Data Loss

Data Loss is a sculpture I’ve been working on for Maker Faire Milwaukee. Here’s a description:

Data Loss consists of 130 hard drive platters suspended in air with zip ties. The platters contain physical fingerprints which can be easily seen, and digital fingerprints which cannot be easily seen. The data on the platters is (for all intents and purposes) unretrievable, but you can still see yourself in the data.

Data Loss has been a group effort in many way. It started when we were dismantling hard drives at Milwaukee Makerspace. Harvey and a few other people spent a good amount of time taking apart hard drives and saving the platters for me. (Thanks, Harvey!)

After a few failed attempts at connecting the platters together I decided to use zip ties since Stacie at BBCM got a ton of zip ties for super-cheap at a local rummage sale. Kaivahn (ex-DCRL) helped me put together a ton of zip ties and put up with me requesting they go together with only 3 clicks and then be trimmed short with a diagonal cutter…

Zip Ties

My daughter Madeline then helped use the zip tie harnesses to connect up strings of platters to prepare them for hanging. Right now there are over 100 platters sitting in a box waiting to be attached to the frame. I’ll probably get that done within the next week so the zip ties have time to stretch/straighten a bit before Maker Faire.

Besides being a sort of “light sculpture” (as it will be placed in the Dark Room at Maker Faire) it may also serve as a sound sculpture, but I’m still doing a bit of testing on that part of it.

Stay Tuned!

Star-Blinken Stand

I got quite a bit done for my Star-Blinken project last week. I started by throwing a bunch of scrap wood I had in the garage into the car to take to Milwaukee Makerspace to build into some sort of stand to hold the 36″ x 29″ piece of steel.

I didn’t really have a plan for building, which is a way I occasionally like to work, just a big pile of raw materials and the appropriate tools. Another member, Kyle, said that he had a bunch of scrap wood to unload from his vehicle, so I helped him do that, and then ended up using the wood he brought instead of any of my wood. I did end up grabbing a piece from the scrap pile in the Wood Shop, but besides a box of screws I bought, the entire stand was built from scrap at the space.

Star-Blinken Stand

The stand ended up being very heavy, and I had to get it on a cart to easily move it around the space. I still need to add the star to the metal so we can fill in the LEDs. I’m hoping to have the preparation for this project done by the end of the week, though we can’t add the LEDs until the evening of Thursday, September 22nd, 2016. I’ve been experimenting a bit with the LEDs to checking the blinking rate, and I think it’s going to look awesome when all lit up!

And of course if you want to see the final product, come to Maker Faire Milwaukee on September 24th & September 25th, 2016.

This is just one post in a series, check out the other posts as well:

LED Testing

I’ve been testing some flashing red LEDs with CR2032 batteries to see how long they’ll last. My first test confirmed that they’ll definitely go 48 hours, which is good, because they’ll have to last the duration of Maker Faire.

Here are my completely unscientific notes taken this week after starting a new test on Monday night.

Day/Time Status
Monday 11pm Extremely Bright
Tuesday 11pm Extremely Bright
Wednesday 10pm Very Bright
Thursday 11pm Somewhat Bright
Friday 6pm Not Quite Bright
Saturday 6pm Dim
Sunday 6pm Very Dim

I think we can expect three solid days of bright LEDs, and maybe another day or two of acceptably bright LEDs. Working backwards, this means that if we want the LEDs still going strong by 6pm on Sunday, we need to start getting them in place by Thursday night.

Hmmm, Thursday night is when I teach class. Perhaps I can just make this into a group project for my class, or maybe DECODE can lend a hand…


This is just one post in a series, check out the other posts as well:


I’m still gathering material, but this is a project I’ve got planned for the Dark Room at Maker Faire Milwaukee that is titled “Star-Blinken”. (Enjoy the conceptual rendering above.)

I still need to construct the frame (probably from scrap wood at Milwaukee Makerspace) but there is a sheet of steel about 36″ x 29″ that will be covered in flashing LEDs each powered by its own battery and attached with a binder clip and a magnet.

I’ve seen a single LED blink, and even a few blink at once, but this will consist of over 200 LEDs all blinking at once, and at different rates… Star-Blinken!

This is just one post in a series, check out the other posts as well:


We spent the weekend replacing the crumbling infrastructure that was our front steps. We moved into this house in 2013 and less than a year later the steps were looking pretty sad. They were built by the previous owner using stones that weren’t really meant to be steps. The first repair we did involved pulling out the bad stones are replacing them. This was a quick-fix that lasted long enough for us to do a complete rebuild, which is what we did.


We spent Friday pulling out all of the stones. I got to work with a chisel and hammer and started the removal and when Dana came out to check on me she explained that I was working way too hard and the stones would just pull loose without much chiseling. As usual, she was right and things went much faster after that.

We got all the old steps out and were left with lots of cinder blocks and gravel. The cinder blocks and gravel I’m talking about aren’t even in the photo. We filled a giant bucket of gravel and we put about 20+ cinder blocks on the curb.


The first real problem: The porch is 32″ high so a 5 step stringer was required. You’ll notice that the stringer doesn’t quite reach the concrete. Not good. We thought about pouring concrete, but that wasn’t something we wanted to do due to the skills required (which we lacked) and the time it would take. Our alternate plan was to lay down gravel and then put some paving stones in place for the stringers to rest on. Here’s where Hank comes in…

After I put those 20+ cinder blocks on the curb we ran to Lowes (again) and figured we’d put a note on Nextdoor or Craigslist mentioning a big pile of free cinder blocks. Well, we never got a chance because when we got back the cinder blocks were all gone. I put out a few more and eventually some guy showed up with a truck and Dana let the guy know we had more stones (all the ones from the steps) and we then met Hank. Hank said he did concrete work and would take all the stones we wanted to get rid of. Dana then told Hank she loved him (and yeah, at this point I did too, since we was carrying hundreds of pounds of stones away from my house.)

Hank then gave us lots of advice and a few suggestions for how to fix things up. He suggested quick set concrete and some 4x4s as posts under the stringers. We thought about that and while Hank drove away to unload more stones (including 5 buckets of busted up stuff) we ran to Lowes (again) and when we came back found that Hank had made another trip, grabbed all the stones we offered him, left us a few 6x6s pieces of wood (thanks!) and his business card. Awesome. Thanks, Hank!


We originally bought 3 foot wide steps (because that’s all Lowes had) with the idea we’d do a double stringer in the middle and basically two sets of steps next to each other. After some discussion on the matter Dana made some phone calls and found out we could get 6 foot wide steps at Menards. While we prefer Lowes or even Home Depot to Menards, we drove over and picked up 5 of the 6 foot wide steps. I left the double stringers together since I figured more stringers are better, right? Right.

You might also notice in the photo that we added a 10×2 to the front of the porch so we could attach the stringers to something. This also helped push the steps out another (almost) two inches so the front would be a bit closer to the concrete, creating a smaller gap.


After 12 hours of fun on Saturday we ended with this. Stringers are in place (attached to the 10×2 board) stones are under the end of the stringers (with the rebar in place, as Hank suggested) and the steps are attached. Painted screws were use for everything so they don’t cause issues with the weather treated lumber. We still need to cut the boards for the risers and put them in place, and put a side piece on to make things a bit more cleaner, and keep the animals out, but the steps are functional, so that’s the important part.

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