First HomeBrew Cider

The Fermentation Begins
The Fermentation Begins
My first Bräukline Homebrew Club meeting
My first Bräukline Homebrew Club meeting

Exciting to say that I have started making my first Hard Cider! I have had the idea of doing this (and making regular homebrew beer) for a while and Boston Homebrew Supply has been great in giving me a base for advice and community of other Homebrewers.  I followed these  instructions and my flatmate helped with measurements of ingredients to 3 gallons of apple cider.  I started with cider as it seems like the easiest to make at home and generally most liked drink with everyone I know. Time will tell if the Cider will turn out ok, but so far its been fun. Already have 6 out of  about 30 bottles needed when the process is finished.  I asked a friend on what kind of name should this first batch have and she said “Original Sin,” since it’s made of apples and its my first alcoholic creation.


Blake Progress in TeamTreehouse

Solving Code Problems

Learning code on Teamtreehouse has been really fun so far. Currently I am doing a WordPress Development Track, but am focusing on jQuery.

What is nice about this section is that the teacher breaks down problems into manageable tasks using Four P’s of Problem Solving.

    • Preparation
      • Understand the problem
    • Planning
      • Plan out the solution
    • Preform
      • Do what’s required for our proposed solution
    • Perfect
      • Perfect the solution or fix any mistakes or things that have not been considered yet

When your solving or trying to create a new bit of code, it is helpful to write or comment out the Problem, Solution, then plan out the solution. Like so:

//Problem: It look gross in smaller browser widths and small devices
//Solution: To hide the text links and swap them out with a more appropriate navigation

Anyway, I thought using this inside the code is very helpful and I will use it more!

Learning Creative Learning

Scratch Day MIT Photobooth and Reflection Wall

Below is a post I wrote for a online course from MIT’s Media Lab called Learning Creative Learning. I decided to participate in this course because I was interested to see if I could apply any of the material to my own life or to my Confident Dyslexic App. It was great to take part in the course and I will use Projects, Peers, Passion, and Play as a scaffold for lifelong learning.


The Scratch Day at MIT was held on May 17th. I offered to help think of ideas for the Faire/Carnival theme. Creating a sense of community around Scratch was a main focus but also the 4P’s:


The first project was a photobooth, and second project was a crepe paper wall decoration in the shape of a tent. The Tent would be where kids could put sticky notes of their thoughts and reflections of scratch. Both ideas would show kids and adults what scratch can do and enable them to think about the physical and emotional impact it has on learning.

For the photobooth, buying a polaroid camera was not feasible, but I remembered that Scratch can use the Webcam. Instead of creating a Photobooth app in Scratch I searched and found a number of them. I decided to remix this one3 and I added7 the Scratch Day Logo and changed the description, so others could find it too. You can view it here:

My workflow for the photobooth was the following:

  1. Let person choose which outfit they wanted for the photo.
  2. Screen Capture save the region of the webcam and description box.
  3. Open image and Print it up on 4×6 inch photo paper for the kids to take home.
    Below is a example photobooth printup.


I could not have done any of this if it were not from the help and creative ideas of Linda Garmon and Lisa O’Brien. Both were critical in implementation and authorization of the photobooth and reflection wall.

Both projects were great for kids and adults. Also, the Scratch photo booth program is accessible worldwide for anyone to remix! The crepe paper tent allowed many kids and adults see what others thoughts on Scratch had been written. Below is a image of the Tent and the photo booth before the event started.



The Crepe paper tent was a good place for kids to put their thoughts of Scratch on the wall, it was also physically close to the photobooth so they could do both tasks. I would also ask them what projects they worked on while the photo was being printed, and then tell them to go to the wall and write what they liked about Scratch on the wall.


Laughter was my measure for “Play” and there was alot! I printed about 120 photos, some with multiple people one photo. By the end of the event, there were around 30 sticky notes on the Tent Reflection Wall.



