Category Archives: Life

Weekend Report

Late, of course. I swear I don’t know how regular bloggers manage to keep up the volume.

Anyway, the weekend was mostly a ball, modulo getting hammered by something that could be a bug, but is likely as not just a bad case of seasonal allergies.

On Saturday, I attended the Maker Faire, where a tremendous amount of cool stuff was on display. TechShop had almost an entire hall — one of the smaller ones, but still — to itself, with a bunch of machines in operation. The laser engravers were almost hypnotic to watch, as their flying heads burned crisp, variable-depth designs into sheets of wood band by precise band.

The plasma-arc cutter, meanwhile, bordered on intimidating: I watched it cut copies of TechShop’s gear-wheel logo out of eighth-inch steel as easily as an X-Acto knife slices dolls out of paper. When I remarked how fast it was, the woman exhibiting it informed me with just a trace of glee that its top speed was considerably higher still.

I strongly suspect that I’ll become a TechShop member in the not-too-distant future.

I’d been eyeing the Make Controller Kit with an even mix of curiosity and desire for a while, but deterred by the long backlog from actually taking the plunge and ordering one. However, the sight of several dozen, stacked in unassuming cardboard boxes at the Maker Store, just waiting to be purchased, proved to be more than a match for my limited reserves of self-restraint.

It should come in handy as I ramp up on mucking around with DIY sabersmithy — I have some ideas involving sensors and color-modulated RGB LEDs that won’t get very far at all without some kind of microcontroller to tie the pieces together.

I also picked up a copy of Make Volume 10, which lays out plans for a so-called “brain machine” — also known as a “Sound and Light Machine”, or SLM — based on Limor (“Lady Ada“) Fried’s MiniPOV v3 kit. I’ve always been intrigued by SLMs, but put off by the high price tag. For less than $20, it’s hard to see going wrong.

Unfortunately, by about mid-afternoon I was congested enough to have trouble hearing through my right ear. After a failed attempt to sign up for the afternoon Ybox workshop, which was totally overbooked, I called it a day and headed home. I had a great time, though, and definitely plan to be back next year.

I rounded out the day doing some work on the sabers, mainly on the Luxeon conversion of my Darth Maul, which will be documented in greater detail later.

Things after that are a bit of a blur. I slept poorly, tossing and turning with my thoughts arace, probably owing to the stimulant effect of the decongestants I took too close to bedtime, and consequently spent most of the morning feeling groggy before collapsing back into an afternoon-spanning nap.

Still, all and all, a pretty good weekend.

Thermopylae Soon

As I told my mother during a recent conversation, there’s an outside chance that your life has taken something of a wrong — or, at the very least, strange — turn when you find yourself departing, shortly before midnight, the building in which you work and thinking, without any immediate irony, “Boy, it feels good to leave early for a change.”


Notes for a sketch of the Bay Area in the ethereal week between Christmas and New Year’s Day:

It was graying, though dry, as my plane landed at SFO yesterday morning; driving home from the airport, I heard several warnings of possible flash-flooding later in the day. Patches of lighter cloud still stretched across the sky as I headed to work after dropping off my luggage and checking in on the cats, but you could see darker bands moving in from the southwest.

At some point during the day, while I banged out code in my cubicle, the promised downpour arrived. It slackened a bit come mid-afternoon, and I took advantage of the lull to venture out in search of a late lunch. I thought, as I did so, of Holly: the smell of wet concrete in my nostrils, something we discovered early on held special significance for us both, and the warm, reassuring weight of my hooded felt jacket, a typically tasteful gift from her, would have made it hard not to. I can’t say that I even pretended to try.

The rain gradually gave over to wind as night fell. This morning, I woke to the sound of swaying trees sighing, and found myself, as I drove to work, feeling like a canoeist in rapids, fighting capricious currents to keep my course. I arrived none the worse for wear; still the gusts, undaunted, made one last try for me as I approached the building entrance, forcing me to wrestle them for control of the door.

Nonetheless, it’s a beautiful day, bright and clear. Say what you will about the wind, it’s scoured the skies nearly clean of clouds, and the air of haze. The hills are sharp in the distance, their slopes greening in the wake of the rain.

It could all change tomorrow, of course, but at the moment it feels almost like spring is just around the corner. Maybe it’s that, or maybe it’s something else entirely, but I can’t shake the suspicion that 2007 is going to be an interesting year.

“Are you always this sentimental?”

“I had a good day.”

— Mal Reynolds

Yesterday was good. Really, really good. Kick-ass hand-made coffee for breakfast. A brief walk. An extra hit of coffee. A long, soul-stirring ride along the Los Gatos Creek trail. (Marred only by the discovery that the last segment of the trail, to Lexington Reservoir, is closed and will be until June 9th, but that’s life.)

Afternoon fun at Art and Lisa‘s. Met a handsome, charming horse. Got to groom said horse, who was was gentle and well-behaved as could be.

