Friday, July 23, 2004

Tilling the soil of Mars

Click here to see a 600k animation of the soil in Endurance crater. These two images are more than 24 hours apart. The frames are available on the MER raw data page, Sol 173 and 174 from the Opportunity rover. For those who are interested, it's frame 1M143541886EFF3300P2908M2M1.jpg and frame 1M143629327EFF3300P2977M2M1.jpg. The lack of shadows is typical of these images, since the Microscopic Imager is casting its shadow across the entire field of view. The scale is very small, the large image in the link is about 1/2" tall. The grains are smaller than sand.

The two frames are not well aligned with each other (since the team is looking at something different than I am, that's not uncommon) but I have become somewhat proficient in transforming one file so it overlays the other. In some cases, this gives a 3D appearance, in others, like this one, you get the foreground rock moving in and out of the frame.

There is a general background motion, which is not of interest to me as it's simply the soil at two slightly different camera angles. What does interest me, is that there are also several locations where the soil particles have been moved. Likely reasons for the motion include gaseous transport as something vents from under the soil, dirt falling off the MI and disturbing the soil, thermal processes, and finally (I'll say it!) Life.

At some point in the mission, I hope they let the MI sit and stare at a bit of soil, and we'll get a set of images free of camera motion errors. Then we'll see if there are some real effects going on.

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Satisfied clients make me happy

Barry Solomon made his lifetime dream of opening a music school come true. He was deep into the process by the time we found each other, and he'd already weathered several regulatory, construction and scheduling storms. He paid Pixel Rangers a really big compliment: "Getting my sign was the only part of this entire process that went really, really well. It was the only painless thing that happened on this project."

I had to paint out the pale yellow area behind the sign (no biggie, but since the painter had just painted it green, it makes you wonder). The sign itself is simply 3M adhesive sign marking film, aplied with a heat gun to get it to conform to the texture of the stucco wall. It came out brilliantly, better than paint.

The banner, sandwich sign on the sidewalk (not legal, the city could force him to abandon that if they choose to enforce their sign ordinance), the window lettering, those are all further examples of Pixel Rangers' work.

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Using salvage for new products

At the Alameda Marketplace, I have found a client who shares my dream that even signmaking can have a Cradle-to-Cradle life cycle.

This sandwich board sign is roughly 65% salvage by weight. The wood support and hinges are from an old toddler gate and the "rope" is a 20 year-old computer cable (7-pin, round serial).

The sign face is a new piece of aluminum and plastic. I don't know how you'd separate this kind of sheet product for recycling, but the plastic feels like HDPE and of course aluminum is recyclable.

I've been calling and emailing the folks who make the corn and rice starch packing peanuts. I want them to make a starch-foam infill fomeboard. All fomecore board, right now, uses a polyurethane or similar foam inside, so it has to go into the landfill.

Oh, hey, wait... maybe tired foamcore signs could get shredded for packing material?

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

The Scion is a box without straight lines.

Local laundry tycoon Jaime Galindo traded in his gas guzzling van for this small Scion, which of course needed letters put on. We did a bit more than just lettering it, as you can see.

Jaime asked me where I get my work. He's a pretty typical client, and I told him so. A first job could be a sign, or a newsletter, or a postcard, or a logo and identity treatment, and the relationship simply grows from there. After a while, my client and I have developed an entire brand identity for the business, one smaller project at a time.

The immediate benefit for the small businesses I work with is that we build their identity in affordable steps.

I have my eyes on a longer term benefit for my clients: each piece we work on together follows thematic rules I uncover during the first couple of jobs. By holding future designs to these rules, the branding develops "naturally." Often my clients are surprised by how "big" they look after we've worked together for a year or two. What they notice is that their clients recognize them and their product or service as they go about their business.

I might be picking up my son from school and Jaime will drive by in his Smartlaundry van, and I'll overhear, "Oh look! It's the Smartlaundry guy! Have you tried it yet? You really should, it's so great to have help with the laundry!"

When the work I do inspires someone to prospect for my client, that's a really good feeling.

Donated Banner

Sure I'm an entrepreur and a capitalist. I also help work towards the day when we can live in peace together, each of us working for the common good. I often converse with people who are on the cusp of realizing that the best way to care for your fellow human is to empower him or her to earn money.

Anyway, I made and donated this "Progressive Websites" banner to the local peace activist network. They were, of course, thrilled!

Thursday, July 01, 2004

Cogs or not?

It's true that all parts of a business must function well or the entire enterprise suffers. I get stuck when several clients move up their deadlines, or can't pay, or a vendor sends the wrong material on a time critical project. Is running a business like running a machine? If one part gets stuck, does the whole thing grind to a halt?

If I had different people in the different roles, then one or two at a time might be stuck, but the rest of us could keep going. What I am learning is that running this business is only a little bit like turning a crank on a set of gears. It's closer to filling jugs that are rubbery. I can keep filling all the jugs that are still working, and not get entirely caught up in "fixing" the one or two that are not.

Until I thought of rubber jugs, I'd been using this mental model of gears for a long while. It works well for me, because I am reminded that moving this one moves that one, and so on, in a complete process. But how can I have a complete process when gears won't move? In the last month, I had three of these gears get really, really stuck.

I spun a gear free. In my mind, I just lifted it out of the process and let it stay frozen. I kept all the other cogs moving, and kept hammering on the most stuck one too, but I kept it from absorbing all my concentration. So now that it's broken free, the other gears are still turning, and with only a little grinding I can leap back into operating at a nice velocity.

It feels really, really great to get back to flowing with the waves of abundance I am gifted with.