Archive for the ‘Notable’ Category.

Real Bread in 10 Minutes – Makerfaire Followup

The classes at Maker Faire went splendidly. The 30 minute format required me to tighten everything up dramatically to get the message across. The students didn’t get all the info I wanted to give them but they certainly got the spirit, and some laughs! Afterward, I received email comments like this:

I was lucky enough to catch your talk at the Maker Faire this afternoon… I really enjoyed your “organic” way of approaching baking… Your teaching style was also excellent, a little humor goes a long way in education.

– James Peters

Thanks for teaching us how to make bread at makersfaire! It came out delicious the first time and we shared it with our neighbors. It was a fun way to bring the whole apartment building together!
Sarah and Evan

Looking Down, Looking Up

I got laid off from earthmine. While they loved me, (and gave me the best recommendation letter eva) they said they need a mechanical engineer instead of a jack-of-all-trades. I really enjoyed the job, the building stuff, cameraderie, travel. That’s the “looking down” part.

Looking up… I just got the go-ahead to make a new sign for a new local Pizza Cafe. It’ll involve using the newest, coolest tool at the Box Shop, the CNC plasma cutter.

More looking up… a friend asked if I couldn’t help her by helping relatives go sight-seeing in Carmel, that’ll be fun.

More looking up… I’m now the head of the Kinetics and Electronics Department at the Crucible! And youth classes are starting up soon so I’ll have a month of crazy projects and youthful exuberance!

And the latest looking up: Yarn Bombs! Finally, a graffiti I can get behind.

Techkriti 2010

(this post got lost in my Drafts folder for 12 months. I wrote this last year. Oops!)

Nobel Laureate, Nobel Laureate, Director at the Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics, Padmashri recipient, Gödel Prize winner, and me.


I mean WOW.

While I’m honored to have my face there, the 4 of us are showing SWARM. We have to get them a better group headshot and group biography! I’m the one organizing the trip but Marnia, Niladri, Jon and I are presenting as a group and this all couldn’t happen without them. For the bio, they had taken my short bio and extended it with material from the SWARM website instead of using the 4 bios I sent.

But I’ve got to say “Wow”.

(Techkriti Talks page)
Techkriti '10 - 11th to 14th Feb, 2010
Techkriti '10 - 11th to 14th Feb, 2010 - 1

“When a person talks about his work, he is talking about a love affair”. – Alfred Kazin

Be witness to lectures that are sure to blow your mind away. From Nobel laureates who climbed steep rungs to the very zenith of success to business wizards who have literally accomplished Mission Impossible, these talks have them all. This year we have talks with both a technial and an entreprenuerial flavour. From Turing award winners to “desi-innovators” with a rags-to-riches story, Techkriti ’10 has it all. The talks form the essence of the festival where the triumph of the human mind is celebrated. So no matter what keeps each one of us ticking, let us all come together to assimilate the distilled essence of the roads to success.

Saudi Arabia Travel Bits

Some interesting tidbits about my recent trip to Saudi Arabia

One of the first conversations I had with my hosts on the way from the airport was about water. Riyadh is a city in a desert, all the water that runs the city is desalinated and piped from the coast, some 200 miles away! Actually, that isn’t too different from Los Angeles, pumping water from central California. So we talked about the California water wars for a bit.

Our host talked about how he thought he heard that one family now controlled most of the water in California. I described how it’s actually a story of how Eaton and Mullholland, employees of the city of LA stole water rights from Owens valley ranchers.

Several more times on my trip I saw how families are culturally and legally important but municipalities and corporations per say are not. This is a pervasive difference in how business and life is conducted in Riyadh. Every large institution in the city is sponsored by a family. Virtually every road in the city is named after a person. I heard phrases like “controlled by the xxxx family” many times. And I never heard about any Saudi company. Municipal laws are also very low on their priority list. The reason, as far as I can see, that they act civilly to one another isn’t because of a desire to obey laws like in the US, it’s that they want to keep the honor of their family. Taken to extreme, the King of Saudi Arabia could “legally” order me killed for no apparent reason and the people would go with it but he doesn’t because it wouldn’t reflect well on his family and people. The resulting society works similarly, but for different reasons!


