Wednesday, October 6, 2010


A few weeks ago my lovely, perfect, amazing bag started cracking. The leather literally started pealing away like those pictures of broken desert earth. This was, needless to say, very sad. But! Also an opportunity to try to make something even better.

I wanted a bag that would exactly fit everything that I considered necessary to carry around with me, but no more. The no more part is fairly key, as I will fill whatever bag I carry to capacity. I divided up my things into six categories, measured them and started modeling.

I cut the 167 mylar triangle inserts of the bag using my craftROBO. The trace paper patterns were also drawn using a pen attachment. Really, everyone should have a craftROBO. They turn impossible tasks into merely unreasonable ones.

After assembling the patterns and cutting out appropriately sized pieces from my leather hides, I coated each layer (yellow leather, mylar and blue-grey leather) in rubber cement. This, I believe, was the key step in the process. Mylar holds its shape perfectly, but is quite slippery and leather, while is has some grip, is very malleable. While this malleableness is great when trying to fudge a misaligned seam together, it would disastrous when multiplied over dozens of pieces. Laminating these two materials together, however, gave me stability and accuracy in the body of each piece along with some wiggle room around the edges.

Next came the especially tedious part! After letting the rubber cement dry — FYI, rubber cement adheres best when the surfaces being joined both have a thin, mostly dry layer on them — I traced the patterns onto the inner surface of the blue-grey leather using chalk transfer paper and a creasing wheel. I then placed the mylar triangles in their appropriate positions and coated their other side in rubber cement.

Once that final coat of rubber cement dried I carefully aligned and laid down the yellow leather layer. After taping down the paper pattern I cut through all layers with a rotary cutter, using a small exacto knife to get concave corners.

With the paper pattern still attached I sewed along the edges and between all the interior triangles creating a solid and well defined piece. This step went surprisingly fast and smoothly. The conventional wisdom is that leather will ruin a standard sewing machine. I decided to take the chance, as my machine is quite old and nearing retirement. However, sewing through two layers (with an occasional taste of mylar as well) didn't pose any problems.

Once all the pieces were complete I began assembly, using my paper model for reference. I divided the bag into several components: the back and flap, the bottom and strap, and the interior and front with the intention of assembling each region separately and then joining. That, as it turned out, didn't quite happen. Instead, I started slowing adding pieces together, trying to find the order that would keep as many seams as possible machine-sewable. Surprisingly, I was able to sew all but a single seam on my machine. I somehow managed to sew a 4 piece thick seam without so much as breaking a needle!

Below you can see the results:

In its first week of life my new bag has survived two rainstorms, the attentions of my office's dog and an MIA concert filled with enthusiastic people. Nothing has fallen out, and there has been very little wear. I think this bodes well for its future.

Finally, here's the paper mockup:

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

3d typography applet

I have some new Processing goodness. You can play with it yourself here:

3d typography applet

I haven't had good luck running this in Chrome. Safari, IE and Firefox seem to work fine.

Or just watch some videos. I made examples of some of my favorite Dorothy Parker quotations.






Tuesday, April 20, 2010


Back in my eyes!

That is all.

Sunday, April 11, 2010


I bought one! It feels like the future.

Friday, April 9, 2010


Ever since I got my Craft Robo I haven't been able to stop making things with it. Or offering to help other people make things with it. When I do offer (which is pretty much anytime I meet a new person) I usually get a polite nod and smile, and maybe some vague mention of a possible future project. However, when I asked Matt, my weekend lab TA, if he would like a custom sticker of some kind he had an idea right away.

Matt makes and produces music, and thus has amp cases. Amp cases are, apparently, pretty boring looking, and can certainly be enhanced by a funkily-shaped sticker. Matt made a preliminary typographic design in Illustrator which he sent to me for some refinement and, obviously, actual sticker production. When I cut my own designs I try, as much as possible, to keep all of the sticker-areas contiguous for relatively easy peeling and placement. Matt's sticker, however, was made up of probably thousands of discreet areas. I warned him this would make placement difficult, but he was determined to try. Frankly, I was skeptical of his ability (read: patience for tweezering and individually placing from a reference image image tiny fleck of sticky vinyl) to complete the task. Boy, was I wrong!

