Monthly Archives: April 2010

Crappy Coffee Table

A couple of months ago Ming and I decided redo the closet in the bedroom, since it was falling apart. We replaced the rod, and was going to replace the bent shelf with a new shelf long shelf, and then add some side shelves. So we went down to Home Depot and bought one of those crappy particle board covered in white melamine. Unfortunately, we had the guy cut the side shelves an inch too narrow, and left the long board way too wide. (Lesson: Always bring a ruler, and know exactly how big you’re talking about.)

While we were able to hack together something to use side shelves, we were left with three unused side shelves and long shelf. Since we need a better coffee table than the one we’re using, we decided to knock together one from the failed closet attempt. I think the only parts I’m going to need is a saw (probably will by a handsaw since this isn’t really worth buying a jig for), and probably a four half inch square by 18 inch long blocks so that I have something to screw into. Maybe, I’ll need another two solid blocks that are 23 inches long for the back as well. Maybe even four more 23.5 inches long to run along the top too.

While I like the idea of building a table, this is going to look so horrible, it’s not even funny. Wood screws right through the sides, chipped melamine, and peeling edge tape. It’s going to pretty embarrassing. So why am I posting about this? I don’t know. I’m stupid I guess.

Well, maybe it won’t look that bad.

Sketch Up Model

And Now Your Bansky News

Bansky is purportedly in SF. Follow Uptown Almanac for all your breaking news. Of course, when your popular, and your art is stencils, there’s a definite possibility of copy cats. So all this talk about “confirmed” is total bullshit. Still. It’s worth seeing.

Valencia and 20th Street in The Mission and SOMA

More photos and locations after the jump.

What’s more interesting, is that the fabled “recluse” might have been outed.

I present you, the rat himself.

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Benjamin Gets a Face Lift

It looks good. It looks modern. The only problem I have with the design is that big freakin’ blue stripe down the middle.

Compared to the $5 unveiling in 2007, the video for the new $100 bill, it’s well produced. The music. The animation. The design of the bill, all says modern, says 21st Century. It’s down right patriotic. Honestly, when I see the difference between these videos (and the 2007 video is down right embarrassingly bad) and and the change in administrations, I think it’s intentional. The government runs poorly under conservatives, because they want to say the government does a bad job. Just like how health, safety, tax, and other regulatory enforcement goes down under these “law an order” administrations, because they don’t like the law, but don’t want to be put on the spot arguing for say, more arsenic in drinking water. But I digress.

The color is tasteful. While it’s bolder than the post-2003 $20, $50, $10, and $5, it’s still predominately green, and still looks American. I really like the color shifting liberty bell in the inkwell. While the microlenses in the blue stripe are interesting, that strip is just horrible. It looks like someone forgot to take a plastic wrapper off of it or something.

I would love to see every bill similarly redesigned. And while I understand, that printing new $2 bills is somewhat sporadic due to concerns of flooding the market with them, (Last printed September 2006.) I’d still love to see a new $2 bill and a new $1 bill. It irks me to no end that, that the last time I had a wallet containing American currency with a consistent look was 1999.

What would the other bills look like? Would the color of the portrait’s face, and low-vision numerals change? Would the background image and inkwell and liberty bell to somehow reflect on the person pictured? If so, what would they be? I want all these questions answered. Damnit, bitch. Give me my money! ;)


Way back in 2002, and then later in 2004, Ryan Hoagland (old site) became both a brief old and new media sensation with both his Cityscape and Virtual Windows hacks.

Well he’s back, with Winscape, a motion corrected update of Virtual Windows. Using two plasma televisions hooked up to a mac mini, wiimote, and an IR necklace, static photos and video can be perspective corrected for the viewer with the necklace.

He says he’s planing on selling it as a kit for somewhere between $2.5k and $3k, which really isn’t that much when you consider that’s the cost of the hardware. (Alternately, the software is only $10.)

Video after the jump.


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Plantas Nómadas

Now this is nifty.

We Make Money, Not Art interviews, Gilberto Esparza about his Plantas Nómadas (Nomadic Plants), an autonomous walking robot that is powered by a combination of solar cells and a microbial fuel cell. When the fuel cell output drops beneath some threshold, the bot seeks out a water source, extends a proboscis and refills the fuel cell. Additional water is used nourish a colony of on board plants.

Gilberto’s earlier work is equally interesting. Parasitos Urbanos (Urban Parasites) (flashless site) was a series of robots inductively powered from electrical transmission lines that would move through the urban environment mimicking sounds they encounter.



I played with an iPad for a few minutes at Red Rock in Mountain View, and since everyone else to talking about it, I might as well too.

