20081219

(quasi) Weekly guru.com WTF

I think I missed a post last Friday, but hopefully today's will more than make up for it. I know I'm probably being insensitive to the sexual proclivities of others, but hey, if we can't exploit insensitivity and misunderstanding in the name of humor, what are we doing here?

Project title: Domestic Discipline / Fetish Software
Description:
Need software programmer to create integrative domestic discipline software for couples engaged in domestic discipline / spanking / etc. Windows based. Should include the following features -

"Punishment Book" for recording misbehavior and punishment

"Punishment Calculator": spanker inputs data about the misdeed, program calculates appropriate punishment

"TIme Keeper": spankee's schedule of personal and professional tasks for the day, week, month - including *when* the task should be done, and *what* will happen if it is not done by deadline.

"Money Matters": spankers and/or spankee determine and keep spankee's budget.

"Health and Fitness": health, diet, and excersise program personalized for the spankee. Input meals, exercise routine, etc.


The software, as I envision it, provides a way for spanker to regulate, control, and "check" spankee's daily activities, and for both parties to reflect upon the process.


It should be fun, sexy, and easy to use.
Fun, sexy, and easy to use. Ooooooweeee! What more could you ask for? I like that it needs to be a Windows app, as if anyone using Linux participates in S/M activities (or sex in general, for that matter). I really get a kick out of the "Time Keeper" functionality. Here we shift paradigms from simple techno-sex-toy to complete-marriage-management-tool. I love it: "*what* will happen if it is not done". Cue the dramatic music...Have a wife that's not doing the dishes? Slap her! It's ok! The Spanking Software told you to! Ladies, have a man that just won't get off his ass to mow the lawn? Pinch his nipples and squeeze his balls! It's fine! The Spanking Software told you to! This software is going to revolutionize marriage forever!

20081205

Weekly? guru.com WTF

So hopefully this will become a regular thing--my quasi-weekly guru.com WTF. I'm a member of this site, guru.com, that matches freelance professionals with employers needing work done. I use it--with various levels of success--in an effort to completely remove myself from the physical working world. I get daily email notifications of job posts. Most are run-of-the-mill "i need a webpage to sell stupid shit that no one wants anyway" type requests, but there are also some real gems that cause me to become that creepy laughing guy in the corner of the JavaHouse. So here we go:


Category: Programming / Software / Database Development
Description:

Hello,

My name is REDACTED . I am looking for a company that can create a tool that can completely remove all porn and adult websites from my link directory .

Please submit your price quote .

thank you ,

REDACTED

Here's my bid; and it's free, to boot! Stop looking at porn at work! Don't get me wrong, I dig electronic smut as much as the next overly-libidinous male, but there's a time and a place, my friend.

20081203

Jingle Jingle

This weekend was a grand ol' time. John and Bonkosi were in town for Thanksgiving/Jingle Cross. On Friday, we met for a few (too many) drinks at The Mill by way of Quinton's by way of the Dublin. We ran into Old Steve on the Ped Mall, which always adds an element of randomness to the evening (a Very Good Thing).

Saturday came bright and early, in preparation for Jingle Cross 2008. John, Joe and I raced the Cat 4 race, which started at 9:45. We had breakfast at Lou Henri and made our way to the Johnson County Fairgrounds. After a quick practice lap, we lined up and began our 35 minutes of hell. I discriminate fairly regularly against runners (running is for suckers), and I think the gods of running stuck it to me pretty bad. A little bit more aerobic stamina would have been good.

The amount of preparation I put in was precisely zero. Thus, I was a little nervous approaching my first barrier. I'd read over and over the correct dismount procedure, and I still managed to fuck it up. Coming up to my dismount point, I clipped out of my left pedal. Shit. Needless to say, it was ugly. I almost went down remounting, but I managed to pull it off (bruised ego in tow).

In the end, I placed 32 in a field of 57. My two goals--not crashing and finishing--were accomplished. A good time was had by all.

I sat Sunday out, in favor of hot cider and whiskey. It was an absolute blast to watch the races; it was snowing, so the course turned to pure mud. It was pretty comical. The highlight of the day was the descent from Mount Krumpit, which was basically a big mudslide. Joe was lucky to have his camera rolling for the sweetest crash of the day:





Geoff of Geoff's Bike and Ski definitely took the prize for gnarliest crash. And with a smile on his face the whole time. Pretty rad.

