American Chimeras: Hodag

I have always loved the strange and obscure. Neil Gaiman has been my favorite author for 15 years because of his skill at making modern fairy tales. I love the way that American Gods TV show is expanding the story to get more seasons out of the book. Some uniquely American Myths that might belong in the series are the Jackelope and the Hodag. Jackelopes are Jack Rabbits with the horns of antelopes first discovered in Wyoming. Hodags are Crocodiles with the head of buffalo and claws and teeth of a lion first discovered in Wisconsin. In order to make these American Chimeras fit in with a series about Gods we will need to import a Greek God, Echidna Mother of the Greek Chimeras.  What Follows is a Fan Fiction blending the characters of American Gods with Echidna and a Hodag

Salim: Oh my god this stupid show? What rotten luck we have. What are the odds that I Dream of Genie just happens to be on TV.

Jinn: Turn that off!

SALIM: I’ll just change the channel…. every channel is playing the same thing What the fuck?

Media: Hello Jinn, there’s been a change in circumstances. Wednesday declared war on us. You need to accept our merger or we are going to assume you are with Wednesday in the War.

Jinn: Nothing, has changed. I would still rather die than help you corrupt the world. turning to Salim Grab you your bags

media nods her head and a James Bond faceless manakin appears on the screen

Media: I really did hope we would have been able to live and let live but I’ll just have to settle for live and let die.

Media nodds her head again and the faceless James Bond is now in their hotel room. cue the classic james bond chase scene music as Jinn and SALIM run to their Taxi.

SALIM: What the fuck is that thing?

Jinn: everything that is wrong with America.

SALIM: Isn’t Bond British?

Jinn: Shut up. They peel out of the driveway and Media still inside the TV nods her head and Aston Martin appears. The faceless James Bond enters the car and follows them

Salim: That really is James Bond? How can this be real?

Jinn: how can ifrit be real?

Salim: Can’t you drive any faster? If he’s James Bond then that car has heat seeking missiles or something else ridiculous.

Jinn laughs: Heat Seeking, that would be most unfortunate. Take the wheel. Jinn leans out the window and exhails a fiery butterfly shaped ember and slides back into the drivers seat, takes the wheel back and floors the gas petal

after 5 minutes of car chasing Bond runs their car of the road and they abandon it, running into the Wisconsin woods. The faceless James Bond chases them firing a gun. Looming large beside him a Lizard with the head of a buffalo and claws of a lion (Hodag) jumps out of the forest and devours the faceless James Bond. Salim Shits his pants. while Jinn looks around and exclaims “Allah Akbar’

Echina approaches Jinn. Echnida, half beautiful maiden and half fearsome snake. Hesiod described “the goddess fierce Echidna” as a flesh eating “monster, irresistible”, who was like neither “mortal men” nor “the undying gods”, but was “half a nymph with glancing eyes and fair cheeks, and half again a huge snake, great and awful, with speckled skin”, who “dies not nor grows old all her days. Echidna: I got your message. and she hands him his fiery butterfly.

Jinn: Thank you very much

Echidna: Are there more of them?

Jinn: there was only the one

Echidna: Good let’s get as far away from here as we can. Echidna whistles and the Hodag stops chewing on James Bond and walks up like an obedient dog. They don’t know where my cave is. I have a fresh batch of Hummus.

Salim: whispering to Jinn: who is she, do you trust her?

Jinn: we have the same enemy but she is the Mother of monsters like this Chimera, The Hodag? Echidna nods. I trust her to fight her enemies fiercely, I pray we do not become enemies Echidna smiles

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The Intelligence Revolution

When I was fifteen, I was told that, “My generation had not seen History.” because we had grow up in period of peace and prosperity that ended 09/11/2001. I don’t that teacher was correct but I don’t think that any current teacher would claim that a 15 year old had not seen a major Historical event. Wars, Extinctions and other catastrophes seem to be happening with an exponentially increasing frequency. I pray that the frequency is actually increasing logarithmically but I don’t perceive any sort of slowing down. Will humanity survive? the biggest argument for putting humans on Mars in 2025 is that it doubles our chances for long term survival and in my book that is worth every expense.
Intelligence revolution
In the shorter term, a lot of people are talking about wealth distribution and robotics/AI causing unemployment. I see a lot of validity in these concerns but I feel that my personal job is very safe. I work closely with robots all day long. At Boston Scientific I provide the robots with sensory validation and alert technicians when the robot needs adjustment but at Pintstein I get to program and recalibrate the robots myself. I think it will be a decade or more before my sensory validation tasks are made irrelevant. And it will be much longer than that before my skills at programming and recalibrating robots is made redundant by robots.

