Monday, December 28, 2009

Paleogeographers, Neogeographers, Psychogeographers, taggers and Storytellers

I have been thinking and working with maps and location and GPS units for a long time now. I coined a phrase, Quantitative Psychogeography, which has not yet caught on, co-wrote two books, _Mapping Hacks_ and _Google Maps Hacks_, preached to the choir and to the unconverted, and I have been tracking and geolocating many of my travels and photos and gigapans for years.

And I have been frustrated. And I finally realized why: I just want story telling and life logging tools. Paleo and Neo geographers have created amazing tools. I've been part of some of that energy. And it is great fun, and it is powerful, and it matters.

The engineer in me likes these tools. I like PostGIS, I like GDAL, I like Google Maps and My Maps and I am even making my grudging peace with KML. But none of these tools really hits the story teller in me. They don't hit the artist, the life logger.

And none of them is appropriate for managing a 'personal geo-repository.'

For a long time I just collected the data, and either whined, or offered constructive criticism, when the subject came up. And I gave hope that tomorrow's software would be able to make sense of yesterday's data. But then in Vienna I decided that I could no longer deal with a fundamentally broken model of managing waypoints.

Too much, all of it in fact, depended on my remembering wayoint names - key words - and too little of the work was being done where it should be done - by the computer.

I say it was a decision, but there was jet lag and anxiety to blame as well. There was waking up at 3 in the morning and not being able to sleep again, worrying that I was not doing enough here to justify the trip. To justify the trust placed in me by my boss, and by my self, the trust that I would do something great.

So I figured out my waypoint repository challenge. At least well enough for now. See 'Annotating Waypoints, partially solved' And as you read that remember that I am trying for a system which can operate comletely offline, on a minimal computer, with minimal software dependencies, and maximum flexibility. And I don't care if there is a bit of command line involved if that preserves flexibility and if it so importantly doesn't hide anything from me.

Storing points in GPX format, and importing them from the GPS with GPS Babel seems the best option. I can imort them into Google Earth (or better, convert them to KML using GPS Babel, and then import the KML into Google Earth) for viewing, but basica annotation and management seems to need to be kept in a text file format, and in a text file format which won't suddenly be magically and terribly reformated in a way that causes me to lose timestamp information for the individual points (and yes, KML, I continue to be confused about how you manage time, and why those choices were made :-(

I feel like I am refining my keyboard shortcuts for using a TRS100 laptop computer. I know KML is how everything is done, but damnit, KML and Google Earth hide more of my story than they reveal.

OTOH, Google Won, right? Everybody loves Google Earth, I love big junks of it, but I don't trust it to not just accidentally cause me to lose that which I find most important.

Annotating Waypoints, partially solved

I have been fretting about the problem of annotating way points for a decade. The general issue is that I wander around a place,and I mark points of personal interest. And later I don't know why I marked a place 'Pieta' or 'aslice.'

I have a long rant about this, but the main problem seems to be that the 'artistic' side of my brain knew that the system I had didn't work, but was not able to articulate that back to the 'engineer' side to let me just solve it.

The trick is to have a repository of points which you trust, and then to merge in new points, and to add annotations to those points.

I made a small script with GPSBabel. It handles most cases. Patches and suggestions welcome.
The key is a 'repository' of waypoints, in a GPX file, and then I merge that file with the GPS using the GPSBabel filter duplicates command.

# save the current 'repository' of waypoints in version control.
sudo svn commit -m "automatic commit before merging new waypoints from GPS" netbook_annotated.gpx
# Merge master file with the GPS. deduplicate
sudo gpsbabel -i gpx -f netbook_annotated.gpx -i garmin -f usb: \
-x duplicate,shortname,location -o gpx -F netbook_annotated.gpx
sudo chown rich:rich netbook_annotated.gpx
echo now edit netbook_annotated.gpx and write it back to the GPS
sudo vi netbook_annotated.gpx
echo temporarilly not writing back to GPS.
#sudo gpsbabel -i gpx -f netbook_annotated.gpx -o garmin -F usb:

Here is a sample waypoint in GPX Format

27-DEC-09 6:58:05PM Where the u2 karlsplatz line comes out
27-DEC-09 6:58:05PM
Flag, Blue

The key for my Garmin GPSmap 60CSx is that the cmt field does get written back to the GPS by GPSBabel, but if it is too long it will be abbreviates.

I have some waypoints where I seem to have done something wrong in editing the name field, and GPS babel attempts to shorten the name and thus generates new waypoints. I am working on that.

Also, I should take the date out of the desc field and reformat it in a proper GPX time field.

