I remember



Back row, centre: George Foster, my grandfather. A pivotal figure in my life.

I remember every day.

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The best art changes us


On Monday, I wandered through the cold, slick autumn night to hear artist Don Miller talk. The CAFKA Rewind series of talks at WPL, piquing your curiosity between biennials, brings back CAFKA alumni to talk about their work and in Don’s case that 2014 work caused a substantial hullabaloo in town.

His quarter-acre-sized installation called Saturn and Cronus involved a takeover of two condemned houses bordering on Victoria Park and painting them (and everything) either black or white. That piece really blew my hair back when I visited the site during its creation. And therein is the TL;DR: the best art changes us. I was a slightly different person walking away from that site than I was walking into it. It was the biggest expression of art I had seen in Waterloo Region. Still is, I reckon. This big, audacious work, executed to the extreme of painting the grass, shrubs, trees, roof and discarded lawn furniture torqued my brain. “How is this possible?” I wondered as I stood between the black and white. I thought about artistic interpretations and obvious technical hurdles. I thought about the will required to see this endeavour through the small but vocal opposition and the municipal bureaucracy. And I thought about the collaboration required to figure this out. This stark illustration of the difference between an idea and a done thing.

It is this search for the best art that gets my feet on the street, dropping my nets time and again to catch and release so much and then, with luck, to find the transformational stuff. For me, this is that. And so I was delighted that Don came back to town to talk about this piece, no longer under the gun of a deadline and with the benefit of time for reflecting.

I’ve got a quasi-reasonable number of photos old and new on this if you read on, but first to Don: thanks and respect. And to all the tireless workers within the CAFKA family: thank you for the hundreds of hours you put in to bring us big work to experience and for maintaining a course that takes us out of the ordinary.

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Toronto Maker Festival 2017 coming this weekend!

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Hey WR, the very excellent Toronto Maker Festival is coming this weekend to the other end of the Waterloo Region/Toronto *maker* corridor. You should go. 9-5Sat/10-5Sun, free-no-pay, tons of hands-on making at the fantabulous Toronto Reference Library on Yonge north of Bloor. makerfestival.ca

Here are an unreasonable number of photos from last year’s event to give you a flavour of what you’ll experience and encourage you to leave your sofa and go east this weekend. A leaping high five and thank you to my meta-making pals Jen, Ceda, Eric and their crew who organize the Festival.

Above, one of my fave installations was this bike-powered pottery wheel. Many clay pots made and many muscles toned.

Click through for more…

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Community experiments in DTK

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If you know me at all, you know I love experiments. Especially social experiments.

Brohemus and I dropped by Goudies Lane in DTK on Thursday for what was billed as “First Thursday at Goudies Lane People-only Pocket”. The general idea is to limit traffic to the pedestrian kind entering the lane off Queen Street, put out some tables and chairs, get some music and painting going and see what happens. Well, the TL;DR is a lot of people passed through or hung out in the lane, chatting and eating. Together. So *that’s* a data point. And it jives with my experience that we learn way more about community building by *trying* approaches rather than *talking* about approaches. So hats off to the doers, the social innovators, the risk takers who must defend the spend on this gig. In fact, there was a lot of surveying and focus-grouping and input-getting that got us to here, but I just want to show the doing. Here’s the story from Catherine Thompson leading up to this event. Watch for the next one, first Thursday of July. In the lane.

More interesting than bistro tables or food vendors is painting on walls with spray cans, and that is what I first saw. I rarely forget a face I’ve photographed…

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and even partially hidden behind a respirator, I can tell this is Whos One. I first photographed him in the Laurier Library where he was exhibiting his work in 2015. Then last summer, I caught him painting riverside at the Cambridge International Street Art Fest. He’s part of The Firm, and you can follow their work on Instagram and Facebook. Hire them here.

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Perfect evening for casual chats.

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Grand Porch Party 2017–coming June 11 to Uptown West

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If you’re new and don’t know about The Grand Porch Party, get this in your calendar right now: Sunday, June 11, 2017 2pm-5pm in Uptown Waterloo West (more specifically: here). It’s porches + live music. It’s free-no-pay, hipster-friendly, dog-friendly, wheelchair-friendly, kid-friendly, teenager-friendly, well you get the idea. If you can, buy merch from the players. I’ve been loving this super-chill neighbourhood jam for five years now.

I dug up a few pics from *last* year so I could show you what awaits.

