August 28th, 2015

In prep for a class I’ll be teaching at Part & Crafts, I made this little simulator for “ants” — just like I used to when I was a kid, learning how to program. I’m hoping to get a bunch of kids into refining and building out the simulation to include things like resources, reproduction, sensing, phermones, etc. This was one thing that really motivated me to learn to code as a kid, and is just lots of fun.

Screenshot 2015-08-28 at 9.57.32 AM

This simulator is pretty darn simple, but does include a base canvas upon which the ants leave trails (nod to StarLogo!) The ants have internal states, including a simple event-based user-modifiable script. To edit one, just double click on an ant, and an editor comes up. Nothing is saved after a page refresh, for now! Trail colors, ant properties, and other things are accessible, documented in the wiki.

Open source, of course:

Owen, at Parts & Crafts, already got started; see this video where he made them “eat” yellow phermones and grow (a little too big):

Space filling curves cut in paper

August 20th, 2015


Here’s a Gosper curve cut into paper with a Silhouette Cameo desktop paper cutter. Thanks to Owen Maresh for showing me the Gosper curve, which is a space-filling curve formed with a single line, and therefore, here, with a single cut.

Vectorizing sketches and photos with your smartphone/web browser

August 11th, 2015


Yesterday I wrote VectorCam, building on the excellent excellent imagetracerjs library by András Jankovics. Source AGPLv3 at

This is a pure JavaScript raster-to-vector converter, which takes images (png, jpg, gif?) and traces them into downloadable SVGs (I haven’t tried a conversion to PDF or DXF, but that’d be useful).

With it, you can snap a photo with your phone, and immediately vectorize it for use in print, laser cutting, or desktop paper cutting. I always thought this should exist as a web service, since it can be a pain to open up Inkscape sometimes, and this is supposed to be a pretty well-solved problem.

It works on Android, fastest in Chrome – and only on Safari on iOS, probably due to Apple’s closed-browser strategy.

Here’s a snap of the output from the above image, opened in Inkscape to show the vector lines:


András’ library does a fantastic job; all I did was connect it to a file upload form and ensure the SVG downloads well, and make a nice interface with a settings dialog. This last could be expanded, as well.

Office: minimal JS drum machine interface

August 6th, 2015

I’ve been doing a lot of small projects for fun, and partially to improve my JavaScript coding practices. I wrote this JS-based drum machine, or almost finished it, although it needs some work on the timers and more samples (only the top row of instruments works at the moment). If you know of some sick free samples, I’d love to use them.

Use it directly (designed for smartphone use):

On Github here. Try it here in an iframe:

It’s sort of loosely based on the Pocket Operator, which I got a couple months ago:


Parts & Crafts free scholarships, One Lightsaber Per Child

May 22nd, 2015

parts and crafts

Parts and Crafts is a wonderful local Somerville institution, and one which has hosted many Public Lab events! They’re doing a drive to raise money for free scholarships for kids who couldn’t otherwise afford to attend their programs.

DIY culture, and P&C in particular, is such a wonderful thing — PLEASE help to ensure that it reaches those in need. Everyone deserves the opportunity!

Help them out!

I am trying to make them some stickers, too — and since one activity they do SUPER WELL is a “One Lightsaber Per Child” workshop, I wanted to illustrate that:


Pocket Operator unboxing

May 14th, 2015

I really liked the legibility and compactness of the packaging on this thing:





Arms Akimbo

April 26th, 2015

Don Blair and I needed to know, unambiguously, what “arms akimbo” meant today. There was some uncertainty.


This is not only a great new band name, but also a great opportunity for pseudo history:

Pictured above is Anne Akimbo, the 1967 inventor of the Akimbo posture. All proceeds from the use of the posture at public events go to the Akimbo Foundation, which provides support and education for attitudinally challenged youth.

Red Hill Outing Club

February 17th, 2015

Had a great day skiing at the Red Hill Outing Club, where I am now a member:




BB Gun Biathalon — followed by an 80’s dance party!



The run-it-yourself rope tow lift.


