Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Loot! The Gen Con 2013 Report


This year I brought home a veritable dragon's horde of stuff. It's so much stuff it needs CliffsNotes so here's the short version: 

I got three new games, Star Wars Edge of the Empire RPG, Outbreak: Undead RPG and Shadows of Esteren RPG. We expanded our collections for other games, including Monsterpocalypse, Dust Tactics, Classic Battletech, Battletech A Time of War RPG, Pathfinder RPG, Call of Cthulhu LCG, and A Game of Thrones LCG. I got a limited edition copy of the new rules for Shadowrun RPG, and the quick-start preview rules of Call of Cthulhu RPG 7th edition. The core rule book for 7th ed. comes out this spring. For Desi I brought home a huge Squishable Cthulhu plushy, a zombie t-shirt, a Gen Con hoodie, Shadowrun bag, and a couple of patches, but her big haul was a collection of steampunk accessories that should pretty much complete her steampunk costume. I got a selection of dice to even out my collection from the bulk bins the last two years, even more Hirst Arts molds than I got last year, a GMing book, a few miniatures, the dice cup I've been after for a couple of years, and some Gen Con 2013 swag.

Detailed list below, which is mostly for my own benefit, but you can check it out if you really want.

Gen Con 2013 Report

The big, bold, headline highlight from Gen Con 2013 would be, "Shadows of Esteren Is Awesome!" The subtitle would be, "I wish Desi had been able to share it with me."

Shadows of Esteren
Shadows of Esteren is a dark, gritty, role playing game with elements of horror, steampunk, and Mideval fantasy. It's a new game, or at least the English translation is new, and it wound up winning a bunch of awards Friday night. When I bought the first book Friday afternoon, however, I'd never heard of it. I bought Book 0-Prologue on a whim because the vendor put another book I bought in this great big bag, and I felt like I had to get something else. Less than an hour later I'd gotten all three books, the Game Leader Kit and the set of map tiles that went with the intro adventure.

When I came back for my book, they invited me behind the table for this photo op. The guy next to me is the lead developer and the guy in the foreground is the lead illustrator.
The Shadows of Esteren booth after ENnies

You see, just around the corner from where I'd bought the first book I found the booth with the whole Shadows of Esteren team talking to people. These were the authors, illustrators, artists, designers and translators. They are all French, and only one of them spoke decent English. I talked to him first. He explained the whole thing to me through a thick French accent, but I got the gist. As he talked I grew convinced Desi would love this game. He described it as a mashup of Game of Thrones, steampunk, and Lovecraft. Perfect.

My table for Shadows of Esteren
I bought it all up, and set out to find someone running it. By some miracle I managed to get into a game Saturday afternoon even though the ENnies had elevated its profile and there were a bunch of generic-holding players in line ahead of me. It was even more luck that I got what turned out to be the best possible GM (called a Game Leader in SoE). The adventure was scary, paranoia-inducing, and atmospheric, drawing on Alfred Hitchcock for inspiration. One of our party nearly lost an eye to the birds. It also had cultists that you might find in a Call of Cthulhu scenario. It was every bit what the creators promised. Not only was Amanda Stewart, the game leader, spectacular, so too were the other players at the table. We actually did some role playing and played our characters, and I think we all did it well. SoE is a high lethality game, and none of our characters died, which was as good as a win. 

Original art and inscriptions from the creators of the game.
To top it all off, I left book 1 with the SoE team overnight and when I picked it up the next day the illustrator had drawn some original art on the inside title page and everyone had signed it. I now have a one-of-a-kind copy of the game.

Will Call area Wednesday evening
Beyond SoE, however, Gen Con was a decidedly mixed bag for me this year. On the one hand, I did something I never do--the whole "shop 'till you drop" thing--which you can tell just by looking the rundown of loot. I brought home more stuff than I have ever done. On the other hand, Desi wasn't there. Desi's doctor said the noise and stimuli of Gen Con would be too much too soon after her concussion, so she couldn't go. It figures that the one time Desi gets all of the craft-type activities she wanted, a couple of which she's wanted to do for years, is the one she has to cancel. We got a refund on the event tickets, but the $74 badge was non-refundable at that point. Bummer.

