Sunday, March 30, 2008

Infused with genius?

Inside that murky jar, lying in wait, scarcely visible through the condensation in this Lensbaby macro-picture, we have none other than: ginger knobs and strips of bacon, just starting their multi-week infusion process. What began life as humble Muskovskaya Vodka is will now be elevated into something far nobler; wouldst that we could all make such a transformation in our lifetimes. But such rarefaction is possible, perhaps, only after our ultimate demise.

We can rejoice, however, that in several weeks, after the ginger and bacon has imparted its essence to the spirit, after it has been strained and cooled, and the congealed bacon-fat has been carefully removed, that we can commune with these earthly projections of the quintessence of flavor.

Maybe I should add some peppercorns.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Monome progress...sorta...

This might be more sideways progress than anything else, but I made a cardboard enclosure so I can use the device for now. The whole process took...awhile...but the thing sits in a box and can be pressed, although since my hand-cut holes aren't perfect, some of the buttons are a bit obstructed.

Still, I'm fairly happy since the thing is usable now and I can start messing around with the fairly sizeable set of existing applications written for it.

I know you dig my "just-mailed" style, with holes cut right through the labels and stuff. That tape on the corners? That's the high-strength stuff with strings in it. Oh. Yeah.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Recommendation 2008: Barack Obama

As I'm sure that faithful readers are waiting for this blog's recommendation for this political cycle, and the candidacies are reaching the final stage, I believe it's now time for me to endorse a candidate, Barack Obama.

The reason is simple: his recent speech on race. In it, he showed a willingness to do something which politicians are generally unwilling to do: look on both sides of an issue, and actually consider it. Yes, it has come in response to a political crisis; yes, it did speak of religion a bit too often for secular thinkers like myself. But it serves as proof, I think, that Obama is the best choice for tackling our society's current problems.

Hillary Clinton is, to be sure, an impressive candidate herself, and I think that it's telling that Obama has been able to upstage her in the public debate. By now, she is a master politician, who would, no doubt, lead this country sure-handedly. Personally, I have been turned off by her recent tactics, which seem to be rooted in the current political dynamic; Clinton simply does not have the transformational potential of Barack Obama, despite the fact that she, too, would be a first. I expect that Hillary will win the Democratic nomination.

John McCain, who I suspect will win the general election, probably cannot be as poor a president as George W. Bush. Although, as a pacifist, I abhor his militarism, he does seem to be a man of principle, who would make decisions based on actual situations and information, as opposed to whatever twisted ideas drove the Bush administration to the needless war in Iraq. I do not, however, expect him to do anything to address the growing problem of health-care in this country, or do anything to improve the economy for working people.

Barack Obama is our best chance at not only changing the tone of debate in Washington to provide something more useful for the citizens of this country, but also towards making progress on the long-standing issues which plague us. Both Ms. Clinton and Mr. McCain have been in Washington too long to take truly brave, transformational stances; though both would almost certainly be an improvement over the craven, war-mongering administration in place now, neither have the potential of Mr. Obama.

Hope is a powerful message; and although the potential for failure is always present, audacity is necessary to change situations for the better. In this, Mr. Obama outclasses all his opponents, and for this reason, he should be elected president in November.

Dangerous profession...

You can't make this stuff up. It's a New York Times article about opera mishaps, and it's really fairly entertaining. Bottom line: think twice before taking that role as Tristan. In fact, maybe just steer clear of Wagner completely.

Also, I put some new stuff up at FoundSound. A couple of videos from a class; I really like one of them, "Road Movie / Ocular Harpsichord."

Friday, March 14, 2008

Shaving the Yak

Just a quick one folks.

Some good stuff: If you haven't seen Peter Rose's The Pressures of the Text, follow that link RIGHT NOW and spend 17 minutes watching it. It's an art video, featured in the 1985 Whitney Biennial, and it's one of the funniest things I've ever seen.

I also just want to spend a moment to point out what Trent Reznor is doing. While Radiohead's In Rainbows experiment was cool and all, the new NiN album, Ghosts I-IV, is, I think, a much more ambitious project. According to the faq, it's covered by a Creative Commons License, which is a big step for an established artist to take. He's doing a free partial download, and selling the double-album download for $5. And a monome was involved in its production! (Although I guess the very Reznor-looking guy in that video is not, actually, Trent.)

Even cooler, however, is his remix web site, where he's making current and older projects available for download in multi-track formats, and even putting out some material you can't find elsewhere. (an instrumental version of The Downward Spiral, for example) More artists should be working this hard to foster the creative community. Also, working this way on the Ghosts project seems to have allowed him to spread out a bit musically -- it's instrumental, and most of the album is mellow and atmospheric. Personally, I enjoy it a lot more than his early, aggro-industrial stuff.

By the way, isn't it amazing what you can do during finals? Especially things that aren't related to your schoolwork?

Saturday, March 08, 2008

The monome works.

Instead of spending time studying for exams or working on end-of-quarter projects, I took a few hours yesterday to solder together my monome kit. And...amazingly, it works.

The kit is an easy build, for the most part -- the only tricky bit is the 64 surface-mount diodes, for which you'll want some tweezers and a fine-tip iron. But there's plenty of space and you don't need a magnifier or anything like that.

This shot is of the monome running a version of conway's game of life, written in ChucK. The actual lit-up buttons look white only because of the exposure; they're actually a brilliant green.

As you can see, however, my current kit enclosure is a half-open usps box. Weak. The soldering and stuff is really the easy part -- the trick here will be finishing the thing up nice. Hopefully in not too long, there'll be a picture of a nice, finished kit up on this blog.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Monome kit unboxing.

In the spirit of elaborate unboxing ceremonies for exciting new devices, I have decided to further fetishize my new monome kit. So, as you can see above, this might not be the most exciting box ever seen, but it's a pretty neat item. If you haven't heard of the monome, it's a 'minimalist' input device designed by some hip people in Pennsylvania. It's basically a grid of lighted buttons, which talks to your computer. It's up to you to decide the mappings of these button presses, and what the computer does for feedback.

So it's not as pretty as the box for the MacBook Air. At least not on the outside...

Mmm. Nicely textured, recycled-looking paper. Good stuff. Now, let's see what $264 buys you these days...

And there you have it. Two boards: one for logic, with the usb interface and the plumbing to talk with the keypad, and the keypad itself. The logic board comes with some chips, sockets, and passive components in addition to the usb connector. The keypad comes with the board, a roll of surface-mount diodes and a couple flat cables in addition to the board. The real star of the show here is probably the keypad itself; nicely textured rubber buttons that give off an air of quality. Note what's missing: screws, usb cable, and an enclosure. All to be designed and supplied by the end user, myself.

To get a sense of what's possible, take a look at this gallery of finished user kits. I'm hoping that mine will come out as nice as some of these do. I've got great plans...but not a lot of time right now, as the quarter comes to an end. Stay tuned for further updates.