Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Infocard: Useful Knots

I often need knots. I have often learned the knots I need. But these two things never happen close enough together to result in long term knowledge storage. This Make blog post gave me the idea of collecting a few useful ones and putting them on wallet card.



Printed front and back on a business card and then laminated, it can nestle in my wallet until I need them. Alternatively, for this particular application, I could secret cards in amongst any ropes I might use so they are johnny-on-the-spot at the right moment.

And speaking of applications, I was also thinking this could be a neat idea for other things. How to mix drinks, electronics cheatsheet, math formulae, What To Do If Arrested, etc. In fact, it seems like such an obvious idea I spent some time googling to see if anyone had set up a Web 2.0 social networking site to do this. Nothing. So I hereafter document my process for my future self and anyone else who wants to make one:

  1. Design it up a bit. In this case, I tried to pick some knots that were both unlike each other and also widely useful. There's a loop, a general "tie to a post", a stopper that can also make a second type of loop and finally a bend, which is a knot that attaches two ropes. I also wanted a "scenario" that would tie it all together (ha!). And it all has to fit on a business card.

  2. Once the contents were identified, I drew all the images with pencil. I actually first started with some copyright-free knot images from a Project Gutenberg book, but there were a few problems with that. The main one was that not all the knots I wanted had drawings. Also, the images were too busy to be shrunk down that small.

  3. Trace with pen. May not have been strictly necessary, but didn't take too much time anyway. Scan. Load into Gimp and fix any boo-boos. Smudges, pen dropouts, etc. With a cheap graphics tablet, I could have skipped a lot of this.

  4. Bring into Inkscape and auto-trace bitmap into a vector format.

  5. Use Scribus to lay out the page.

  6. Print onto business card template thingies. Get laminated.
If this were an online service or community or whatevs, there would be PDFs and/or inkscape/scribus files. However, I don't have a way to host anything but images here. Suggestions?

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Artistic Voice, And Poundage, Being Suppressed

You may remember my previous, paradigm-shifting, boundary-pushing art installation. A chance remark from a coworker caused me to think of another. No pictures, sadly, and it only lasted about an hour.

The idea was: The cubbies kind of look like a vertical cross section of an apartment building. So I filled them with doll furniture to simulate different apartments. One had a bed, another a lamp and armchair, another a toilet and sink, etc. There was room for the cellphones to perch on the "floor" but I really intended the phones to live in the apartments--sleep in the beds, sit in the chairs, etc.

Sadly, some humorless nitwit removed it all because some VIPs are coming through. And we all know VIPs will instantly be turned to powder if they crack a smile. (The VIPs canceled a few minutes later, but now I shan't share. Or maybe I will.)

Unrelatedly, my birthday has come and gone and I didn't quite meet the goal of -60 lbs. However, I'm exactly 3.5 lbs short of it and closing fast, so I'm not too disappointed. What's weird is that the stupid Wii doesn't seem to notice. I deliberately wear exactly the same clothes every time I weigh in and have lost at least 2 lbs since it started tracking me, but no. Then again, it cares more about BMI which changes less rapidly than lbs (they are both linear, but I mean numerically).

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

They'll Have Nothing To Lose But Their Chaindrives (Invention Idea #5)

Why do I have to have a job? There are basically four reasons: Food, shelter, medical care and luxuries.

Those are listed in rough order of importance. Theoretically an order-of-importance list is also an order-of-most-money-spent list but that's probably not literally true. However, from the point of view of reducing costs, it kind of is. $500 that I must spend on food is a tougher nut to a short budget than $2000 that I throw away on bingo. Put another way: Say I wanted to stop working. What's the first problem I absolutely must solve? It isn't "where am I gonna get my $2000 of bingo money". It's "how do I eat".

So how would I eat? One common solution is to start your own business. But that's still a job, albeit one where you are the boss. I'm imagining a socialist utopia where nobody would have to do any work at all. We'd just recline on chaise lounges all day.

I could grow my own food in my yard. That's still a lot of work, though. Planting, weeding, chasing away predators, harvesting, processing, etc. However, this is all repetitive, physical work, which is perfect for whom? Robots!

The first thing you need is a big field. (You could do this in your yard, but for reasons of efficiency and scale, farm-like installations are probably better.). Enclose the entire thing in glass (height determined by the crop) to make it a greenhouse. This also excludes many, but not all, bugs, animals and weedseeds.

Install some sprinklers. You'll be using a lot less water than usual for two reasons. One is that because the field is enclosed it will lose less to evaporation from the ground or respiration from the plants. The other is that you can collect any runoff and reuse it. (Why don't they already do this? Maybe it seeps down to the groundwater first? Perhaps my field should be enclosed on the bottom, too.)

Send in the seedbots to do the planting. Seeds and the planting thereof are relatively uniform, so this is a general robot. We may need to bury guide cables underground that will indicate to the robot where the rows will be. However, optical guides, GPS or other technologies could also be used.

All of this, btw, is controlled by computer. It could either be a hulking 1950s-style centralized FARMIVAC thing or an ultra-modern distributed intelligence ant-model thing. For instance the seedbots detect that it's planting time, the sprinklers detect moisture levels, etc and everything Just Works kind of like a natural ecosystem.

Now is the somewhat harder, more nebulous part of my vision. Each growing plant species needs different care. Some might have to be checked for mold, some might need petting or to be sung to or whatever. And they are all harvested differently. You can just cut down cornstalks but you have to pick apples. All this variation means different robot types. That said, this isn't an insoluble problem.

Another option is trained monkeys.

(I googled around for a bit and found some talk about robot or automated farming, but there didn't seem to be any cohesive vision or big plans. In all seriousness, it seems like this is a major lack. Growing food is an absolutely necessary, but peasant-level job. Until robots do it, peasants will remain.)