Virginia Tech [click to go to VT Home]Virginia Tech

the OIRED blog

COMPASS - the OIRED blog

Repairing tractors and dicing salsa: practical skills for a developing world

high school boys in Tajikistan

Boys at a high school in Tajikistan

Vocational education is critical to development because it links students with jobs. With the percentages of unemployed youth spiking in many developing countries, training young people with the right skills for available jobs is of increasing importance. Continue reading »

Selling orchids means building skills: Reflections in a Thai flower market

Even amidst the most glamorous temples in Bangkok, it’s easy to spot Pak Khlong Talat, a 24 hour flower market. Color spills out of massive pavilions onto the city streets and down long estuaries of vendors. The sweet, floral aroma is unmistakable. Pak Khlong Talat, which roughly translates to “canal market” gets its name from a former life as a floating market, where horticultural exchange occurred starting at the turn of the 19th century. Now land-based, this market has become the epicenter for Bangkok-based flower growers and designers to sell a variety of fresh cut flowers, ornamental arrangements, and ceremonial garlands.


As in many Buddhist countries, flowers are significant in Thailand. Continue reading »

Creating Experiences

It’s taken me a shockingly long time to become clear about what my twin passions—music and web design—have in common that makes me so passionate about them. But I’ve thought a lot lately about a couple of sub-disciplines of web design: User Interface/Interaction (UI) design, and User Experience (UX). Gradually, associations mixed and matched in my mind, until something finally clicked.

I love creating experiences.

I’ve claimed before that I’m a craftsman, and no artist. That’s only mostly true. I feel there’s some degree of art to my music-making practice, along with a whole lot of craftsmanship. As for web design, it’s clear to me that my work is all about doing tried-and-true things, and doing them well.

But at its root, the impulse to make music is about communicating something, to another human, using extra-lingual means of expression—tools including language, but also beyond it as well. And, hey presto, the same is true of UI and UX. Let’s have a look. Continue reading »

The Great Work

pile-of-books-bigFor the past five years, I’ve been writing a novel. It’s a young adult sci-fi/fantasy about a sunken city. Five years. And its 43 pages. Unedited. Every time I think about it, I die a little inside. Continue reading »