One of my Shadowrun games
Desi's special activities were just about the only thing we had luck getting when registration opened. I got one ticket to one Shadowrun CMP event, and that was it. On the other hand, we (it was still we, then) got our ideal hotel, the Downtown Marriott. Having that hotel is just soooo nice. I went back to the room between just about every event, before the vendor hall so I didn't need to carry my gaming equipment through cramped isles, and after the vendor hall so I didn't have to lug my (often weighty) purchases to my next game. I got to lay down on the bed in the quiet for a few minutes, and slash water on my face. Plus, and I can't stress the importance of this, I didn't have to use the public restrooms in the convention center.

Everything was like that, back and forth, good and bad in more or less equal measure.

Dealer/Vendor Exhibit

A booth Desi would have liked in the exhibit hall
A booth I liked in the exhibit hall
I spent more time in the dealer hall than ever. Every day I went for more than an hour. Each previous year we'd start off trying to see everything, and then run out of time, abandon our systematic approach, and fly around trying to find the stuff we were especially interested in seeing/visiting/getting, blowing by the rest. This year I think I finally managed to see everything there was to see in the vendor hall. 

Something Desi would want, and eventually bought virtually, through me
Since Desi wasn't there I had to shop for her. She actually did some of the shopping herself, vicariously, through me. With pictures, text messages and a couple phone conversations she picked out some things she wanted me to buy. The guys at the steam punk costume place were very nice about letting me take pictures and they got a kick out of the whole back and forth.


Limited edition of the new Shadowrun 5e rules
I didn't have but one actual ticket for an event, but I ended up playing a few games. Firstly, the Shadowrun folks worked their tails off to fit generics into pick-up games. They short scheduled every table so they would have at least one seat of overflow for generics, and they scheduled not one, but five floating GM's to build whole tables of generics. This, they said, was a lesson learned from Origins this year, and they committed to not turning any player away. 

Stephen A. Tinner, GM to the Stars, and he ran our first ever Shadowrun game. He was one of the hard-working floating GM's this year.
That was a promise they probably regretted about Friday evening. I played two games on Thursday, but the hall was loud and I wussed out of the 8:00pm slot. I played another game Friday morning, but when I went back Friday for the 8:00pm slot they were so packed to the gills that I gave my seat up to make room for a couple that had just been introduced to Shadowrun and were eager to play. They may have been able to fit us all in if I had stayed, but it would have been grim. Their portion of C Hall was just overflowing with players and the staff had this contorted expression somewhere between cheerfullness and the edge of insanity. They deserve a lot of praise. Every Catalyst Game Labs person, be they staff or volunteer, was exceedingly nice and eager to please. 

I also played 13th Age, Outbreak: Deep Space, Shadows of Esteren, and the Walking Dead board game. That was it, really. I had made plans to play Mouse Guard that fell through, I couldn't get a seat at Star Wars: Edge of the Empire, couldn't catch drop ship into a Battletech Grinder. If I hadn't been so focused on shopping I could have played more demos in the dealer hall, and I particularly regret not taking the time to play the Battletech: Alpha Strike.

13th Age is a good game. It has good mechanics and a decent setting. I love the story-based character building aspect. However, for me it's just too much of yet another fantasy RPG. There anything so compelling about it that I would spend money on it. I can see a disgruntled Pathfinder or D&D player taking it up, though.

Christopher De La Rosa, author of Outbreak: Undead
Outbreak: Deep Space is an expansion to the Outbreak: Undead RPG. I had hopes of getting into the Outbreak: Undead game one table over, but they were full up with people holding actual tickets. Deep Space is an interesting game, and it's kind of in beta, sort of, which I guess is why the author and creator of Outbreak was our GM. That was really awesome! I only wish I'd been playing with better players. The guy on my right was a complete spazz who'd never played any RPG but Pathfinder.  Not particularly swift, he just couldn't grasp some of the mechanics and none of the spirit of the game. Plus he kept saying that he was a technical sort of player, which was patently untrue and made his assertions grating. Add to that some truly horrible luck on the dice, and the session was a grind. I want to play the game again because that wasn't a fair trial. 

Playing Shadows of Esteren was by far the best experience I had at this year's Gen Con. I hope Desi and I get a chance to play it together next year.

