Sneak Peak of "Bounce Announce"

This is video taken by Jason Stephens at ITP this evening. The Bounce Announce project has legs, and it's taking it's first steps toward ping-pong musical madness. Enjoy this clip.

Workshop Tour

After a feverish build session on the "Bounce Announce" project, I trashed the workshop and re-organized in the aftermath. This is probably the cleanest it's going to get for months, so I decided to document it.

The "Bounce Announce" instrument will be completed by Sunday, at which time I will post video of it in action. If you'd like to see it (and lots of other awesome projects) live, make sure to go to the ITP Winter Show.

"Bounce Announce" Visualization Element

I've decided to take the Bounce Announce project and add visualization to it utilizing piezo sensors and processing. Every instrument will have a piezo trigger attached to it, that will be processed by Arduino and fed to a Processing visualization sketch.

On a projected backdrop, the effect should appear to be differently colored expanding concentric circles that originate from each impact point.

bounce announce visualization

Hooking an Electric Fence into an LCD Monitor

I found this half-dismantled LCD monitor o the junk shelf, and grabbed it because it looked pretty. After reading up on LCDs a bit, I had the notion that sending voltage through it might make for some interesting effects.

Since I've moved out of the country and don't have any use for my electric fence controller anymore, I hooked the thing up to the LCD and backlit. Just look at the trippy results.

"What's New at ITP" at the 10th annual Dust or Magic Conference

I had such a great time at Dust or Magic this year, and was so glad to be able to show the attendees what is being done at ITP in the field of Children's Interactive Media. A video of my talk is below.

My Thoughts About Facebook (For the Naysayers)

I've gotten rewarding freelance work through facebook referrals. I learned about, and conversed with, my future classmates over the summer before graduate school began this past September. Facebook gives me a way (and a reason) to communicate in a casual manner with folks I wouldn't otherwise keep in touch with. It's a great way to warm up a prospective client without resorting to a "pitch letter".

Facebook is a "take it or leave it" communication network. If I receive an unwanted email from someone I know, I'll either feel obligated to respond to it (which wastes everyone's time) or ignore it (which causes resentment). Facebook transfers the power from the sender to the receiver, making everyone benefit. If a status update starts an interesting thread, then YAY! If not, no big deal.

Facebook helps me realize which social groups are interested in what things. For instance, if I post an update about food, there's a nearly universal response. If I post about hacking my 1st gen Macintosh mouse to accept USB, I'll probably get comments mostly from other people in my (super geeky) graduate and a smattering of other friends.

Facebook creates connections I didn't know existed, and organizes my contacts into a system that makes sense. I've always been amazed at the handful of times when I've discovered that friends from completely different social circles have a friend in common with each other. You know, the whole "six degrees, small world after all" stuff. It's great!

Eventually, Facebook will no doubt become a historic "document" with countless future benefits. I can imagine retiring someday and going through the archives for source material when writing my memoirs or biography. All sorts of other applications will surely coalesce - ethnographies, trend-tracking...all kinds of stuff.

I (and quite a few other people) probably update my status around once every other day. Imagine if you started emailing everyone in your address book every other day. You'd be labeled a spammer so quickly your head would spin.

Facebook serves a purpose, however flawed it may be (500,000,000 is a lot to manage).

It's a series of tubes.

Test Audio/Video for the "Bounce Announce" Audio Installation

I'll soon be building a sound installation consisting of several hundred (ping pong?) balls in a series of hopper assemblages. At the bottom of each hopper will be a feed tube with solenoids at the end. The solenoids will be triggered by Arduino, and pop out the ping pong balls at prescribed times.

The ping pong balls will bounce sequentially onto carefully placed musical instruments on the floor below, before finally coming to a rest in a cushioned collection area.

The Arduino will be communicating via midi on the computer, and following instructions from a pre-conceived score written specifically for the installation.

Video below is of balls bouncing onto different combinations of instruments, to give an idea of the "Bounce Announce" setup.

Below this is audio I captured from the above video, in layered form, to give an idea of the possibilities of the installation. The final product will hopefully be much wider in scope, with perhaps a dozen solenoids with corresponding instrument arrays.

