Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Digital Design for a Granite Memorial Bench from Start To Finish

A month ago I had watched Chase Jarvis and Ramit Sethi talk about freelance work and the mentality required to do acquire work like a pro.  The main take away I got was to consider all the work I was doing (day job, other projects, new projects) and consider them like a juggler.  It requires a lot of work to keep several different projects going, but over time the goal is to be juggling the right project.

I browsed through occasionally, but the moderator set up a little recipie with where I get an email everytime someone posts a new job.  I ignore most jobs since they are either outside my skill set or not interesting to me, but one job caught my eye.  The gentleman had recently lost his wife and needed a digital illustration for a granite memorial bench.  I had never done work like this before, so I cleaned up my portfolio and sent him a bid for the work.

He said yes.  I was slightly beside myself with excitement!  

I called him up and then reality hit.  He just lost his wife and he has a young daughter. Yikes!

I thought about what would happen if my wife passed on in a similar way and the emotional heaviness of this work set in.  He had already purchased the memorial bench, but the engravers were difficult to reach.  And on top of that even dealing with anything related to his wife was challenging.

I knew this was slightly outside my expertise, but I also agreed to communicate with the engravers and make sure I could get in touch with the actual engraver -- the client always had to be patched through someone else, if they were around -- and get them early samples of the design to make sure it would engrave well.

After a few calls, I got the name of the engraver and started working on drafts.  The client wanted a quaint bridge in the center, and I started drawing out different bridges.  

I didn't one every bridge to be based on something I'd found on the Internet, so I branched out and used magazines, books, and my imagination as sources for various briges.  I presented my initial draft to my client and awaited his feedback.

He said he liked the middle bridge on the first row.  He and his wife were pretty conservative and the bridge matched their aesthetic.

I did a few more to try to pull in concepts he wanted to see with people acting as a bridge.  In the end he still preferred his first choice and like seeing additional material textures added to the bridge.

I was pretty happy with the results, then he emailed me this image.

He wanted to incorporate the border work into the piece.  I will admit, my initial reaction was jaw drop that nearly bruised my chin.  Then I zoomed in and got lost with all the details of the pattern.  It seemed it was repeated, but I had no freaking clue how to consistently isolate a base pattern since the corners joined in a complex way with the vertical and horizontal patterns.

I waited a few days, and when he asked about how things were going, I kicked my design mojo into overdrive and just did it.  I drew out each line, and copied and pasted where I could.  

Eventually I banged out one panel, and was able to give him a draft.  The main issue was the white space on either side of the first and last panel.  The empty parts where due to a dimension mismatch.  The border pattern he wanted was not as wide as the bench width. 

He used Photoshop and emailed me a way the sides could be expanded.  I really wish I could have used the same method to stretch out the first and last panels, but I was using a vector based program which is essentially based on dots and lines.  It would be pretty obvious if something wasn't lined up.

I redrew the sides and took a portion of the border pattern to repeat the wider pattern until the first and last panel were much wider.

My client also requested there be a little more life in the center panel.  I added more trees a couple more birds, and the river took me 3 tries, but I eventually had something I was happy with.

Here's the center panel by itself.
I had sent out a test file to the engraver and an early draft to make sure I wasn't breaking any design limits since I had never designed for stone.  But he sent back images using a similar stone and the results came out pretty good.  

I spoke to a friend about this project and how each phase of it required different approaches and different energies very similar to the beginning, middle, and end game of chess. 

The client is now awaiting photographs of the final engravings and I've requested copies so I can share them here as well.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The Illusion of being powerless

No one person has full control over their environment.  But being in an environment with very little control can fool one to thinking that narrow sliver of control is all that's available outside the controlling environment.  The limits in the controlling environment aren't absolute and the moment the controlling environment is shed, the truth of new freedoms, like a gust of sea air, hits your lungs and you feel reborn.

The key is to move into more freeing environments as time passes and help others do the same.  Freedom equals love in many ways and doing things your love along with being with people you love helps you feel that freedom.  This environment is crucial for germination of ideas and personal development to grow into our better selves.

Just as putting aside your desires to love others shows love, putting aside your freedom so others can be free shows your love of freedom + love for the one you sacrifice for. 

Monday, August 5, 2013

Interruption versus Invitation

My son had the strange pleasure of being invited to a girls birthday party after a string of action-themed birthday parties.  Take months of transformers and action hero themed decor, cakes, and goody bags and place them next to a party with every utensil, napkin, inch of frosting a bright pink.  It was quite a shock for him and he quickly slipped into the zone.  The sort of zone where people let him continue to play musical chairs after he has lost in previous rounds.  He was able to find solace in a toy he found from another room. It was a pink Hello Kitty remote controlled car.

Among all the girly vibe, he was a lost little boy who clung on to one thing reminding him of what he found fun and adventurous.

Contrast his pink experience of interruption to the event that happened this morning.  It has actually happened many mornings, and it all started with a seed.

At the beginning of the year, I was laying out different seeds for this years garden.  It is a common practice after 5 years of gardening, but this year I decided to include my son and daughter in the early stages of the process.  They looked at my seed inventory and both agreed they'd love to grow corn, and to be specific, corn intended to become popcorn.

I had grown corn for popcorn for a couple years, but they were new to every stage of the process from seed to sprout.  They often daily asked, "Is it done yet?", just after the corn seeds were planted.  A gardeners work is really never done and they watched the plant disappear to shoot out of the dirt and spring up with it's slender and long green leaves.  Each week it added inches to it's stature and my son and daughter made sure the plants were well watered.

In time, we took the best of the indoor corn plants and set them out in a row on the side of garden near the middle of the yard.  They soon learned to see how the outdoor corn plants were doing by daily walking through the garden.  Each new day if I decided to do a walk, I would always extend an invitation to my kids, and they would accept most invitations.

