This is a place for me (Jeff Ong) to write down ideas, half-thoughts, experiments, and otherwise. Thoughts are my own. If you’re interested in discussing anything here, please get in touch. If you’re looking for my portfolio, github, or resume, follow the links.

  • 2021 Book List

    Here are the books I want to read this year:

    Leaving room for the list to grow, but my goal is 12.

  • The Council of Pecans

    All flourishing is mutual.

    Potowatomi proverb
  • Willow

    Willow is an SMS-bot that sends you gentle, daily reminders to breathe.

    It was conceived mostly by my partner Meirav, and built by me over a few days. There are plenty of apps encouraging mindfulness, but we liked the simple and low maintenance nature of text messaging.

    The tech stack includes:

    • A google spreadsheet backend to input the daily reminders
    • A twilio client responsible for sending and receiving messages
    • A node + express server handling the incoming messages
    • a cron script that runs

    The source code is here:

    Join by texting “unicorn” to nine one seven – four five six – nine eight zero seven, and support the project’s costs by sending a donation.

  • Noise Altering

    I’ve been thinking about noise: how much of it exists, its characteristics, and the lengths to which we go to remove it from our lives.

    Not too long ago it was assumed that clean water’s not important, that seeing the stars is not that important. But now it is. And now I think we’re realizing quiet is important, and we need silence — that silence is not a luxury, but it’s essential.

    Gordon Hempton — acoustic ecologist on a mission to “save quiet for the benefit of all life.”

    Thinking about the above citation, it’s difficult for me to imagine a time when we assumed clean water was not important. It’s equally difficult to imagine that silence being important is a novel idea.

    What feels more true is that silence is, by today’s standards, a luxury. For people who live in densely populated areas, finding an extended period of silence can be nearly impossible. To me this lack of silence is a function of two compounding factors:

    • Economic systems whereby being proximate to large numbers of other people is the most efficient form of having basic needs met.
    • Population growth.

    Thus, the great majority of us live in places with other people; this is not novel, but a fact of life. And we’ve evolved to be unable to shut off our ears without technological intervention; we cannot close our ears like we can our eyes or mouths.

    Since we have no way of eliminating it at its essence, I’m interested in exploring ways of reframing silence. Taking an oblique strategy might involve understanding and exploring its opposite: noise. I think sound whose intention has no purpose for the person experiencing it could be characterized as noise.

    In 2014, I made a web-audio experiment with Laura Juo-Hsin Chen called “Tune in, tune out”. The experience would analyze the ambient environmental sound around the visitor, and use it as input into a musical experience — translating it into something remotely melodic.

    Screenshot of the website

    I’d like to revisit and update this experience, with a greater appreciation and attention to the sonic quality of the piece. Here was our original blurb:

    We started idea of filtering out the “sound of the sound”. So much effort and energy has gone into our attempts to “escape” our immediate sonic environment: conversations, distracting noises, and try to drown out the surrounding chaos.

    There’s no denying the need to focus, and there’s also no shortage of aural distractions, especially living in urban areas. “Tune In, Tune Out” offers an alternative to the music and tools we use to tune out the noise around us, channeling that very noise into a sonic landscape.

  • Cracks and Crumbles

    To accept one’s past – one’s history – is not the same thing as drowning in it; it is learning how to use it. An invented past can never be used; it cracks and crumbles under the pressures of life like clay in a season of drought.

    James Baldwin