Category Archives: Civilization

Human-Poultry Interaction and Internet Pajamas

You can’t make this shit up.

In this paper, we present novel systems supporting remote interactions between humans and also between humans and animals. We developed interfaces which supports non-verbal modes of communication. We introduce the Poultry.Internet system, a remote multi-modal human-pet interaction system. This system allows humans to remotely touch their pet using a system interconnected through the Internet.

We also present the Internet Pajama, a wearable suit which allows parents to interact with their child. The aim of the system is to allow parents to hug their child while they are not at home.

Poultry.Internet and Internet Pajama: novel systems for remote haptic interaction

Multitask This

Ironic that this article at, which cites a study that reveals multitasking may harm one’s ability to filter out distractions, is interspersed with five headlines and hyperlinks to irrelevant articles on

This is so wrong.

Saw this ad on today, and honestly I’ve spent the better part of the day trying to parse the metaphor.

AccuQuote Ad - If you died today, life insurance could be your family's prince charming.

The more you think about it, the weirder it gets.

“Talking to Yourself” Selected as San Francisco’s Favorite Pastime

It narrowly beat out “driving a Prius”, “pissing on the sidewalk”, and “being a huge dick every time you get behind the wheel and pulling U-turns in the middle of the fucking block”.


Home Sweet Home

Maybe you’ve already heard, but I recently helped launch Adaptive Path’s new home page. A few of the other kind folks at the office designed it, and I cut it up into its hot-and-buttery front-end code. I used for the pixel-perfect CSS grid system, and cooked up some slick back-end code for streaming our recent essays and blog posts into their proper sections.

What’s more, I wrote some tight little scripts to hit up our Twitter feed and pull down our most recent tweets. Javascript implementations are nice for low-volume sites, but when you get as much traffic as AP you need something a bit more robust. I developed a lightweight caching module that wraps around our call to the Twitter API, keeping our tweets fresh without hitting Twitter on every single (insanely frequent) page load.

Meanwhile, I’ve pretty much been living at Musée Mécanique the last two weekends, digesting their incredible collection of antique coin-operated arcade machines. While these pictures certainly won’t leave that familiarly cold smell of metal on your hands after you’re done handling them, I’ve nevertheless been dropping my observations into a set on Flickr.

Drop Coin Here

The Cail-O-Scope

Love Tester


Musée Mécanique

Musée Mécanique

Baseball Score-Board

Analog Interactions

Life has been wonderful and busy. As a hobby I’ve recently gotten into physical computing, and now properly armed with an Arduino board and a pile of spare parts from Sparkfun and Radio Shack alike I’ve started kinda hacking electronics and building junk. So far I’ve got nothing impressive to show for my efforts, but I’ve been learning a lot about circuits and resistors and transistors and I find myself uttering things that I never in my life thought I would say. Like, “These 1/6 watt 330 ohm resistors are absolute pussies when it comes to waterboarding. I mean breadboarding.”

But see, here’s the thing. Recently I’ve taken an interest into analog interactions, those things in the physical world that you interact with every day. You know, switches and knobs and dials and levers and the like. Or at least, that you used to interact with everyday, until someone got it in their head that everything needs to be a touch-sensitive computer screen interactive kiosk management database-backed networked system utility Ronald Reagan.

Now, I like touch screens as much as the next guy, but as humans, as physical beings that live in a physical, tangible world, I feel that touch screens are pedantic and insulting to the sophisticated sense of touch that we have developed over millennia. Thus, I’ve grown interested in 19th and early 20th century interactions, from slot machines to cash registers to antique cameras, in order to develop a interaction vocabulary that is more rich, nuanced and tactile than the ones we are currently using.

Yes, I’m looking backward to help us see forward. As the wise James Lileks recently said, “You might want to take a look into that big storehouse we call THE PAST, because it’s full of interesting, useful items.” Indeed, I’m curious about ways to take these old “analog” interactions and apply them to modern digital systems in such a way that the digital experience all but evaporates. All that remains on your interface, your beautiful hardwood interface, is levers, knobs, switches, perhaps a rotary dial. Indeed, the user would be “interacting” with a database-backed networked system, but all they would “experience” would be the physical controls and physical readouts. Like the Wooden Mirror for instance, which is backed by a digital computing mechanism, even though the computer does not constitute the experiential qualities of the interaction.

