Kinetic Sculpture Race 2015 Arcata-Ferndale

Memorial Day once again brings the Kinetic Sculpture Race to Humboldt.

Traditionally, the race begins on the Arcata Plaza with the noon siren. Due to the dismantling of the fire house, the siren had to be carted in and manually started, which happened 15 minutes late, and the mishaps didn’t stop there.

There were a lot of racers dealing with new art or equipment, and some big newcomers.

Kinetic Elephant

This zombie pink elephant was exactly what I like to see in the race. It was original, attention grabbing, and gave the impression that an equal measure of attention had been given to both art and machine.

steampunk shark


I don’t say this often, but this steampunk shark was such a well polished design that I would welcome seeing it back without much alteration in future years. As much as I like to see new stuff, I hate to see something like this scrapped in the name of progress. The tophats of the riders even popped open to reveal shark teeth.

kinetic butterfly

I think this butterfly was the first catastrophic casualty. It only made it a few blocks before breaking down and calling it a day, which is unfortunate. Better luck next year.

Kinetic whale

This Blue whale skeleton was just shy of life size, and it was their first time on the course after traveling all the way from Sacramento. Things were looking good until they hit a crosswind that broke the head loose.

Whale restoration

The couple on the right are getting married at the finish line, so turning back was not an option. Half an hour later they had it back together and were back in the race, though they had to repeat the whole procedure again later.

Starship Voyager sculpture


These guys boldly went until about Dead Man’s Drop before they broke down and spent the night on the wrong side of the bridge.

Kinetic official

As always, Kinetic officials were everywhere, looking for infractions and heavily laden with bribes.

Borg costume


This Borg was apparently finding plenty of culture to assimilate.


Kinetic Sculpture Race 2014

It was a beautiful Arcata day for the start of the annual Kinetic Grand Championship. Racers seemed to be focused on their machines this year. There wasn’t the usual fire-breathing spectacle, but there a lot of mid-sized machines, heavy on gears and muscle. Everyone made an effort to bring something at least a little new this time. Listening to the interviews with the judges, I definitely got the impression that they were looking for something novel as well as functional.

Kinetic sculpture shark

If I had to pick a favorite this year, I’d go with this shark. The lower jaw doesn’t have a center, so kids could stand in it to get their picture taken in the jaws.This is the first time I think an entry has been too seaworthy. It would have had a better look if it had rode a little lower in the water. It floated at about wheel level.


Star Trukkers kinetic This starship Enterprise lookalike was called Star Trukkers. It had a nice clean look and seemed to perform well.


Hell on Axles kinetic

Hell on axles was certainly vibrant.


Kinetic low rider


I don’t know anything about these guys, but I really like something about the design. It looked comfortable, something like pedalling around on a reclining couch. Normally, I would be concerned about being able to stop without just rolling around like a hamster in an out of control hamster wheel, but the low center of gravity and two person seating really makes this one seem stable and easy to control.


Kinetic sphinx

Race Like an Egyptian had, ahem, quite a prow on it. Didn’t do so hot when it hit water. Not the most streamlined float ever, but an entertaining entry.


Kinetic oyster

Blue Oyster Cult. I’m a bit puzzled, but googly eyes make everything better. Nice barnacles too.


Lost Coast Mutineers

Lost Coast Mutnineers. We’ve seen better pirate ships, but this one had the engineering to make it work well.


Kinetic Train

This thing needed some dry ice or something, but it looked good for how little there was to it. I’d be interested to see one of the big players run with this idea in metal and propane.


Kinetic Screw

I don’t know the story behind this one. I like it, but I wish they had used the screw for water propulsion, or at least had it spinning.


Crowd of Unknowing

They were calling this one Cloud of Unknowing. I’m going with Crowd of Unknowing. Supposedly the most drivers ever in one entry at a dozen. One of these years, someone is going to refit an old school bus with bicycle propulsion in all the seats and enter it in the race. It does seem like the ones with more people function pretty well, but I’ve been seeing an increase in the number of entries that have a bunch of people pedaling like mad to propel something at a fast walk.

Duane Flatmo Doomed Buggy

Here’s Duane Flatmo in his Doomed Buggy. Not his usual spectacular entry, but it’s always good to see him in the race. This one was a bit front heavy (I’ve seen the back wheel come off the ground a few times) and flipped over going down Dead Man’s Drop. Duane suffered only minor injuries and was right back in the pilot’s seat.

Thank you to all of the people who worked so hard for our entertainment. I look forward to next year.

Watermelon Carving – Jack (Frost) o’ Lantern


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

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

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

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

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.

Camera Ball Omni-Directional Throwable Camera

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

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: