Thursday, March 4, 2010

The Collaboration Room in Bloomington: You and Your Thoughts are Welcome

When last we left our heroes from the Bloomington hackerspace, they were working on robotic cats, robotic robots, game controllers, laser harps, 3-D printers, and blinky microcontroller projects in member and laser harp designer Jenette's basement. Fun was had, knowledge was shared, beer was consumed, and Nerf battles were waged.

A month or so ago, we were alerted to the existence of The Collaboration Room, a fairly new place in town that makes the very cool town of Bloomington even cooler. It's a house on 214 N Rogers Street where artists and other collaborators can gather to work on projects. I visited a couple of weeks ago during a Friday night session (these are held every Friday from 5-8pm) with my daughter. We met Matthew and Matisse, and in no time we were contributing to prints that had been started by previous visitors. After doing that for a bit Matthew taught my daughter how to make prints with brayers, barens (new terminology to both of us) and colorful ink. Matthew is a good teacher who works well with kids, so it was not surprising to find out he works for the Boys and Girl's Club of Bloomington.

Some other members of the hackerspace dropped by, so we talked about what hackerspace was about and what we'd been up to, and were graciously invited to have meetings at the Collaboration Room Tuesday nights. It seems to be working out very well, as the 2 groups have the same goal of working on creative projects with people with a variety of skills and different levels of expertise. At the first meeting, the collaborative spirit overtook us, and we put aside individual projects to work on a robotic (servo powered flapping wings) parrot we were determined to put together that night. It was not unlike a reality show challenge, only our opponents were the clock and boredom, both of whom we defeated.

A few days later, some of us went to the Collaboration Room's first benefit at the Bishop. This featured a performance art work involving a guy mowing a small indoor lawn and several local bands. People were invited to participate in the Collaboration Room's Red Circle Animation project (I drew a red unicycle). Prints, including two my daughter and I had worked on, were on the wall for sale. I bought the one my daughter had worked on, so now she has sold work.

Matisse runs an animation workshop on Saturday Morning. Spaces are very limited, so interested parents should contact Matisse via the website. At the first session, we watched some animated works made by previous kids for inspiration. One involved a pair of Gwar/Transformer hybrid characters in a guitar battle. After that, no time was wasted, and the kids dove right in to making clay characters and choosing or making sets for their works. By the end of the session, they had made 3 cartoons.

While The Collaboration Room is very kid-friendly, it is a place for all ages. It's very much about inclusiveness and being accessible to anybody with a desire to participate in a constructive way. As they say, 'everybody brings something to the table'. Matthew has pointed out that Bloomington's Wonderlab (a science museum for kids) started out as a small operation run by a small but very enthusiastic and energetic core of volunteers. Bloomington's community radio station, WFHB, started out that way too. I would love to see The Collaboration Room reach the same level of success the Wonderlab and WFHB have enjoyed. If you live in Bloomington and are interested, go to a Friday Night open session, volunteer your talents and teach a workshop, or donate some art supplies.

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Monday, January 25, 2010

How I will lose 1,000 pounds in 2010

I suffer from the admittedly 1st world problem of having too much junk. Over the years, stuff accumulates and gradually changes state from 'stuff' to 'junk'. In spite of its devaluation and the loss and damage of a lot of junk in moves from dwelling to dwelling, for me at least the junk comes in faster than it comes out, and I have a really hard time parting with the junk even though most of it has no sentimental value whatsoever. Even with stuff that has sentimental value (my daughter's art work) I have a tendency not to be selective about what gets archived.

Left untreated, this could lead to an appearance on the television show 'Hoarders', which is not desirable to me even in these fame-obsessed, less-shame-influenced-than-ever times.

In order to achieve this goal, I will need to drop 83 1/3 pounds a month. I will make an effort not to merely make the junk somebody else's problem by throwing it away, although I've gotten off to a bad start, throwing out 2 trashcans worth of junk that's accumulated in my cube at work. This junk was a combination of out-of-date calendars, obsolete software I got from MS when I was an MSDN member (now: open source for life!), and the sort of write-only notebooks that are part of my 'method'. Even though most of the notebooks have dates, I can't say the June 2006 notebook is going to answer any questions I have. I have made a move to logging things in electronic form recently (Google Docs), which is decidedly more searchable.

This weekend I went through my technical book collection and weeded out some decidedly out of date tech books (Java 1.2, a book on Flash from 2000, that sort of thing). I would feel bad selling these on eBay, because they're worthless, and dumping them on somebody else for a couple bucks, while not as bad as selling crack, is still ethically questionable. I will recycle them instead.

This stack of books weighed 24.5 pounds, and given the dimensions of the stack (10 1/4 in x 8 1/8 in x 12 in), that gives us a paper density of about 42 pounds per cubic foot. Since I didn't weigh the trashcan at work, I instead in Microsoft interview fashion measured the dimensions of the trashcan (16" x 6" x 12") and using that density (although there was some air in the trashcan that will being down the density some) that gives me 2 * .66666666 ft^3 *42 = 56 , plus the 24.5lbs for the books. So so far, we have 80.5 lbs.

So I'm off to a good start so far, as far as January goes. I just need to find one or two more books to let go of. I really have no fear of running out of junk before 2010 is over. I can do this!