One year ago today my degree was officially awarded and I realized that finally, after six years of work, I had something to show for it. That all that work actually had amounted to something and couldn’t be taken away from me at that point. For the last week I’ve been thinking that I would sit down today and reflect on the last year and check it with how I felt then versus how I feel now, but honestly, I also kind of don’t want to. Aside from this being the first free weekend I’ve had in five weeks (and not been so sick that I could barely leave the bed), so much of my time while getting my degree was spent thinking about the overarching nature of it, how it could be better, etc. Even though it’s been a year now, I actually still don’t think I’m ready to do that.

I now work at Magic Leap (the augmented reality headset company) as a Computer Vision Engineer specializing in 3D Reconstruction. It’s good. It’s different. The commute sucks, but other than that I love it. I’d like to write about my work here more, but I’m still figuring out what I can and can’t talk about publicly (mostly nothing!). I still struggle with imposter syndrome. I still struggle with not feeling like my work is creative enough to really call myself a “scientist.” I’m really struggling with work life balance these days. I’m good at my job though and have made some substantial contributions already even though I’ve only been there a little over three months (although two weeks of that was holidays). I’m not sure what it’ll take to one day snap me out of that.

It’s going to take a little while longer before I can really take the step back I want to be able to and objectively look at my time since my PhD. I tell people who ask that getting my PhD was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but for all the wrong reasons. That stress molded me in ways that I didn’t ever want to be molded and that’s going to take a while to undo, to reverse, to remold into something more akin to a functioning human. I’m not ready to unpack that stuff just yet.


Although some soul searching will one day be in order, a much better way to spend today I think is doing things that I love that *aren’t* science related: woodworking (which I’ve had almost no time for since starting the new gig), drawing, fun lunch, cold beer, and spending time with my wonderful girlfriend. There will be time yet to look back on the days since my degree, but I think some goddamn fun is in order first.


A letter to Reggie

Hi Reggie, 

I’ve tried to be as brief as possible, but still tell the full story.  Sorry it’s so long.  Thanks again if you take time to look at this stuff.  Happy to answer any more questions if they arise.

If you’ll permit me, it feels important to open up with a little bit of explanation about why I care so much about this.

These sorts of products use physics and science concepts coupled with fear, uncertainty, and doubt to trick and take advantage of people to sell them things that are based on misleading “facts.”  These are either outright lies, or they fail to tell or understand the full story.

I get particularly defensive about the “science” products, because this is my domain, where I have chosen to dedicate my life and work.  For me, being a scientist is no different than being a painter, musician, craftsman, artisan, or anyone who works to bring new ideas, thoughts, or creative concepts into the world.  I pour my life into it.  When that gets twisted to tell a different story, like a quote being taken out of context, I get upset.  When someone tries to use that and take advantage of others, either for money or power, it’s dangerous and scares me.  We’re seeing a lot of that these days with respect to global warming, computer security, etc.

With science, it can be especially difficult to bring true facts to light.  I don’t ever just have the full quotation I can point to to say “here, see? that’s not what I said.”  It takes compiling published resources spanning potentially decades, or designing new experiments, or building new devices.  All of this takes time and money that frankly we don’t have.  We’re underfunded and overworked as it is.  I commend your request for me to test the device, that is exactly what we should demand of science, but if I test this one device, someone will “redesign” it and make a new claim.  Am I supposed to test that one? And the one that comes after?  Who will pay for this?  I’d also encourage you to look up something call “Russel’s Teapot” discussing where the burden of proof lies.  He argues it lies with someone making a strong claim (such as one that goes against currently understood science), not on others.

Clarity of message and established facts is excruciatingly important in our current world and political climate.  It’s unfortunate, but there do have to be some gatekeepers that we just have to trust.  No one person can hold all of the knowledge any more.  In these situations, I ask that those who have dedicated their lives to the study of a field be acknowledged as the gatekeepers, rather than people pushing a product with one page of evidence supporting it.

The problems with SYB’s claims:

It’s important to remember that they are first and foremost trying to sell you a product, therefore any self-published results, as these folks have done, should *always* be taken with a grain of salt.  They also play substantially to “Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt” arguments in their literature.  The best example is by calling electromagnetic radiation a “Class 2b Carcinogen” without explaining what that means.

A class 2b carcinogen is something that is “possible carcinogen,” however there is not enough evidence to say for sure  Other “Class 2b carcinogens” are coffee, styrene, ginkgo biloba extract, diesel fuel, dry cleaning… The list is long, and most people still drink coffee on a daily basis without panicking about the carcinogenic effects.  Consider all of the new worlds that cell phone technology has opened up.  Are we going to ignore all of that?