Bounce Announce Test 1 by PushTheOtherButton

Scrap Wood Shelves Featured in Stop Motion Animation

Last week, my classmate Will Jennings and I created this whimsical stop motion video at ITP using my scrapwood shelves, and their assorted corresponding knick-knacks. We created it using IStopMotion, which is a fantastic program if you're looking to do that sort of thing. Enjoy!

Pez ZomBie from William Jennings on Vimeo.

Tapescape and Tapelake - 2 Cassette-Based Robots Meet for the First Time

At Maker Faire last week, my booth had the TapeScape robot on display (which I made with Ilan Schifter - made almost completely out of a tape deck, broadcasting the sound from the "scape" of "tape" it would roll over), prompting several people to mention that there was a very similar robot inside the Queens Hall of Science.

I had to check it out for myself, and had the pleasure of meeting Dan Perrone. His project is not only very similar to TapeScape in it's design and action, but has quite a similar name: TapeLake.

It turns out that we developed our projects independently of each other, but came to similar conclusions, and are both Brooklyn residents. As Dan said "We're all the same fleas on different dogs."

See video below of our encounter:

Maker Faire Day 2 - Moonisphere is Too Big to Fail

Recycled Cardboard Moonisphere Under Construction

After a sweltering day building the Moonisphere on day one, so far we have merely a Moonicircle, but fear not! We were able to do a lot of prep work in the shade, cutting massive amounts of cardboard into appropriately sized strips to lay down.

Once the framework is made, we'll cut slots with a jigsaw, and fit it all together like an old-fashioned barn raising.

The crew from the New York Hall of Science has been great at redirecting all of their waste cardboard to our pile, and there will be plenty of cardboard from wolphram-alpha swag integrated into the Moonisphere.

If you find yourself passing by our tent, give a hand in constructing a wicked cool piece of temporary art! We're right by the 3d printers at Maker Faire, all day today.

Moonisphere Rising

Contrary to popular belief, the moon (at least for one weekend) is not made of cheese...

Makings of the Moonisphere

The Moonisphere build begins today at Maker Faire.

Wedding Ring Geek Out

At ITP I have already met many kindred spirits, one of whom is Nelson Ramon, a longboarding, computer hacking, Colombian uber-geek. This is a photo of him, doing what he does:
Nelson Ramon
He congratulated me on my recent wedding, and it turns out that he also got hitched just a couple of months ago. So of course, we compared wedding rings. I explained that mine was hand-hammered out of titanium by a local artist and New School professor, Paul DeBlassie. But I knew I had been bested when he showed me his white gold ring, also handmade, but with his anniversary engraved on the inside in binary!!! I definitely lost that geek fight, but am proud to have been there. Congratulations Ramon!
Colombo - Nelson Ring Comparison

Fantasy Project - Junk Pedal Scrambler!

Lots of guitarists collect effects pedals, and lots of effects pedals end up being set aside, never to be seen again in a guitarist's rigs. This invention aims to take advantage of that trend. It consists of a series of effects loops that are cycled through sequentially, with each loop having controls for clean/effected blend, and on/off - each loop can contain one or more effects pedals, the rate at which they cycle through can be varied by a knob, and the overall blend between clean signal and effected signal can also be adjusted.

I really want to make a prototype of this, but do not have the skills to do it. Here's a mock-up.
Junk Pedal Scrambler

On a Rocketship to WhoKnowsWhere

On September 4th I was married to my lovely gal, Melody - twas an amazing DIY wedding with mismatched dinnerware, handmade papergoods, and an ass-kicking crowdsourced band. Once all the photos and video are in I will dedicate an entire post to it.

I am keeping a project blog of my work at ITP here if any of you are interested.

3 days later, I started grad school at NYU's Interactive Telecommunications Program. My first class was a lecture hosted by the founder of ITP, Red Burns. Our first speaking guest was legendary performance artist Vito Acconci, who spoke right after I found out I was chosen to be in the first group for the following week's presentation, which would be a "reaction" to Vito's talk.