But for right now I am able to comfortably sit at the Ubahn station with a train which won't arrive for 4 minutes, connect my GPS to the netbook, import the waypoints, add annotations to them, and usually even pull my most recent track log in and look at them both in Google Earth.

In four minutes while waiting for a subway.

The next big challenge: how do I annotate track logs in a reasonable fashion? How do I mark the spot where we turned wrong and ran into a new adventure?

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Another Big Reveal

We stopped at the Gasomotor stop on the U3, and I experienced another in the series of 'Great Reveals' from train stations.

Of course I took a GigaPan :-)

You come up the escalater and face this massive victorian building which was a gas storage tank from the
city Gas Works.

And there is a whole row of 'crazy' green apartment buildings next to the four gas towers.

The towers are now redeveloped, see the wikipedia link:

And see this link

This is high on my list of awesome city 'reveals' = those places where you come out of the ground, or around a corner, and suddenly your breath is taken away.

Coming out of the Roman Subway at the Colisium stop is another classic, and the Stephanplatz station here in Vienna.

And perhaps every subway stop, every ascent from the underworld, provides the opportunity for the grand reveal. Symbolically, and literally, we are exiting the underworld, escaping the lost place below and entering again the land of light and warmth.

We are Persephone coming up in the spring to bring warmth and fertility, or perhaps, just coming up into the warmth and fertility.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Nipple Jesus is on my Christmas Tree

Part of the decorations for our Christmas Tree are flyers for art exhibits, hung from the tree with bits of wire. It is all very Kultural. My favorite needs to be the flyer for Nipple Jesus.

There was (possibly) a work of art of Jesus made up of nipples from porn magazines, but there was definitely play about a work of art of Jesus made from nipples from porn magazines.

Here is the description I found at some random web page listed on the flyer.

105 Minuten / age 15 plus
Directed by: Juergen Maurer

Roli Winkler, a former employee of a guart service, finds himself in a strange, new job. Among students and retirees he works as a museum attendant. The picture he has to observe is one of the most shocking ones he has every seen. It`s called “NippleJesus” and shows a reproduction of Jesus, made of nipples taken from porn magazines. During the exhibition of “NippleJesus” Roli meets quite a lot of different visitors and their arguments. At first he goes along with those who damn and want to destroy “NippleJesus”, but after meeting the painter he changes his point of view over the meaning of art und identifies with it more and more."

Kid's a little delayed, and funny keyboards...

I was all decked out in SFSlim's Santa Suit which I wore for Santa Con a few weeks ago.

I was waiting in the main entrance to the MQ. I worked on the netbook until it got too cold, then I just waited and waited. Adorable cute tourist girls would ask me if they could take pictures with me, but that was no real recompense...

I just waited, getting excited at each arriving taxi it them? Is it them? I was out there waiting for a long time.

I finally came back in, and there was a gtalk chat up from Molly
"Molly: hey
were going to be late
in venna aroo--nd 8
our flght got delazed
love zyou
were readzy to be there
but we have maps and should be able to get to you guys
lwe a-ll love zou"

Molly is normally fairly good at her grammer and all, so I think that represents a combination of lousy/limited connectivity plus a European keyboard.

The 'love zou' is a give away, with the y and z in unexpected places!

What we see and places we fall in love with

Yesterday, Dec 24th, we went shopping at the Naschmarkt. And my eye was stuck by these incredible buildings, and I had to GigaPan them, RIGHT NOW, even though I didn't have my mast or a tripod. But there was a handy electrical transformer, so I made an effort by balancing the Gigapan on the surface.

It turns out that they are already pretty famous without my GigaPanning. "Majolikahaus and Medallion House' "Designed by Otto Wagner, the genius of the Viennese Jugenstill. The facade of the Majolikahaus, entirely covered in tiles, is an explosion of pink and green ceramic floral designs. Gilded medallions depict female forms on the walls of the adjacent apartment block (1898)."

It was here that Rose said to me that it was important that "you confess to yourself that you are madly in love with Vienna."

I wake up and if the sun is up I sort of panic, I have an urgency to be out there. Not sure where, or doing what. Taking GigaPans and experiencing the city. Rose says
"I mostly think that it is just you wanting to take pictures of your beloved."

Subway trains and the Great Reveal

I love the U-abhn in part for the dramatic reveals that you get. The best is coming up the Stephansplatz exit. You ride up an escalator, and then look up, straight up, and the spires of St Stephans reveal themselves, at first high, impossibly high and then you ascend to street level and it is still massive, but then there are some near human features. You can see the doors, and the ground for reference and you are not lost entirely within the heavens. You have been Revealed.