This is a perfect example of exploiting a lack of knowledge, calling something a scary name, when really it obscures the true level of risk associated therewith.  Another good example is the dangers of “dihydrogen monoxide” ( (SPOILER: it’s just water, called something scary-sounding).

There are also no claims of human tissue protective capabilities.  Pretty important when that’s really why they’re selling this product.  Why?  If you make that sort of claim, the FDA is likely to get involved and they might require that your product become 510k cleared for use (  The burden of proof is much larger there, and it is wildly complex to conduct such a study, hence why you never see that sort of evidence brought up to sell this sort of product. 

The root of the matter:

Are radio waves safe? 

Short answer: Yes. 

Longer answer: Yes, just don’t stand next to a high-powered radio antennas.  

Radio waves physically cannot cause you the same sort of damage that ultraviolet, X-ray, or gamma radiation can.  High energy radiation (called “ionizing” radiation) damages DNA; radio waves have at least 10,000x less energy than that.  Radio waves do exactly one thing that we should pay attention to: heat water  The key here is power.  

By way of analogy, consider standing next to the PA system at a concert versus listening to your laptop speakers.  One will make you go deaf, the other won’t, the music is the same though.  There’s too much physics to go into all of the details, however here is a reference, and if you’d rather something non-governmental, here’s Boston University: ).  Ultimately, it’s all about the power, with a splash of frequency-dependence.

If you stand close to a high power radio antenna (>1000 Watts) this *can* and *does* cause unsafe, localized heating of human tissues.  I think someone brought this up in the IG comments.  I do not refute that.  Similarly, being inside of a running microwave is very very bad for tissue.  Microwaves are similar in photon energy to radio waves, and the way that they work is by using that localized heating.  However most microwave emitters are ~700-1000 watts, and the food sits directly next to them.  

If you’re at all far away (a 1/2-1 football field is more than plenty) from a high-powered radio source though, you’re fine. 

Cell phones use very low power transmitters, between 0.6 (typical) and 3 watts (if the cell phone is far away from the nearest antennae) (source: UC Santa Barbara,  This power level is far below the thresholds given in the FCC guidelines and the Boston University sources. Just the motion of all your cells and blood and muscles will dissipate any thermal energy.  In fact, using your muscles will probably heat things up more than these power levels will.  There’s not danger here.

Do these cell phone cases shield you from RF? 

Yes.  Sort of.  From one, tiny, low-powered RF source in your pocket or purse.  And the one in question only shields in one direction.  What about all of the other sources of radiation?  Most aren't dangerous, but they are there.  No one is shielding themselves from those. 

Flip your keyboard over and you’ll see a little FCC logo.  This means it has been through testing and complies with emissions regulations.  So too does your cell phone.  It also doesn’t mean *anything* regarding a devices health benefits.

To wrap up

This isn’t necessarily a clean, easily digestible list of reasons or sources for why these devices don’t work. I apologize that that doesn’t exist.  I could outline what would go into a well-controlled test of this (it's challenging), however this has gone on too long already.  Maybe I will work to put together a little youtube study or something that allows us to show this using some steaks or something.  :-)  Again, it's not that these devices don't *shield* it's that they're shielding you from something that can't hurt you, and trying to take your money in the process.  And they mislead people in order to sell those products.

If you’ve made it this far, I appreciate it.  This has been a pretty surreal night for me writing this up.  Please don’t hesitate to contact me if there’s anything else.  


Kino74 "Restorations" Have Begun In Earnest... and a PhD!


Welp, it's happened: I've defended and filed for my PhD.  Now I'm just waiting for the the final "ok" check boxes to be clicked and I'll officially be a doctor!  Woohoo!

To be honest, it really hasn't hit me at all yet.  It's been such a long road, and even the last few days of dotting "i"s and crossing "t"s have been long and non-trivial.  But slowly and amorphously it's taking shape.  Thank God, too.  I'm not sure how much longer I could've gone on as a PhD student.  It's utterly exhausting.  I'm glad that this was the path that I've pursued, but would never EVER fault anyone for not going this route.

More fun though is that I've begun the work of getting the Kino74 back up and running and hopefully I'm going to make a few improvements along the way.  The first thing to work on is rewiring things with a focus on making sure things are neat, clean, and not too dense.  While the initial wiring worked ok, it just was never quite as nice as I wanted it to be.  I used pre-cut jumper wires that always left extra wire sticking out, and after looking at all of these other projects that look so nice a neat, I think that would be a good first goal. 