So that’s what I’m investigating, and that’s why I’m suddenly so interested in Arduino. It’s by far the easiest system available for getting started in physical computing. I can plug in a series of LEDs and push buttons, and in no time at all write a tiny script that tells a microcontroller how to interact with these input and output mechanisms. It’s cool stuff, and it gets me thinking of interactive systems beyond the conventional screen, keyboard and mouse paradigm.

Over the weekend I took a long jaunt through Noe Valley, up Twin Peaks and then down into Dolores. I ducked into an antique store to help jog my inspiration, and soon discovered that nothing in the store cost less than $3,000. There was a painting on the wall priced at $80,000. I took shallow breaths, lest my foul proletariat breath peel the varnishes from the $7,000 end tables.

On my way out I struck up a conversation with Isak Lindenauer, the curator of this fine antique store, and we proceeded to have an hour-long conversation about unconventional turn-of-the-century lamp controls that he has encountered in his profession. He mentioned a lamp switch, put out by the Wirt company in 1906, that featured not one, but two pull-chains, that one could use to adjust the brightness of the bulb. A hundred-year-old dimmer switch. Brilliant.

On Sunday I went on a 20-mile bike ride, headed south and then west past Stern Grove and Lake Merced, and taking the Ocean Highway north back to more familiar territory. I stopped at a coffee shop and struck up a conversation with an old-timer, on account of my “I’ve Been To Duluth” shirt. He was fascinated by the incredible innovation of mechanical engineers during the 19th century, and so our conversation covered the wide expanse of steam engines and books of pressure calculations. Once again the topic of interactivity came up, and we discussed railroad circuitry and analog computing machines and other technologies that seemed to come before their time.

I’m no expert on these matters, but I believe that when two random encounters in rapid succession both lead to invigorating conversations about a subject that you were already jamming on, that this is indicative that you are, dare we say, onto something.

Let’s play a game!

What does Dane smell on a typical day during his bicycle commute?

  • Spoiled Milk
  • Exhaust
  • Urine
  • Raw Sewage
  • Garbage
  • Moist Garbage (a kind of garbage)
  • McDonald’s

I might channel some Dave Seah on this one and create a series of printed, fillable bubble forms. You know, to capture the olfactory rhythm of my ride.

The One In Which Dane Discusses AT&T Service Plans for Five Hundred Words, Much To Everyone’s Dismay

Well shucks. I was just about ready to toss my first-generation iPhone down a well, until I dug a bit further into how much this new service plan was going to cost me.

All I can say is, ouch.

Right now I’ve got 450 anytime minutes and 5,000 night-and-weekend minutes for $39.99 a month. In addition I have my iPhone data plan, which includes 200 text messages, for $20 a month. Finally, I do a lot of dialing across multiple time zones, and so to keep those long family conversations from bankrupting my lavish estate I have early nights and weekends for an extra $8.99 a month.

This comes to a grand monthly total of $68.98, or approximately $72 after those bullshit fees. The last I heard we had finally finished paying off the Spanish American War, and so the phone companies have been quietly rewriting their terms and conditions such that they are no longer charging you recovery fees for the taxes they incur, but service fees for whatever the hell they want. It was this breach of contract that allowed me to duck out of my Sprint contract back in January 2008 and avoid their $200 early termination fee.

So. The data plan for the iPhone 3G bumps everything up an extra $10 a month to $30. Now, from what I’ve heard 3G is pretty freakin’ amazing compared to EDGE, but unfortunately I never seem to live or recreate in a place that supports 3G (San Francisco, of course, being a civilized anomaly in my trek through the backwaters of America).

Thus, for my purposes it would be an extra $10 a month for the privilege of potentially enjoying a service that I will never get to use. Now, I do get other amazing things with an iPhone 3G S, such as GPS and voice control and more storage space and a compass and a faster CPU and a non-recessed headphone jack, but it hardly seems prudent that I should reward AT&T on a monthly basis for enjoying a set of features that has nothing to do with their service.