This website has a great photo of the lodge from 1964:


Neat bit of trivia – there’s a New Hampshire Superior Court decision about a dispute over the club’s land.

I’d like to think that the decision, which upheld the club’s right to the land, hinged on the ability to ski without a lift — i.e. skinning up! But maybe that’s reading too much into it.

A collection of exemplars of the genre of foodstuffs which feature Sciurus carolinensis

February 12th, 2015

On Fri, Feb 6, 2015 at 11:28 PM, Emilie Reiser wrote:

Esteemed Mr. Warren, On behalf of the Squirrelicious team, I thank you for investing the time in exploring our delicacies. We are always looking to improve and welcome any feedback you might have.

Sincerest regards,

Emilie Reiser Senior General Specialist Squirrelicious
Turkmenistan :: 34 4586 2220 Maldives :: 7742 123

On Sun, Feb 8, 2015 at 11:47 AM, Jeffrey Warren wrote:

Greetings, Ms. Reiser.

I recently became a member of your burgeoning new culinary repository ( after the widely decried demise of (saddening, etc. but perhaps for the best). I have been building a collection of exemplars of the genre of foodstuffs which feature Sciurus carolinensis (in celebration of this ineffable crepuscular member of suborder Sciuromorpha) — a worthy endeavor.

However, when I save a recipe, the word “Squirrel” is mysteriously replaced with another unrelated ingredient. (I have, for your convenience, emboldened those words which I found to be so strangely transformed):

Octopus Salad

Tandoori Octopus

Baby Octopus Salad

Very Blueberry Smoothie

Perfect Blueberry Muffins

Classic English Toad-in-the-Hole

Easy Molten Chocolate Lava Cakes

Easy Mashed Rutabagas

Chinese Eggplant with Sweet Ginger-Miso Paste

Scotch Eggs

Heavenly Scotch Ham

Southern Peach Cobbler

Korean Spicy Marinated Squirrel With Chilies and Kimchi (Jaeyook
Kimchi Bokum)

Overnight Refrigerator Oatmeal

Spanish Fish in Saffron Sauce

Saffron Pilaf

Anchovy Dip

Salted Plantains

Puffed French Toast

Avocado Superfood Breakfast Toast

Note, to my confusion, as someone somewhat familiar with the en-coding of web-sites, that the Korean dish listed above actually does list “squirrrel”, but strangely not in the place where I had originally expected it. It is possible, though implausible, that the recipe upon which my modification was based already included this ingredient. As a person of partial Korean ancestry myself and an enthusiast of Korean cuisine, I find this distinctly unlikely, but must weigh its possibility in light of the consistency of the aforementioned bug in all other instances.

I eagerly await a resolution to this pressing issue, and wish to express my deepest appreciation for your organization’s contributions to the field, and to the plate.

Most sincerely, Jeffrey Yoo Warren, M.S.P.L

On Thu, Feb 12, 2015 at 10:35 AM, Emilie Reiser wrote:

Dear Mr. Warren, My sincerest apologies for the delay in getting back to you on this gravest of bugs. I understand your concern and am pleased you have brought this to our attention. I have submitted a ticket to our support desk and trust that the issue will be promptly addressed.

We greatly appreciate you sharing of this most exemplary set of recipes and apologize for any potential smearing of your ancestry that has resulted from this technical complication.

I look forward to connecting in the near future. Your interest and dedication to our movement is of the utmost value to us, Sincerest regards,

Emilie Reiser Senior General Specialist Squirrelicious
Swaziland :: 1184 327 90 Kiribati :: 67 289 2242

For an upcoming plan and posts…

February 7th, 2015


Some of my friends understand this plan and are excited. Others are puzzled. You’ll have to wait and see.

In other news I finally found the Skype animated emoticon of a bowing (asian?) man which I used to use on occasion with clients when I did web and design consulting. Perhaps I aspire to be as respectful as this man.


I’ve made him the favicon of this website.

Finally, wouldn’t it be cool if the Android autocomplete suggestions included synonyms as well as correct spellings of the word you’re typing?