20081105

Pride.


It's funny what being on a boat in foreign waters will do to your sense of patriotism. Or, in my case, how it can fill a once-vacant sense of patriotism. I'm not ashamed to say that, for the last eight years, I have had very little love for my country. Dubya--or more to the point, his fear-mongering--shattered any fleeting notions of my American Dream. The line between patriotism and jingoism became dangerously blurred. But being out there on the water, looking up and seeing that flag was reassuring. I can't explain it, but it made me feel a little bit more proud to have come from the U.S. Regardless of how fucked up it was.

"The true strength of our nation comes not from our the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals: democracy, liberty, opportunity, and unyielding hope."
- Barack Obama


What I felt out there, bobbing around in the Caribbean, pales in comparison to what I felt last night, listening to President-Elect Obama's victory speech. Watching the faces in Grant Park, I felt a restored sense of pride and hope for our country. To participate in the election of the first African-American president of the United States...damn. Amazing.

I've been alive through four presidencies: Reagan, Bush Sr., Clinton, and Bush Jr. I've always wondered what it was like to have a president worthy of respect. A president whom I would shake hands with. A president worthy of the title. As far as I could tell, that hope died in 1963. I'm proud to be alive in 2008.

20080727

A Sunday in Heaven

I'm back from RAGBRAI XXXVI. It was an amazing time. I learned a lot over the course of the week, and I'd like to share some insights with you:
  • It's harder than you'd think to get drunk when you're pedaling 70-80 miles a day. On Day One, I started drinking at the first pass-through town. I continued to drink at the second town. At the third town, after inhaling a vodka-lemonade, I started to wonder why I wasn't even buzzed. You burn a lot of energy--and apparently, alchohol--while riding.
  • A 24 ounce can of beer fits perfectly in a bottle cage. Necessity, as they say, is the mother of invention. The moment I figured this one out was one of those sublime lightbulb-over-the-head moments. I mean, how perfect: Gatorade in one cage, Speedweiser in the other. This helped mitigate the problem of between-town sobering. Drink at the towns. Drink on the road. I think next year I'll switch to vodka-Gatorade.
  • With all this drinking, it's important to stop for safety checks. As you roll past local cemeteries, you will see a group of people gathered in a loose circle under a nice shade tree. Make friends with these people. Do as they do. Puff as they puff. Pass as they pass.
  • Eat more. Do you know how much food you have to consume in order to not feel like complete shit around mile 50? I didn't. My two-meals-a-day routine fell flat on its face (as did I). Every booster club, scout troop, and firehouse in town spends a lot of time preparing a lot of food. Buy some of it.
  • RAGBRAI is not for vegetarians. I do not often question my vegetarianism; it comes as naturally as sleeping or sex. Holy shit was I tested this week, though. Pork chops. Pork loins. Pulled pork. Brats. Grilled chicken. Gyros. Hamburgers. Sausage breakfast burritos. Every direction I turned, someone wanted to sell me the best-smelling meat I'd ever experienced. Instead, I had to politely tell them No Thanks and spend the next 15 minutes trying to find the local Casey's to buy a slice of cheese pizza. Gnarly. God bless those Seventh Day Adventists selling vegetarian sloppy joes in North Liberty.
  • RAGBRAI is not the sex-fest that I was led to believe. After hearing stories of people shagging on pool tables in the middle of a crowded bar, I'd developed a certain mental image of RAGBRAI sexuality. I don't know if it was being at least ten years younger than the majority of the crowd, but I did not encounter any opportunities for billiard-table banging. The raciest thing I experienced was hearing the dude in the tent next to me climaxing. Neat.
  • Showering at the local swimming pool is a mixed bag. After 80 miles in cornfield humidity, $5 for a shower is not too much to pay. And gosh is soaking in the pool refreshing after a long ride. You will, however, be confronted, quite suddenly, by a room full of naked men. I haven't seen that much bush since the locker room post high school wrestling practice. I mean, it was bad. You've been warned.
  • Set your tent up on the west side of the nearest large object. Bus, van, tree--whatever. This will buy you at least three more hours of quality sleep before the sun turns your tent into a greenhouse. This is assuming that you're not one of those roll-out-at-6:00 tools.
  • Roll out before 11:00. While I see no need to leave at the ass-crack of dawn, it does pay to get out somewhere in the vicinity of 10:00. Otherwise you'll have problems getting food and (mucho importante) beer at the stops. You see, the state patrol dicks start coming in and shutting down the bars at a certain time, in an effort to broom the drunken stragglers through to the next town. Stay ahead of the man.
  • The paceline is your friend. Sure, you might get called a Wheel Suck, but you just got pulled halfway across the day's route, so fuck it. And there really is nothing greater than a being in a peloton of thirty some riders hammering down the left lane of an Iowa highway. You know you're going fast when you don't have to use your brakes to slow down--you just sit up a little straighter and let the wind do the work. I was fortunate to get behind the fastest team on RAGBRAI a couple times. Sure, I blew up my right knee big-ringing it, but I actually got into town before 6:00 on those days.
  • Iowa is hillier than you remember. Like, seriously. There are some monster hills in this state. On the worst day we had something like 5200 feet of climb. For those of you keeping score, that's damned near a mile. Train accordingly. Or make sure you've got a good granny gear.
  • Forget the garbage bag poncho. You're going to get wet regardless. At least you can not look like a douche bag while doing it.
  • Aluminum conducts electricity too. This may be a bit of an oddball, but I dedicate it to the lady who yelled at me for riding too close to her baby trailer in a thunderstorm. Concerned that my steel frame was somehow increasing the odds of a local lightning strike, Professor Mom somehow overlooked the fact that her baby was riding around in a metal cage. And that she was dragging her baby around in a fucking thunderstorm.
  • Ride RAGBRAI. This is the most important thing I could possibly say. Ride RAGBRAI. It's one of the most beautiful, rewarding things you could do with a week in July. I'll see you next year.