Learning and Doing Art

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to draw with crayons on a table, during dinner. That made me remember my goal of doing more stuff with art this year. Will be uploading more images, video and audio soon to the media section of the website. I will be using various design and creative software to produce the media and hope the page will highlight some of what I learn.

MFA Boston, Pentagon 2011 by Monir Farmanfarmaian

3x Community Update

Building community is hard work. Luckily I am using the book; Do Good Well: Your Guide to Leadership, Action and Social Innovation. Below is a 3x Community Update of the projects I am working on. Do Good Well has helped me to organize my thoughts and strategy. Each project has problems I have encountered, solutions, and things I have found to work beyond the solutions.

[column lg="4" md="10" sm="10" xs="12" ] [iconheading type="h4" style="glyphicon glyphicon-plane"]SpaceUp Boston[/iconheading]
Problem: Still haven’t done much.

Solution: Am thinking of reaching out to others to see if there is a good date to have a meeting.

What Works: Social media in reaching out to individuals.
[column lg="4" md="10" sm="10" xs="12" ][iconheading type="h4" style="glyphicon glyphicon-globe"]World Boston Young Professionals[/iconheading]
Problem: Need further ideas from other YP’s and chart a course in these uncharted waters.

Solution: Good to have a core group of dedicated YP’s that are very savvy.

What Works: Using tools like Doodle and good docs to keep track of communications.
[column lg="4" md="10" sm="10" xs="12" ] [iconheading type="h4" style="glyphicon glyphicon-user"]Dyslexic Young Professionals Group Boston[/iconheading]
Problem: Expecting very low turnout, on niche topic, to individuals that have a “word blindness.”

Solution: In the pre organizing phase, but have first Eventbrite scheduled on June 9th. Need to cross post it on other meetup websites and reddit.

What Works: Using the free Eventbrite tool to organize people who are coming (just one so far).

All of this is a balance for me and others. In order for this kind of Social Innovation to work, I will need to continue to use the book Do Good Well and work with other people.

Field of Corn

Sustainable Thoughts: Straw or Corn Stover House via ModCell

Green Home

I enjoy the mental task of imagining zero waste systems and I have a slight obsession with designing sustainable houses and architecture.  Years ago I came across the UK based ModCell prefabricated house. Their mission is folded into their vision of the future:

‘Structures combining high energy efficiency, use of renewable materials and the ability to capture carbon within the structure are now a reality.

The US is in dire need of buildings that accomplish these goals. My interest peaked when I learned about the Brighton Waste House that is using similar techniques. But ModCell in particular resonates with me because these houses can be put up fast and don’t have a lot of pre or post construction waste.

The video below shows a timelapse of construction.

Corn is the most planted crop in the USA. It would be great if a company in the US would build baled corn stover houses using the ModCell technique.  Perhaps a good starting location would be in Iowa.  Currently, corn stover is dumped after the Cob is harvested or fed to cows. What would be the costs of collecting and bailing it for a ModCell panel? Not sure but:

ModCell’s product is now patented and the company is currently applying for a CE certification to enable European sales.

Where would the factory to produce the ModCell panels be located?

Because the materials are quite heavy and bulky, Modcell use something they call the Flying Factory – they rent space from the farms where they source the straw, near to the building site, and construct the panels there, minimising the distance they have to transport the panels, saving fuel and bringing value to the local economy.

So they applied sustainability goals to prefabricated (straw bale) walls and roofing systems. I can only hope that their efforts to patent and licence/franchise are successful. First time home buyers and home builders in the US really need to get on the same sustainability page, or try out innovative cohousing development planning. Companies like ModCell are responding to these economic and planetary pressures.

Crowdsourced Confidence and Funding

The idea to seek crowdfunding for the development costs of the Dyslexia App was one that struck me as ideal. Below is my pre-marketing campaign in Prefundia. I research all mainstream crowd-funding sites for “dyslexia, dyslexic” but this only revealed a couple documentaries, pleas from parents to fund their child’s education, and one website/app. I will go-live on Indiegogo or Kickstarter next week.

