2011 Recapitulation

I’m back, after a short break from the blog. As you’ll recall, I was last seen finishing up my graduate applications and the second to last semester of my undergraduate career. Things were a bit hectic so I haven’t had time to post, but as today is the first day of my last undergraduate semester ever, I thought it would be a good time to get back in the swing of things. Now that my applications have been turned in, I am thinking about the future- where will I be in a year? What will I be doing? Who will I be? As I wait (im)patiently for my responses to come in, I’ve decided to distract myself by thinking about the last year, and all that has happened. I like to think that once a year I redefine myself, and 2011 was no exception. Here are a few highlights:

January:

  • I began working at RIM. My first (and only) NU Co-op began when I returned to Boston from visiting the in-laws for the holidays. This was a big leap for me as a developer, and I was incredibly optimistic about the opportunity. Unfortunately, I joined at a rather bad time for the company, and my experience was marred by corporate layoffs and a general lack of work to be done.
  • I brewed my first batch of beer. Ever since I had visiting a local home brew store with Julie and our friend Robby Roufail I dreamed of making my own fermented malt drink. Now that I had plenty of time on my hands, the three of us started our first batch, which we titled Pig Snout Oatmeal Stout. I am currently sitting next to the batch number six, a honey porter in primary fermentation.
  • I decided to apply to graduate school. RIM was already turning out to be not what I expected, and I realized that corporate life just wasn’t for me. I’m a musician, a developer, and all around a creative person, and I needed to be surrounded by like-minded individuals. Watching Julie finish up her masters at Brandeis, and meeting people involved with the MIT Media Lab, I realized that the only way to let myself grow is to pursue graduate research. This way I can experiment while also using my time wisely, and stay on the cutting edge of technology with the help of academic funding. My search for schools begins!

February:

  • Beer batch #1 is finished. It was delicious, and we promptly began batch #2- a blackberry wheat ale (get it, I worked at RIM?).
  • Winter set in. I was working 40 miles out of town, which meant a 1-2 hour drive depending on the weather. And this winter was horrible- I saw some crazy accidents. This month I spent sitting on my couch and playing video games. I’m not proud of it, but you have to survive the lows to get to the highs. And things were on their way up from here, as next month…

March:

  • I delivered a lecture at Tufts University on designing the Toscanini interface. This moment was huge for me. After this story was published in the Boston Globe, I received a few responses from readers around the country. The most exciting correspondance came from Paul Lehrman, professor of Music Technology at Tufts. He invited me to demo my technology to his Instrument Design class, and give them insights into the decision processes involved in development. This moment was a major milestone for me, as it cemented my decision to pursue a PhD and work towards my goal of teaching on a university level. Not to mention that it was a great time- and the first time I ever received an honorarium!
  • I became an audiophile. More or less- I ordered my first pair of Grado headphones, and yes, this was a life changing experience. I got the sr80i’s, which are, in *my opinion*, the best headphones you can purchase for ~$100.
  • I turned 22. Only half way to 44… yay?

April:

  • I coordinated two days of panels for the Together festival, and sat on one myself. I got involved with Together Boston through Northeastern. I was asked to assist Coleman Goughary and David Day assemble panels on various Music Technology based topics to accompany the week long electronic music festival. They found my work with Toscanini interesting, and let me coordinate a Gestural Controller panel including Ian Headley and his glove controller, Jacob Fenwick and his kinect dubstep controller, and myself with Toscanini. The panel was moderated by my good friend Jeremy Van Buskirk.
  • I also presented Toscanini at Bar Camp Boston 6. Julie and I dropped into the annual un-conference, held at the NERD center, and I dropped a little gestural controller knowledge on a group of interested individuals. I remember this event as my first lesson in miming: the watch crashed, and I had to use my free hand to move the controls on my laptop while I distracted the audience with broad movements. Wasn’t my fault, I didn’t even touch the firmware!
  • We all mourned the passing of Max Matthews. This was quite a sad day, as I never had the pleasure of meeting Max. I have studied his work extensively, and always championed him as the Les Paul of computer music. When I visited CCRMA later in the year, I saw his desk in the aptly titled Max Lab. It was humbling to say the least. A picture of the desk was included in the california post’s slideshow.

May

  • I was hired by MIT. My friend and classmate Jonathan Millman introduced me to Alexander Stimpson, a PhD candidate studying in MIT’s Humans and Automations lab. Alex was looking for a full time developer to code algorithms for a procedural adherence study. Originally a two month assignment, I stayed on to help design the metric algorithms and create a front-end graphing library which can be found in my portfolio.
  • Julie graduated from Brandeis with her Masters in Sociology. My partner in crime continued on from Northeastern to Brandeis, receiving her second degree before I could even get one! After graduating, she was an intern for a brief time before being offered a fulltime position in the paid search department at Overdrive Interactive. Her blog, TechMess, can be found here.
  • We showed Toscanini at Dorkbot WHIRL. I met Kawandeep Virdee at the Gestural Controller panel back in April. He was really excited about Toscanini, and we talked about the cool things he has his hands in. Turns out he is an amazing networker, and knows how to throw insane parties as well. He brought Julie and I to WHIRL, a tech-fair-slash-dance-party held in Cambridge. This was the most fun I’d had showing off Toscanini, the music was great and the people were awesome.

June

  • We launched http://www.ConductiveIO.com. The website was a while in the making, but our friends at iDesign Co. delivered a site that perfectly fit our needs.
  • I went to my first dubstep concert. True story. Saw Borgore in the basement of the Middle East. I felt old, but at least that meant I could drink.
  • I left RIM and started MIT. I have a thing for 3 letter acronyms, so I swapped out RIM for MIT and officially began working in Kendall Square.