Detailed List

Squishable Cthulhu
12x Monsterpocalypse boosters
          - 4 of unit and monster boosters from Rise, and 
          - 2 ea. from I Chomp NY.
Q-workshop tan suede dragon dice cup
Dust Tactics P-48 Pellican
Dust Tactics Horton HO-347
Dust Tactics Operation "Icarus" Campaign Expansion
Gen Con Rolling Bag/Backpack
2x Shadowrun laser etched clipboards
Battletech laser etched clipboard
Odyssey; The Complete Game Master's Guide to Campaign Management
Outbreak: Undead (RPG game core rulebook)
Outbreak: Undead Gamemaster's Companion
Outbreak: Undead Game Master's Screen
Shadows of Esteren RPG printed FAQ
Shadows of Esteren RPG Book-0, Prologue
Shadows of Esteren RPG Book-1, Universe
Shadows of Esteren RPG Book-2, Travels
Shadows of Esteren RPG Game Leader Kit
Shadows of Esteren RPG Loch Varn Tiles
Star Wars: Edge of the Empire RPG Beginner Game box set
Star Wars: Edge of the Empire RPG Game Master's Kit
Star Wars: Edge of the Empire RPG Roleplay Dice
Call of Cthulhu 7th Edition Quick-Start Rules
Monsterpocalypse I Chomp NY Strategy Guide
Battletech: A Time of War RPG Limited Edition Game Master's Screen
Battletech: A Time of War RPG Quick-Start Rules
Battletech: A Time of War RPG Companion rulebook supplement
Battletech Hexpack: Mountains and Canyons
Battletech Hexpack: Volcano
Shadowrun 5th Edition Limited Edition core rulebook
Shadowrun "Everything Has a Price" poster
Shadowrun 5e Quick-Start Rules
Pathfinder Flip-Mat: Watch Station     
Pathfinder Flip-Mat: Battlefield                   
GameMastery Chase Cards Deck (PFRPG)                   
GameMastery Flip-Mat: Pirate Island Print Edition                   
GameMastery Flip-Mat: Country Inn                   
GameMastery Flip-Mat: Urban Tavern Print Edition                   
Pathfinder Dice Set: Curse of the Crimson Throne                   
Pathfinder Dice Set: Legacy of Fire                   
Pathfinder Dice Set: Kingmaker                   
Pathfinder Dice Set: Serpent's Skull                   
Pathfinder Dice Set: Carrion Crown                   
4x Pathfinder Battles—Builder Series: We Be Goblins Pack
A Game of Thrones CCG Iron Throne Edition Legacy Pack
A Game of Thrones CCG Valyrian Edition Starter Pack
A Game of Thrones CCG Ice and Fire Premium Starter Set
A Game of Thrones LCG Defenders of the North, The Wildling Horde Chapter Pack
A Game of Thrones LCG Defenders of the North, A King in the North Chapter Pack
Call of Cthulhu LCG Sleep of the Dead Asylum Pack
Call of Cthulhu LCG Bag of Cthulhu
Battletech Behemoth Hvy. Tank
Battletech Jagatai
Gen Con 2013 2XL Dragon T-Shirt
Gen Con 2013 2XL Orc T-Shirt
Gen Con 2013 L Dragon Hoodie
Battletech 2XL Black T-Shirt
"Your Zombie Survival Plan Will Fail" woman's T-Shirt
Shadowrun Purple Cinch Bag
Steampunk derringer set
Steampunk twin knife garter holster and knives
Steampunk working wrist sun dial and compass
Steampunk goggles
Steampunk nautical spyglass
Steampunk leather gloves and holder
12x Hirst Arts Molds
2x samples of Merlin's Magic pourable castle stone
3x iron on patches (2 Cthulu, 1 Shadowrun)
Gen Con 2013 Commemorative Dice Set
Set of 4 tentacle miniatures
Bag of bulk dice (hand-picked coffee mug)
Pathfinder goblin promo mini
Pathfinder 2013 pin
Catalyst Game Labs pencil
Gen Con badge holder and 4-day badge

Pathfinder Subscription Picked Up
-Pathfinder Pawns Bestiary 2 Box
-Pathfinder Adventure Path, The Worldwound Incursion
-Pathfinder Player Companion, Demon Hunter's Handbook
-Pathfinder Campaign Setting, Demons Revisited
-Pathfinder Player Companion, Faiths & Philosophies
-Pathfinder Core Rulebook, Mythic Adventures


81 d4's
23 d6's
14 d8's
118 dice total

Hirst Arts Molds

57, 58, 59, 221, 272, 301, 302, 326, 327, 328, 329, 330

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Loot! The Gen Con 2012 Report

For some reason I posted this to Facebook last year, but it didn't make it to the blog. 


