Recently, my Dad backed the Printrbot Kickstarter. Our printer has arrived, and it is amazing to play with. I had seen a few 3D printers, and I knew them to be very cool, but I did not quite get it. This is ironic since I had actually made money from 3D printing with this Tesla Valve. Even though I benefited from a 3D printing service, I still did not understand the allure of having your own 3D printer. NOW I DO.

We’re at this point with 3D printers equivalent to the mini-computer kit period. There is something amazing to assembling your own machine and struggling with all of its idiosyncrasies. It is actually a disheartening and difficult experience, at the beginning. Breathing life into something is no easy task. However, when you hold your first part in your hand all memory of painful labor falls by the wayside. You become a maker.

A 3D printed Creeper from Minecraft, sitting on the Printrbot

This guy is from Minecraft. My cousin found him. Here’s the page, if you want to print him out. This is a good example of the cosmetic side of 3D printing. If you want to print out toys and familiar things, there are plenty of models out there. They don’t really do anything, but look neat.

A first pass at a clip to hold my safety belt buckle

A while ago, my belt buckle in my car broke. A piece of plastic, that prevented the buckle from sliding all the way down the belt, cracked and fell off. Now my buckle slides down beside my seat. And each time I drive, I have to reach down and get it. This is mighty annoying, but it has never been bothersome enough to go to a junkyard to try and find replacement plastic.

One of the first clips. Blobbling ruined this one. It was too thin.

3D printing changes the way your mind works, by altering the space of possibility. Now I knew I could make a better buckle clip. I could just print one out. I designed one up in my CAD program, and started printing out copies. The first one was not that great. It didn’t have enough clearance, and it suffered from some blobbiness on one end. I had to cull some plastic with a hobby knife. I knew I could do better.

A working clip. Thickened and with better tolerances.

I improved the clip and tried again. This time the results were excellent. It was my first practical model. It is a small thing to make, but not a small thing to improve one’s life.

3D printed clip successfully holding up buckle

I think 3D printing will have a bright future. In that regard, I’m thinking of starting a space in the South Bay where people can commune over 3D printing, as well as a shop to sell 3D printer parts and supplies. If anyone is interested, email me at primevector at gmail dot com. I can sure use the help.

Story Meditation, Good Posture

September 18, 2011

The theme of this story is, “I have good posture.”

A traveler and and old man of the village conversed. The traveler asked the old man why he called himself Father Ramrod, while he was a slouchy and frail person. The old man replied that it was the name he and the villagers had always used. The traveler told the man that to his face the villagers used the name Father Ramrod, but when he was not around, they called him Father Slouchy. The old man was shocked and laughed a great deal at this duplicity.

The next time the old man was in the village, he told the villagers to call him Father Slouchy. The villagers grew visibly ashamed. However, he did not call them out on their mockery, and they agreed to call him Father Slouchy. Then behind his back, they began calling him Father Ramrod. The next time they saw him, he was standing perfectly straight and moving about like a younger man. They insisted on calling him Father Ramrod and they continued to do so while he was not there.

I’ve been thinking a lot about resilient communities, societies where people prosper in good times and bad times.

One thing that is considered in discussions of such enclaves is the Dunbar Number, where a group of primates peaks at some specific population size before breaking into another group. For humans, that number is often described as about 150 people.

I was thinking, “If I started a resilient community of some sort, where I wanted to gather a group of people to survive and prosper together, who would I pick?” Having democratic sensibilities, I didn’t think I would pick all 150 people. And I didn’t think about required skills either. I mainly thought about who would I really like to be around me.

I have a few friends who have lived in communal homes, where a large house is rented and people sign up for rooms. It is kind of like a dormitory at a college, but with people that you are previously socially connected to. Turnover is interesting to watch. And disputes are also very interesting. A necessary requirement is usually that an external housekeeper be hired from time to time, or sanitation breaks down. Communal houses that don’t have this rule get dirty quick. These are the closest social constructs I have for imagining a Resilient Community.

After picking friends and family, I thought, “No one would live in my community unless they could pick people as well.” So I searched for the number of people that I could pick, where the people I picked could also pick that same amount of people, and still remain at Dunbar’s 150 optimal community size.

The formula for picking a community comes out to:

(y * y) + y = approx. 150.

So if you pick 12 people. And they pick 12, you get:

(12 * 12) + 12 = 156

Or for 11

(11 * 11) + 11 = 123

So you end up being a little over or under a Dunbar no. of 150. In reality, a group taken from an initially chosen seed of people would have some overlap, so a larger number might be able to be used.

