Archive for March 2012

What Addiction is Like

I’ve often thought how I really haven’t ever been addicted to anything. And how it would be interesting and useful from a human nature perspective to understand what it is like to have an addiction. So, for instance, when someone says, “I just couldn’t quit!” I want to be able to relate instead of just thinking (but never saying!), “Nonsense, just apply yourself.”

Well, I’ve been drinking coffee to keep my focus for my school studies. Sometimes I drink 2 cups/day and it totally helps!

When a test isn’t looming, I don’t generally drink, but now I find that I have to drink, whether I want to or not. I get a dull headache for hours on end and I have a little trouble focusing. I tried to get off it; for the last 2 weeks I’ve been drinking less and less, but I’m stuck drinking 1/2 cup a day whether I want to or not, lest the headache and dullness overtake me.

So I ask myself, “How does it feel to be addicted?


I Love You: Please Make Offsite Backups

Every 6 months never fail a friend tells how sad they are that their hard drive crashed. When your hard drive crashes, what will you lose? Your kid’s pictures for the last ten years? Your taxes? That story you were writing? Your customer database? Your source code?

What if your building burns down? Or if someone steals your computer? What will happen to your data?

Seriously, it’s not a matter of if your hard drive will die, it is a matter of when. They last only so long and then they die!

For example, Google maintains about 100,000 hard drives. They treat them as nicely as possible. Google analysed their drive usage patterns (local archive). Every year, there is about a 1 in 14 chance that an individual hard drives will die. It doesn’t matter if it’s a brand new drive or well worn, 1 in 14 chance every year! It’s 50/50 whether a drive has died after 7 years. Maybe you can get the data off it before it dies for good, maybe not. Do you feel lucky, punk?


Ask yourself: How do you know when a hard drive is about to fail and needs replacing? Answer: You don’t. It just fails! There’s a system called SMART that tried to predict failures but it doesn’t work. From the Google report, “Out of all failed drives, over 56% of them have no count in any of the four strong SMART signals… in other words, models based only on those signals can never predict more than half of the failed drives…”

No one repairs hard drives. When it breaks, you throw it away, along with your data. You could take it to DriveSavers to recover the data for about $2,000, but that’s  about it.

These cold truths have been around for decades but people still (inappropriately) blindly trust that their hard drive will keep their data safe. Gawd, I sound like some amateurly written ad copy for hard drive snake oil or something. It sounds hokey but all this is true!


Here’s what I tell my friends when they tell me their hard drive just broke:

  • Spinrite might recover the drive for $90 – I sometimes offer them use of my copy.
  • Drivesavers probably can recover the drive for $1-3k, you can get a discount with my reseller code: DS14221 – everyone balks at the price, but if you need the data, they are the best.
  • Crashplan would have prevented the tragedy and stress completely. I recommend Crashplan because I use it, it’s inexpensive (it can be free even!) and I love you. I don’t work for them or anything, I just don’t want you to lose your beloved photos or taxes or anything!

More about Crashplan:
For $4/month, you can back up any amount of data to their servers. In practice I’ve found that since it takes time to upload stuff, it’s best to limit it to around 400 gigabytes with my DSL connection.

Or, for free you can swap backup space with a friend. How cool is that! No, your friend can’t peep at your data. Heck, call me and I might swap backup space with you. You could backup your work computer with your home computer and vice versa!

I have Crashplan set to back up 400 gig of my “important” data to Crashplan Central and to my aunt’s house in Florida. Another copy of everything (about 750 gig) is backed up to an external hard drive.

Darn it, it’s even HIPAA compliant.

But no matter what happens, know that I love you and desperately want you to make offsite backups!

The Science of Art Event at the Crucible

This Open House is really going to rock. There are a LOT of fun sciencey demos going on, with fire and sparks and pretty shiny things, and darn-it, it’s free!

Spring Open House
“The Science of Art”
April 7th, 2012, 12pm-4pm
Free Admission.

