The mini-kaiju are teething, which means very little sleep in our household.
I had about an hour’s nap mid-afternoon yesterday, kindly afforded by Foe taking on twin-wrangling for a bit. I had a really vivid dream, which I can only recall snatches of. Blogging about dreams would be naff even if I were twenty years younger and it was twenty years ago, and this was livejournal, so I’ll keep this short.
The context, I think was a pub conversation about books read and not-read – you know the sort where people enthuse about something you absolutely must-read, that they can’t quite believe you haven’t. In it, a book called “The Refrigerator” came up.
Either I couldn’t believe someone hadn’t read it, or they couldn’t believe I hadn’t. Anyway, it’s many merits were listed by those present.
“The Refrigerator” basically put, is a hard sci-fi take on Lovecraft – interstellar space is dark and empty apart from the dark, empty, unknowable and relentless things in it – which glance against our little solar system in the near-future, causing much wailing and gnashing of teeth.
I think the majority of it was set on some kind of colony or station in the Kuiper Belt that cops it before the rest of us.
I mention all this as it mustn’t of popped in there all by itself – and there are certainly shades of Greg Bear’s “Forge of God“, Lovecraft, Warren’s “Ocean“, and his nasally-extinguished God from The Authority, Vernor Vinge’s “A Fire upon the deep” and even Pitch-Black.
Aside from all of those, have I described to myself a book that I think I should read?
Do you recognize a book I should read?
A while back, two years ago in fact – just under a year before we (BERG) announced Little Printer, Matt Webb gave an excellent talk at the Royal Institution in London called “BotWorld: Designing for the new world of domestic A.I”…
This week, all of the Little Printers that are out in the world started to change.
Their hair started to grow (you can trim it if you like) and they started to get a little sad if they weren’t used as often as they’d like…
The world of domesticated, tiny AIs that Matt was talking about two years ago is what BERG is starting to explore, manufacture – and sell in every larger numbers.
I poked at it as well, in my talk building on Matt Webb’s thinking “Gardens & Zoos” about a year ago – suggesting that Little Printer was akin to a pot-plant in it’s behaviour, volition and place in our homes.
I’m amazed and proud of the team for a brilliant bit of thinking-through-making-at-scale, which, though it just does very simple things right now, is our platform for playing with the particular corner of the near-future that Matt outlined in his talk.
I got my Brompton six years ago, while I was still reverse-commuting every day from central London to Hampshire. Nokia’s UK design studio was located in glamorous Farnborough at the time, and quite a few of us travelled west from Waterloo for an hour or so, where there was a incredibly-depressing shuttle bus to the anonymous office park where we drank a lot of tea and tried to seduce implacable engineers and product managers with endless flash mockups of what we thought were better UIs than s60.
But that’s a tale for another day.
The train ride you could cope with – competitive crosswording with Matt Brown, Joe McCloud’s stream of consciousness narration of the suburban landscapes we trundled through (think Jonathan Meades meets Bill Hicks), Eddie’s terrible puns – but wait for the shuttle bus and the cramped, smelly bus ride itself were the last straw for many, who opted to bike the last couple of miles to the office every day instead.
There were a few tribes – the fast and furious fixies of Adam and Silas, Tom and Mattias the oak-legged mud-loving MTBers… and then, me… initially on a Strida, with its rubber belt, tiny wheels, pennyfarthing-seating and terrifying twitch-steering.
Despite it’s quirks, I loved the Strida – at least compared to the shuttle bus. It was perfect for the train -> work -> train -> pub -> first floor flat daily life I had back then.
The lack of gears started to be noticed on even the slight climbs between Farnborough station and Nokia HQ, so after only a few months, in September 2006 I upgraded to my Brompton.
Up until last year it was my primary bike – until I started cycling my entire route to work rather than folding up and getting on the train. It sat forlorn in the studio, and then my kitchen – until last Saturday when I sold it to welovebromptons.co.uk, from where it will hopefully find a new home.
I loved my brompton as I’ve not loved many of my possessions. Not only for it’s utility and efficency – but also for what it represented: British design, engineering and manufacture.
I was fortunate to be invited to the Brompton factory in 2010.
I believe that at the time it was (and it still maybe) the only full manufacturing site in London. It was fantastic to see the skill, care and attention to detail that was given to every process.
Also the integration of design, engineering and manufacture – the continuum of concern that the designers had for the material and human processes at work in the factory.
Design was not an abstract activity, but an integral one – with a tight feedback loop from the shop floor, the testing suites, the customer service.
And the shop floor itself was a treat for a designer – a rainbow of coated metal…
So, sadly it’s goodbye to all that for now, no longer will I be able to tuck my green machine into the convenient parking bay provided by The Shepherdess…
But I dare say I’ll own one again, one day.
Handsome, handsome machines.
In Adam’s post on reinventing cars, I had a little brainblip when I read the sentence:
“Bolt-on kits. Adaptive reuse. Provisional and experimental rezoning.”
I read it as something like Rezoning. Something like ‘reasoning’, but heavily-accented with the future.
Of course, Adam actually means Rezoning. As in re-zoning what areas of cities are designated to be used for in urban plans.
Sometimes it’s nice to trip up on a word and see where you stumble.
It’s fair to say this post is a little behind-the-times, but I finally want to get round to recording the story behind my “Get Excited & Make Things” image – and also releasing the files, which was always my intention…
I was a little frustrated with myself and the world one day, and went to sit in Hoxton Square to do the Guardian crossword as a remedy.
Flicking through the G2 section I came across a short article about the “Keep Calm & Carry On” WW2 poster phenomenon.
It occurred to me that this was exactly the wrong sentiment for this age – and in fact the stoicism it recommends was been viewed ironically in the main by those who purchased it.
I started sketching on the paper a contrary statement, where stiff upper lip was replaced by a stiff upper arm from soldering…
The royal crown was replaced by one made of spanners (or wrenches, for our yanqui friends) – and Get Excited & Make Things was born.
I posted it to flickr, where to date it has had over 90k views. It got turned into t-shirt of the week by my friends at Howies (and became their fastest selling shirt ever, apparently!) with the proceeds going towards their Do Lectures.
Then, an art print by Jen and friends at 20×200 – with proceeds going to Creative Commons.
I only mention it’s success (though gratifying personally, obviously – and I’m very happy that it’s provided some small contributions to good causes) – because it seems that it has resonated with so many people.
And that’s the really amazing thing – that there might be a determination, en-masse – to really get the blood pumping and make our way out of the messes we’ve created.
With that in mind, I’m offering the original files under a CC-non-commercial, attribution, share-alike licence.
If you want to use the images for commercial means, we can talk of course – about you giving some donation to a good cause in exchange. I say that, as it’s cropped up in a few places being used without prior permission for commercial ends…
So here they are.
Thank you to everyone so far who has bought a shirt, a print – or just printed it out and stuck in up in their work place or college.
Please stay excited, please stay making.