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A Flock of Doubts

I’m sorry that it’s been over nine months since I posted here. I’ve been busy building in that time—some projects, but mostly a new life after the end of an eighteen year relationship.

The latter project is not the type I’m used to or enjoy, and it’s distracted me greatly from the former. After moving, it was almost four months before I got my shop set up again and could even think about working there, and I still have trouble finding parts I know I have somewhere around.

In that downtime, a flock of doubts swept in, and they’ve been heckling the creative parts of my mind from their perches in the rafters.

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The Art of Tinkering

The Exploratorium in San Francisco recently released a book called The Art of Tinkering. They describe it as

a celebration of a whole new way to learn by thinking with your hands, working with readily available materials, getting your hands dirty, and, yes, sometimes failing and bouncing back from getting stuck.

Sounds like exactly what I enjoy!

I’m excited and proud to be a part of it, with a section on Pumpktris right on page 73, sharing a spread with littleBits and the folks from Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories, among others.

Order your copy at the Exploratorium store or at Amazon.

Decline and Fall of the Pumpktris Empire

As is the case with so many celebrities,  the meteoric rise of Pumpktris was followed by an equally swift and brutal decline. Unable to cope with the twin pressures of fame and fungus, he was last seen passed out in the alley. A spokesman claims Pumpktris is merely suffering from “exhaustion.”

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That Old Computer Smell

As part of a trip down to the Bay Area Maker Faire last month, my friend Kirk and I stopped at the Computer History Museum. From the exquisite machining of the operational Babbage Difference Engine, to the switches and blinking lights of 60s big iron, to the first-generation personal computers I grew up with, it was well worth the admission price.

The nostalgia was thick, with phrases like “I had that!” (Apple ][ and countless games) or “I so wanted one of those!” (Tomy Omnibot 2000) leaving my lips countless times.

But more than the sights and the sounds, what really hit me was the smell. The scent of some of those old computers instantly took me back to hours spent as a child digging through my mom’s old camera equipment. Same smell in both cases. I don’t know what it is—something in the finish, the circuit boards, the wire insulation, maybe the tiniest hint of mildew? If someone could distill that smell, I’d spritz it on the DSLRs I’ve got now in order to make them smell like real cameras should. Hell, I’d wear it myself.

Organizing the Resistance

I’m trying to set up a beginner’s electronics workbench, but organizing all of the components has been a hassle. I’ve got a cabinet with sixty-something little plastic drawers, but that seems inefficient for resistors when I might only have 5 of a particular value. It works well for other pieces like switches, buttons, and connectors, though.

I tried using small plastic envelopes in a recipe organizing box, and while it was nice being able to see them when an envelope was out on the desk, the envelopes were too floppy and it was impossible to flip through and find what I was after.

Then I remembered an unused two-drawer card file tucked away at my parents’ house that would be ideal. A2 envelopes were a perfect fit, and there was a sliding backstop in each drawer to keep it all packed tight.

Being a newbie to this electronics thing, I hadn’t yet memorized the resistor color codes, so I decided to print a color guide on each envelope along with the numeric value. The funny thing is that by making all of the envelopes in InDesign I’ve gotten pretty good at the color code system. I think they’ll still serve well as a check when I’m putting resistors back after a prototyping session.

The other night, with the envelopes all printed, I huddled over the piles and started sorting. First lesson learned: good light is a must. Under my lamp, red looked the same as orange looked the same as yellow. Brown and black? No difference between them! Eventually, with a few illuminations from a super-bright flashlight and a few particularly troublesome ones set aside for the morning, I got everything in its place and filed away.

Here’s the finished system. The resistors only take up about half of one drawer. What should I keep in the second drawer?

The Inadvertent Shipping Test

For a while I’ve wondered what kind of shape the neckwarmers were in when they arrived at their destination. Were they crumpled, wrinked, was the packaging torn?  In the back of my mind I had an idea to ship one boxed to family on the east coast then ask them to mail it back in the standard shipping bag, but I never got around to it.

But I found out today in a big way when a Christmas package meant for Australia was returned for having an insufficient address. That’s about as far as anything could be sent, and then doubled for the return trip. It was shipped on the tenth of December, and marked “Return to Sender” on January 5. I’m not sure when it arrived down under or how long it was kept, but it only got back to me here today. That’s over three months on the road — a far more rigorous test than I could have devised!

It’s pretty smooshed up. Good thing there’s only fabric inside.

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My First Craft Show

I found out about the Lincoln Holiday Bazaar and Craft Show only three days before it took place, when a flyer was stuck to my door.  The flyer was advertising to attendees, but it said there were still a few slots available for sellers.  Hmmm, why not? Before now I’ve sold exclusively online, but at just $20 for a table (shared with a friend so it was only $10), I figured it would be a good introduction to live selling.

I hauled ass finishing a bunch of mustache neckwarmers by showtime, and fell asleep each night worried I might run out of stock at the show (ha!). On Friday night I scrounged up some stuff and put together a display, seen below.

Alas, the sell-out dreams were not to be — I only made one sale. But I did hand out a lot of cards with my Etsy store on them, so hopefully something will come of that.  I got a lot of great feedback too, including a couple of reactions that completely made my day. Also on the plus side: I’ve got a ton of stuff completely ready now to ship on Etsy, rather than having it mostly done then scrambling when a sale comes in. Most of all, I learned some valuable things about how to display at shows.

A few disjointed anecdotes, observations, and criticisms: Continue reading →

HaHa Way Back When

This isn’t craft related at all, but is a postcard I found that my Grandpa wrote to me when I was only two.  I called crows haha birds, my little ears hearing “ha ha” rather than “caw caw.”  Thus the name of this blog.

Why did I blur out my address from 33 years ago?  So that no time-traveling robots from the future would know where to track me down at my most defenseless, of course.

Ponoko Order Timeline

Ponoko is an awesome service that lets you design your own items to be laser cut and delivered to your door. I’ve been using them to cut mustaches for mustache neckwarmers, and I’ve got a few more projects I’m working on but haven’t uploaded for production. They have a marketplace where you can sell what you’ve designed, but since this project has so much additional assembly, that wouldn’t work. So how long does it take to get your goodies into your hands? Their shipping FAQ states:

The ‘average’ order is custom made and delivered within about 2 weeks, give or take a few days.

It turns out that’s not too far off the mark. Keep reading for the timeline of my most recent order.

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