Here’s Rufus and Sam. Unfortunately-placed water bottles aside, these guys are the top shot for this piece because, man, they can *sing* and play. Serious talent. And here’s the hard part for you: when you find someone you really like, you’re going to be torn between sticking with them through their whole set or moving up the block to hear other artists. That three hours goes by quickly.

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I see Colin. Hey, click through for a completely reasonable 8 additional pics from last year, but most importantly, get yourself to the Grand Porch Party on June 11 and bring your friends. Big shout out to the organizers, volunteers, sponsors, porch providers and musicians who make it happen.


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Another Tri-City Stopgap art popup starts today

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What: 40 artists showing work in the back of ZM Cycle and Fitness
When: today+ Tue-Sat (see facebook for hours, I will be tending the show Wed 3:30-6pm)
Party: May 27, 2017, 7pm
Where: 131 Strange Street, Kitchener (map link)
Really where: go all the way down the right side of the building all the way to the back
Park: some parking in the **back** lot at 131, some street parking on Waverly or Cherry
Bike: Iron Horse Trail, then east on Gage, cut through school yard to Strange
Transit: #7 gets you to Park and Dominion, #31 gets you to Park+Glasgow, 23 min walk from Charles Terminal/DTK
Who: organized by Tri-City Stopgap artist collective (Mike Ambedian, Nadine Badran, Sheila McMath)
Cost: free-no-pay
Questions: tricitystopgap@hotmail.com

Here’s Mike hanging work on Saturday.

Interlude: if you dig my community-building work through these stories, please consider supporting it with your pocket change. My awesome patrons help me pay for the gear, software and services I need to get this work in front of you. Shout to new patron Tom Nagy! Ok, on with the story!


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I stopped in a bit earlier in the week on Thursday to see how things were going. Totally different venue this time, same great people making it happen.

The TL;DR: come to the party on Saturday night, 7pm. It will be fun.

The Tri-City Stopgap first did a popup show back in 2014. It was terrific. Great mix of artists and work, which I gather is sort of the point. Same deal this time. This crew attracts talent across a broad range of experience. Same deal this time. It feels like a show by artists for artists. Mike, Nadine and Sheila are just the nicest bunch of people you’ll meet. Super-chill. For me, it felt like a perfect opportunity to try out some non-representational work out of recent experiments in the studio.

Speaking recently with Mike, he noted that finding a venue and especially one owned by someone who understands the idea of a pop-up is challenging. In this case, the match up of art with cycling under one roof for a week seems like a good fit toward making the world a better place. Mike asked me if I could imagine this as an artist-run space and I told him I would always answer yes to that question, wherever we stand. If you’ve got space and would like to support a popup show, come to the party and meet the crew and see firsthand what it looks like. Then connect with tricitystopgap@hotmail.com

Click through for a few more pics…

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Open Jam at The Jazz Room

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Andriy Tikhonov (left) along with Steve Montgomery, a director with the Grand River Jazz Society and sound engineer Jeremy Bernard tried a social/musical experiment on Saturday: they hosted an open jam for jazz and blues players at The Jazz Room in uptown Waterloo. And, TL;DR: it was terrific, another one is likely, you should go.

I caught wind of this via Jason White, my jazz-playin’ brother from another mother, in a Facebook post on Wednesday. And with scant details, I showed up and shot some pics, because as we always say here: if you like the work, support the work.

Speaking of support: if you dig my community-building work through these stories, please consider supporting it with your pocket change. My awesome patrons help me pay for the gear, software and services I need to get this work in front of you. Shout out with deep thanks to James, Ben, Michelle, Donna, Glenn, Chris, Vince, Ursula, Rob, Matt, Eric, Agnes, Jon, John, John, Jeremy, Karen, Cam, Daryl and Brent.  If your name’s not on the list, high five somebody’s whose is: they sponsored this piece. Ok, on with the story!

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I’ve intersected orbits periodically with The Jazz Room since it’s birth back in 2011 when I first met Stephen Preece (Pres. of the board of directors). Such was my enthusiasm for this great new thing, that I wrote several community-investment pieces including the building of this stage and the refurbishing of this piano, both shown above.

There’s violinist Erik whom I met on King Street a year ago. Click through for a substantially unreasonable number of pics…

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Melissa Doherty is the Cloud Witness

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Wickedly talented painter and good friend Melissa Doherty opened her show Cloud Witness at Open Sesame on Thursday night. Notable to me is the location of Kitchener City Hall where, 20 years ago, I first saw Melissa’s work, loved it, postponed buying it for 40 minutes and lost that opportunity when the painting sold before I returned. So, lesson learned: if you like the work, buy the work.