I became intensely close with the members of my group, and over 50 hours of work within one week's time, we conceived and presented this piece: a 40x50 foot sheet of clear plastic was pulled over the entire audience, and text of some of our most personal and controversial opinions were rear-projected onto the sheet. With the screen being wavy and up-close, the audience had to cooperate with each other in order to decipher what was written, and in so doing have a moment in the present with each other. Following this, we asked each audience member to write down a personal/controversial sentence of their own and stick it to the sheet. The sheet was pulled off and onto the stage, where I read several of the audiences' sentences aloud. Then we bunched up the sheet and carried it off stage. Afterwards Red said "this group set the bar very high." I must admit we were unsure whether this would be pulled off, but in the end it worked wonderfully. Pic by Becky Kazansky by and video by Matthew Rader below:

Lots of Projects and Adventures on the Horizon

Pretty soon I will be updating with a post on my fabulous DIY wedding, taking place this coming weekend. My fiancee have been working hard on a celebration that shall be replete with hand-painted birdhouses as centerpieces, yard sale dinnerware, a swingin' crowdsourced band, and all sorts of other goodies.

Following that, we'll be leaving our fair cottage in the country and moving into an apartment in Brooklyn for my first semester at NYU's ITP program. It's a fantastic graduate school, which can name the founders of ethernet and 4square as alumnus, along with professors such as Clay Shirky, and Tom Igoe of Make: Magazine.

Speaking of Make: Magazine, I hope I'll be seeing some of you at the first ever NYC Maker Faire. It's in Flushing Queens right near the Unisphere, and I will be heading up a team of folks to facilitate the construction of a 33 foot wide recycled cardboard "Moonisphere", which will be at roughly the same scale as the unisphere, and coincidentally, at around the same scale distance away! It's going to be a great time and if you come, I'd love if you could pick up a utility knife and a glue gun to help us out.

Between composing video game music and planning for the wedding, I haven't had much time for projects, but here's some eye candy: the media shelf in my house, including DVD, VHS, SA-CD, CD, cassette, vinyl, card games, board games, video games, and lots of odds and ends. We are anti media-discrimination in this house, and utilize all this stuff regularly for our entertainment.
The Shelf of Media

My Studio in the Throes of Music Production

As some of you may know, I am a musician when I'm not being a geek. I played for many years in New York City with lots of different groups, mainly the band Kinetic.

I was recently hired to write and compose music for a video game that's in development, so it was time to convert what is normally my hacker studio into my music studio.

I work fast and messy, so here are some pics of my 20 hour audio tirade. Funny how after all that, you can still see tools and materials poking out of the shadows...

The Studio in the Throes of Production
The Studio in the Throes of Production
The Studio in the Throes of Production
The Studio in the Throes of Production
The Studio in the Throes of Production

Mighty Cat Scratching Post

Mister Blackie Tests the Scratching Post
I've been a cat owner for a while, and (through research and patience) have found the solution to keeping feline friends from ripping apart my couch.

Half the battle is in giving your cats a sturdy scratching post - nice and tall so they can stretch out, bottom heavy so it won't tip over, and made of something they can dig into, like sisal hemp.

I saw the opportunity to build these when visiting the Tilly Foster Farm in Brewster NY, where they happened to be demoing a host of antique farm equipment engines. One of the exhibits was a working 2 horsepower dragsaw, slicing cookies off a giant tree limb. The owner was letting people take the cookies for free, so I helped myself to two.

These became the bases for my mammoth scratching posts.

First I drilled out and cut a nice big circular hole in the center using my jigsaw.
Mighty Cat Scratching Post

Then I traced an identical circular piece out of plywood, with which I could attach the actual post (2x4s with the corners cut, then wrapped and stapled with 1/2" sisal rope) with screws. Once done, I drilled some nice beefy screws diagonally into the piece of tree limb to keep it steady, making sure to countersink the screws and fill in all the gaps with my homemade wood filler (screened sawdust and wood glue).
Mighty Cat Scratching Post

Next I thought up a novel way to make the tops of the post look nice, because they had just the end strand of the sisal stapled to the top - not too aesthetically pleasing and not too pleasant for cats either. So I found a smaller branch that was the same diameter, and cut it to size, making sure to make a crevice for the sisal to sit (first sketched out with a sharpie, then routed out with a spade bit and a rasp bit)
Mighty Cat Scratching Post
Mighty Cat Scratching Post

Liked it so much I built another!
Mighty Cat Scratching Post

Frankenstein Guitar Amplifier Build

I'm moving from the country to the city soon, and have been making a steady attempt to consolidate and downsize beforehand.

I've had several dead and dying guitar amplifiers in my workshop for quite some time, and I had ruminated enough on how I was going to hack them all together into something unique. So, check out the pic and video of it below, and be sure to read the
instructable for some more detail about how this was all done.

