Michael Karlesky

A cabinet of wonders. Minus the cabinet. And possibly the wonders.

It’s all downhill from here…

Earlier this week New York City had a blizzard. Son of Polar Vortex. The prediction was for up to fourteen inches of snow. I don’t know what the official accumulation ended up at, but we definitely had more than enough to go sledding. One of the people I work with at my lab messaged me with something to the effect of “WE ARE GOING SLEDDING AND YOU SHOULD COME!!” Given that I’m still on break and two saucer sleds had been purchased, it wasn’t hard to convince me. Boy was it ever cold. I wore so many layers. I barely fit on those saucers. We had such a great time. By the way, Mom, thanks for the gift of that hat for Christmas. It’s now good and broken in.

I am my advisor’s first Ph.D. student at our school (she had only taken the director position for my lab a relatively short time before I enrolled). So we have been figuring out the curriculum requirements and policies together as we go. In the process of working through class registration possibilities for the spring semester (to start next week) we suddenly came to understand that I could be, in fact, done with classes if we so chose. And so we chose.

Just like that. I’m done with classes. Technically, I am taking a class this term in the form of an independent study, but it’s only a class in name. It’s really more an excuse to work through some material in a structured way in preparation for my dissertation. Incidentally, it’s the topic I’ve most wanted to do work in since embarking on this graduate education thing—Play Theory. And let me tell you there is some bonkers stuff I get to delve into.

So now I’m transitioning out of coursework and research projects into only research projects. The most important of these projects will be my forthcoming dissertation work. No. I don’t yet know what it will be. But I will soon need to assemble my dissertation committee and a thorough dissertation proposal. These are no small things. And the dissertation itself will be a monstrously significant project of its own with an equally significant amount of work to do in terms of a proper study to be formulated and the equivalent of a book to be written about it all.

It’s difficult to make such an estimate, but I am likely about half done with this doctorate. The persistent stress, juggling multiple subjects, and lack of time due to classes is now over. So long as I can remain motivated, on track, and productive over these next two plus years, it may just be all downhill from here.


Adventures in babysitting

How did I end up babysitting at the Waldorf Astoria for the College Football Hall of Fame induction ceremony? Well let me tell you.

Several years ago I was part of a very small wedding party. So small that I constituted exactly half of it. My counterpart in that wedding is married to Danny Wuerffel. Last week Danny and his family were in New York City for the College Football Hall of Fame ceremony. Danny was inducted. Probably more important to Danny and his family was the opportunity to channel the hype around the event into a fundraising dinner for their non-profit Desire Street Ministries. Okay. The kids were probably more excited about going to FAO Schwarz and M&M’s World.

The bride in common between the Wuerfells and myself messaged me one day a few weeks ago. The Wuerffels would be in New York City and needed a babysitter. Oh, and it would be at the Waldorf Astoria for the College Football Hall of Fame. Just the kind of just-crazy-enough that I needed to say yes.

Several hours of cute kids, hide-and-seek, tickle fights, Tom & Jerry cartoons, breaking up sibling assault-and-battery, and bedtime routine later, and I now have this story to tell…


I think it’s safe to say that fall is universally regarded as the most magical time of the year in New York City. The air is crisp, the sunlight is perfect, and there’s amazing color nearly everywhere. Holiday lights are already strung along streets and lit at night. Soon the Christmas tree will go up at Rockefeller Plaza.

This semester continues to be a much appreciated break from the intensity of the previous two years. This term I’m only up to my eyeballs and not over my head. I’m finally to a point where I’m doing really interesting project work and getting to show it. I’ll have more to share in the coming months.

Over the last six to nine months I’ve been indulging my amateur photography bug with my iPhone camera and editing software. You may have noticed that the color and quality of some of the photos I post here have gotten better over time. I try to post both my prettiest and my most interesting photos on Go East, Young Man (prettiest and most interesting are not always the same). If you’re interested to see my most artful photos, I have a relatively new online photo stream just for that.

You won’t be surprised to know that I also indulge my history nerdery whenever I can. And let me tell you, New York City is a nerd’s paradise. I recently pieced together a story from the city’s history that is interwoven with U.S. history. It’s so incredible I had to document it: Two centuries of dirty dealings, death, and design all on your ATM card.

A historic anniversary

One year ago today, Hurricane Sandy made landfall in the Northeast. One year ago today I was holed up in my apartment with my roommate waiting for what would prove to be a historic storm.

Even before Sandy truly hit us, the swell caused flooding in neighborhoods not all that far from us. I spent four full days in my apartment. School was cancelled for a week. Parts of the city were without power and heat for months. I had friends in Manhattan who walked blocks each day just in order to charge their cell phones at communal power strips. The subway system was not back to full service until this past May (major repair work is still ongoing). Today the MTA gave free rides at every subway station and line affected by the storm.

I lived through an event New Yorkers will be talking about for generations. Ultimately, I was just fine. Others were not so fortunate. Even today the recovery continues.

The sheer size of and damage caused by Hurricane Sandy is difficult to fathom. Here are three photo galleries that show the scale of the impact and give a sense for the recovery since: 1, 2, 3. Keep in mind that many of these photos are of places I’ve visited or even frequent.

Light at the end of the tunnel…

Meadowport Arch, Prospect Park

Meadowport Arch, Prospect Park

More than two years. That’s how long I’ve been in New York City and toiling away at my graduate studies. This past week was midterm exams for my last full semester of classes.

I think maybe I’ve gotten the hang of this stuff. I had two exams — five hours worth! — on Thursday. For the second exam, I studied only two hours immediately before walking in and taking the thing. I did just fine. Thankfully, my classes this semester are easier than some brain melters I’ve had in the past.

Now it was not exactly my preference to cram like that. But. First of all, now that I am a Ph.D. candidate I am no longer under so much pressure to ace all my classes. Secondly, I’m responsible for no less than four research projects in various states of completion as well as any number of other responsibilities — all outside of my coursework. These responsibilities take priority.

In fact, I just learned this week that one of those priorities is taking me to Munich, Germany in February. A paper I wrote on my Fidget Widgets research project has been accepted at the 8th International Conference on Tangible, Embedded and Embodied Interaction. I’ll be presenting my work to (and inviting feedback from) a room full of smartypants for a little under a half hour. The rest of my time there will be spent taking in all manner of presentations, meeting people, checking out other projects, and seeing the sights. I’m excited.

These last two years have been just plain crazy, outright rough, and quite humbling. But slowly things have gotten better. This paper being accepted at a really good conference is encouraging and validating (it’s a great paper if I do say so myself). I was even recently on TV for a segment about a new center just opened on my campus (sorry, they haven’t posted the video yet). 

I have just a handful of course credits to complete next term. Soon I’ll be proposing my dissertation, and eventually nearly all my time will be spent completing that monumental project. I have other adventures up my sleeve too. More on those some other time.

can’t say that these last two+ years have exactly flown by. But I can say that I’m starting to see light at the end of the tunnel.