Launched rockets. Caught rockets. Discovered that the saberstaff leaves neat trails when you twirl it in front of a camera with the right settings, under the appropriate conditions. (Must attempt to duplicate said settings and conditions.)

(More pictures, along with detailed reports of the nonsense in question, have been collected by Lisa.)

Today could be a total wash — not that I expect it to be — and I’d still call it a good weekend.

Fun With Uncle Kridley

I had lunch with Dirk, which was fun as always, today at Maria Elena’s. (Toward the end, it was not merely fun, but exciting, as something went seriously wrong with the electrical lines in the area, causing a series of loud explosions, at least one downed cable, and a pervasive reek of ozone and burnt insulation. Good times, good times.)

Dirk also felt obliged to point out that the stories on Anacrusis are not merely extremely short, but exactly one hundred and one words long, no more and no less. I hadn’t realized that they obeyed such a strict form; the knowledge only inspires additional respect for the author.

Cheesy Song Lyrics — Learning to Walk Again Edition

Via Michael Tolcher

Pull the hair back from your eyes,
Let the people see your pretty face,
And try not to say anything weird.

Save your questions without answers
‘Til you’re old enough to know
That things ain’t as they appeared.

Before you go out in the sun,
Cover your skin and don’t get burned.
Beware the cancer — it might kill you when you’re old.

Be first in line, raise your hand,
Remember everything you hear —
That playing in the rain is worth catching cold.

Sooner or later,
We’ll be looking back on everything;
We’ll laugh about it like we knew what all was happening.
Someday you might listen to what people have to say;
Now, you learn the hard way.

We only want what’s best for you,
That’s why we tell you what to do —
Never mind if nothing makes sense.

‘Cause it all works out in the end,
You’re just like us without a friend —
But you can build a privacy fence.

Yeah, sooner or later,
We’ll be looking back on everything;
We’ll laugh about it like we knew what all was happening.
And someday you might listen to what people have to say;
Now, you learn the hard way.
Yeah, now you learn the hard way.

Some things, you have to learn them all on your own:
You can’t rely on anybody else,
Or the point of view of a source unknown.

If it feels good, and sounds nice,
Then it’s your choice, so don’t doubt yourself —
Don’t even think twice.

Pull the hair back from your eyes,
Let the people see your pretty face.
You know they like it when you smile (Find a reason to smile)

Try not to focus on yourself,
Share that love with someone else.
Don’t let the bitters bring you down, down.
Don’t let anything bring you down.

Sooner or later,
We’ll be looking back on everything;
We’ll laugh about it like we knew what all was happening.
And someday you might listen to what people have to say;
Now, you learn the hard way.
Yeah, now you learn the hard way.

Innocent Blood

Coming back from the party late this evening, I walked through the door to find feathers on the floor. Oh, great, I thought. The cats have savaged the feather duster. Then I saw the sad little body lying on the carpet. Oh. I only wish they’d savaged the feather duster.


The mess won’t be hard to clean up: while there seems to have been no shortage of feathers, there was very little blood. The kids’ unattended porch privileges will have to be revoked permanently.

I feel like I owe the dead bird an apology. Something along the lines of, I’m sorry. Your death was pointless, unnecessary, and doubtless terrifying. I am ultimately responsible, and I would make amends if I could.

At times like this, I reflect that it’s strange to be affected by the death of a creature no larger than my fist when I’ve just returned from an evening out where I sampled lamb, chicken, beef, and pork, among other things. I’d like to think that the difference lies in the bird’s death having served no useful purpose, but if forced to be honest with myself I’d probably have to admit that it’s nothing more than the hypocrisy of a carnivore who has someone else do the butchering for him.

Cans and Can’ts

The list of things you can and can’t do with a broken wrist is surprising and unituitive.

Type? Slow, but manageable.

Drive a car? Not even particularly hard, except when you want to turn and downshift at the same time. (Of course, if I’d broken my right wrist, it’d be a whole other story.)

Tie your shoes? Tricky. Very tricky. I’ve taken to wearing laceless shoes for the duration.

Wash dishes? Forget it. Impossible. Cannot be done. Using the dishwasher is another thing I’ve taken to doing for the duration. (I hate the dishwasher. It spots like anything.)

Sticks and Stones

Of all the bits of dubious folk wisdom floating around, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me” has long been the one I’ve regarded with the most suspicion. I’ve been pummeled, and I’ve had tongue-lashings; I know which produced sore spots that lingered longer. But now I have the final, missing piece, the definitive proof.

Brothers and sisters, I am here to testify: the old adage is bullshit.

In the month just ended, I broke my wrist, and I witnessed the disintegration of two personal relationships that had meant something to me. No points for guessing which hurt more. Give me cuts, bruises, scratches, and contusions, and watch me smile as I bleed. Just don’t give me angry words and freezing silences.