Why I Love Flying Tiny Toy Helicopters

I really enjoy flying these tiny twenty dollar indoor helicopters. It is a sin of global markets and capitalism that these things are so cheap but man I have so much fun that I give myself a pass to buy them. I have bought five at this point, and two now work and three helicopter carcasses serve as my parts bin for the two that work. They are actually extremely durable and can take hundreds of violent crashes before anything breaks — I just fly them a lot.

Flying them demands your full focus to just not crash, let alone to do something acrobatic, as they are very sensitive to every heated updraft and spot of cold air in the room. It is a fun mix of luck and skill. There is no inherent goal in flying them perhaps beyond not crashing. You can devise courses and objects to land on or places to go, or you can fly in circles for five minutes straight, or go backwards through the entire house and back before the battery dies, or into the rabbit room and then quickly out because the rabbits hate the helicopters. They probably bring murder!

They’re noisy but not overly so, and they’re light enough that getting hit by them almost never hurts at all, although care should be taken to keep them away from faces, plants, pets, and very soft wooded furniture like this Ikea set. If you breathe too hard on those they dent.

I love the way that the helicopters swoop. Once you fly, you’ll feel it — it turns faster to the right than to the left, for whatever reason, and you can build some significant momentum by swooping in that direction, building speed and turning at the same time. Quadrocopters, which I also enjoy, are far more precise than the helicopters, so that ‘luck’ factor is decreased and it just becomes a game of how well you can steer. I am also of the belief that if you’re not crashing, you’re not pushing yourself to get better at steering and understanding how they move in space. If you always play it safe and never take that swoop just a little too far, your helicopter pilot instincts may not improve as quickly as someone who lives closer to the edge with regard to how they pilot toy helicopters. High stakes, I know.

I have also gotten into modifying them by removing the back trusses and the landing gear to make them go faster, or by putting a small weight on their nose, which works brilliantly.

Maybe I’m just childish, but I will have a five minute beak between meetings and break out the helis for a quick spin. I find that those four minutes of abandon are a great way to reset my system and feel a burst of energy, at the same time as shaking up my body from sitting all day and keeping my eyes adjusting to objects further than two feet away. The extent that my two helicopters chop up my day is inherently limited as the flight times are quite short and before long they’re back on the chargers and I’m back on task.

Syma S107 & S107G RC Helicopter - S107 & S107G RC ...
Syma 107G

I have a new project!!!

Hello world!

I am excited to announce that I’ve figured out a thing that I would like to create! My last real project was the now-defunct time-capsule app that I launched in 2016, Sealed Messenger, and that was a lot of fun and also a failure. To be fair, just about every other time capsule app so far has also failed to gain much traction, which means that there may not be a market there or at least not as an independent service. The best feedback I ever got about Sealed was, ‘seems like a feature, not a product’.

Since then, I have been working in large enterprise UX/UI design consulting and having a great time traversing healthcare, finance, higher education, utilities, and manufacturing, designing connected dashboards, chatbots, task management systems, and other automated solutions — but these are projects that I don’t choose, that enable other people’s visions and create impact according to stakeholder groups and corporate strategies far external to my own desires.

It has been rewarding to be focused on craft – the ‘how’ and not the ‘what’ or ‘why’ – but I have truly missed having a project all of my own! I did some freelance work alongside my design job over the last few years, but I have reduced that as I have felt increasingly that I didn’t want to work on just anything. To start working on something new, I had to create space for that thing to grow into.

Towards the beginning of Covid I joined an author’s group led by Smiley which was a lot of fun, and the resources, good vibes, and accountability that came with that were an excellent jolt to the system. The writing buddy I got paired with has been the best part of the experience – it has been refreshing to make a new friend during the pandemic and I still look forward to our weekly check-in’s.

So I am excited to announce that I am writing a book which will be called 101 Ways to Use a Hanky. The rest of the working title is, “a practical, historical, and personal guide to get you hooked on using hankies“. I am imagining it to be sort of a family friendly coffee table / bathroom book that you could flip through and learn something fun, put it down, pick it up, and maybe be inspired to try something new.

Basically, I have allergies. I sneeze a lot. Most people who know me will attest. And I have a grandfather, who I call Pop, who always carried handkerchiefs. My dad was more of a bandana guy, but I did see him carry that hundreds of times as well.

After blowing through a prodigious amount of paper tissues, I decided to order a pack of hankies from amazon.

And they were great for blowing my nose and allergy maintenance.

But I also noticed that I started using them in other odd ways, like as a napkin during dinner, or as a cover for my hand to touch something dirty, or to get better grip, to provide some protection for a delicate object, dry things, collect crumbly items, and, well, almost a hundred other things!

Yes, I believe a hanky could be used for hundreds and maybe thousands of different, distinct use cases. And yes, I do define what constitutes a ‘use’: if people actually do it and there’s some distinct value to the method, it’s a use case. I get more technical than that – that’s the simplified definition.

And part of my punchline is — just like carrying a hammer makes everything look like a nail, carrying a hanky starts to shift how you see the world, and you can discover ways to save effort, be physically safer, and more effectively manipulate your surroundings to find easier paths through moments in your life.

Not to mention all of the money you will save from buying less paper products and the environmentally friendly nature of reusing a piece of fabric.

So that’s that! I’m taking the slow but steady approach. I have drafted over 100 uses for hankies and organized them into eight or nine categories or ‘chapters’, but there is still a lot of refinement left to be done. I’m currently working on learning how to illustrate the elusive, ghostlike shape that is a white square piece of cloth, and I’m setting some rough sights on getting a draft done in a year, and then probably another year to see it into print, or whatever its final form takes.

If you have some fun ideas for how to use hankies, please share them with me! I am especially looking to hear about anyone’s experience as a hanky user themselves and what your most common use cases are, as simple or extravagant as they may be. All perspectives are welcome! If you have an experience or idea to share, or if you would like to stay in the loop about this project, please feel free to fill out this form and / or contact me directly via email, Facebook messenger, or here in the comments!

Keep calm and hanky on! 😛