 

Bringing this back to will humanity survive? I think the answer is yes. The wealthy will survive. A new oligarchy is about to replace democracy but it will look similar to oligarchies and monarchy of medieval times. I am not saying this is what should happen. I am saying it is what is going to happen unless I invent a game changer.

Salamander Manufacturing

Can I start by saying that we should call most manufacturing robofacturing? I work in a continuous production facility. Boston Scientific’s Pacemaker Battery plant has three 8 hour shifts that make sure our robots and other machines almost never go unused.  My company has proven to the medical community that our batteries last twice as long as our competitors and we are growing our market share in a manner that made weekend overtime a constant necessity.  Moral of the story: expensive robots create a lot of valuable things and we never let them sit idle.  This reminds me of how a shark can’t stop swimming or how a hummingbird has to keep flying to the next flower continuously.

As a hobby, I design and 3D print science education toys.  The prices in the 3D printing industry boggle my mind.  I can’t understand how shapeways or my competitors on 3D hubs are earning anything close to reasonable hourly wage.  I conclude that shapeways knows secret business practices that use high volume to keep their custom order fulfillment prices so low.  My competitors on 3D hubs have lower prices than me but I think I completely understand that.  In game theory, systems can easily become a race to the bottom or a race to the top if circumstances are right.  The simplest way to phrase this is supply and demand.  There is not a large consumer demand for 3D printed products.  There are a surprising number of people with 3D printers offering their services on 3Dhubs.com  So the conditions are ripe for a race to the bottom.  Each producer wants to be the lowest price so that the small number of consumers choose them over another producer.  Some people are doing this as a hobby and willing to provide service without making a decent hourly wage and those producers win the race to the bottom.

CA-tiger-salamander-Hara-Photos-May-2014-003.jpgYesterday, I had an epiphany.  The above method of manufacturing is Salamander Manufacturing.  Tiger Salamanders and Nile Crocodiles are ambush predators lying dormant and inactive for long periods of time.  Because they are spending almost zero energy, Salamanders and Crocodiles can go a long time between meals and not starve to death. Salamander Manufacturing or Manderfacturing is as much the opposite of continuous production as salamanders are the opposite of hummingbirds.

Members of the Manderfacturing workforce don’t own their relatively cheap equipment to make money.  They own it to save money by not having to pay someone else to make the  custom things they want to buy.

Makeathon

As I look back on 2016, an event that I hosted in July stands out as the highlight of my activities with my startup business, Pintstein.  I worked really hard to promote the event to teachers by putting up posters in the break rooms of  the schools I substitute taught at and making content on websites like edutopia.org and teacherspayteachers.com.  In the end, only two teachers participated in the event but my other social media advertising efforts resulted in 6 kids attending my 3D printing and laser cutting makeathon.

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The first kid I want to tell you about is Amdi.  Amdi used TinkerCAD to design a donut action figure called the Mighty Krunk.  I was really sad to see how many errors and glitches Amdi experienced with the TinkerCAD design software.  Most of the time TinkerCAD is user-friendly but Amdi’s experience makes me wonder if a software that relies less on the internet should replace tinkerCAD as the design software that I teach in my 3D printing 101 class.  I was so happy when Amdi finally powered through glitches and got a file that he wanted to print.

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Getting to see a child’s face after something that has only lived in their imagination becomes a physical object is so much more rewarding than any of the money that I make.

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Brandon also designed an action figure called “Grand Robo.”  The file that Bandon gave failed the first couple times I tried to print it because there was a slight gap between the body and the shoulders of Grand Robo but it was easy enough for me to fix them and then get Brandon a successful print after the makeathon was over.

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Kyra had to go to a soccer tournament but she had one the most ambitious designs of the event.  Kyra wanted to make a figurine of her dog.  We surveyed what is already out there on thingiverse and none of it appealed to Kyra so we talked about how I would design a dog from scratch.  My favorite design software is Blender.  It is not user friendly and it is not a CAD program but Blender thinks in the language of STL files better than anything else I have come across.  I was astonished to see the design that Kyra made the day after her soccer tournament.  I think it would take me 6 hours to make this low poly dog design and Kyra had never played with Blender before I the event!  I don’t know how much her architect father helped with the design but I am impressed by what she made in a software she had never seen before.

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If you don’t like the blocky look of it maybe this will improve your opinion: there are tools that allow you to smooth low poly designs like this, I just don’t know how to do use those tools yet.

