Our tenth annual father-son excursion to the world’s largest convention of inventors, sculptors and weirdos. Different every year – both as the fair changes and as we change. Spent more time this year having conversations with makers, which makes it so much richer. Unfortunately, the trend of making the fair safer every year also makes it a bit less exciting every time. Still, this trip is always one of the highlights of our year, and has become an important bonding time. Here’s to the next 10!
Last weekend at Stinson Beach I attached a GoPro to a tree and had it shoot one image every 5 seconds for a couple of hours. Later compiled the image into a 29fps half-speed video in GoPro Studio. Not sure why I enjoy making these so much; something oddly satisfying about the process.
Many people confuse the terms “homeopathic” and “naturopathic,” or think that all natural medicines are homeopathic. Not true! Homeopathic medicines are, by definition, diluted past the point of chemical detectability. In a typical homeopathic pill, not a single molecule of the original substance is present. They don’t work because it is not even conceptually possible that they could work (beyond their placebo effect of course). This is why you can swallow a whole bottle of homeopathic sleeping pills without dying from an overdose – you’ve swallowed nothing but lactose.
On the other hand, many natural medicines are perfectly effective in their recommended doses, and often preferable to their laboratory counterparts.
So if you want to take natural medicines but don’t want to waste your money supporting the scumbag snake-oil hucksters who sell homeopathics, how do you tell the difference? The issue gets especially cloudy when you have a single manufacturer selling both variants. Case in point: One of the world’s biggest homeopathic/naturopathic vendors, Boiron, sells Arnica as both a cream and as a homeopathic pill. But there’s a huge difference: The topical cream contains 7% actual Arnica, whereas the pill is a true homeopathic, therefore containing 0% Arnica. Consumers who don’t want to waste their money must read the label to know they’re getting a product that might actually help them.
How to tell the difference? It’s simple once you know the “code”.
Homeopathic “potency” is described with a “C” or an “X” – the more diluted the ingredient, the more potency it’s considered to have (which is of course absurd). For point of comparison, “one third of a drop of some original substance diluted into all the water on earth would produce a remedy with a concentration of about 13C.” Boiron’s Arnica pellets are sold at a dilution of 30C.
1) Sugar pills (i.e. “diluted” homeopathics) will list their “potency” (which is really the opposite of their potency) as C or X, whereas actual natural medicine will list the active ingredient as a PERCENTAGE (i.e. 7% actual arnica root).
2) If there is an active ingredient, as with the cream, there will be an “Active Ingredients” section on the back label, listing those active ingredients and their percentages. But with sugar pills, you’ll often see only an “Inactive Ingredients” section (mentioning lactose, etc.) but NO “Active Ingredients” section (because there aren’t any and they can’t legally claim that there are any). So a missing “active ingredients” section on the label can be interpreted as code for “sugar pills.” In some cases, homeopathic pills will have an Active Ingredients section, but with a footnote pointing out in small print that **C, K, CK, and X are homeopathic dilutions.
More images in the Flickr Set.
This year was the 10th birthday of “The Greatest Show and Tell on Earth” – that Rainbow Gathering of robot makers, sculptors, hackers, welders, Burning Man attendees with kids, benders of light, food artisans, bicycle tweakers, DJs and artistic misfits.
I’m proud to be able to say I’ve taken my child to Maker Faire @ San Mateo every single year since 2006, meaning we haven’t missed a single event.
Despite the annoying aspect of the ever-growing crowds, it’s become a father-son tradition we look forward to every year, and we can’t imagine ever skipping it at this point. Every year is both “more of the same” and completely different.
Certain exhibits seem almost perennial, but there are always tons of new surprises. It was especially nice to have cooler temperatures this year – low 60s meant we were able to do a full eight hours on the fairgrounds without missing a beat.
More fire-breathing giant beastie sculptures than ever before:
Riding Cyclecide’s collection of hacked bicycles is always our favorite part of the day. Bikes with hinges in the middle of the frame are almost impossible to ride, but you do kind of get the hang of it after a while.
