Red Echo

June 29, 2007

At Colleen & Elliot’s housewarming

Somewhere along the line Infected Mushroom decided to become a rock band: they’re touring with a drummer and a guitarist, and Duvdev has swapped his keyboard for a microphone to play front man. It’s an interesting change. Live vocals on every track? Rock guitar, wailing away on the solos? This is not nineties psytrance. It’s still fun, it’s still chock full of freaked-out synthesizer goodness, and somehow it’s still Infected Mushroom, but it is definitely a change.

Erez can play all that unbelievably fast arpeggiated stuff live, while running filter sweeps and all that other knob-twirly goodness. He was so focused on the music that he didn’t seem to have any bandwidth left for his face, so it was up to Duvdev to provide the stage charisma – but if you happened to see what he was doing with his hands, it was some truly amazing keyboard mastery. I can only imagine the hours of Hanon exercises that must have gone into making that performance possible.

I still don’t like Club Heavens. It was packed, stiflingly hot, and so humid that we all walked out with dishpan hands from nothing more than the moisture in the air. (I’m beginning to think Chris W. has a point about the proper venue for psytrance being a clearing in the woods.) But I can live with that; it’s the standing-in-lines, the security frisk, and the generally pretentious attitude that turns me off. The staff are personally friendly, but the club as a whole projects an irritating feeling of superiority.

The three of us in last night’s posse all wore laserfingers, and as before, they attracted intense curiosity. The club was full of glowsticks, fingerlights, strobe wands, and all the usual toys, but there’s something about laser light that grabs attention – especially when the stage show is kind enough to provide a smoke machine.

I have been using pairs of N batteries for the laserfingers, but I think the next generation will switch to AAAs or 9Vs. Bigger and heavier, yes, but at least when your batteries are dying at 11 PM you can dash out to the nearest random convenience store and pick up replacements.

June 28, 2007

Infected Mushroom pre-func

June 27, 2007

The solar garden lights aren’t working out too well. The batteries are old and weren’t very good to begin with, and they’re not holding much of a charge. Replacing them would cost somewhere in the $700-$800 range, which is more than I want to spend on this project, so I’m thinking over alternatives. One such might be to refit all the lights to use CR123s instead of AAs. These cost about $1 apiece in bulk, and I would only need one per unit since lithium batteries provide 3.2V. I’d have to do a fair bit of soldering, though.

If I just can’t make the garden lights work, I could always glue an LED to the end of each branch, run some cheap 20-gauge wire down each branch to the root, and power everything off a deep-cycle battery (like the one I used for the Rave-o-Matic). This would take just as much soldering as the battery-refit, and there’d be a lot of finicky gluing and fitting, and a lot of not-so-finicky wire-wrapping, and the physics of the branch movement would be all different, but it might look good.

What To Know Before Debating Type Systems: a longish but clearly written primer on language type systems.

June 25, 2007

My latest sewing project is a big fur coat, inspired by a fabulous robe Kerry H. brought to a party a couple of months ago. It was a snuggly early-morning sort of garment, with a brocade shell and a fur lining. I realized that I could make something similar by sewing fur into the silk kimono I’ve had kicking around since my first trip to Burning Man. I happened to have a just-big-enough piece of fluffy black fur left over from one of my leggings projects last fall, and next thing I knew I was manhandling pieces of obnoxiously thick fabric and there were tufts of black fuzz everywhere.

The project expanded, as these things often do, when I realized that a few simple design changes would make the whole thing reversible. At night, it could be a big, bold fur coat with a flashy silk lining, then a quick inside-out the next morning would give me a comfortable robe to lounge around in while waiting for coffee to brew.

I didn’t get any pictures last night, but it’s coming together well; the sleeves are finished and I have figured out how the collar and placket are going to work. Another evening or two should finish it.

June 24, 2007

John and Janel’s wedding

June 23, 2007

Power Tool Races (QuickTime, 12 seconds, 352K)

Audio flame tube at Hazard Factory

June 22, 2007

Here’s a great rant by Steve Yegge explaining why everyone who takes programming seriously should learn how compilers work.

It contains the remark “you can hardly attempt one without trying to change the world in the process”, which perhaps explains part of my original attraction to compiler work. I’m not sure I would be so inclined to start a new compiler project these days.