I started with the register board, pulling all of the wires out (truthfully, a little bit painful) until I was down to just the chips and then finally the bare board.  I wanted to see if I could lay things out a little bit more efficiently and structure everything around a more central bus, rather than having the bus running down one side of the board.  I rewired up the program counter and a 555-based clock signal to kick things off.


After a lot of fussing, I arrived at an organization that I didn't hate, and managed to fit all of the key registers onto one board. I'm using yellow wire for "data" lines (also for addressing).  


After a lot of measuring and stripping wires, I managed to hook everything up, however after some initial testing I'm realizing that something is quite deeply wrong with what I've done. Haha.  Like, it's real bad.  I've been a little too preoccupied with PhD stuff over the last couple of weeks to do much more than test a couple of pins on each chip, get really flustered, and then give up for the night, but hopefully now that the major life stuff is out of the way and I have a couple of weeks of vacation I'll be able to sit down and somewhat more patiently go through element by element to try and diagnose exactly what is happening.  

Tonight I finally got to work with my Teensy 3.2 that I picked up probably a little over a year ago.  I'm going to build a rudimentary logic analyzer.  Hopefully by carefully pulling the registers out of the board one-by-one I can track down the source of my grief.  I'll use the teensy to monitor the bus lines while I debug.  I'd like to eventually set it up so that the teensy can capture a trace and store it for later download (complete with a clock-based trigger, and reset, etc.).  While not fast enough for general usage as a logic analyzer or oscilloscope, the Teensy should be pleeeenty fast for debugging this machine.  I've decided that instead of trying to get it all programmed up front, I'm going to just work on developing the little logic analyzer as I go, and as I find I need more functionality.


Anyways.  Gonna try and keep things up to date here a little bit better and post progress on the debugging and improvement of the Kino74!






The Heat Makes Everybody Crazy

First, a shout out to Cole T for calling me on not writing!  Thank you, and I am still alive indeed.  If it somehow makes it any better, I’ve been *thinking* that I really need to write something.  I do have to pay for this website and if it just sits here dormant, it’s not really doing anyone a whole lot of good.  

Part (MOST) of the delay has been that I’m in super end-game mode for my PhD, which occupies a fair bit of my time even outside of work hours. Then, when I’m not working in any capacity I’m trying to de-stress via woodwork or people or other things that aren’t always conducive to sitting down and writing for an hour.  It takes a fair bit of energy to put together something (hopefully) worth reading.  At the very least it takes that long to put together something that I feel like posting.

In the time between I’ve been slowing withering away to nothing due to the heat here in LA (it’s 90 degrees in my apartment as I write this, and it’s 6PM), stressing about my dissertation and the overbearing requests of my committee members (really just one), and woodworking.  While I could gripe for hours about the first two, I already have blood pressure spikes throughout the day regarding those two things, so I’ll talk about the latter.  

I really love woodworking.  I’m definitely not the best, and there’s a lot lot LOT that I still have to learn, but right now it’s the one thing that completely pulls me out of all the bullshit and dials me in to the work.  Nothing else really does that for me when I’m by myself.  In fact, the better part of my kitchen space right now is dedicated to it, despite the fact that I only have about 350-400 square feet or so.  I’ve posted a few pieces that I’ve built before such as the Beth bookshelf, the cantilever half bookshelf made out of the same wood as Beth’s shelf, sculptures, my little writing desk, and finally, the very first thing that I ever built that I would consider “woodworking”, my dining room table.  There are a few more things, but that's all I care to dig for right now.

I’ve made a fair bit since then though, but scaled-down because of the space that I have to work in.  

Small no?  The big black toolbox is now gone, so that helped a little bit. Still small.

I finished the cantilevered sister shelf to Beth’s shelf, which I finished this back at my old apartment:

The slab on top was the end piece of the giant 7-8' slab I took from for Beth's bookshelf

I moved, so I needed to make a new workbench:

New mini portable work bench.

and tool rack:

Adam Savage style rolling tool rack

and lumber/wood caddy:

Just banged this out a little under a week ago.  Sheets of stuff (plywood, MDF, etc.) go on the back and smaller stuff goes in the bins. Helps out immensely with all that bullshit you see in the background.

I met Nick Offerman and got to show him the bookshelves I made.  They were at least in part inspired by his “Nakashima table”:

He made a joke to me that I didn't get because I was so nervous.

I’ve made some boxes that ended up as anniversary gifts for my parents:

Bookmatched boxes for Mom and Dad.

