Category Archives: thoughts

making technical thoughts

Making real things

I've sort of been busy the past few months jumping from one project to the next without taking time to have a pause, but I've just finished my Iron cat helmet that I've been working on for a few months so it feels a good time to sit down and do a quick round up of everything I've been busy with.  I'll do a full write up of each one over the next few weeks so keep a watch out for those if you want to know more.

October and November 2016.  I was lucky to get on a series of workshops run by code liberation in conjunction with the V & A, Goldsmiths College and Machines Room.  This culminated in showing our games at the November V & A Lates. This was a great introduction for programming in Unity for me.  I got to use my Blender skills that I had been learning with my Red Robot project by building a 3D duck model for the game and I also realised how much I love making things with wood.

At the start of this year I took a six week course in using a metal working lathe at Uxbridge college.  This was a bit like being back on my BTEC again after all these years. The course wasn't amazing but I do feel a lot more confident using a lathe safely which is what I wanted .  Now I just need to work out how to get a lathe and a workshop of my own.

In January I started making what I have called #IronCat  an Iron man helmet for a Lucky arm waving cat.  the first attempt was scrapped as the pattern was too complicated when it was shrunk in size but I managed to find a simpler version.  Lots of hot glue, Papier Mache, filling,sanding and spraying later its finally finished.  Lots of mistakes in it and things I would do differently but all in all its not turned out too bad.


Inspired by this Tutorial by Frank Ippolito on the Tested Youtube channel I painted a childs face mask to be half beautiful and half horror.


I then made a wooden skeleton model kit and applied and improved the same techniques I started learning on the mask.  I was so happy with this I've already bought another Skeleton to repeat and improve on, with the aim of selling them on Etsy.


So that's that then,  oh and there was a Saturday afternoon taxidermying an Hamster in that sneaked in as well and a model car from the same website that I downloaded the skull model

It wasn't really  a conscious decision to spend so much time making physical things and not coding or playing with LEDs but I was wanting to do more solid 3D work to help me think in 3 dimensions for when working with Blender and I want to apply some of these techniques to exploring  V.R and mix this with practical effects work.


Whats next?  Well I'm hacking a Tiny Tears doll into something more interesting and fun.  This will be back to coding and raspberry Pi but also mixing in some sculpting, silicon molding and resin casting to keep up the theme of playing with real things.







What I Think

I went to the new Switch house at the Tate Modern this week. While I was there I noticed one of their feedback forms. The Form asks "What do you think?"   I think the form was actually asking about what do you think about the Tate, but I felt the need to share a lot more of my feelings, I'm not sure where the feeling  came from but it felt ok to write down what I was thinking.

The first thing on my mind that I mentioned was the new health supplement I had been trying, and how much it was helping me. I was definitely very happy with the results, and the fact that I even went and tried it, 9 times out of 10 I wouldn't have bothered. It makes such a difference though. I'm glad to be doing something to better my health, no matter how small. Maybe you're curious about it now? If so you can View the Website.



I decided to share these feelings here.

I think its amazing the Earth orbits the Sun.

I think there are towns and cities I will never visit but the people in them will effect my own life in ways I will never know.

I think of the refugees and homeless who want a better life as a man in a Rolls-Royce drives past.

I think of the machines and technologies we design and build that can bring so much joy and laughter or so much pain and suffering.

I think of Coffee and fruit that I taste and enjoy.

I think of books,games,art,films.

I think one day everything will be better.







Art developer Projects thoughts

More Ellipses, lots of Ellipses

If you saw my last post where i showed I'd been playing with drawing ellipses in P5JS I mentioned that I'd been trying to create  a simple animation of circles of continually decreasing circles. The result of my first attempt was interesting and I think quite beautiful, so here is is again.

See the Pen NxBJdy by Catherine Jones (@m-fkill) on CodePen.

Well after that I carried on. I thought making the circles as individual objects and then repeatedly drawing them at different sizes might be the way to go.

It wasn't but after playing with the parameters it gave an interesting effect

See the Pen QyZmpM by Catherine Jones (@m-fkill) on CodePen.

The third attempt to the object orientated approach further.  Each circle would be an individual object and I would give them a start radius, reduce the radius on each frame. Then when the radius reached zero, reset it back to the original size.

This sort of worked but it tended to create batches of circles with different gaps to other circles.  I think I could have made it work by working out the number of circles I needed for a particular canvas size and gap between the circles.  But it felt that it was starting to get complicated.

Of all the attempts though I think the result I ended with here is my favourite. Seeing the Circle pattern appear to grow, stay steady for a while then it sort of implodes on itself before finding its actual final pattern after around one minute was sort of cool, I couldn't have predicted that. If I had wanted to come up with that sort of effect I certainly wouldn't have gone about it that way.