Here are the results:

I can't say I'd have the patience to do something similar, but I'm glad Matt was able to pull this off so well.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

my eye! my eye!

While many things have happened to me in the past month, some of which I plan/hope to actually post about, I think I'll start with my most recent adventure. After thirteen years of wearing contacts nearly every day, I have finally messed up my eye! And now I have an ulcer. IN MY EYE. It is very traumatic.

Like a responsible person, I changed my contacts last Monday, 30 days after putting them in my eyes. This usually works flawlessly, and, indeed, everything seemed to be hunky dory. At least until Thursday. During my electronics class my left eye started to itch, and then hurt a little. I concluded that I probably had an eyelash stuck somewhere. A quick check in the bathroom revealed no small objects, so I went back to lab. After class, I went out for a drink. In retrospect, this was probably not the best idea. As I sipped on my rum and coke and tried to make polite conversation my eye became more and more painful. Since I was having a good time otherwise, and *actually* doing something social, I ignored the growing pain coming from the left side of my face. We finished our drinks around midnight, and I went home to remove my contact.

My eye was disturbingly magenta. But, I thought, it must be a ripped contact. That had happened before. Take out the contact, eye gets better. Very simple. Out came the contact, and to bed I went. My eye, however, did not stop hurting. It just got worse. Around 3 am I gave up on sleeping and took some painkillers. About an hour later I finally fell asleep.

I woke the next morning to a crusty, slightly less magenta eye that really did not want to open, and had convinced my right eye of the same. Around 9:30 I managed to type out an email to work on my iPhone. That may have been the most difficult email I've ever written. I had no contacts in, and only my right eye would open even a little. It was probably horribly misspelled and then auto-corrected to the wrong words. I hope it said something along the lines of "I think I have pink eye, will not be in today." Pink eye seemed so logical. I'd had it before, it hurt, turned eyes red and made the gooey. It being easter weekend, I resolved to go to the doctor on Monday for antibiotics.

First, however, I needed coffee. I love coffee partially out of pure adoration, but also because I am hopelessly addicted to it. I don't have a coffee maker (yes, I know this doesn't make much sense), so I decided to go to the coffee shop across the street. It was extremely sunny out, so I would be able to wear sunglasses, thus disguising my disgusting eye. In fact, it seemed, from peeking out of my blinds, to be incredibly sunny. That was all the better, I thought, as it would make my wearing sunglasses while actually inside the coffee shop less odd. I put on my sunglasses, and walked down the stairs and out of my apartment.

I have never experienced more blinding light. Thank goodness I was wearing sunglasses over eyes that had been narrowed to slits, or I would have fallen over. At the time I thought I had a really bad hangover from my single drink of the night before, and that the pain in my eye was masking my headache. Later I learned that extreme light sensitivity comes with eye ulcers! So I am not as much of a lightweight as I thought. I managed to dodge all the tourists and students out enjoying what, in reality, was probably a moderately sunny day and not the surface of the sun, ordered my coffee without acting too freakish and returned to my apartment to hastily consume my latte and then instantly fall asleep.

The next day my eye was much improved. I could mostly open it and it was considerably less red. However, it definitely still hurt. This was probably not pink eye. I went in to work to try to make up for part of the day I lost on Friday. After I set up my scene for rendering, I called my parents to chat while my computer calculated millions of photon bounces. Of course, I admitted that my eye was messed up. And, of course, they told me to go to my optometrist *immediately*. I said I would go on Monday. Clearly, that was not acceptable, so I called and, magically, there was an open appointment! In half an hour! So, I scrambled to the T, rode to Harvard Square, and learned, from my lovely optometrist, that I have an ulcer. In my eye. My eye!