A coat rack/shelf also for Beth:

This one is tough to photograph. It's a cool joint that holds them together that I then doweled in for a permanent fit.

and most recently got to fool around a bit with kumiko:

Square asa-no-ha pattern.  

Dunno what this one is called, but ended up on the front of the cabinet in the next photo

and built a cabinet for… you get one guess… Beth!

I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with this piece, but now that it's done, more love than hate.  Definitely would change a couple of design things if I had another go, but I'll do it on the next one.

My latest thing, which was a very quick thing, was a sliding dovetail holder for my sharpening stones so that they can sit over the sink.


I’ve also designed a dining room table for Jack and Floramae, but won’t have time to execute it until I’m done with my PhD.



There are a few more things on the docket for right now, but they’re mainly things to help me get all of my woodworking stuff a little bit more in order.  I also have done a lot of stuff recently that focuses on exposed joinery, where you can see how two pieces of wood are connected because one board pokes through another, but I think I’m going to dial this back a little bit a really concentrate on (1) the quality of the joinery and (2) only exposing the joinery where it really adds to the piece.  

To me, it seems like there’s a little bit of a trend in woodworking to push any one cool idea to its maximum and I don’t like that.  For instance, if you like rustic furniture, suddenly every single thing you make just looks like a  branch that *maybe* had the bark shaved off and a coat of shellac thrown on.  Or if you like joinery, suddenly every tabletop has 40 dovetail keys and 20 through tenons exposed.  Troll around Instagram for a hot second and you’ll see what I mean.  Now, I really love woodworking and am probably guilty of both the things I just named, however I really want to be thoughtful in the things that I make and above all want to make well-made, precise and conscientious things that people enjoy having in their lives.  I think a few people are really nailing this right now and I highly recommend you check them out.

  1. Mike Pekovich -
  2. Brian P Holcombe -
  3. Matt Kenney -
  4. Blank Woodwork -

They also have excellent Instagram pages that shouldn’t be too hard for you to find if you just google “instagram” after their name.  There are tons more that I’m leaving out, but these are the four I consistently find myself coming back to and can’t stop looking at.  There’s obviously a little bit of a trend in the fact that all of these folks incorporate varying levels of japanese woodworking into their projects.  That’s not an accident, but it’s a post for another time.  

Hope everyone is doing well. 



P.S. This is Beth, basically my “wealthy” patron at this point (and by wealthy, I mean the one person currently paying me for my woodwork):

<3 <3 <3

(This is also probably my favorite picture from the last year of my absence)

The First Kino 74 Update in... 3 Years?

I was recently invited to bring the Kino 74 to the bay area to display it at the Vintage Computer Festival West (  While this was totally flattering and I would have loved to have gone, DefCon was right at the same time and I didn't actually get the note left in my guestbook until about a month after it was left and too late to make any different plans (not that I would ever EVER skip DefCon).

If I were going to display the thing, I would have loved to do a bit a cleanup and make it a little more presentable... and maybe kinda sorta make sure that it still works? That might be a good idea...  A week ago I pulled it out and fired it up for the first time in maybe two years and sadly, the day I always sort of expected as has arrived: my microcomputer has gone down. :-(

Ugh. I made this video, but so very much loathe hearing my own voice.

The Problem:

It's not utterly ruined or anything and still blinks lots of lights roughly in some sort of pattern, but it's not decoding instructions properly, a couple of LED wires for the front panel having broken loose of their solder joints.  I've also remembered just how horrible it is to program that thing.

The biggest design flaw in the computer, and believe me there are many, is that in its current form I can't realistically take it apart to fix these ultimately minor issues.  It's the equivalent of having to pull the whole engine out of your car just to change the oil, replace the wiper fluid or fix the brakes. Anything that's as cobbled together as this machine is will need a tune-up every one in a while so it'd be a shame to have to basically completely disassemble everything (short of pulling the chips off of the breadboards) every time it needed a tweak here and there.

I've fixed a couple of minor things before (or just ignored them), but this is the first time that the execution of the program is no longer working (i.e. instructions and data are not being properly handled), so something a little more deep-seated has gone wrong.  I've looked the thing over as best as I can without tearing into it and the one thing I spotted did not resolve my issues.  So it's time to talk pulling everything apart for the first time since it first went together!

The Plan:

In the coming months I'm going to detach each of the boards from one another, clean everything out, test all the chips and then reassemble everything presumably fixing any issues that have occurred. Great. Good plan John. We're done, right?

Unfortunately I have a move coming up (ugh) and don't want to have everything in pieces during that process, which has left me with some time to... reflect.  In my reflection it has occurred to me that this may be a good time to make some improvements in addition to fixing the current problems.