Frankenstein Guitar Amp Build

Frankenstein Guitar Amp Build - More DIY How To Projects

Lamp Assembled from Drum Hardware and a Car Jack

Had this one kicking around for a while - it originally featured a boom arm for better adjustability, but this made it top-heavy - so it's now a humble, but neat-o straight desk lamp (though still somewhat adjustable).

As usual, I had all these things on hand being all lonely and useless. The blue rick-rack on the shade is courtesy of Melody, scored at an estate sale last month. Enjoy!


Report from the Cold Spring Craft Fair

Report from the Craft Fair
For it being our first craft fair, it went very well. We weren't concerned with making money, so much as observing people's reactions to our creations.

The scrapwood shelves turned a lot of heads, but a lot of the time there would be a man being interested in them and his wife pulling him away. :) But I did sell one piece, to a happy Martin W (who works for a NYC design firm, and is keeping my card on file - yippee!) pictured here. When he bought it he said he won't "ruin it by putting knick-knacks on it."
Report from the Craft Fair

Does this make me an artist? One woman said my shelves reminded her of Louise Nevelson, and when I admitted to not knowing who that was, she said "shame on you!" I tried explaining to her that I'm not an artist - this was just something I like to do, but this didn't seem to quell her agitation. All the same I take it as a compliment. It led me to check out Nevelson's work, which I really dig! And read this quote from her:

"When you put together things that other people have thrown out, you’re really bringing them to life – a spiritual life that surpasses the life for which they were originally created."

I can run with that...

Scrapwood Shelving for Knick-Knacks and Tchotchkes


My wife, Melody and I have been hard at work all this week in preparation for the Cold Spring River Festival. Melody designs and sews some awesome and hilarious apparel, and I'll be selling all different sorts of things made from recycled and repurposed materials.

It doesn't take me a lot of time to accumulate all sorts of scrap lumber from different projects, and I can't bear to see it go to waste, so I designed and built these shelf units that are perfect for keeping your odds and ends and action figures and bric-a-brac that you don't know what to do with.

I tried to make everything look a bit less hacked together by filling in the gaps (with homemade wood filler made from screened sawdust and wood glue) with a putty knife, shaping it with the jigsaw, and sanding everything down.

I've got some other tricks up my sleeve for our table at the festival, but I really do hope a couple of these pieces sell.

The Story of My Sockets

Homemade Customized Socket Organizer
People come into tools for all different reasons - you might have the $40,000 super precision Snap-On Set, or the Chinese plastic molded toolkit you bought in Bushwick when you were scraping by as a college student. Maybe you've inherited some tools - maybe you've bought some specifically for a job, and even today when digging around you can still recall the exact circumstances in which you were made to acquire it.

For most of us it's a combination of all these things, and probably more. This motley set of sockets has come into my possession through many miles and at least a couple of generations. It was always my father's habit to throw his sockets into a box and go hunting for the right one when necessary. But I had just organized my drill bit collection (just as motley, and organized just the same way-back-when by my father) and wanted to put it to use.

I dumped out all the sockets and separated them by metric (aqua) and English (natural) units, then organized by size. After drilling the right sized holes for each piece, I had fashioned my very own socket organizer, perfectly tailored for my needs. It cost nothing but the few pieces of scrap wood I had, and if I ever acquire more sockets I can just cut out the parts I need to change - keep it ever-evolving. And by the way, I'll always remember that the aqua bits were from the picket gate I rescued from the trash to make tomato stakes with.

The easy route would have been to go to sears and buy the super-duper socket set and make sure to keep it organized, but this way I can append some pride to the whole matter - make do with my own design, and come to find that I'm actually the better for it. Now these sockets rest in a drawer in a dentist's cabinet in my basement (scored that gem with the marble base for 50 bucks at a barn sale). Again, it's a matter of seeking the alternative for the better, not just to settle for less, but to push for more! This is what "pushing the other button" is all about. When something seems too easy, or you're not quite getting the satisfaction from your work or yourself you think you should, go ahead and try the other thing - push the other button. You could surprise yourself with what happens...

Evaporative Cooler Update!

