Death by a thousand papercuts

We’re settling into our final weeks in the first term of the Tangible Interaction Design program. I thought to give you a good example of some of the things I’m working on here, I’d run you through the various injuries I’ve done to myself this week. Anyone who knows me knows that as a computer scientist, I’m traditionally horrible with my hands. A clutz, really. But through the insane amount of practice I’m getting here with soldering, drilling, hammering, laser cutting, sawing (both mechanical and hand), I’m finding my dexterity and my ability to dive into new things improving quite a bit. That said, let’s tally the damage:

*While hacking a miniature (9g) servo motor to run continuously (specifically, removing the gear blocks at 180 degrees from the plastic), my Exact-O knife slipped and stabbed straight into my thumb. I got lucky; the blade was dull and only went in half an inch or so (just shy of needing stitches). Nevertheless, painful.
*I had to get a tetanus shot to help recover from the stab wound – but of course, that means my arm will barely move for the next few days. (Side effect of the shot.)
*While looking through sheets of metal (for a magnetic one) to test my “fluttering LED throwie” project, I managed to crush my pinky under about 100 pounds or so of metal. Nothing major, but a lovely little blood blister.
*I ordered neodynium magnets for my “fluttering LED throwie” project, but quickly discovered when I opened the box that neodynium is too strong. Way too strong. (I needed magnets that are strong, but still weak enough to be shaken or pushed off the surface mechanically.) In fact, when I finally managed to slide the neodymium magnets apart, the one that I slid off flung back around and stuck to the magnet again, *on the opposite side of my finger.* Another finger injury (that makes 3). Yep, apparently these things are strong enough to pinch your finger together. Apparently, these things can be so strong that they crush human bones, but Digikey was kind enough to sell me “weak” ones.

So, yeah, at least the week is over. That said, my dexterity is improving (and my injury rate is, believe it or not, declining.) Part of my improvement in dexterity is just an increased awareness of how my level of energy affects my physical dexterity. I’ve found that I can’t quite work the same hours as an engineer anymore, at least not on physical things. This is something you don’t realize till you’re in the thick of it, but if you check in the wrong code at 3am, it’s not a big deal…and if you put the wrong end of the soldering iron in your hand at 3am, it’s a much bigger deal. So you schedule your work for the day accordingly. My hope is that I’ll graduate with nothing but papercuts…and get myself home from lab early enough each night that I don’t die of them.

To my mother, if you’re reading this: I’m fine, really. All of these things are healing nicely.

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