2010 got off to a good start, then I was hit by some unexpected family losses followed by some annoying family weirdness. Between that and a larger than usual assortment of extra-curricular activities, my blog got derailed. It’s time to fix that.
For those who haven’t kept up with my twitter feed or photo stream, here’s the short version of what you missed the last few months: 1) The DPRG is working on starting a Dallas Hackerspace. We’ve decided to call it a Makerspace because Dallas people seem to be easily spooked by the word “hacker”. 2) I’m still playing with vintage cameras and have more in the queue to try out. 3) Still playing with my DSLR too. Got some recent photos into an exhibit Germany. My photos of the Traveling Man Sculpture made into the May/June issue of Robot magazine 4) Still working on the Noise Boundary robotic music project. We did a demo for a class at UNT and I got the opportunity to chat with Pat Metheny about the topic while he was in Dallas 5) DPRG did some major stuff at All-Con this year and also at Tech-Fest and the FIRST LEGO League regional championship. 6) Lots of other fun stuff, events, people, and places. More to come.
The Austin Maker Faire was last weekend and I was there, of course. I got a different view of it than last year because I spent part of the time as a maker. I helped out at the Dallas Personal Robotics Group table, where we showed off a variety of a small robots. We had several autonomous mobile robots, a robot arm that Martin interfaced with a game controller, a variety of robot components, and a couple of robot-like art pieces that were the result of my recent obsession with welding.
We did pretty well. There was a good-sized crowd of people at our booth throughout the faire, handling our robots and playing with the robot arm. Our table won an editor’s choice award from Make magazine. And we’re already talking about how we can do something bigger and more interactive next year.
All the usual crazy stuff was there too; cyclecide with their human powered carnival rides, including one they didn’t have last year called the Melody Maker, in which the rider propels spinning guitars to make music. The Austin Bike Zoo brought a 50 foot human powered rattlesnake that could be seen slithering in and out of the show barn and surrounding areas during the faire.
The Austin Robot Group had the giant ponginator robot, which is probably the biggest, loudest robot to be found in the State of Texas. They had about a dozen tables of smaller projects too. There were also fire-spewing machines, strange vehicles, medieval siege weapons, the Swap-O-Rama, DIY metal forging, liquid nitrogen ice cream, wind generators, linux clusters, pretty girls, (with mohawks), pirates, (and a pirate ship), tesla coil music, and a nice sunset on Saturday night.
I’ve been welding on Thursday nights for a while now, since I took a welding class several months ago. So far it’s all been practice welds of random steel scraps. I’ve been thinking about trying my hand at something a bit more artistic. Sculpture from found objects has always interested me. Robots have always interested me. Why not combined all this into something like a robot sculpture from found objects? It’s been done before by artists like Gordon Bennett and Clayton Bailey.
The first challenge I’m facing is figuring out how one goes about finding these so-called found objects that artists are always talking about. In my case, I’m particularly interested in steel objects. Susan and I have been going to estate sales on the weekends and I’ve visited numerous thrift shops around town. It seems like the best source would be something like a wrecking yard. There are plenty of them around but very little info about them online. Apparently not all of them let you wander around with tools pulling interesting parts you find. Maybe there are some in the smaller towns surround the Dallas area. I’m surprise there aren’t any web sites that review wrecking yards (at least that I’ve found yet).
Wow, I’ve been so busy lately. Has it really been over two months since I posted any sort of an update here? Well, work has mostly been a blur of SQL, Perl DBI, and RETS. I’ve been shooting lots of photos in what little time off I could manage: there was the Deep Ellum Arts Festival in April, followed by a little art exhibit by local roller derby girls called Derby Does Art, then Scarborough Fair, and the Continental Gin art collective’s open house.
May was more of the same with 90% work and 10% hitting unusual local events to photograph people and things. I caught the Dallas Asian Festival and the Flesh and Bone Erotic Arts Show (warning, some photos not work safe – but I think flickr defaults to safe mode these days, so unless you’re logged in and have safe mode off maybe ok?).
We did manage to take a weekend off in May to go to the Houston Art Car Parade. We saw lots of crazy people and cars as always. We drove down to the Orange Show art structure but it was closed during the art car events, so we weren’t able to go inside. Maybe we’ll get to see it next time we visit Houston.
Another interesting May event was the Great Texas B9 Build-Off where Lost-in-Space B9 builders and Star Wars R2-D2 builders from all over the US showed up for a day of robot construction. A lot of local robot builders including several DPRG members showed up as well. Some of the photos I took at this event will show up exclusively in the next issue of Robot Magazine, which should hit the stands in another month or so.
All this photography has got me interested in finally upgrading from my Fuji sf6000d to a true digital SLR. I really miss using my old Canon T90 35mm film camera and I’ve slowly convinced myself I need to buy the Canon 40D. Canon is doing their part by offering significant instant rebates this month, so it may actually happen this time.
This morning, Susan and I went to La Reunion’s first annual tree carving and open house event. La Reunion is a new art collective in Dallas with 35 acres of land south of downtown. The land is near the La Reunion Fourierist utopian community that existed from 1855-1860 (thus the name they chose for their group). They plan to build an off-grid, green facility there at which artists can live and work. As part of the process of preparing the land, they need to remove dying and non-native trees. They chose to do it in a way that would be healthy for the ecosystem. The trees will be carved by artists in a way that causes them to decay slowly, turning into food and homes for a variety of life forms.
There were also several representatives of the Texas Discovery Gardens on site to conduct tours of native flora. We wandered around on our own, exploring the site and taking a few photos along the way.
That’s right, I’m taking a welding class. Some fellow DPRG members found the community education class and were getting a group together to take it. Granted, welding isn’t a skill I generally need in my daily routine but it intrigued me enough to join the class. It might come in handy if I find the need to create a giant robot, or a big metal dinosaur for the front yard.
The first day of class was spent on the use of a fuelgas welding rig to cut and make holes in metal. Practical lesson #1: sparks fly everywhere and, while they’re harmless if they hit your skin, they have deleterious effects on some types of clothing, like those cheap hoodies you find at Sam’s Club that are covered with a thin later of fuzzy stuff. The sparks create mysterious little craters in the fuzz. Practical lesson #2: if you’re wearing non-leather shoes, watch out for blobs of molten metal falling on your feet.