Who would you put in your community? Who is already in your current community, whether virtual or physical? Snacks for thought.

For context: Story Meditation is a meditation I created where a person sits and creates a story (a personal myth) based on a theme, where the theme is anything a person wishes to deal with. And then the person interprets this story in relation to themselves and the theme. I use it to solve emotional, intellectual, and physical problems.

Here was my learning problem that I solved with a story. For a long time I strove to cope with understanding in an almost purely intuitive sense. I avoided many quantitative tools for understanding. This was a compulsive behavior. I would look at the summaries of the concepts, and avoid the formulas compulsively. My brain would do a sort of switching off, and become exceedingly avoidant. My intuitive faculties became hyper-tuned, an I would often surprise people with understanding that they expected necessitated quantitative tools. But I also held myself back because I wasn’t developing other tools for learning. I was suspending my ability to observe the beauty of mathematical relationships. A mix of exceedingly bad teachers, the limitations of institutional teaching, and myself had put me in this situation.

For the past six months, I have been working on a new type of jet engine of my own invention. I have made incredible leaps and just this morning I hit a milestone that makes me certain I will soon have a self-sustaining engine. Simultaneously, my intellectual development in regard to jet engines has run in parallel. I know I finally have to get into the math of things. Nato Saichek loaned me a book called Aerodynamics for Engineers, and I started to read it. I realized I needed a story to reorganize my approach to learning.

Here is the story I imagined, based on the theme Understanding the Book Aerodynamics for Engineers.

A man wrote a formula on a chalkboard. It was a new equation of his own invention. He looked at it and was amazed. He ran home and told his life partner about it and she took it in stride. She was already aware of his genius, even before there was ‘proof.’ The next day, the man returned to his equation with worries he had accumulated in the night. He checked it against empirical data again. It seemed to work out just like yesterday. Suddenly, he was suffused with a euphoric glow and the certain knowledge that his equation was correct. He showed it to his colleagues and they marveled at its simplicity. They knew this was momentous. He showed it to his most liked student and his student said, now they could take out a quarter of the aerodynamics book. They hugged at the wonder of it all. The student was pridefully aware of his affiliation with human discovery. Sometime later, the man accepted an award for his scientific development. He glowed with pride and gave an inspiring speech about the necessity of the cultivation of virtue in all endeavors, even those that do not appear to necessitate it.

Though this story is very short and simple, it moved me deeply. I found myself reading the textbook with an entirely different sensibility. And when I felt myself not understanding and falling back on lousy behaviors that restrained my intellect, I was able to overcome them by remembering the story. In the story, I am the professor, the partner, the student, the colleagues. I am standing on a podium, and writing on a chalkboard. And each of those components of the story remind me that I can learn from the text I am endeavoring to understand. Not just concepts, but the exact way of speaking that the math describes.

When I learn, it has always been in the context of creating revolutionary new artifacts. When I used to learn math, I never brought that sense of myself to the learning experience. Now that I understand the story I wrote, the way I learn math and physics has changed. It is a simple thing.

It strikes me how words are so important in the assurance of message delivery. We are all different, with different suffering, love, and achievement. Levels of maturity cross the range of human experience. Life makes us all unique islands, united by incredible bridges of common hardship and striving. So a word to one person travels differently in the mind in other person.

If I ask you, can you work on something with constant diligence, that the work itself will energize and drive you, you may not be able to answer because I used the incorrect words. Perhaps I should have used the word love? Can you love this with all you heart, that you will connect intimately with this something on a enduring basis? Were those the write words? In the first, there was an appeal to diligence, in the second, love. What about bravery, oft confused with immature fearlessness and imprudence. Can you be terrified and persist?

What are the words you need to be you in your maximum capacity? That every calorie you consume, develops into that uniqueness that is you. If you’re just like everyone else you’ve achieved nothing. I refuse to be a copy. Teamwork, society, civilization, governance, music, sex, engineering, and conversations can happen with the unique you, strongly expressed and loving every minute of it. It’s okay to be great. I wish you knew me more, so you could hear me when I say, “I strongly recommend being great.” Terrifying to many, I know you can handle it.

I’ve been following all the activity in Egypt, and ran across this vivid image.

I then made the following image, trying to put a lighter side on the harsh reality of revolution, social upheaval, and the fight for human rights.

