Maker Faire & Levelling Up

I’ve wanted to attend a maker faire since I first heard about them back in 2006. Awesome pictures and videos would surface over the web of the sort of things that would happen at them… My most recent favourite, featured Adam Savage of the Mythbusters dancing in a Faraday Cage whilst Tesla Coils play out the tune to Doctor Who:

When it came to the events in the UK, I always seemed to miss out on being able to attend. Either I wouldn’t find out it was on in time, or (as was often the case), my work got in the way.

Until *this* year…

I spent the day down at the Brighton Mini Makers Faire and was massively buzzed to see everything there. There were robots, awesome spinning LED displays, paint cannons, laser cutters, looms, knitters… Lions, and tigers, and bears! Oh, my! I ended up at two tables making a few bits and pieces.

The first was a stand run by Sew Fabulous, where they let people make a small pouch/purse using the sewing machines. I’d not done any sewing in years… (back in I think year 9 at Secondary School, in a Design & Technology class, I made a cusion cover that looked like the Welsh flag… which was a lot of fun…).
Sewn Pouch

The second was a class run by a jewler called Scarlett Erskine, who worked through and helped us make a ring. We went through the process of sizing, silver soldering (how can you not enjoy a process that involves using blowtorches?!), quenching and some design work. I ended up making a pretty basic shape (with hindsight, I should really have thought a bit more about the type of ring I was going to make), but the end result is fantastically pleasing.

Silver Ring

So… stats for the day end up with a +1 to Silver Smithing and to Sewing. With the “Jewelry 101″ achievement unlocked. Whoop.

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Power Struggles & Furniture Hacking

Like a number of you I’m sure, I have a number of devices that power from USB. Each time a new USB device arrives, it seems I spend a good 20 minutes trying to figure out what’s the optimum arrangement to plug in the power adaptors into the multi-gangs I have so that the devices can all be charged.

The place where this seems to happen is mostly by my bed, and the multi-gang adaptor I had there was a massive jumble of cables I’d often end up tripping over. So, there had to be a solution…

Searching on Amazon, I came across Anker‘s 5-port 40W adaptor, so 5 USB devices could be plugged in to one adaptor, and the adaptor itself was around the size of a deck of cards. PERFECT. One plug, 5 USB devices!

Having also been a fan of Ikea Hackers, I’d always wanted to try to customize the furniture to something that was of more use. I thought of an idea to mount the adaptor in such a way as to keep it off the floor out of sight. So, over my lunch break today I thought of building a cradle I could attach to the base of the unit out of “L” brackets, then tack the cables along the back in order to have something to keep them a bit tidier.

With the cradle complete, the device sits in it quite nicely:


Turning it back over and re-installing the radio & lamp, the cables are now tacked in the far back corner within easy reach. They fall out over the back when not in use, and don’t sit messily over the front. Not bad for 15 minutes of work.


Must find more projects like this to do…


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The AirWaves Podcast – Ep 20

So I got invited by my friend Russ Clewett to appear on The AirWaves podcast, where I managed to ramble on (semi-coherently) about various media issues and upcoming TV. Some of you have apparently wanted to hear me do a podcast in English, so… you know… have a listen.

The AirWaves Episode 20 – He has the terrible

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The Object (Scene 11)

The positive reaction to the first part of “The Object” lead me to write the next one, where we meet our two main characters. For reference, the interaction isn’t intended to be one of those cutesy “Will they/won’t they” type interactions…

We start to see some dialogue now… like I said, it’s likely that this is where my efforts fall over… thoughts and opinions welcome of course…

[Scene 11 - Black screen - white text - “Director’s Office - 09:38 GMT”]

Man sits behind heavy wooden desk reading a report. Subordinate sits opposite. Room is quiet. Low ambient hum. Subordinate fidgets and makes a noise. Man stops reading the report, looks over it. Subordinate stops fidgeting and returns to sitting quietly.

Man: “So the results of the weekend tests were inconclusive?”

Subordinate: “Yes sir, as you can seen from the shots in the file, we could observe no differences in the surface structure after each test. We also noted that the temperatures at the target sites remained constant, despite the discharge levels”.

Man: *continues to read*

Subordinate: “The other sensors within the chamber and surrounding areas also recorded no effect”.

Man: “Any other tests planned?”

Subordinate: “Some additional scans around the target sites, but nothing intrusive”

Man: “Good. That’ll be all.” *puts report aside, continues with other work*

Subordinate: (looks awkward. Gathers things): “Yes sir…”

Subordinate leaves. Buzzer sounds. Man presses a button on the desk

V/O: “Dr Phillips, Sir”

Man pauses

Man: “Send her in”

Door opens. Dr Elizabeth Phillips enters. Mid 30s, brightly dressed, wearing a lab coat. Brighter in demeanour than her boss, a lot more confident than the earlier subordinate.

Liz: “George!”