My son would toss on his sandals and see how the corn plants grew from being as high as his knees to a height beyond his reach even while on his tippy toes.  Then his visits revealed the plant could grow even taller than me, which was about the time the corn plants flowered.  He watched bees comb through the flowers with the yellow powdery sacks on their legs and soon he saw the fruits of pollination.  The corn grew from in between the stalk and leaf.  Once the silky tops progressed from a faint green to a rusty brown, he could take ear of corn indoors.  We set the corn on a window sill to harden in the sun and we are currently waiting for our first seed-to-seed bowl of popcorn.

I've experienced the interruption versus invitation contrast several times when working on creative projects. There are times where I fall into circles with people who are more experienced and have more resources than I do.  Some are more graceful about it.  Others use their track record to remind me of the distance between us.  My presence, to them, is more of an interruption.

I am reminded to put those experiences in context with the other experiences where I'm handed a blank canvas, blank check, a new opportunity, or new relationship.  The newness of the experience demands my presence and is even made better by it with some effort.  It is an open invitation to not be afraid of the future and to work, love and enjoy life.  These are the experience we write stories of and live for.


Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Garden Habits + The Growth of Corn

A common habit I have when gardening is to identify a plant by it's smell.  I never bend down and sniff, but rubbing the leaves between my thumb and index finger gathers enough scent to aid my guesses.

Another habit is to take small harvests of my sage plant every time I walk about the garden.  I love having my mouth full of a fresh sage leaves - which tastes more like furry medicine than anything.

This is the first year our corn crop was selected by our kids.  They both love popcorn and, sometime in the spring, decided to throw way too many seeds into a tiny blue pot once used by my wife for oregano and other herbs.

In a magical world or highly advanced society, the corn plants would appear a foot tall the next day. Unfortunately, time is not on our side and lends us glimpses of growth only for the most patient of souls.  My kids would ask me each day, "Can I see how the corn plant is doing?", and I'd let them see.  Their faces showed some disappointment, especially compared to the speedy growth of a coffee plant.

Soon the time came where the frosts of winter retreated, and I placed a few corn plants down each week.  In New England planting early has almost always killed all of my former indoor plants due to surprise frosts, or pests like the Japanese beetle.  After a few months in the ground, 2 corn plants grew up to be taller than my son and very close to my height.  When they flowered, they were around 5.5 feet.  The corn plants that were installed into the garden after the early planted crop didn't grow anywhere near as tall.

My son witnessed all this growth and now instead of a stalk that was as big as his arm, he sees the stalk waving in the sun at heights he doesn't yet know.  Within his reach he can graze the hairy tops of the corn husks on the way.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Postage Stamp Holder

Any snail mail die hards will apprieciate this postage stamp holder by Mr Nib.


Thoughts from the start of July


I do my best to sneak out to the garden before I begin the day job.  It is my little sanctuary.  A reminder that despite the tornadoes, the heat, humidity, and selfish scavengers plants are determined to grow.  From the chewed leaves on the sunflowers to the weeds encroaching all plants from every side, plants still rise above it all.  This ascending not only makes sure the plant continues to get sun, but it ensures it's fruit isn't lost.

Another thing I learn from the garden is to embrace the unexpected.  My wife was adamant about bringing black raspberries, golden raspberries, and blackberries into our back yard.  We've enjoyed their presence, but a couple of years ago, wild blackberries grew through the gaps of our berries and now produce more berries than all our plants combined.  They are thorny and often grow in hard to reach areas, which means my hands and dress shirt get several pokes for each handful of blackberries.  The upside is wild blackberries are ready to harvest earlier than the other berries.  We get a thorny preview of what's to come.

I am careful to not shove my love for gardening down my kids throat, and watch them to see what interests them the most about this life shooting up from the ground.  My son has taken up my habit of tasting fresh sage leaves upon each trip to the garden.  My daughter loves picking blackberries, and makes it clear that her power extends to any berries I've picked.

Design Project #1

My client and fellow community member and I worked on this project for a few weeks.  I struggled coming up with an appropriate render, but drawing it out by hand seemed to work.  It is a concept/product pitch for an animal track maker.  I envision more animals going extinct, but I don't want their memory to be forgotten.  This product would serve as a nice way to remember those animals that aren't around anymore, and remind us to care for those that are almost extinct.

Design Project #2

Being at the end game phase, where a prototype will be ordered feels good.  Since the design I'm working on requires color, I'll be using tinkercad to add certain hues to the design.  Colored tinkercad designs make it perfectly into and can be ordered in multicolor sandstone.

Design Project #3

Oh you!  Target of my procrastination!  This project will most likely be several games, but my hope is to
have something ready for a conference I'll be attending in New York.  My primitive tests so far have been successful.

(Esc) - reset
(Up,Down,Left,Right Arrows) - Move the stick figure.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Technique my brother taught me (draw and trace)

I had a rough time figuring out how I would render a giraffe.  I'm sure it's possible, but I wanted to get my results done fast.  My client already paid, and I have 2 other projects that need attention.

So I started with a pencil sketch.  It's pretty simple and fits with how I have been presenting ideas on   The title on top and the meat of the idea filling most of the page.

From there, I took a picture of this with my iPhone and used inkscape to trace the outlines and color in the rest.  

I figure I will do more animals based on the quirky communities recommendations and requests, so this is the main image I used for the idea submission.

Monday, June 3, 2013

One step closer

In Central Massachusetts the rain comes at a time where I'm dealing with a cold as the summer approaches and bracing myself for another Monday morning.  While I do feel like I have a fever, my daughter assured me my temperature was only 22.  

