February 2011 Archives

I'm still in the daydream stage with this project, but I want to make an Antarctica-themed stop motion animation with my summer camp students in June, and it occurred to me that it would be fun to have them make little stuffed penguins and move them across a constructed white "ice" mountain.  I was thinking that we'd use socks as the basis for the penguin bodies... but where to get lots of cheap black socks?  Baby socks would be best - less stuffing and less storage space needed.  People don't dress their babies in black socks, though.  So I kept the idea in the back of my mind, and today it came to me: work gloves, black work gloves.  Ten fingers in a pair, and each finger could be cut off and become the beginnings of a tiny penguin. I think I have a weekend project. Glove finger, white felt, yellow felt, black felt, googly eyes, something to weight the bottom so it stands up.  Hmm. I'll report back... 
The problem with Internet quotations is that many are not genuine. 
--Abraham Lincoln

via Kevin Kelly
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I love the list added to the sign in a downtown parking garage. "Prepay in Lobby Before Going to Mellon Arena, Benedum. Heinz Field, Heinz Hall, convention center, PNC park, your job, fireworks." 
See February 17, and Robert Benchley's advice on how to get things done. Lots of delightful and semi-essential tasks planned for the next two days. I will probably get other things done, instead.

This stop action animation almost made me laugh out loud with delight. Can't stop watching it. via Laughing Squid

Kevin Kelly has started a new conversation here, writing:

We are all newbies here, discussing how to independently publish on a screen. Tell us what tools and techniques work for you.
I've been thinking more about this myself, so I look forward to seeing what resources and ideas emerge.

Boing Boing just ran an album of what artist James Gurney carries in his bag, for painting and sketching on the go. If you click through on various images, they have linked to a blog post of Gurney's with more explanation. I love seeing what gadgets and gear people bring with them.
I'm grateful to Strange Maps for reminding me of Italo Calvino's Invisible Cities, and for showing me the beautiful work of Armelle Caron. Excerpt showing her work from Strange Maps post below:
So, so totally cool - the beta batch of them is sold out for now, but can't WAIT to get my hands on these...

Cubelets Engineering Prototypes from eric schweikardt on Vimeo.

Here's a page of description.

At $300, they are not cheap - but priced in line with other classroom robotics sets. They would be perfect for teaching the concepts of robotics to almost any age. Then you could move on from there to work with programming and building using PicoCricket or a PicoBoard with Scratch.

And they just look like so much FUN to play with.
A splendid day of doing things.  None of them essential.
...with thanks to Sheila Ryan for reminding me, and posting it today.

The secret of my incredible energy and efficiency in getting work done is a simple one. I have based it very deliberately on a well-known psychological principle and have refined it so that it is now almost too refined. I shall have to begin coarsening it up again pretty soon.

The psychological principle is this: anyone can do any amount of work, provided it isn't the work he is supposed to be doing at that moment.

From "How to Get Things Done." Robert Benchley.
An article about memory and memory palaces also has some interesting things to say about plateaus and practice:

In his 1869 book "Hereditary Genius," Sir Francis Galton argued that a person could improve at mental and physical activities until he hit a wall, which "he cannot by any education or exertion overpass." In other words, the best we can do is simply the best we can do. But Ericsson and his colleagues have found over and over again that with the right kind of effort, that's rarely the case. They believe that Galton's wall often has much less to do with our innate limits than with what we consider an acceptable level of performance. They've found that top achievers typically follow the same general pattern. They develop strategies for keeping out of the autonomous stage by doing three things: focusing on their technique, staying goal-oriented and getting immediate feedback on their performance. Amateur musicians, for example, tend to spend their practice time playing music, whereas pros tend to work through tedious exercises or focus on difficult parts of pieces. Similarly, the best ice skaters spend more of their practice time trying jumps that they land less often, while lesser skaters work more on jumps they've already mastered. In other words, regular practice simply isn't enough. To improve, we have to be constantly pushing ourselves beyond where we think our limits lie and then pay attention to how and why we fail.

- Joshua Foer, The New York Times

Twisted Toys from Learning Studio on Vimeo.

Last spring, the Exploratorium hosted an event where artists and makers were given an electronic toy chicken to modify. Each brought materials and tools; each had 8 hours to work. Short views of all the projects are here. The embedded video above follows five of the projects.
"How the Internet Gets Inside Us," by Adam Gopnick, in the current issue of the New Yorker online, is worth a read.  (I think I'm an "Ever-Waser," if I have to sort myself into one of his categories...)
Johnny Chung Lee, who brought us the $14 DIY steadicam, and the $40 interactive whiteboard, has now created a telepresence robot for $500.  His inventiveness fills me with joy... so much becomes possible when you let yourself look at the world differently.

(And wouldn't it be cool to choreograph some telepresent dancers? or play games with a group of such robots?)
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Getting together with friends, talking and singing. A perfect activity for a weekend afternoon. Now I'm full of delight and energy, and looking forward to the week ahead.

Francoise Hoffman working in her studio. Whether or not you understand French, this video is beautiful. (via art for housewives)
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A video walking tour of Arduino Park, or Arduino imagined on a roughly 1000:1 scale. (Watch for the dog.)

(via Make)
Moved by people's courage and purpose, I continue to spend most of my free online moments reading about the events in Egypt. 
Even 15 minutes can make a difference, if you find that time every day.
New York Times photojournalist Stephen Farrell writes "What Not to Bring to Tahrir Square." Great reading for anyone with an interest in gear, improvisation, and how simply reporting on the process of getting a story can also tell a bigger story.
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Got DropDav configured today, after reading this post about using it to sync iWork applications with DropBox.  (If you are using the free version of DropBox, DropDav is free.  If you aren't using DropBox for cloud syncing, backup, and storage yet, here's a referral link...) At any rate, now I can easily work with documents on laptop or iPad and keep them in sync.
Looking toward the week ahead, and figuring out where the time for working by myself will emerge. Not yet clear to me, but at least I'm thinking about it.
In weekend mode.  Lots of family time, some reading and various errands and outings.

"Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working."  - Pablo Picasso (via Swissmiss)

I'd spent some time exploring Google's Art Project, but didn't realize all that was there until seeing this video.

I hadn't seen this video for a couple of years, so it was great to run across it again on BoingBoing. Illustrator Bob Staake does his work with Photoshop 3.0 on a very old Mac. Good to be reminded that the best tool for you might be the one you already know well, and if you like your process, you should trust that.

A kind commenter over on woolgathering... let me know about this project before I read about it anywhere else.  Google's Art Project brings the virtual reality navigation of GoogleMaps Street View to many of the world's great museums.  You can then choose a picture and zoom in on it - close enough to see brush strokes.  Sometimes virtual reality environments make me a little seasick, but it's worth persevering here - so much to see.



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