1. Cyberpunk Chrome rulebook (won at Basic D&D event)
2. Paranoia Big Book of Bots (bought for $1 as they were closing up)
3. Starfleet Academy fiction (won at Paranoia Trek event)
4. Kevin's d6 dice for Shadowrun
5. Dust Tactics Terrain Tile Set
6. Chessex Megamat, factory second (grid not aligned to edges)
7. Shadowrun T-shirt (we each got one)
8. Shadowrun: Runner's Black Book (signed by author)
9. Shadowrun: Core Rulebook
10. Shadowrun: Aresenal
11. Shadowrun: Street Magic
A. Gen Con 2012 t-shirts (Desi got hers, mine had to be ordered.)
B. "Cupcakes: They're what our brains taste like to zombies!" t-shirt for Desi
C. Cyberpunk hat for Desi
D. Dust Tactics expansions: Luther medium Panzer walker, Hot Dog medium assault walker, Laser Grenadiers squad, Red Devils squad.
E. Monsterpocalypse boosters (monsters and units, 4 each, I Chomp NY and Rise)
F. Battletech reference tables assortment
G. Hirst Arts molds (10)
H. Shadowrunner's Toolkit
I. Call of Cthulu Roleplaying Game (published 1999; Desi won for best roleplaying)
J. Call of Cthulu LCG (living card game)
K. Dice from a random pitcher scoop (388 dice)
L. "True Dungeon Survivor" pin
M. Red, small, d6's for Shadowrun
N. Cthulu LCG expansion packs (2)
O. Pathfinder Minitures Black Dragon (the only thing I got at the Paizo booth)
P. Commemorative Gen Con 2012 dice set (Desi had to run to get them, two sets)
Q. Shadowrun dice for Desi
R. D&D Minis assortment from Cool Stuff Inc.
S. Industrial strength superglue
T. Dice bags for Desi (one for Shadowrun d6's, one for general dice)
U. Wrap around skirt for Desi
V. Rose tinted round glasses for Kevin's cyberpunk costume
W. Battletech minis from Iron Wind Metals
X. Shadowrun Doc Wagon T-shirt for Desi
Y. True Dungeon tokens
Z. Battletech terrain tiles, Cities and Roads & Lakes and Rivers

Facebook Post

Got back from Gen Con 2012 yesterday and today shot the picture of the treasure hoard we hauled home. Gen Con was a lot of fun this year, in spite of Desi having and giving me a cold!

In summary: we survived the Wed. event/day I planned relatively unscathed, played the Shadowrun intro (great!), then "You Too Can Cathulu" (Desi won book for best roleplaying), Paranoia Trek XI: Reboot to the Head! (sang Journey song sock puppet karaoke as Lt. Warf), Dust Tactics (learned a bit), Pathfinder Society Special (kinda sucked), Vampire the Masquerade (Desi walked out, almost wished I had), Basic D&D in a monk brewery taken over by frog-people (fun!), True Dungeon (a lot of fun, but too expensive), and on our last day we went back for some more Shadowrun. It's our new favorite game. The GM we had was just awesome.

Glad we're home. Both rested up today and good to go. Thanks to Liz McKenna and Susan Faragher Bannon for their help with the pets while we were gone.

Hirst Arts

53, 60, 65, 66, 202, 250, 270, 300, 320, 321

Dice scoop

d20: 114
d12: 50
d10: 115 (1/10:96/18)
d8: 35
d6: 64
d4: 10

D&D Minis

Taer x3
Standard bearer
Medium Silver Deagon
Dire ape
Agent Cacalry
Bullywug Thug
Guard of Mithral Hall
Displacer Serpent


Chevalier Light Tank
Davion Infantry
Innersphere Battle Armor
Madcat II
Night Wolf Mech
Dragon Fire
CPLT-C4 Catapult
Uziel Mech
Rommel/Patton Tank
KGC-000 King Crab
Condor Hvy Hover Tank

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

On 3D Printed Guns

Dear Rachel Maddow and Staff:

Tonight's story about gun control, and the 3D printer component in particular, were interesting, but I have a lot of questions that perhaps you can explore in future discussions on the subject.