20080718

Bandit Riders

For those of you keeping score (and I do hope this number is dwindling), petroleum prices are fucking ridiculous. In the last month, the band paid anywhere between $4.50 and $5.03 for a gallon of diesel fuel (the $4.50 was on an Indian reservation in NY). As a result of big oil's "responsibility" to its shareholders, tour has been cut short. Thank you, you corporate darlings.

The upside to this, though, is that we're now able to ride RAGBRAI. We leave tomorrow for Missouri Valley, IA. God willing, come Sunday, we'll be dipping our tires in the Missouri River.

We are not physically prepared for this ride. I've been living in a van for the last month point five, and I was not planning on a ride of this scope. In a last ditch attempt to not die on RAGBRAI, I've been putting in some miles this week. Holyshit did I fall apart on my first long ride. I suppose it was silly of me to begin my "training regiment" in one of the hilliest parts of the state, but hey, you take what you can get. I was rolling on a saddle I bought from John for a six pack of Boulevard; it was a great deal, I must admit, but I couldn't really feel my ass afterwards. I've since switched to a Vetta saddle that my sit-bones are much happier with. We'll see how it performs this week.

Physical-fitness aside, I'm really excited for the ride. I tell people I'm going on RAGBRAI, and the responses range from: "Did you get in your 500 miles?" to "Don't drink too much" to "Bring lots of condoms."

Oh, Iowa, how I love thee.

20080617

Taxonomy

I'm currently in a coffee shop in the Elmwood Village in Buffalo, NY. The band is currently overstaying its welcome at our friend Bobby's house.

I love this town. Timothy Leary once remarked that the "space you occupy defines the time you're living in." While I don't know if I feel like I'm living in a different era, the space I'm occupying is definitely shaping my perceptions. To use another Leary term, my "reality tunnel" has been shifted.

People often ask me why I like to travel so much, or how I can stand to live in a van for three months at a time. It is precisely this shift in perception that spurs me do it. I forget the exact percentage, but our brain discards a large percentage of the signals that are sent to it. This is an evolutionary advantage; it behooved primitive man to ignore all the pretty little flowers and allocate more of his attention span to the large tiger in front of him. Luckily for me, I don't have to worry about saber-toothed cats, so I can devote a little more processing power to the "unimportant" things.

Tigers or not, however, my brain still manages to throw away much of what I "see". How much attention to I pay to the trees I pass every day on my way to campus? How often do I really look at the details in the buildings I see daily? We are pattern-matching animals, and we are exceedingly good at it. As soon as I have a word--a name--for something, I will never perceive that thing in the same way again. No longer do I see the historic brick building with interesting paint on the side and a unique wrought-iron fence covered in lush ivy that is beginning to encroach on the antique leaded windows that have seen a few too many years. Instead, minimizing what it has to devote attention to, my brain sees the building, matches it against a stored memory, and BAM!
I see The Old Factory.