Confident Dyslexic App Image

On a gorgeous spring Thursday, I – current innovator, activist and techie – set out to make one extra-ordinary app for all marketplaces. Confident Dyslexic App: join us!

There is currently a paucity of good apps in the online mobile stores that deal with Dyslexia.  I aim to learn how to develop and release a useful, positive and empowering web app for other dyslexics.

The Confident Dyslexic App will work with the Boston and global dyslexia community to build a new ways to find strengths and use these to form compensatory mechanisms.

Enter your email above to be notified of launch! Will be using either Kickstarter or Indiegogo within the month of April, 2014. Thanks! @Blakea23

Screen shot of chrom browser

My Current Massive Open Online Courses

My participating in these somewhat disorienting learning Massive Open Online Courses, or MOOCS, are self paced and somewhat controversial. I used a helpful video to find success in these MOOC’s with five steps.

  1. Orient (Choose your courses)
  2. Declare (So other people can see your chosen course, and learn what you’re learning about)
  3. Network (With other students, and learn about their interests)
  4. Cluster (Identify similar interests with fellow students and reach out to them)
  5. Focus (Keep working on the course material, you will need to be extremely dedicated to finish the course)

I am on step number two, “Declaring” my courses and below are the courses I am participating in:


This ongoing work focuses on various web development and business skills. View my profile here.

MIT Media Lab – Learn Creative Learning

More of a community than a course, it will be a valuable network to tap into.  “Learning Creative Learning is based on an MIT Media Lab course that introduces ideas and strategies for supporting creative learning, with special focus on the role of new technologies.” The LCL website is here.

edX – MITx 15.390x Entrepreneurship 101: Who is your customer?

Taking this course, because “why not?” Course website is here.

Harvard Extension School - Certificate in Introduction to Computer Science CS50

Will provide a foundation for me learning state of the art of programming, web development, and software engineering. The Certificate in Introduction to Computer Science is the goal for my participation. CS50′s website can be found here.

edX - WellesleyX: HIST229x Was Alexander Great?

Fun learning about the “Mozart of warfare.” I am not actively contributing to the course but following along with the lectures and reading. Course website is here.

NASA & Saylor Foundation - Survey of Systems Engineering

Joint course between NASA and the Saylor Foundation to “explain the value and purpose of systems engineering, the systems engineering project life cycle, and relate the roles of systems engineers in complex space missions … identify the roles and concepts of operations, requirements, and trade studies in the project lifecycle and demonstrate the ability to apply these concepts to a real NASA mission.” Course website is here.

SpaceX and the NASA Social of CRS3

NASA needs cheap, reliable and American access to space. As the New York Times reports, more Start-Ups Aim to Conquer Space Market. One of these companies is Space Exploration Technologies Corporation.

SpaceX was chosen for missions to resupply the ISS with more cargo from a Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon capsule.  The CRS3 mission was to be  launched out of the Kennedy Space Center on March 16th.

Incredibly, I was to witness this launch, but the purpose of me going to Florida was to take part in a NASA Social event which includes:

…an informal meeting of people who engage with NASA social media accounts. Social events provide NASA followers with the opportunity to go behind-the-scenes at NASA facilities and events and speak with scientists, engineers, astronauts and managers.

Unlucky that the day I flew down from Boston was the day they scrubbed the launch. The launch was to be the cherry on the top, but the layered NASA Social cake was the raison d’etre.

I did indeed speak to all the scientists, engineers, astronauts and managers that I could approach. Documenting the science was fun but comprehending all the awesome space lore made my adrenaline spike for four days.  I was also trying to share the most impressive nuggets of interesting space information via twitter for SpaceUp Boston and SpaceUP Pittsburgh.

The images below do not fully convey what it is like in person. Both the NASA Social participants and the hallowed ground of the Kennedy Space Center really expanded my galaxy.