home, cultivated with anime, and brought to fruition when I actually started reading about their history and culture. Whatever the reason, it has been something I've always wanted to do, and what better time to "find myself" then while on a break from college (Its stereotypical-tastic!).
There was only one obstacle standing between me and the romantic imagery I had of bathing in hot-springs and meditating in front of Shinto shrines ... money, at least a few thousand dollars of it. Japan aint cheap, and even if I was going to get a job to support me while I was there, I would still need a butt-load of money for the initial travel and living investment. (On that note if any of you Instructablites knows someone in Japan who you could get me in touch with regarding job opportunities or living quarters, or has some advice for living cheaply while there, I'm all ears)
I spent most of January half-assedly looking for a job. I did not devote my whole ass to the task because, no matter how much I wanted to go to Japan, I wasn't too excited about the prospect of getting a minimum wage job which utilized none of my skills (I have very unique skills, so finding a job that used them would be next to impossible). It was looking as though my next few months would be filled with minimum wage menial labor. That is until I thought of throwing myself on the mercy of Eric and Christy, and asking for my old job back.
I lacked the testicular fortitude to ask them directly, and so reverting to grade school mentality (the one that figures rejection will hurt less through proxy), I asked Tim to test the waters and see if my old job was still available (grade school version: Psst Tim, I've got a crush on Eric & Christy ::school girl giggles:: can you ask if they like me). Tim was kind enough to oblige. A few e-mails later I found out I could come back as long as I promised to return to school in September. (This was no problem because I had already made the same promise to my parents, and myself because I didn't want to loose my 20k a year scholarship).
One plane trip at the end of February from JFK to OAK later, I'm back in California.
My longterm goal for the next few months is to live as cheaply as possible, learn Japanese, and try to acquire some work that I can do while in Japan. Living cheaply has been easier then expected. I quit smoking (something I thought would be much harder then it was, but after two months of lukewarm-turkey I was able to eliminate my nicotine cravings entirely). I am able to feed myself almost entirely off the excess of others, with the occasional purchased produce being the exception. I bike for transportation (that same yellow road bike in the picture below). I'd say that overall, it took more effort to stop being a consumer-whore then it did to quit smoking, but it feels equally good to be free of both of those bad habits.
Well thats my story. I should probably get back to work.
New instructables coming soon ...