July

  • I left the country for the first time in years. It was only for a weekend in Montreal with Julie, but I had a wonderful time. Hopefully we’ll get back there when it’s a bit warmer!
  • I entered the Lenovo Student Entrepreneur contest. I’m not really the contest type, but in true Robby form, I entered, got into the final round, and didn’t win. This happens to me often in contests, and I’m ok with it. I prefer doing things the hard way, and I’d rather not taste too much fame just yet- I don’t want to go crazy with it.
  • I met Wouter Van Der Broeck at the HAL lab. Wouter was a visiting researcher from Belgium. He was here for 6 months, in which time I played his guide to living in Boston. We introduced Wouter to kayaking on the charles, biking the roads of boston, the American gratuity system, and Slurpees. He survived the experience, and is back home now. Hopefully Julie and I will make it out there this summer to visit, and to experience Europe before I (hopefully) ship off to grad school!

August

  • I took the GRE’s. This was the first step to applying to graduate programs, and I pretty well. Felt good to take a standardized test again (not sure if this is meant to be sarcastic… -Ed.).
  • I survived my first earthquake. “Who’s shaking their leg? Oh… nobody? Guys.. my desk is kinda shaking… is it just me? …was that an earthquake?”
  • I finished my graphing library at MIT. In Java, I used Swing to create a dynamically scalable graphing library that I am using in the GUI for the Standard Deviation Metric calculator. The code can be found in my portfolio.
  • My final summer as an undergraduate came to an end. Time keeps on ticking, ticking, ticking…

September

  • Julie and I celebrated our three year anniversary. This was the most significant event in 2011. A good friend of ours recently referred to Julie as my “Much, much, MUCH significant other”, and I couldn’t think of a better way to put it.
  • I attended the Belgian Beer Festival in the South End. My friend Dave Lambe and I drank our way through Belgium, and I got to meet the guys from Unibroue brewery in Quebec. I even got a Trois Pistoles shirt! /beergeek
  • We showed Toscanini at World Maker Faire NY. One of the largest DIY fairs in the world! Had an awesome time immersing myself in new technology, and we bought an Atari Punk Console kit which is now being housed in an old audio interface case. This would be the last big event for Conductive IO in 2011, as my time was now being devoted to my senior year and applying to graduate programs.
  • I began graduate applications. My job, day and night, would be to analyze every decision I’ve ever made and to decide on the school(s) that would be the best fit for me. In the end, I decided to apply to the MIT Media Lab, Stanford’s CCRMA, UC Berkeley’s CNMAT, and UC Santa Barbara’s CREATE. Next year, we could be relocating to California. It would be nice for a change in scenery, but I wouldn’t mind staying in Boston (especially if I’m studying at MIT).

October

  • I debuted my piece ‘Animal Science’ at Northeastern. Every semester Mike Frengel puts together a student composers concert. My plunderphonics piece, ‘Animal Science’, was diffused live by the composer at Northeastern’s Fenway Center.
  • I started this blog. I’m not sure why I did it, maybe it was because Julie is getting me hooked on social media, but I thought it was time to create a place to document my studies, experiences, and interests. Hopefully you’ve all enjoyed what I’ve posted so far, there will be plenty more to come in the new year!
  • I visited CNMAT and CCRMA. Having already visited the Media Lab multiple times, I wanted to check out some of my west coast options. Due to the close proximity, I was able to hit both UC Berkeley and Stanford in one quick trip. I met some amazing people, and fell in love with the San Francisco Bay area. This trip gave me the motivation to get my portfolio, applications, and essays completed to the best of my abilities.
November
  • I worked on my applications. And worked and worked and worked. Special thanks to my friend and mentor, Riccardo Pucella, for responding to my emails at all hours of night and proofing countless iterations of my essays.
  • I participated in another Boston Music Hack Day. Jeremy Sawruk and I created a streaming radio application for the Free Music Archive of NJ. Julie helped with the UI design, and we had a great time doing it. Web dev is, however, not for me. It was great seeing Jeremy again though, and he brought me a case of Yuengling Porter- a win all around.
  • I attended the Sam Adams Infinium tasting. I attended the tasting at the Jamaica Plain brewery with my friend Kaween Fernando. The event was really cool, but I was really excited about getting one of the first bottles of this limited brew, which will remain in my fridge until graduation.

December

  • I finished my graduate applications. And portfolio, and essays. And they’re all sent in. Gone. Out of my hands. My future is uncertain, but for now, I am keeping my fingers crossed and my hopes high. I’m casually poking around at possible jobs, in case nothing comes through. And as a result of finishing my applications…
  • I got Skyrim, and I am the Dragonborn.
  • I assumed the role of Technology Coordinator for Together Boston 2012. Planning some really awesome events this upcoming April, hopefully you’ll be able to join us!
  • I finished my semester with all A’s. This was a feat for me, as the semester was fairly difficult. I took a lot of stress the past few months and let it build up and build up, and I survived with an improved GPA as my badge of honor. If nothing else, I’m proud that I took on a challenging schedule and the difficult task of applying to graduate programs and got everything done to the best of my abilities.
  • The year ended. Julie and I aren’t much for holidays, so we spent our winter break in Boston. The city was empty, no college kids around, and we spent our time off together. It was the first break either of us has had in at least a year. We spent new years with our friends Dave and Annie, ringing in the new year at the Wharf with fireworks.

I had a long, stressful year, but a productive one at that. As you can see, I’m not the same person I was a year ago. And a year from now, I won’t be the same person I am now. I’m sure you understand how time passes, so I won’t go into the dirty details, but suffice to say that I look forward to further evolving as a composer, a developer, a friend, a professional, and as a person.

I’ll keep you updated on the graduate applications as news comes in, and other cool stuff in music and technology. And get ready big things, because 2012 is going to be my year.

New Years Eve 2011

New Years Eve 2011

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