Thus, I find travel very interesting; no pre-existing symbols for my lazy mind to fall back on--I'm seeing it all with fresh eyes.

What I love so much about Buffalo is how much it reminds me of Iowa City. It gives me perspective; many of the things that I enjoy about Buffalo, upon further contemplation, are very similar in IC. Every time I return to IC after a summer of traveling, I see things in a new way. For a month or two, it's almost like I'm in a new city. Of course, I'm just paying more attention to everything I've previously taken for granted. Inevitably, though, I slip back into the routine of daily life, and my perceptions begin to atrophy. What I'm really interested in is finding a way to keep things new--to see everything with new eyes.

20080320

we are all a target demographic.

I. Beginnings.

I think it started in fourth grade--brand awareness. Wanting to look cool. Wanting to fit in. Wanting to attract Sarah. Yes, as with most things in my life, it was sex that ultimately motivated me. No longer did the sweet purple tie-dye shirt that my mom bought me suffice. I was moving on to bigger and better things. I wanted Calvin Klein. I wanted Jordache. I wanted the holy grail: Nike. Just Do It, indeed. I heard a chorus of angels every time I saw it. Instant synesthesia--a white swoop or Handel's Hallelujah, it was all the same to me.
Oh, that white swoop. It was burned into my mind's eye. But what was it about that curvilinear little checkmark that captured me so? What did that nimble little symbol represent? I certainly didn't care at the time; I just wanted it. It would help me attain my goal.


II. Beginnings of a Revolution.

For Pro-Ams, leisure is not passive consumerism but active and participatory, it involves the deployment of publicly accredited knowledge and skills, often built up over a long career, which has involved sacrifices and frustrations.

The 20th century witnessed the rise of professionals in medicine, science, education, and politics. In one field after another, amateurs and their ramshackle organisations were driven out by people who knew what they were doing and had certificates to prove it.

The Pro-Am Revolution argues this historic shift is reversing. We're witnessing the flowering of Pro-Am, bottom-up self-organisation and the crude, all or nothing, categories of professional or amateur will need to be rethought.


I first heard the term pro-am last fall, in this article. The executive summary of the paper goes like this: our culture is entering a new paradigm in which specialized fields are no longer dominated by trained professionals, but by enthusiastic amateurs with a true passion for what they do. Instead of downloading the latest Oakenfold remix--illegally--I can now log onto ccMixter and download the latest Grime remix from some kid in the UK. TV writer's strike? Fuck it. I've got AtomFilms. Armed with a sub-$1000 dollar video camera and a copy of the DV Rebel's Guide, amateurs are writing and directing short films that often exceed the quality of any network television. We are witnessing a shift; we, as a culture, are migrating from a top-down to a bottom-up model. Rather than a culture of media-consumers we are increasingly becoming a culture of media-producers. The internet is bringing each of us closer to Warhol's fifteen minutes than he could have ever imagined.

How is this happening? What is contributing to the rise of the amateur? While we could debate various and sundry societal factors that have catalyzed this change, I think the easiest answer is the Internet. With instant information recall, amateurs have access to what have until recently been guarded secrets. What was once handed down from teacher to apprentice is now handed down from Google to you. Of course, you can read any trade rag and listen to the old-timers complain about the dilution of knowledge, but those guys will soon be irrelevant. The connectedness and immediacy afforded by the Internet is giving anyone--and everyone--the tools to produce professional results.


III. The Right Tool.

I was struggling to get the bottom bracket out of an old French bike I bought the other day. The first step in this process is removing the crank (which requires a crank puller). Not having a crank puller, I punted; I grabbed a three-jaw puller normally used to remove engine pulleys. No dice. Over the next hour I tried all sorts of other kludges that are too embarrassing to note, but the end result was a bicycle with both cranks still attached. The next day I went to my Local Bike Shop and they had the cranks off in thirty seconds. The Right Tool.

As a musician who fancies himself a pro-am, I spend a lot of time thinking about the right tool for the job--
what new device will enable me to realize my ideas? The right keyboard. The right control surface. The right audio processor. With the endless slew of products coming from the major manufacturers, it is a Sysiphean task to stay abreast of the latest technology. Where do I stop? At what point does The Tool I Have become The Right Tool? Is the newest tool the rightest (sic) tool? If it's new, it must be better, right? If tool X allowed me to accomplish N percent of my goal, then mustn't (new) tool Y allow me to accomplish at least (N + epsilon) percent of my goal?