See the Pen OMBvmR by Catherine Jones (@m-fkill) on CodePen.

After rethinking what I was trying to achieve and looking back at my previous attempts and what I had learned. Finally coming up with the working circle pattern was a lot easier and the simplest code of all the previous attempts. But i couldn't have done it without the others.

See the Pen BjqrZp by Catherine Jones (@m-fkill) on CodePen.

Art developer thoughts

Playing with ellipses

Have been playing with P5JS a lot recently.  Was wanting to create an animation of continual decreasing circles.  It didn't really come out like I intended but I like what did happen.

Also trying out using for putting the Javascript experiments online

See the Pen NxBJdy by Catherine Jones (@m-fkill) on CodePen.

Art Projects thoughts

Making a Twitter Art

I make lots of things, If you want you can have a look at the ones i've wrote about on this blog now that i've organised them all onto one page at 

Some of them are for a real good cause like the little boat, I made for Oceans Project . Others are to learn about something new like the Unofficial guide to the Natural History Museum

Sometimes I just want to make things that don't exist  or turn a tweet into something real  and sometimes I just want to make statues fart 

What i've never called any of the things I make is art, to me all the things I've made are just things i've made. But my latest project I think it is art simply because I can't think of anything else it could be.

When I was working on the Tweeting Satellite  project for work last year i became fascinated with twitter bots and how metronomic they are,  sending out tweets regularly, not needing something funny to happen to them on the way to work or to be frustrated that the milk in the fridge has gone off for them to tweet.  The Tweeting Satellite was only a short project but I wanted to create something whose entire point was that it would tweet regularly for a long time.

Its taken a while since I wrote it but @ColoursAll is now live, it will tweet every hex colour from 0x000000 to 0xFFFFFF in order. The reason its taken so long is that rather than just sign up to an hosting service I wanted it to actually physically exist.  For this I took advantage of Colocker offering a free hosting to a Raspberry Pi for members of London Hackspace.  This was most of the delay, getting around to setting up the Raspberry Pi.

At around  the same time as writing @ColoursAll I wrote @TickTockBot which ran over New Years Eve.  I always find New year a bit strange, its seems such an arbitary celebration that I don't understand  and every year now I just tend to hide under my duvet. @TickTockBot was my way of dealing with it last year.

Anyway @ColoursAll is running and is due to complete in approximately 1915 years time.   It feels odd making something that has the potential to last so long. I'm guessing that in actual fact it won't last that long. Something will happen  first. Twitter will shut down,Colocker will shut down or the world will just end.

I should probably have  put a message to be tweeted at the end but I haven't, or have I?  You'll just have to wait and see.

technical thoughts

Making A Nothing - The story of two Twitter bots

Making nothing is just sitting around not doing anything, but making A Nothing is making something that has no content.  While developing the twitter bot @X3Prospero I become fascinated with twitter bots, not just the types and variety and content of them but how their continous metronomic beat of  their function, sending out messages repeatedly, never stopping or resting or needing any user input.

Yes there are ones that are intermittent and maybe linked to physical phenomena,data feed or  machines but these don't  have the same fascination to me. What fascinated me was that the operation of the twitter bot was more the message than the content it carried.

just after Christmas I decided to start experimenting with this thought and have developed two twitter bots so far.  The first one @ColoursAll  is a bot that will tweet every colour represented by the RGB colour model from 0x000000 (Black) to 0xFFFFFF (White). The code is finished but I'm just sorting out hosting for it, should be up and running in about a week.

Yesterday I visited the Whitechapel Gallery and saw David Batchelor  exhibtion  He has taken five hundred photographs of white squares and rectangles in cities around the world.  Seeing the projections of the squares quickly cycle through, the background changing but always a white rectangle in the centre of the screen made me think abut making a twitter bot that had even less content in it than @ColoursAll but went through the most limited content I could think of with that same beat.

Last night I ran @TickTockBot for just over one hour, its tweets were either the word 'tick' or 'tock' followed by an ascending count.  The count was only their because twitter doesn't allow duplicate tweets. After two hundred and ninety three tweets it stopped. The bot hit the limit imposed by twitter.


The code for @AllColours is on Github

The Storify of the @ticktockbot is here 



technical thoughts

A New Steering wheel?

I'm not a massive film fan but there a few I really love. The original Star Wars trilogy, The original Italian job and just about every Bond film. Maybe I just enjoy films with classic and beautiful cars in them, nothing wrong with that. One of my favourite features of classic cars apart the lovely styling of the bodies and the sound of the engines are the steering wheels. Admittedly modern Steering wheels are much safer, well padded and with an airbag in them to prevent serious injuries but the simplicity of the classic Moto Lita wheel is a work of art.