June 20, 2007

It is a beautiful summer evening. I brought my wing chair out on the porch and am sitting here with a mug of tea and a clear blue sunset watching cars and bicyclists cruise by. Life is good.

I tried making a white & blue shirt to match the Shpongle-pants last night. It didn’t turn out so well. I have something to learn about sewing shoulder and neck hems on sleeveless shirts. That’s alright; I’ll get there.

Overseeing the process of making nine pairs of laserfingers last week gave me a new idea about the design. The next batch should be more durable and easier to make. I will build at least one of them before next week’s Infected Mushroom show; I need to schedule the next workshop soon so I can start acquiring parts and letting people make room on their calendars.

June 18, 2007

Seattle Fabrics sells neoprene in a variety of colors and weights. Wonder if this would be worth a try for the next generation laserfingers design? It would look appropriately high-tech, it comes in different colors, and it has a good balance of strength and stretchiness. I also have the impression that cut edges don’t ravel. This generation’s elastic frame is a great way to increase manufacturing tolerances, but makes wiring strain relief difficult.

June 16, 2007

Shpongle pre-func at Offspring House

The laserfingers workshop went well. We started setting up at about 7 PM, and I turned off the lights just after 2 AM. I’m tired but definitely plan to do this again. The manufacturing process went reasonably well. We could have used more than four sewing machines, and I’d like to simplify the next generation’s design so there are fewer stitches involved, but production went smoothly and all of the electronic components worked without a hitch.

Oh, how nice it was to watch as someone would finish stuffing the wires into the fabric piece, pull the elastic onto their fingers, and turn their new gadget on. Nothing like an expression combining “wow, there are lasers shooting out of my fingers” with “hey, I made that”.

The shop needs a coffee maker. Perhaps a Saturday afternoon would work better next time than a Friday evening.

Barbecue at Adam & Janet’s

June 15, 2007

Laserfingers Workshop

Hard at work at the Rocket Factory

It’s 1 AM and the Shpongle-pants are (finally) done. Whew. They look good, and I don’t think any of the (many) mistakes are large enough for anyone but me to notice. That counts as success. Now I’m tired and it’s time for some sleep. …

Oh yeah. Laserfingers workshop tomorrow. Excited. Never done anything like this before.

I took an hour off to sell La Bête this evening. Nice to have that off my list of things to do.

June 14, 2007

This Introduction to Abject-Oriented Programming is a nice, clear overview of a design style that has played a key role in many major software projects. One often finds this set of practices in conjunction with the popular (and successful!) “Big Ball of Mud” design pattern (thanks Eric L.).

June 12, 2007

I’ve just finished my first project with the new sewing machine: a jeans pattern made in a stretchy, slinky red knit. I had to spend a lot of time puzzling out the directions, and made a fair number of mistakes, but the point was to learn some new sewing techniques, and the pants really aren’t bad. I can definitely see wearing these out dancing sometime.

My next project will be a pair of pants, based on the same pattern, made of silver lycra with quilted-on brocade panels in electric blue.

La Bête is for sale.

I’ve been easing up on the luddism lately, and decided to take another look at RSS. My last go-round left me distinctly unsatisfied with the quality of the available readers. This time around things are much better: there’s a new RSS reader called Vienna which is free, open-source, Mac native, and really doesn’t suck.

June 11, 2007

Saturday night was the third annual Heden High party. Oh, my, what a weekend. Once again the party was still rolling noisily along at 7 AM, with ten or fifteen people sprawled out in my bedroom shouting, cavorting, joking, and having what appeared, to my at that point rather foggy head, to be a very good time.

Sunday afternoon cleanup went surprisingly well. Lesley made a point of inviting post-party help in the invitation emails, and a good half dozen people showed up to put the place back together. It all went so quickly that I almost felt bad for not having more work to offer the willing helpers.

Take-out sushi dinner on the living room floor. Lars and Amy stopped by to help clean up, but the work was done, so they just hung out.

June 9, 2007

It’s an industrial sewing machine! In the Rocket Factory! Yay!

June 8, 2007

New, blue summer hair

June 7, 2007

I bought a new sewing machine.

The lasers I ordered for the laserfingers workshop arrived.