Donauinsel has another reveal. Especially in the whispy snow and grey sky which I had. You glide to a stop, get off the train, and then you are in the MIDDLE OF THE RIVER! Really. You walk a bit to Donauinsel, or to the Vienna International Center and all of the new buildings, but you are in nature in a primal sense.

Exploring a city is filled with connetions. Where you realize that the 'Naschmarkt' that everyone tells you to go to is really the same place you had been going to - you just didn't realize the name.

Stumbling onto Karlsplatz via Ubahn was one of these experiences for me. First, the station is great fun. It is massive, because there are entrances at each of a number of far corners.

The exit towards Karlsplatz is like an underground garage. You could drive cars right now a ramp and into the station. You stroll up and you are in a gorgeous park and in the middle of Vienna.

And there is another amazing church, and a Christmas market, somewhere on the other side of the station is the Naschmarkt, and the Secession space - which as near as I can tell is a hacker space for artists, largely supported because one of the group did something cool which is kept in the basement and spits out euros.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Das leben ist kein ponyhoff, auber das leben ist GigaPanhoff.

This is for Mizchalmers. Rose intends to get you a t-shirt with this
slogan. I tried to translate it, but I kept getting confused. I am
having trouble with words which are totally different in meaning based
only on a single letter difference.

lieben and leben are different, but related. 'Lieben' is 'love' and 'leben'
is 'life.' And 'Klein' is 'small,' but 'kein is 'not.'

I tend to mix up klein and kein which might explain why waiters sometimes
bring me bier and sometimes bring me dirty looks.

It is like they have their own language here!

But back to 'Das leben ist kein ponyhoff.' Life is not a pony yard, or maybe 'life
is not a rose garden.'

Auber das leben ist GigaPanhoff. But life is a GigaPan Yard!

History of Buidlings

The other day we had dinner and beer at a delightful beer pub, the 7 Stern or 7 Star.
To us it was a nice place. Maybe like Gordon Biersch at home. A place to socialize, eat some yummy Tafelspitz and beer and warm up.

Tafelspitz is boiled beef in broth Viennese style. And I really really like it! They serve you the broth the beef was cooked in, and you eat it like a Starter (and I like the word 'starter' more than 'appetizer,' just saying). And then you have beef. And maybe some Rosti potatos on the side (Rosti are sort of like hash browns) and horseradish with apple sauce.

But Rose just read that before it was a brewpub this building was home to a communist newspaper, Volksstimmeit, and before that was a Gestapo headquarters.

Karlsplatz rocks

I am back from adventures. I am going to sit in the apartment until I feel like it would be sensible to take off my hat and scarf. Then I will pursue the next adventure. I only returned because I had batteries to recharge, plus I was cold :-)

I took the GigaPan out again today (shocking, I know!). It was cold, another shocker - in December, in Central Europe, the weather tends towards the nippy side.

I took a few Gigapans of the poster displays, but this time in daylight. At one point I wanted to get each wall, in full detail. But today I decided that I can't do everything. I have now taken enough pictures of poster displays to demonstrate that gigapans of that sort of display are a good way to share the message.

Or perhaps I have not made that point. But more images will not be more convincing. And there are other things to image!

View the full image at

It is so much easier to take images in daylight! After the posters I continued to my original goal of the Naschmarkt. Should be a great subject for GigaPans! I assume so, but I don't yet know. I was cold I took the UBahn. The MuseumsQuartier is so big that there is a separate train station on each end, the MariaHilferstrasse side and the Burgrasse side.

I took one stop on the U2 to KarlsPlatz. I figured I'd take a picture of the Secession in the glowing light, and then hang out in the Naschmarkt taking images. But I was distracted and pulled away by Resselpark, and the Christmas market there.

The ATM has been broken the last few days, so I only had 6E with me, but that was enough for roasted chestnuts - 'bitte, Marone, Grosse' - please, large chestnuts...

And I gigapanned Karlskirche, with its' fabulous towers and the christmas market below, including pony rides and a petting zoo in the actual Karlsplatz in front of the church.

Karlskirche is undergoing rennovations, so right now you can ride an industrial elevator up to the base of the dome and then take stairs up to see details of the restoration work. This gives you a totally unexpected view of details in the dome which are normally invisible.

I wandered a bit more and took a couple of more GigaPans, and looked at the Technical University museum with the plaque that the Strauss brothers went there, and entertaining stencil art, but then I realized that I was too cold, and had too few working batteries, so it was best to zip home and warm up and charge batteries.