It’s a big wireless touch screen display. That’s how you have to think of it. It’s not a “big iPod Touch,” anymore than an SUV is just a big Chevette. Big isn’t just better, it’s different.

It’s not a replacement for the laptop or the desktop, since you can’t type long on it. It’s an addition. It’s for when you want to browse the Internet, and a laptop is too much. It’s for when you want to lookup something on IMDB while watching television. It’s for reading PDFs or finishing tweaking a presentation on a plane. It’s a device a for consumption, not creation. As commenter BadUncle put it on the Awl, “Steve Jobs has reinvented the clipboard.” (An iPad would have been perfect for all the years I helped my dad do end of year paint inventory.)

Do I want one? I’m kind of ambivalent about it. I’d use one if I was given one, but I can’t imagine using it enough to be worth $500. It’s a toy. It’s a better looking Chumby.

Does it foretell a dystopian future of locked down computers? Maybe. I can see the AppStore model being expanded into the traditional software market, and I really really do not like the AppStore. I don’t have a problem with the existence of the store. It provides a list of apps to download. I even don’t have a problem with Apple vetting the apps in the store. That’s useful for users. These apps are safe. Fine. What I don’t like is that there’s no other way to distribute applications for the iPhone and iPad except through the AppStore. That’s what really bugs me. That and the hypocritical and schizophrenic application of Apple’s rules, and that if AT&T or some other “strategic partner” doesn’t like your app, you’re shutdown. That’s telling me and my users how to use our machines. No one has that right.

So in conclusion, I give it a warm maybe.

Ukrainian Easter Eggs

Like many people, growing up, my family used to decorate Easter eggs, Only our eggs tended to be decorated like Ukrainian Easter eggs, or pysanky. My mom learned how to do this from a friend of hers, that truly an artist at it. Every year, we’d break out the beeswax candle, heat our styluses and attempt to draw deer or weave patterns, dots, or crosses on the eggs. Some years, we’d even bring out a hypodermic needle and a syringe and extract the yolks so we could keep the eggs for years.

I decided that I wanted to decorate eggs this year, but all we had was the crayon and dye that’s in a Paas kit, and the new dye containing cotton swabs. (Using the swabs are pretty fun.)

I pretty much resigned myself to not decorating eggs with candle wax for many many years, since I had no idea where to buy the stuff you need. Then for some unknown reason I checked out Make’s Top 10 Easter Themed Posts. In the list was a Ukrainian easter eggs. Following a couple of more links, I found out that that The Caning Shop in Berkeley sells everything. Hooray! Surprisingly, the book about how to make the designs my mom has had all my life is still in print.


Jim Blackhurst’s SmartLED SolarTherm is a minimalist information display. Consisting of an RGB LED, a watch, and an ATTiny25 microcontroller. The chip contains a temperature sensor whose reading is displayed as light pulses. According the comments on Makezine, the internal temperature sensor is +/- 10 C (+/- 18 F), so its not very useful.

SolarTherm is simpar to M27’s Zach DeBord’s pummers. These charge a capacitor from a solar cell, and when the light level drops, the capacitor discharges, and causes an LED to blink.

While as an ambient displays these are visually interesting, especially Zach DeBord’s pummers, these seem to suffer from the main problem with all ambient displays. They trade simplicity for usefulness.

I want the display to be both pretty, but also informative. The display needs to be immediately interrogated. Similar to the how a grandfather clock provides a chime ever 15 minutes to an hour, but also can be viewed in order to learn the exact time. I’m thinking of something like Riedi and Gloor’s Weather Diorama.

Things like Nabaztag or the infinitely more endearing, Michael Kaminsky and Paul Dourish‘s SWEETPEA (aka “The Microsoft Barney Paper”) are more confusing than anything. Even baseball signs aren’t that confusing.

Maybe the best ambient display I’ve seen was simply a string hanging from a DC small motor wired directly into an ethernet cable. As packets would pass, the motor would be powered, causing the string to wiggle. As the network activity increased, so would the vigorousness of the string’s dancing. The great thing about this display is that it’s immediately and intuitively interpretable, while something more complex requires the user to learn some of sign language.

Fish Tank

Years ago, I had this idea for a virtual fish tank. It would have five LCD displays (possibly touch screen) and a 3D rendering of fish inside. Each face of the cube would display the corresponding camera angle. For years that idea sat in a notebook, because I had no idea how to actually do it, and was making it way harder than it had to be. (I really have no idea how to do anything more complex than a cube in OpenGL.)

Well, it turns out someone at the University of British Columbia had the same idea, and built pCubee, a perspective corrected display box.

At least it was hard to do.

Fuck the iPad. I want this.

Video after the jump.
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