Red Echo

February 28, 2007

I’m leaving for New York tonight to spend the weekend with my sister Melissa. She just finished taking the bar exam and needs to spend a few days relaxing. We don’t have much in the way of fixed plans but I’m sure we will have no trouble coming up with interesting things to do.

February 27, 2007

Laptops are awesome

I’m sitting at a coffee shop a few blocks from home, working on REALbasic and occasionally chatting with a friend who is working on some kind of statistics project. My new, still-nameless MacBook is one of eleven visible computers. The place is full of books and there’s some chill indie-rock playing. Much as I like my office setup at home, nothing beats being able to unplug and go find a change of scene.

February 26, 2007

February 24, 2007

This article in Design News lists several “quick-turn” manufacturers. These four all offer injection molding: eMachineShop, Protomold, QuickParts, and ToolRoom Express. It still looks like eMachineShop has the easiest setup, with their custom CAD software and human-free quote system, but they seem to focus more on metalwork, so perhaps one of these other services will offer faster/better/cheaper results for plastic.

I am back home. Seattle appears to be largely as I left it.

I have brought back a sleek black MacBook, as yet unnamed, to replace Serena, my ancient, aged Titanium PowerBook.

February 23, 2007

Real Software company lunch

Here’s a long, entertaining rant about “agile methodologies” that includes some interesting comments about the Google development process.

February 22, 2007

Three men have run all the way across the Sahara desert, 40-50 miles a day for 111 days.

This is the most beautiful computer keyboard ever made. The buttons used as extra keys are a particularly elegant solution.

February 19, 2007

I took off just after work and went up to Snoqualmie with Thomas, Matt, and one of Thomas’ coworkers. The rain turned to snow less than a mile before the summit, so it was pretty wet at first, but the temperature dropped after an hour or so and we had a great time bashing our way through piles of mostly-fresh powder. We called it quits after five hours or so and chugged back home through heavy rain. Lots of fun.

I was too busy working on the laserfingers last week to finish the prototype snow-visualization-laser-grid gadget, but decided I’d take my LAVI-zero backpack along just to see what might happen if I combined lasers and skiing. Two things happened, as it turned out: everyone who saw me wanted to know what that thing on my back was, and where they could get one; and the batteries died after about twenty minutes. Lesson learned: any ski-oriented electronic devices must be designed so that the battery pack can be kept inside my jacket where it will stay at least a little bit warm.

Here’s a set of instructions for decluttering a computer desk using zipties, pegboard, and a clever shackle/dowel lock system.

February 18, 2007

I spent today recovering from last night. It was a good night, though, and well worth recovering from. I spent a couple of hours at the Heden valentine’s day party, then with Michael, Thomas, Alison, and Sahni headed over to the Kinetic party at the Science Center. There were fewer of my friends there than at the Magnetic party (thrown by the same people) last fall, and I was less interested in the museum exhibits, so I just danced, danced, danced.

The laserfingers were a huge hit. It was almost too much; people came up to me all night to ask about the lasers, or to dance in the patterns they made on the floor, or just to tell me how cool they were. I spent a lot of time putting on little laser shows for people. I loved seeing how much fun people had watching the lasers. It was a bit distracting, though, and hard to just get lost in the music and move, like I’m used to; also, the lasers made me more aware of what my hands were doing, so I found myself dancing more with my upper body and less with my feet and hips. Still, the laserfingers worked really well, I had a lot of fun with them, and I think that the other people at the party were happy I brought them, so I’m calling it a success.

Two minor technical problems to solve: the battery pouches don’t hold themselves as flat as I’d expected, so when I’m waving my hands around a lot the battery packs can work their way out. I need to add velcro or snaps to keep them closed. I also had occasional problems with the batteries slipping out of the battery holders, so maybe an elastic strap would help.

At around two we got the group back together and drove back to Heden for the end of the Valentine’s day party. Much relaxation ensued, and I finally stumbled all groggy-headed out the door around five-thirty.

Today I pretty much just lazed around and did as little as possible. Went over to Heden for dinner with Mez, Alexis, and Lesley. Next I’m going to take a book to bed and laze around some more.

February 17, 2007

rave angel

I’ve planned all week to spend this afternoon making a new outfit to go dancing in tonight, but now that I’m here I just don’t feel like sewing. I think I used up this week’s budget of making-stuff energy on the laserfingers. But that’s okay; I could stand to spend a few hours puttering around, washing dishes and running laundry.

What I’d really like to do is get in a nice little convertible, fold the top down, put on some big goggles and a scarf, and head east into the mountains. It’s a cold blue day, with a sharp edge in the air that says get out and breathe.

February 16, 2007

I’ve finished the laserfingers. That was a lot of work: all the parts and stitches are small, and articulation is tricky. I made a mistake when I assembled the second battery pack, too, and had to carefully scrape away all the epoxy so I could re-solder a connection. But it’s all done now, and oh what fun it is to shoot laser beams out of your finger tips.

Now it’s time for bed, a book, and a little glass of bourbon.

The left laserfingers glove is finished

February 15, 2007

I had my February cocktail party last night. I should really stop calling them cocktail parties, though, since it’s all about the wine; we opened five bottles, and nobody once asked for liquor. It’s so much fun to have people over. I sometimes wish I had more space to entertain in, but it would really change the social dynamic; part of the fun of it is that I can fit just barely enough people in the room to get more than one conversation going at a time, but it’s small enough that everyone can overhear all the other conversations.

