Friday, December 30, 2011

Holden featured on IdeaMensch!

Just a quick post to let folks know that they can learn more about me in my recent interview over at IdeaMensch, by clicking here.

In addition to conducting interviews to learn more about successful people, IdeaMensch has posted some really awesome accumulated tips in the past, such as an e-book devoted solely to 44 good business ideas, given away for free!  Mario and his team are awesome innovators!

Monday, December 26, 2011

This year flew by -- but why? (Post on aging: 1 of 3)

Recently, I thought about this blog and realized that it's 4th birthday was coming up -- a day that passed without notoriety on Dec 24th, 2011.  Since starting to record thoughts and experiences here, I've traveled a bit, notably New Zealand and India, I've worked again at AeroVironment, where we made some successful electrical products, including the charger for the Nissan Leaf, and posted a few side projects.  All that to say that I feel like this blog is still a "NEW" project of mine, when in reality, it's years old.

As 2011 draws to a close, I get the same feeling that I do every year when reviewing National Geographic's Photot Contest or "Year in Review" lists - WHERE did the year go?  Year after year, time seems to fly by faster and faster, and until now, this miffed me.  Each day, hour, minute, and second is a prescribed length of "time" and should, therefore, always seem to take just as long as the past.  In reality, however, time is relative to each of us, and so the way we perceive time is not fixed.  What follows is recent realization on why this is.  Please note that I have extremely little background in biology, and would love some feedback on where to look for articles about what's actually going on; these are just my guesses.
{Image credit: hplusmagazine}

Living in a physical world, with our physical bodies and physical brains, there is a finite amount of "memory space" each of us has, more or less.  (One could argue that as our brain grows, the surface area increases as folds are created, thus giving us "more brain", though I think this is relatively small amount when compared with our growing encyclopedia of experiences and reference knowledge.)**   So, if we have a finite rolodex of space on which to store memories, in our second year of life, that 12 month period gets to write its memory down on roughly half of the rolodex space.  In the fifth year, that same 12 month period has to get pared down to fit in roughly 20% of the rolodex.  And by age 100, the very same 12 month period has to somehow get squeezed in 1% of our rolodex.

Graphic showing how the same info has to get squeezed into a smaller portion of your brain each year.

Conversely, the "filing system" that runs our brain (maybe in another sector of the brain?) realizes that it's got to keep a bit of "buffer" free to file new experiences into.  So in the first year, perhaps it decides to leave 50% of the brain free.  Then, over the course of the next year, as it fills up the free space, it realizes that it should not fully utilize the entirety of the space, and thus sets aside, perhaps, 50% of the remaining space, each year, until at age 100, there's only a small space left on the experience book-shelf into which memories can be written.

Taking a page from compounding interest, and other financial models, on how the dollars in your bank account are worth more than any future dollars you will ever earn, this very second, reading this blog, is the longest second of your remaining life.  Every single day, minute, and second will be successively shorter than the last.  (Kinda makes you wonder why you're still reading this, doesn't it?  Shouldn't you go do something nice for someone?  Or perhaps for yourself, you little hedonist!)  Granted, your previous second (reading the last paragraph was longer, and thus you could have accomplished more that second than this, but it's in the past, so stop worrying about it; it's out of your control now.

Qualitative representation of the value of each successive second in your life.

**Some people even go so far as to think that our human body longevity may be determined by our brain capacity; that our brain only has enough space for roughly 100 years of decisions, number of connections, and event/emotion memories.  However sad it is, I prefer to think that when it nears "fullness," our brain would simply re-write over sectors that had less important memories already on it.  Bye-bye, non-eventful 7th grade gym class experiences!

Thanks to big poppa of the Anderson clan for forwarding me the timely comic in the Sunday newspaper a few weeks ago.  Thanks!  And keep cherishing those moments!  Upcoming post about why age 30 has me feeling like a pre-teen!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Medium-Tease: Art + Science!

A few weeks ago I showed a picture of some metal spheres and teased that they were for an upcoming project.  While the project was put on display, I hardly had a chance to get it finished right.  

The project is a Wave Pendulum, and it shows off the varying periods of motion of pendula with different length lines, and how they start in unison, disperse to their own motions, and then, at a set point in time, reconvene to be in sync again!  Here's a few pictures of our Wave Pendulum in action, though I'll be fixing it up in the next few weeks and do a proper writeup/movie/diagrams for it!

Here's a quick video I made before entertaining a few hundred people with the pendulum at MindShare a while back!  Enjoy!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Side Project: build a bicycle rack!

Goals for today's side project: 
  • It should hold more than 10 bicycles
  • It should be cheap
  • It should fold flat for transport
  • It should be a learning experience
Mission accomplished!  

Still need to do: Put some padding on the end of each horizontal bar; this sharp steel will not be friendly to thighs or tires!
 Here's a picture of it all folded flat -- about 4 inches high!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Upcoming project: Art + Science!