June 6, 2007

I rigged up a very basic prototype of the new laserfingers design, and I think it’ll work without much more elaboration. The assembly process is much simpler, the design is very error-tolerant, and it’s easier to put on and take off than the first-generation gloves were. I haven’t completely settled on the attachment scheme for the battery pack, but that shouldn’t be too hard.

I also got started on the fancy new dancing pants I want for the Shpongle show. I cut out a mockup of the pattern in a cheap cotton knit and tried sewing it together, but had all kinds of trouble with the sewing machine. I think it is time to call this experiment to an end and just buy a newer machine.

A new variation on the classic Internet-cat-pictures site is the Mr. Lee CatCam: someone has attached a timer-triggered camera to his cat’s collar and recorded scenes from his trips around the neighborhood.

June 5, 2007

Interesting band practice tonight: our bassist is out of town, so I filled in, playing an additional keyboard part on some songs and just playing bass on others. It was a lot of fun – the extra pressure concentrated my attention, and I think I actually played a little better than usual. We also ended up with a simpler, more open sound, which was really nice: we’re not normally very good at laying back and giving each other space. Definitely something to work on. It’s also just plain fun to rock out on a bass.

June 4, 2007

I went back over to the Rocket Factory after work today and finished the cleanup project. All the tools are now on shelves, in bins, or at least sitting on tables, the sawhorses are neatly stacked against the wall, and the floor is clear. I spent at least twenty minutes just sweeping up sawdust. Then I finished up the electrical projects. There are a dozen new outlets, and a pair of fluorescent worklights illuminating the area under the loft. It looks great. I feel happy.

The electrical system turned out to be a bit weird. We have a breaker box with two circuits, but all of the outlets save one are on a single circuit, and the big halogen lights on the ceiling are wired into the main feed, not on any breaker! I put the new worklights onto the totally underutilized second circuit, and I think one of these days I will have to redo the primary lighting system so you can actually shut it off at the box…

June 3, 2007

Beautiful sunny day today. I went over to Kira’s brunch in the morning; she was full of energy, producing a constant stream of quiches, muffins, and biscuits. Eric S. showed off the acrylic parts he’s found for his Burning Man project; we have both come up with variations on the “tree of light” idea, and it’ll be fun to see both trees glowing next to each other.

After brunch I did a little gardening. I’ve been slowly ripping out weeds in the front yard, and that left a bare patch around the side which I decided to fill with some sword ferns. There are already a couple of big bushy ferns in that part of the yard, so the young’uns will fit right in.

Next I went down to the Rocket Factory with an eye to getting it ready for the laserfingers workshop. It’s been in a chaotic state since we moved in, with bins and sawhorses and random tools and wood scraps everywhere, so I spent a while cleaning up and sorting out. Next I used some of the leftover scrap lumber to build a set of shelves for all my Burning Man gear, up in the loft. That done, I started in on some electrical work. It’s too dark to work under the loft, so I added a new switched circuit and mounted the first of a pair of fluorescent fixtures. I didn’t quite get that job done, and I barely even got started on my plans to add a whole strip of new outlets along the wall under the loft, but the place looks a lot better. Another six hours of hard labor ought to finish it…

Home, quick shower, new clothes, and over to Geoff & Laura’s for the end of their sangria party/barbecue. Good conversations, had fun talking to Amy S. about fourteen-year-olds. Lots of people are interested in the laserfingers workshop: *lots*. I am going to have to limit attendance.

Home: Mez had just gotten back from Rainier, and both Lesley and Alexis were in, so all four of us were actually in one place at one time, which happens with hilarious infrequency.

June 2, 2007

I want to have a make-your-own-laserfingers workshop later this month, in time for the Shpongle show on the 16th. It was great fun loaning out my laserfingers at the BT/JunkieXL show back in April; everybody plays with them differently. I’d love to see what would happen if a whole bunch of my friends all went to a big party wearing laserfingers.

If you are interested in participating, I’d like to hear from you. You would not need to know anything about sewing, electronics, or optics, or possess any of the relevant tools. Cost of materials would be about $50, and the workshop should run about three hours. I am thinking about the evenings of June 12th or June 15th.

June 1, 2007

Microbattery has a page listing dozens of styles of coin cell holders.