I’ve been away from #DS106 too long

An explanation for the following will come.

Maybe even tomorrow.

But right now, this is what I have in response to Talky Tina’s demands.  It’s a half-assed animated GIF.

Groom GIF

Groom GIF

The strobe effect IS NOT INTENTIONAL.  I’ve managed to forget how to make a GIF.  Actually, I know how to do a GIF, I’ve forgotten how to add other images to a GIF.

That’s something to look into tomorrow.  Right now my husband is patiently waiting for us to watch a movie together as it’s date night and all.

Talky Tina, I hope this will do for now.  Goal for the week:  brush up on GIMP/PhotoShop and GIF like a boss.

The film is Red River in case you were wondering.


The numbers or an ode to power tools

Back in the late spring and all throughout the summer, there was a home improvement project.  It involved painting, some landscaping, and other things here and there.  My little house went from white to gray.  Shutters were removed so were the house numbers.

So I need house numbers.

Before the 2013-14 school year ended, I had the idea of making numbers from cans.  I got started on that project today.  Six months later (give or take).

Numbers and tools

Aluminum numbers and tools

I used the big red scissors to cut the cans.  I started in the mouth of the can and then cut vertically to the bottom.  I cut both the tops and bottoms of the cans, flattened said cans, and then used some templates to cut out the numbers.

House numbers

House numbers

I found some scrap wood in the scrap pile at Hack.RVA.  I debated about whether I should use the bandsaw unsupervised.

Should I use this?

Should I use this?

I used the bandsaw unsupervised.

I think everything went ok.


1.  I can’t cut straight lines.

2.  Is a bandsaw supposed to sound like 1,000 cats thrown in a bag?  I don’t know.

3.  Is the bandsaw the right tool for cutting a straight line?  Seems as good as any, so is there a wrong tool?

I got to thinking about power tools and an experience I had this week at Tomahawk Creek Middle School.  Members of the TCMS’s Tech Club participate in the E-nabling the Future project.  They modify files for prosthetic hands and arms, print the pieces, assemble the hands/arms, and then ship them off to the people who need the device.  Wednesday was an assembly day.  The gauntlet for one of the hands needed some sanding.  I gave a Dremel to a student who had been trained.  She took it, turned it on to the highest speed, and it got away from her, nicking the the library table.  She got it back, turned it off, and handed it to me.

“You turn it on,” she said and handed it back to me.

We compromised.  She held the Dremel, and I turned it on so that it gradually increased in speed.  By mid-morning, she found her footing, got the feel for the tool, and was sanding parts like she had been doing it for years.

Power tools are weird things.  Horribly intimidating to someone who’s never used them before and so, so intriguing at the same time.  I have no feel and no instinct for saws or drill presses.  I lack the intuition. What are they supposed to sound like when things are working well?  What do they sound like under stress?

I’ve owned my car since 2003, so I feel like an intuitionist when we’re on the road together.  I know how it’s supposed to sound and what it feels like to drive 35 mph or 65 mph.

I’m pretty excited about getting to know some of these tools just as well as I know that car.

As for the house numbers…  I’m waiting for paint to dry.

Waiting for paint to dry

Waiting for paint to dry

I’ll let you know how it turns out.

UPDATE:  Done-ish!!

The Numbers Project.  Kind of Done.  Done enough?

The Numbers Project. Kind of Done. Done enough?

I feel like I should put some kind of sealant on them, because these numbers will cut a b****  are sharp.


A thousand beautiful things or all the possibilities

I could crumble into a ball and cry at least a hundred times a day because of life’s unrelenting unfairness, inequalities, and general asshattery.

But then there are so many small, beautiful things that lift the heart and inspire and change one from the inside out.

1. A chance meeting with friends and a visit from existential pug

Existential Pug

Existential Pug

2. Getting to know one’s sewing machine

slippered foot from a sewing machine manual

Getting to know the sewing machine. Are bedroom slippers required footwear?

3. What happens when you leave Legos out in a public place

lego tower

When opportunity knocks

4. Playing cards and getting to know new people

Cards with friends

Cards with friends

5. Solving problems with the help of internet forums


Power tools at sun rise. Does a Dremel count as a power tool? Rotary tools at sun rise.