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Niko had his heart set on laser cutting some sweet designs into a skateboard.  I was nervous about the paint on the skateboard but we worked through the basics of running the laser cutter on some clean plywood that I had left over from other projects.  We made a plaque with the design on it instead of getting it on the skate board during the event. I hope Niko was able get his skateboard etched on the laser cutter after the event.

screen-shot-2016-12-25-at-8-52-01-amHarrison designed and laser cut a box for his grandfather.

 

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Lila wanted to make a mask so I taught  her how to make the design in TinkerCAD but it turned out to be bigger than any of my print beds.  I digitally cut the design into three pieces and printed them individually.

Remember how I wanted the Makeathon to be for teachers but only two Teachers showed up?  Amber and Elise were planning on bringing kids from North West Passage High School to the Hack Factory to make things and sell them in the school gift shop.  I taught Amber and Elise how to 3D print and laser cut key chains with the North West Passage logo on it.

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In July I got engaged and in October I got promoted at Boston Scientific.  I have been putting less energy into growing my company, Pintstein, since the Makeathon but people who have an idea but don’t know how to make the design or people with a 3D printer that needs repairing have been contacting me occasionally. I make sure that I serve the business that finds me but I am not putting time into trying to generate business at the moment.  I fully intend to renew my efforts to bring Bioinformatics to market after my wedding in October of 2017. Only a fool doesn’t listen to feedback and the feedback I have gathered over the last 2 years tells me 3D printing is not going to pay the bills for at least a couple years.

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I am not certain that the world is a better place because of my attempts to get my bioinformatics kits to market but every 3D printing class I have hosted and 3D printer I have repaired has allowed others to achieve some of their dreams.  Entrepreneurs have a hard road, thinking of the service that I provide people who want to learn 3D printing is the grit that keeps me going.

The Ring

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“I don’t want a 3D printed wedding ring!”

“Just wait until you see it and then you can turn it down.”

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The love of my life dislikes my 3D printers and my attitude that I can make nearly anything with my printers. But Maria changed her mind about a “3D printed” wedding ring when she saw my “sketches” of the engagement ring that I was going to make her. I spoke with several businesses about how to manufacture my concept of a ring with the center diamond held in a castle. Buschosky Jewelers was the most helpful and they were able to sell me a showpiece with the understanding that I was returning it for a custom made piece. Maria thought the showpiece ring that I proposed with was perfect and she was even more delighted to hear that my “sketch” of a Hogwarts-Disney hybrid castle was going to be made by professionals.

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3D printing is also frequently called rapid prototyping. Because printers are now cheap, each designer can have a printer on their desk and just churn out prototypes of the latest iteration of their design. The 3D printer can save time by allowing the designer to play with the prototype and understand it in a way that he could not understand it on a computer. The final design was produced by Sauli Buschosky with a software that I don’t own because it costs more than a thousand dollars but I was able to give him 3D prints of my concept that helped me transfer my creative vision in much the same way that most artists use 2D sketches to transfer creative vision.

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The Polished Ring
The Polished Ring
3D printed wax ring (SLA)
3D printed wax ring (SLA)
Raw Casting of White Gold
Raw Casting of White Gold

Branding and Selling Yourself

A month ago, I attended a lecture on social media for entrepreneurs. The most surprising piece of advice Ben Theis said during the lecture was to not use your facebook page or other social media page to constantly sell your product. Why spend time maintaining a page if it is not to sell your product? Defining the flavor of your brand is one of the most artistic parts of starting a business. People don’t want to see ads constantly show up in their facebook feed any more than they already see ads. What people do want to see is insightful, funny or just novel information. So use your facebook page to broadcast information relevant to what your business does. Try to build a following of people who will come back time and again to see what new insights you have for them today. Then when your company is having a sale, you have a following of people who might get excited about supporting the business that has given them so much information.

Modern Keyboard With Colored Social Network Buttons.

Advertising on the internet is often referred to as a pay to play game because you cannot achieve the highest levels of success without paying Google, Facebook, ect to give you preferential treatment but moderate levels of success can be achieved without spending a penny. In a little over a week I am hosting a Makeathon designed to help people learn 3D printing and other cheap fabrication robots. I have done everything that I can think of to get the word out there. My target audience is teachers and librarians because they have the most potential to help kids get access to 3D printers (my mission is to get kids access to this time expensive but resource cheap technology). So I started by posting flyers in the teacher breakrooms of schools that I substitute teach at.

