About Mark Leavitt
Posts by Mark Leavitt:
I recently read Austin Kleon’s compact book, Show Your Work!
It’s the inspiration for this, my first post of 2015. Actually, it inspired a whole New Year’s resolution — to update my website and start sharing my projects, ideas, and experiences with the outside world.
Although Kleon is a writer/artist while I’m more of a nerd, the 10 rules in Kleon’s book ring true for me. So I’m putting them right here* where I can refer to them in the coming year of blogging and sharing, along with any thoughts on why they apply to me. Maybe they’ll help you too.
- Share something every day, however small (this is how to build a desired habit, something I’ve been working on)
- Tell good stories (something I need to keep in mind if I want to communicate with, and maybe even persuade, “normal” people)
- Teach what you know (at my stage in life this is an obligation, not an option)
- Share your process, not a product (i.e., overcome my tendency to keep things to myself until they are fully polished; let others see the work in process and I may find collaborators and new ideas)
- Open up your cabinet of curiosities (share, don’t hoard, ideas and things I’ve collected that may be interesting or helpful to others)
- You don’t have to be a genius (I shouldn’t expect my work to be the best in the world, or even good; just stop measuring my achievements against others)
- Don’t turn into human spam (so I’ll try not to abuse “push” media like email, twitter, and facebook for self-promotion)
- Learn to take a punch (besides Internet trolls, I may encounter others critical of what I say; I’ll let them take their best shot, and just get over it)
- Sell out (which is saying, it’s OK if work brings some financial rewards; I’m not really thinking about this)
- Stick around (don’t give up too easily; the value of sharing work may only show if I build a body of it over time)
* I may have changed the order and wording of this list a bit. For the authentic list, check out the book.
At the QS Europe Conference in Amsterdam, May 2013, I gave a talk on how I use data to “hack my habits and whip up my willpower.”
I learned later the talk was videotaped, and is available on the QS website and here:
At the Quantified Self Global Conference in Sept., 2012 I presented a project/experiment that I call the HealthESeat. My goal was to make computer ‘seat time’ more healthful by adding moderate exercise without interfering with intensive computer work (I like to program!). Naturally, everything is monitored and measured digitally. This video is created from the slide deck.
HealthESeat Gamification Experiment
I was curious about the effects of gamification on use of my HealthESeat, so I hacked together an interface from the pedal speed to control a driving/flying simulation based on Google Earth. You can pedal and fly anywhere in the world.
Would you like to try out the simulator? You’ll need a modern browser with the Google Earth plug-in installed. Since you don’t have a HealthESeat, you’ll have to drive/fly with your keyboard, but I think you’ll still have fun. Here are the keyboard commands: (Note: except for the Fly and Land commands, you have to hold down or press the key repeatedly, not just poke it once.)
- G to Go (whether driving or flying — basically the throttle)
- left-arrow and right-arrow to steer (driving or flying)
- F to Fly (only available when your speed exceeds 150 mph)
- L to Land (only available once you are flying)
- up-arrow and down-arrow to climb or dive (flying only)
- space-bar is the brake (only when driving, of course)
Many other keys are active, but I’ll let you discover them yourself. Just remember, you’re not getting any exercise this way, so don’t overdo it! You’re now flight-qualified!
True, I’d never been to a hackathon before, but I knew what it was: an intensive, time-limited event where people collaborate to develop some technology – usually software code, but sometimes more. When Mark Murphy came to our local PDX Quantified Self meetup in March with news of an upcoming hackathon, I was intrigued. It was sponsored by the Intel Interaction and Experience Lab as part of their Vibrant Data Project , with Thetus, Inc providing the venue, and included some great speakers like Ward Cunningham, inventor of the wiki. And the theme — owning your personal data and getting more value from it – resonated strongly with me. So, being somewhat over the age limit for high-speed code-writing, I volunteered to be a mentor.