What’s more, I would have to pay an extra $5 a month to get the 200 text messages that are currently included in my (cheaper) data plan. Now, I don’t text much, but I find it indispensable when coordinating with friends, or sharing short bursts of information that don’t require a proper phone call. Indeed, it is criminal that they charge money for something that rides as heavy as a hobo fart on the network’s backchannel and costs them nothing to support. That said, if I have to pay for texting I want a flat rate, as the last thing I want to think about when I’m composing a text is whether or not it’s worth 25 cents.

I have been with AT&T long enough that I qualify for the $199 pricing on the new phone. The question is, then, how enthusiastic I am about getting burned for an extra $180 a year for the same mobile service that I currently enjoy (as 3G does not yet penetrate the windswept mountaintops and tree villages that I typically inhabit). To put it in perspective, that’s a monthly payment I could spend on hosting my intertubes at Media Temple.

Which. If things go as planned, both these expenditures might well be worth their while.

In other news, I wrote my first iPhone app today.

Urban Excursion

You can tell a lot about a neighborhood in San Francisco based on how frequently they need to clean the streets. While biking around Sea Cliff today in a super-ritzy part of town I noticed that they have scheduled street cleanings twice a month.

My street? Three times a week.

I went for another bike ride today, starting out towards SoMa then up Embarcadero into Fisherman’s Wharf. I took lunch at the In-N-Out Burger, based on its legendary status in certain enclaves. A number of folks from WWDC were haunting the joint, along with perhaps the rest of humanity. Tables were scarce, and people were hunched over their claim hissing at passersby who would dare wrest it from their filthy clutches. I stood and waited for fifteen minutes in that awful purgatory between “In” and “Out”, getting jostled and manhandled by every other packet of flesh in the joint. That’s the thing about cities. No matter where you are, someone else always wants to occupy the space that you are taking up.

As for the burger? Not very good. The fries have promise, being truly potato-based in origin, but mine were as though they had been dipped in tepid oil and set to soak through their paper basket.

I continued on my journey, stopping at the Palace of Fine Arts on my way to the Golden Gate Bridge. I crossed over this time around, buffeted by strong winds for the entire length, and got to witness firsthand the circus that is the parking lot at the north overlook. I crossed back and continued west to Land’s End, a decidedly classy locale where a woman with a solid gold tooth asked if I could point her to the nearest restroom.

I dropped in at Seal Rocks and headed south past the Cliff House, and swung back east through the south edge of Golden Gate Park. Following my usual route I went out through the Panhandle, and took the Wiggle to Sanchez to Delores Park. It was here that the jeans got noticeably tighter, the keys began dangling on carabiners clipped to belt loops, and the U-locks were safely stowed in the left back pocket. I spun down Valencia and was soon hauling my (beautiful, lightweight) bicycle up to our third-floor flat.

All in all it was probably a 25-mile bike ride, and I’m hoping I slathered myself with enough sunscreen to stave off any further burns. My arms are peeling like crazy after last week’s ride, and everywhere I go I leave a disgusting trail of skin in my wake.

Kate noted how funny it was, that I had to move to one of the biggest cities in the country to become active in the outdoors again.

Too stoked to stoke the stoke.

I had a fairly mellow day today, taking in the sights and sounds of my own neighborhood. I explored 24th Street and browsed the murals of Balmy Street, which celebrate the Hispanic heritage of this fine area in a lovely visual format.

Balmy Street Murals

Balmy Street Murals

What’s incredible, too, is the Google Street View of Balmy Street. It’s not nearly as cool as being there, but it’s still a pretty fine treat. If you haven’t played with the new Street View UI, do it now. It’s totally dope, and it addresses many of the reservations that had previously tempered my Street View stoke.

In other news, El Salvador took down Mexico in the World Cup qualifiers, and my neighborhood has been absolutely nuts in celebration. Really, it’s been like this all evening:

Man, I just can’t help but smile when diggin’ on people who are this stoked. Make sure to turn up the volume. If your ears don’t hurt, you don’t know what it’s really like.