First, a correction: only the 3D printer you showed, a Makerbot Replicator 2, costs thousands of dollars. Saying they cost thousands of dollars or more is misleading. You can buy fully assembled and ready-to-use 3D printers for as little as $500. Most models on the market today, kit-wise at least, cost somewhere between $800 and $1,200. I can build a RepRap, which is a printer that makes most of the parts you need to make another printer, for around $400. And it's not like it was hard to do--I just followed the recipe there on the Internet, free to all.

I'm a teacher at an art school who teaches 3D printing and design, and so a lot of people--including my mother-in-law--have been talking to me lately about 3D printed guns, as you might imagine, so I've been giving it a lot of thought. So far I've tended to react in these discussions with my own questions, which I do sincerely wish will soon get some public consideration. They nibble around the edges of the BIG question, which is, how should society respond to the progress of technology itself?

1) Do you know that a 14 year old built a nuclear reactor in his garage? And if it's possible for a 14 year old genius to teach himself to do that, and do it without institutional resources, how much dumber can a 20 year old be and still get the same result? How about at 30?

2) Did you know there are hundreds of amateur bio-labs in the U.S.? Those are just the registered ones.

3) Do you have any idea what people are doing with home-built autonomous flying drones? How long until someone hooks a pipe bomb up to one (or a dozen) of those and flies them into a crowd five kilometers away?

4) So, if we're worried about crazy people using powerful weapons to commit heinous crimes, what do we do about the crazy people who will be building their own robotic, chemical, biological or even nuclear (dirty or thermonuclear, you pick) weapons in their basements?

Isn't the real problem not the availability of any particular technology or machine, but rather the availability and free exchange of information? To quote a favorite movie, "You can't stop the signal, Mel." The kid could build a nuclear reactor in his garage because of the Internet. Aspiring bio-engineers can learn just about everything they need to cook up lethal bacteria on YouTube. People with a common interest can find each other and collaborate from opposite sides of the globe, whether that interest is baseball cards or DIY rocket guidance systems. And you can't stop the signal.

The central thesis of your show's introductory essay tonight was, if I understood correctly, that people who think that a problem like gun control is impossible to address--even given a sticky wicket like 3D printed guns--are wrong because circumstances change and where there's a will there's a way. Perhaps that's true in the limited sense that for any single given societal problem there will eventually be a policy solution. That philosophy, however, neglects entirely one hell of a big paradox. 

It can take just one person to make a thing. It takes at least two people to have a culture of making a thing. It takes at least three people to make a law about the thing. The more people you have in the system, the slower the response. Information technology increases productivity in inverse proportion to the size of the system, so individuals can make bigger and better things, and spread the culture of making those things faster than a society can devise rules to govern the things individuals are making, and are being propagated by culture. By the time you have a rule for one thing, a dozen new things have popped up and need rules, and the knowledge of the things are already out there, being shared, multiplied, mutated.

As Ray Kurzweil (who was just hired by Google to build the world's first artificial intelligence, by the way) says, the pace of technology's progress is accelerating exponentially. If I'm right in my previous formulation, that means that the gap between innovation and effective societal response is growing exponentially too.

In short, we're fucked.

Because it's just a matter of time before it becomes trivial for an amateur to cook up some nerve gas in their basement and set off the canisters in some subways. Meanwhile we may have finally come up with some way to keep crazy people from printing up their own guns and going on a killing spree. Yay us!


If that seems kind of out there then let's address the problem of 3D printed guns directly:

How do you even approach regulation to prevent it? Are there any conceivable ways to get in at the issue at all? Isn't 3D printing a gun a different kind of problem altogether from any other problem we've had, not just in scope, but as an entirely different paradigm? Consider the following issues:

1) Short of a true AI, can you create a computer algorithm that will recognize the shape of all objects--however novel--that could be used as components to make a weapon? Ask a computer scientist. 

2) Even if there were such a program, how would you require all computers to analyze all potential 3D models to filter and recognize such objects? How do you prevent programmers from creating and surreptitiously sharing programs that circumvent the filter, or hobbyists who engineer computers from components or first principals so they don't obey the regulation at all? You'd have to hard-wire the filter into every computer chip allowed into the country, wouldn't you? Can we do that? Even so, won't we eventually have the capacity to personally design and manufacture our own chips?

3) Is it possible to prevent amateurs from creating their own designs (of whatever,) allowing only professionally produced and regulated models printed on 3D printers? How? Perhaps more importantly, do we want to, since it will come at the cost of so much innovation and progress?

4) Do we limit the sale and possession of 3D printers only to select, authorized, industrial, and regulated/monitored users? 

5) What is a practical, effective method or mechanism for preventing hobbyists from engineering and building their own 3D printers, which are after all, built using readily available consumer goods as materials.

I understand that 3D printed guns are a salacious, irresistible topic. It's a very sexy story. Beyond the gratuitousness, though, what is there really? Why worry about "weapons" instead of the "crazy" part of "crazy people using weapons" problem? Not to put too fine a point on it, but where does it take us--whom does it benefit. 

Considering the response of the music industry to the invention of the MP3, it is not too conspiratorial to suggest that patent holders are clear beneficiaries of stories that stoke fears about 3D printed guns. 3D printers break 600 years of patent law--they overturn the whole idea of the patent as a mechanism for the preservation and cultivation of wealth. 3D printers, and the whole micro-manufacturing movement in fact, threaten the last relatively safe domain of intellectual property, the making of physical goods. If you look deeply enough you see that the technology coming on line now challenges nothing less than…well...all of commerce. They disrupt scarcity itself. How can any economy function without scarcity. It can't. That freaks some people out.

Personally, I can't wait.

Sunday, July 01, 2012

Three Little RPi, All in a Row

My 3 Pi + 0.14159265 for the case.

element14 delivered my third and last --for now-- Raspberry Pi. Now it's time to get down and dirty with the experiments.

What I've learned so far is that the audio is a challenge to set up. Some HDMI displays need a little help, and that when it comes to video, the hardware is willing, but the software is weak.

As you can see I found a case I could print on the RepRap, though it took me a few tries with adjustments to the scad file to get it to fit right.

The Raspberry Pi community is coming through with some awesome support, notably a fan magazine called MagPi. They're working on their third issue already.

My next objective is to do something with the GPIO pins. The MagPi is going to help out there since its the subject of a lengthy article in the 2nd issue.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Saturday, June 09, 2012

Thoughts for ArtServe Interview

Computer interface in a shoe box.

Today I had an interview with Jennifer Baum, a writer for ArtServe Michigan. They're doing an article on the Kalamazoo Makers Guild meetup group. In preparation for our discussion Jennifer was kind enough to supply me with some topics we might discuss and I jotted down some notes while I thought about what I would say. Here are those notes and roughly what I said.
About Kalamazoo Makers Guild...

The Kalamazoo Maker's Guild is a group of people interested in DIY technology, science and design. We more or less pattern ourselves after the Homebrew Computer Club that founded Silicon Valley. Like them, our members tend to have some background in a related profession, but that's by no means a prerequisite. This group is about the things we do for fun, because they interest us, and anybody can be interested in making stuff. We meet every couple of months, report on the status of our various projects and sometimes listen to a presentation or hold an ad hoc roundtable on a topic that catches our interest. "Probably the most useful aspect of the group is that you start to feel accountable to the other members of the group and you're motivated to make progress on your project before the next meeting."

How did it get started...

When I gave up my web design business I ended the professional graphic design association I'd formed on, and then I had room on the service to start another group. MAKE magazine had really caught my attention. I did a few projects from the magazine and thought it would be fun and helpful to know other people who were working on the same kinds of things. The group didn't get going, though, until about 8 months ago when Al Hollaway from the       posted to an online forum about RepRap 3D printers at the same time I was building one. He wanted to meet and talk about RepRap. I told him about my Meetup group. We joined forces and here we are. is a great web site because it's a web service that's all about meeting people nearby in person to share a common interest.

About membership and kinds of projects ...

The group is growing steadily now. We have twenty something members and we're seeing membership tick up at an increasing rate month to month. We have a high school student who is working designing assistive devices for the blind using sonic rangefinders, one member who last meeting showed off a prototype of computer interface built into a shoe box, and another member is on the verge of completing a working DIY Segway (the self-balancing scooter) made using a pair of battery-powered drills for motors. Al should be done with his RepRap 3D printer and I've just finished my 2nd. At least two other members are in some stage of building their own 3D printers. I'm building both a laser etcher and a 3D scanner right now, and I'm excited to start playing with the products of a couple Kickstarter projects I've backed. There are a few of us about to start building CNC milling machines, and there's been a lot of excitement in the group around the brand new, hard-to-get Raspberry Pi (a $25 computer.) Almost all the members so far have dabbled in a bit of Arduino hacking. One member is designing a flame thrower for Burning Man. Another is making a calibration device for voltage meters. So, there's a range of things going on.

