DIY Education

Now, there certainly is something to be said to the merits of a formal education. As a fortunate holder of two undergraduate degrees (and a minor, all in four years, thank you very much), I can attest to the value of having a formal education in the job opportunities afforded to me and the theoretical better salary (still waiting on that one). Overall, if you can get a formal higher education, it is a good idea.

I was, however, reading the most recent edition of Education Life in the New York Times, and I happened upon an article all about free online learning, and I immediately thought of you all here.

The article, An Open Mind, talks about the new movement of placing educational resources and lectures online for free consumption. What an exciting idea. If you want to know more about that movement and how it came about, go ahead and read the article.

But what I discovered specifically for your delight was a small additional information box nestled in the printed article called, How to Learn Something for Nothing.

This article reveals the best of today’s online resources for learning something new. I’m particularly excited about this because I sincerely miss going to lectures and listening to the professors as they challenge my preconceptions of the world. Plus, through this, I’m able to round out some of my education that was not so thoroughly explored for fear of damaging my GPA. I wonder if they have a course on basic Burmese I could watch…

Of these, Academic Earth is my favorite. I tend to respond well to video material when I am learning, so its nice to just kick back and listen to a professor chat while I’m at home in my PJs with a cup of hot tea.

Pull up a lecture and learn something today!

DIY Culture

Today, I was sitting around reading the paper while I was having my breakfast and I happened upon an article in the New York Times from April 18th that I just got around to reading today in their Arts and Leisure Section (It takes me a while to get through a Sunday edition of the Times).

The leading story is about the powers of globalization and how it’s power is being resisted by the very forces expected to squelch difference and promote cultural homogenization. Things like the internet and cable TV, once thought would bring the world together and promote a sort of cultural global norm, has to some extent succeeded in doing that, but the reaction to it has also been the return to localism, tribalism, and subcultures.

The article, called Do-It-Yourself Culture, never explicitly mentions Steampunk, but I thought it a very significant explanation as to why Steampunk exists, why it is gaining in popularity, and why I personally believe that Steampunk will be a powerful subculture for the foreseeable future.

Steampunk economics and politics places high importance on the ability of the individual to conquer the behemoth multinational corporations that attempt to feed us mass-produced garbage made through the exploitative labor of overseas workers (who, mind you, often live and work in deplorable conditions). That’s why I love Etsy and Instructables; it gives us the power as Steampunks to choose a more ethical and greener path to direct our economic power.

Steampunk is about more than just what you buy, though. It’s a subgroup highly influenced by it’s rebellion against authority and it’s respect for, but not reverence of, the past. As a retro-futuristic movement, we can take those gems of Victorian society like fashion and etiquette and integrate them into a modern world where we understand the evils of racism, sexism, homophobia, and imperialism. Imperialism is a key idea here, because many would argue that globalization is just a new word for cultural imperialism. And to me, the reaction to that fact is why the world is more fractured than it ever was.

Steampunk had its supposed peak in the 1980’s. But I an assure you that the internet and its wealth of information is only fueling the fires of the the current Steampunk Renaissance. The demand to conform that globalization has pressed on all of us has resurrected Steampunk and the rebellious spirit in us all.

Miss Betsy’s Steampunk Keyboard

Steampunk is a subculture which is united by the internet. Without it, many of us would be delving into our steam-driven worlds in solitude unaware of the subculture that so completely embraces your love of corsets and Sci-Fi.

It is of little wonder, then, that the keyboard should play a major role in the lives of Steampunks. It’s a key mode through which we communicate and should, by any good Steampunk rationale, be properly Steampunked so as to inspire Steampunk brilliance.  And perhaps, for some strange reason, Jake Von Slatt’s keyboard did not quite meet your aesthetic needs. Allow me then, to introduce an impressive alternative to the Von Slatt keyboard, Ms. Betsy’s Steampunk Keyboard.

Fantastic. And just different enough from the Von Slatt keyboard for a different, though still decidedly Steampunk look. I really like the red velvet wrist rest and the copper tubing at the top.

The instructions to make this keyboard are on Instructables, one of my favorite sites for all things DIY. Many thanks to my friend for sending me the link to this keyboard. He always manages to find things I don’t online. He’s like an internet ninja.

If you like Miss Betsy’s keyboard, take a look at her Steampunk mouse Instructable for the perfect new accessory to your Steampunked computer.

Instructables

How I’ve managed to write this blog for as long as I have an overlook today’s website is completely beyond me. I have no excuse, not even ignorance, to claim as a valid reason for not introducing you all to this much sooner.

Nevertheless, I’d like to take this moment to finally introduce you all to Instructables, one of my favorite haunts on the web.

This website is all about the Do-It-Yourself mentality, and just like the title of the website implies, this place is the best resource on the web to learn how to make nearly anything your heart desires. A quick search of the website for the term “Steampunk” turned up 20 pages of search results at 13 Instructables per page. That’s 260 hits of just items tagged with the term Steampunk that you can learn to make for yourself.

And really, when it comes to the Steampunk mindset, there’s nothing quite like a gadget made by the wearer. I know not all of us are deft with their hands, which is why we have such wonderful places such as Etsy to shop at, but for those of us that just need a little direction in their quest to mod the ordinary into something extraordinarily Steampunk, Instructables is the place to be.

Do you have a favorite Steampunk Instructable? Let me know in the comments!

DIY Steampunk Chess Set

Chess is such an elegant game. Brought to the west from India under the name “Shatranj,” the very word conjurers up the thoughts of kings and strategists hunched over a board locked in a battle of wits. The Enlightenment period brought about the notion that Chess could be played for the improvement of one’s character. In an essay called the Morals of Chess (1790), Benjamin Franklin had this to say about the game:

“The Game of Chess is not merely an idle amusement; several very valuable qualities of the mind, useful in the course of human life, are to be acquired and strengthened by it, so as to become habits ready on all occasions; for life is a kind of Chess, in which we have often points to gain, and competitors or adversaries to contend with, and in which there is a vast variety of good and ill events, that are, in some degree, the effect of prudence, or the want of it. By playing at Chess then, we may learn:

I. Foresight, which looks a little into futurity, and considers the consequences that may attend an action […]

II. Circumspection, which surveys the whole Chess-board, or scene of action: – the relation of the several Pieces, and their situations […]

III. Caution, not to make our moves too hastily […]”

Chess needs no justification for its presence in a Steampunk world, but as you and I both know, a cheap plastic and cardboard chess set will not suffice for a self-respecting Steampunk. Gomi Style has produced a Do-It-Yourself tutorial on how to create your own Steampunk inspired chess set at a very affordable rate:

If you manage to salvage the table or find one from a thrift store, this entire set shouldn’t break your bank while creating an impressive chess set and board which will be a attractive piece in your sitting room for years to come. This is certainly a project worth doing for the chess fan.