Category Archives: Interesting or strange


A bunch of people here in the lab have been knocking out Instructables, step-by-step explanations for how to build various projects. They’re doing this primarily, I understand, so that they can take part in the DIY for CHI workshop happening in Boston in April. The submission criteria for taking part in the workshop is an Instructible, which is a great idea, and it sounds like it’ll be an excellent event.

Nic Marquardt wrote up instructions for how to build your own RFID tag (and reader) and how to build cool versions that react to tilt. This is based on work he did with us in the lab as an intern over the summer.


And Nic Villar posted the details for how to use an old hard drive as a rotary controller for a PC. Really slick. I think this bit of work was done before he joined us in Cambridge, during what he described as a “late night hacking session”.


Thank god for the Lords


Why is it that the unelected half of our parliament, made up of a dubious group of retirees, is consistently able to make sensible, logical and ethical decisions on issues in a way that the elected half doesn’t seem capable of?

Example 1, the House of Lord’s views on the UK’s DNA database. Since it’s focused on criminals, it seems eminently sensible to me innocents should be removed.

Lords demand DNA database deletions

“The House of Lords forced another climb-down by the government yesterday by voting to amend the rules for the DNA database to allow innocent people to have their DNA samples destroyed and removed from the database.”

Example 2,  their views on whether the police should be able to detain UK citizens for long periods of time without due process.

UK House of Lords rejects 42-day detention | Amnesty International

“The House of Lords rejected proposals on Monday that would allow the period of pre-charge detention in terrorism cases to be extended up to 42 days.”

Thank god we have the House of Lords to protect us from ourselves.

Old technology staying alive

I really enjoyed this LA Times article and video about a company that repairs typewriters. They claim their seeing a resurgence in use because computers are too distracting to write on. They have too much other stuff going on with them, like the Internet.


“But the typewriter part of Flores’ business never went away. In some ways, it’s even made a small resurgence. The simplicity of the typewriter is alluring to writers who may be overwhelmed (or underwhelmed) by increasingly elaborate technology. A typewriter is also appealing in its transparency — whack a key, and watch the typebar smack a letter onto a piece of paper. Try figuring that out with a laser printer. Many people also find typewriters charming ambassadors of a bygone era. One recent customer asked Flores to fix her mother’s college typewriter so she could type letters home when she went off to college.”

Deleting memories

For fans of “Eternal Sunshine“…

Selectively Deleting Memories

“Amping up a chemical in the mouse brain and then triggering the animal’s recall can cause erasure of those, and only those, specific memories, according to research in the most recent issue of the journal Neuron. While the study was done in mice that were genetically modified to react to the chemical, the results suggest that it might one day be possible to develop a drug for eliminating specific, long-term memories, something that could be a boon for those suffering from debilitating phobias or post-traumatic stress disorder.”