SharePoint Saturday, NYC

I had a total blast speaking at SharePoint Saturday this past weekend. I admit I was slightly terrified at the prospect of speaking in front of a crowd of seasoned IT professionals… I was worried I’d get something wrong and provoke the ire of the crowd. But, as it turned out, the crowd was delightful and enthusiastic.

My presentation was entitled, “Love in the Time of Javascript: Useful Patterns for Client-Side Code in SharePoint.” A friend of mine from Google said that comparing javascript to cholera was unfair to cholera…

It went well, but I experienced particular delight in a trick I pulled that worked gloriously. Everyone who’s been to these sessions knows that people kind of drift in and out of them, as they discover that the session they’re attending isn’t exactly what they’re looking for, and that another session going on at the same time might be more fulfilling. Nothing wrong with that. This ain’t the theater, but it’s still slightly distracting for presenters.

So I thought, “How long would it take someone to determine that my presentation was not for them?” I guesstimated that it’d be about twelve minutes. So, before the presentation began, I wrote “9:12″ on one of my business cards, and handed it out to a gentleman in the front row.

I began my presentation, and, lo and behold, someone starts making his way out. I glance at the clock on my presenter computer. 9:12 exactly! I say to the man in the front row, “Sir, what time does it say on that card I gave you?”


“What time is it now?”


“9:12! First walkout! I called it!”

I swear upon my very life that I didn’t pre-arrange it with the guy who left.

Oh yeah, I spoke a bit about SharePoint and javascript, too. But clearly, pulling off a magic trick was the highlight of my SharePoint Saturday.

For those who are interested, here is the PowerPoint presentation for Love in the Time of Javascript: Useful Patterns for Client-Side Code in SharePoint.

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Sexy Mad Science: My LED Body Suits for Yes! Yes! Yes! And…

The show was last night, and was a smashing success, and so it’s time to reveal the project that I’ve been working tirelessly on in the past week.

The idea of “Yes! Yes! Yes! And…” is kind of a sexy party improv show. (Notably, and importantly, I think, the improv itself is 100% clean, it’s just the “frame story” that’s all sexy.) The theme of this show was that it would be performed in total darkness, with the performers illuminated only by small LEDs that they carried with them.

With my knowledge of electronics, I figured I could do something pretty neat. My idea was that, as our hearts and our libidos are often in conflict, the suit will display the beating heart and the prominent… genitalia. (Due to the nature of the show, this post will be filled with the forced hesitant prudishness of the ellipsis.)

Here’s a video of the completed LED bodysuit.

So the first thing I did was I built a boatload of LED strands. Why not just buy LED rope lights? My thought was that I wanted to determine exactly what color and design I wanted (which I was right about) and that it wouldn’t be a big deal to solder them all together. About this last point I was wrong. Dead, dead, wrong. It took me three solid days to solder together two hearts, one male, and one female… piece. (There’s that ellipsis again.)

I ordered a bunch of colored LEDs and resistors from Mauser. Here’s some of the first designs, with my calculations of the resistance values for a 12-volt input.



Here is the soldering station, just beginning the build of a strand of lights. Again, I spent three solid days doing this.


Here’s the first successful test of the “inner” heart ring.


And this is the outer.


Here is a pile of hand-soldered LED and resistor assemblies, ready to put into a cable that’s being built.

Soldering Station with Loose LED Assemblies

The heartbeat is controlled by a super-simple controller board. The 12v is routed through a 5v voltage regulator, which feeds the input of an ATtiny 85. (I programmed the ATtiny 85 through my Arduino. Much thanks to High-Low Tech at the MIT Media Lab for showing me how to do that.) The output pins 0 and 1 go to the base of two transistors, whose collectors are pointed at the 12v supply and whose emitters are pointed at the inner and outer heart rings.

The… bits… are directly wired in without a controller.

To make sure that we could turn the whole thing on and off at a moments notice, I wired a toggle switch for the whole shebang, and routed it into the left arm.

There were some important lessons learned. First, and most vitally important lesson is that I can NOT solder a million tiny connections in any reasonable amount of time.

Another lesson was that, while it’s nice to have guaranteed battery supply, having a 10 Amp-hour battery is not only probably overkill, but those batteries in NiMH weigh about 4 lbs. In the end, I couldn’t even get them to charge (my charger was defective, and is being returned). But even if I’d gotten them to charge, I never solved the problem about how someone would actually wear such a battery pack. I’ll most certainly use the two huge battery packs in some future project… I’d better… they were darn expensive! In the end, I just ended up using 8 long-lasting AA batteries to generate 12v.

Yet another lesson: Stripboard is much easier to work with than undifferentiated perfboard. At the very least it focuses the mind as to where your components should go. I’ve heard that custom printing PCBs isn’t terribly difficult or expensive, and I may need to look in to that.