Here is a picture of a project in the works -- any guesses what it will end up being?

Hints are the photo as well as:

  • The item will be about 12 feet long (not unlike my Rubens' Tube)!
  • The item will involve lighting that can be used as a learning tool.
  • I did a science fair project on a similar item back in 6th grade.
Who's got a guess?

Thursday, August 4, 2011


While I had ten minutes free yesterday, I created an page -- it's something I've been meaning to do for a long time.  It's basically a personal landing site (as reviewed here) where I can direct acquaintances:

Come See!

I highly recommend it to those lazy folks looking to make a feeble attempt at managing your online profile.  It's super easy to set up, I just used a picture that I took on a beach, added a quick bio, and some links to this blog and LinkedIn - and it was done, under 10 minutes.  It also has fun showing you analytics (who visited your site, how long they stayed, and where they came from, etc.).

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Mini-Project: Bottle Cap Catcher

While I realize that I could have accomplished something very similar by stapling a plastic Solo party cup to a hunk of wood, I thought it would be fun to model and then bend up some sheet metal to catch the caps from our bottle opener!  Here's some pictures!

First, I made a SolidWorks 3D model on the computer.

Then I printed out the un-folded shape, and cut it out of thin  aluminum that was sitting around the shop.

Folded up the walls, hemmed the raw edges, and added rivets.

Installation, including eye-lets for easy bottle cap disposal!
Testing!  Works like a charm!
(But I still might have to test it every now and again to make sure it 'works'!)

============  UPDATE  ============
I was curious how many bottle caps this held, so after a recent party, with the cup overflowing (I should have made it larger, who knew?), I did a little bottle-cap-counting.  @Anna, I had quite a collection, but didn't make any art out of them.

Anyway, SURVEY SAYS: Approximately 65 caps!
Next time, I'll make it about 3 times as large, to satisfy our summer BBQ crowds.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Ruben's Tube!

Just wanted to make a few notes about my latest project - a Rubens' Tube!  This is a simple apparatus that should be in every high-school physics class, as it involves music/sound, fire, and awesome visualizations!

Though the interaction of pressure waves in and fire predates Heinrich Rubens' experiment in 1904, he is credited with bringing it all together in a great package!  Here's a simple diagram, thanks to the folks at

I was inspired and helped by my friend, DB, who has made a few tubes of varying sizes already!

Here's my tube.  It's 12' long, 6" diameter, aluminum pipe with a 1/8" wall thickness
Here's the boring end of the setup -- just a cap to seal in the propane on the end of the tank.

Here's the business end of the pipe, with a 1/2" ring attached (JB weld) to the pipe, a diaphram of Buna-N rubber (1/32nd -- would prefer thinner) sandwiched tightly to prevent propane leakage, and a 6" speaker.

The 1/32nd inch diameter holes are each spaced about 1/2" apart, along the entire length of the pipe except for 6" at each end.
 Here's our propane entry nozzle.  We thought it would be artistic to insert propane halfway down the tube, but really it just makes the flames larger there, and its distracting.  We may move it down to the "cap" end of the pipe (far from speaker).

And finally, here's our Rubens' Tube, playing Imogen Heap's "Hide and Seek", 

Here are snapshots showing three different notes that occur in the song:
4 nodes
5 Nodes
13 Nodes

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Solar Thermal + Cheap = Inexpensive Pool Heater!

[UPDATE #3: Check out the newer post / summary here showing some of the improvements, as well as simple schematic, etc.]

[UPDATE: See end of article about materials used and height differential!  Also new pump notes!]

Just wanted to share pics and tidbits on how my roommate and I decided to heat our pool without breaking the bank.  While commercial estimates were coming in at between $5000 and $6000, we managed to heat our pool with a weekend of work and about $300 at Home Depot, and about $100/year in electricity.

I should also note that I didn't come up with this method, and that two good friends, JM and DB, did something very similar before me, and we all learned a bit from various websites, including Solar Pool Heating.

Being in southern California, our pool was about 73 degrees in the afternoons of late June.  This was certainly warm enough to enjoy, but we wanted to prepare for the winter (and to see how hot we could get it this summer!).  I'm happy to report that our temperature is now about 86 in the afternoon, and still rising daily.

We start with a submerged pump in the pool.  Since we happened to have two free, smaller pumps, we hooked them up in series.  They're driven by a 110 VAC outlet, and controlled by a simple daily lamp timer.
Pumps in Series (not req'd if you just get a bigger pump)

Primitive Control & Measurement
Next, the output of the pumps goes up onto the roof via some black drip irrigation tubing, 1/2" diameter, and coiled about 45 times to finish at around 6 or 7 feet in diameter.
2 of the 6 coils, the other four are on the south facing side of the roof for now.