The rain acts as a natural soother.  All the diligent leaves that can be seen shine with a green glow.  Even with these perceived forces before me, I look for a pick me up to help start my day with a high.
This pick me up comes in the form of two poems.
I definitely see this world, as resources continue to grow, polarizing our population.  People are going to be more free to do work that makes them stand out.  That highlights their strengths and helps them find others during their success.  For me, I find that the quiet poets that share their minds on act as the perfect remedy and are a consistent source of inspiration.  Not all poetry there does the trick.  I tend to favor shorter poems with potent the metaphors.  

I thought about poets and realized that hip hop artists fall in this category.  They often have the fortune of being backed by a beat and tons of promotion.  The poets I read have very little promotion, and I find my favorites after passing by 20 or so other poems that aren't right for me.  The ones that stand out are backed by the world I bring to them.  The noise in my lab and my blur of a commute...  The happiness I feel when my 2 year old daughter can successfully crack eggs and wash her hands to stir the eggs as they cook...  The isolation that can happen in the suburbs... Finding out a new neighbor has a garden... All this... every ounce of it is the background for the poems I found.  

My Final Poem for my Creative Writing class by reddit user Darmuh 
When a fire starts to burn
And the smoke hugs the flames,
It becomes my concern,
How they know me by name.
They creep at night,
Stalk in the day,
They creep at night,
When you walk their way.
You may never know
Or be able to grasp,
Where these creatures grow,
In a land so vast.
They travel in pairs,
Whilst hunting for you,
And to your despair,
They never lose.
They creep at night,
When the fire starts to burn,
They creep at night,
And for you they yearn.
Memory distortion,
A sense of Déjà vu,
Memory distortion,
Have I met you?
A man starts a fire,
The smoke hugs the flame,
And sure as hellfire,
They call for his name,
For he shall expire as a
casualty in their reign.
They creep at night,
They never lose,
They creep at night,
Whilst hunting for you.
And now they’re here.

And this next poem pushes my levels of inspiration even further.  

Fatescissor by Fancypan7z0 
The womb was warm,
Her embrace was firstly cold.
Clotho made form,
As the pink mass wailed.
As a fine tyke you were raised,
By father’s grin and mother’s kiss.
Under the watchful gaze,
Of keen Lady Lachesis.
You conquered the world,
By paintbrush and TV screen,
Your fabric slowly unfurled,
Through the hands of three blind queens.
Your aged body grazing fate,
You know what you shall face.
Now you patiently await,
Utropos’ scissored embrace.
At this point, I was totally in the moment.  I started to get some perspective on the past weekend and the wonderful things that had happened.  In this moment I formed a poem out of appreciation for my morning trips to the garden (often spurred lovely conversations with my wife) and the simulation ride at the Museum of Science in Boston with my two kids.  The simulation was of underwater craft travelling to the Burmuda Triangle looking for wreckage of lost planes and ships.  Both kids sat on my lap as we were guided with narration into the depths of the Atlantic.  My morning garden walks are to see how my plants are doing, and prune + pinch when necessary.  I always am surprised with plant growth, which recently was fueled by three 90 degree days.  The poem I crafted was a fusion of the garden world with the underwater world.  I go by bitcoinbash on reddit.

Passing Phase by bitcoinbash
This was the rain
unkempt knot twirls
stroking garden plains
combing strands under. 
Airy roots discovered
sea floor vessels
what my eye would measure
was time scarred with wonder.
 For the first 2 poems I had the opportunity to tip them in a new and trendy online currency called bitcoins.  Someone else had tipped me and I passed on the favor.  What I didn't expect was the warm feeling associated with quickly tipping someone who inspired me.  It gave me the virtual equivalent of dropping change into the hat of a generous musician busking on a busy street.  

Friday, May 24, 2013

Good Week

I say good week for a couple reasons, but after my first week back from vaca, I wish I could take another one. The trip would definitely be to a country I've never travelled to. 1) My poetry was published at the San Francisco Peace and Hope Poetry Journal. Yeah!! The night I decided to send my poetry to them for consideration was a week where I scanned 100s of craigslist entries for quick design jobs. I sent several emails and the entry for SF's peace hope journal seemed kinda out of my league, but I had been writing poetry for several years and sitting on it. I figured sending the latest three to them wouldn't hurt. They accepted two and published them here. And if you don't feel like clicking that link, here are the poems.


and out of this dim alley
my bones ache and are pulled
I take steps towards the sliver of light
careening from fruit and window sills.

To the left, whizzing one ways
cars speed as those destination deficient ones.
To my right a wise woman's hands
busy weaving her clothes on.

Migration of migrations,
those who are free to speak and step
gather their pace on the sidewalk
in slow dreary form this congregation stops.

Watching the sun rise from over there
to inside our eyes like a distant surprise unwrapped.
Glowing light bounces from cheek to cheek
and all who are grown are born again.
Ruben Brito

Escaped words
float up
side scroll
to go beyond.
Disbelief rolls away
when your face
engulfs faith.
All suffering as an arrow shot skyward
departing like a cloaked rider.
The land's bullseye is a pearly entry
releasing this vague memory. 

Ruben Brito 
The beauty of the internet shows I can submit a poem as a Hispanic in my 30s and not get beat up for it.  It can rest quietly with the works of other more talented beings and look up and around.

2) My design for quirky's Butter Boss won a design round.  It was merged with 2 other design suggestions and this means my name will be written on a patent.  FOR THE FIRST TIME!! Woo!  This one really makes me feel good, because there's been no other opportunity I've had to have the thousands of dollars to patent a design.  Quirky's open process makes it much more accessible.

3) I got my first paying rendering client!  She is a great person to work with.  Here's one of the renders she paid for and the link to the idea submission.