Where do I see this headed....

Our approach to this group has been to learn from the mistakes other groups have made. All of the other groups I've seen in Kalamazoo start out with facilities and try to bring in members to support and justify it. Getting people to work on actual projects that interest them is something that comes later down the road. It's the, "if you build it they will come" approach. Those groups quickly get into trouble managing the building and funding, and they go away. We're coming at it from the opposite direction. We're gathering together a community of makers first, people who are already doing things on their own. Once we reach a tipping point then we'll worry about the next step, like getting a hackerspace put together. That kind of bottom-up approach is, I think, much more sustainable and durable, and it fits in with our modern culture (particularly in the maker subculture.)  It was good enough for Homebrew, so it's good enough for us.

About impact...

Silicon Valley came out of a group like this, so the potential is there for us to have a big impact on the community. Being a college town we have access to a lot of smart people, and Kalamazoo has a strong progressive, energetic, entrepreneurial vibe going on. I think what's more likely, though, is that we will have an impact in aggregate with all the other makers--groups and individuals--around the globe.

"Makers aren't just hacking new technologies, we're hacking a new economy. We're trying to figure out how to live in a world without scarcity."

The unsung official slogan of the RepRap project is, "wealth without money."

I don't know that another story like Apple is likely to happen again. Steve Jobs relied on a very traditional, very closed model for his business, as did most of the people of that era who went on to make a name for themselves in technology. The ethos of that time was centered around coming up with a big idea and capitalizing on that idea to the exclusion of the competition. It's interesting that even then this view was at odds with that of his partner, Steve Wozniak, who was content to build computers in his garage and share what he learned with his friends at Homebrew. In this way Wozniak was much more like the modern maker/hacker and is probably one of this hobby's forefathers.

Makers/hackers today are all about open-ness and sharing -- not in a hippy, touchy-feely kind of way, but in a calculated way that weighs the costs and benefits of being open verses closed. The success of Linux and the ever increasing number of open source software, and now hardware, projects has proven that there's enormous power in being open. "We tend to think that's the way to change the world."

About the Maker Movement....

I know there are a lot of people who are keen to talk about the "maker movement" but I'm not so sure that I would characterize it as a movement. If it is, then it started in the 60's with people like my dad who were HAM radio enthusiasts and tinkered around with making their own radios and antennas. I think that what we're observing and calling a movement is really an artifact of reaching the steep part of Moore's Law. Ray Kurzweil is famous for talking about this phenomenon. The pace of advances in technology is itself accelerating, it's exponential, and moving so fast now that if you're not paying close attention things seem to pop out of nowhere. For makers, technology has reached a point where Moore's Law has forced down prices and increased the availability of things that just a few years ago were far out of reach. We're just taking those things and running with it. In effect, we're just the people paying close attention.

About me...

I started college in the engineering program at WMU, but I couldn't hack it and dropped out. I went back to community college and got a degree in graphic design. In my professional life I've been paid to be a web designer, photographer, videographer, IT manager, technical document writer, photo lab manager, artist, and I've even been paid to be a poet. For fun I do all those things and also play guitar, peck at a piano, and watch physics and math lectures from the MIT OpenCourseWare web site, do exercises on Khan Academy, play board games and roleplaying games, and commit acts of crafting -- woodworking and model making. For work, I now teach at the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts. I've taught web design, digital illustration and this fall I'll be teaching classes in 3D modeling and 3D printing with the RepRap 3D printer I have on loan there. I live near downtown Kalamazoo with my wife and many pets, including a 23 year old African Grey parrot named KoKo.

Post interview notes...

I mentioned SoliDoodle, the fully assembled, $500 3D printer. The big hackerspace in Detroit is called i3detroit. Also, Chicago has Pumping Station: One. I'm on the forums for both and will be visiting each this summer. The presentation about 3D scanning we had was from Mike Spray of Laser Abilities. You can actually see the entire presentation on my YouTube channel. Thingiverse was the web site that I kept going on about where you can find 3D designs for printing.