6. Working together

Sign explaining Enabling the Future

The Enabling the Future project

7.  Watching kids lead

Taking measurements

Taking measurements to model and print a 3D prosthetic arm

8. The friendly faces of power tools

The drill press

Hello, friend

9.  1,000 possibilities

Screws and stuff

Screws and stuff

Things I’ve made. People I’ve met: a mid-summer summary

Constructing Modern Knowledge is underway, and this tweet from @DesignMakeTeach (or Josh) pretty much sums up my current emotional state.

Like DS106, my experiences at Constructing Modern Knowledge have influenced the way I approach many facets of my life from what I do in a school and library to how I parent my son.  The the DS106 community, I feel connected to many of the passionate and creative people I met in Manchester, New Hampshire last summer.

One day I’ll go back to CMK, but this summer I’m trying my best to recreate the CMK spirit in my own town.

I’ve been exploring e-textiles by mixing the old (embroidery) with the new (the e-textiles).

The 'wrong' side of the embroidery project

The ‘wrong’ side of the embroidery projec

Working circuit and an unfinished embroidery project.

Working circuit and an unfinished embroidery project.

I’ve been trying my hand at entry-level robotics by playing with the Finch and Snap! with hopes of using the Finch as a way to really learn Python.  Though the content seems attainable and Dr. Chuck is personable, the Coursera model isn’t for me.

My helper

My helper

I’m also playing around with the Mousebot, which is not less about robotics or even electronics and more about soldering practice for me.

There's lots of soldering to be done.

There’s lots of soldering to be done.

Bad soldering

Bad soldering

The kitchen is a good place for soldering as the stove vent sucks up gross solder fumes.

The kitchen is a good place for soldering as the stove vent sucks up gross solder fumes.

I don’t know if the Mousebot works yet, because I am still soldering.  It’s sometimes difficult to complete a project in a timely manner when one only has a couple of hours a few nights a week to work on it (and the other things that vie for my attention).

God, I really hope that Mousebot works.

Back in January, I mentioned my hopes of doing a local version of CMK during a #makered chat.  Andrew said (and I paraphrase, because I can’t find the twitter thread) that it only counts if one doesn’t work alone in a basement.  That resonated with me, and I’m trying to get out to work with other people.  Or at least forge relationships that will eventually lead to my working with other talented, passionate, and curious folks.

I loaded up my son and a bunch of tools and toys in a rental car and headed to Roanoke for a “Petting Zoo Times Two” program at their public library.  Outside were ducks, alpacas, goats, rabbits, etc.  Inside were robots, a 3D printer, a Makey Makey, e-textiles, and LED throwies sans magnets.

LED throwies sans magnets

LED throwies sans magnets

Here’s what you should know:  kids will go nuts over LEDs and coin batteries even if there are no magnets and throwing involved.  One saavy, young attendee made several LED doodads toward the end of the night and said he would sell them for $12.  I don’t think he was successful, but I admire the entrepreneurial spirit.

I also reupped my membership at Hack.RVA, where there is a vast library… in the bathroom.  Because I have a stunted sense of humor, I adore that.

The library should always be in the library.

I feel mildly weird about posting a picture of a bathroom on the blog, but oh well.

I also adore the abundance of expertise that exists with other members and their willingness to share.  RVA Maker Guild also hosts many events at Hack.RVA.  Some of the events are even child friendly.

The next generation of hackers/makers?  Hope so.

The next generation of hackers/makers? Hope so.

There are more connections to be made in Richmond.  A Coder Dojo has recently started up at the public library.  Rebecca Dovi is hoping to open computer science opportunities up to more kids in the area with CodeVA.  The list really does continue.

But this is enough writing for now.  I have to get back to that Mousebot and that Finch and the notebook hacking and another embroidery/Lilypad project that I’m kicking around that involves the Sauer’s sign here in Richmond.

photo credit: Matt Carman via photopin cc

photo credit: Matt Carman via photopin cc

Where is Hatchet Jack?: a project incomplete (animated GIF challenge #5)

Where are you Hatchet Jack?

Where are you Hatchet Jack?

It’s likely that Hatchet Jack isn’t missing at all.  Maybe he’s been around.  Or maybe not.  Maybe he’s still sitting along atop the freezing cold peaks of the Rocky Mountains.  Who knows.  I miss a lot of tweets and internet conversations because of other commitments and distractions.  Despite that, it seems like he’s been radio silent.

Here’s my GIF.  I want to add it to a missing persons poster, but I haven’t had time to figure that part out yet.  In my head it’s something like Sean Placchetti’s “dancing Jim all over the world,” but with a missing persons poster…  and Hatchet Jack.