I'm really not into celebrating my own wins, but I've grown to see the value of sharing anything accomplished, created, or completed and how it acts as a reset button.  Taking life's events out... externalizing them through writing, singing, dancing, or painting helps you see who you really are.  I get to see that despite my fatal fetish for being creative, my creations don't define me.  I am who I am.  Approaching this reality and appreciating others just for who they are is truly worth celebrating.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Father's Day

With all the father's day hub bub I look at myself and take a deep dive to see what can be done better. You see the truth is cartoons are great, but they polarize a simple truth residing in each individual. We all have the capacity to do good and bad to ourselves and others.

We all are the good guy and bad guy inside and in the world. A He-man and a Skeletor all in one package. So the true question is, how are we doing in this fight? To be less bad and more good? I assume in this sort of struggle we are all in the same boat and agree that being more good is better for the world. It is also easy to continue doing the same amount of good as I did last year.

But doing more good is the true goal. As a dad I need to lay myself on the surgery table and see what makes me tick. What am I excited about? Am I excited about the things my kids get excited about? How often do I play with them versus do my own thing? Can I share my passions with my kids + wife? Is my job sending me back home a happy dad or an angry dad?

That last point really hits home, because my son new we were done with our last vacation from looking at my face the first day coming back from work.

He said I stopped smiling.

I do have an obligation to work and pay the bills. And I have the good fortune to have clients lining up for design jobs, and rendering work for side income, but me coming home with a frown means whatever time I do have, lunch time, time before I go to work, needs to be hacked so my mind isn't dwelling on the worst events from the day. I know father's day is holiday to celebrate dads, but for me it is more of a call to be a better dad. To give my kids a life experience boosting them out to be determined flourish.

The me that comes home from work is nowhere near there and this Father's day, like a late New Years Resolution, is a quiet and strong reminder that I need to continue finding environments where I thrive and teaching my kids to do the same.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

The Gardens

Just as the sun was rising I ran out to check on my plants.  Over the weekend I tossed Swiss chard, romaine lettuce, and broccoli into the ground from Gillis Landscaping, our local garden work supply shop.

To the left of these well established plants, were the 4 corn shoots I brought out early.  One one has survived due to this Monday's temperatures slipping into the low 30s.  I rounded the garden to the back where 3 of the 9 tomato plants where  tucked into the ground.  There's something magical about tending your garden in the early morning hours.  There is a special light and silence that makes everything look new born.  Bird calls stand out against the resting car engines.

I have been walking during lunch, but I wanted to incorporate exercise a bit more challenging.  I grabbed my bike, pumped up the tires, and rolled off down my street.  Before my ride, I set my timer to 15 minutes.  I figured I'd bike 15 minutes and give myself the same time to return.

It had been months since I biked and the simple aspects of rolling along a road at a fraction of a car's width became entertaining.  I rolled up a few streets, enjoyed a hand full of hills, and found myself passing a large well organized garden.  There was a sign casually placed on the ground, but I figured I'd check it out on my way back.

I rolled up to a river and saw someone had beat me to this spot.  Someone sat in there car immersed in the tranquility of the moment.  There was a low and slow fog adorning this river and several avian creatures soaking in the silence.  The river went beyond this person's car and scurried off to go under a bridge.  I crossed the bridge on my bike and I started hearing my timer.

I turned around and went back over the bridge.  Sped past the hushed driver, and stopped by the large garden.  One of the gate doors was unlocked.  I pushed it open and peered in to see everything neatly organized and in boxes.  Chives, tomatoes, beans, and more spring friendly plants thriving in their environment.  Certain boxes were completely empty.  I kept walking and seeing row after row of gardens all tucked into little spaces.  I worked my way back to the front to see the barely noticeable sign and it appears this well kept space is my town's community garden.

Monday, April 22, 2013

What wants to live forever?

A friend of mine on facebook asked if I knew of a company perfect for mailing away her products that contained mercury like CFL bulbs.  I didn't have an answer and threw out the first thing I remembered about mercury from a visit my wife and I made to Barcelona.

We were soaking in the splendor of Spain.  We basking in Gaudi's striking architecture seen in the Segrada Familia and random homes and apartments.  We lamented that the chocolate museum was closed due to a local holiday.  The one museum we made a point to see was the Miro Foundation gallery on the hill of Montjuic.

We entered and saw Miro's signature awkward, colorful, and visually challenging paintings and sculptures.  These all weren't that large, but the carpet dangling from the ceiling appeared to be 40 or 50 feet long.
Mercury fountain at the Miro Foundation in Barcelona, Spain
There was also the egg sculpture or I should say the negative egg sculpture, because there was an egg shaped hole perfect for a tourist to take a photo.

The most memorable and most scary exhibit was the preserved mercury fountain.  The minute you see what appears to be liquid metal constantly flowing with the consistency of water, it seems like magic.  And it is magic for all intensive purposes because the fountain has been flowing for nearly 80 years behind sealed glass.  Normally it takes thousands of degrees to make any metal move like fluid.  It would never retain it's original color, but be  glowing orange and white.  But this fountain was naturally doing what seemed impossible.

My childlike excitement wore off recently when I read that mercury can act as a neurotoxin.  To recap, this mercury fountain hasn't evaporated in over 80 years and is a neurotoxin.  Humans engage in the deadliest pastimes!!  And they still do.  I have several "energy efficient bulbs" and one thermostat with mercury which again stays around for a long time.

Yesterday I took my son and daughter out for a walk on our local rail trail.  My son asked if the Rail Trail was a good guy or a bad guy.  He also asked if the Woods were a good guy or bad guy.  He gets this polarization from the latest cartoons he fancies like Batman (Bold and Brave) and Dino Squad.  I told him neither were bad or good.  It was up to the person passing through to know what was bad for them.  If they know what poison ivy looks like, they will be wise to avoid it to save their skin.  If they don't know, they will learn the hard way.

When it comes to mercury, I don't want any of us to learn the hard way.  Please do your homework and avoid buying products with mercury.  Take appropriate steps to remove those items from your home as well.  When I say remove, I don't mean trash the stuff, but see if the company taking your trash will accept your CFL bulbs, batteries, and mercury laden thermostats.  I use Waste Management for trash removal, and they have a mail in program.

