Aaron Swartz's friends and colleagues at the Internet Archive will be holding a memorial gathering for him on January 24 from 7PM onward at the Internet Archive, 300 Funston Avenue, San Francisco 94118, in the Presidio. Cory

Kinetic toothpick sculpture of San Francisco

Scott Weaver is a San Francisco sculptor who spend 35 years building the most stupendously gorgeously wonderful toothpick sculpture, a kinetic piece that is a miniature of San Francisco and all that's glorious about the city. The piece has 100,000 toothpicks, and 10,000,000 measures of awesome:

Thirty five years ago I had yet to be born, but artist Scott Weaver had already begun work on this insanely complex kinetic sculpture, Rolling through the Bay, that he continues to modify and expand even today. The elaborate sculpture is comprised of multiple “tours” that move pingpong balls through neighborhoods, historical locations, and iconic symbols of San Francisco, all recreated with a little glue, some toothpicks, and an incredible amount of ingenuity. He admits in the video that there are several toothpick sculptures even larger than his, but none has the unique kinetic components he’s constructed. Via his website Weaver estimates he’s spent over 3,000 hours on the project, and the toothpicks have been sourced from around the world.

You can see Weaver's piece at the American Visionary Art Museum.

One man, 100,000 toothpicks, and 35 years: An incredible kinetic sculpture of San Francisco [Christopher/This is Colossal]

(via Making Light)

MonkeyBrains seeks $350,000,000 for its own satellite

The happy mutants at MonkeyBrains, the San Francisco hacker-friendly ISP, have launched a $350,000,000 IndieGoGo campaign to buy their own satellite ("North Korea just launched a satellite; we want to as well"). Some fun facts about MonkeyBrains: it was founded by Rudy Rucker, Jr (son of the archduke of mutantcy, cyberpunk writer Rudy Rucker [Sr]); it is the basis for the fictional ISP pigspleen.net in my novel Little Brother; and they want $350,000,000. Also: if the satellite thing doesn't work out, they want to use the money to fill San Francisco with high-speed fiber optics that aren't run by crappy telcos.

A quick internet search reveals that this is the cost for getting a satellite into orbit:

* Satellite manufacture: $150M
* Satellite launch: $120M
* Launch insurance: $20M
* In-orbit insurance: $20M
* Satellite operations (15 years): $15M

Faster Internet!

Our initial research seems to indicate having a satellite in orbit may not speed up your internet at all. [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Satellite_Internet_access#Geostationary_unsuitable_for_low-latency_applications]. However, if more research doesn't bode well for a geostationary satellite, we will take all of the $325M to fund either:

* Fiber to the home.
* A balloon tethered to the Farallon islands.
* a hovering drone over the Bay.

MonkeyBrains satellite

Oakland's chief of police blackholed all emails mentioning "Occupy," trashed official condemnations and sanctions unread


Oakland police chief told a court that he never saw emails from city officials and a federal court monitor who emailed him about police brutality and other illegal actions by his force in its response to Occupy Oakland. That's because, he says, he used a spam-filter to automatically spam-filter all messages containing phrases like "occupy," "police brutality," "press pass," and "excessive force." More from SFGate's Matthai Kuruvila.

The city investigation found that Jordan had city staff put in the filters on Oct. 27, 2011 - two days after a violent clash between police and protesters that made international news. He had been inundated with anonymous messages, he said in a declaration to the court.

But he forgot the e-mail filter was still in effect.

At least until Henderson gave his order and the city investigated. All messages to Jordan with the once-banned phrases now go to his inbox, as of Oct. 19. In addition, Jordan now has a special folder for messages from the court monitor, Warshaw.

"It was never my intention to ignore the monitor," Jordan said in his declaration.

Oakland chief filtered out Occupy e-mail (via JWZ)

(Image: Occupy Oakland October 11, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from quinn's photostream)

Cory in San Francisco tonight

Hey, San Francisco! I'm at Borderlands Books in the Mission tonight at 7PM, for the Pirate Cinema tour! Tomorrow night it's Berkeley, then south to LA, then all the way to Lansing, MI, and then a host of other cities across Canada and the USA. Check the full schedule -- I hope I get to see you! Cory

Silcon Valley's high-tech bus commuter lines visualized

Stamen, a design firm in San Francisco, was commissioned to study the private transport networks that run from San Francisco down to Silicon Valley. The traditional commuter dynamic for cities is suburbanites coming into the city to work, but in San Francisco it runs both ways, as city-dwelling tech workers catch a variety of semi-luxurious, WiFi-equipped buses with power outlets and work tables to tech campuses down the peninsula. I watched this with some amusement when I was in San Francisco this summer, observing how a crowd of googlers with Android handsets would magically converge on a corner near Dolores Park just as a big black Google bus pulled up and whisked them away (A friend at Google tells me that his bus has its own mailing list where they recently had a kerfuffle when some enthusiastic people proposed a weekly festive party-ride on Friday afternoons, to the horror of the more sedate riders).

