people often tell me “you should patent that!” or “you should sell that, you would make a lot of money!”.Â i have to say, writing a patent is something i wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. it’s so painful as to take all the joy away from the development process. talk about encouraging innovation. for a useful patent it’s a minimum of $5,000 and 100 hours of time, but even then the patent is worthless if you don’t make a business afterwards as you won’t have the money to defend against someone infringing on it. the initial development effort is at best about 10% of the way to a moneymaking business. i think christensen says it is usually 1% of the way in his book (innovator’s solution).
but another thing is - why does it have to be about making money? can’t i make something fun and not have the obligation of exploiting it? why is making money the first thing you think of when you see something cool or fun? to be fair, only about 20% of people who talk to me seem to have making money as the first thing on their mind. most of those people seem to be from the well off, white-collar crowd. it’s in the poorest neighboorhoods in oakland that people are the most openly and unreservedly appreciative.
perhaps i should be more understanding?Â maybe everyone just wants to express their appreciation somehow by talking to me, but they don’t really know what to say.Â i’m going to be more proactive about telling them what i think (nicely of course).Â hmm, a couple of times people have said “that would be great for advertising”.Â which is probably the single thing i’m most afraid of.
a couple days ago i visited the so-called cataclysmic megashear ranch at the invitation of sasha. as i was driving to the ranch i puzzled a bit as to what sort of ranch it was - given its location in san francisco i was dubious that they could have much in the way of livestock, although perhaps rabbits or chickens. i brushed up on my rabbit farming regulations just in case, and then realized i must be right since rabbits are sheared for their fur as well as eaten. the ranch must have some kind of high-speed shearing operation or something. upon arrival i was greeted by sasha who led me into a dimly lit warehouse filled with urban detritus and machine tools. how strange! i didn’t see any rabbits and was about to ask where they had gone, but then i saw a rabbit cage hanging from the ceiling:
it must have been a rabbit penthouse really, it had a nice red light in it. the farming regulations didn’t seem to preclude this, and the cage certainly seemed to be “rabbit proof” as required. i didn’t see a rabbit inside, but it was hard to see so it might have been sleeping. there was also a smaller cage under construction (i assume, since it clearly was not rabbit proof in its current state):
in any case just around the corner my suspicions were confirmed when i spotted the feed trough:
i complimented sasha on their nice choice of art-deco styling. i must say i am always impressed when i see the many ways modern technologies have made their way into traditional industries. in this case, it turned out to be a fully autonomous robotic slaughtering system:
i was relieved to see that it was temporarily in the shop for repairs - i don’t know what kind of a shock it would have been to stuble upon this thing in operation on a full pen of rabbits. what were the ethical implications of an autonomous robotic killing system running loose on a captive pen of rabbits? i wonder if PETA has anything to say about this? i thought it polite to not bring the issue up at the time. next to that was the hide working machine - i was impressed that the ranch made the effort to use nearly every part of the rabbits in their operation:
sasha then showed me what she was working on:
(you can click the images for a full-size version) - as you can see, it’s a panel of regulations for the operation - the first line reads: “the dress code will be strictly enforced”. sasha was in the process of mounting the panel into a very elegant frame she had constructed. we continued the tour and passed the accounting office:
i went to get a coke, and noticed that the ranch is really quite generous to their employees - not only is the coke free, but most of the usual soft drinks had been replaced with a selection of beers! i ended up getting some water since i wanted to be fully lucid for the rest of the tour. we then walked up the stairs to the second level, along the way we passed two small elevated platforms with heavy shag carpeting and plush cusions, warmly lit from an overhead skylight. sasha informed me that these platforms were ideal for mating, but i didn’t see any rabbits there at the time. in any case, just past the platforms was a large fertility symbol.
i guess rabbit farmers have their own understandable superstitions. the old saying about multiplying like rabbits probably spooks them a bit - what if rabbits *stopped* multiplying like rabbits? i can almost understand this perverse logic. After that we passed a number of things which really did make me a bit unsettled as to the nature of the superstitions these ranchers held:
this last one is clearly a rabbit god idol. i was starting to be glad that my tour was almost over, since i had a strange feeling that i did not want to be present when a horde of rabbit worshippers descended into this area. my heart was throbbing considerably at this point,
so i made a somewhat tactless but hasty exit.