So now I have to put antibiotic drops in my eye four times a day, and I'll be wearing glasses for at least a few weeks. I tried to use my old college glasses, but the prescription was a little too off. So, with the help of my parents and a buy-one-get-one sale, I am now the proud owner of a new pair of glasses *and* prescription sunglasses. I go back on Friday to see if the ulcer has healed, so that I can switch to steroid drops which should help reduce the scarring on my iris. Hopefully I'll also have an awesome picture of my eye with a white spot on it to show you.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

small project roundup

My productivity continues! I've been doing a bunch of small, apartment-improving projects over the past couple weeks. I hacked apart my ottoman and filled it with bedding for my sleeper couch:

Created a new home for our many, many remotes:


Which reminds me, I need to play more Wii....

And! I've conned my roommate into letting me make things for his room too! This mail sorter is the first:

Vinyl records are terribly brittle and hard to cut. This design took a while to work out successfully.

Of course, I don't spend quite all of my time at home. I'm taking an electronics class at the Harvard Extension School. Soon I'll be able to make projects that have tiny brains of their own! This is a sticker I cut for my class notes binder and my very first circuit which compares the identities of two two-bit numbers.

Monday, March 1, 2010

the saga of my new couch

My living room has a new couch. And a new chaise. And a new bed. My furniture is more than meets the eye!

And it has a great story.

My previous couch was a standard Ikea thing, slipcovered in red. The slipcover was the problem. It refused to stay tucked in, despite the giant metal bar that shoved in between the back and seat. This led to the couch always looking rumpled, and continually needing re-arranging. While Tom didn't seem too bothered by this, it was slowly driving me crazy. So I resolved to get a new couch. A designed couch. A couch that someone could sleep on. A couch from anywhere that isn't Ikea.

I began looking in a fairly lazy way, stopping in to furniture stores I would pass on the way to other places. I resolved to get a new couch as a birthday present to myself, and perhaps convince others to help contribute as presents. Early in my wanderings, and a month and half before my goal date, I stopped into Bo Concept. Nearly everything in the store was well outside my price range. With the exception, surprisingly, of the one couch I was interested in. I determined its price, shipping time (two weeks) and convinced the sales person to allow me to pick-up in store instead of paying for shipping, should I choose to buy. While this made the couch a bit less pricey, it was still more than I really wanted to spend in the most perfect of all possible worlds.

Around this time my father decided to come visit me. Many months earlier, when my sister visited, I'd bought an air mattress off Amazon. She, my mother and several of my friends' have used it since, but I was concerned about him sleeping on the floor with cold air coming in through the windows. However, as it was already too late to order my dream couch, I didn't see much of an alternative.

I had class the day my father was arriving. On the way I passed Bo Concept, and saw a sign advertising a sale on some floor models. They had had the couch I wanted, in the fabric I wanted on the floor the last time I'd been in, so I decided to check in after class to see if perhaps they were selling it. And they were! And it was on sale! And my father was arriving in two hours!

The store is only about three blocks from my apartment. As the couch is too big to fit in Tom's car, I decided to ask if would help my carry it home instead. So, about five minutes before closing and an hour before my father was scheduled to arrive, Tom and I bought and carried the couch, unwrapped, from the store to our apartment. We did stop a couple times, partially from the weight, but also so that we could sit on our couch for a moment in the middle of the sidewalk. We managed to get our old couch to the basement (and later sell it on craigslist) and our new couch up and situated before my father arrived, and took us out for a drink.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

remodeling is noisy

And it's happening next door. At 6:45 a.m.

I was amused yesterday, when they started after 7, and complained loudly about their wives/lack of decent lunches before take hammers and whatnot to the walls of the apartment on the other side of my bedroom wall. This morning, however, their banter was minimal, and they seem to be using quite a few circular saws and attempting to carve a hole in my actual wall. OK, they are probably not really going to make a hole, but my wall is certainly shivering in fear. So, here I am, at work, before 9! 9 in the morning! Quelle horreur!