Our hosts took us to an Indian restaurant in Riyadh. On the wall next to our table there was this rather nice piece of art in the shape of India. But something looked odd about the map. The outline of India looked different from any map of the country I’ve ever seen. I know that there are disputed territories to the north and east of India. In this map, those territories are not disputed but a part of the country, and then some. We discussed it for a few minutes and our hosts’ opinion of those territories matched the map, not my Nightly News / Google Maps view. I thought it wise not to ask too many questions to show my ignorant American imperial thoughts on the matter.


Our host asked about a new law that he heard was going to be enacted in the US this week where internet censorship was going to be possible by the government. There was, in fact some rumination in the US news about such bills in the US, it was certainly no where near becoming law. Saudi Arabia has some internet restrictions; I took a minute of suring and noticed that sex sites were blocked, but politics was wide open. I figured it best not to try too many sites since my surfing was obviously being monitored by someone. I can understand how Saudis’ would discuss their news in terms of how the rest of the world is coming in line with their norms. Our news does the same.


We had a fantastic Saudi Ararabian dinner, which is characterized in part by an amazing abundance of food. Our meal for 4 could have easily fed 8-10. I ordered a glass of goat buttermilk and I got a 20 ounce bowl. There were like 4 chickens and 8 large pieces of goat sitting on a round family-style tray of rice. The bed of rice was 4 inch high and 2 feet across! Everything was absolutely terrific (though it was crazy weird and messy to eat all of this in the native style – with our hands!)

Over another meal, our host’s friend told us with a wry smile how the Saudi Arabian style meal, with it’s immodest portions, was against Islam. Of course I didn’t know how to respond since I was caught between complimenting our host for an excellent meal and offending Islam. But its hugely interesting to see their conscious acknowledgement of such common contradictions.

If you ask a Saudi a question, he’ll probably first respond nodding saying, “Yes, of course.” And then tell you how they disagree with you, but they’ll do it very very gracefully such that you can’t tell if they are disagreeing or not. The “Yes” part was that they understood the question. And the passive-agressive part is him not wanting to openly disagree with you. It is very odd hearing this the first time!


Street signs and such in Riyadh have a dramatically different feel than other places. I saw virtually no graffiti (maybe none at all, I don’t read Arabic). Every single building is tastefully modest. Business signage is all tastefully modest. Business storefronts are all tastefully modest. Residential and commercial architecture is all tastefully modest. The most interesting buildings were the oldest ones since they used different building techniques and styles. For example, the Saudi Arabian restaurant was totally cool with it’s straw, clay and stick construction. Why is their entire city so modest? Simple: modesty is a powerful Islamic virtue.

I noticed that there is tremendous construction going on all over Riyadh. It honestly appears that the capacity of the city will almost double in another 5 years. I mentioned the construction to two people and they both said that Saudis don’t want to invest in the west because it “isn’t safe”. Then each immediately, and in a clear but beat-around-the-bush manner clarified that “safe” means that they don’t want their money to mingle with any support for Israel. They really hate the Israelis.


I saw that gas at the pump was 0.50 Riyals / liter…. about $0.50/gallon! Wow, how much does it cost to transport gas across the ocean and how much is pure profit? Gas in San Francisco is $3.80 / gallon. Update: I hear that Saudi gasoline at the pump is subsidized as a service to their people.


I’m Coming to Your City

From November 15-22nd I’m driving across this grand land of ours, almost from the Redwood Forest to the Gulf Stream waters!

I’m taking pictures of states with my company’s camera rig.

If all goes well, I’ll be sleeping in

  1. West Wendover, Nevada Monday
  2. north of Denver Tuesday
  3. Topeka, Kansas Wednesday
  4. Joliet, Illinois Thursday
  5. Cleveland, Ohio Friday
  6. The mystery day (in case of rain etc)
  7. Washington, DC Sunday
  8. flying to Nashville (with family for Thanksgiving) Monday

If you’re along the route, give me a call and I’ll stop to say hello!

I’ll be taking pictures of places like Salt Lake City, UT; Cheyenne, WY; Denver, CO; Kansas City (Kansas & Missouri); Chicago, IL; Benton Harbor, MI; Cleveland, OH; Pittsburgh, PA; Fredericks, MD.

New Full Time Job!

I have just been offered a job with Earthmine as a Field Technician. Among other things, I’ll be travelling the world maintaining super fancy cameras!

Helping to make things like this happen:

(local copy)

Woot! I start July 26th.

Continue reading ‘New Full Time Job!’ »