Same with the reverse-steering-gear bike that turns the opposite of the direction you turn the wheels. Our fave this time was the bike with off-center axles, making it feel like it’s navigating bumpy terrain even on flat ground.
The “dark room” seemed better than ever, with more sophisticated interactives, plus a truly gorgeous wall-sized mixed-materials glowing sculpture reminiscent of a time tunnel receding into space.
We’ve admired the masking tape cities and gardens every year (now represening 10,000 hours of work and more than 27 miles of tape!), and for the first time this year we actually sat down for a 30-minute lesson on masking tape “origami.”
And Miles had his first opportunity to sit at the helm of an original Apple IIe, just like the ones we used in high school in the early 80s:
Totally loved the “junk” drumming of John F. King:
More images in the Flickr Set.
At the start of 2014, I made it my New Year’s resolution to take at least one photo per day for the year. I had done the project once before, in 2011, after a suggestion by the amazing Richard Koci-Hernandez. The goal is to keep your photographic “eye” always open. That’s easy when you’re traveling or out having adventures, much more difficult through an ordinary workday, treading the same old offices and streets. But it’s amazing how things just seem to “turn up” when you have an eye out for possibilities.
It’s also a fantastic way to end up with your own “year in review” – really fun to walk back through some of the year’s best memories.
Watch the embedded slideshow here (full-screen please!) or check out the Flickr set
Just back from Tour de Fat 2014 @ Golden Gate Park, SF.
New Belgium (who make Fat Tire Ale) is an eco-friendly brewery that gets all their power from the wind, and who issue free commuting bicycles to all of their employees.
And they’re famous for throwing these huge annual bicycle parties all over the country. Starting with an anything-goes bike parade, followed by a full day of great food, music, stage performances, and bike stuff.
Hand-painted tent wall.
Me gazing out on the festivities through a steampunk periscope.
More images in this Flickr Set
Just returned from an amazing two weeks in the Czech Republic with family – one week in and around Prague, and another to the South in the medieval village of Česky-Krumlov, tucked in against the base of the Bohemian forest. From those two rental apartments, we fanned out to neighboring areas on side trips. So many adventures packed into a short stay – different / amazing experiences packed into every day. Will try to keep my notes short, but more is told in the photos than in these words – be sure to check out the slideshow (full-screen please!).
This three-minute speech – Carl Sagan’s “Pale Blue Dot” – was the finale to the original Cosmos series, and stands in my mind as one of the most moving short speeches I’ve ever heard. Voyager 2’s last glimpse back at the earth as it became the first human craft to exit our solar system provided the backdrop and the inspiration for Sagan’s soliloquy. Seeing it in 1980 marked a dawning of cosmic awareness for me as a young teen.
Tonight we watched the finale of Neil de Grasse Tyson’s “Cosmos” reboot. Tastefully, the series finished with Sagan’s original Pale Blue Dot audio, set to new (and far more gorgeous) visuals.
Every week for 13 weeks we’ve gotten together with another family and hung on every word, absorbed as much as we could, and tried to help our children appreciate as much as possible of these incredible perspectives on life, the universe and everything.
It is impossible to summarize the hugeness of the undertaking in producing the new Cosmos, or of the impact it has had on us. It has truly been the TV event of the decade for us, and I hope the seeds it has planted will continue to grow in Miles’ heart for the rest of his life.
Felt so proud (and awed) by Miles at the New Years Day poetry slam when he pulled this out of his back pocket – not the usual kid/dada stuff he’s usually attracted to, but an honest-to-goodness heartfelt original poem, full of existential questioning. Forgot to record on NY day, so we re-created the reading at home yesterday so he could earn his Writer badge on DIY.org.
Family resolution: All three of us are doing Photo365 this year – one photo a day for an entire year. Easy when you’re out doing interesting things, a lot tougher when you settle back into the daily grind – everything starts to look the same and it’s on you to find new angles and lighting environments etc. I did the project back in 2011, and will be posting to Flickr again. Amy and Miles are also set up with Flickr accounts and empty sets, ready to go. Wish us luck!
You can track my 2014 progress here.