On this fine Earth Day, try to make decisions that don't let toxic problems linger for those young ones to come.  For me, relearning and a breaking of habits to make wise decisions can be cumbersome, but it's still worth while exercise.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Wild Wild West

During breakfast this morning I got the motivation to hang up my son's latest art pieces.  The titles "Snake Shooting Pine Cones" and "Dog Going To The Weights" give a hint of his creations.  The paintings themselves kind of hit at the titles.  But when the titles are combined with the images it is a sign of his genius.

Now I have a right to be biased -- I am his Dad after all -- but I don't want him to ever stop creating.  To ever stop thinking out of the box, in the box, or making new boxes.  When he asked me about the wild wild west this morning I was very careful with my words.  Mind you, I did no research to craft my answer, and most of the historical info (if any) is wrong.  But I spoke more out of observation and experience.

I explained how people eventually got bored with the East Coast... with the rules, structures, and tired of being starved of opportunity.  Eventually they set out to the West for gold or just for a new start.  They were walking on Indian ground to get to the West and needed to be careful, because the land wasn't theirs.  Some of these people were mean to Indians and some Indians retaliated.  Whoever survived eventually made it to the West Coast and are the forefathers of the cities and towns there today.

I paused for a minute to gather my thoughts then regrouped with this "moral of the story" close.  I said, "Sometimes you have a desire to do something different than everyone else.  You'll have to deal with friendly and hostile people, who have been hurt in the past.  The goal is to fulfill your desire in a peaceful way".

We are all children, really, when we see how as adults our knowledge is dwarfed as more knowledge is acquired.  Those who are close minded whether in their living room or board room, will be surpassed by those who are bold and open minded.  But in the end everyone under the sun will be inspired to do something and try something new in a big or small way.  It could be moving to a different country, or changing your style of clothes.  The goal for us all is to never be afraid to step out and fulfill our inner desires.  This challenge and burden of new desires should always be satisfied.  It is the only way we will grow.  Our mirrors should reveal different a different "us" every month, every season, and every year.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

My product idea is being discussed live tonight.

I've been a part of for about 3 years and this will be the first time one of my ideas has made it to the final evaluation.  Quirky is a community driven consumer product development company.  Every aspect of the product from the name, to design, tagline, and price is voted on by the community.  

The first step though is to get into a live evaluation and my idea for a expanding cookware hanger was selected.

These evaluations are broadcast live at and there's a running chat along side the video where the community discusses the current idea.

I encourage you to check it out.  It starts at 6pm tonight and it's a great way to see a new method of how products go from an idea to a shelf and eventually into a home.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

My obsession with seltzer

I was a huge sugar addict when I was a kid.  Passing around sugar packets at school, and drinking tons of juice, soda, and powdered sugary drinks were quite normal.

I continued this behavior through school and once I got to college it caught up to me.  Cavities and weight gain acted like bouncers to a sugar club.  I soon started having acid reflux issues after college and I knew I needed to cut back.

My wife got me into Poland springs seltzer and as an adult I loved it.  I specifically loved the taste of the water used from the Maine based seltzer company compared to say Polar seltzer.  I visited the old facilities during a trip to Maine a few years ago to pay my respects.

Unfortunately, Poland Spring is now owned by Nestle.  I associate Nestle with chocolate and chocolate water sounds wrong on several levels.  Not to mention the fact that a huge corporation "sitting on the mountain" of what I used to enjoy.

A few years ago, we wanted to reduce the amount of plastic we were recycling and we bought a Soda Stream.  It has been a wonderful experience reusing the same container I had when I first bought the machine making seltzer on demand.

Last year I made a major effort to remove sugar from my diet while adhering to the Tim Ferriss Slow Carb diet.  That meant half Trader Joes mango juice half seltzer drinks got the kibosh, but Tim recommended squeezing the juice from a lemon slice into a glass of water before each meal.  I squeezed my lemons into seltzer and fell in love.

It was the natural taste of lemons in a refreshing carbonated drink that really won me over.  The most natural soda a guy can get.  As this week has warmed up and I've seltzerfied myself, I can say I'm ready for the warm weather.

Here's a new series graphics inspired by my history with seltzer.  These are all available now via

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Sketchup Tutorial: Making A Rounded Square in 6 Steps

Google Sketchup is a free program that is quite limited, but it has a very intuitive UI so getting a product draft done in minutes becomes very feasible.

I'm going to post a short tutorial on making a rounded square, which I used as a starting point to make this render image.

Design submission to's butter twister design phase.


1.  Start by making a square.  You can click on the square tool and drag out your square or click the square tool and type in the dimensions i.e. Typing "300,300" and pressing Enter gives you a 300 by 300 square with the metrics you've set for the project.

2. Use the ruler tool to mark out the dimensions of the rounded corner.  I wanted the rounded edge or fillet to be on the last 40mm of the square.  So I click on one corner and lead the ruler on the green axis and type "40" and Enter.  I repeat this on the same corner along the red axis.  I then move to the opposite corner and mark 40 mm along the green and red axis.

3) I then use the pencil tool to make a line from one side of the square to the opposite site starting at the ruler marks I made in step 2.

4) I repeat step 3 on the opposite corner and magically all 4 corners are marked off!  :)

5) I use the arc tool to create an arc that starts and ends on the ruler marks/line ends I've made.  

6) Delete the lines around the arcs you've created.  I've left one behind in this image on the bottom right.  At this point you are all set.  Delete those inner lines and dance a jig!  You have a nice rounded square.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Be you.

Be true to the original and unique you and help others do the same.

Do this and you'll get to appreciate the unfading joy and  freedom in being yourself.


