Geekdom is inhabited by plastic robots

Confession time. For over a year now, I’ve been playing with Lego. At first, I was a little hesitant to mention it to anyone. After all, I’m an adult playing with a child’s toy, right? That’s pretty… um… odd. To say the least.

Since then, I’ve encountered many more adults with the same odd obsession. As it turns out, it’s entirely likely that this Lego kit is enjoyed by more adults than children.

The Lego kit in question is the Mindstorms Robotics Invention System: a programmable microcomputer that lets you build and program your own robots. Actual, real, autonomous robots. Introduced in ’98, the kit became an instant sensation — a fad that sucked in countless people into the depths of geekness and spawned hundreds of Mindstorms fan sites.

one of my many creationsSo, yes. I have an odd hobby. Visitors to my home often have to avoid treading on some little mechanical creature or other robotic gadget. They may well think that I’m completely insane, but so far they have been kind enough not to say so in my presence.

I assure you, however, that I am by far not the worst of the Mindstorms geeks. From the creations on display at JP Brown’s website, it’s obvious that I’m not even in the same league as the real fanatics. Did you know, for example, that a Lego robot could solve a Rubik’s cube? And someone else hacked the firmware to create the first TCP/IP-enabled Lego brick.

My own attempts to build autonomous robots, then, are quite feeble by comparison. Oddly enough, that makes me feel better. It means that I am odd… just not as odd as those other guys.

I’m making converts, too. Recently, I lent one of my kits (yes, I bought two of them) to a friend. Yet another perfectly normal adult has been dragged into the zone of pure geekdom. Consequently, I may not hear from him again for months.

About my recent facelift…

Those of you who read this blog regularly, if there are such people, will notice a few changes. I spent a few hours last night in a frenzy of HTML markup, giving this site a facelift. You’ll notice two major changes, apart from the new layout, which I admit is too wide for many screens. I’ll trim it down in the coming days.

Firstly, I changed the title from “Automaton: a blog of a cubicle dweller” to simply “Cubicle Dweller”. As a technical writer, I enjoy making things more concise. It’s one of the few things that bring meaning to my life.

Secondly, My name no longer appears on the site. This is something that has been brewing on my mind for several days now, prompted in part by a blog entry on Chris Taylor’s blog,, and in part by a blog entry on

There seem to be three kinds of bloggers out there: those who don’t care much about privacy and anonymity, and put their name and photo all over their blog, like Chris Taylor; those who wish to be anonymous, and avoid revealing their name, photo, or other details, like Escribitionist; and those who really haven’t thought about it and do a mix of both. If you have visited my site before, you know that I was more like the first of those three. Now I’ll just remain semi-anonymous… for a while.

Anyway, if you haven’t visited here before, hello. I’m usually at least a little more entertaining than this. It’s an off-day when I can’t muster even just a little bit of sarcasm.

If you’re a returning reader… um… hi… again.

No one can tell you what the Matrix is…

In response to Sabine‘s comment about my threat to hurl the server out the window, here’s proof that her beloved computer is still alive and well.

The physical embodiment of this site.

Just like the Matrix, our websites have a physical existence in the real world. This is what it looks like — it hides in the corner under my coffee table.

Begone, Microsoft! Return to the darkness from whence you came!

This web server is driving my up the freakin’ wall. I swear, it’s been waiting until I’m not around before crashing.

Which would you say is the problem with my server?

It’s running Windows 98.

It’s a Pentium 133.

It’s running Personal Web Server.

It’s possessed by an evil spirit from the netherworld (other than Mr. Gates, I mean).

Hmm. All things considered, I think it’s time to chuck Microsoft out the Window and give Red Hat Linux a shot. If you find this site offline for an extended period, one of two things has happened. Either I’m busily installing Linux and baffled by the wacky new stuff I’ve never seen before, or I’ve dropped the thing from my 2nd storey window and watched it smash into a billion tiny pieces (with a great deal of pleasure).


oh boy oh boy oh boy oh boy

I am such a geek. I’m geeking out like I’ve never geeked before.

I have a digital camera.

Ok, what I really wanted was one of those funky cell phones that take pictures too. I wanted to be walking down the street, talking on my phone, when alluvasudden… bam… I see some amazing thing that just has to be photographed. Click.

Two things, however, interfere with that little geek-dream:

1. I already own a cell phone.

2. It would likely be ludicrously expensive.

So I paid a visit to London Drugs on the way home from my errands today and picked up a funky little HP 120. No, it’s not the best one there is, but what am I going to use it for? I ain’t no art photog, that’s for sure.

Next time I’ll throw some pix on my blog for the entertainment of all. (Speaking of which, does anyone read this?)