I got way more than I expected out of it. I’ve been tinkering in the Quantified Self field for a year or so and enjoy the meetups (shameless plug: one’s coming up June 19, it’s free, and there’s food). But a hackathon is different from a gabfest. There’s less talk, and more collaborative productivity. That doesn’t mean interpersonal skills aren’t needed. You just need to overclock your socialization CPU to warp speed. Team members have to agree on the work, laser-focus on the goal, and deliver on time, while remaining flexible and mutually supportive.
The team I was mentoring came up with a Quantified Self type of app called >insight< . Everyone meshed together almost immediately to take a rough idea and make it into more than I ever dreamt Friday evening. It is amazing to think that we had three separate groups of strangers working in parallel and produced a comprehensive, integrated solution at the end of the day.
— Amy Dorsett, Project Manager, linkedin.com/in/amydorsett
The hackathon was a great event populated by an eclectic mix of very smart, very cool people. People were willing to help one another, to cheer each other, and have fun while generating a bunch of code and solving real problems quickly.
— Hal Harrison, HalShoot@me.com, photographer
It was AMAZING how the 8 of us so efficiently and effectively all found a piece we could contribute. Our teamwork was incredibly smooth. Everyone had ideas and suggestions, contributing their own strongest skills, and always being willing to negotiate for the good of the attainment of the team goal. Our mentor, Mark, helped guide us, yet stood back to let all us newbies shine.
– Pamela Harrison linkedin.com/in/harrisonpamela, Software Engineer
The vibrant data hackathon was such a great experience! Not only did it challenge us, but it pushed us far outside our comfort zones. In many ways it was like a condensed version of a great startup experience: learning to work with strangers to build a cohesive vision, channeling our enthusiasm to push through doubt and uncertainty in order to build something you could be proud of, and learning to wear many hats and leverage everyone’s strengths and experience in order to get the job done. Way to go team! It was great working with you all. I learned so much. Can’t wait to see where insight goes!
— Paula Gill
— Paul Speyser
Co-Founders of the Healthcare Innovators Network (healthcareinnovators.com)
While I have been to many coding sprints throughout the last 12 years, these have been primarily focused on a single open source project and are primarily populated by just developers. I have never been to a hackathon, and the balance of interdisciplinary participants, whether indicative of the average hackathon or not, was an incredible experience.
We all brought such strong and diverse perspectives to the table, yet we both kept our eyes on the goals of that day, while also making incredible progress at a higher level feeling out the basic ideas and parameters of the bigger picture. This was very impressive! I think these two factors were key to our win, something I had little thought about at the time, nor personal interest in. Most of my motivation to keep on track with the events parameters was to honor the spirit of the organizers rather than to try to win. This turns out to be a classic lesson in how focusing on a healthy set of goals and ideals is a winning strategy!! Oh, it as obvious we were thinking about giving a good showing, yet it was still more focused on success rather than winning. A great thing to be a part of!!!
— Richard Amerman, firstname.lastname@example.org.
It was thrilling to work on a project addressing an issue that comes up at nearly every Quantified Self Meetup, which is ‘how do you get your data in one place, so that you can begin pulling out meaningful relationships.’ Making it easy to analyze personal data, it will embolden ordinary people to conduct more experiments and share their results. The Hackathon was a fantastic start towards that vision.
— Steven Jonas – Data Analyst & Citizen Scientist – @skjonas
Subwoofer location - a storage bin area on left side of trunk
Cutting out templates
Laminated particle board stack, with internal cavity cut out
Top and bottom added
Lugging the assembly to the car for a test fitting
Upholstering the subwoofer enclosure with carpeting
Subwoofer finished, installed, and thumping!
In June 2012, my wife Carolyn took off on a horsepacking trip with one grandson. Presto, a great opportunity for some bonding between me and our other grandson, Ryan. He had recently started driving, and wanted to install a subwoofer in his car, presumably so he could damage his hearing like all the other kids. Now with my medical background, I could have focused on the hearing risks of :boom cars”. But recalling my own youthful experiments in car audio (which is another story) I decided to be a buddy and we took on the project together.