At issue is what to improve and what to leave as-is. If I'm going to keep this thing running into the future, some of these really fall under the "critical" improvements category. Other stuff is cosmetic. Finally, I'm flirting with the idea of upgrading the hardware and maybe even adding an instruction or two to make the kino 74 a little more powerful.

On the "critical" list:

(1) Boards should be interconnected via ribbon cables to facilitate future repairs.  Display also needs to be entirely removable.

(2) Much of the display wiring needs to be rerun and shielded to prevent future breakage of LED leads

(3) Diagnose and fix current execution issues


(1) I'm thinking about building a card-cage to hold the individual boards so that they can be pushed in and removed similar to how one does with RAM in a motherboard or a card in a PCI slot.  This would cover number (1) on the "critical" list as well.  You can see an example of a card cage at

(2) Build an actual enclosure.  This is largely for appearance, but also to keep out dust and curious cats with whom I share a living space (who are also perhaps the source of the current issues the Kino 74 is experiencing, but who knows...).  The front panel would then also actually become a front panel meaning I would move it to the front of whatever enclosure I built.

Possible (however somewhat unlikely) upgrades and improvements:

(1) Move everything off breadboards to more permanent perf board.

(2) Communication/programming via a modern computer over serial/usb.

(3) Default program dumped into RAM at startup via EEPROM or something.

(4) Adding JMP (jump) and STR (store) instructions.

(5) Easier programming (currently have to get the thing into Timing state 2, flip three separate switches two of which are on the back of the computer, then toggle in all addresses and instructions in binary)


The stuff that is definitely going to get done is everything on the "critical" list and likely the development of some sort of enclosure and card cage (even if not a true card cage but more like a fancy shelf for the breadboards).  This stuff is the only way I can see the Kino 74 being able to continue functioning into the future, which is very important to me.

Everything else is an "if" and a "maybe".

A lot of these "ifs" and "maybes" are weirdly integrated with one another and arguments can be made in all directions.  I DO want to avoid falling into a huge amount of "might as wells" (e.g. "while I've got the engine out, might as well replace the exhaust system and drive train...") but at the same time I definitely want to make the thing a little more usable and pretty.

Ultimately it boils down to two questions in my mind: (1) how much am I willing to change about my original design and (2) how feasible are the bigger changes (mainly monetarily-speaking)? 

For instance moving everything off breadboards onto a set of standard-sized perf boards would make building or finding a card cage significantly easier as well as reduce the size and weight of the project.  It would likely allow for the addition of the EEPROM and additional control circuitry needed to implement jump and store instructions and finally would also be easier to add ribbon cable connectors to the boards at that point and well as develop a system of communication between the Kino 74 and a modern-day laptop via some sort of serial communication.

However, the Kino 74 would be a different computer and while I'm not terribly attached to the current implementation, I think there's something to be said for keeping my first major electronics project kind of as-is.  Also the cost, both monetary and time, would be significant when I instead could be putting that into a new much more capable digital electronics project.  I can't really add enough circuitry to actually make the Kino 74 capable of doing much more than it currently does so would adding the jump and store instructions really be worth it?  Finally, there is also the challenge of it being very difficult to find affordable wire-wrap boards meaning that soldering would likely be the cheapest/best options which... woo boy. That'd be a lot of soldering.

Paring down and only doing a few of the options doesn't really make a ton of sense to me either.  If I'm going to pull all the chips off the boards and rewire the whole thing on perf boards, then it does make sense to consider expanding the Kino a bit to make programming a little more interesting and educational as well as make the usability improvements.

I sort of feel like it's a little bit all or nothing on the "improvements" list with the exception of adding the new instructions; that I could easily leave off. We'll see what I decide though.


There's a lot to think about and I don't have any great answers right now.  I think I'll gain a lot more insight into how I'm feeling once I pull the boards apart and see how things are looking.  I'll probably play around with laying things out on some different-sized perf boards and price out how much new parts would cost (mainly just sockets for all of the chips and possible upgrading the pairs of 4-bit register chips to single 8-bit register chips).

In the coming weeks I'm going to more carefully evaluate and price out the stuff on the "critical" list (mainly just adding all of the ribbon cables and connectors) and see where we are.  I may go ahead and start pulling things apart because it's somewhat hard to get a sense of just how the boards are interconnected (my schematics don't really exactly tell the details of how I wired everything).

I do seem to remember those breadboards being preeetty full without a whole room for new circuitry so it could be that to do anything will require a fair bit of redesign.  Then we're really down the rabbit hole.

Well, I already kind of am anyways with this damn project.