 Join us for the “The Science of Art” at The Crucible. For our Spring Open House, we roll up our industrial strength doors, and welcome our community to explore arts, industry, community, and science. Some of the most innovative instructors in the Bay Area create fantastic art in our 56,000 square foot facility. In “The Science of Art”, we will be exploring chemistry, physics, and other mad sciences. Watch as molten metal is poured, discover dazzling glass blowing, and watch as molds are transformed before your eyes.
Spring Open House
“The Science of Art”
April 7, 2012,
Free Admission

In the tradition of the school science fair, we will have displays, demonstrations, and more exploring of the science of art!  This exciting event is an opportunity for all to discover how the processes in science tie into the different mediums taught at The Crucible. We not only safely play with fire, but we do it scientifically as well!
A fun day for the whole family! Our open houses are a wonderful way to experience the excitement of The Crucible’s 56,000 sq. ft. studio, where furnaces roar and sparks fly. Catch amazing fiery performances and wander through our student and faculty art show displaying the creativity of The Crucible.

Spring Open House Event Highlights:

  • Intriguing demonstrations combining science and art, including the Science of Fire, Venturi Effect, Ruben’s Tube, Harmonograph, Die Moto Bio-diesel motorcycle display, mysteries of steelmade visible, Raku firing, bicycle physics and other fascinating experiments in action
  • Thought provoking guest exhibits by Tech Shop and Chabot Space & Science Center.  Also, Ron Hipschman, Exploratorium staff physicist, will give a lecture and demonstration about many ways to make color, from neon signs to oil slicks, to rainbows and more
  • Amazing molten metal pour in our foundry
  • Fiery stage performances by our fire performance faculty & students
  • Live music by Oakland-based ensemble, Gamelan X
  • Spectacular art show spotlighting work from Crucible students, faculty & staff
  • Beautiful handmade art for sale by Crucible artists
  • Eye popping discounts on Crucible classes
  • Nifty bicycles for sale in The Crucible’s Bike Shop
  • Tasty food and drinks
  • Chances to win free tuition for a Crucible class!


The Crucible is truly unique with seventeen fine and industrial art disciplines under one roof. We will demystify the science of art with demonstrations and exhibits in every area. Instructors, students, guest artists and scientists will be on hand to answer your questions. Check out a map of our studio!
Art Show

Each spring we show off what we do here with a spectacular art show. Come to see artistic pieces from Crucible staff, students, faculty and volunteers. The art showcases pieces created in  our industrial arts classes. During the open house, you will be able to vote on your favorite three pieces.  Free tuition on a Crucible class will be awarded to the winning artist.
Handmade Art for Sale
This year we have Crucible artists on hand selling their beautiful handmade art. Currently, we haveTara Murray Art GlassNightside StudiosRed Frog Metal DesignRusty Noodle and many more.
Discounts on Crucible Classes
New students who sign up for a spring class during the Open House, will receive 20% off class tuition. All members who sign up will receive 25% off. Become a member at our open house and get 25% off any class you register for that day.
Bicycles for Sale 
Looking for a great deal on a bike? The Crucible Bike Shop has a selection of quality, used bicycles that have been fully rebuilt by our youth and volunteer mechanics. Stop by the bike shop during the open house for a test ride, or with questions or to make an appointment. In addition to getting a sweet, reliable ride, your purchase supports our youth Earn-A-Bike Program, and our Community Bike Fixathons. Learn more.

Why I Blog

A random person online asked me a couple questions. You all might find it interesting to read the exchange.

Jesse asks: How did you manage to get your blog into the public, I’m talking about publicity.

Lee: Do you mean to ask how I promote my blog and make it popular? I don’t do anything except post unique, useful content and make sure that google can search it. I make sure there is no comment spam as well.

Jesse: Okay so your website is unique, which is good don’t get me wrong. Before you knew there were people actually seeing things on your blog, did you ever have the feeling it was quite useless to write?

Lee: That’s actually a very good question. I decided several years ago that I wanted to keep a journal for myself. I also noticed that many of my friends would email me, asking “how are you?”. When I wrote a long reply, I could copy and paste that response for several friends. I just don’t have the time to write a very long response for each friend. So I decided that I would polish up my response and let everyone see it on my website. So now all of my friends can check in and see how I am doing at their leisure. I have to censor myself just a bit so I feel comfortable letting anyone read it, but I feel it is well worthwhile.

Additionally, I like to write in order to remember an idea or story, that way I can tell the story in person easier. It was a no-brainer for me to write the stories for my web audience, because its easier for me to write when I know I have an audience.