But the key is that Karlsplatz is well worth returning to. With the market, and church rennovations to look at, and University buildings, and park - which looked like more fun
in the summer :-) and then the Naschmarkt and Secession Museum right across the street.

In Psychogeographical terms, the Karlsplatz U2 Station is more interesting than Stephensdom.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

The Audio Tour which makes you a superhero!

This is the image for the MuseumsQuartier audio tour. It is on posters all over the MQ. I love it! This is the audio tour which turns you into a super hero, complete with a cape! And you become giant!

The message: Information is power. Pretty awesome message.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Navigation and Phones and OffMaps

I am a technologist who until this trip was terrified of
dealing with telecommunications in Europe.

Here is what I have been doing, which has worked for me:
-I brought my iPhone, and left it with its' US SIM. I added
the AT&T international plan for $5.95.

I am available for emergencies, but I don't use that phone.

-I turned data roaming off on the iphone

-I got a voice only sim for 20 euros from a phone shop for
my Android

-The best thing ever, on Kyle Machulis' advice I downloaded
the iPhone app OffMaps which provides off line maps for the

While you are on wifi you use the program, search the areas
you are interested in, and the program downloads the map
tiles at your selected zoom level. More tiles, ie. more zoom,
means more cache used.

The short answers:

The Deadly Daughters - a story by my Grandfather

"These gorgeous fanatics were equally at home with men, murder, or matrimony, and they used all three with amazing success."

My grandfather, Winston K. Marks
was a somewhat well published science fiction author. My Aunt's birth was paid for by selling a story.

He wrote 50 or more stories, listed here

I have not read many of his stories - complex reasons - but this one came to my attention recently The Deadly Daughters

I don't really have a response, other than to offer that he had four daughters and one son by two different women.

The fears we manifest, and the enemies we create say more about us than about the world.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Self Preservation _and_ GigaPan Promotion!

At Burning Man Ted said that "Self Preservation is more important than GigaPan."

It seemed like a strange statement.

In Santa Rosa on a total whim I bought a reflective safety vest. I've been wearing it over my coat while I gigapan.

It was a certain affectation, to create something of a uniform for taking gigapans, but in reality it has worked far better than I could have imagined. It is the Telstar Logistics urban camoflauge model.

I set up the mast and start taking a GigaPan, then carefully make a GPS waypoint and use my notebook to make notes about the situation, and then I just sort of stand there looking around.

I think that 'standing around looking around' part probably looks pretty dorky. But _if you have a safety vest on_ than no one thinks anything is strange. In fact, people are curious.

Sometimes they ask what I am doing, and then I hand them GigaPan cards and we sometimes have a nice conversation.

I accidentally learned that people often like to talk about their own city. I asked someone for some places I should GigaPan, and he gave me a whole list. I've been asking other people the same question, and showing them my list, and it is a great conversation piece.

It is almost like flying umpty-thousand miles away to a place where I don't speak the language (but most people speak English) has cured my social anxiety. It must be that, or the drugs. Hard to tell.

At the Amsterdam Airport they wanted to examine the two gigapans I had in boxes in my carry on bag. Oddly they didn't care about the one with the camera on it that was not in a box. So I opened them up, and I took out the other one with the camera on it, and started talking about Gigapixels and panoramas and I may have said 'NASA.' Rose says that there were five or six security officers, gathered around asking questions. Apparently enthralled. I gave them all cards and told them to check it out.

(I even gave the TSA guy in SF a card, but he was less interested :-)

Best Practices for Personal Geo Repositories

My ability to manage my geo data is broken.

Here is what I want:
-collect track logs and waypoints and georeferenced photos from various devices.
-gather them onto one place, probably daily
-annotate those traces, places, photos, events. Add the story.
-be able to write about those places with some authoritative link between the words and the

The big problem I have right now is not having an authoritative repository, specifically for waypoints or map-added annotations.

Each time I import waypoints from the GPS I get a new file, and so any annotations which I
add to those places are lost.

The somewhat obvious answer is to import the waypoints, then feed them through a processing step to match them with the locations which already exist. But in reality that really seems awkward.

It seems like such a simple problem.

Monday, December 7, 2009

The Cool Tool

Today I discovered The Unimat-1 Classic 6 in 1 'Cool Tool' at a department store. For Euro 349 you get a kit which can be made into six different tools, including different lathes and a small XYZ mill.

Those cranks look like we could modify them by adding stepper motors, stepper motor controllers, and an arduino based CNC to Stepper Motor adapter like from the RepRap/MakerBot.