Aston Martin DB5 from Skyfall
Aston Martin DB5 from Skyfall

The modern Formula one Steering wheel is packed full of electronics and technology and cost around $50,000.  I say 'around $50,000' Whether they actually cost that I have no idea. Every article and commentator always quotes that exact conveniently round figure, let just say they aren't cheap. I do like that the trophies of the Australian Grand Prix are replica's of the steering wheel of one of Jack Brabham's cars.  A lovely nod to the past.

The steering wheel for Bloodhound SSC the car hoping to be the first car to reach 1000 Mph will be 3D printed and has been designed to fit Andy Green's hands exactly. Again an amazing piece of technology but not simple  beautiful in the same way as the Moto Lita.

Early cars didn't have wheels to steer with but used tillers as found on boats.  Were tillers used just because there was no suitable analogy from existing land vehicles?  Horses use a bridle and reins, which aren't suitable as there is too much play in the mechanism.  Trains just have rails so aren't steered.

As the cars moved from three to four wheels and the technology advanced the steering wheel become the standard way to steer the car. Electric cars are fairly common in today's day ang age. Electric cars require an ev charging cable to be able to charge properly.

There have been one or two attempts to do thing differently.  The Early models of the Austin Allegro had a square 'quartic' steering wheel which was a flop and was replaced with a standard circular wheel on the later models.  When I was a child our family had a Austin Allegro.  It was a 'V' reg.  from 1980 it must have had the standard wheel although I don't remember as I sat in the back. I do remember thinking it was very luxurious as it had a pull down armrest.  I'm easily impressed me.

The Mirov 2 a 'revolutionary sports turbo from the soviet union' had a steering wheel that could change from the right to the left hand side.  Except it didn't, it was a fictional car created for the Norwich union advert.  However the Mclaren F1 whilst having a conventional steering wheel did feature a unusual seating layout of having the driver in the centre with two passengers either side and slightly further back.  The F1 wasn't the first car to have the central driving position.  That honour goes to the 1935 Alfa Romeo 6C 2300 Aerodinamica Spider  a beautiful car with many innovations.  The prototype of the Land Rover had a central driving position but as the project developed it reverted to a conventional layout.

1935 Alfa Romeo 6C 2300 Aerodinamica Spider

The Matra Bagheera of 1973 had 3 seats but the driver position was conventionally on the left hand side.  All I can say about this car is that it looks horrible and so are all the websites and videos on youtube about especially the 'sexy' ones.  Not linking to any,  the internet is no place for videos of  ladies taking their clothes off and doing rude things

So why a blog post all about steering wheels? Well it was seeing this competition  to design a steering wheel for Ford.  How odd I thought, while Google and other hi-tech firms in Silicon Valley are designing self driving cars, Ford are updating the Steering wheel.

Sadly didn't enter the competition as was too busy with my own work and study and only saw the competition a few days before the closing date. From reading the competition description it really is aimed at serious designers who can actually do things with pens and pencils.

Here is my idea for the competition.  Rather than have a steering wheel, have a flat surface in front of the driver.  on that surface have a model of the car, using cameras around the car and live satellite and other sensor data project the environment that is currently outside the vehicle  including all the other cars on the road and the buildings and surrounding areas.
Imagine something like the video below,small and fitted into the dashboard area of a car, but rather than the the marketing shots of the car driving around the track, all the live data, projected from within your own vehicle.

PERCH Car from PERCH on Vimeo.


The majority of the time the car would be computer driven but if you did want to take over, it would simply be a case of moving the model car on the flat surface is the same way you move a computer mouse.

Don't think that anything I've thought of here is going to be possible for the next few years.  The cost and bulk of the projection and being able to get the data into the car is going to need a reliable high speed data connection.

What I do think is possible is that there could be big changes coming to the whole automobile industry very soon if self driving cars become a reality, and it does look like it could happen.  There are still lots of hurdles to get over, not just technical but legal and administrative.

A quote often incorrectly attributed to Henry Ford is "If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses."  It would have been so much cooler for this post if he had said it.

Lets just pretend he did say it.   Are Ford currently trying to make faster horses while the technology industry works on new cars that will radically change how we think about cars.   Its quite possible.  Cars are being seen as less of a status symbol by many younger people now.  Environmental pressures are demanding they be made to be cleaner.

Looking forward to seeing what the winning entry of the competition looks like. Hopefully its not just a piece of circular metal and plastic.  If it isn't radically different I can honestly  imagine that Ford will soon join Nokia as one of those companies that once dominated an industry but were soon forgotten when a competitor came from nowhere and introduced a massive change


developer python technical thoughts

Do you remember the Mackerel?