Additionally, I like to make notes for myself, reviewing products, reminding myself of good and bad things, and the like. I find it easier to write them if I have an audience than if I am just writing for my own benefit. Hence the reviews and such on the site. I frequently use the search engine on my site to remind me of a product that I’ve used in the past.

In that same spirit, I’ll post my email to you to my blog when I get back from my spring break!

So as you see, it doesn’t feel useless to me, it feels like a natural and helpful extension to my life!

Oh, and it feels terrific every time someone writes a comment saying that I helped them, doubly so when I help someone avoid a scam!

Yerba Buena Center for the Arts: Audience as Subject

Went to Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco when meeting M. Nuttmeg for the first time. The gallery show “Audience as Subject” was just fantastic. There is a lot of terrific art there! You should go.

Here are some of my memories of the show:

  • A video of a crowd of men doing some kind of shoving/groupthink thing to some women. I don’t know exactly what was happening and I was pretty bothered by it.(One does not necessarily “like” good art!)
  • A giant photograph of a rock band playing, well actually you could only barely see the band, the photo was about the 20,000 people in the audience all thrusting their attention forward. It was beautiful!
  • A larger than life photo of concert-goers totally in the moment of a rock concert, screaming and sweating and loving it!
  • A large screen showing (probably, it was hard to tell exactly) the running of the bulls in Pamplona with an infrared camera. The bulls were hot, the people abstracted, the masses of people looked more like flowing water than people. Completely awesome.
  • Lots of people standing in a stadium, flipping cards to make giant mosaics, FUN!
  • A room that, when you walk into it the lights change and the walls light up with drawings of a crowd cheering, and a soundtrack to match. It was as though we were dropped into a fighting ring, and it evoked that exciting / scary feeling that you’d think it would. AND the way the lighting was, it felt very much like M. Nuttmeg, the only other person in the room, was my opponent: very cool art!
  • A 10 minute video of a soccer match… well, we never saw the match, it wasn’t about the match. It was about the audience cheering and waving flags, doing waves, gyrating and undulating like a crazed sea of humanity on the verge of exploding into violence. For much of the video, it was very uncomfortable, worrying about whether we’d be trampled if our team started to lose. But then I envied how passionate everyone was about their team. It was very intense and cool!
  • A very curious and energetic 2 image piece from China

Then upstairs!

  • A 2-piece suit, briefcase, shoes and Blackberry, dissected! All the parts splayed out on the wall! Curiously totally cool. It reminded me of how deceased butterflies are displayed.
  • A short movie titled Dogsled, which was my favorite piece of the whole show, partially because it was this crazy mix of serious, goofy, childish, and quaint; partially for personal reasons. We see a woman driving a “dogsled team” of faux-fur covered remote controlled cars in a wooded park in Tokyo. The team is pulling the wheeled sled she is sitting on across a parking lot while it snows lightly. (Mai Yamashita & Naoto Kobayashi, Dogsled, 2008, rt: 5:23)

Two notable things: I wouldn’t normally recall everything so vividly. This show rocks. I was struck that the show didn’t involve any kind of permanent collection. This show stands on its own, firmly on it’s own merits. Hats off to the curator! Oh, and it was just seven bucks to get in, crazy inexpensive for such a great day.

This is a simply stunning show. You should go.

Barbots Success!

Last week SWARM attended the Barbots event. It was a great success!

Jon proposed:

So here’s the plan: I will get some 3/16 plywood and some 2x4s (anyone have some scrap?) and if I can find it some thin astroturf carpet. I have a spare piano hinge. The idea is to make a runway edged with 2x4s, and a small hinged ramp at the end, also edged with 2x4s. Under the ramp is an foot pump like for inflating air mattresses (anyone have one to borrow?) Someplace on a table with a bottle with a cork that has two tubes through it. The output tube goes down to the liquid; the input tube doesn’t and is connected to the airpump. Rolling an orb up the ramp depresses the pump, which pumps air into the bottle, displacing liquid through the output tube into someone’s cup. It will be punk rock but it should work…

And darn if it didn’t work! We had orb mini-golf at BarBots!

Here’s a fantastic set of Barbots images from Marc