Fun fact: apparently Twitter employees refer to the entire Mission district as "the campus" (though I assume that this is ironic).

We enlisted people to go to stops, measure traffic and count people getting off and on and we hired bike messengers to see where the buses went. The cyclists used Field Papers to transcribe the various routes and what they found out, which we recompiled back into a database of trips, stops, companies and frequency. At a rough estimate, these shuttles transport about 35% of the amount of passengers Caltrain moves each day. Google alone runs about 150 trips daily, all over the city.

We wanted to simplify that, to start thinking about it as a system rather than a bunch of buses, so we began paring down the number of stops by grouping clusters where the stops were close to each other.

The subway map is the end result of that simplification; it's not a literal representation, but it's much more readable than the actual routes. We also wanted to show the relative volumes, so the map segments are scaled by how many trips pass through them; you get a sense for just how much traffic the highways get, and how the routes branch out from there to cover the city. We only mapped San Francisco shuttles, many of these companies operate additional routes in East Bay, the Pennensula, and around San Jose, including direct routes from Caltrain stations to corporate campuses.

The work was commissioned by ZERO1 and partly funded by the James Irvine Foundation.

The City from the Valley (2012) (Thanks, Fipi Lele!)

Guerrilla Grafters covertly add fruit-tree branches to ornamental trees


The Guerrilla Grafters are a group of rogue artists who roam San Francisco, covertly grafting fruit-tree branches onto ornamental trees to create a municipal free lunch. John Robb calls it "resilient disobedience."

How can you improve the productivity of your community even if the officials are against it?

One way is through resilient disobedience. For example, there’s a group of gardeners in San Francisco that are spreading organic graffiti across the city. How? By grafting branches from fruit trees onto ornamental trees that have been planted along sidewalks and in parks.

They are using a very simple tongue in groove splice that’s held together with annotated electrical tape. Good luck to them.

Personal Biochar Kilns, Portable Factories, DiY Septic Tank Cleaning, and Guerrilla Grafting (via Warren Ellis)

HOWTO make a school computer lab for free with "broken" computers and free/open source software

Elizabeth on ifixit tells us the heartwarming story of Robert Litt, a teacher at ASCEND, "a small arts K-8 school in the Alameda County School District." Litt needed a computer lab. His school had no budget, So he called around to local businesses and individuals and collected all their "broken" computers (refusing anything made before 2002 or with less than 512MB of RAM) and installed Ubuntu GNU/Linux on them. What he got was a free, robust computer lab. Litt says ""Discarded computers are our most wasted educational resource," and that we are "starving in the midst of plenty."

Faced with inadequate educational technology, few teachers would take it upon themselves to create an entire computer lab with no funding. It’s a daunting task, no doubt. But, Robert argues, it’s within every teacher’s capabilities. He came into the project with absolutely no computer repair or tinkering background. “My background is being a 6th grade teacher,” he says. “I am self-taught 100%.” He used free resources available online and troubleshot as he went along.

Robert advocates open-source software even for schools that aren’t lacking technology. US government reports say the digital divide is shrinking, at least in schools—97% of teachers have at least a single computer in the classroom. Yet that’s not the whole story. “The digital divide is growing in a hidden statistic,” Robert says, “the actual teaching of technology in a meaningful way.” He shows students how to do math on spreadsheets, how to make simple websites, how to put together slide presentations, all on free software. These are the computer skills that, students tell him, they are later expected simply to know. And with the prevalence of recycled computers, there’s no need for even 3% of classrooms to be without computers.

Robert will be moving to a new school this coming Fall, where he hopes to continue teaching technology meaningfully. And he calls on other teachers to do the same: in a digital world, teachers are responsibile for making students “better digital citizens.”

How One Teacher Built a Computer Lab for Free

Tiny, perfect, movable, flat-pack live-work loft


SpaceFlavor, a design firm, won the 2012 Small Project Awards for "Cube," a flatpack live/work loft elegantly crammed into a teeny weeny mobile space.

Responding to the Ming’s preference for zen-modernism, the Cube was designed with simplicity, efficiency and a sense of discovery. The stair and cabinet doors, including a stair slipper-drawer, are concealed, subtly hinting at the openings. Humble yet expressive, Ash plywood panels were hand-selected for their unique grain patterns that resemble Chinese ink landscape paintings and to complement the tatami mats.

Translucent roller shades, a shoji screen and frosted acrylic panels allow daylight to filter through the Cube, while responding to varying needs for privacy. At night the Cube illuminates like a lantern, casting playful shadows on the glowing screens.

Openings to the study and the bed are placed at opposite corners to create a sense of movement, emulating the flow of active Yang and passive Yin elements. Secluded from the activities below, the meditation/tea ceremony loft is accessed by the concealed stair.