Oh.  I should also say that the Hatchet Jack face is from a photo found on the Google Images.  The frames of the body and hatchet are from the brilliant “Shia LaBeouf Actual Cannibal.”



DS106: it just makes sense

DS106 makes sense.  Running with bulls does not.  But running with bulls is exactly what’s going to be happening near Richmond August 24th.  Fools.

DS106 makes sense.  Bull running does not.

DS106 makes sense. Bull running does not.

I found some archival footage from the bull runs in Pamplona, Spain at Archive.org.  I downloaded that clip and then went to Photoshop, where I went to file >> import >> video frames to layers.  I then selected the file I wanted to import (I changed the file extension to .mov per Alan’s suggestion here).  The video is a few minutes long, and I only needed a couple of seconds so I checked the “selected range only” option and selected the couple of seconds that I needed.

Screen Shot  I grabbed the DS106 logo from ds106.us and made that a layer.  I made it the head layer and then made it visible on all 39 layers that made up the animated GIF.

Photoshop screen shot

Photoshop screen shot

Next, I created two layers of text: one for the “It just makes sense” and another for “Headless #DS106 . August 26, 2013.”  Initially I had both text boxes at the bottom of the image like this:

But when I went to preview the GIF, “It just makes sense” moved to the top of the frame and nestled itself under DS106.  I have no idea why.

Photoshop screen shot

Photoshop screen shot

I liked it like that, so I left it.

I made the text layers visible in all 39 layers that made up the animated GIF.

But here’s another Photoshop conundrum: If you look at the two pictures above, you’ll notice that layer 38 has the “It just makes sense” snug under “DS106.”  However, layer 39 had the “It just makes sense” text at the bottom of the image like I had originally planned.  I’m not sure why the positioning of “It just makes sense” text changed in 38 layers, but not layer 39.  If anyone has suggestions, I’d love to hear them.  I had to manually move the “It just makes sense” text box in layer 39 so that it matched the other 38 layers.

There we go.  I’m ready for the next challenge.





Watch out for that horse, Jim: GIF challenge #2

How on EARTH did I miss the #DS106 GIF challenge in preparation for headless DS106, which begins August 26th?  I blame my absence from Twitter.  But August is only 3 days in, so it’s easy to join the challenge without feeling overwhelmed.

I’m guessing Talky Tina is responsible for the GIF challenges.  Challenge #2: “Dancing Jim All Over the World” can be found here.  Go ahead.  Click the link.  I’ll wait….

…. It’s funny how Talky Tina and Alan Levine both really like to throw out challenges.  Alan just issued a Daily Create challenge back in July.  So odd…

I was just thinking today how I missed DS106 and how I haven’t blogged lately or made anything lately.  And my thinking about thinking about WordPress rabbit holes isn’t something I want to unpack right now.  The GIF challenge really couldn’t have come at a better time.

Here’s my submission for challenge #2:

Dancin' Jim & the Headless Horseman

Dancin’ Jim & the Headless Horseman

Boy oh boy do I love the Disney version of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.

I’m pretty sure we watched it every Halloween in elementary school, so there’s lots of youthful nostalgia attached.

I did another Dancin’ Jim assignment back in the spring.  Despite that, I couldn’t remember the steps I took to build the Bava in the Boardroom project, so I spent a lot of time trying to find tutorials that made sense to me.  Bits and pieces of this 12-minute Youtube tutorial was helpful.

I was going to attempt to insert the dancing Jim into a short clip from The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, so I downloaded the last several seconds of this Youtube video using Clip Converter:

In the end I opted to use a still from the clip I downloaded.  I opened that still in Photoshop and then opened the dancing Jim GIF.

Photoshop screen shot

Photoshop screen shot

I duplicated the still nine times since there are nine frames in the Jim GIF.

Photoshop screen shot

Photoshop screen shot

I then duplicated a Jim layer for each layer of the headless horseman.  I made sure layers corresponded (layer one of Jim was visible in layer one of the horseman.  Layer two of Jim was visible in layer two of the horseman.  You get the idea).

Photoshop screen shot

Photoshop screen shot

I previewed the GIF, noticed that Jim was dancing way too fast, and changed the duration of each frame to 0.2 seconds.  I then saved the GIF for web and devices and called it a night, because it was late.

Photoshop screen shot

Photoshop screen shot

I don’t remember there being as many steps the first time I tried this assignment, so I feel like I did things the hard/long way.  I really need to work with Photoshop on a daily basis, or else I forget EVERYTHING.