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Melissa Doherty. She’ll be giving a talk on her work June 6 at 7pm at OS. The show runs through to June 10. TL;DR: check out the show. Click through for a bunch of pics of artists in one room. This is us.

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3-cent earbud hack


Occasionally in life, a 3-cent, 33 ohm resistor is the solution to your problem.

The problem, in this particular case, was that I wanted to use an old mobile phone headset as a lavalier microphone for doing some audio recording to a phone, but didn’t need the earbuds; just the microphone. So I very rashly snipped off the earbuds, only to discover that the phone no longer recognized that a headset was plugged in. Instead, the phone continued to use the built in mics, which weren’t super effective since the phone gets tucked in a pocket.

I vaguely remembered working on some pesky bugs wrt unreliable headset detection while coding for a local device manufacturer. As DMF explained it to me then, the phone tests for the resistance of the earbud transducer. If it sees infinite resistance, then it reckons there is no headset and we have the aforementioned microphone behaviour. While I found no reliable info on the interwebs about this, I figured I could fake out the phone with a simple resistor. Which, TL;DR, worked.

Now before you judge the horrific soldering job above, in my defense, I’ll say:
1. The blue resistor above is 6.3mm long
2. Ideally I would have used an SMT resistor, but only had 1/4W through hole in 33 ohm
3. The theory that with a hot soldering iron+solder+flux you can “burn off” the green and orange shellac coating the microscopic headset wires and get a solid electrical connection is simply that: a theory.

I coated this mess in a blob of epoxy for mechanical stability.


Clockwise from left: microphone, resistor hack, TRRS 3.5mm connector that plugs into phone. To those tempted to send me Amazon links to low-cost lav mics, I’ve already seen them. This is a makerly thing.

From: Texas Instruments, app note SLAA454 Headset Detection for TLV320AIC33 and TLV320AIC3101/4/5/6 Family

If you’re working on any projects in this domain, I’ll offer a few suggestions:
1. Get a microscope, a decent soldering iron and some very skinny solder
2. Read the very good app note from Texas Instruments (SLAA454)
3. In determining audio routing, phones also need to consider destinations such as Bluetooth, Wifi Direct and probably a few other accessories I’m forgetting.
4. The continuity function on your multimeter will be helpful for determining the pinout of those hair-thin wires on your headset. But first you’ll need to tin those wires.

Thanks to JB for confirming that 33 ohms was a sane value of resistor.

Happy hacking,

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My new co-working space has hammers and fire

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“How about I just work here at the bench?”

I think I first met Sandra Dunn of Two Smiths on a tour of the old Double R Steel facility down on Ardelt in Kitchener. Her business, specializing in both blacksmithing and coppersmithing, occupied one end of that building. A couple years later, I cold-called to invite her to join the first Maker Expo we were launching. She agreed to both join and to allow me into her shop to do a story to promote the Expo. Then early last spring, I caught up with Sandra leading part of an international project to fabricate a railing for a cenotaph in Ypres, Belgium.

Which brings us to last week, when I walked into Sandra’s new shop at 8 Grand Avenue in Kitchener (Bridgeport, for you locals). Regular readers know my photographic predilection for makerly endeavours and good people. I found both, once again, at Two Smiths. Since they had just moved in, all their stuff was still in open crates and boxes, giving me a visual smorgasbord to shoot, and shoot I did for about three hours.

As I was wrapping up, we got chatting and Sandra said she needed some photos for classes and her web site and some printed material. She wanted to hire me for that gig and of course I’m keen to do it. I mentioned I had recently moved out of the co-working space in the old Brick Brewery uptown (soon to become condos) and was looking for a space to work. Sandra had heard that and invited me to pull up a chair to the workbench in her new shop.

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Sandra Dunn, centre, is flanked by Aimie Botelho and Bronson Kozdas who are working and learning in her shop. “You want to photograph us dirty as we are?” they asked. “You’re perfect” said I.

It’s been a week now and the TL;DR is: Two Smiths is a fascinating nexus of smithing, design, fabrication, tools, projects, goodwill, talent and great people. I’m eager to follow along as Sandra and her crew fabricate the public art piece Spinal Column that she designed for the light rail train stop at Grand River Hospital. In the meantime, here are a completely unreasonable number of photos…

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