Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Fence Chalk Art

Here's some fun chalk art I've been up to! It should wash off in a few days, I just put it up on the old farm fences behind my house.

These are just a few pictures. I plan to go out again later, but maybe to a different area and chalk more inspirational things. Everyone deserves a little pick-me-up from time to time. I just hope I could make someone smile.

Knitting Update

So I have been working on a Georgia Tech scarf! It is currently a little over two and a half feet long. It is my very first knitting project, which just goes to show how easy it is to pick up. These will be great for chilly football games, or just walking to classes in the winter. The next step is to make a black hat with a matching white and gold stripe around the bottom, and maybe even a white and gold pom-pom on top!

Full Color Stencils

I enjoy stenciling because of the strong contrast. However, working in just one color gets boring! So multilayer stencils are neat because you can get a few colors. Any more than just a few though, and it becomes much more complicated and isn't quite as effective.
Here are two examples of stencils I've done in the past. To the right is a single color stencil that I cut out of posterboard and did in spray chalk on the sidewalk.

I wanted a method that would convert a full color picture into three simple stencils. I found one pretty good site with instructions here. However, I do not have a laser cutter, or Adope Photoshop. What I do have, is a copy of MATLAB! So, I wrote a script to separate the layers and use various sizes of squares to represent the brightness in a certain area.

A good test was to use a color wheel. Below is the original and my recreated version. Click on the thumbnails to see the higher resolution.

As you can see, the new one looks much darker. However, when it is blown up, it is much brighter than it seems in this thumbnail. This created image was set to only have four sizes of square used. This means things don't blend as well, but will make construction of the stencils much easier.

Thursday, June 10, 2010


Currently there is a seemingly endless list of things I want to create.

At the moment they are as follows:
  • Knitted Scarf
  • Matching knitted hat
  • Use Lilypad to knit an "intelligent" wearable
  • Write android apps
  • Develop a candle powered sterling engine that will power rechargeable AA and/or AAA batteries
  • Aeroponics system that is completely automated (Arduino project) and indoors to grow vegetables
Unfortunately most of these projects have no deadline. I've gotten started on all of them (except the hat and Lilypad projects) but not very far. I need to prioritize.

The knitted scarf is the most near completion at an amazing 2 feet of length. I estimate it may take another two weeks to complete, as I am just working on it during my spare movie-watching time.

Next is the matching hat, and next the Lilypad project. I've been inspired by Leah Buechley and her work over at MIT. Makes me wish I had chosen to go there.

As for the android programming, I'm hoping to sprinkle it throughout the rest of the projects, although without any real commitment, I fear not much will be accomplished. The key to being successful in the android or iphone app market is to come up with some novel idea for a tool that no one ever knew they needed. However with over 42,000 apps currently available for android alone, the odds of coming up with something brilliant and new are quickly fading into the distance. The only other method for success is to take an unoriginal idea and do it better than anyone currently on the market. As I am new to programming for android, apps in general, and not to handy with Java yet, I don't see that happening anytime soon either. This mild pessimism may pass, but it is unlikely to unless I actually man up and buy an android phone. With a part-time job though, that's not likely to happen anytime soon.

Ah, the sterling engine. What an elegant device! If you're actually interested, you should read about it here. I have given up hope for at least the short run considering I don't have any good pistons that are air-tight and have low friction.

Finally, the aeroponics system. I have been wanting to grow vegetables in my room. This both cuts down on the money spent on fresh food, and adds a nice green living feeling. It is actually feasible, and I've done plenty of research, mostly on forums where everyone's picture is of a pot leaf.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010


As I am sitting in a chilly air-conditioned room printing out hundreds of pages of manuals, I decided it would be an apt time to think about paper.

What is it that makes people want to have a "hard copy" of something anyway? It must be security. It's written even into the terminology. A "hard" copy is one that is concrete, will last forever unlike a "soft" copy which must be something erodible and delicate. With paper, the knowledge that anything, short of a devastating fire, in which case who cares about the documents anyway, could happen and you will still have a copy of that document. In this digital age fires are less feared. Instead it's the computer virus. The hacker. The hard drive failure. All these things strike fear into the hearts of people everywhere whether they will admit it or not.

In addition to the psychological desire for security, there's the environment to think about. One large tree makes approximately 90,000 pages of standard paper. Yes, that sounds like a lot of pages. Now think about your household. Phone book, bible, novels, tissues, paper towels, toilet paper, wallpaper, and newspaper are just a few common paper products. Not to mention manuals. With all the new electronic gadgets these days there are more and longer manuals than ever. How many times do they get read? Maybe once if at all. Increasingly they are coming on CD, which requires no paper at all. The manuals I am printing, in fact, also came on CD.

Why then am I printing them out?

It is not for the first reason; the fear of destruction or damage of the CD. It is because of another aspect of paper. The tactility of paper. The high contrast of black ink on white paper that matches the ambient light levels. The Kindle has attempted to recreate the light levels of reading books to avoid strain on the eyes. However, they still do not have the proper rough texture of the pages; the ability to slip in post-it notes or scribble in the margins. Are these the only aspects of paper that make it so desirable? Once we can recreate the texture and even odor of paper, will it become obsolete?

One can only hope.