Methinks the evaporative cooling set-up did it's job just fine! Between 11:00 to 1:20 the inside temperature creeped from 85 F to 90 F and has held steady since then (writing this at 3:30). I'm calling this a not-too-shabby success, since the outdoor temperature climbed from 91 to 97 in the same amount of time.
Evaporative Cooler Triumph!
So I didn't quite reach the wet-bulb temperature of 84, but here I am writing this entry - a bit balmy, but if it were 97 indoors I'd probably have passed out before finishing this paragraph :)

Lots of thanks to Make: Magazine for featuring this project!

DIY Evaporative Cooling in a Heat Wave

At home, we only have A/C units on the second floor, and I do most of my work on the Mac, which is on the first floor. Yesterday the New York metro area wasn't just hot, it was Africa Hot, and today looks to be more of the same, but I've got work to do. This morning I lowered all the blinds in an attempt to keep the heat out, and set up the window fans on tables with shallow baking pans full of water in front of them. The idea is that the air flowing from the fans will evaporate the water and cool down the room.

DIY Evaporative Cooling in a Heat Wave

How much you can cool a room using this method is dependent on the relative humidity on that particular day. The less relative humidity, the more water you can cool the room down. I found a quick and dirty formula for calculating the "Wet Bulb" temperature, which is the lowest possible temperature you can attain by evaporation alone given the current atmospheric conditions. It turns out that today's wet bulb temperature is 84 degrees, which will feel around 80 for me with the fans going - a bit hot, but definitely tolerable. The thermostats on the fans are holding at 85 right now. However, we haven't reached the hottest part of the day yet - I'll update later this afternoon to see how the experiment worked out.
DIY Evaporative Cooling in a Heat Wave

"Ohm Sweet Ohm" Decorative Plaque

A while back I received a plaque saying "Home is Where Your Story Begins." It was just a bit too kitschy and corny for display in our home, but I didn't want a gift to go to waste, so I re-imagined it with a geeky twist.

"Ohm Sweet Ohm" - complete with the Omega symbol and a lightning bolt is much more our style. I made it by masking over the entire plaque and then cutting out the letters with an x-acto, making an adhesive stencil. Hit it with some silver spraypaint (boy do I love spraypaint) and voila - geektastic!

Using the Internet to Get Free Stuff in the Mail

     In an earlier post, I mentioned how much I love sending and receiving mail through the good ole USPS. One of the ways I ensure that my mailbox periodically contains treasure when I open it, is by taking a few minutes every once in a while to fill out forms online to get free stuff sent to me. I'll do a bigger post soon showing the bounty I've gleaned in the past couple of years since I started doing this, but today I received two free magazine subscriptions with a juxtaposition that just made me chuckle.
     Behold, my new bathroom literature, free copies of "Yachting" and "Waste Management World". I have vague interest in both of these fields (what with my semi-obsession with re-using and recycling, and a love of water since childhood) but it was just so funny to see these two gems sitting next to each other in the mailbox - what an unlikely pair!
     To get this free stuff sent to me, I use a few different websites that feed into my iGoogle. Beware, because some "Free Stuff" sites can be fronts for scams, but I've been using these ones for over a year and they have been reputable:

Papercraft (Cardboard Craft?) Pizza Box Robot Monster

     Recently, due to the hard economic times, I was forced to take a job as a pizza delivery driver to make ends meet. The work was tedious, but allowed my mind to wander to some productive places. I came up with some great ideas while assembling hundreds and hundreds of boxes in the basement. Leaving myself voicemails made Google Voice the perfect repository for my pizzeria pipe dreams.

     I'm guessing that pizza boxes are generally die-cut, and as is common in this process, the excess cuttings were sometimes still partially attached to the boxes in all manner of interesting shapes. To pass the time I started collecting them and thinking about what I could make with them. It soon became apparent that I had enough to assemble a mighty creature who could become a menacing mascot for the pizzeria. After four months of steady collecting, I had enough and put this guy together. Though not intended, I think he may be a cross between The Cybernetic Ghost of Christmas Past From the Future from Aqua Teen Hungerforce, and bad-ass Johnny Five from Short Circuit 2 after he re-assembles himself in the radio shack. 
     Alas, the pizza gig is over, and they did not adopt it as their official mascot. If you work at, or know of a pizzeria in the NYC area that might be interested in displaying my robot on their counter, leave a note in the comments.

