Archive for April 2014

Rubens’ Tube Commission

Over the last few weeks I’ve been building a Rubens’ Tube with Michael Kearney. Mark Rosin of Guerilla Science asked us to build a prototype of a piece that would travel to rock concerts and the like, blinding people with science. It’s an excellent plan.

Just a few minutes after the birth of the tube.

Practicing before the performance.

The view from Isabelle Engler, the pianist’s chair.



Last week we presented the Rubens’ Tube at MSRI, the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute in Berkeley. It went really well.

I’ll try to show you some good video soon.




Come To An Art Opening With My Work

I’ve been working with Desiree Holman over the last year, building electronic kinetic artwork for her upcoming event.

Join me at this free event, May 10th 6-8pm (5-6pm preview for members) at the di Rosa in Napa!

(yes, the image below is a bit intense. It’s supposed to be, it’s art!)

(Facebook invitation)
At the di Rosa, 5200 Sonoma Highway, Napa, California 94559

In this new body of work, artist Desirée Holman explores the overlap of technology, sci-fi pop culture, and New Age mysticism. Through an immersive, multimedia installation, Holman unpacks the iconography associated with these realms—including aliens, auras, and time travelers—to examine the space where fantasy can reveal truth. The exhibition emerges from Holman’s long-standing interest in the communal uses of technology for creative, spiritual, and social fulfillment. Oscillating between terrestrial and extraterrestrial, and new and old ages, Sophont in Action speaks largely to our culturally developed conceptions of “otherness” and the shaping of identity within an evolving world.
FREE. (Members’ Preview: 5-6 PM.)

View the exhibition brochure: (local archive)

Need a ride or interested in carpooling? Contact Lee or Join the Facebook event and post a message here to connect with people in your area who need a lift or are able to provide one.

Desirée Holman: Sophont in Action is on view in di Rosa’s Gatehouse Gallery May 10-July 20, 2014. Visit for more information.

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

507 Animated Mechanical Movements

Cover your eyes, this is kinetic porn!