February 14, 2007

Today I stitched a velcro strap across the knuckles of the left laserfinger glove, with slots between patches of hook-side velcro stitched to the glove through which the laser wires can slide. Lena suggested this design as a way to keep the wires straight and even, while preserving articulation and the ability to detach the lasers and wiring from the glove, and I think it’s going to work well. I still have to repeat the process for the other glove; in the meantime I assembled two little battery pack/switch units. I had originally planned to use pairs of AAA batteries, but happened to notice N batteries for sale when I was at Radio Shack buying switches, and realized I could cut the size and weight of the battery pack in half while still having enough juice to last for a full night out.

February 13, 2007

Tonight was supposed to be band practice, but there was some kind of miscommunication and neither Collin nor Greg showed up. Dawn and I played keyboard-and-drums renditions of a few of our songs, jammed a little, and then called it a night.

Since the night was still young, I headed over to CHAC for the second half of Ignite, which basically consisted of many very brief talks on a wide assortment of geeky/techy/artsy topics. It was fun, though it was often hard to keep up with the torrent of information the presenters were trying to get through in their allotted five minutes.

I think I’ll sign up to give a talk at the next Ignite, in April; it shouldn’t be hard to fill five minutes talking about my series of waterpack projects and the evolution of the current waterpack’s design.

February 12, 2007

The spec document I’ve been working on is, at last, finished enough. It’s thinner than I’d expected, but if I’d actually written it at the level of detail I had in mind when I started, there’d be at least a month of work left. Oh, well; I’m the one who’s going to be implementing this, so I can probably get away with a less comprehensive treatment than I’d expect were I trying to implement someone else’s spec.

I’m looking forward to seeing how people react to it. I went off in a distinctly different direction than the project originally called for, but I’m convinced that this approach is a really solid solution to the underlying problem.

February 11, 2007

Craft day at Heden

Progress on the laserfingers

February 10, 2007

I spent some time today accumulating supplies for my current batch of projects. I bought some little slide switches for the laserfingers, a battery pack for the snow-visibility-enhancer, and a few yards of fabric for my next party outfit.

The laserfingers design is coming along well. I think it will be another couple of days before I have them finished, but I expect to have them done for next Saturday’s Kinetic party. I’m not as sure about the new outfit: I don’t think the shirt will take much time, but the pants are a bit more complicated, and I’m not sure there will be enough time next week to get them done – especially not if I take an afternoon/evening off to go test the ski laser system…

February 8, 2007

February 7, 2007

It was a fun day on Mt. Baker. The light rain on the drive north gave us hopes of fresh powder, but no such luck: it was two-and-a-half-week-old slush. Oh, well. The mountain was practically deserted; we rarely saw anyone else on the runs, and never had to wait for a lift. Thomas P. and David L. are both more experienced than I am, so I spent all day pushing myself to keep up, and taking harder runs than I’d normally tackle, but it was good – I could feel my confidence increasing over the course of the day, and after lunch tackled my first ever double-black-diamond run.

The new skis worked out OK. They didn’t feel as tight at high speeds as the big carvers I’m used to, but they are far more maneuverable on the steep mogully slopes, and didn’t feel as much like they wanted to soar out from under me every time I pointed downhill.

After a nice long shower and some clean clothes, I picked up some sushi and headed over to Heden for Mez’s “chess night” (which has long since lost any association with the game of chess). It was a small thing – half a dozen folks there when I arrived – but it was nice to hang out and talk before packing it in for the night.

February 6, 2007

Quick update before bed:

It was a smashing weekend. Friday night, went over to Heden for the mellow version of Mez’s birthday party. Got out of the hot tub and went home around 1 AM. Saturday night was the blockbuster combined Mez-Jenny T.-Katie M. birthday party – I don’t know how many people came, but the invite list was nearly 200 names long, and the house was as full as I’ve ever seen it. It was a thoroughly rocking party. I spent hours dancing. Next day I went back to help clean up, around 2:30; the cleanup effort eventually turned into a lounge-around party over at Nathan & Miller’s place, eating pizza and watching Moulin Rouge.

And then it was Monday morning and I went right back into the long work hours. I’ve been going hard at a plan for a set of new language features. It’s an ambitious effort, and there’s a lot of research involved before I can get much design work done – but it’s going to be some very powerful stuff, if we can pull this off.

Tonight met up with Lesley for drinks and sushi, and through the magic of dodgeball pulled in Stuart, Julie, Geoff S., and Michael H. Modern technology is awesome.

I’m taking the day off tomorrow to go skiing at Mt. Baker with Thomas P. and David L. It rained off and on all day here, but it doesn’t look like much snow fell up north – oh well. It’ll still be a fun day of sliding downhill.

February 3, 2007

I went out to the Cedar River Watershed area today for a restoration project, but when I got there the gate was locked and there was nobody in sight. I neglected to bring the coordinator’s phone number, so I just wandered around the different parking lots, trying to find the group, but had no luck.

Oh, well. Since I was there, I decided to go say hello to Rattlesnake Ledge. The trail was as busy as ever, but still had that rough-edged, early-season feeling.

The rain started to fall on the drive home. Yes! I’ve been waiting impatiently through all these clear, warm blue days, looking forward to the next round of grey skies that mean “fresh snow in the mountains”. There will be plenty of time to play in the sun this summer – right now I want to ski.

February 2, 2007

Here’s a set of instructions for a neat little circuit that fades an array of LEDs up and down in pseudo-random fashion. It uses capacitors instead of PWM for the fade, but it seems to work pretty well, and the circuit looks adaptable. This might be worth a try for my next waterpack project.

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