His Audi A4 sedan had a hollow area in the left trunk area. It was irregular, so I showed him how to create a cardboard template of the shape. We glued up many layers of 3/4″ particle board, then bandsawed a shape to fit, and hollowed it out leaving a 1″ wall thickness. After gluing on a top and bottom, and a framed box to mount the speaker, the whole thing was covered in carpet, and a wood grille was added to the front for protection. Finally I helped him tap into the car’s power and speaker lines, wiring everything up with a subwoofer amplifier.
Like a good grandpa, I cautioned him about turning it up to far. As he drove away, I’m pretty sure he cranked it up to the max as soon as he exited the driveway.
Cookbook holder - folded flat for storage
This is a simple cookbook holder I built for my daughter Amy, for her birthday in 2012. The wood is mahogany, with a red stain and sprayed lacquer finish. The holder folds flat for storage.
Blanket chest - Sketchup 3D model
Blanket chest - photo of finished work
Blanket chest - interior
Blanket chest - box-jointed tray
Blanket chest - photo
I built this blanket chest in early 2011 for Dena, my stepdaughter, in honor of her graduation with a doctorate in evolutionary ecology.
Before construction, I created a Sketchup 3D model, including a simulation of the upholstery fabric Dena selected, and showed it to her. It’s nice to know the recipient likes a gift’s appearance before you undertake a complex project like this!
Video sign at library entrance
Inside view of sign - a bulletin board and an access door
Sign frame with bracing and mounting pads
Door with caned panels for access and ventilation
Assembling LCD TV to the frame
Preparing to mount the sign in the window
Carolyn and I are avid supporters of our community library in North Plains. When the library needed a way to publicize its programs to passersby, we came up with the idea of mounting a flat-screen HDTV inside the window that faces the street, and using it to display slides advertising the library’s upcoming activities. But here were some challenging requirements:
- The TV needed to be inside the window, to protect it from the weather.
- The unit had to be very thin so it wouldn’t protrude into the room – about 3″ is all the space we had.
- The appearance from inside needed to match the beautiful, clear fir woodwork in the library.
- There had to be lockable access for service, as well as adequate ventilation of heat generated.
Starting with the thinnest 40″ LED-LCD TV available, I designed a structure to mount it within the window frame. I built it from clear, vertical-grain fir, and had fun figuring out the joinery to make it strong enough within that thin profile.
To conserve energy, we wanted the unit to turn on and off automatically each day. The HDTV had built-in wake-up and sleep timer functions, but unfortunately, after a timed wake-up it would shut off if 10 minutes went by with no buttons pressed on the remote! So I built and programmed a small circuit with an Arduino microcontroller that generated infrared pulses to simulate remote control usage.
The sign served the library well for four years, with Carolyn creating a different series of slides each week. Eventually the TV wore out and was beyond repair. Unable to locate a new TV with that thin profile, the unit was removed and the parts reclaimed.
Thanks to everyone who took the time to come by, share memories of the past, and muse about what lies ahead. From neighbors who live a few miles away, to friends and coworkers who traveled halfway across the country, it was great to have you all there.
For my friends from the MedicaLogic era, it was a thrill to see how you are thriving and growing. Families started, kids born or growing up, and businesses born too! My best two volunteers from the HIMSS years traveled from Colorado and California, and of course my most recent friends at CCHIT weren’t about to be left out, nor were some of our home-grown Portland area health IT leaders. And it was a pleasure to have some of the friends we’ve made here in town, working together to help build the North Plains Public Library, join in.
I especially appreciate Carolyn’s efforts in arranging everything, which included cooking and preparing the food! When she decided she would do all the cooking herself – no caterers – she couldn’t have guessed that over 50 people would be coming, but it all worked out perfectly that day, right down to the weather.
The retirement party was just what I needed to mark a passage into the next phase of my life. It is a milestone I will remember fondly. Thanks for being there for me. I wish all of you the best of success and happiness.