There are a total of 6 coils, 500 feet each.  The pipe comes in rolls of 1000 feet at Home Depot for $80 (we used DIG corp, SKU # 642176), cut in half for more manageable handling.

6 Coils of pipe.  Roughly equal to one third of our pool top surface area.
The construction of each coil is designed to be inexpensive.  Just PVC and some zip ties.  Use a wooden block to space out the PVC as you start, and use zip ties liberally to keep the coils in order.  Get two spinning tables (lazy susans, office chairs, be creative!) and directly spool from the supply to the PVC.  Two people work best, though it is doable with one.
One pretty coil.

Sample coil showing PVC construction
We decided to split the water into two channels, and have each channel run through three coils, from one to the next.  We're still debating what the best speed is for the water, but this seems very reasonable.  I guess we could pump faster, though it is mid-day at mid-summer, so maybe we'll want that slow speed in the winter.

The pipes are held together with simple press compression fittings.  I'm astounded at how they don't leak air at all.  I think they're magic.
Sample joint

 Then the water returns to the pool.   I just measured the water coming out of the hose at 2pm to be 114 degrees F.

UPDATE: We have had an issue lately with the black tubing on the roof collapsing due to the vacuum being pulled by the water wanting to flow down both ends of the tube when the pump is off.  Not sure the solution yet, maybe a more powerful pump to overcome this when it kicks on, or maybe a second pump on the roof?  Maybe the black tubing is just not structural enough.  Thoughts and suggestions?

UPDATE #2:  Thanks for the suggestions in your comments.  We upgraded to a surplus pump that is definitely oversized -- one half horsepower!  The flow rate is high, but we still get excellent thermal transfer; the water comes out nice and hot despite it being fall now.  We followed Dan's suggestion and bought a pump here.  The pump 'inflated' the hoses just fine and we have been running for a few days without incident.  Will re-update here, if we run into trouble!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Sundance 2011 film reviews

First of all, the most important thing was that I loved being able to stay seated after the film and hear Q&A sessions with many of the actors, directors, producers, etc. Really made the films more human.

Second of all, the films were astonishing compared with everyday blockbuster films because the themes weren't readily apparent, or easily digested. Many times during and after the film, we'd discuss who was really the 'good guy' or 'bad guy' -- a theme you can easily find in most 'normal' films simply by the color of clothes the actors wear. It was refreshing to be so engaged.

Here are a few quick reviews and scores of movies that I saw with Meagan in Park City!

Position Among the Stars
Incredible shots and camera work of Jakarta slums. In the style of cinéma vérité (cross between documentary (sans commentary) and reality TV (without the dictated drama and lines)). Shows off modernization issues within a three generation family, and then the idea of concentrating your daily efforts on "stuff" vs "people". Also touches on religion in the country with the largest Islamic population in the world. The director and cinematographer Leonard Retel Helmrich was incredible. We loved it. Hoping it gets bought!

The Greatest Movie Ever Sold
Made by Morgan Spurlock (the guy from "SuperSize Me"), this is a very positive film about the state of product placement and advertising in films. Documentary. Hugely hilarious portions, thought provoking portions, generally enjoyable. Sold to Sony Pictures Classics 2 days before we saw it, so you'll have an opportunity to see it.
Score: 6.5/10

Very strong film about living in Tehran, Iran, and how families, and specifically women face challenges with corruption, sexuality, and culture. Featuring a couple of beautiful and talented girls and an amazing actor (the "brother"), good soundtrack, political relevance, and the struggle between freedom of choice and traditional, cultural "good". Betting it'll get bought!  (intense themes, probably rated R or more)
Score: 8.5/10

A hilariously, awesomely, awkwardly British film about a boy growing up in Wales, struggling with adolescence. Really enjoyed the director's (Richard Ayoade) humor before and after the show during the Q&A.
Score: 7/10

Resurrect Dead: The Mystery of the Toynbee Tiles
A gripping mystery documentary about a two decade old unsolved phenomenon in the US and South America, about tiles laid in the cement on the streets, a conspiracy, and the future of humanity. AMAZING soundtrack, done by the director (self-taught, for this movie). (Not actually about dead people).
Score: 7.5/10

Didn't care for this one too much. Idea was great, after 4 years of work that they spent on it, I thought content was sparse. Lots of conjecture in scientific realm (regarding honey bees, health effects of cell phones, and healing via miracles vs. medicine), coming from an artistic-type.
Score: 4/10

The Bengali Detective
Another cinéma vérité film showcasing the thriving profession of private detective in India. Real cases are investigated, as are the main character's dance aspirations as he tries out for a televised national talent show! Very realistic and fun!
Score: 8/10

Notable movies that others saw, in approximate order of "you really should see this movie":

My Idiot Brother
Happy Happy
The Future
The Kids Are Alright
The Ledge
Higher Ground
The Flaw

(All images are copyright of their respective film makers and whatnot, and I'm just hoping to help their viewership by providing reviews!)