I traveled to Las Vegas with my girlfriend. We were driving by car, and we had a little GPS unit with us. On the way there we got hungry and decided to look for a restaurant. While at the gas station, we looked through the list of restaurants that were nearby us. This was something I have done multiple times before, but this time I was struck with a paradigm shift: The exposure a simple list offers a restaurant, eliminates the problems of bad physical exposure.

With GPS listings of restaurants, the Indian Restaurant buried deep in the strip mall has as much exposure as the McDonald’s on the corner. Of course, this does not eliminate the competitive advantage Starbucks and McDonald’s have of being familiar. And if you’re traveling by visuals, you’ll still see the restaurant on the corner first.

With self-driving cars, this will go even further. The necessity to discriminate by visuals could disappear. You simply get hungry, dial in your desired food, and arrive at the location. The car will have become the mobile room it has always attempted to be.

Cultures have generally grown through reproduction. The more people your culture has, the better the odds of your cultures survival. However, we live in an era of modern telecommunications. What if we had cultures that did not just grow through reproduction but through advertising and recruitment?

Companies do this to some degree, but their societies are preoccupied with product creation. This artificial society would only be preoccupied in the perpetuation of culture, not products.

Religions also do this, but are generally tied to a concept of supernatural activity of some sort.

As a necessity, the culture would have to be distinct, otherwise there would be no reason to join. I imagine someone putting their culture’s values on the internet, talking about the people they already share this culture with. And then going about establishing funds for the centralization of this culture.

John Boyd has influenced my life greatly. His ideas for creating self-renewing social systems to increase our capacity for independent action constantly challenges me to rethink my approaches to problems. And it is with great happiness, that I realized I can honor John Boyd by incorporating his name into my vernacular as a verb.

Recently, I was playing Team Fortress 2 with my brother. It’s a first-person shooter where you are running around on teams trying to capture flags and deliver bombs. Teamwork goes a long way in this game. At one point, my team started to get cornered and all of our momentum deflated. We were getting our asses handed to us. My brother and I have both read about Boyd, so I said to him, “Let’s Boyd this problem,” as if John Boyd’s name were an verb.

Now what does this mean, to Boyd a problem? It means to apply the OODA loop to a problem, an activity that would take up many words to describe, but can be summarized by just saying, “Boyd it.”

The OODA loop is composed of four concepts. Observe, Orient, Decide, and Act. The OODA loop initially looks very power-pointy and meaningless, but it’s integrally important and rich with meaning. Essentially it is about changing your point of view to be constantly appropriate for the circumstances in a repetitive feedback loop. When organized against an opponent, this comes out to moving faster on many wavelengths, and folding them back upon themselves until they cannot contest you for resources.

Breaking up the OODA loop into discrete components and analyzing it in a piece meal fashion wouldn’t be appropriate for a highly tactical response. So just saying, “Let’s Boyd it,” worked to break us out of our defeat, and reorient ourselves to the problem at hand and find new ways to interfere with the enemies momentum. By Boyding the other team, and ourselves, we were able to turn the defeat into victory, in a way that made our victory look surprisingly lopsided.

Understanding Boyd’s philosophy is aided by understanding him as an individual. John Boyd was a fighter pilot, military strategist, and systems theorist that illustrated a path to developing ourselves and institutions such that we are increasing our capacity for independent action. The book Boyd is a good synopsis of his life. You can find it here: http://www.amazon.com/Boyd-Fighter-Pilot-Who-Changed/dp/0316881465 I would also recommend the wikipedia article about him: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Boyd_%28military_strategist%29 And the wikipedia article about one of his key concepts, the OODA Loop: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/OODA_Loop And for the best insight into a concise summary of his philosophy, I recommend reading his work, Destruction and Creation. http://www.goalsys.com/books/documents/DESTRUCTION_AND_CREATION.pdf

I recently got curious about doing some stereoscopy, and I ran into this great tutorial on how to convert 2D images to 3D stereoscopic images. Below is my first experiment in two to three dimension conversion, using depth maps. It’s a process where you use 2D grayscale maps to designate the amount a displacement filter will move a point.

Cross your eyes until you see a third image appear in the middle.

I learned the trick of using displacement maps in the video below. He uses Photoshop in his example, but I used Gimp a free photo-editing tool similar to Photoshop. In Gimp, the displace function is under Filters -> Map -> Displace… It takes a lot of toying around, but you can eventually mimic some pretty good illusions of depth. I’m moving onto 3d animations next. We’ll see how that goes.

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