The xy stage moves 0.1 mm per turn of the crank.
0.1 mm is an interesting number to me, because the images from the wonderful NanoGigaPan which Molly shot of a 2mm x 2mm Barnacle cover about 0.1mm each.

View the full image at

This took a bit under 400 pictures. If we assume 400 pictures, than that is 20 pictures x 20 pictures. And each picture
is about 0.1mm. So with 30% overlap, each picture would be about 3/4 of a crank. (I think :-)

But here I go taking fun children's toys, like the 6 in 1 cool tool, and turning them to the service of gigapanning :-)

And a microscope with a camera. Next I need to figure out optics!

Once I got back to the Museum Quartier, Benjamin Cowden, who made the most beautiful of the cocktail robots at RoboExotica, the Corpose Reviver, showed me the Proxxon Micromot System Catalog. He has a mill and lathe from them at home, which he likes a lot, but it is hard to get parts. I happened to flip the catalog open to page 18 and was forced to point and say 'which one of those numbers gets me which one of those things!?' There was an XY table for I _think_ E 84.50.

The niftiest thing about the Proxxon stuff? Many of the parts (along with metal stock) are available at the Petzolt hardware store with is 1/3 of a mile away! Time for more shopping and gigapanning expeditions.

Shopping, Meetings and farewells

Last night I stayed out late, walking to St. Stephen's and getting back after 4:00. It didn't seem like jet lag, exactly, but Mr. Ocam would say it probably was.

So a fairly late sleep, but not embarrasingly late!

Kyle Machulis came by and there was fun conversation. Really great conversation.

In case there is confusion, I would like folks to know that I really like this whole 'be in Europe with cool people doing cool things and take GigaPans of them' gig.

Rose and I finally got ourselves out, we had dinner plans but we had to eat something. Caught in that awkward space of being too hungry to wait, but worried that any little nibble will turn into a massive chow-fest leaving you incapable of enjoying the planned dinner.

We walked up Burggasse and across the Christmas market on Spittelberggasse. We had punsch from a stall with 12 different varieties, and a sort of egg salad on bread.

I wasn't sure if we had been told that the mugs were included, or what. But we watched other people and it turned out that there was a 2 euro deposit. Later I saw another market where the deposit was 1 Euro, and I thought of the arbitrage opportunities. But ultimately decided that this was a bad bad idea :-)

I then acquired roasted chestnuts and we went to the camera store and bought a new charger and a new SD card reader. Funny the things we forget. And I looked at a massive tall carbon fibre was 1,500 euros without a head.

And onward more errands and then I discovered The Cool Tool . For 349 Euro one can have a kit which makes into a number of needed its' own blog post :-)

My first fascination was with the XYZ table one can assemble out of the case...

We got a chance for a brief break and then joined all sorts of people at the Monochrom office for a walk through district one, past St. Stephans, for dinner at Figlmuller and pastries from Zanoni & Zanoni.

And farewells to various people. Sad face :-(

More things happened, but I can't really keep track of them all.

Late night wander

Vienna is a bad city for late night food, but a good city for interesting light at night.

I wandered out around 1:30 am and took a GigaPan of the arch over the door of our quarters. It is not too hard to imagine the horses passing through, and found a kabob, and took a gigapan of the kabob stand, and then decided to go on to St Stephans.

I wandered through the Hapsburg complex and up Brauner st. At Graben street I was blown away by the massive christmas lights, so I made a note to come back and gigapan them when they were lit, and wandered up. I thought that I remembered that St Stephan's was near by when I took one extra step and the massive bell tower just erupted in the gap between small buildings.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Where to GigaPan in Vienna?

It turns out that when you are taking GigaPans people ask you what you are doing. Sometimes they are just walking slowly and looking curious. So whenever I am taking a GigaPan I look around to see who might be interested. And then I hand them a card and start jumping up and down saying 'gigapixel, gigapixel' and pretty soon they start jumping up and down as well and we all sit on the Group W bench having a fine time and talking about GigaPans. (with apologies to Arlo Guthrie).

The other night we were at a fun reception, and I realized that the trick was to get people to imagine places where they would like to see GigaPans...and thus was born my Magic Conversational Trick: ask questions...

But not just any questions. If you ask general questions about someone they just might start talking about something other than GigaPans. So the question is a variant of 'So what else should I take a GigaPan of?'

Please add your thoughts (or if the comments are wonky, email me The subject line 'Places to make your Pictures Bigger' will work :-)

The challenge to finding good subjects is to find things which are interesting at various scales. There are a lot of GigaPans which are interesting when you print them, but boring when explored on the screen. And others are boring when printed, but fascinating when explored on line. I want subjects which are both, darnit!

