DIY Little Bits

So I started working,  after a long hiatus,  to resume my education
in very basic circuitry. I decided to work on making my own Little Bits. (If you don’t know what these are,  imagine reconfigurable parts of a Lego – like machine. For example, you might use a light-sensing bit connected to a buzzer bit,  which would make a noise whenever it detected light. More complex connections of bits can do more complex things.)

I have no idea what I’m doing, but through extensive trial and error I’ve managed to make a power module bit, a lever switch bit, and a long LED bit.

I have a feeling I have way too many wires, because I’m just using a wire for all the paths shown in the schematics.

Not entirely clear whether one can just connect things that are connected to the same thing, as in math. Like, if A is connected to B and B is connected to C, can one simply connect A and C, as long as either of them are connected B? It seems like that should work, but what about when a capacitor or resistor is B? Does there need to be some sort of buffer with two wires? I have a feeling that anyone who knows anything about electricity would be howling at this stupid question, but I’m honestly just trying to figure out the path of the elections zipping around in my little circuits. That’s how I learned to knit: What connects to what? What is the path? I can correct any mistake in knitting (except a split stitch or knitting with the tail yarn, which I consider the only two real mistakes in knitting) because I understand the path, and how the stitches relate to one another. It took a bit of unraveling and careful watching to learn that.

I’m feeling pretty stupid about the circuitry, which is a really good place for me as I do my field work. I’m doing multi-site ethnographic methods, so I have to walk around stupid all day, to ensure I don’t make the assumption that I know what’s actually happening in each community. I’m following the path, seeing what unravels or knots tight. It’s rather humbling to ask dumb questions all day, but I really like it.

It’s exhausting thinking you know or understand things all the time. And refreshing to be forced to admit you have only the scarcest idea most of the time and you’re just fumbling along.

There’s this e.e. cummings poem that is one of my favorites–it had been on my consulting business cards for years. Coincidentally, I went to a sculpture garden in Rochester, NY a few days back, and there was the poem carved into this awesome poetry sidewalk:

may my heart always be open to little
birds who are the secrets of living
whatever they sing is better than to know
and if men should not hear them men are old

may my mind stroll about hungry
and fearless and thirsty and supple
for even if it’s sunday may i be wrong
for whenever men are right they are not young

and may myself do nothing usefully
and love yourself so more than truly
there’s never been quite such a fool who could fail
pulling all the sky over him with one smile


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