You might remember my recent post on writing a short python program to solve the Yakult problems on the tube
I said then that I didn't think it was the only or best way to solve the problem. I've spent a few minutes tonight improving it and have also made it so it takes a command line argument so it can be run from the shell

>> python mackerel

st. Johns wood

Not going to go into details her but if you are interested it is up on github

developer python technical thoughts

Solving the 'Yakult Problem' in Python

They say one of the best ways to learn something is to teach it,  I think they do, sure I have heard that somewhere, never sure who they are and  even if they don't I'm saying it now.  As I'm doing a proper course in learning Python I decided to write this short tutorial on one aspect of the python Language. I won't get into much detail as I recently learnt how to update python and still have a lot more to learn.

If you live in London you may have seen Posters advertising the Yakult Pro-bio-whatever drink stuff.  Not the faintest idea if its any good but I do like the posters with a short teaser on it.  Something similar to:

Yakult riddle



o.k Lets break the problem down.

1. load the file in

2. Go over (or Iterate over as we say in computer speak) all the station names

3.  Iterate over all the letters in the word that I am testing the  station names against.

4. Iterate over all the letters in the station name and compare it against the word being test

5 if  there is a match of letters , stop and move onto the next station, no point in carrying on

6 If no letter matches are found, store that station name for retrieval later.

Loading the File

It took a little while to find a list of all that station names in an easy to use format, but manages it after a bit of searching a messing. The stations are stored in a file called station_list.txt

#Create  a list to store the station names in 

station_list = []   

#open the file called stations_list.txt and store it in the object called stations_file

stations_file = open('./station_list.txt', 'r')  

#Read the stations in from a file
     for line in stations_file:

#Store all the stations in a list after converting the characters to lower case



I don't want to focus on the file reading as it is not core to this exerscise.  Converting the characters to lower case was something that was picked up in testing when I realised the the Upper case initial letters of the station names were not triggering matches against lower case letters in the chosen string.

Ok rather than going line by line it will make more sense if I add in the 3 iterations of step 2,3 and 4 then flesh those out with what happens in each one.


for station in station_list:

    for my_char in my_string:

        for station_char in station:



As described above the program iterates over the station_list.  'my_string' is then name of the variable that holds the string that is passed to the function when it is called, that is then iterated over and finally every character in the current station name is iterated over.

So the first thing to do is compare the current station character with the current character in my_string and if they match then stop the current loop

if station_char == my_char:



Thats stops any more tests on that station name happening for that one particular letter in my_string, but carrying on testing my_string at all is wasteful and we haven't done anything to store the station name if none of the characters match.


 if my_char_count == len(my_string) -1 and not found_letter:



You will see that these lines test a variable called  my_char_count against the length of  my_string and variable called found_letter .  This is finding out if the current character is the last one in the word and if no matches have been found.

If  that test is passed the station name is added to the list of  results with


Finally the my_char_count is incremented and when all the iterations are compete the result_stations_list is returned from the function


    my_char_count +=1

 return result_stations_list

Because the station list are separated by a newline the list shows that as '\n' these can be removed if you like, but i'll leave that as an exercise for you to try.


That shows the basic workings of the program,  the full thing is on github have a look and see what you think.  I'm not saying this is the best way to solve this problem, am sure its not the only way.   But its the way I wanted to solve it using the Python language constructs we have been learning in class and hopefully it nails the workings of the language into my head.

For another take on the problem a solution in Java can be found on this blog


Oh and if you are interested 'St Johns Wood'

making silly technical thoughts

Real Cloud Storage

A few days ago I twittered the tweet above, or is it tweeted the tweet? I don't know, anyway it doesn't matter. What does matter is that is the odd sort of thought that goes through my head. Wouldn't it be interesting to send digital data to the clouds. Both the data in our computer and the clouds in the sky are both somehow ephemeral and yet long lived . We see the data only because it is represented on our screens by glowing pixels,turned on or off. That data could have been around for months or years. Data we think can easily be deleted may be out of our control stored in far off servers, the cloud.
The water vapour that forms the clouds changes form all the time, falling as rain into the seas and oceans, flowing through rivers and streams. The clouds may last only a few seconds the water lives on.

A few month ago the Daily mail published an article trying to explain the leak of snapchat data. And in the article they used the explanation that 'the cloud' is 'not an actual cloud' Don't worry that's not a link to the Dail Mail.

But what if it was possible to store data in the clouds? Why shouldn't it be. Not having to rely on energy hungry data centres, never knowing if our data is safe or not, not having the worry of not knowing who might have unauthorised access to our private photos or documents would be great.

So I propose the following idea, its beta at the moment.

The Cloud making machine would be something like this:

The arduino would take the data from the computer and control a fan to send long and short pulses of clouds out of the machine. I was thinking of Morse code as it is easily encoded and would be suitable for the low bandwidth.

Reading the data back from the cloud may be difficult, but hey at least its secure.