email me / twitter / linkedin / instructables / instagram
This is a (highly abridged) collection of things I've made or done that I can send to people who want some more information about me. I'm a creative engineering type with 25+ years in the semiconductor industry. I quit my 20 year job at Intel in February of 2014 to pursue other interests.
Current list of projects underway:
Here are some neat things related to me and my work...
I started kayaking during the summer of 2013. Renting a boat became too time consuming due to all the overhead costs of transportation, reservations, and planning. Rather than buy a kayak (which can be very pricey), I took the easier route and built one. In October I purchased a Pygmy Osprey kit, rented a storage facility, and began. A month later the weather turned (epoxy doesn't like the cold) and the project was shelved until spring. Starting again in May, after about 120 hours, I launched in July, and have been on the water a few times a week since. Its very satisfying to pilot something you've built with your own hands, especially when it transports you to serene naturescapes like Waldo Lake. Pictures of the kayak here
Almost all of the work I did at Intel is still considered confidental or registered, which means I can't link to any of it. I started in '93 in the Flash Memory division, back when a 10MB ATA drive in a PCMCIA form factor was a big deal. I wrote 16-bit drivers for Windows 3.1! After that I moved to the graphics group writing drivers and benchmarks, but realized I could use those tools to estimate power of the hardware, which was becoming a big deal in the industry. The microprocesor teams noticed this and pulled me into the Itanium workgroup to write power simulators. During this time I wrote several circuit simulators to estimate the power requirements of microprocessors. Eventually I went from supplying data to project staff members, to moving on to the project staff, to eventually driving the product direction with regards to power. Basically, I had to compete with other project leads for designer's bandwidth, managing them to hit a power target so the product would be competitive when it shipped. Throughtout the project I'd explain where the power was trending, what needed to be done, and what the risks were if it was ignored. Basically I had say as to whether or not a billion dollar processor was ready to ship, or not. I was managing a lot of technical projects when I left and very much enjoyed working with large groups of brainy juinor engineers and would like to do it again.
In 2012 a friend of mine approached me about building devices to harvest wind energy from freeways. My first thoughts went to assessing how much wind cars actually produce, so I built an anemometer which also contained a battery operated data-logger so that I could collect data and analyze the feasibility of the endeavor. This is really similar to what I did at Intel: collect reams of data and dive into it looking for trends or metrics. The results were pretty nifty: we collected weeks of data from freeways in Connecticut which showed very distinct trends over time, day to night. THe fun part was building a rather compleicated device from parts at Home Depot, and successfully ddeploying and retrieving it from a public place exposed to weather and traffic. I learned a lot about field reliability, especially when putting the device in the hands of non-techies.
In 2013, some friends decided it was time to build a community space in Portland for Sex-Positive events and education. There are places like the Q Center which do a fantastic job at outreach and counseling, but there was nothing like Seattle's Center for Sex-Positive Culture (CSPC) or San Francisco's Center for Sex and Culture. After nine months of meetings, by law drafts, legal discussions and policy creation, we received our NPO status from the IRS. And thus, the Sex-Positive Education and Event Center (SPEEC) was born. I've been actively searching for commercial real estate which can handle large occupancies, doing things by the book as places like this tend to be under scrutiny of the fire marshals. We hope to publicly launch later this year.
I'm into CrossFit. CrossFit boxes (gyms) love to host competitions. During these competitions, judges have to determine if an athelete is completing a movement within specifications. If not, the rep doesn't count. One common movement is the double-under: jumping rope and passing the rope under the feet twice per jump. This movement is tricky to count since good athletes can do 100 jumps per minute. I built a machine to count the number of jumps. Sensors in the pad determine if a person is present and jumping, and sense the rope passing by. Some simple logic evaluates the accumulated sensor counts and compares them to measured profiles (data I collected during calibration). It needs a custom circuit board and a fancy display, and I think maybe I can sell this.
I used to suffer chronic back pain, usually due to sleeping in weird positions. Short of strapping myself into bed, I would always end up contorted in the morning, with shooting pain in my back muscles. I had read about people using transcutaneous electronic neural stimulation (TENS) units for a long time, and decided to build one. I ended up building two: a single channel unit, and then after figuring out how to shrink the circuit, a six-channel unit. I was able to connect six sets of electrodes to my back and stimulate the nerves in various patterns, e.g., top to bottom, bottom to top, random. This significantly helped, although I was never able to figure out a current limiting problem and the main power transistors would overheat after a few hours of use. I even fabbed a smaller board with the intent of building much larger units with a dozen or more channels, but once the back pain went away I moved on to other projects.
