Watermelon Carving – Jack (Frost) o’ Lantern

October 31, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 


So I went to the store in search of Halloween supplies, and what do I find? Aisles and aisles of Christmas stuff. This year I just decided to roll with it. I put up the Christmas lights, and we dressed up as Santa, Mrs. Claus, and the Grinch, and handed out candy canes to the trick or treaters, blaring Christmas music.

Of course, no Halloween would be complete without carving a Jack o’ Lantern.  I skipped the pumpkins and hit the melon aisle, choosing out a watermelon, a honeydew, and a mini watermelon. After removing the skin they were a nice snowy white, with Christmasy red and green interiors. I stacked ‘em up and carved a wicked snowman, complete with carrot nose and twigs for arms, and then packed him with Christmas lights. The results were pretty awesome for how easy it was. Of course now the neighborhood thinks we’re crazy, but I can live with that.

Christmas Halloween watermelon carving

For the Christmas lights, I used a string of these fairy lights I found dirt cheap on amazon.  I’m super impressed with them. They are LED, so they are cool and low energy, the string is really flexible, the lights are really tiny and bright, and it has a controller with several different blink/steady burn options. These melons can’t handle the heat of a candle. This isn’t the first time I’ve tried this. I’m pretty proud of my previous watermelon skull and brain carving.

See all my previous watermelon carvings here.

Pastels on the Plaza 2013 – Arcata

October 8, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

Pastels on the Plaza was clearly scheduled by either a gambler or someone who doesn’t have to sit on the cement for five hours. Being about a month into the season of varying weather that is the Arcata norm,  it is always worrying that it may be windy or rainy (as it has been in the past week) but this time it worked out. This was quite possibly the clearest, calmest day I’ve ever seen in Arcata. Pastel -Arcata Plaza 2013

This year, I had my mom in town, so I figured I’d do something tougher than usual under the assumption that she would bail me out if I got in over my head. Above is our end result. I’m pleased with it, though I always feel like I want to go back down there and fix some things after looking at my photos. This event is like running a mile race; long enough to be tiring, but short enough to make you feel like you could have run harder. My concept for the piece was a woman sitting in her window on a winter day, enjoying her garden, with a vase of cut flowers. It was done for local landscaper and garden writer Genevieve Schmidt

Leah Vaughn - Holly Yashi

Above is an art nouveau peacock done for Holly Yashi by Leah Vaughn.

Below is her husband Casey Vaughn’s work for Plaza. Three of the toughest things to do on the rough sidewalk are smoothness, fine details, and perspective. He managed all three. To quote a passer by, “It’s a chair, but it’s cool”. Casey Vaughn - Plaza Pastel

You may remember Susan Devine’s dragon on the Trinidad lighthouse from last year. This year she brings us a dreamscape for Barbara Rips: Susan Devine

I think my favorite square of the day was for SuddenLink. It was kind of hard to find since it was behind some giant sandwich board from the neighboring square. The background wasn’t much, but the horse was exceptional. Suddenlink-Pastels 2013_thumb

The neighboring square, for armack, clearly had a fantastic artist and self-important planning. Not only did it take up the entirety of the sidewalk, it also came with a large sandwich board placed in front of the previous square.


The Pacific Builders square was cute:

Pacific Builders_thumb

This elephant looks like a great collaboration between several artists for Gallagher’s Irish Pub. I love how they got the texture on the trunk. If you zoom in, it looks like there is some real dimension there.

Gallaghers Irish Pub_thumb

This one is from Baroni (and sometimes Y). The artist did a beautiful job on her first solo year.


And this crystallized sea dragon for the Big Blue Cafe was very nice (click for full image)

big blue cafe

And finally, a shout out to the Six RIvers Montessori people in the square next to me. Their kids were courteous, personable, and responsible; a better advertisement than any pastel square.

Thank you to the businesses who donated money for the Children’s Center in order to reserve a square, the artists who volunteered their time, everyone who came down to cheer us on, and to whoever put the farmer’s market around us. It was nice to have them there rather than a bunch of traffic. Same time next year.

Kinetic Sculpture Race 2013 – Arcata – Ferndale

June 2, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

Humboldt County’s annual Kinetic Sculpture Race started off this year with unseasonably nice weather, with the throngs being shamed by the stigma of getting a sunburn in Humboldt County, a feat normally accomplished only by the most pallid of individuals.

Animated SculptureThe above entry may look familiar, but it is not a rework of last year’s entry, it was there in addition. They are both beautifully animated and controlled by the pilots. These things were definitely a favorite, especially of the children, and if they can continue to produce more, I think they could become an attraction all on their own.

Lady Luck kinetic sculpture

The HMS Lady Luck is an interesting piece of engineering as well as sculpture and performance art. The mast seemed to be worked in as a steering system rather than a method of propulsion, and the many sideways people providing propulsion you may remember from previous incarnations like Gloryopolis and Classical Nudes.