George: “Dr Phillips… the meeting was 9:30. I…”

Liz: “Oh, was it? Chris took you through the results though, didn’t he?”

George: “That’s not the…”

Liz: “It wasn’t like there was a *lot* to go over or anything…”

George: “yes… but…”

Liz: *talking over him* “Plus, some new equipment had arrived, and I really needed to supervise *that* so…”

George: *snaps* “Dr Phillips!”

Liz: *smiles* “Yes George”.

George: “We’ve discussed this, at length… these meetings are important, and as the head of research, you’re expected to attend. I would also appreciate it if you respected the operating guidelines and addressed me as “Sir” or “Director”…”

Liz: *mockingly* “Yes sir…”

George: “Thank you…” *grabs a report and continues to work*

Liz stays in her seat looking around the office. George looks up after a few seconds

George: “Was there something else?”

Liz: “YES! oh, I had such an amazing weekend… Kew Gardens…”

George: “Dr Phillips… please… I…”

Liz: “*such* beautiful flowers…”

George: “Doctor…”

Liz: “there was this orchid too… it reminded me of you actually… all shriveled and…”

George: *holds up hand* “Doctor Phillips… please, I’ve been more than polite, I really do need to get…”

Liz: *looks hurt* “But you didn’t tell me about your weekend…”

George looks exasperated

Liz: “fine… *next* time, I expect a full report”

Liz smiles, gets up and walk out.

Liz: “Good to catch up, Director” *mock curtsy, then leaves the room*


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The Object

So I’ve had this half-baked idea in my mind for a science fiction one-shot screenplay type thing. I’ve put bits of it together in my head and got some of it down on paper. It’s mostly setting up shots, it’ll probably start falling down when I try to add dialogue…

[Scene 1 - Opening Scene, Suburban London Railway station]
Shot from opposite platform. Busy platform, people jostling each other. Camera focuses on portly, Middle-aged man (smartly dressed in an overcoat reading a newspaper). Being bumped by other commuters, but says nothing. Young couple stand unnecessarily close to him discussing a dinner party they’re hosting later as if he’s not there. Train pulls up.

[Scene 2 – Train interior – Man sat by Window]
On the train, man continues to read the newspaper, various noises and distractions around. Teenagers discussing school. Conversations in different languages. Tinny music on phone headphones.
— Camera tightens on man’s face — Sounds get louder as he rubs his temples –
— Noise stops as train announces arrival at London Waterloo –

[Scene 3 - Wide shot over London Golden Jubilee Bridge down-river - HoC & London Eye in Shot]
–Camera zooms to see the man crossing the bridge

[Scene 4 – Westminster]
Man walks down Westminster, walks into office building

[Scene 5 - Interior down corridor - Over the man's shoulder]
Carpeted office hallway, Oak panels, people walking around carrying files, coffee etc.
Man walks down corridor, avoiding obstacles – no one notices him. He’s making his way towards elevators at the far end.

[Scene 6 - Standing in front of elevator doors - shot facing the elevator - Man has back to camera]
Camera switches to close up of the right-side of the man’s face in lower-right corner of screen
Noise of office grows louder. After a few seconds, the elevator bings and the noise stops.
Switch to scene 6 opening camera angle as doors close.

[Scene 7 - Inside elevator - over-the-shoulder shot]
He reads paper as elevator descends. After a few seconds, the elevator opens and he steps (camera follows) into a long concrete corridor, sparsely lit, with two soldiers at a guard post. He continues past them (they stand to attention). Camera switches to display board behind one soldier – WW2-style sign reads “Situation: Normal”

[Scene 8 - Main office interior]
Cramped, eclectically decorated office, four desks facing each other. Man enters through door, staff at desks look up. One stands and hands him a file. He reads, signs and continues to the door on the other side of the office

[Scene 9 - Control Room Interior]
Man enters, control room operator looks up:

Control Room Operator: “Sir”
Man: [nods] “Status?”

[Scene 10 - Interior cavern, focused on control room window -- Man in view -- Panning out to reveal cavern with massive metallic object in the center]

Control Room Operator: “No change Sir…”

[Cut to Title Card - Black with white text. Card reads "The Object"]

That’s pretty much it so far. It needs a bit of work. It’ll almost certainly fall over as soon as the dialogue kicks in… Thoughts or ideas welcome.


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On the subject of Music

I put together a playlist of songs recently under the banner “Superhero, Geeky & Musicals”. It combines things like most of John Williams‘ superhero themes, Danny Elfman’s theme to Batman, and a song or two from Disney musicals (no, not Frozen… before you ask…).
One of the songs is Journey of the Sorcerer by The Eagles. For those who don’t know (or can’t be bothered to click on the link to listen to it and work it out), the song was used as part of the theme to the TV and Radio adaptations of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

One of the drivers for me leaving my last job was the gradual realization that it was making me quite unwell. Re-occurring bouts of insomnia and anxiety attacks, along with a fairly deep (for me at any rate) despair. Seeking some professional help to deal with it, I got to learning a bit more about how I was handling some of these issues, and how they were making the situation worse. I had an “Office Space” style realization that I really wasn’t enjoying my job and I should be doing something else instead. I got paid for 40hrs of work, and was expected to work 65+, meaning I couldn’t then enjoy the fruits of those efforts, since I was too tired or unwell.

