Red Echo

September 27, 2009

My bike came back from the playa with its chain loose enough and rear sprocket worn enough that it was no longer safe to ride. I parked it at the Rocket Factory and ordered a new chain and sprocket set. The parts finally arrived yesterday, so Adam and I met up over at the shop and spent a few hours working on the project. We didn’t finish – had trouble getting the rear sprocket off the hub – but once that’s done it should be no more than another two hours to finish up. I bought an O-ring chain this time, so perhaps it’ll last a bit longer than the last one did.

This evening I’m working on my first new piece of clothing since the jacket for MJ a year and a half ago. It’s a black and tan jacket, made of canvas with a light cotton lining. It’s nothing fancy but it feels good to be inspired to make clothes again.

September 25, 2009

home sweet home

September 23, 2009

I have this cute little netbook, an Asus EEE 1000h, which came with a semi-crippled variant of Xandros Linux. It worked fine since I could always drop into the terminal, and I eventually got enough additional packages installed to make it useful, but in the course of trying to install a more normal desktop interface I managed to wreck it – nothing ever works right the first time in Linux-world.

Yesterday I finally got around to installing Ubuntu netbook edition. Wow! It’s smooth, consistent, and doesn’t condescend to its users the way Asus’ custom Linux did. It’s not trying to be Windows or Mac OS, either; it’s just a nice, well-built system that suits the hardware perfectly. Definitely satisfied – ex

September 18, 2009

From the blog Psychology of Programming, these excerpts from a 1995 paper on object-oriented programming published in Human-Computer Interaction have some fascinating comments from cognitive psychology research as applied to programming language design:

In careful experiments, Gentner (1981; Gentner & France, 1988) showed that, when people are asked to repair a simple sentence with an anomalous subject-verb combination, they almost always change the verb and leave the noun as it is, independent of their relative positions. This suggests that people take the noun (i.e. the object) as the basic reference point. Models based on objects may be superior to models based on other primitives, such as behaviours.

September 16, 2009

Finished music machine (version 2)

Music machine inside

September 15, 2009

Mission One electric motorcycle (previously) has reached 150 mph during speed trials at Bonneville.

September 12, 2009

I’m back. The cube project was a great success. We’d never built the whole thing before, but we’d prototyped enough of its components to be confident, and indeed the whole thing worked. It was solved for the first time on Tuesday night, and again every night thereafter – difficult enough to be a challenge, but achievable enough to be tantalizing.

I didn’t actually want to be out in the desert this time around, so I had a few rough days after the construction work was done, but with help from some friends I eventually had a good time. Seven years is enough, however: I am never again taking a tent to the playa. If I go back – and it seems likely that I will, however I may feel right now – I’ll bring something to live in that is windproof, dustproof, lightproof, and tall enough I can stand upright.

It was really satisfying to be involved in one of the biggest, most recognizable art projects on the playa. We got a lot of media coverage and our project was one of the regular stops on the mutant-vehicle tour circuit. People loved it and wanted to tell us how much they loved it.

At the same time, it was hard to know how to feel about it. This is the first time I have been part of a large team project that actually succeeded. When I’ve been part of successful projects, I’ve been able to take pride in what I’ve accomplished, and when I’ve been part of large team projects, they’ve been heaving corporate disasters where I had no control over the outcome. How do you take pride in your small part of an accomplishment someone else was primarily responsible for? I don’t want to take credit for work other people did, but it feels like false modesty to take no credit at all. I don’t know how to think about this.