(thanks to sasha and the megashear ranch for their wonderful hospitality)
i rode in san francisco critical mass today, meeting up with pat, susan, lily and a couple of their friends. pat just built one of my LED wheels for susan for her birthday, and it was great to see someone else riding one (see photo above). critical mass is a bicycle activist movement in which a horde of cyclists gathers during rush hour and rides through the city streets, blocking all other traffic in its path. the rides are quite chaotic as there are no leaders - you have no idea where the horde will go, and neither does anyone else! needless to say the other traffic on the streets exhibits quite a variety of amusing reactions to the horde. the ride is high energy and a lot of fun - you are constantly alert to avoid crashing the other bikes and to keep the horde well packed so the other traffic can’t get in. also lots of bike geeks like me bring out their show-n-tell bikes for the ride. one bike had a huge sound system mounted on trailer which provided excellent travelling music, although it was clearly a struggle to get that 200+ pound trailer up some of the hills (this is SF!). we rode down lombard street, through a tunnel, and around the downtown area. i took a spill on one of the streetcar tracks, which are pretty well optimized for grabbing road bike tires - grr.
here’s a video of us riding through a tunnel:
and here’s another one where the sound trailer passes by:
a couple weeks ago we noticed that the street next to us had been painted as follows at every intersection:
being one who frequently commutes and runs errands by bike, i’m all for improving bike-ability in the city and very happy that this “bike boulevard” runs right next to squid labs. but what exactly does it mean to be a bike boulevard? the marking seems to be more an acknowledgement than having any regulatory function - this street has a relatively low level of car traffic, and is thus preferred by many cyclists.
we’ve finally got signage up after being at our current location for 18 months!
we recently discovered that emeryville has a “facade improvement program” where they will subsidize us to make our building look nice - it’s part of the park avenue improvement efforts. the program seemed to be intended for awnings and paint, but we figured they might let us do something more creative. we brainstormed quite a number of our usual off-the-wall ideas thinking that most of them would get refused because of some technicality or other - blocking traffic, tripping pedestrians, excessive loud noises, flight path obstructions… in the past we’ve worked (or tried to) with a couple of municipal and government agencies, and uniformly found the experience to be so slow and process-laden as to be quite discouraging. what a surprise i was in for!
a few phone calls later and it turns out that emeryville is really a surprising place.Â the officials i talked to seemed open and even excited about every single art concept i ran by them.Â even better, they thought it likely they could deal with all the nasty permits and such in an hour or two, and in response to my general griping about government agencies one helpful the city official even said: don’t worry “it’s all red ribbons over here”.
Today we had a musical event at the lab - Feathers opened for Michael Herley. Both play mellow folk music. Arwen’s sister Meara plays with Feathers.
Below, Meara discoved that she can put a piece of colored paper in the machine, press a button, then literally turn around and sell it to her adoring fans for $5.
(click it for original size)
visible: golden gate bridge, farallon islands (behind golden gate, these are about 30 miles offshore), alcatraz island, treasure island, bay bridge, port of oakland, emeryville marina.
I shot this on a bike ride through the oakland and berkeley hills today.
i was riding my bike through oakland recently and was passed by a full-on pimpmobile - glossy 1975-ish lowrider with lime green paint, gleaming alloy wheels, tinted windows, and thumper sound going (something like the one shown). said pimpmobile
- slows down
- turns off music
- rolls down window
- yells “nice bike”
opposite of a feminist - an emasculist
every so often i stop and reflect on what i’m doing, and what i would have guessed i’d be doing 2 years earlier. i can say that at no point in the last 10 years would my guess have been remotely correct. yesterday i gave a talk on food replicator technologies for long term space voyages. who would have guessed?
i’m reading ‘the professor and the madman’ about the creation of the OED. it is immediately clear that the OED was created with a volunteer community process with much smilarly to wikipedia. hmm, it seems that this point was not lost on others.Â another thought: the book details how a sociopath made great contributions to the OED creation.Â these days it seems popular to attempt to correct any personality defect (often via medication) towards the societal mean.Â atypical personalities are far more likely to have atypical ideas - most obviously many famous artists.Â shouldn’t we be encouraging atypical personalities and the ideas they generate so as to have a more interesting world to live in?