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zooming into the future

February 27th, 2016

I registered in August of 2000, on a black Apple PowerBook G3 named Spider. I was facing northwest, sitting cross-legged on the floor of the carpeted living room of a small apartment on the second floor of a house in Somerville, just over the border from Cambridge.

I chose the name because it was silly. I thought the internet was an inherently silly place, but that many people were beginning to take it very seriously, and I wanted to push it toward whimsy.

I built the site mostly to hold my independent animation work, and also to play with the internet. The first version used “DHTML” to randomize things including the tagline, which persists in the header today.


I was very into candy corn as a concept at the time, in a stylized form with a rounder, more egg-like shape, rather more like a sunfish, or hand axe, or pear-cut gemstone. I’ve been interested in the link between jewels and food for a long time, as well as everything in that vicinity, including wagashi, and Fabergé eggs, and fruit-shaped Christmas ornaments, and the golden apple of dischord, and the floating fruit in Pac-Man. (Spiritually related, and possibly the platonic form of the idea, is the dorodango. See me after class for more on this.)

I redesigned the next year, with an interface I made in Flash, presided over by the candy corn lifting off as a rocketship:


The next year, in accordance with my increasingly entrepreneurial aspirations, a third site design featured the rocket rendered as a flashing neon sign. The rocket also made an appearance in original livery as the landing craft in Bluebaby:


Fourth year, fourth redesign, with animated candy corn returned to prominence in its original form in the header, but more spritely, here caught mid-bounce:


And the current WordPress design was the fifth, and dates from 2007.

A couple of years ago, I left the world of professional animation, and have since been scratching other long-latent itches in and around the field of cartography. Some of the results can be found at – I hope you’ll follow me there.

As of today, is retired. Thanks for reading!



February 7th, 2013

Here’s the same thing as the last post, but the least-cloudy pixels over a month of mornings, June 2012.

(Click for giant version.)

(There are reports of it not loading in Chrome on Windows.)
(Here’s a slightly less-giant version.)

The image is made up of 680 tiles, each of which was built from 30 source images. It took about 20 hours to process.


February 7th, 2013

The Moderate-resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) is a camera on board the Terra satellite in sun-synchronous orbit, launched in 1999.

This is what all of the available Terra images marked with today’s date in the MODIS browser look like when stitched together, with pink representing non-values.

I made this using Charlie Loyd’s wheather app, which I’ve been hacking at over the last few days.

[Correction: This image actually depicts June 29, 2012.]

Fresh Guacamole

February 4th, 2013

A perfect snack from PES, nominated for Best Animated Short in 2012.

(Thanks for the tip, Scott!)

Obama Slitscans

January 17th, 2013

Obama’s weekly address, December 29, 2012

Obama’s address on the Newtown shootings, December 14, 2012

More Video Slitscans

January 15th, 2013

The opening shot from Contact:

The Project Genesis terraforming sequence from Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan:

Two Star Wars opening title sequences, from the original Jedi and the remake of A New Hope, respectively, including some nasty video artifacts:

And four from the 2001: A Space Odyssey monolith journey, including a few higher-fps captures of the warp:

And to spoil the SF mood: the famous 9-minute pool shot from Tarkovsky‘s Nostalghia:

These all courtesy of Sha Hwang‘s
slitscanner.js bookmarklet.

Video Slitscans

January 15th, 2013

These slit-scan images were made from some of my older 3D work using slitscanner.js, a JavaScript bookmarklet from Sha Hwang. Click each for full-size versions.

Psychic Land

July 10th, 2012

Piotr Kamler – Une Mission Ephémère (1993)

July 1st, 2012

An explicit examination of interaction, from Polish animator Piotr Kamler — this is a reprise of many of the themes of his earlier work since the 1970s, going so far as to reuse models from his 1982 opus Chronopolis.

It certainly recalls very accurately the sense of whimsical vertigo seen in late 70s and early 80s illustration, as particularly exemplified by Moebius, La Planète Sauvage, and their ilk — the horror of interface design. Charming-looking mechanisms with coy personalities are always in danger of reacting poorly to manipulation, rising up in Lovecraftian ways and overwhelming the user. I suppose it all boils down to drugs and the Other eventually.

Thing 008: Miniature Queen Anne Wingback Chair

February 25th, 2012

Miniature Queen Anne Wingback Chair, on Thingiverse from PrettySmallThings, a “scenic designer in the theatre industry” in Astoria, NY. Printed in 33 minutes.

This may be the perfect object. It’s 1 1/2″ tall, and is the spitting image of my long-lost beloved reading chair, what I done rescued from a sidewalk in Boston twelve years ago. Pale blue velveteen she was, and a reproduction from Medford. But I loveded her.

Thing 007: Adorable Elephant

February 10th, 2012

an adorable stylized elephant.

My evil nemesis dared me to attempt to print this adorable elephant he’s selling in full-color sandstone over on Shapeways. It printed out the size of my thumb in 18 minutes, in a single translucent layer.

He snatched it from the build platform while it was still warm and ran off into the night cooing at it before I had the chance to trim the fuzz from its adorable trunk.

*Snatched* it.

Thing 006: MakerBot Astronaut

February 6th, 2012

a white plastic astronaut figure

This MakerBot Astronaut passes the play test: when you pick it up, you want to make it walk around on the nearest head, claiming said head for Earth in a comical astronaut voice.

My longest and most complex build yet. At the default size it’s four inches tall, and prints in five pieces, in the following times:

  • head: 11 minutes
  • helmet: 21 minutes
  • arms: 24 minutes
  • legs: 25 minutes
  • body: 44 minutes

Total: right around two hours. Then, giddy with the power of blue painter’s tape, I printed another, all on one raft.

To my surprise, this took slightly longer: 2 hours 10 minutes, I believe because of the overhead in moving between pieces on the same layer, and because the support settings are all or nothing: I needed support for the helmet, but I got it for every piece on the raft, spending unnecessary time and plastic.

So the moral is: if you’re doing a lot of pieces, or a multi-piece object, slice the objects separately and combine the G-code in a text editor if you can; it’s faster. And there’s another benefit to splitting the builds: if something goes wrong, you don’t have to re-build the whole thing.

Thing 005: Shower Curtain Hook

February 3rd, 2012

plastic hook next to an original metal hook

A replacement shower curtain hook.

Total time elapsed from opening SketchUp to holding the printed object in my hand: 15 minutes.

Thing 004: Stellated Octahedron

February 1st, 2012

The stellated octahedron (octangula stellata) is a shy and noble beast, named by Kepler, kept by Escher, and very difficult to trap intact. My previous attempts had, until today, all ended in gruesome failure:

It was not until the addition of blue painter’s tape to the mechanism that I was able to witness the creature’s complete apparition. The tape’s increased surface area allowed the spritely form to adhere more fervently to the MakerBot’s reification plane, preventing the unavoidable throes of creation from dislodging its grip on our reality prematurely.

All MakerBots should ship with blue painter’s tape.

Thing 003: Fan Attachment

January 30th, 2012

Update: This is now Thing #16842 on Thingiverse!

The MakerBot works by melting plastic. Two kinds are most commonly used: one is made from corn, and reportedly smells like waffles when heated. The other is called ABS and smells like a styrofoam cup on fire. This is of course what I’m using.

In the concentrated atmosphere of my windowless subterranean lab, the smell (of the plastic) rapidly causes me headaches. So I found an old computer fan, got a length of flexible 3-inch hose, and designed a fitting in SketchUp so I could vent the smell away to the surface.

This fitting is nearly the width of the MakerBot’s build platform, and when I ran a test build, the outline of the foundation layer (known as the “raft”) was too large for the surface, and the nozzle kept hitting the platform’s outer limits. Adjusting the settings, generating new build code (known as “G-code”) and setting off another build was costing a lot of time and plastic.

That’s when I went looking for a G-code visualizer, and found ProcessingGcodeViewer, a standalone Processing app written by a MakerBot intern. It lets me check the path computed by the model slicer before I send it to the MakerBot for building.

Useful, free, *and* it looks like an Iron Man interface. And with the hose attached and the sides of the MakerBot closed up, the odor is nearly eliminated, and the mad-scientist aura of the lab is increased significantly.