I have a growing list of spots, but I want more!

Geographer of Story - Back in Vienna

In 2006 Molly and I rode our bicycles from Praha to Vienna. Then Molly went to visit Leah in Germany and left me in Vienna for a week. I camped at Camping Wien, on the other side of the Danube, and bike 'commuted' into Vienna for a week of exploration, photography, and creating GPS Traces.

While we were writing Mapping Hacks, a year and a half earlier, Schuyler and I had these long discussions about annotating spaces.

At one point we were driving around Sebastopol in the middle of the night, testing a little geoannotating hack, pulling over at random places to write code and debug, and generally having the sorts of intense and wonderful conversations which Schuyler and I had. And I started to geoannotate a spot as being the spot where one of us had said something clever.

"Wait," Schuyler interrupted, what is the point of georeferencing that point? And I was still in my full pompous mode
and I repeated my line that 'I am interested in the geographic component of the things which people do,
and that everythig that people do, say, think, or experience we do, say, think or experience in a place.'

"Wouldn't it be cool to track epiphanies? To create maps of where various
thoughts occur? To learn if we have better thoughts in the mountains or in your

Spending a week alone in Vienna was a tranformative experience. And while riding near ( 48.205369°, 16.431298° ) I had this thought that really what I wanted to do was be a 'Geographer of Story.' (In reality it was about a 100 feet away from that spot).

And now I am back. In Vienna. With lots of waypoints from the past, half realized photographic ideas, more stories to tell, and
a FREAKING GIGAPAN and a 12 foot C Stand.

How cool is that?

GigaPan as Cocktail Robot

Mostly I have been at the RoboExotica festival. I was feeling a little bit left out. Here we were at a place filled with robots designed for Cocktail Culture, and all I have is a 12 foot C-Stand and six GigaPans.

But it turns out that the action of pouring alcohol is remarkably similar to panning and tilting a camera.

And a few handy cable ties, which happened to be in my pocket, were all that was needed.

Here Johannes of Monochrom reviews the 'last panorama' option.

Friday, December 4, 2009

More of Robo Exotica on Thursday

Robo Exotica takes up multiple rooms in an industrial space. (The elevator is large enough to carry cars up in, and not
just tiny european cars, but actual massive American Cars. This is in the main room

The Big Book of Boxes

This is a post about The Big Book of Boxes

It is, as one might guess even in my subtext obsessed corner of Europe, a book of boxes.

Rose said 'wow, that would be awesome if it had a CD.' And it does have a CD!

It is the greatest thing. I can't wait to use it with a laser cutter!

Happy in Vienna

We arrived in Wien yesterday and went directly to Robo Exotica.

There were robots, and great fun.

"Bacon, Potatos, and onions, all on the same pizza? I love you, pizza fister, I mean, flitzer. Oh. Who am I kidding. Pizza Fister. #roboe09"

Someone was getting fisted by pizza. I am not sure what that is about. I hope it was a little duck pizza.

I am going to try to 'blog,' but since my attention to detail can wander my apologies to anyone I miss or get wrong.

Earlier we went up so Rose could meet her Visiting Artist contact person. The guard brought us up and the receptionist looked at me. I gave her a dumb look (I give fantastc dumb looks!) and pointed at Rose.

It was awesome to have reached a level of feminist awareness in which I can tell the most obvious things.

So they gave Rose big thick cool books like 'AiR 200 / 100 Artists-in-Residence / quarier21/MQ / 2006-2009'

They didn't give me any books. But they did give Rose a map, and when I asked they were happy to give me one as well.

This evening we went to a reception where we met other visiting artists. We met Karisia Paponi who is an Italian Designer who designed the dress which fills multiple posters all around the MQ.

And a cool portrait photographer from Berlin, Jan. And one of my favorites Andrea Schneeneir.

She has been doing installation pieces on Fear. If I understood it all correctly she gives people small cards upon which to write down their fears. She started during the Bush era, and the fears have changed.

Some are amusing, like the fellow in land locked Budapest who is afraid of sharks (though perhaps that fear predates his residency in Budapest).

As a one-time afficiando of maps I wanted to see the fears mapped by area. Like have people add a city or region, so you can full fear maps.

There was a photographic display 'Cinematic Maps' which was nearly inspiring. Split pictures. Half with black text, a name and address or description, white text, black background. The other half a black and white print of the place.

The locations were from episodes of, I think, _Law and Order_.

