Archive for the ‘General’ Category.

Friend Looking for 2br apartment near Mission Bay, Machine Shop?

Ben Cowden, who is an excellent kinetic artist and teacher friend of mine is looking for an apartment with his wife within biking distance of Mission Bay. Possible bonus points for sharing a private machine shop. Any leads, send to me or Ben.

BART Suggestions

BART is getting new trains. The prototype is travelling around the Bay Area. It isn’t perfect. If you’d like to help make it better, visit it in the next few weeks!

You can submit the online survey here.

I spoke with the guy running the event, (Adam? Aaron?) and his response to my first comment was, “That’s why I go to these things, sometimes I hear about important changes.”

Here are my comments:

The LED “destination” sign on the side of the train is currently behind tinted glass. If it was behind clear glass it would be much more visible. Glass makers can certainly make a glass window that is tinted up to a certain place.


Inside the train, one of the vertical handrails near the middle of the train has a collar with a sharp edge that should be curved smoothed over. Maybe this was just a problem with the demo car.

To find the sharp collar, find a single chair, look for the handrail that goes from the chair to the ceiling, look for the connector that goes between the chair and tube, look just above the connector for the collar.


On current trains, the audio “panic” warning (a recorded voice saying “Please stand clear of the doors. The doors are closing”) regularly comes on at the wrong time. The message often sounds while a large number of people are boarding a train. It is very unnerving to hear that message while a crowd is in the middle of boarding at a normal pace. I become worried that the conductor doesn’t see the boarding passengers and will close the door on us. Of course, that doesn’t happen but the purpose of the message isn’t being fulfilled and EVERYONE ignores the message.

Michael Moran at BART Customer Service explained to me that the message is triggered when the normal door dwell period has lapsed. Instead of this, the message should happen when the train operator commands it to.

I’m sure you’ve gotten this complaint thousands of times before I’m sure. From inside the train, 16th and 24th street station look the same. Passengers need to look very closely to be sure they are getting off at the right stop Here are some easy ways to fix it:

- The signs at track level that read “16th Street” and “24th Street” are literally hidden in shadow. If the sign was moved 3 feet closer to the center of the platform, they would be illuminated by the existing station lighting
- The track level signs could be replaced with illuminated signs like at Powell Station.
- The tunnels could be retiled with unique colors like at 12th and 19th Street stations (that’s expensive though)
- A long, narrow strip of unique art could be installed on the tunnel walls


Workshop Weekend Arduino April 26-27 in Oakland

I’ve been teaching weekend-long Arduino intensive classes with some friends for the last year or so. It’s gone amazingly well. We’ve got another class coming up April 26-27 at Tech Liminal in Oakland.

If you want a huge jump start, join us. Tell your nearly-dorky friend about the class too. As a teacher, I’ve got a $50 discount code to give you: arduteach888

Check it out at

Aio Wireless Referral Fee Split

I’ve been using Aio Wireless for a few months now and I like it very much. Cell service is every bit as good as AT&T for 1/2 the cost.

Send me an email and I’ll refer you to Aio Wireless. We will both get $25 from AioWireless. Write to me at Lee at Lee dat org.

Happy Cheese Weasel Day!

That bit of musical cheese poetry comes from facebook and Charlotte!

Considering Radiation Therapy Technologist as a Career?

This fall I’ll be starting 24 months of school, pursuing a Master’s Degree in Occupational Therapy. This road began a few years ago when my dad, after seeing a newspaper article on the career, suggested I look into working in Radiation Therapy. The article said that the work was steady and the money good. As part of my road toward becoming a Radiation Therapy Tech, I volunteered in a hospital and figured out very quickly that Radiation Therapy is not for me!

Let me tell you a story.

RTT (Radiation Therapy Technology) isn’t for me, but probably not for the reason you think. Most people think that the danger of the X-rays, or dealing with sick people is difficult. First, the X-rays aren’t an issue: the beam is so incredibly lethal, there are many interlocks to make sure you never get near it. And it’s not dealing with sick people, heck the people are all healthy enough to make it into an 8 week course of treatment. But read on.

In short, I found the job mind numbingly boring, non-interactive, and sad. What I would be doing 4 times an hour, every day for the next 30 years would be quite simple:

  1. bring the patient into the treatment room
  2. strap them down
  3. leave the room
  4. watch the patient on a TV monitor while administering the treatment, my finger hovering over the “di-engage death ray” button
  5. turn the dial every couple minutes to start a different treatment (a treatment which has been chosen by a doctor, not me)
  6. Unstrap them
  7. Walk them out
  8. Repeat every 15 minutes for 30 years

The control room in the hospital’s basement is quiet except for the incessant “bip.. bip.. bip.. bip.. bip.. bip..” of the machine telling you the beam is on. You see, although everything is pretty straightforward, the solemnity and responsibility of firing a huge death ray straight into people’s vital organs (and hopefully missing the healthy bits) requires quite a bit of focus. One mistake could spell certain death for a patient. The room looks likeĀ one of those 1950′s science fiction movies where people in white coats operate Big Science machines, which is fascinating and all except that all those movie scenes lasted waaaay too long. This is no exception.

The worst is what happened when I asked two folks that worked there about their work.

I chatted with the nurse and got them in a good mood. Then I asked if they liked working in Radiation Therapy and they said… well, here’s how the conversation went:
Lee: Do you love your job?
Nurse: [hesitation and then] Well……
Lee: Do you like your job?
Nurse: [short shrug]
Lee: Do you not hate your job? (I’m immediately thinking “Oh my god, what if they don’t answer this third question, where the hell do we go from there?!”)
Nurse: Well… [she paused and then spoke slowly and with a bit of sadness] it’s sad when you see patients continue to come in and keep getting worse. And it’s especially bad when a patient stops coming in mid-way through treatment because… well, you know.

And that’s all they had to say about their job. Yipe. :-(

I asked one of the Technologists…
Lee: Do you like your job?
Tech: [pausing to give a thoughtful answer. Then he spoke clearly and slowly, looking me straight in the eye] It’s monotonous. It’s not enjoyable. It pays ok but… [and his voice trailed off. It was time to change the subject]

And that’s pretty much how the tech left it. Yow! This is not job satisfaction.

Your mileage may vary but this does not look like the career for me!