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I work for Toys for Bob / Activision. Posts here are my personal views, and do not necessarily reflect that of my employer. 

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Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Made By Hand

I recently finished the audiobook version of "Made by Hand : Searching for Meaning in a Throwaway World", By Mark Frauenfelder. Mark is the founder of one of my favorite blogs, boingboing, and editor in chief of my favorite magazine MAKE Magazine. He recently won Stephen Colbert over with The Most Useless Machine. His geek cred's longer than my 2 year old son's Thomas the Train collection, and that's no small feat. So I don't take what this man has to say lightly.... I'm not being paid to say this, I've only met Mark once at the last Maker Faire, but he's a hero to all of us Maker Geeks, I've been followed him for years.

What I love the most about the book, is his courage for sharing his failures. The fear of failure is what keeps most of us from attempting. That is because the fear is often legit, you don't even know enough to estimate the chances of succeeding, and failure usually comes at a higher cost than you are willing to risk. It is an honest fear that you will screw things up, because you most probably will. I will never get over the fear of
failure, but I'm getting better at accepting it in my art and hobby, and thrive on the challenges of doing something new.You loose the fear once you've learned, and you learn by taking the first step, by trying. You don't often forget your mistakes, in fact, Mark makes it clear that failure is necessary for success. Every little success builds onto a better foundation for future projects.

Mark's honesty in his book, about his own maker history, was very inspiring. I learned a lot reading about his failures, and feel connected and proud of him, when he mentioned his successes. I think this is a trait of a maker, perhaps it's just human nature, to find things more impressive when you can relate to them, especially when you can see the human element in the things we love.

Here is something I'd like to share with my experience in inspiring others, and what I mean by the "human element".Years ago, at the first Maker Faire, I was really nervous about presenting my steam robots, this was my first exposure to the public with them. It's one thing to hide behind the internet as this "crabfu" thing, but quite a different animal to show my hobby to thousands of people, and to answer a million questions about the absurdity of "steam powered robots". Not only the public, but here are real makers of real robots, of real kinetic art, real stuff that these masters have made by hand. And how did I end up showing my stuff here? I mean, I didn't even make any of this stuff.... I felt really embarrassed about confessing to people, who rushed to my table, that I mearly combine stuff together in unusal ways, and didn't actually make the parts. In fact, I feel more like an hip hop artist in this respect, than a real "maker". I combine stuff, and make something new and different, as a whole. To my suprise, when I told people that I only Frankensteined the parts together, and I don't actually know how to work a lathe, or a mill, or use much more than my trusty dremel, that's when they became REALLY impressed. How could this be? I thought they would chase me out of this "Maker" faire, because I don't have the skills to use a CNC machine, but they were far more impressed at that fact. It took me a while to wrap my head around this, and to the reason why. I believe the answer is, when people were exposed to how I had made and hack these things together, it made them realize that they could do it too. I told people what worked, what didn't, and how I ended up with the final design. This is empowering, and probably the best motivational kick you could give someone, to let them know how they can do it too, and to make the project tangible, relevant, and human.

This, is the feeling I got from Mark's book. The great stories of how he learned the skills, is more of a human story, and not really a "how to" book. He gives you the sense of how cool making these projects are, which hits me right in the sweet spot. I now want to make a cigar box guitar, raise chickens, maybe even get back into wood carving, and many others projects mentioned in this book. I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in making things. In fact, I think this book is great for people who have always wanted to learn to make stuff, but don't, because that little voice in your head saying: "I don't know anything about how to do this, I don't want to f*)#* it up". Get yourself a nice cup of coffee, kick up your feet, and get ready to be inspired. I've gota get back to researching more about this chicken rising business....

You can find a print version here on amazon, or audiobook version here on audible.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Nothing Bad Magazine Interview

I was interviewed a while back by Arianna Reiche, and recently made it into the London based magazine, Nothing Bad

You can read it here, where I  rambled on about my design process, my inspirations, why I make these things, and where I find the time. My article starts on page 26.

Here are links to a couple of influences that I mentioned: 

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

My Cousin Tony

I have some very special memories of growing up playing with my cousin Tony. I remember in our pre teen years, we used to cut out bits and pieces of my aunt's department store catalogs, to form new images. Pages with lawn mowers, vacuums, and other machines and appliances, were especially prized. They made great characterful robots when cut up and recombined. Even back then, Tony and I were all about sci-fi, robots, but more importantly.... creativity and character. Tony has a Ph. D. in Linguistics (he READ the dictionary in several languages as a kid), and has won many awards and publications for his sci fi / fantasy stories. I, on the other hand, needed a spell checker for the word "linguistics".

Tony is a great writer, very accomplished and has won many awards,  I couldn't be prouder. His new book is entitled "The Dragon and the Stars", available on Amazon.

As an adult, cousin Tony and I finally got a chance to work together on a professional level last year. By this time, Tony had already been established as a great writer, and I had done some illustration work for Orson Scott Card's Intergalactic Medicine Show. So when Tony signed on to publish his short story "Tekkai Exhales His Avatar", it was an natural fit for me to illustrate for his story. The result was something that we were both very happy with, and I felt silly to be paid for "playing" again with my cousin Tony again.

Tony's website is: http://www.eyrie.org/~pi and his blog at: http://wistling.livejournal.com.

Also check out "A Sweet Calling" on Clarkesworld Magazine Podcast: http://clarkesworldmagazine.com/audio_05_10a/

Friday, September 3, 2010

Crabfu $5 iPhone Microscope Mod

Here is my microscope mod.... really simple to make, dirt cheap, and hours of fun!

The link to the $5 microscope on amazon. Comes with 3 batteries, 2 LEDs, free Prime shipping, the Best 5 bucks you'll spend today.
The iPhone4 BodyGlove case I'm using.

And some sample pics taken with it:

Surface of a fossil crab carapace

Blue Jeans

Slide of a spider


Slide of a Flea

a random tiny insect found in my car seat

$20 bill

Adafruit multitool logo

Gears on the Kinekt Gear Ring