I have managed to not identify with most meme's going around from last year, but this angry cat one got me.

It's like the cat is staring at me saying, "This is what you look like right now".  I have been told I have a very natural frown.  This is never said as a compliment, and is often followed by people telling me I should smile more, which always makes me frown more.

To see it on an animal's face though isn't the same.  This cat is still cute.  And I'm sure, the more it frowns the more cute it will get.  Angry Cat, I hope you enjoy your new found success.  Please offer some online courses on how to frown with style.

In honor of today... which I will call Frown Friday, I'll accompany this frown with other frowns.  The set should remove several frowns and help you make it safely to your weekend with a smile.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

The first and last day I spent with my grandfather

There are no books to help guide one through the murky waters of divorce.  All that remains are fragments of relationships and  -- Lord willing -- enough of a relationship between family members where the next generation that's detached from the gory details of the marital split can still connect with the adults 1 or 2 generations before them.

From stories, I knew the grandmother on my mother's side had 3 husbands.  I remember the 2nd to last or the last one with her as a young child.  Most of my time with my grandmother I knew her to be single.  Picture a Dominican women in a bad neighborhood wielding a machete to prune her bushes.  The showy use of the machete was intentional and she saw it to be necessary given the crime rates of Lawrence, MA 1980-1990s.

One summer, in a surprising turn of events, my mother arranged a trip for me, my siblings, and her mother to visit my grandmother's first husband.  He was a very successful architect in Hoboken, NJ in his 60s.  The apartment he had housed his 2nd wife and his daughter who I had never met before.

As time passes, memories compress tightly to obtain new information and new experiences.  So goes my memory which compressed 1 day with my grandfather into two specific events.

The walk

My grandfather had never met me before, but he seemed very proud to introduce me to his neighborhood friends.  He waved and greeted several people he passed or saw across the street.  I remember a conversation or two, but the prominent memory I have is him pointing out the buildings he designed.

Here I was just a 5 to 6 foot high school student and seeing the fruits of his mind cast 100 foot shadows across blocks and parks while simultaneously reflecting the sky and sunlight.  There were several buildings he pointed to and would proudly say, "I made that".

The generational hand off

One of the last stops on our walk he entered a very unpolished bodega.  The moment I stepped in, I knew where I was without even seeing the business sign.  There was a bodega in my former town in Lawrence, MA and it was almost identical to the one in stepped into in New Jersey. It was a place to grab produce, manufactured goods, and candy.  Candy like swedish fish, other junk food, American and Carribean Sodas, Malta, and frozen treats.  Back before I was 10 I could purchase a piece of swedish fish for a penny.  A dollar would get me a small paper bag full of the juicy fish shaped sweets.

These bodegas also dueled as a cultural meeting place.  To continue in the traditions of the Caribbean Islands,  these bodegas provided the foods islanders were familiar with:  Yuca, Platanos, and a variety of other foods.  And on American soil, they could keep their culture in their mouths and hearts too with this small business which served as a bridge between where they were from and their present abode in America.

We both walk into the store and, of course, my grandfather knew the store owner very well.  The owner tried speaking to me in Spanish, but my grandfather told him I didn't speak any Spanish.  The owner said, "La rapidez con que se va".  Loosely translated he was lamenting how even as his bodega helped keep the Hispanic language, cuisine, and traditions of conversation alive, this culture somehow hadn't been passed down to me.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

What's in a name?

I've tried to make a habit of spending more time in public spaces, and less time retreating into the forest for a change.  I will still have my forest time, but being around others must balance out my times of solitude.

In the previous two visits at my coffee shop, the barista had trouble remembering my first name. She got the first letter right, but I always had to help with the rest. Today, she remembered my name.

It got me thinking...
   - How many interactions does it take a person with an average memory to remember someone's name?
   - Is it easier or more difficult if the stranger has the same name as a current friend?
   - How long do you have to know someone before you give them a nickname?
   - What has to happen to forget someones name?

With all that happens in life... births, deaths, new beginnings, and abrupt endings, in all this musing and making we often get to meet another soul with countless stories to widen our world. What is necessary for people to be memorable?

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Word Stacked Metaphors

For a couple years I've taken part in the secret past time of writing poetry under unreasonable deadlines.  I know I need to quit, but it's been hard.  The website I used is called NANOWRIMO, which is short for National November Writing Month.  All participants of this site covenant to give up time towards writing 50000 words.  It could be a novel, play, or short story.  I chose a story one year, and the last time I tried, I attempted to write several poems.

Writing a poem, short summaries of condensed thoughts, to achieve a lofty 50000 word goal should have triggered a warning flag somewhere in my brain to stop and pursue something more possible, but I did it anyways.  And failed to reach my daily quotas.  Which slowly helped me fail to reach the 50000 word goal.  You know, I really hate the word fail, and I'm going to flip it around and redifine the flipped fail to prove my next point.  So fail flipped around is liaf.  And liaf according to urban dictionary is someone who fails repeatedly... there's that negative connotation again!

I will redefine liaf as an acronym for what repeated failures can do for any person, group, or corporation.
L.I.A.F in my book is "Let Inspiration Add Forever".  What I mean by that is yes failures suck.  They result in scars, fears, and low points for a story.  But in the end what ends up happening is life, the creation, or product ends up being a sum of the lessons learned from several failures.  It's through these failures people take the long road enough until they know where the short cuts could be and use those quick routes to help when time is short.  And after fine tuning your skills and figuring out the faster ways to get things done you end up making a lot of stuff.  Eventually the "stuff" is seen and sometimes people like it.  Other times your creations could help someone.  In rare occasions it could end up helping 100s and 1000s of folks just like you who needed help.  You may not see this happening in a day, but if you count all the people you've met and gotten to know in the past 10 years you may find you've already influenced thousands of people.

