Blood Donation and Anxiety

This is mostly a note to my future self for next time I give blood but if you don’t already and are able to do so, please also give blood!  You know, to hospitals rather than in a jar as a gift…

It’s the day after and you are pretty damn anxious, also your legs are a bit wobbly.  You also forgot to take your meds yesterday you fool which could be a factor but it doesn’t normally bother you.  You were tired as hell last night and couldn’t sleep but that could just be normal background insomnia too.

Basically, next time you have given blood come back and read this so you can see if there is a pattern!

Yours, as always,

Ongoing Projects and Projects Ongoing

I have a lot of projects on the go, some stalled and some my current obsession, and that’s ok.  I’ve previously beaten myself up about not getting things finished but the truth is it’s just how my brain works so I’ve decided to work with the meatsack between my ears rather than fight it

Here is my usual project lifecycle:

  1. Discover new thing
  2. Obsess over thing
  3. Buy parts to build thing
  4. Hit limit of knowledge
  5. Get frustrated and shelve it

Projects I’ve got in flight are always in the back of my mind and occasionally I’ll learn something new which mitigates stage 4 and I’ll start back at stage 1 again, rinse and repeat.  I sat down and looked over my projects and realised most of them shared common themes in some way, usually in the tech involved, but all use it in slightly different ways for very different results.  To that end I wrote a list of my projects, what each involve at a high level, and put ticks in boxes to see where they overlap.

You see, having multiple projects that overlap on the go is a great thing.  It means if one of them starts kicking your arse you can switch to another!  It’ll cleanse the mental palette by giving a context switch and if they use similar tech you might just get some inspiration to help elsewhere.

Mostly, it keeps me making.  After all, if one of the most notorious makers in the community has self doubt every now and then it seems I’m in good company.

Next up, I’m planning on adding my ongoing projects to the site to make this more a work log again.  I’ve been up to all sorts but mostly using OneNote for not taking and leaving this place fallow.

On The Topic of Redundancy and Hackspaces

As is a risk working for a small company, I was made redundant last week when the company decided on a change of direction. Not ideal but I’ve a good skill set and live in a tech rich area of the country, finding a new job should be a case of when rather than if, though likely I’ve jinxed it now…

The thing is that I now have “mandated free time” while looking for a new job, a long list of unfinished projects and full membership to the local Hackspace. A plan forms;

I’ve decided not to sit idle and instead to use this time, between job hunting, to learn and develop skills for personal projects that have been allowed to atrophy as well as keeping my professional skills sharp. This includes soldering, welding, electronics, photo/video editing and the brains for my Mini digital dashboard project. I’ll also be helping with any remaining works at the Hackspace itself, seems daft not to help out while I’ve time to do so.

Stay tuned for more on this as it happens as well as the redesign and migration.


A New Definition Of What It Means To Be A Grownup



“It’s our turn to decide what that means” really is a wonderful way of explaining to someone what it means to embrace that which you love but that most people see as frivolous.  I have a new yard stick;


Despite being an Internet celebrity, Chris Hadfield is just a man who has worked hard to have the opportunity to experience something truly astonishing.  Most importantly, to me at least, he has shown that despite the fact he worked his way into orbit it didn’t stop him from playing up to it.  In the six months he was commander of the ISS he showed us what it is to be a grown up, insofar as you make the most of whatever situation you find yourself in.  If that means you get to float around in a tin can at a vast speed playing guitar then fair play to him!  He has done an awful lot to promote science and the space program and more importantly proven that you can become an internet celebrity by actually doing something cool rather than coming up with a random dance or stepping on a rake…

The Space Oddity video, and the many others he posted, are truly the ultimate proof that we decide what it is to be a grown up. For that, he forever has my thanks, admiration and envy.

Everything is Incredible and Why We Make

A friend of mind posted a link to a short video about a man in Honduras who has been building a helicopter for fifty years.  He hasn’t had an easy life for reasons explained in the video but his determination hasn’t faltered.  Watch it and see for yourself;

Everything is Incredible, Film About a Disabled Honduran Man Who Has Been Building A Homemade Helicopter from Tyler Bastian on Vimeo.
Some of the comments in the video and the thoughts it raised really rung true, this fellow has a goal and regardless of everything he has gone for it.  Some may feel him foolish but I admire his conviction, I’ve a project that I’ve been planning since I was 14 and 16 years later I’m two years into it.  After watching that video my timescales have shifted but it’s also reminded me that it isn’t going to build itself.  For anyone who watches the video and still doesn’t understand then give this video of a speech by a personal hero of mine a watch;

I can’t explain why we make better than Adam does in that video and in this one line;
“It doesn’t matter what you make and it doesn’t matter why, the importance is that you are making something.”

My next post should feature an Arduino, a piezo buzzer and an EKG monitor.  Why you ask?  Why the hell not.