Post -apocalyptic Cockroach

The Post-Apocalyptic Cockroach won some awards for speed and engineering. I don’t know about the apocalypse, but it looks like the pilots could survive a massive hailstorm with nothing but hearing damage. I’ve seen those tires in an local outdoor store and they look huge on a bicycle, but I think they must be much more efficient on the road than the much bigger tires of most of the competition. I saw them at the bottom of Dead Man’s drop and they seem to have gotten through all the sand and cliff quickly, which I would have expected to be their biggest challenge.

Duane Flatmo dragon sculpture

I sometimes give the entrants a hard time for not changing their sculptures from year to year, but there are obvious exceptions. Duane Flatmo brought back his fire-breathing Snapdragon and won the Spectator’s Favorite award, a clear sign that the crowds are happy to see it again.

Ant safari sculpture

These guys crack me up. There’s nothing like coming over a hill to find a group of safari guys carrying a giant dead ant up a sand dune to make you feel like you’ve fallen into a parallel universe. I think it is also an odd case of something getting better as it was simplified. They started out with a fire engine, then stuck the ant on top of it, and now took away the fire engine to make what I think is the best of the three.

Mr Fish kinetic 2013

This puffer fish sculpture sponsored by Mr. Fish is a classic which keeps changing species each year.

Amphibious vehicle

I’m putting these guys up as an honorable mention. They’re a bit light on the sculpture, but they look ready to race in style and comfort. If I had to commute several miles a day over land and sea, I think this is how I’d want to travel.

Self Stirring Pot

June 10, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

This is a self stirring pot. Why this hasn’t been put to market sometime in the past few thousands of years full of around a billion people cooking things, I don’t understand. Every one of us should be embarrassed for not coming up with this ourselves. It was created by a dentist in Japan who no doubt got sick of his noodles sticking to the bottom of his pot. He calls it Kuru-Kuru Nabe, the round and round pot.

This might even have some interesting new cooking possibilities. I wonder if you cracked an egg in there if you might end up with a doughnut shaped egg? This kind of elegant use of thermodynamics has some intriguing possibilities in other fields as well.

Ninja Turtle Nose

October 17, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Ninja Turtle Nose Ron Paul

This is one of those ‘once seen, cannot be unseen’ kinda sites. Draw a ninja turtle nose on a picture and send it in. My submission above, freedom ninja Ron Paul. Check out the Teenage Mutant Ninja NosesTumblr here.


update: Well, it looks like the Ron Paul media blackout is moving to the internet as the picture was never posted on their site.

Flying Foam Printer – Flogos

October 16, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 


This printer uses helium to blow foam bubbles through custom advertising stencils. The resulting foam advertising flies rigt out of the printer and into the sky.

I love this concept, but when it comes to shapes, all I can think of is unleashing thousands and thousands of space invaders.

Camera Ball Omni-Directional Throwable Camera

October 15, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Throwable Camera Ball

Throwable Cameras are an awesome concept, and this 3D printed ball with 36 cameras by Jonas Pfeil takes it to the next level. Just toss the ball in the air and when it reaches the vertex, all the cameras take a picture. The result is a stitched together panoramic image with a full 360° unobstructed view. I can think of all sorts of variations of this that could be useful, from adding infrared and using it for military and police actions, to using a launcher to get a shot of the whole neighborhood, to doubling the cameras for 3D shots. Video Below

The camera isn’t yet on the market, but I’m sure the first question they are going to get from the masses will be: Can I get it in purple?

Advertising with Land Mines

June 19, 2011 by · 2 Comments 

Unicef Sticker - Front

The land mine sticker above is part of a land mine awareness campaign by Unicef (United Nations Children’s Fund). The other side is sticky and camouflaged with a pattern to match flooring. When the camouflaged ad is stepped on, it sticks to the bottom of the shoe. The text on the front reads, “In many other countries you would now be mutilated! Help the victims of land mines!”

Land Mine advertising - Unicef

There is a beauty to this type of guerilla advertising. It allows for an organization without a lot of resources to spend a small amount of money on a clever advertising gimmick and then see their message spread multiply through the internet as sics like ours report the gimmick. Some of us even have enough shame to spread the message as well.

Where we live, if we fail to watch where we step, we end up with a smelly shoe. Other countries aren’t so lucky. For more on Unicef and land mines, see their page here:


Image Search By Image – Google

June 18, 2011 by · 1 Comment 

Ever wanted to search for images using an image? I often find images that are out of context online and want to know where they originated. Sometimes I take a picture of a weird bug and want to know what it is, and sometimes I just want to put in a favorite image and see what the algorithm finds that it thinks is similar.

From a processing standpoint, the task is monumental. We take so many social and stylistic cues from an image. I can’t imagine trying to tech a program to find what some random person on the internet is looking for in the pile of billions of images that is the web, but Google has decided to take it on.