Guess I should assign myself my own daily create challenge.

This dragon has wings: a toy hack

This is Hackey Packey.

Hackey Packey, the Ty Beanie Baby.

Hackey Packey, the Ty Beanie Baby.

You may recognize Hackey Packey (not his birth name, by the way.  It was bestowed upon him by a current three-year-old).  Hackey Packey was once part of the prestigious Ty Beanie Baby zodiac line.

Ty's zodiac Beanie Babies

Ty’s zodiac Beanie Babies

For a while being associated with Ty was all Hackey needed.  However, lately things have changed.  Hackey Packey doesn’t get the attention he once attracted.  To make matters worse, he finds himself competing with other dragons.  Like this one:

Toothless, Hiccup, and Astrid

You may notice something about the dragon above.  He has wings.  Hackey Packey does not.

Hackey Packey came to me with one wish.  A wish for wings.

After many consultations and thorough psychological evaluations, Hackey Packey decided on the fashionable, yet classic, bat design.  The original mold can be seen here:

dragon wings

dragon wings

The wings were folded in the center and stitched for added stability.

stitched wings

stitched wings

Hackey Packey was prepped for surgery.  Seams were carefully ripped from Hackey’s spine with the finest of tools.

Under the knife

Under the knife

The seams to the right and left of Hackey’s golden scales were ripped out.  The wings were transplanted under the scales.

Dragon wing transplant

Dragon wing transplant

Surgical suturing beings.

Restitching after surgery

Restitching after surgery

The patient spent the afternoon in recovery.  Here he is proud as a winged dragon.





So there we have it.  My first toy hack.  I’m happy with the way it turned out.  My son is too.  I wish I had a picture of the look on his face when I handed him the finished product.  He was pleasantly surprised despite being in the room the entire time I was working on Hackey’s wings.

I was worried about the wings flopping over, because of lack of support.  I bought some stem wire florists use… for something…  I was thinking about lining the wings with the wire and then sandwiching the wire between two layers of felt.  I ended up not needed support, which is a relief.  I’m pretty sure the wire would’ve eventually worked its way out of the felt.  The wings are small enough that they don’t flop over.

AC Moore also carried some pretty cool glittery felt that would’ve made for some cool dragon wings.  However, I pulled a sheet off the shelf, and glitter went every where.  I hate sand.  I hate glitter.  Pretty much for the same reasons.

I just finished the project this evening, so I haven’t had a chance to do any major reflecting, but here are a couple of things that proved to be the most important factors in getting s**t done:

  1. I didn’t have to wait until after my son went to sleep to start working.  I’ve done plenty of hand stitching in the past.  I’ve made plenty of felt toys.  I was comfortable enough that I didn’t need to concentrate 100% on the activity at hand.  The hardest part was ripping out the seams and sewing the little guy back up.  My son was interested in what was going on.  I could talk to him about it.  We pretended Hackey was at the hospital.  I didn’t have to worry about my son getting bored.
  2. I had a purpose.  I had been talking with my son about making wings for Hackey.  There’s also a hack with the Thomas train tracks that I want to try out.  Making dragon wings and improving on toy train tracks are a part of my life because I have a three-year-old.  Not having a “purpose” kills motivation for me.  I want to learn Scratch.  I want to play around more with Thimble.  When I sit down to work on them, I feel paralyzed.  At first I thought that feeling was because I wasn’t creative enough, but I think that paralysis is a result of (a) being completely unfamiliar with a tool, (b) having absolutely no constraints in place, and (c) having no real “problem” to solve.  I’m going to continue to think this point through…

Also, if I had all the time in the world, I would’ve done something like this:

Oh….  One more thing….

Apparently craft stores sell these plastic jars called yarn trainers or yarn holders.  The idea is that you put your skein of yarn in the plastic container, feed the yarn through a hole in the top, and start knitting.  You don’t have to worry about your skein skipping across the floor while you work.  You don’t have to worry about your cat absconding with your yarn in the middle of the night.

I made one tonight out of a trail mix container that I KNEW I was holding on to for a reason.

homemade yarn trainer

homemade yarn trainer





Summer Songs

If Carly Rae Jepson’s “Call Me Maybe” was last summer’s “song of summer,”

this summer’s tune has to be Icona Pop’s “I Love It.”

