Archive for June 2009

SolidWorks is cool

I’m 5 lessons into a 400 lesson set from And dang it if SolidWorks isn’t totally cool.

I like the lessons. It’s a woman speaking with a live screen capture of her driving SolidWorks 2007. The presenter has a nice voice, she’s mostly all about business but there are a few tiny flubs to prove that she’s human, it’s well edited and it’s of course nice that I can either do what she does or just watch what she’s doing and replay the video.

I bought the 3 CD tutorial on eBay or Amazon or someplace for $50.

Arse Elektronika 2009 Call

I have generally thought of  “Arse Elekronika” as just a humourous play on “Ars Electronica”. Kind of a “heh” thing. But the call below is very curious indeed!

(via, and)


Call for Papers, Performances, Machines and Sponsors.


Scottish SF author Iain Banks created a fictitious group-civilisation called “Culture” in his eponymous narrative. The vast majority of humanoid people in the “Culture” are born with greatly altered glands housed within their central nervous systems, who secrete – on command
– mood- and sensory-appreciation-altering compounds into the person’s bloodstream. Additionally many inhabitants have subtly altered reproductive organs – and control over the associated nerves – to enhance sexual pleasure. Ovulation is at will in the female, and a fetus up to a certain stage may be re-absorbed, aborted, or held at a static point in its development; again, as willed. Also, a viral change from one sex into the other, is possible. And there is a convention that each person should give birth to one child in their lives. It may sound strange, but Banks states that a society in which it is so easy to change sex will rapidly find out if it is treating one gender better than the other. Pressure for change within society would presumably build up until some form of sexual equality and hence numerical parity will be established.
Does this set-up sound too futuristic? Too utopian? Too bizarre?

We may not forget that mankind is a sexual and tool-using species.
And that’s why our annual conference Arse Elektronika deals with sex, technology and the future. As bio-hacking, sexually enhanced bodies, genetic utopias and plethora of gender have long been the focus of literature, science fiction and, increasingly, pornography, this year will see us explore the possibilities that fictional and authentic bodies have to offer. Our world is already way more bizarre than our ancestors could have ever imagined. But it may not be bizarre enough.
“Bizarre enough for what?” — you might ask. Bizarre enough to subvert the heterosexist matrix that is underlying our world and that we should hack and overcome for some quite pressing reasons within the next century.
Don’t you think, replicants?


Please send us [arse2009 AT] your papers, ideas, machines!
Deadline: July 31, 2009!


Festival Schedule:

October 1: Film festival(*), opening ceremony and Prixxx Arse
Elektronika(*) Gala
October 2: Literature, fiction, reading
October 3: Talks and discourse
October 4: DIY workshops
(*) Separate calls will be out shortly.

Taught 2 Classes at the Crucible

I Taught 2 classes at The Crucible, Extreme Gizmos (8-12 yrs old) and Radical Robots (12-14yrs old). Phew, it was a lot of work to get ready for the classes! And a lot of work and mental energy to run them. But it turned out great.

Each class was 3 hrs/day for 5 days, June 15-19. Gizmos: 9-noon, Robots: 1-4pm.

We did way more than I have photographed. One note: NEVER let your students take their projects home before they are done! I let several kids bring their almost-finished (excellent) projects home on Thursday. All but one kid forgot to bring them back to finish and present.


It was a bit of a nervous thrill when I saw the cover of one of the Crucible’s catalogs


Extreme Gizmos class


Radical Robots class


Extreme Gizmos posing for a photo with our gizmos


A Radical Robot, an Arduino, servo and photoresistor open the box when you pass your hand in front of the box


Lee and kids


Another Radical Robot, a tripod holds an Arduino and 2 servos to point a mirror or camera in an arbitrary direction

Here’s the full class listing:

Youth Extreme Gizmos KIN14-Y

Class size: 8
Monday – Friday 9-12pm
June Camps: Jun 15-Jun 19
5 sessions
8-12 year olds
Cost: $235.00 (Tuition: $180.00, Materials: $55.00), Members: $217.00

Learn kinetic techniques to design, engineer, and construct a mechanical sculpture, contraption, or gadget with lights and moving parts. Using new and salvaged components, you will learn how motors, lights, and switches work, how to create mechanical structures, how to create different types of motion, and how to incorporate switches to operate your very own fantastical contraption!

Youth Radical Robots KIN15-Y
Class size: 8
Monday – Friday 1-4pm
June Camps: Jun 15-Jun 19
5 sessions
12-14 year olds
Cost: $295.00 (Tuition: $220.00, Materials: $75.00), Members: $273.00

Build a simple remote-controlled robot . From the wheels up, you’ll create your robot’s shape and personality from salvaged components, mechanisms, and electrical components. You’ll also learn soldering, mechanical construction techniques, and how to remove and repurpose these items. Each student will receive a kit of motors, wheels, and a remote control toy.