The most dramatic of the solutions was to move on to a different job, which has been a massive help. I’m no longer in that position where I’m getting e-mails at stupid times during the night and the weekends, and a much more balanced expectation to working beyond the “core” hours. It’s freed time up to actually do some other activities (as I’ve alluded to in previous posts), which has a knock-on effect of adding new experiences (meaning you actually take a break from working).

Having started to look at it in this way, I started to look at how utterly odd it was to approach the world of work like that. That it had become quite normal for me to look at a working week and think “If I put in some time now after I get home, I can then be free at the weekend to do something else”. It baffled me how I’d fallen into that mindset, and spiraled down to build coping mechanisms that didn’t really do much of anything to help… Which brought me around to Arthur’s line in Hitchhikers…

“Did I do anything wrong today,” he said, “or has the world always been like this and I’ve been too wrapped up in myself to notice?”

I’d become so wrapped up in myself and the work I’d been doing to realize what it was doing to me. So, whenever I find myself getting back into the earlier way of thinking, it reminds me where that sort of thing ends up, and that I can take steps to address that. It’s a way to deal with it that wouldn’t have come to me unless I’d sought out help.

The help is there, you just need to ask for it.


P.S. I don’t quite know what I’d intended to write when I started this one, but I’m quite pleased I actually got it out.

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Knitting update and other miscellany

Scarf-Watch 2014

We’re long overdue an update on “Scarf-watch 2014″… the last time we saw the scarf on this blog, it had barely made it a few inches… well, it’s progressed a bit…

The scarf crosses the 6ft mark...

The scarf crosses the 6ft mark…

When I say a “bit” I mean about 6 feet… I haven’t decided yet if the final length will be 8, 10 or 12 feet.

In other news, I decided to taunt the Sun God Ra and wore shorts out to my visit to the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club for Day 12 of the Wimbledon championship. My sister had picked up some tickets for Court 1, and not needing an excuse to enjoy a “few” (*hic*) cups of Pimms, I tagged along for the ride. Not knowing a great deal about Tennis (or any sport if I’m honest), I was a bit lost trying to understand why people where cheering or groaning with various calls. However, one of the matches I got to watch was a doubles match featuring Thomas Enqvist & Mark Philippoussis Vs. Goran Ivanišević & Ivan Ljubičić (Part of the Gentlemen’s Invitational Doubles). The match was hilarious… each player was there to have a bit of fun and put on a show for the crowd, including but not limited to:

  • Trick-shots like serving the ball whilst facing in the wrong direction
  • Feigning injury and putting a chair at the net to return shots
  • Chasing the ball boys and girls around the court
  • Hitting the ball clean out of the stadium and contesting the “Out” call in John McEnroe style, asking for a Hawk-eye adjudication
  • Swapping back-and-forth across the net with other players to continue playing the ball
  • All four players at the net, passing the ball to each other at speed
  • Heading, or in some other way handling the ball over the net
  • One of the players going into the crowd to take part in pictures, whilst the other was returning balls from the other two, stealing a spectator’s hat, wearing it for a few returns and passing it to the other players whilst the ball was still in play

It was absolutely hilarious to watch, and the umpires and line judges all took part (with the umpire awarding points as if the trick-shots were in any way legitimate). Even as a non-tennis watcher, you’d enjoy watching those guys play… to get an idea of what it’s like… watch this YouTube video of Mansour Bahrami (pretty much the model for this kind of shenanigans):

Ra was displeased enough to send Tefnut to try and drown out SW19. My laughter however showed Ra the error of his ways, and he returned to bask us all in sunshine. It did result in me getting some funny looks from Security mind…

The South Bank!

Having long realised that Underground stations aren’t *that* far apart from each other in central London, I took a look at how far my new office is from Waterloo and noticed it was less than two miles (1.8 says Google Maps). I decided to therefore give walking a go… I have to say, it’s really nice (admitedly, it is the summer, I imagine it’s a lot less nice in winter…). Walking along the river up towards the Millennium Bridge whilst listening to theme songs from geeky movies is really enjoyable:

Early morning on the South Bank, heading towards St Paul%27s

Early morning on the South Bank, heading towards St Paul%27s


Given I now have a bit more time in the evenings, I’m hoping to be back on one of Russ Clewett and Karl Madden‘s tech podcasts. I KNOW!, you can finally listen to me ramble on about things I have no idea about in English, instead of the usual Welsh! So very exciting.

That’s pretty much it…



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