The actions one is inspired to do are yanked out of failures and added to future creations making making more efficient until... boom.  This thing before your eyes you spent time on isn't that bad. It's actually quite alright.

So my little thing for you... which is kind of OK.. is one of my methods for writing poems.  I called it Word Stacked Metaphors.

When I was into the poetry scene in Worcester, I heard some killer Poetry Slams.  This led me to look into poetry a bit more and I ran into Joni Mitchells timeless metaphor... feather canyons.  How the hell did she come up with that??  In two words, Joni has me drooling all over myself.

There I was, on some November evening, sitting at my computer or sometimes in front of a blank page taking part in NANOWRIMO trying to figure out how I was going come up with another poem.  The pressure was too much and I needed some way to cheat.

Here's the cheat sheet.

I'll explain.  I start with a list of words.  The easiest way is to yank words out of your current surroundings.  I was sitting at a Starbucks in Westford drinking a Venti Iced Americano when I wrote this so the words straw, coffee, star, bucks, west, and ford make an appearance on my top 20 list of words.  I walked to this starbucks and saw piles of salt so 'salt' and 'clumps' make it on the list too.  Three business guys were talking behind me and left while I was writing so "group of three" and "agreement" are on board.

I then proceed to marry these words together.  I don't just put obvious words together like coffee and snack which are both related to something you consume.  I try to get non-obvious pairings like the countless of beautifully mixed race couples I've seen walking about in London.  And with "feather canyons" as a source of inspiration I was off.

Here's the word stack:

group of three

Here are the metaphors from the non-obvious pairings:

submerged breaths
straw stars
crumbly call
coffee ford
group of three unions
salty recoil
breath snack
underground star
crumbling hand
clumpy breath

and here are more I came up with transcribing this list

submerged star
bucking star
group of breaths
salty stars

In the back of my head, I keep in mind there are no wrong metaphors while this list is being made.
If anything, I compare the potency of the metaphors and grab those extremely potent ones to start the poem.  The non-potent metaphors are still equally valuable as they may help in other ways.

Here's the poem that came from staring at the freshly baked metaphors.

Title: Circles

The crumbly call placed a coastal chain
from the rocks of Maine to Oregon's rain

A friend's voice, a father's choice
A permanent stain, surrounded by skin

He said, "If we view life only as strife
left behind by a dull knife
we miss arrays of year-long plays
about goodness and where it stays."

My silence strewn
under stars
straw drips of light
on darkened cars
gave way to consent
what I called bent
was a circle in motion and never spent.

© 2013, Ruben A. Brito

Now that may be the crappiest poem you've ever read, but it summarizes a very important call I made to a close friend who currently lives in Oregon.  He helped me see the larger arc past my bad experiences as a child to asking these questions, "Am I better off now then when I was younger?" and "Is my son better off now than my father was when he was a child?".

Change over time

There are some things the rational mind is good for and others where it falls short.

Like how someone can maintain the same personality and yet change over time.

With each breath, meal, encounter, thought, or word, we release who we thought we were and enter into a new space.  This may not be obvious over a day, but over a month you start to see it.  Over a season? Most definitely.  Over a year?  The change is hard to verbalize.

These are the thoughts I have after seeing this image by John Maeda.

I love creating and making new things.  I didn't know this in my youth or in my teens.  I started to get a glimpse of it in college.  When I met my wife and as we traveled  lived in the city, and now in the suburbs, I know I love creating things with computers and definitely with my hands.

Dinosaur King Gen 1 and Gen 2 card readers and cards made for my son, Max. : )
What I failed to realize is with each creation -- be it code or collage -- the person who I was before making the thing says sayonara.  Now as someone who is reborn, I sit with the thing I made from yesterday, staring back at me, along with an ever present desire to create.

This is most pronounced when I'm experiencing someone else's creation.  I can explain to you how I learned a piece of software added a plugin and learned how to render.  Or how I watched 2 seasons of Dinosaur King with my son and used cardboard, tape, and markers to make a dinosaur card reader for my son.  But when I hear Radiohead's Pyramid Song... it totally floors me.  I am quite detached from Thom Yorke's experiences leading to this song and even though I've heard it 50-60 times, it still moves me in a profound way.

The song is profound enough to take the worries I had leading up to each listen those overwhelming emotions and pressures tucked in my chest shove them off into nothingness... helping me stand up a as new person.

Pyramid Song by Radiohead on Grooveshark

Monday, March 25, 2013

Latest idea bids at

It seems like ideas are very similar to dandelions... pluck one up and more sprout in its place.  That has been my experience this month and there are several catalyst to idea generation I'd like to share.

1) Sitting with an empty page and sharpie at a coffee shop:

There's something about watching people flow about the small space where I sit.  They drink their orders, or eat and sit.  Often shrouded in silence.  Some read, others are on their phone.  It reminds me of a temple if I don't think about the money exchanged.

2) The moment after I've read several chapters in a book:

I've read Richard Florida's Who's Your City, and I'm halfway through The Creative Class.  Several times after getting up from the book to take a break an idea will strike me in such a way all my senses get it.  It's as though the silence I wear to listen to the authors thoughts, becomes a bucket to see my environment in a new light.

3) Shower

It's where everyone sings and day dreams.  It's also the place I forget ideas since I don't want to spend money on a water proof notepad.

4) After a meeting

Don't tell anyone, but if I'm at a meeting where I'm not being addressed.  I doodle to stay awake, and it works.

5) Mind Maps

Drawing a mind map and exploding various areas where I cook, play, and garden often opens up my mind to see my environment in a non-linear way.

6) 1 Answer, 2 Questions.

This comes from Kevin Kelly's post about solutions bringing up more problems.  If I have an idea, I pretend it exists and start saying, "Now that I have this thing to fix my issues, what problems will I find if I explore this new world?".  The pretend product should at least generate 2 new questions which need answers.

