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Bay Area Maker Faire 2011 | faulty vision

Hobbes and the Lego Jeep

It was a hectic weekend.

I don’t know what it is about our planning that fills our regular weekends to bursting with activities, but leaves our long weekends relatively desolate. We’re working on adjusting that pattern. Downtime is all well and good, but Hobbes has a limit to the amount of parental quality time he can take before he blows an emotional gasket; in that respect he is a lot like his parents. We all need our personal space from time to time, and if the Guy uses his to catch up on blogs, I use mine to do some writing, and he uses his to consider new ways to introduce the word, “poop,” into everyday conversation, still the principle remains the same.

Saturday was the Mountain View Art and Wine festival (which is called something else depending on which one it is, but remains invariably the Art and Wine festival on my schedule, like every other Art and Wine festival out there.) Once a year I purchase a piece of jewelry from Mark Poulin’s booth, which I subsequently gloat over and flaunt until the next year. It is tradition.

Hobbes, who had to be convinced to cooperate with the project by the judicious use of bribes, tromped manfully through the festival demanding to get his “pwesent,” an abstract concept to which he increasingly added criteria as the morning wore on. At noon, it had to be red. At 12:30, it had to be, “a book.” At one, it had to be very small, “in my hand,” he announced, cupping both hands delicately around the hypothetical treasure.

It is very hard to find a present for a toddler at an Art and Wine festival. You’d be surprised.

Fortunately, we struck gold at the children’s alley, which was infested with jumpy castles and slides. I was concerned that Hobbes might latch onto the inflatables, most of which were beyond his age (and height) range, but I might as well have not bothered. An old man had set up a booth there, where he was selling used toy cars and trains. Hobbes was enchanted. His previous schematics were completely forgotten. Despite the fact that he was too short to see over the edge of the booth, he rummaged like a professional, inspecting each car in turn and replacing it on the counter in some myopic order of preference he couldn’t remember the key to. The old man, without quite hovering, suspended himself over Hobbes like an anxious librarian, reassembling his display along parallel lines wherever my son’s little fingers appeared over the edge of the counter again.

Eventually, Hobbes bore off a Thomas the Train Engine pull-along toy, complete with attendant passenger calls. It rattled along behind him at the end of a slightly too short string, wreaking havoc with the pedestrian traffic. Hobbes didn’t care. He toddled along with his head turned back to watch his toy’s progress, his other hand held firmly in the Guy’s.

He — the Guy — rolled his eyes at me. We’d walked about two miles from the car through the fair. “This is going to take forever,” he said. The Thomas train was not the most stable of toys; it had a tendency to tip over onto its side and require repair.

“Don’t worry about it,” I said. “He’ll get bored in a little bit, and we’ll pick it up and go home.”

Hobbes, it turns out, has inherited a degree of bloody-mindedness that I don’t think has ever been seen in either of our families before. He walked the entire 2 miles back to the car, dragging that toy behind him. In toddler distance, that’s, like, 20 miles.

***

And then there was Maker Faire.

Kings of the World

We got tickets for 5 adults and one child — Hobbes was free — and visited Maker Faire on Sunday with some friends. It was our first time going, and was fairly spectacular, for what I got to see of it while following an inquisitive 2 year old around.

One of our friends admitted that she didn’t really understand the point of Making. “I look at something like that,” she said, gesturing at a massive statue consisting of a giant rod of metal around which were suspended three huge boulders, “and I think, what’s the point?”

“I think,” I said, “that it’s got more to do with, ‘Because we can.’”

“It just looks like a waste of energy to me,” she said.

The funny thing is, I’ve had this conversation with the Guy before, and at the time, I was the one who didn’t see the point. I’ve long since learned that if ever someone wants me to understand their point of view, all they need to do is to argue against their own case. I’m pathologically incapable of simply agreeing with someone.

“Well, look at it,” I said. “Someone made that, because they imagined it. It’s cool. And kids look at that and think, wow, that’s awesome, and their imaginations are fired up because there’s a new possibility they haven’t encountered, and they start to wonder, how was that done? How would I do that? And maybe they start trying to learn something they didn’t have an interest before — engineering, physics, mathematics — and maybe their imaginations expand a little….”

On the other hand, robots are just cool.

We stopped by the human mousetrap, which excited the Guy more than it did Hobbes or myself. Hobbes was more interested in cotton candy, which he rained down on bystanders with indiscriminate generosity. Assorted robots zoomed by, as did several gaudy and impressive vehicles. A self-balancing green Android bot, near the same size as he was, informed him that the answer was 42.

He accidentally triggered a leopard-skin high-heeled shoe car, which zipped away from him and almost knocked him over. This resulted in alarm from the ostensible driver and the vehicle’s actual attendants, who hadn’t realized that it was on.

One of the best things about the Maker Faire though, is that unlike most festivals, almost everything — excepting the flamethrowers and oh, perhaps the Tesla coils — is touchable. Experimentable. Creatable. Craftable. Hobbes had a fantastic time at the Lego jeep, which is exactly what it looks like: a jeep that has had lego pieces glued to its sides, so that children can build on top of its panels willy-nilly. A few steps further, we found an igloo made entirely of plastic milk bottles.

It’s possible that the igloo had a point, but I have no idea what it was. No matter. The kids were enjoying that, too.

Elsewhere on the grounds there were flamethrowing dragons, a swing surrounded by a rain machine that would never (it claimed) rain on the person in the swing (a coworker who was also there: “It lied.”) robotic wargames, which we were unable to attend, and lots and lots of legos.

There was also a solar-powered train.

Needless to say, we rode that one.

Twice.

“It’s about the journey,” the Guy said during the ride home, when I told him about the conversation I had had with our friend. “Not so much the … thing at the end.”

“I like the thing at the end,” I said. “I hate the journey.” Instant gratification girl, that’s me. “You know what would be really cool? Musical instrument prosthetics. If you could tweak the digits, so they compressed strings, and then used a bow–” I mimed it out in my head. “Or you could–” And I was off.

“I don’t have the skills to do that,” the Guy said.

“I don’t have the attention span,” I said. “I could probably learn the skills, if I had the attention span. But since I can be out-thought by a squirrel–”

“Between the two of us, we have a Maker,” he said.

“I hope Hobbes ends up one.”

“I just want him to be a Renaissance man.”

I glanced back at the car seat doubtfully. Hobbes was sound asleep. He was drooling a little.

***

That evening, the Guy and Hobbes sat down together to assemble a robot kit they had acquired at the Faire. The attention span of a 2 year old is a fickle thing; he held it together for half an hour, after which he wandered upstairs to cuddle with me on the sofa and watch Kipper cartoons.

“Did you have a good time?” I asked him.

He nodded.

“What was the best part?”

He considered. “Twain,” he said simply, and settled against my hip.

Cycle cars, human-powered

Cupcake cars with driving caps

Handmade metal zepplin with ... pillbug?

Leopard skin high heel remote control car. (I don't get it either.)

Owl car

Pteranodon flaps its wings as cyclist pedals in its rib cage.

Small child, milk jug igloo -- no reason necessary.

 

One Response to Bay Area Maker Faire 2011

  1. Sue says:

    That sounds like an absolutely fantasic fair!!! Too bad I live so far away. (New Orleans)

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