On the brighter side of lessons learned: The fact that I don’t need to stick a whole Arduino into a project! It was extremely easy to built a breadboard to program the ATtiny 85 and upload my sketch to it. And the ATtinys are so cheap, I purchased 10. (And blew up two. Don’t forget to connect the ground wire to your 5v regulator, folks! Whoops!) But I will almost certainly be using ATtinys (or other Amtel chips I can program from the Arduino) in future projects.

My heart was having shorting problems, but it worked with a little bit of fiddling during the show, and finally died in the shows final few minutes, so I guess we got just about all I can ask of my meagar soldering and board-building skills.

In the end, it didn’t quite live up to my initial imagination. (I’d planned on having LEDs running down each arm and leg. That would have been an additional hundred LEDs to solder!) But it came out pretty awesome just the same. I’m super-proud of this, and while I don’t think that I’m going to be doing this all the time, it’ll be a neat thing to throw into my performances now and again.

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Marmalade: Unafraid

Here’s a video of last night’s show: “Marmalade: Unafraid,” the improvised two-person show I do with the amazing and delightful Kathryn Dunn.

When I think of how wonderfully fun and exciting it is to work with Kathryn, it’s almost like I can sense the lightning when Laurel met Hardy, or when Aykroyd met Belushi (without the drugs), or when Burns met Allen (without the romance, ’cause I’m already real-life married), or when chocolate met peanut butter.

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Benji and Daddy in their Jammies 2

This week, Benji and Daddy discuss something very near and dear to a six-year-old’s heart: Birthday parties and food.

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Benji and Daddy in their Jammies 1

Benji and I decided that for the new year we’d like to make a talk show in which we discuss the issues of the day, at least as they pertain to a six-year-old. Since we were wearing our pajamas at the time, we decided to call it Benji and Daddy in their Jammies. Here is the result of literally minutes of hard work.

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Reading About Moses (The One Who Parted Brooklyn, Not the Red Sea)

I’m doing research for a project involving the history of transportation in New York City.  Naturally, one can’t discuss such a history without talking extensively about Robert Moses.

I’m a big eBooks fan, but unfortunately, the books I was looking for on this particular topic aren’t available in electronic form.  I received the physical manifestations of these books today, and I instantly realized yet another advantage of eBooks.

Two books about Robert Moses, "The Power Broker" and "Robert Moses and the Modern City: The Transformation of New York."

Thousand page tomes aren’t quite so intimidating in electronic form.  Yikes!

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Improv Words of Wisdom

Please don’t slap my back and say, “Got your back.” If you have to let me know that you do, you probably don’t. — David Razowsky, from an interview on the “My Nephew is a Poodle” improv blog.

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Computer Geeks to the Left, Improv Nerds to the Right

Since I was tired of conflating my two online personalities here, I’ve created a new blog about SharePoint and other technologies that I work and fool around with.  If you wish to follow it, you can find it at  If you’re Twitter inclined, you can follow @jayspecthetech. The rest of you improv nerds and people actually interested in my personal life, you can stay right where you are.  :)

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Never Tell Me the Odds

Like many, I purchased a Power Ball ticket today.  I usually buy a single Quick-Pick ticket for every drawing for which the prize is greater than $100 million.  I know the statistics are way against me, but for $2 I can fantasize for a while about what it would be like to be utterly, ridiculously wealthy.

I used to wait for it to go to $175 million, so I’d have a positive expected value.  Then they changed the price of the Power Ball to $2, raising the expected value bar considerably higher.  Then I realized that the expected value calculation is meaningless since I’m not immortal, and drawings don’t occur every nanosecond.

Part of the fantasy relies on the fact that the odds are so utterly, completely remote that human beings can’t possibly conceive them.  So I tried a thought experiment to see if we can get the sheer incredible unlikelihood of winning into something I can comprehend.

Imagine you’re in a completely full football stadium, filled to the brim with 100,000 people.  They announce a raffle, in which they’re going to randomly pick a ticket, and whoever is sitting in that seat wins.  You’re one person in this football stadium.  How do you like your chances?  Not impossible, sure, but it’s not like you’re going to be the farm.

Now imagine that there are not one but ten, completely full to the rafters football stadiums, each filled with 100,000 people.  And they’re still going to pick only one seat from only one of these ten stadiums to see who wins.  Really try to imagine it… Ten football stadiums, filled utterly and completely with fans, all right next to each other.  (Oy, the traffic when this contest is over!)  How do you like your chances now?

Got that image in your head?  Feeling the sheer remoteness of winning a contest with this one-seat-in-ten-football-stadiums scenario?

Now imagine 1,752 completely full football stadiums.


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Disturbingly Insightful Benji Quote of the Day

Me: I forgive you, Benjamin.

Benji: You don’t forgive me.

Me: Are you calling me a liar?

Benji: I’m calling you a parent.

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