Portfolio: Home Remodel & Commercial Interiors San Francisco, Bay Area:

Richard Kadrey and John Shirley at SF in SF this Saturday

The next SF in SF reading series on July 7 is a punk-rock extravaganza: John Shirley and Richard Kadrey, the guys who put the "punk" in cyberpunk, reading together. Kadrey, of course, has reinvented himself as a totally hard-boiled, awesome horror writer with his triumphant Sandman Slim series (I've just read a proof of the next one, and it's killer). Shirley's short story collection was one of the most excitingly mutated books of 2011.

Doors and cash bar open at 6:00PM
Event begins at 7:00PM
Suggested $5 - $10 donation at the door helps support Variety Childrens' Charity of Northern California
Seating is first come, first seated

The Variety Preview Room Theatre
The Hobart Bldg., 1st Floor -- entrance between Quiznos and Citibank
582 Market Street @ 2nd and Montgomery

July Reading – John Shirley & Richard Kadrey (Thanks, Rina!)

Exciting boring video

This video from Herrenknecht AG shows the operation of the enormous tunnel boring machine that will conduct the deep tunnelling for San Francisco's new subway lines. The machine obviates the necessity of tearing up city streets for subway construction, and somehow manages to be gentle enough to avoid shaking the buildings above it. There's a much older version of this monster on display at the fabulous London Transport Museum in Covent Garden that is truly awesome to behold.

A TBM consists of a rotating cutterhead within a cylindrical steel shell that is pushed forward along the axis of the tunnel while excavating the ground through the cutterhead. The steel shield supports the excavated ground as required until the final tunnel lining is built in the rear of the shield. The shield is propelled using hydraulic jacks that thrust against the erected tunnel lining system. The TBM is used in conjunction with a prefabricated ground support system, which consists of pre-cast concrete segments that are bolted and gasketed to form a watertight lining.

Pressure-face TBMs that are capable of exerting a balancing pressure against the tunnel face are used to control excavation rates and groundwater inflow, as well as to maintain stability of the tunnel face.

After completion of TBM excavation and installation of the lining, the temporary rail and conveyor system are removed, the invert is cleaned, and a flat invert for the permanent rail fixation and a raised walkway are constructed as reinforced, cast-in-place concrete. The invert contains embedded pipes and inlets for track drainage.

(Thanks, Fipi Lele!)

Imaginary orange gift-shop for the Golden Gate bridge


As part of the celebration for the 75th birthday of the Golden Gate Bridge, a group of artists led by Stephanie Syjuco have set up an imaginary gift shop for the Bridge, filled with tchotchkes in the bridge's iconic rusty orange (it's a custom color that is generally mixed in 500-gallon batches). The tchotchkes aren't for sale or anything -- they're just there as a kind of installation in celebration of that wonderful orange. Rachel Swaby covered the installation's opening for Wired:

It’s a souvenir store with a twist. “What is the most disconcerting is that there are no images on things,” says Syjuco. Apart from that iconic orange marking each and every object, there is no branding to speak off.”

The range of products on display is also slightly absurd: Pencils, keychains, and earrings sit atop a table. An Eames chair is perched on a stand to the left. Lined up on shelves against the back wall are mugs, pillows, plate sets, and bottles of unidentified red sauce. “I tried to overdo it,” says Syjuco. “There’s wine, deodorant, car air fresheners — it gets crazy.”

Painting the Store Red

Critical Mass 20th anniversary poster


Hugh sez, "San Francisco muralista Mona Caron has created a stunning to poster to mark the 20th anniversary of Critical Mass in San Francisco this September."

Critical Mass 20th Anniversary Bike Angel Poster by Mona Caron (Thanks, hughillustration!)

SF in SF this Saturday: Ysabeau Wilce, Marie Brennan & Erin Hoffman

The next installment of San Francisco's SF in SF science fiction reading series is this Saturday, May 19: Ysabeau Wilce, Marie Brennan & Erin Hoffman. Doors open at 6, event kicks off at 7. Free, with a suggested donation to Variety Children’s Charity of Northern California of $5-10. Cory

EFF Geek Reading, May 30 in San Francisco


Joanna from the Electronic Frontier Foundation writes:

If you plan on being in or around San Francisco May 30, come join EFF for a Geek Reading with Barbara Simons. An expert on electronic voting, Simons co-authored Broken Ballots: Will Your Vote Count? As Simons told us recently 'The way we run our voting system in this country is really a scandal,and it's a scandal that no one talks about.' Lots of people will be talking about it at EFF's upcoming Geek Reading, though, and you're invited to join in the discussion.

EFF Geek Readings bring Internet users, bloggers, free speech advocates, and other interested folks together to hear from prominent writers and thinkers, meet like-minded community members, and exchange ideas.

Geek Reading: The Broken E-Voting System with Barbara Simons (Thanks, Joanna!)