Oop, I haven’t updated my adoring public in a while. Here’s what’s been up recently, in no apparent order. Some of these items took up seconds of my time, some of them hundreds of hours.

tweenbotI was on the curatorial committee for the Robogames Art Competition with Marnia, Niladri and Corey. Marnia and I each made the most lovable Tweenbots as a cute marketing ploy for the Art Competition. We set a sign on him that read “Help me get to the Gallery!” and let him loose at the front entrance of Robogames. The tweenbots were a great success! As I left on Sunday with him under my wing, several people stopped me and said how great they were!

At the Crucible class, the kids changed changed the sign to read “Hi! My name is Ron. I am trying to get to the Kinetics Lab. Help if Stuck!” It’s interesting and telling that the kids insisted that the robot have a name. :-)

Went to Robogames. The awesome new Exploratorium permanent outdoor exhibits at Fort Mason are awesome. Firefighting robots are awesome. Robogames is awesome. The Robogames art was awesome. Awesome!

A firefighting robot at Robogames 2009
Hung out with Magnus Wurzer of Roboexotica fame. I drove him to Robogames from the East Bay and caught up with him at Dorkbot.
Went to the Dorkbot 7th Anniversary Party.tesla-coils-light-fireworks-at-dorkbot Saw 2 tesla coils and 1 Tesla Roadster. The coils lit some fireworks… after much consternation; more than one person asked if we couldn’t use a lighter instead of a giant tesla coil to light them. Twas funny, using a hammer to kill a fly sometimes doesn’t work so well :-)

Saw the fantastic Snail Art car. The metal work on it is Fantastic! I haven’t yet found a photo that really captures it perfectly. I chatted with some of the crew and marvelled at it.

Met up with Shameless Heather… we met 5 years ago at Burning Man. 5 years. 5 years! Phew. Five years.

I’ve learned a bit about Rotoscoping from Slim at Noisebridge (sat in on 2 or 3 classes)

Got an f*ing awesome tour of the Advanced Light Source from Marcus
1-controlled-area-for-radiation-protection 2-beamlines-at-the-advanced-light-source 3-mark-at-an-awesome-beamline-experminent-station 4-the-lab-marcus-works-in-photographed-by-mark 5-caution-magnetic-field-may-exceed-5-gauss-do-not-loiter 6-here-is-the-actual-source-of-the-advanced-light 7-safe-for-now


I taught 2 week-long classes at the Crucible. Read about it.


Saw Deborah Violin playing in Berkeley with her friends. Most of it was really cool. They played these really really short, dense quartet pieces that were cool. And the Bach was nice. A guy played his Doctoral Thesis violin piece or something… yes, he’s now a doctor of music… and it sounded like 40 minutes of “Yeyt! Yeyt! Yeyt! Yeyt! Yeyt! Yeyt! Yeyt! Yeyt! Yeyt!” Oh my god it was awful, I prayed for death’s sweet release, but his professors apparently liked it. So what do I know?


Dinner with Charlotte’s friend Kevin in Brocceley


Went to sensitivity training at The Crucible so I could be Faculty. I now believe that straight, white European males are responsible for all evil in the world. I would kill myself but that would just be another demonstration of their subjugation of us all.


Went to Memoir Spool at Climate Theater, June 25th. Great Storytelling!


I’m now learning SolidWorks so I can design my T. Pen.


SWARM went to SubZero1 in San Jose. I just went to look at the art. It was cool. There was this piece with a woman on 4 TV screens eating hot dogs until she was near puking, it was as if she was having an eating contest with herself. It was really really cool. It reminded me of how I sometimes eat to excess to push away bad feelings.


swarm-google-io-setupI went with SWARM to the Google IO Developer Conference. The conference topics were pretty much lost on me. I tried but no. But we had lots of fun!swarm-google-io-after


I’ve been sitting for a friend’s children. They have an artichoke tree growing in their front yard (yes, yes, I know that artichokes don’t grow as trees but the artichoke at the top of this plant is a full 9 feet off the ground. So there. And they are delicious!



PS. Though I’ve barely mentioned Charlotte in this post yet. She rocks.

Twitter Weekly Updates for 2009-06-28

  • Gave @rrmutt aluminum wrapped chocolate ball at Dorkbot. He ate it all and didn’t notice or even tweet about it. Dorkbot is cool. #
  • @rrmutt good thing it wasn’t tuned to 110khz otherwise the tesla coil might have lit your stomach on fire. Burping Car Talk is better :-) in reply to rrmutt #

Recent Movies

A Scanner Darkly 6-25-09 – cool… but sad and twisted.

Stranger Than Fiction. I liked when Harold Crick ate his first home-made cookie 43:15–43:35.

The Bucket List. Maybe I should have found it sappy, but I didn’t. I enjoyed it greatly.