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Mindfulness Technology

Making a Simple 'I Love You' Button with the Amazon IoT Button

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The article below is specifically about using the AWS (Amazon Web Services) IoT button to create a simple 'I Love You' button that my kids could use to send a text to their mother while they were staying with me.

While that was a specific idea, the concept could easily be extended for children to send a message to a grandparent, a friend who has moved away, or a cousin who lives in another city. It's not strictly limited to the situation I describe.


As a divorced parent, you often find yourself trying to make the divorce have as limited an impact on your child or children as possible.

One thing they teach you as you are going through that process is that your child ultimately views each parent as key to understanding themselves, and any time you do anything to tear down your ex you're really only hurting your child.

So, last summer, shortly after my divorce was finalized I happened to come upon the AWS IoT button, which is basically an unbranded programmable Dash button. I've written about using it at work here.

As I was working on the pitch for that project, it occurred to me that the button could be used to solve another problem. My children are too young to have phones (my opinion), but it would be nice if they had a way, when they were staying with me, to send their mother a text to say 'Hi Mommy! I love you!' or something similar.

This is easy with the IoT button. Here are the steps involved.

Step 1 - Order Button from Amazon All you have to do is order them from Amazon here.

Step 2 - Use the mobile app to configure the button to communicate Download the setup app for Android or iOS. Next, use the setup app to put your button on your wifi and configure a basic function.

Step 3 - Change the message to your custom message The last step is a little trickier. You need to edit the Lambda function created by the setup app. I won't go in to the details, but it is possible for a person with limited technical expertise to pull off. Certainly, anyone with a technical friend or relative could do it with help.

Essentially you change this:

PhoneNumber: PHONE_NUMBER,
Message: 'Hello from your IoT Button ${event.serialNumber}. Here is the full event: ${payload}.',

To make it look like this:

PhoneNumber: PHONE_NUMBER,
Message: 'Hi Mommy, I love you.',

The change itself is as simple as what I outlined above. It's just getting to the right place that takes a little Googling/spelunking if you haven't done it before.

For kids, this is also a nice, simple introduction to coding where a simple change can be made simply, and without needing tons of additional explanation, deployment, or other fanfare. Just make a change and hit the 'Save' button.

Once done, my boys were able to send their mom a short message and have her know that they were thinking about her. In return, I knew I was helping them build connections and self-esteem and not tearing that down. Here is our completed button, plus decorations:

-iot_button_custom

This is extendable to other situations - absent friends, geographically distant loved ones, parents who might be travelling. Even adults could benefit from having a dedicated 'I love you' or 'I think you're great' button to press from time to time.

Who doesn't need the occasional reminder/short cut to tell our friends and family that we think they're great?

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Technology

Carbon Dating a Web Page

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As a side note to this post, I wanted to link to the first person to post such an article. If you search for '3 Types of Fun' on Google you get quite a few different search results back and no one gives anyone else credit (annoying) and none of the top hits had a date-time stamp I could find.

So, I found this article, which was very helpful:

https://www.technologyreview.com/s/513996/how-to-carbon-date-a-web-page/

Which linked to this thing:

http://cd.cs.odu.edu/cd/<YOUR_URL_HERE>

And yes, you really do paste your whole URL there, without the pointy-brackets. Here was one the queries that I ran:

http://cd.cs.odu.edu/cd/https://www.rei.com/blog/climb/fun-scale

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Leadership Technology

Art Week - Post 3 - Laika Exhibit at Portland Museum of Art

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Laika is a stop-motion movie studio located in Portland, OR. If you don't know the 4 Laika movies, they are:

Coraline - On Amazon
ParaNorman - On Amazon
The Boxtrolls - On Amazon
Kubo and the Two Strings - On Amazon

The post header image is a large (about 20 feet tall) skeleton that was used in Kubo and the Two Strings. It is, by their account, the largest stop-motion model ever created. It was amazing to see it in person and imagine them using it to create the movie.

These movies have been a cornerstone of our family entertainment since ParaNorman was released. So, when I heard that Portland Museum of Art was hosting an exhibition I knew that I wanted to make the trip to see it.

Laika really opened the vault - providing character models, complete scenery (including the garden from Coraline), detailed break downs of models and processes, and videos with explanation of how they approach various aspects of film making.

A favorite detail was the locker scene from ParaNorman where you can see the scale model junk accumulating on top of and next to the middle school locker room:

20180329_103107

The amazing detail in creating the overhead projector and mop bucket and paper on top of the lockers shows the kind of time and detail that Laika invests in to make the movies feel real.

When you watch the movies, they are full of detail like this.

It's clear from the exhibit that Laika invests a lot of time in money in the movies they make. This investment takes the form of details (as mentioned above), ambition (they don't rest on their laurels or just do things they know work), and technology (their use of 3D printing to create facial expressions is amazing).

Here is an image of a small portion of the 'wall of faces' showing 3D printed details that were used to create facial features for a number of characters across their films:

20180329_102415

It's often surprising how a great stop-motion studio or artist can produce wonderful emotional depth in their characters - think Wallace and Gromit.

Laika have their own special brand of this, and the 3D printed facial features are part of that capability.

That's at least partly a technological achievement in their case.

The exhibition was well put together and enjoyable. I don't think you had to be a fan of the films to enjoy it, though it helps.

I admire the work that they do and I hope for many more films to enjoy in the future.