Father's Day

     The memory that keeps occuring to me this Father's Day is this one time we went bluefishing when I was a teenager. I was reeling one in on an umbrella rig with multiple lures and snagged a second fish on the same line! I brought them both into our little boat with its' little cockpit and everything flopping around chaotically - The lures with their barbed hooks, two 5 pound blues with sharp teeth that have been known to bite off a toe (we were not wearing sneakers that day), and my dad with his spectacles jumping up and down at the end of his nose, one hand on the tiller, and the other hand wildly swinging a pair of vise-grips in a valiant attempt to crush some fish skulls- all with Andres Segovia's classical guitar blasting from the boombox. This had to be one of the most hilarious, bizarre, and scary moments we had shared together. That day I was glad he was my dad, and I think he was glad that I was his son.
     The pic in this post was taken after our last sail together. When the conditions were right, we had developed enough rapport to sail the boat off the mooring at the start, cut a course through the LI Sound, tack back into the harbor, and luff the sails, coasting to a stop with my arm stretched into the water to grab the mooring line. An excursion like this, without needing to turn on the motor, we dubbed a "perfect day." This was a day like that, and a couple weeks before his failed surgery to remove a malignant tumor - he passed away six months later...I don't want to end on a sad note, and after 8 years past I feel no sadness- only gratitude. This is my favorite picture of the two of us. Happy Father's day to all dads everywhere, always.

Pliers Turned Magnets, How Do They Work?

  I had to cut some metal today, and was happy to be able to use the angle grinder that was given to me recently by a kind co-worker. Sparks flew and my workbench was soon covered in a fine layer of iron filings. I went to grab my trusty pliers, and noticed that the ends of the handles had little afros made of iron filings. How did this happen?! It's not like I magnetized them on purpose, and can't recollect ever storing them near anything magnetic.
     Could it be that from the friction or proximity to the angle grinder's motor that the filings themselves became electrically charged? Anyone care to shed light on this?
     One thing I know is that these guys won't be able to give me a satisfactory answer.

But I'm only a hardware hacker....

Thanks for stopping by, especially if you came here via Boing Boing's Notepad page - their post there just beckoned for me to guess at their password, so I did.... I hope you like the projects I've been working on - no harm intended to the Boing Boing folks. When opportunity knocks....

Artistic Interpretation of The Cube Root of Three

     My wonderful sister is a high school math teacher, and in our family the geek apple doesn't fall too far from the tree. With that in mind, I made this extra-special birthday present for her this past year. For a native New Yorker you might pronounce this "Da Cube Root o Tree" - It's a wire frame papier mache tree sitting atop a wood cube, with the cube root of three expressed in different ways on the four visible facets of the cube - decimal, hexadecimal, binary, and integral (click here for pic showing the other two facets).
     For the cube, not only did I not have a thick enough piece of wood available, but I was eager to experiment with a method of scrap wood laminating I read on Lifehacker a while back. With wood glue, clamps, and varnish, I was able to make a durable, interesting looking cube for the base. I then stenciled and spray painted the letters and numbers, and spray-lacquered the whole thing.
      For the tree, I shaped a wire frame, then covered it in papier mache - old school, like in kindergarten with water, white glue, and newspaper. After applying green spraypaint and letting it dry, I hit the tree with some 3M Super 77 spray adhesive, and rolled it around in soil. After brushing off the loose bits, I lacquered it several times to keep it all together.
     Epoxy holds the two pieces together, and now it sits on my sister's desk, awaiting the curiosity and/or bewilderment of her students.

The Tapescape Audio Robot

Keeping in the spirit of this blog, I should mention that I'm the co-creator of a robot that was built almost solely from a dual tape deck and could transmit sound from a "scape" of "tape" as it rolled along. This was called TapeScape -

After moving out of NYC after my tenure as bassist for Kinetic was over, this was the first major "maker" project I undertook with my collaborator, Ilan Schifter (who encouraged me to enroll at NYU's ITP program.) We originally entered the robot into an Instructables contest, and then received attention from several well-known blogs.

It was after this that the gears started turning for this website idea. It excites me immensely to know that there is "obsolete" technology and materials languishing, just waiting for others like myself to snatch it up and re-imagine it as something fantastic!

If you have ideas along these lines, I'd love to hear what you've been doing. If you have something laying around and don't know what to do with it, let me know, and we can think of something. Cheers!