Let’s give it a challenge and see if it panics!

Monkey on a flamingo spilling coins

First, go to Google’s image search page. Then drag an image into the search bar. That simple. I’m using Kevin Sloan’s awesome image above to see what we can find.

results from a contextual image result search - google images

Well, it still needs work clearly, but I’m actually rather impressed. First of all, it did nearly instantly find me a ton of sources with the same image, so if you are using it that way, it gets an A+. The above pictures came from a section it refers to as ‘visually similar images’. What impresses me is how many completely unrelated but undeniably similar compositional elements it found. The search engine isn’t differentiating objects like we would, as flamingo and monkey, which on the one hand is unsurprising, but on the other, I’m a little shocked that not a single similar image popped up on the front page with either a flamingo or a monkey in them. It instead seems to have focused on composition, pattern, and color.

Take the picture of the woman with her children in the upper right; she is wearing a flamingo colored shirt, the cup in her hand is its head. There is a cloudy sky, trees on the horizon, the shadow on the lawn gives us the plateau, the monkey is seen in her sunglasses, and its leg in the same position as her daughter (held). Her shorts are the sky under the flamingo, and perhaps best of all, the stovepipe as monkey tail.

I can’t wait to play with this some more. I sense a multitude of new memes coming from this, with every famous image in history having a page of doppelgangers.

Kinetic Sculpture Race 2011

May 31, 2011 by · 3 Comments 

It’s kinetic time once again in Humboldt County California, and this year there were even more challenges than usual for our brave contestants. The weather has thrown them the usual mix of sun, hail, and rainbows, but this year, in addition to slogging through sand dunes, the bay, and 42 miles of track, they also got to slog through months of politics.

Most of the entries this year seemed a bit sub-par. The bigger contestants like Calistoga and Yakima are no longer in it, and most of the rest are just new paint jobs on last year’s model, though I can see why. It all started with disputes over who was in charge, licensing problems, and threats of cancellation. Why would anyone put months of effort into building a sculpture for a race that may not even happen? On that note, I’ve got a message for those involved in the politics: nobody cares who you are, so either get your crap together or hand over the reigns to someone who will.

Tess and Sara Kraus

This year, the politics went too far. When officials barred Tess and Sara Kraus from piloting their tiger (below, made by local high school students) for failing to prove their age, these two responded in true Amazon style by getting up and rousing chanting supporters from the crowd with a speech that would make Xena proud. In the end, parents had to take the place of the devastated teens, and pedal the float past the officials, at which point they switched back, and continued on. They’ve been told they will not be treated as a part of the race, all in the name of some liability tyrant.  Well, I hope someone feels safer now.

Lost Coast, Tiger, endeavor

There was certainly no lack of enthusiasm though, and turnout was good, considering. I was glad to see the Endeavor entry come in first on day one. NASA needs a victory under their belt after the gutting of our space program. The high ground and the best technology have won nearly every war and industrial race in history, and those of the future will be no exception.

Sheriff grills gorilla

This albino gorilla even seemed to be having some trouble with the law. I moved on after taking this shot, but I expect the gorilla is in Guantanamo by now.

Duane Flatmo Ferndale Kinetic Race 2011

Above is this year’s entry from Duane Flatmo, a man who puts out so much awesome every year that I’m tempted to put him in the site navigation. I’m not that impressed with the conversion this year after seeing his last several entries, but taken on its own merit against the rest of the field, it is still a contender for number one.

2011 Kinetic Race Humboldt -Flatmo

And it breathes fire!

Kinetic Jeep

This one gets my vote for most questionable engineering. Maybe I was missing something, but these guys were pedaling like mad and going at a slow walking pace. The guy next to them even felt the need to put his foot on the ground to keep his bike from falling over, and it sounded like they were using their pedaling to tumble rocks in their pontoons rather than for propulsion. It looks heavy, but it was apparently blown over by the winds at the dunes.

Gloryopolis - Kinetic Sculpture Race 2011 - Arcata

Gloryopolis, above, is another great entry. You may remember them from last year’s Classical Nudes sculpture. They reused a well engineered base, but did a complete overhaul of the art. This is what it’s all about, and they pulled off the superhero theme better than I’ve seen done before.

Kinetic Dog, fish

There are some interesting regulars in the race that don’t get a lot of notice, like the dog above. I’ve posted pictures of this cycle/dog pair before, and now I’m curious. Has this dog been in the race since it was a pup? I’m going to have to go through my old pictures. The salmon on the right was entirely scaled with compact discs.

There are hundreds of people in single person contraptions and bicycles as well. I don’t know if it is home made or off the shelf, but I want the cycle below. It looked comfortable, efficient, and she could turn it 360° in place.

Three wheeled reclining cycle

If you would like to see more coverage from Kinetic Sculpture Races past, check out my coverage from past years at the links below:



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