It's an endless cycle. By design.

"Adolescence is a marketing tool." - Almost Famous
I keep asking myself if, as pro-amateurs, we are falling perfectly into the hands of Madison Avenue. Are we part of a historical movement--worthy of respect--or have we become nothing but another marketing category? Moreover, if we are nothing but another vector towards higher quarterly earnings, I fear we have become one of the most gullible demographics of all.

We know what we're talking about.

We are educated. We are informed.

We can't be fooled by mere marketing drivel. We see past that.

Bullshit.

We see precisely as far as the newest advertisement--tailor made to appeal to our "informed" outlook--allows us.

20080306

Maybe conservatism isn't always bad...

Professors Robert Dewar and Edmond Schonberg recently published an article lamenting the current state of Computer Science education. Particular attention/derision was devoted to the growing use of Java as an educational language. The authors contend that Java is inappropriate as a first programming language, and argue that the result of this trend is a growing number of undereducated graduates. Being an anti-Javite of fluctuating fervor, the article resonated strongly with me. I've been cooped up in this ivory tower for about seven years now, and in that time, one of the most elusive mysteries has been the rise of Java. Like, seriously, I don't get it. I see more and more people using it. I hear more and more people talking about it. The breaking point was when a professor--presenting some algorithm that I've since forgotten--gave code samples in Java. What. The. Fuck.

Say what you will about C, but the fact remains that to be good at C, you've got to have your shit together. You have to understand memory management. You have to understand pointers. In short,
you have to understand how a computer actually works. Let's face it; C is the de facto standard language--for better or worse, it is our lingua franca.

"Science proceeds one funeral at a time" - Max Planck

I've been thinking about this article, and the ramifications that it suggests. Where will we be in thirty or forty years when all the old school programmers are gone? When the new crop of Java disciples are calling the shots? Will the Gospel according to Kernighan and Ritchie survive? Will it be passed down in shadowed ceremonies, uttered only to the chosen few? Or will the Java trend fade away and die an unremarkable death. Something tells me that isn't going to happen.

20080217

DIY: How to Build a Kick Drum

Introduction

A kick drum is round. A kick drum has two heads. A kick drum is usually made out of wood. A kick drum is struck with a foot-operated beater.


You have now amassed the same drum knowledge that I had before starting this project. I tell you this for two reasons. First: no whining about not knowing anything about drums. Second: I am completely unqualified to write a tutorial in drum building. I'm sure an experienced builder would laugh/cry/swear at many of things I will say. However, I'm a student of the New Jersey school. Worse is better.


I've been in need of a good kick drum for a while, and since I'm a broke college student, my choices
were quite limited. Certainly not an Orange County or Spaun (upwards of a grand). So I did what I usually do when I find out that something I want/need is too expensive--figured out if I could build it myself for less. It turned out that I could--quite a bit less, actually. Excluding the shitty Tama pedal I bought, this drum cost about $360. And since I used the same shells that most of the custom shops all use (Keller), I have a drum that is on par with the best. Well, minus the plaid/polka-dot/whatever-crazy- pattern-you-can-imagine wrap. But I just wanted matte black, so that's fine.

So, where to start? First off, let's talk about the structure of a drum. In the most simplistic of terms, what is a drum? Let's start with this simple definition: a drum is a tensioned membrane attached to a resonant cavity. You hit the membrane, and the resonant cavity--well, it resonates. That's it. That's a drum. Sometimes you add a second membrane on the opposite side of the resonant cavity to help control the resonance of the drum. But that doesn't really change our simple definition.

So our first problem is clear: how do we attach the membrane (the head) to the resonant cavity (the shell)? Before I answer that question, let me pose an additional question: how do we tension the head? Both questions have the same answer: with rims (or hoops). The hoop comes down on top of the head and is pulled towards the shell to put tension on the head. Which brings us to our next question: how do we pull the hoop towards the shell? Well, we attach lugs to the shell, into which we insert threaded tension rods; these tension rods are then attached to the hoop. An illustration, hopefully, will make this all clear:



Note that this illustration--besides being horrifically not to scale--is specific to a kick drum; with a snare or a tom, the hoop is different, and no claw is used. So it goes like this: the head is laid down on top of the shell; the hoop is inserted on top of the head; and the tension rod is inserted through the claw, and then threaded into the lug (which is bolted to the shell). There are usually 8 or 10 lugs per side, laid out concentrically. I couldn't find any references describing if 8 or 10 was better, but I like the look of 10, so that's what I did.