7) Collaboration

Working with others has often taken me through dry spells where I was either spent from generating ideas or was generating ideas that were too similar.  Often when someone else is on fire, it helps me out of my rut as I help them with brainstorming or renders.

Here's the fruit from these 7 idea generation techniques.  Mind you, they aren't completed products, but concept renders being considered and voted for by the community.  I will post the top three based on highest votes:

Future Solutions

"We haven't reached our maximum ignorance." Kevin Kelly

The more we know the less we know.  Each hack or tech advance brings us to the place where we are asking new questions and finding larger problems that we wouldn't have imagined before.  This creates an exponentially growing space for more solutions and hacks.  

Thus inventions are always around, not just among us, but hiding beyond the future inventions we create.  Being optimistic about the future isn't just a choice to envision the best case scenario.  It is the only way we can navigate our current unknowns to get to future solutions. 

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Creativity: How do I love you, tempura? Let me fry the ways.

As a parent, I love stepping out of the way when teaching something to my kids.  This is the only way to see where my kids minds are and let them appreciate the fruits of their own creativity.

9 times out of 10, I'll use the Joy of Cooking for basic food recipes,  but recently I grabbed an old $40 Japanese cookbook.  I probably would never spend that much on a book today, so I figured I'd get some use out of it.

Bookmarked with a paper fan, was the page on making tempura.  There was a description of how Spanish and Portuguese missionaries brought frying into the Japanese culture, but I jumped to the section I underlined years ago with the instructions on how to prepare the batter and make ingredient stations.

A few minutes later, my stations were stocked with carrots, red and green peppers, and cranberries.  My kids made their own stations of animal crackers, bananas, chocolate, and sesame seeds with oatmeal.

The experiment was beautiful, because in a matter morsel moments, I got to revisit something my wife and I probably took for granted before kids: being able to insert some food in the mouth and being 100% sensitive to the new textures and tastes.  Banana tempura was a hit for me, because it was crunchy on the outside and warm, sweet, and gooey on the inside.

I was so inspired, I proceeded to toss blobs of batter in the sunflower oil and after it was fried I placed a large amount of sliced cheese on top.  My son and I fell in love with the melted cheese tempura as well and I hope to repeat this experiment soon.

Timelessness: Reading Others Thoughts

I have a horrible attention span, but I'm pretty decent at read blogs.  Bloggers write about food, life, design, inventions, and technology will eventually reference a good book.  These good books have been ones so potent even a horrible reader like me can finish a 300 page book in 2 days.

My current tastes have been leaning towards thought provoking essays and posts.  Timeless in ways that force me to think about my previous 20 years, with all that has changed and stayed the same, and try to position myself for the next 20 years.  Forecasting is very hard, and the last person that asked me for my 10 year plan (Tufts graduate I met in high school) got a really half baked answer.

When I think about what I was doing 20 years ago I start to see the benefits of long term thinking.  20 years ago I was 13 with a slow hand me down computer and begging my friend for hand me down modems so I could increase my bandwidth while chatting on BBS or playing the text based game LORD.  In contrast, last night I was watching Netflix, while creating mind maps on my cell phone from the comfort of my couch.  3 dedicated pieces of hardware (apple tv, iPhone, flat screen tv) easily doing what would be impossible with my one piece of hardware I had 20 years ago.

20 years ago, I was biking to school and biking all over my town.  I most likely was playing 10 hours of basketball a day with the friends I had at the time.  I also loved video games like Secret of Mana, Killer Instinct, F-Zero, and whatever was released from the Mario series.

The hardware and software I enjoyed have changed, but what has stayed the same?  I still love technology.  I still love new ideas.  What will I be doing in 20 years when I'm 53?  I'll probably have some used convertible red mid-life crisis mobile that drives itself.  Forcasting that far into the future is challenging.  There is quite a bit that could happen in 20 years.  The tools I use now like the iPhone, apple TV, and flat screen will be a joke compared to what I'll be sitting in front of, walking with, or riding in the future.  This trend of tools dying off has really challenged me lately all due to blog posts from Kevin Kelly.

Here in list of what I'm reading now.

Current Reads:
- (Kevin Kelly is the founding editor of Wired)
- Who's Your City by Richard Florida.
- What We Talk About When We Talk About God by Rob Bell
- Whole Earth Catalog

Monday, March 11, 2013

Current idea bids at quirky

Not sure if I've ever posted these items, but I'll throw them up anyway.  I've been contributing to an idea site recently and have been doing so on and off for about 3 years.  The site is called and I've been using a somewhat old tool to hop to more interesting product ideas.

Quirky takes ideas from it's community and chooses the ones it wants to invest in.  The community can support and contribute to the product's development and earn royalties when the product is released.  It takes the heavy lifting out of inventing, but puts the product in someone else's hands.  Here's my profile.

The mind map has been great for me since a lot of my ideas have been generated by reviewing what was done in the previous day and finding out what was really pissing me off.  With the mind map I now focus on specific areas that I interact with and jump to solutions.  I spend a lot of time in the kitchen, in the garden, and playing with new tech so my ideas reflect this truth.  Mind maps help you move through your experiences in a non-linear way and thus accelerate the idea finding necessary to find the big ideas that solve problems for hundreds of others besides your self.

Here are some of the current idea bids I have up.  Some expire in 2 weeks and others in a month.

These are some of the ideas I have up now.  Please please don't steal these and take them to China and make a million dollars.  I will tell on you.

The feedback I've gotten from these idea submissions has been wonderful.  I now know that from all these ideas, people really want a good quality fruit peeler (300+ votes) and would love a sci-fi looking pokemon inspired hemisphere to hang their cook ware (400+ votes).  When I say votes I mean, whoever votes for these suckers gets a cut from the royalties if the product is chosen... so get over to quirky sign up and get in on the action!