To honor that, I made this:

The project stems from the DS106 assignment “Character/Genre Song Mashup” (aka Visual Assignment 733).

The theme of the video clips selected:  Er…. they’re from The Twilight Zone (with the exception of a short clip from “Alcohol is Dynamite“)

The song: “I Love It” by Icona Pop.  It’s catchy and you can dance to it.

The tools:  iMovie ’11

What I did:  I haven’t watched all of the assigned Twilight Zone episodes, so I thought back to the ones I have seen and considered the scenes that would kind-of-sort-of fit the song.  Telly Savales falling down the stairs in “Living Doll” was an obvious choice as was footage from “Midnight Sun.”

I downloaded clips from Youtube using clip converter.  I’ve been using this Firefox add-on since Camp Magic Macguffin, and it works well for me.  Though I’m sure most of these converters have the option to download portions of videos, I found that an especially useful feature for this project.

Settings for clip converter

Settings for clip converter

I opted to save my clips as a .mp4, because that’s what I’ve been doing and it seems to work.  I know very little about codecs.  Am I even using the right terminology?  Is a .wmv a codec or is that just a file type?  I should probably look into that….

I converted and saved all of the clips I wanted to work with to my desktop, because that’s the easiest thing for me to do.  I created a new project in iMovie called Twilight Zone.  Next, I imported all of Twilight Zone .mp4 files in a new event that I called DS106zone.

iMovie process

iMovie process

Most of the clips in the DS106zone event were longer than necessary, so I selected the portions of the clips I wanted, and dragged them to the Twilight Zone project.

I don’t have Icona Pop’s “I Love It” in my music library (because I listen to music through Rdio if I listen to music at all), so I converted the Youtube video to MP3 and then imported that file into my iMovie project.  I only used about a minute of the song, because it’s very hard to too time-consuming to find three minutes worth of clips to match with the song.

Once the soundtrack was in place, I moved the video clips around to fit with the lyrics of the song.  I muted the volume in the video tracks by reducing volume to 0%.  This can be done under “audio adjustment” for each clip.

iMovie screen shot

iMovie screen shot

A lot of folks poo-poo iMovie.  It works fine for the video work that I do.  I’m sure it has limitations for the hardcore video editors out there.  The only problem I’ve encountered is when students try to do a group project at school.  It’s impossible (or at least not easy) for students to work asynchronously on a group project without a lot of network account black magic. 

This project’s biggest time suck is gathering and organizing the footage.  I had a vague mental idea–a mental story board, if you will–of what I wanted the project to look like.  That helped with the efficiency of the clip selection, conversion, and editing process.

Christina Hendricks recently tweeted:

This gave me the idea to create and use several frames of Talky Tina floating through space during the closing credits rather than the space ship.  I’ll add that to my “to do” list.

I also need to add this to my blog:

Official Internet Web Badge

Official Internet Web Badge

So honored!





Was Matthew Weiner a Twilight Zone Fan?

I’m fairly confident that the origins of Don Draper started with Martin Sloan from the Twilight Zone’s “Walking Distance” (S1E5)

Martin Sloan from

Martin Sloan from “Walking Distance” (S1E5 of The Twilight Zone)

Martin Sloan is an ad man in New York City.  Don Draper is an ad man in New York City.  Martin Sloan is cracking under the stress and confused about his past (or nostalgic for it at least).  Don Draper is cracking under the stress and confused about his past.

And then there’s Martin Sloan’s allusion to putting it all to an end.

Yesterday I just got in the car and drove.  I had to get out of New York City.  One more board meeting, phone call, report, or problem, and I would’ve jumped right out the window.

Mad Men's falling man

Mad Men’s falling man from opening credits

The falling man from Mad Men’s opening credits is such an iconic image now.  It’s the first thing that popped into my head when Martin Sloan mentioned jumping out the window.  I’m sure that’s the case because of all of the ad man front loading Rod Serling does at the beginning of “Walking Distance.”

Whatever the case may be, I decided to over-analyze the connections I made.  I also decided to count the connection as an audio assignment.  Specifically assignment #1117 although it doesn’t even fit the description really.

But I’m an open participant, and I do what I want!

Here’s a description of the assignment, which was created by Bowties and Skulls.  “The assignment is to find an audio clip that references the Twilight Zone.”

My interpretation of Audio Assignment #1117:  Find an audio clip from the Twilight Zone that references a TV show that didn’t even exist when the Twilight Zone episode aired.”


Submitted for your approval: