Archive for the 'Inventions' Category


Tuesday, March 29th, 2011


Paul Stoffregen, the inventor/genius who built these RGB smart-lights for this year’s LIGHTBAR, has posted in detail about the design and how you can build your own. How rad is that?

That, of course, is what DorkbotPDX is all about.

The Lights of LIGHTBAR

Tuesday, February 22nd, 2011


It takes energy to create light — just ask The Sun, which burns four million tons of hydrogen every second to produce the wide, smooth spectrum of electromagnetic radiation that earthlings crave.

But I’m a normal guy; I do not own even one million of tons of hydrogen. Instead, I’ve borrowed several of LIGHTBAR’s ever-shifting palette of fixtures from well-lit friends, and scrounged the rest from thrift stores and junk shops. Some of these needed repair, rewiring, better housings or nicer diffusion. I love electricity and tinkering in general. LIGHTBAR has made me a bit of a lamp mechanic.
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The latest in LIGHTBARS …

Tuesday, February 15th, 2011


LIGHTBAR enables my inexplicable obsession with temporary architecture once again this year. But I hope this time I’ve built something that will last.
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Lightbar 2011 Volunteers Potluck!

Tuesday, January 4th, 2011

Demand for LIGHTBAR is at an all-time high!

I have promised LIGHTBAR and I will deliver LIGHTBAR.  But I need help.

Kinds of help I need include:

  • Cultural events of every kind!
  • A large quantity of strong bamboo.
  • Volunteer assistance in January with the construction of LIGHTBAR
  • Volunteer assistance in February with the operation of LIGHTBAR
  • A portable generator capable of supplying several thousand watts
  • Various types of wide-spectrum lighting.
  • Candles!
  • Boom-boxes!
  • Documentarians to record the whole event
  • smoke, lasers, explosions, anacondas

Portablility has always been part of my vision for LIGHTBAR.  LIGHTBAR should never be taken for granted, should always appear unexpectedly.  It should be a glowing thing that arrives and vanishes mysteriously, a truly temporary autonomous zone, a spaceship of sorts.

This spaceship will need a crew, to help with set-up, breakdown and the exploration of strange new worlds.  My goal is that one truck or some small number of cargo bicycles will be able to transport all the main components of LIGHTBAR, setting up and breaking down in 30 minutes or less.  In 2011 we will combine the LIGHTBAR aesthetic with the technologies and ethics of ultra-light camping — discovering public spaces, inhabiting them, leaving them in better condition than we found them.

In support of all this, and as an excuse to huddle in this particularly cold part of the year, I’m hosting a meeting of the volunteers, potluck-style, at my house.  Monday January 10th, 7pm.  Nothing is mandatory, but  do drop by if you’re feeling helpful or curious.  Bring something to share if you can, but check in with me so we don’t end up with twenty pasta salads.  We will eat, drink and socialize.  I will unveil my ideas for LIGHTBAR 2011 and beyond, and you can unveil yours.


Tuesday, January 4th, 2011

LIGHTBAR has taken many forms: pyramids, spheres, imaginary castles, saggy blobs.  But this year’s goal is to create a glowing fun-structure that is portable, foldable and re-useable.  So I’m returing to one of my favorite structures: the ingenious Mongol/Cossack Ger, a.k.a. Yurt.
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100 Miles Later …

Wednesday, May 19th, 2010

Jetstream Peloton by Gabriel Amadeus

… we made it!  Ten of the eleven members of Team Jetstream reached the beach, on nine of our ten tallbikes.  (Sadly, Doc was hobbled by knee issues and had to take the sag wagon.  Those issues didn’t stop him from throwing beer at me when I reached the finish line.)

We started together at 6:30 AM, but soon split into Team Fast and Team Slow, with myself in the latter pack.  I got to the finish around 6 PM, so that’s a good eleven and a half hours to travel 104 miles — slow but steady.  About 3000 bicyclists rode in this year’s Reach The Beach; 2900 of them rode past me at some point.  Nearly a thousand of them asked me how I get down from that thing.  But I finished in front of two other tallbikes on our team, including the behemoth tandem captained by Max Taint with no stoker.

It almost didn’t happen; my three-speed rear wheel began to self-destruct a week before the event!  Even worse, my replacement 7-speed internal SRAM hub arrived with pieces missing.  Kudos to Aaron’s Bicycle Repair in Seattle for stocking the obscure sub-parts my obscure part needed.  I got the wheel built on Thursday and spent Friday riding off every curb in my neighborhood, testing it for strength.  On Saturday I rode it 100 miles, and it’s still straight as an arrow.

My butt hurt like hell, but three days later I feel just fine.  It’s remarkable what you can learn about your body by torturing it.  The team training rides we did this month were very helpful.  Last night I spent about an hour stretching out my sore, stiff body, and I noticed my legs have gotten larger.  Weird.

I would like to publicly thank my sponsors: Skeeter, Fiona, Patty & Ralph, the Vosaclos and the mysterious “Oxygn luvr!”  Together we raised real money for a great cause.  I’d also like to thank all the members of Team Jetstream for rallying with great purpose and effort around one of my most far-fetched ideas.

I suppose I should mention at this point that I have an article about tallbikes in the latest issue of Momentum Magazine, and that I’m organizing a tallbike picnic on June 26th in Portland, as part of Pedalpalooza.  Can’t get enough of them tallbikes, I guess.  (Although I haven’t been up one it once since I crossed that finish line.  Walking … I love walking … )

Leprechaun Trap!

Wednesday, March 17th, 2010

My ten-year-old daughter disbelieves in Santa, the Easter Bunny and God. But every year, on the evening before St. Patrick’s Day, she sets a trap for leprechauns.

Here we have one bottle of Maker’s Mark (the only whiskey in the house), surrounded by bills, coins and four-leaf clovers that she’s collected over the year. That’s the bait.

Surrounding that, barely-visible, is a border of double-stick adhesive tape laid out on white paper, and a second ring of double-stick tape around the neck of the bottle. That’s the snare.

Unfortunately, this morning we found the empty bottle tipped over on the table, and all the remaining bait stuck to the tape! Fucking leprechauns!

But Happy St. Patrick’s Day anyway …

Free booze from a tree!

Monday, November 9th, 2009

cider in process

I am buzzed to report that our first cider-making efforts have borne fruity booze.  The five-way apple tree I planted nine years ago yielded enough fruit this year to fill a 5-gallon carboy with juice.  Add yeast, secure airlock and stand back!

Hard cider may be the easiest alcoholic beverage there is to make.  Unlike with beer, no boiling or cooling is involved.  The internet is replete with conflicting advice on how best to ferment cider, and almost all of the available instructions seem to give fine results.  Here’s what we did: Read the rest of this entry »

Welcome, MAKE readers!

Thursday, August 6th, 2009

Have you noticed it’s fall already?  True, the leaves aren’t turning yet, and nobody’s harvesting pumpkins.  But still, it must be autumn because the autumn issue of MAKE Magazine is now hitting the stands — including my article on our famous Speed Vest!  I am so proud!  I feel like I crashed a smart-people party!

The funny thing is, I’m listed as the author but the incredibly diligent editorial staff at MAKE re-wrote about half of my article, illustrated it to the nines, tested it to death, and generally turned my back-of-napkin scribblings into easy-to-follow instructions that make us proud.  So all my hats are off to Paul Spinrad, Kris Magri, Keith Hammond, Goli Mohammadi and everybody else at Make who helped make me, Brady and our invention look so good.  (And special kudos to Secret Agent Katie!) Read the rest of this entry »

Speed Vest @ Maker Faire!

Thursday, May 14th, 2009

Brady and I are coming to the Bay Area on the 29th – 31st of May for Maker Faire 2009 in San Mateo!  Somehow we have convinced the lords of the Maker-verse that we are smart and our invention is nifty!  I’m excited to show it off, and doubly so to take it out for some night rides in San Francisco.  But mostly I’m just happy to get to see the Faire and visit my Bay Area pals.

If you’re at the Faire, come find us.  We’ll be at the table with the blinking lights!