Day 100: Day One Hundred!

Speaking of the Castro Theatre, check this out.

West Side Story
, The Godfather, and sing-along The Little Mermaid. All on one marquee. How awesome is that?

I’m leaving town tomorrow afternoon, and my muse can’t come with me this time, so we’re spending today and tomorrow playing in museums and working on fun projects.


This is SFMOMA, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. They’ve got an exhibit of Frieda Kahlo‘s work currently. We spend a long time enjoying that, as well as some fantastic Chinese contemporary art. There’s one piece by Sui Jianguo of Chairman Mao sleeping on a field of plastic dinosaurs.


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SFMOMA also has an excellent café. We spend most of the nice sunny day at the museum and the surrounding area.

Back at home, the muse is knitting (remember what I said about knitting? Be on your guard), while the cats keep her pinned in place.


Excellent! She’s got them distracted. Time to finish the robot.

Here’s the final sensor array. (The electrical tape is temporary, to protect the eyes, and to make it easier to test. Their cones of vision don’t overlap, so I can trigger just one at a time.)


…and then the wires from the array go to the main logic board…


…and then tap into the motor-control lines on the pre-existing circuit…


…but when I try it out, it’s not working. The toy’s radio control chip is overriding my circuit’s taps, holding the motors inactive. So, it’s got to go.

I’ve thought of all sorts of delicate ways to do this, but I’m a little tight for time. I grip the circuit board with my wire stripper, say out loud “This is a really bad idea,” and twist.



There, it’s done. No going back now. Time to close it up and give it a test.

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Why is there a knot in the wire? Strain relief, so that a tug on the wire won’t pull out the taps.
Why is the cat guarding my drill? It might move. If it does, it’s toast.

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All closed up and ready.                   Hey, screws! (sigh)

There’s a bunch more to do, and by the time it’s really ready, it’s after 2am, and the muse has gone to sleep. I’m sleepy too, but will be so happy to see it work.

So I switch it on, and the motors start working! There’s an odd noise when the motors should be stopped, but it’s basically functional.

Suddenly, “sssshhhhfffffffFFFFFFFFFFFFFT” there’s smoke jetting out of the case. It’s on fire.

  • No! No! Switch it off!
    • Pull the battery out (ouch, HOT! HOT!)
    • Blow a puff of air in through the wiring hole.
    • Open the case, see ashes flutter out, and smell burning plastic.

It’s not good. Wires across the power board are melted. Well, I did pull the control chip out with pliers. Who knows what that might have messed up.

I’m sad and grouchy and tired, so I go to sleep and dream about burning plastic and broken toys.

Random assertion: “Letting go” is vital in both art and engineering. The artist creates a vision, but does control what people will see. The engineer builds a thing sturdy and safe, but does not control the guy with pliers.

Steganographic data: 1828/3.1

Days remaining in Secret Plan 158: 9

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