That's it. That's a kick drum. The only remaining pieces of hardware are the spurs, which are the little feet that extend down to hold the drum upright on the floor. Pretty simple, huh? Let's be clear; this is not rocket science.


Parts Planning
or
The Shitty Part

Ok, we now know how a drum works, and how it is constructed. The next part is ordering parts. This really drives me up the wall. Nothing pisses me off worse than planning an order, placing the order, and then realizing I forgot something. This stage of a project often overshadows all others, time-wise.


Let's make a checklist of what we need:

1 x drum shell
2 x hoops
2 x spurs
20 x lugs
20 x tension rods
20 x claws

and the stuff I didn't tell you about yet:

40 x lug screws (attaches the lugs to the shell)
40 x lug bolt washers
20 x lug gaskets (a soft pad between the shell and the lug)
2 x spur gaskets (ditto)

That's everything.

First, we need to make a decision about the shell. Size. How big should it be? I'll let you spend ten hours browsing usenet discussions on shell sizes...ok...done? Good. I chose a 16 x 20 (that's depth x diameter). I didn't want a huge Bonham-esque boom, and I read that 16x20 gave a nice, punchy sound. Having chosen a size, you need to choose a shell material. Most non-recording kits are made of maple, so that's how I went. If you were building a solely-to-be-used-for-recording kit, you might go with birch. Next, number of plies. The number of plies determines the rigidity of the shell, and hence, its resonance characteristics. This is sort of a non-issue for a kick drum, as I was only able to find 8-ply kick drum shells from Keller. If it were a tom, you could choose between 6 or 8-ply, and for a snare, you can choose between 6, 8, or 10-ply.

The only other thing to be concerned about with the shell is the bearing edge. The bearing edge is the surface where the head actually touches the shell. You can imagine that the shape of this edge will impact the sound of the drum. The most typical appears to be a 45 degree cut (as shown in the diagram above). You can order shells with or without the bearing edge cut. I paid the extra $25 and had the edge cut for me.

Next up: hoops. This is pretty easy; just buy two hoops of the same diameter as your shell. Again, I went with maple.

Now for the hardware. You really just have to decide on a style and color that suits your aesthetic. I was going for the blacked-out look, so I went with all black hardware in a style that didn't look like it was from 1954.

Where to buy all your parts? There are a bunch of websites selling drumparts; I went with drummaker.com. They had great prices, and they shipped promptly. I recommend them.



Construction
or
What to do with all These Parts?

Now the fun part--putting it all together.

Let's establish a top-level view of what we need to do here. We've got a shell. We've got lugs. We need to mount the lugs to the shell. The lugs mount to the shell with screws We need holes in the shell for the screws to go through. Thus, our plan of procedure is:

1.) Layout holes
2.) Drill holes
3.) Mount lugs
4.) Profit. (I've only seen three South Park episodes in my life. -ed)

Ok. Step One. The Laying Out of the Holes. The first thing I did was make a shell layout mat. Like this one, only free. I started with two large sheets of paper taped to a sheet of plywood.



The first step was drawing a large horizontal line across the paper; this is the frame of reference. Next, I rekindled some elementary school memories, and I dug out a protractor, which I used this to layout the angles for the template. Assuming my math is correct, the magic angle is 360/10 = 36 degrees. (Note, if you were doing an 8 per side lug configuration, your angle would be different.) Given this angle, I aligned my protractor to the reference line and marked off four ticks at 36, 72, 108, and 142 degrees:



Leaving me with:



I then struck a line from each of the four ticks through the origin to the other side of the reference line:



giving me this:



The final step in constructing the layout mat was drawing marks indicating the shell radius. So I grabbed a tape measure and measured the precise diameter of the shell. Having done this, I measured out half that distance in each direction from the origin:



When all was said and done, I was left with this gorgeous shell layout mat:



The next step was transferring the angles on the template to the shell. Since I didn't want to get a bunch of pencil marks all over the shell, I taped it first:



Then I aligned the shell to the radius marks on the template:



Having centered the shell on the template, I was then able to transfer the marks to the shell:



I repeated this for each of the 10 lug positions:



This last picture just reminded me of something. See the seam running down the drum? If you're anal-retentive like me, you will want this seam to ultimately end up on the bottom of the drum, where no one will see it and think poorly of your craftsmanship. Take this into account when you first align the shell to the template. But I digress.