The fascinating to me take away, aside from me wanting to see the picture referenced on a larger map, was that I watched this show about boxes on the plane. Stanley Kubrick's Boxes

Kubrick left lots and lots and lots of boxes. 1000 or more. Many are filled with research. He had a photographer (or more than one) spent a year taking pictures of London for set ideas for _Eye's Wide Shut_.

I watched the show several times because while I thought it was actually interesting, it was also working to help me sleep, which was my real goal. Between the multiple half asleep watchings I think that I saw most of it.

Somewhere in there we had yummy Turkish Food just up Mariahilfer from the MQ.

Cocktail Robots in Wien

Aside from a few minor miscues (and why exactly do I need my own autoclave now?) we were able to make it to Vienna, and take a taxi to rush our selves to the premier festival of robotics on cocktail culture.

Friday, November 27, 2009

"Anti-technology" is no longer okay with me

Sarah Dopp tweeted "Whomever is loud right now is probably loud because not too long ago, they felt silenced."

Which has this massive resonance to me. Really. It seems odd, but I have spent the last years feeling silenced. While the self-proclaimed grown-ups made the decisions I just tried my best to live with the sense of alienation and shame of being a technologist and technophile while being surrounded with the strange energy of West Sonoma County, and of a school community which is largely anti-technology.

How strange? How do you have an anti-technology school community in this third millennium?

When we joined the school I thought we were signing up for a loving school community (which we have had - that part is delightful) with loving supportive teachers (and we have been very fortunate there as well!) And I thought we were joining a community which thought that younger kids should limit their TV and movies intake.

And I even signed up for that one. I like 'Bob the Builder', but it was a good trade to get a loving community.

What I didn't realize was the deep current of fundamentally anti-technological people in the community.

About two years ago Sebastopol had a stupid-fest in which the city council voted against accepting free WiFi from local ISP because of alleged health effects.

This campaign included an email on the class email list (and yes, it does seem sort of absurd that our 'anti technology' school uses email.) :-/

I complained that I felt it was inappropriate for the class mailing list to be used to advocate for a specific political position. The teacher told me "what did you expect, sending your child to an
anti-technology school."

To be honest, that quote has haunted my thoughts and has colored my experiences of almost every interaction I have had at the school since then.

At the time I was battling deep depression, and to raise the issue at all had taken me a huge amount of emotional effort.

The response felt like a pretty clear statement of contempt for my deeply held values; my views
were marginalized, and it was an attack on my whole world view.

I am a technologist. And I am finally able to feel proud of that fact.

I believe that what I do makes the world better in deep and fundamental ways. I am working to create new ways of seeing the world, and new ways of understanding reality.

And I have worked hard to be tolerant of the views of others at the school even when they don't
mesh with my own. But now I have learned that apparently 75% of our kindergarten class has
vaccination waivers. The normal is about 2%

75%. I consider this to be fundamentally insane.

My girlfriend is immuno-suppressed. Her doctor has told her that it is not safe for her
to be around the school because of this public health disaster.

My aunt survived polio. My brother is deaf and has other health effects because my mother
had rubella during her pregnancy.

Should we go on?

A member of Spencer's class had _whooping cough_ for god's sake! His mother was
able, with a straight face, to report in the newspaper that their non-vaccination plan
was fine, and that the various diseases which they had all caught were fine.

Including whooping cough. In the 21st century someone can argue that a family
getting whooping cough is reasonable?

I am still trying to work this out. Tolerance of other views is a virtue. But the key here
is that this is 'tolerance.' Not acceptance, and not agreement.

I am also trying to work out this tension of community. I sat with this woman during a Waldorf equivalent of Shiva when a beloved teacher died. How do you hold those two truths together?

We can be in community with people with values with which we disagree, but we don't have
to (and we must not!) allow that 'tolerance' to be mistaken for agreement.

Sonoma County at center of anti-vaccine debate

To vaccinate or not?

Who is loud, and why?

@sarahdopp Whomever is loud right now is probably loud because not too long ago, they felt silenced.

From Sarah Dopp.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Mystery of the missing cliff bars (by Rose)

As Maddy and Spencer know, Rich and I had a Mystery of the Missing Clif Bars this week. It was mysterious enough that we asked the kids, "Do you know what happened to the grocery bag of Clif Bars?" because we thought maybe they'd have seen the bag in the car, or have eaten some, or SOMETHING. (There had been approximately 30 bars in the bag!)

Theories included:

We left the bag at the grocery.
We left the bag in the car and it's buried under stuff.
(We didn't really believe this one). We brought the bag into the house and children ate more than 20 Clif Bars in 3 hours. (There weren't any wrappers, or kids with tummyaches, so this seemed unlikely!)

After not figuring anything out, we gave up for a few days -- UNTIL!