Game of Life

[Updated] “Gamification” is a term I first heard at a Microsoft internal conference a few years back when Jane McGonigal gave a talk on the topic.  I’ll admit I was a little sceptical to start with but the talk she gave was very similar to the TED talk she gave not long after.

What prompted this random musing, and the recollection of that talk, was that today was a tough day at work.  They happen from time to time, it’s work after all, but rather than sitting on the sofa and watching something random on TV when I got home, I fired up a game I’ve been meaning to try for a while and hit the road.  That game was Zombies, Run!  I chose a playlist and pressed start mission.  The story unfolded while I ran, intermixed with my favourite tracks and as I ran I collected items and received radio messages from a nearby camp.  I ended up running just under 2k, with a few walking breaks I’ll admit, but that is 2k more than I’d have run had I thought of this as simply running.

Now the interesting thing here is that I think of it as a game, because it is, but it has me running for the first time in a long time and the first time outside of the gym that wasn’t a race.  Had I only had music and no narrative I don’t doubt I wouldn’t have run as far or fast as I did, there were times when the “radio message” said I was being surrounded and I ran despite being tired and didn’t give up.  It’s spooky the effect the narrative had on my actions and the mental boost it provided to keep me going.  I’ve not finished the first mission, and already I can’t wait to go for another run to finish it off!

With the proliferation of technologies that enable such games to be developed it’s an interesting time to be alive and it’s early days yet.  AR (augmented reality) is still in its infancy and with developments in wearable technologies it’s only going to be easier to make these games more immersive and involving.  For example, imagine a device that could monitor your metabolism and the energy you consume and expel.  A health bar would be literal and if you over-eat you can see that in real-time.  It would be more Xbox Life than Xbox Live;


This concept and the advancement in technologies combine have potential to have a massive impact on the way we deal with problems as a society, imagine the difference that could be made to our towns and cities if urban planning games required you to actually plant a tree, pick up little or help someone in need.  I’m a sceptical optimist so the flip side of the amount of data about us that could be collected is an obvious concern but the potential remains nonetheless.

Now, excuse me while I go play LavaQuake which requires a clean home with my belongings secured away.  I wouldn’t want them to hit the lava when the quake hits after all.  Don’t be silly, it isn’t tidying, it’s just a game…


[UPDATE] Not long after posting this article, io9 have posted an interesting story regarding the use of games in medicine and as an assistive aid for people with long term medical needs; The Rise of “Cyber Therapy,” or How Games Became a Medical Treatment

Mars, Attacked

Today was a big day for science and for the advancement of space exploration in general, Curiosity landed on Mars.

I was up at the crack of dawn(ish) UK time to watch this online just to see the look on the faces of the guys and gals in mission control when word came through of success or failure.  For the record, I was on the side of success but the skycrane manoeuver was balsy to say the least so was prepared for “the bad day” as one of the engineers put it.

The landing was only one of the many moving parts involved today and I wanted to highlight two of the others, Mars Odyessy Orbiter and the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.  The former has been in orbit since 2001 and was recently saved by the activation of a spare part that had sat idle since launch and is acting as a relay for the rovers on the planet, the latter launched in 2005 and has been taking some stunning hires photos of the planet since.

Today all three missions came together beautifully; Curiosity landed without a hitch, moments after landing Odyssey was in position to relay photos and was relaying telemetry in the descent phase but most impressively is this photo from MRO;

All three of these missions had to align perfectly to achieve what NASA achieved today and this photo is by far the most impressive to me.  Taking a photo of an object falling at around 200mph, from an vehicle that itself is orbiting at a hell of a rate of knots!  I tried tracking down the orbital velocity but failed, if anyone knows please mention it in the comments.

The three vehicles came together in an epic event, perfectly timed, and the results are stunning.  With day one on the planet coming to a close though Curiosity has a big act to follow, that of Spirit and Opportunity, with Opportunity currently on day 3116 of its 90 day mission and still returning stunning images.

There are plenty out there that don’t understand the fascination with such endeavours, I suspect few of them read this blog, but think of days like today as Science and Engineering winning a gold medal for the home team and you’ll not be far off the mark.


The Reward of Hard Work

There is nothing quite like the feeling you get when a long running project splutters to life for the first time.  Be it an engine firing, a piece of software running bug free for the first time or even the simple pleasure of a set of shelves in place, it’s a wonderful feeling that I really wish non-makers could feel more often.

This random post was inspired by the story of the efforts of an epic few who have been working for decades to restore the original footage from early Moon surveys and one of the first photos that they recovered;

The Earth, seen from above the surface of the Moon.

Hard work, well rewarded.  LOIRP are considering a kickstarter to raise cash to recover the rest, a project that’s worthy of funding.


via BoingBoing