Anyway, my brain hasn't quite caught up to the awakeness-level of my body, and I've been meaning to post some more of last Sunday's projects. So here you go.


Boy do I love my new pen attachment. I took some of my favorite photos, turned them into drawings, and plotted them with my Craft Robo. I quite like most of the results:

This image:

Became this drawing:

manits at the commune

And this image:

Became this drawing:

surveillance on the great wall

I really need to take some daylight photos of the drawings. And done! The set is here. Or get a better camera.

I also finished turning my failed knitted hat into I'm not sure what it is, or what I'll use it for. But I do know it's done!

Just as soon as my living room is clean, it is daylight and I am at home, I'll be posting about the saga of my new couch. So, in other words, May.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

one fish. two fish. red fish. blue fish.

I have decided to attempt to keep something more complex than a plant alive. I know, I know my track record with plants is not exactly stellar. But! A few of them have lasted for almost a year now, and I feel it's time to move forward to slightly higher life-forms. After all, if I can run several computers on multiple OS's as well as a handful of mobile devices, how hard can keeping a fish alive be?

It seems pretty hard.

It's not that I didn't research, make sure I got appropriately sized containers, food and water purifiers. I did those things. I even managed to identify the cause of my second fish's death (fin rot) and attempt to treat it. Alas, it was too late. Newton and Leibniz have both gone down the drain, their rivalry unresolved. Although, Newton outlived Leibniz slightly, so I suppose he wins. As always. (I was rooting for Leibniz to come out on top this time.)

So back to the pet store I went. I suppose it is selfish of me to keep buying new fish and then having the die. Ah well. I just finished a bagel with lox, and that's much the same thing. I have named my new fish Euclid, as his container is decorated with various geometric symbols. He is far more lively than either of my previous two, and I have high hopes for his continued existence. He will play games with me!

I've also been up to making things, as always. I bought some sticky backed vinyl and a pen holder for my cutter. I've made quite a few stickers for my room and various laptops. There are plans for more, although I need to improve my placement technique.

I've also made portraits of my parents, although those were sent home and I have no pictures.

The Pearl art store a few blocks from my apartment has closed, a tragic event. But also an opportunity, for before it went, it sold off all its inventory at 75% off. Of course, I bought plenty. I am now the proud owner of a new mitre saw (my last was stolen with my other architecture tools when I graduated), lots of rubber cement, paint, brushes, material for my cutter and various other tools. I also found what I think is a tea rack on the curb. I sanded and painted it and it now holds many of my new supplies.

I'm having some thoughts about the design of this blog as may be changing.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

old projects and new

I've been, er, busy for past few weeks. My unusual amount of productivity is catching up with me in the form of mild exhaustion, but before I fall asleep and an impenetrable forest of nettles grows around me which can only cleared by the laser cutter of my dreams, I thought I would share with the internet all my progress.

I've updated my portfolio website with my new professional, independent and craft projects from the past year. I even managed to dig out the source code for my project browser and updated that too. Yay data visualization!

When I was at home for the holidays I finally managed to photograph the remains of my childhood projects that were littering my old room and basement. Behold, the flickr set of my childhood:

I'm trying to get my mother to fire the large bust and mail it to me. I've been wanting to display that thing since I made it in 10th grade.

And, drum roll, I have made an etsy store! A keen observer may have noticed the link I added to the right a couple days ago. I am now selling three whole different types of things! Someone should buy one! Possibly you?

In any case, please wish my fledging entrepreneurial venture luck.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

new years memes

I had a small New Year's party to ring in 2010. The theme of the evening was memes, specifically those of the internet and pop culture varieties. I turned some of the more well know memes of the last decade into vectors and cut them on my new Craft ROBO, which, by the way, is about the awesomest thing ever. Check out the flickr set below: