Geek Dad – Making Things With My Kids

Being a Geek Dad — curosity, electronics, treehouses, and children

Recent Blog Posts on this topic: 

Inspiring My Kids Through Example

Posted by on May 15, 2011 in geekdad | 0 comments

Cross-posted to projects for a dad: I think that Kevin Kelly really put his finger on something when he talks about the models we provide for our children. After all, whatever my children see me doing is what they feel is “normal”, or “expected” for an adult. So if I’m writing and performing drama or if I’m carving pumpkins or spending time coding on the computer, my kids on some subliminal level will feel this is a “cool” adult activity. Science fiction author Neal Stephenson mentioned this first to Kelly when he note an unfinished kayak under a tarp. He said he was slowly working on it, in part to mentor his kids, even though they did no work on the boat, nor express the least bit of interest in this project. None-the-less he continued puttering on the undertaking while they were home. Stephenson said when he was a kid, his dad was constantly tinkering on some garage project or another, and despite Neal’s complete indifference for any of his dad’s enthusiasms at the time, he was influenced by this embedded tinkering. It was part of the family scene, part of his household, like mealtime style, or the pattern of interactions between siblings. Later on when Neal did attempt to make stuff on his own, the pattern was right at hand. It felt comfortable, easy. Without having to try very hard, he knew how to be a nerd. So as Kevin Kelly notes, Neal continued the tradition in the faith that while his kids showed no outward enthusiasm for his weekend projects, and didn’t pick up a tool to help, they were being trained and coached in a subterranean way. Please like &...

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Farming as retro-tech

Posted by on Oct 11, 2010 in geekdad, tech, technology | 0 comments

All sorts of news in the zeitgeist about how young folks my age and younger want to go back to nature. Not because of some mystical hippy connection with the backwoods, but out of a sort of Long-Now perspective on the world. Basically, they don’t think that the planet — or their kids — will survive without knowing about how food works, and how to be farmers. It’s an interesting juxtaposition of farming-in-the-backyards, coverage in the NY Times, an emphasis on last-days Peak Oil scenarios, and a feeling that all too soon we’ll all be living with horses and cows again (a trend? Maybe, maybe not….) there’s actually useful information about this. To cite just a few examples, seeNo Impact Man, a crazy stunt that thus far seems to be really working for the guy who is doing it (not so sure about his family and all though). There are opposing voices, of course. But on the other hand, Sam’s Farm looks like fun. And I like the practicality of this article on Ten Things You Can Do, and the guy who is Biking to Brazil. Please like &...

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Vulcan Labs – Presenting ARO

Posted by on Sep 2, 2010 in biometrics and context, geekdad, tech, technology | 0 comments

At Kiha Software, a funded startup from Vulcan, I’ve been leading product management alongside a brilliant engineering and design team. Together, we created “Aro,” a new semantic application that surfaced entities inside of communications and provided a quick and easy user interface to take rapid action. We delivered applications that surfaced this patented user interface on iPhone and Android. I contributed to several patents on this application design and development.  Here are some recent videos featuring my team’s stellar work:   Please like &...

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Victorian Flatscreen: A Steampunk Adventure

Posted by on Apr 13, 2010 in geekdad | 0 comments

Inspired by the Steampunk Workshop, I undertook the grand adventure of modding my flat monitor in the Victorian industrialist style. My rationale was not merely that steampunk is the cool meme du jour, but also because the monitor was a distinctly beige oddity in a vast wood-paneled family library full of gilt-edged books on Milton, Dante, Plato and other luminaries of earlier eras. I did one of my graduate degrees in English, and another in philosophy — so although I do have a few shelves of computerese books, most of my rather extensive library is focused more on literary pursuits and Victorian-era poetry. This being the case, it only made sense to create a difference-engine type environment for the computing activities I undertake in such a rarified bookish-infused air. When all of your decorations could have been in any home from the 1700s up to the early 1900s (with the exception of electric lights instead of gas lamps), it only makes sense to ensure that your computer fits the same era. I guess I should get going on building a genuine gas lamp to illuminate my late night scholarly pursuits… But let’s talk about the act of modding the monitor. Here were the steps I followed: Dissasembly: Take apart the entire monitor, starting with the base. Unscrew the case carefully, as the screen is quite fragile. Disguise: Spraypainted existing pieces of monitor black and bronze (a la Jake’s mod) Decoration: Took galvinized wood connectors from ye old hardware store — which look rather mechanical in derivation, even though they do not have the cogs and wheels one might prefer — and spraypainted them bronze. These have the added benefit of being highly durable. Here’s a representative sampling of similar pieces Device: Fit (now “brassified”) machine-like casings together with nice tight brass screws to create an alternative case It’s actually hard to find good brass screws, sohere’s a listing for good brass pieces More Dissasembly: Sawed apart old case, so that new brass case piecings can fit over the top, and allow access to the monitor contorls Test: It goes without saying that one must constantly test fit and check the fittings of the various pieces. The testing phase is usually the most difficult for me… thus, I post it here as a caution to others who may follow. Connect: Screw new brass case to the outside of the old case, throwing away pieces no longer necessary. (Admittedly, I also used one of those new-fangled glue guns to help me connect all the pieces I wanted connected) Base: Mod the base by covering with screen that has been spraypainted bronze, and so that the “new” black base shows through the screen Details: The (beige) controls now being visible, I also created a bronze screen over the top of them to conceal. Worked well. Re-Assembly: Carefully screwed together the old pieces of the case and the new brass case. Carefully put the screen back in the now-modified case, attaching withbrass screws, of course. Connected the power, turned on the monitor and voila! Nota Bene: I had a wonderful old vacuum-tube Zenith wireless (radio) that I had recently disassembled, and I had hoped to use the vacuum tubes and many of the other components on the base. However, after I fit the newly brass ‘n black monitor together, I found that they seemed an unnecessary adornment. In short, I didn’t need them… unless I could...

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