Screen Shot 2016-05-03 at 9.23.51 AM.pngBut then school ended in May and I had a long time to prepare for my Makeathon and promote it so I started focusing on how to use the internet to spread the word. I thought that going to websites teachers  use (Edutopia and TPT) might be a great strategy but it didn’t pay off for some reason.  However content that I put on Twitter and Facebook did reach a lot of people.FacebookSuccess

Facebook, WordPress and Youtube provide content generators with some pretty cool tools to help authors evaluate the success of various attempts at creating compelling stories.Screen Shot 2016-06-16 at 10.38.51 AM

If you are still reading this post, you are really interested in my story, or you are thinking about starting a business and looking to me for information.  I am not an expert.  My business is not making money but I can connect you with the people who are helping me become an expert (for free).

IN0316LFM01-web_80553I was at the gym and a Business magazine caught my eye.  Inside the article titled: Go ahead, be evil.  I found this advice-If being ruthlessly successful even at the risk of being evil helps you get through the dark nights of starting a company then do it. If being a force for good is what gets you through the dark nights of starting a company then do that.

Certainly not the advice I would give an entrepreneur but then I don’t profit from that entrepreneur’s existence the way that Inc.com does, so I am not motivated to help the evil ones exist as much as I am motivated to help people who believe they are a force for good.  I made an existential choice a couple months before I dropped out of graduate school. I had spent a year on an experiment that was not going to be publishable and my advisors were putting a lot of stress on me to come up with something publishable. My advisors did not know that my data was not publishable yet and I could see a clear path where I could falsify data and have a much better life (at least for a year or two). I spent a couple days contemplating if I wanted to build a career in science on a lie eventually came to the conclusion that I would rather perish than publish false results. There may be times where you look at things that I say and feel that I am a horrible salesman. Odds are good that I saw a way to say my sales pitch in a more compelling but less accurate manner. I make deliberate choices not to be the best salesman that I can be. I would rather run a company that never turns a profit than run a company that succeeds by being a snake oil salesman.

2/11/17 update- Did you know that facebook hands out coupons?  They gave me a $10 coupon to post an add on Facebook so I shared a heartwarming video that only marginally promotes my business but definitely builds my brand.

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Hope is not a Plan

I can live without anything; except hope and dreams. Put me on a desert island and I will spend my time finding a way to hope for survival and a way to make it back to my loved ones. Pintstein is my way of hoping that I still have something to give back to the Scientific Community. My time in graduate school was a grueling experience where I did course work 20 hours a week, researched fruit fly egg laying choices for 20+ hours a week, taught and prepared anatomy labs for 20 hours a week while earning $18,00 a year. Eventually I lost all hope that I could successfully complete a PhD with Aimee Dunlap as my advisor. Most PhD students in that situation change academic advisors but the criticisms that I was receiving from my advisors left me feeling worthless. It took me 2 years to get accepted into a graduate school and maybe that is because most of the people I applied to could see that I was not well read enough to make it in the publish or perish environment of science.

ChurchillWinstonNow I have a great job working in a Pacemaker Battery Factory for $27,000 a year. HR says that my labor saves an average of 8 lives a day and I am a leader to the 2nd shift Bradycardia Production team using my STEM knowledge to keep our equipment operating reliably. Additionally, working only 40 hours a week leaves me energy for my startup company. I can survive like this for the rest of my life if I have to. So I have hope for the future.

I started Pintstein to make Bioinformatics Kits (specialized organic chemistry kits for decoding the language of life). 3D printing has been a great way to make functional prototypes but the marketable product is going to need to be made with injection molding. I have done a lot of networking to learn how to make molds with CNC machines or how to contract the production of my Bioinformatics Kits with injection molding from a company like Protolabs.  I don’t feel like the networking I have done has gotten me any closer to a plan forward.  Tom Hazard says, hope is not a plan but I wonder, is tenacity a plan? I start my 3D printing classes by telling people that I am self-taught and as such, I am not an expert yet but I still feel that I have acquired a low budget super power. If I want something badly enough, I can make it. It might take a lot of time and be made out of cheap plastic but I can make my dreams into physical objects.  I want my Bioinformatics Kits badly enough that I will eventually bring them to market. It might take a ridiculous amount of time, it might never turn a profit but I will do it. Entrepaneurship is a form of artistic self-expression just as much as writing a novel or composing a symphony. Working on Pintstein gives me hope. Working on Pintstein is my therapy.

Screen Shot 2016-06-20 at 12.47.48 AMIf you would like to see my Bioinformatics Kits contact me and schedule a private meeting. I am not publicly disclosing my designs until I have filed a provisional patent or until I am 99% certain that I will not patent my Bioinformatics Kits but private meetings do not hurt my ability to patent my designs.  I want to build a list of interested parties who might support a kickstarter campaign to fund the “tooling” necessary to make my Bioinformatics Kits with injection molding.