Monthly Archives: October 2008

The conference cliché strikes again.

The highlights of my time at the Sarasota Design Summit were found in the spaces outside the formal sessions. One theme pervading the interstices inspired by Dave Gray and Josh DiMauro was the renaissance of paper as a medium in a mixed digital/physical world – as prototype spime.

Following Josh’s Paperbit’s work, Aaron’s Papernet thinking and Dave’s investigations of the changing form of books, we came up with a nascent plan for a PaperCamp – a weekend of hacking paper and it’s new possibiities.

I scrawled some ideas.

  • Way-new printing
  • Protospimes
  • Ingestion/Digestion/Representation
  • Bionic sketching
  • Folding/structure
  • Paper’s children

As per usual, I don’t really know what any of these mean exactly. It was kind of automatic writing.


It does feel like there’s something here, and I’m really intrigued at what might happen at a papercamp(s).

Who’s with me?

Bond is captured – manacled and attached to a slab of cold steel bracketed by lasers and buzzsaws, suspended high above a pool of sharks.

Out of the shadows cast by the harsh arc-lights illuminating his base hewn from the caldera, steps The Bond Villain of the Long Now.

He straightens his Nehru jacket, adjusts his monocle to better see the figures scrolling past on it’s HUD and clears his throat.

Bond suppresses a chuckle.

Time for the speech.

“Now Mr. Bond, I expect you to die.

In real-time.

with me.

and all of us.”

He takes a step closer to a suddenly frozen Bond.

He kisses his cheek with a brotherly tenderness the agent has never known.

And cuts him free.

12 years later. A park bench in Cambridge.

A dishevelled man in a raggedy tuxedo idly burns tiny marks in the wooden slats with his laser watch and stares into the middle distance.

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Chief Engineer Henry writes:

“Hello there,

We’re doing ok – slowly, but surely. I’ve been continuing to build & test in the evenings and weekends – I’ve built a ‘unit revolution’ of the new helix, using the original framework but with 00 gauge model railway to convey the postcard, which is supported on cardboard and held in place by some natty adjustable brackets which i’ve built from odd bits of plywood and acrylic which was hanging around.

test-build of one revolution of the spiral

Attached are some (in build) pics…
The parts were easy enough to make (especially with my natty new tabletop bandsaw) but I’ve been being extra cautious and testing what happens to the structure over time – I don’t want any of those subtle changes that were frakking things up with the last ‘design’.
The brackets need a little more work, in order to induce controllable camber – I think its a matter of a bolt per bracket, connected to the copper pipe.
customisable camber brackets
That way, I’ll be able to ‘dial in’ the amount of camber needed for each quarter of the helix (at the top, too much camber is a bad thing – it stops the truck because it hasn’t started moving very much, at the bottom you need quite a bit – the truck is moving rather quickly and has a tendancy to fly off – more camber required…)
The next stage is to complete the entire helix – which is a matter of manufacturing more of the same standard parts and slotting them together. The helix can then be tuned and the rest of the layout completed.
So, the carrying postcard should be able to decend via gravity. Hopefully the more finite adjustment of the track will mean that this will work fine…. hopefully.
the postcard carriage
I was giving quite a lot of thought to how the truck would get itself back up to the top – the last meeting with Russell fixed me on having a powered arduino controlled shunter to do the work.
All the other methods seem too complicated in one way or another. The shunter is simplest – it can either be battery powered (with a recharge station at the shop end of the track) or can be powered through the track itself, just like a model railway.
I’m inclined to go for the battery powered option – because then the track doesn’t have to be cleaned (which is a pain in the arse, and will be tricky considering how delicate the track supports will be….)
In *theory* once the helix part is complete, the rest of the track is very easy – about as easy as it was to make that bit of track we built previously. The next complicated part is the postcard pickup, and following that the part that pushes the postcard off the truck at the other end.”
Slow and steady wins the race!
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EamesPunk T-Shirt, originally uploaded by moleitau.

From The EamesPunk Manifesto:

“We will take our pleasures seriously. We will remember that everything connects. We will live and breathe powers of ten. We will accept constraints, but we will never accept compromise. By learning of the process of problem solving we will structure the information to be conveyed. No detail is insignificant, the detail will make the design. We will learn that the process of arriving at the solution is what counts. By separating sciences from the arts, the hand and the machine, work and play, we only cheapen our experience, the human experience. By integrating parts into a meaningful whole, we understand the connections.”

I attended a reading by Neal Stephenson at Foyles bookstore this evening. He read a couple of passages from his latest book ‘Anathem’ before a wide-ranging Q&A prior to a signing.

I was lucky enough to be able to ask him a couple of questions. Aleks called me greedy, but I felt like the characters he describes in Anathem that only get to ask questions of the elders periodically… Who knows when I’d get to do this again?

My first question was around the fact that I haven’t been able to stop thinking about the passages in his book, The System of the World where the birth of the modern financial system is described. I asked him whether he had been asked to comment on where that has led, to the current apparent systemic failure of that world.

He said he had, but hadn’t been able to come up with anything more insightful than the essay George Dyson had written about the current situation “Can You Have Your House And Spend It Too?’. He advised we all google for “Dyson” and “tally sticks” – thanks to Sascha Pohflepp for getting there first…

It’s a great read, but I’d still like to read Stephenson’s take.

My second question a little later, was about his role in Nathan Myhrvold‘s Intellectual Ventures.

His answer surprised me.

I had imagined that as a writer, he wrote scenarios or stories from possible futures as briefs or devices to frame invention or discovery in some way.

From his answer it seems that he uses his time there as an escape from writing, to engage in using his hands and mind in a different way in his afternoons from the mornings of writing fiction.

Can’t wait to see what comes from that…