Leadership Angle: Laika pushes themselves relentlessly in their art. They search for larger obstacles to overcome, better stories to tell, and more exciting ways to overcome them. Check out all 4 movies to see how they've evolved as storytellers, animators, and innovators.

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Leadership Art

Art Week - Post 2 - Kirkland Museum new building, Denver, Colorado

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Vance Kirkland's art has a goregous new home in Denver.

Kirkland was a painter who lived and worked in Denver for most of his life and career (roughly 1930 until his death in 1981).

Kirkland Museum opened in Denver in 2003. It incorporated Kirkland's original studio building with additional gallery space. It was an amazing, but small, museum with many wonderful pieces.

The museum was closed for nearly two years and reopened recently in their new home, a new building at 13th and Bannock St. in Denver. This move included moving the old studio building to the new location.

What will you see if you visit?

Kirkland was a modernist. If you think that modern art is challenging, his work has a universal appeal that often makes an impression beyond the normal core audience for modern art. This appeal comes from 3 places:

  1. His late-period dot paintings are large and spectacular. They have visual force.
  2. Kirkland's career spanned many decades and styles of painting. Though all of those styles are modern, there is a variety to his work and a visible evolution that attracts casual visitors. Kirkland did not stop evolving, challenging himself, or creating new things. Late into his life he was experimenting and breaking new ground. This life-long quest and variety are visible everywhere you look in the museum.
  3. Even though it is modern, it is still landscape painting. From early, more traditional landscapes, to later surreal, fantastic, and other-worldly pictures, the art remains rooted in landscape. This is true even when there is no 'land' in it. Some late work can be considered pure abstraction, though he gave them names suggestive of science fact and fiction: Explosions of Energy Near Mars 10 Million Years B.C. Or Five Red-Orange Suns in Space.

The studio building that was moved contains Kirkland's unique 'over the table suspension' rig that he used to paint. It allowed him to lie down and work suspended above the painting for long periods of time. This piece of the museum collection is something that people often comment on.

I've been a member of the museum for more than 10 years and I am really happy about the move to the new location and facility. And I am also happy the museum is open again.

It is remarkable art, and now it has a remarkable building to live in. The new building has room to allow a visitor to view larger canvases from a greater distance than was possible in the old, smaller building.

If you are put off by modern art, and my points above don't convince you, there is a lot more to the Kirkland. Kirkland Museum has 3 major collections:

  1. Paintings by Vance Kirkland
  2. Colorado Art
  3. Mid-Century Modern Design

The Mid-Century Design collection includes some furniture and other home decor with very broad appeal. A sofa that looks like lips? Yep. Lamps shaped like pharmeceutical capsules? You know it.

Kirkland

They also have a TV that looks like a space helmet and a 'marshmallow sofa'.

The Kirkland used to be small and a little out of the way in Denver, and with the move they've changed all that.

It demands a visit if you're local or visiting Denver for some other reason. It's central location makes it easy to get to. It's also easy to combine with a visit to the Denver Art Museum or the Clyfford Still Museum, both less than a block away.

Seeing these three buildings and their housed collections are worth a visit to town, all on their own.

Leadership Angle: Kirkland didn't stop pushing himself to do new things and didn't rest on his laurels, even late in his life. Also, he chose Denver as his base of operations. He could have chosen a more cosmopolitan location - New York, Paris, San Francisco - as an artist might today. He was drawn to the city and to the landscapes of Colorado and chose to make this his home for more than 50 years.

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Leadership Technology Art

Art Week - Post 1 - Art Made Entirely with CSS and HTML

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I recently came across this image created entirely with css and html:

Francine Thumg

This is pretty amazing stuff. You can see the true css/html version here (the image above is just a captured image):

http://diana-adrianne.com/purecss-francine/

HTML and CSS are the guts of the web and they do a lot of neat things. Usually they're used to make menus, position buttons, display data, animate things, and do other heavy lifting tasks of the web.

Most people who wanted to make an image like this would go into a graphics or drawing program (or get out some paints) and draw the picture, which would then be converted to an image file.

What this artist (her name is Diana Smith) has done is to use the same technology developers and designers use to position a 'Save' button on a web page, and she's used it position every single strand of hair (and everything else), as well as color and shade all of it.

If you look closely you can even see veins in her skin.

This is incredible talent with this technology, and a willingness to do something more and see what a particular tool can really do.

It also shows the versatility and power of HTML and CSS to do almost anything when it comes to display and visuals on the web.

Incredible.

As a leader ask yourself, "Do I ask enough of myself and those around me? Am I prepared to put this type of discretionary effort to my own work and art?"

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Art Week Introduction

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I've been saving up some art-related posts for a while.

I saved them up because I feel a need to justify their connection to at least one of the core themes of this blog - mindfulness, leadership, or technology.

I'm picking leadership.

OK. Here is goes:

Any artist worthy of the name is a leader. Conventional, follower, and copy-cat aren't labels that get appled to great art. So artists (good ones) lead. They do hard things and they do different things and they take risks.

This is also what leaders do.

If you aren't happy with my justification, then here's an excuse: I like art.

The first post is about a single artist and a single piece of art. The second post is a single artist's work, spanning a lifetime. And the third post is many artists working in collaboration to produce art.

I like art and I did or found or saw this stuff recently.

That's it.

Art Week - Post 1 - Art Made with CSS and HTML