Recycling Plastic Bags into Childrens' Blocks

I learned about the method of "stewing" plastic bags from this instructable a while back, and decided to try it for myself.  In short, it's done by placing the bags in canola oil, in which they acquire a gummy consistency, suitable for molding into rigid pieces. I decided to make some childrens' blocks out of it. As far as I know the plastic is all #2 HDPE which I assume is safe for children. Can anyone shed some light on this? (don't worry I wouldn't give this to kids until I'm absolutely sure).

The swirly, marbled patterns have potential, although just mixing all the different colors together make it ugly as sin. Perhaps in the future I'll use various color schemes and they'll come out nicer.

On further thought, what basically gets created from this process is plastic lumber . Perhaps I can hang onto all my #2 plastic and slowly make enough plastic bricks to build a house. :) or even better, raid the bins on recycling day and live within other peoples' waste. Oh the possibilities....

Check out build pics at my flickr page.

How To Rewire Roland DS90 Speakers (For Humanities Students)

After so many years of literary analysis and myriad other right-brained ventures, I've become quite sluggish in mathematical type analyses. So, when I accidentally blew the internal amplifiers on my Roland DS90 desktop monitors, it took six years of procrastination before I finally opened them up and converted them to passive speakers.

Wiring in series and parallel I could understand, but when it got into the heady world of impedance and frequency crossovers, my brain started to swirl. I'll try to give the condensed version of how I figured it all out.

First, these monitors have two speakers, one standard for all frequencies, and one tweeter for only high frequencies.

A "crossover" is a speaker wired in parallel that has it's frequency limited by wiring in one or more capacitors.

I found out the "crossover frequency" of my speakers, then checked out this site to calculate the proper capacitance

Then it was a matter of rummaging through my junked circuit boards to find the right capacitors. That same site I linked to has a nifty little calculator that tells you how many farad you get when wiring the capacitors in different series or parallel combinations.

Now for the build pics:

The monitors with their butts ripped off.

The capacitors wired in: 2 10 microfarad caps in series, and 1 2.2 microfarad cap in parallel = 7.2 microfarad

Hacking the input: After I went all Om Nom Nom on the preamp circuit board...

I used the existing RCA input jack, and kept the rest of the amplifier guts intact, guessing that their physical presence has an effect on the overall sound of the monitors.

Thinking Inside the Box

     I'm a pretty decent wood butcher - have slapped together a compost bin, workbench, shelves, even an adirondack chair made of shipping pallets. But what I've never tried to do is a carpentry project that fits edges together snugly, where everything is perfectly square, and it looks somewhat decent (like a wood surgeon would do it?)
     So, after feeling restless and watching this video, in which Adam Savage claims to start going a bit nuts if he isn't regularly building something, I made it an afternoon project to construct a simple, clean, elegant wooden box.
    I must give infinite respect to my friends who are carpenters. It is an art that takes a lot of practice to do well. I feel like my box will hold up for a while, but it ain't the prettiest, nor the straightest thing in the world. All the same, I learned a bit while making it, so it's all good.

What's it Worth to You?

     One of my favorite quotes is, "You tell me 'Looks like someone has too much time on their hands,' but all I hear is 'I don't know what it feels like to be creative.'"
     Every day we experience a conscious state taking up what Clay Shirky calls cognitive surplus. In two nights' worth of TV time (watching the NBA finals game 1 last night, and a TV movie this night) I've organized all of my loose hardware: nuts, bolts, nails, screws, washers, and whatever else I might dive into for inspiration from time to time.
     One on side, I paid less attention to what I was watching on the tube. But how much attentions do we really pay to the act of watching television anyway?
     Now the tip: sorting hardware is a devious task when you feel like you've gotten so much accomplished, but it's really just because you sorted the big stuff first. Then it's a marathon of drudgery and fine motor exercise. When you're down to a handful of fluff and the tiniest of pieces, I suggest throwing it all in a tin can, going outside, and burning it from a safe distance with a splash of accelerant (isopropyl, gasoline, kero, what have you...).

Once you're finished, dump it onto the pavement, blow away the ash, and scoop up the spoils!

Scrapwood Trellis

It's June and the plants are going vertical for sure now. Our snow peas needed some help with their ascent so I put together this trellis from scraps I have lying around. Kept my Triangle Square (def my fav new tool) out on the ground while framing it up. The design looks haphazard but keeping everything at right and 45 degree angles makes it coalesce I think.