In 2003 I was diagnosed with Polycystic Kidney Disease. It's a genetic disease that runs in family. I was born with defective nephrons in my kidneys (the little tubes that do all the filtering). Around age 30 my blood pressure went way up, and after an ultrasound, I found that the nephrons had started accumulating fluid. They continue to grow to this day, and my kidneys are well over 1000mL total volume, but still functioning. Since they work so well and are so large, I was invited to participate in a phase-3 medical drug trial. This is the only drug that has ever been proposed to treat the disease. I was on a placebo for two years in 2-1 double blind study, and then I was switched to the real drug. The drug is Tolvaptan, by Osaka Pharmaceuticals. The side effects are near unquenchable thirst and almost constant urination. Initial results from 1400+ samples indicated a significant reduction in cyst growth. I don't know where I fall in the study, but it has allivated some of the pain I've felt over the years and every time I have an MRI (yearly) I coerce the tech into copying my results to a CDROM. Here are my latest pics showing my favorite cysts: Jupiter and Pokey on the right of the screen. I feel them on long flights and whenever I sleep on a bad mattress.
When I worked at Intel in the Flash memory group, I patented a filesystem for embedded computer systems. This system provided a method for pre- formatting flash memory cards, and a very thin driver for writing data. It was an incredibly slick method that allowed hardware to write to a flash card using very little software (since memory space in embedded controllers is a sparse resource). The card could then be inserted into a PC and read using the native Microsoft FFS. It saved a lot of money by eliminating the need for a large file system on the embedded host. Note, this was a decade before removable flash memory in digital cameras, and oddly, my method was used primarily in submarines. Sadly, the patent was withdrawn when Intel decided to publish the article in an IBM journal, and as a standalone document (Doc #292155-001 but that only helps you if you work at Intel!). On the plus side, it led to my first ink in a real magazine, the February 94 issue of Dr. Dobbs Journal.
I spent several years improving my fine woodworking skills. As anyone who has ever taken on this hobby knows: a good, solid bench is vital. Using plans from Lee Valley, I built this 150lb workbench out of solid hard maple. It took a few weeks of gluing and planing, and served me dutifuly for many years. I ended up selling it on Ebay for $500 to a person who lived on the other side of the country. Amazed at how much folks will spend on shipping.
The initial study of freeway wind didn't stop with the data collection. I continued to bang my head against the wall, trying to understand if there really was an opportunity to be had. Our idea was simple: modify Jersey barriers to contain three turbines each, and connect them via a local power grid to the municipal power grid. My patent search indicated there are several dozen people who have filed a patent for this idea since the 1930's, yet no one has succeeded yet. We spun up Wind and Road Electric to begin investigating this idea. After six months of research with all of the studies pointing in the same direction (thumbs down), I attended the Sandia National Labs' Wind Turbine Blade summit. (A three day conference discussing nothing but wind turbine blades. It was surprisingly interesting.) After speaking to people from the DoE, Seimens, GE and a global consulting firm, my suspicions were confirmed. Nearly everyone in the industry has thought of this idea, and everyone eventually found their way to the same conclusions: Betz's Law pretty much puts the kibosh on VAWT-turbulence harvesting. Some folks had gone even further, exposing that blade reliability would be the biggest challenge even if the laminar airflow supported enough energy. I found it entertaining that so many minds had wandered down the same path.
I started doing CrossFit 3-5 times a week in 2009. I never exercised routinely before this, so it was a HUGE lifestyle change. I'm in the best shape of my life. I deadlifted 385 pounds and figured that was a pretty decent milestone, considering at the time I weighed 150lbs. I felt my pelvis flexing, I was sure it was going to explode.
Sometimes I paint decorative art. I use the term "decorative" because I don't know WTF I'm doing, I just like doing it. There are so many things I enjoy studying that I always find myself prioritizing where to spend my time, and invariably something is left behind. I really enjoy smearing paint on a canvas, and even making a frame for it. One of these days as I work down my to-do list I'll study this subject.
During college I was fortunate to work with the famous electronic composer Neil Rolnick. I programmed a LISP event-driven simulator as part of a composition called HomeGame. This true multimedia production attempted to create, on the fly, a story with a romantic plot and action sequences, with accompanying dialog, musical scoring, and video. The simulator played a game, sort of a West Side Story in the future, of two tribes struggling for survival. Based on interactions of characters in the game, media was selected and altered from a large palette of compositional choices. It was fairly chaotic, but the arthouse crowds of electronic musicians were completely into it. I probably cold have made some better design choices in the game AI had I not been under graduation stress, but I'd love to have another go at it.
I like to cook, too. It skipped a generation in my Italian family, my grandmothers stuck to their tried-and-true recipies, but my mother didn't really take to it. With what I remember of my grandmeres, I make a damned-fine baked ziti. Enough said.
Copyright (c) 2014, All Rights Reserved