We found an uneaten and unopened Clif Bar on the walk between the cottage and Ed's house. Huh? So we started wondering again what had happened to the bag of bars.

Today, we think we have an answer. This answer is not for the faint of heart.

In the yard between the houses, we saw some dog poop. This dog poop had Clif Bar wrapper in it.

A little ways on, we saw more dog poops. Each of them with Clif Bar wrappers mixed in.

There are *many* Clif Bar dog poops in the yard. Final straw: *Another* unopened and uneaten Clif Bar by the side yard, where Jack hangs out.

Admittedly, we did not *see* Jack take the Clif Bars. But I think the evidence points to a certain BIG RED DAWG as the culprit.


Friday, November 20, 2009

Getting Ready for Vienna

My wonderful girlfriend Rose White is the artist/sociologist in residence for December at the nifty Vienna based group Monochrom.

This is fabulously cool because I am going with her. We fly Nov 30th, a week from Monday. And it looks like my spit spot awesome kids will be joining us Dec 21st.

This is all a bit stressful - lots of details and bits to organize - but it is starting to move from 'eeeeek' mode to 'wow, how cool' mode.

Any advice is welcome.

This year we spent 11 days on the playa for Burning Man and I took something like 170+ GigaPans.

We will have almost twice that amount of time in Vienna _before_ the chaos of my children descend, plus Vienna is filled with things which are worth capturing. It seems like I might take a gigapan or two while I am there.

Then we go to Berlin for the Chaos Communications Congress, plus we get a bonus day in Amsterdam. Officially I think it is a 23 hour layover, but how fun...enough time to dive bomb another city locked in the cold of winter :-)

I should probably bring warm clothes.

I'm Okay

No, not that way. Well, yes, I am okay, but this is about Ted Morse, Trey Smith, Eric Park, and two people who I don't know winning the first prize in the recent Random Hacks of Kindness code jam.

Here is an article about them in the Carnegie Melon newsletter.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Jim Richardson uses the GigaPan

Jim Richardson is a wonderful photographer for National Geographic. He was at the recent Fine Outreach for Science GigaPan workshop in Pittsburgh. He is using the GigaPan in fun ways.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Dead birds and plastic

Our plastic gets into the ocean. It then collects in great gibbering gyres of crap, which birds eat, and feed to their young, and they die.

And their bodies rot but you can tell where they were by the bird shaped midden of plastic.

You can read more, and look at some pictures.

"We have met the enemy and he is us."

Walt Kelly was a Great American. He drew the Pogo comic strip and filled it with subversive content.

Considering that he died in 1973 I am shocked at how subversive the strip _still_ seems. We still don't get it. None of us, really. Certainly not me. I was reminded of this when someone wrote a post to a mailing list asking for advice on a project. The NYCResistor hacker space was suggested to her as a good resource. She knew about the space, but commented that you have to pay to be a member of that group.

NYCResistor is a bit more focused on limiting access to members and their guests, while Noisebridge has a nearly wide open policy. I prefer the Noisebridge model, I think it leads to more hackers, and perhaps even to more money to support the space, but in either case these spaces don't support themselves.

So I wrote a reply, lightly edited here to look slightly less like a reply...

Your message raises some important (to me anyway :-) questions about value and how we support the things we care about.

NYCResistor is an attempt by people, who seem a lot like you, to create a Third Space where people can work on projects, like yours, and provide a community of other people, like you, to support each other.

It really seems to me like NYCResistor, and the hackerspaces movement, is/are working to create exactly the sorts of spaces which support you and your projects.

Dorkbot, and other lists like it, have done great work, but they don't provide physical space and physical community.

Supporting spaces like this requires money. For NYCResistor they ask for about as much as having an espresso each day (but they don't really monitor the drink fridge, so you can totally leach off of that :-).

The sense I get from your message is that you are applying an economic judgment to paying these fees, and supporting this sort of community, and since it is an optional expense you are electing not to be part of it. I think that your reaction is fairly common, and that makes me sad.

We all spend huge amounts of money on things which don't support our values, but when we get to the things which directly support our values, but which are 'discretionary' we apply economic thinking to what is a really a question of values.

Our system encourages this kind of thinking. We are all part of, or users of, large institutions. Work and school and libraries, etc. And we have little direct power and little direct financial control over these institutions.

But hackerspaces are created and supported by small groups. They are us.

To quote Pogo "We have met the enemy and he is us."


Friday, June 5, 2009

Halfway back

I've been disconnected for a while, sorry. Now I'm back.

I'll reconnect this with at some point...maybe :-)