Having transferred all the marks, I then struck lines perpendicular to the front face of the shell. This, however, required more tape:



Using my trusty framing square, I extended the tick marks:



Extend this line all the way to the other side of the shell. If your framing square isn't long enough, get a straightedge long enough to reach.



The next thing I needed to figure out was where to actually place the lugs. I couldn't really find any good information on lug placement--specifically, the distance from the front face of the shell to the lugs. So I got online and started looking at drums, to see what looked best. I don't think it's too critical, you just have to take into account the width of your hoops and the length of your tension rods. I did a test fit to see how things lined up. Here's the shell with the head and the hoop:



I then checked the fit with a claw, rod, and lug:



Each lug mounted with two bolts, spaced at 1.5". I decided on a depth of two inches to the front hole:



I repeated this step for each lug. After that, I was ready to drill. I first measured the diameter of the lug mounting post:



The post turned out to be 15/64". I consulted my drawer-o-drill-bits and came up with this guy:



This is referred to as a "spur-point" bit, in theory it should leave a nice clean hole with little tearing of the wood. Putting it to the test:



My first hole didn't turn out the best, though, as can be seen here:



Not the nicest of exit wounds. In an attempt to mitigate this tearing, I only drilled through far enough to see the spur poking through the other side of the shell:



Once I saw the bit starting to poke through, I finished the hole from the inside of the shell:



This fixed the problem. Here you can see a comparison of both methods:



To verify that I got my hole spacing correct, I did a test fit with one of the lugs:



It fit pretty well. Not too tight, not too loose. Satisfied with everything, I drilled holes for the rest of the lugs:



Neat. All I had left were the spurs. I tormented myself for quite some time (by which I mean more than five minutes but less than thirty minutes) trying to decide where to mount the spurs. I surfed the Internets for a little while trying to see what others did, and the consensus--for 10-lug configurations--was to mount the spur just below the "90 degree lugs". That probably doesn't make sense; here's a picture:



The folks at drumfoundry.com are kind enough to provide a drilling template for the spurs. I'm not sure what I would have done without this. I would probably have a drum that sits crooked on the floor. Here's the template:



You tape it to the shell and transfer the holes. Pretty easy. The first step was mounting it to the shell:



Just make sure that the horizontal lines are parallel with the front face of the shell, and adjust to your desired depth. After positioning the template to my satisfaction, I marked the holes with a punch:



after which I drilled the holes:



A quick test mount showed that everything fit:



I know that I mentioned a spur gasket on the parts list earlier, but now I can't remember if they even sell those. Regardless, I didn't have one, so I had to make my own. A trip to the auto parts store produced a roll of gasket material. I traced around the spur, producing this:



after which I cut it out:



But how do I know where to drill the holes? Ummm...thinking...uhhh...then I remembered the paint marker I had. So I glopped a bunch of paint on the spur:



and transferred the marks to the gasket:



I cut the holes out of the gaskets and mounted the spurs:



And voila! a drum:





Pretty simple, right? It sounds great, and I'm really happy with the shell size I chose. I have a friend who works at a cabinet shop, he finished it for me with a stain called "satin". It's matte black, but it lets the grain show through. Nice.

20080207

Hammers and Nails

A standard component in most undergraduate computer science programs is a semester course in programming language concepts. Now, I'm not a computer science major, but I did take the class last semester, and I really enjoyed it. I knew I was going to love the course when, on the first day, the professor's intro slide referenced the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis. You should take a few minutes to check out the Wikipedia link, but the CliffsNotes version is this: the language you use to communicate directly influences your conception of the world. A standard example of this hypothesis is illustrated by the language used by the amazonian Pirahã tribe; they do not count with numerals. They have no words for numbers, so--the theory goes--they cannot perceive numbers. Confronted with a pile of four pebbles and a pile of five pebbles, the Pirahã do not comprehend any difference. Of course, this is all just a hypothesis, but I've read enough Robert Anton Wilson, Korzybski and random buddhist texts to embrace the idea.

What in the world does this have to do with computer programming? Well, you program a computer using a programming language, right? Hmmm. Might the language you use to program the computer impact your fundamental conception of how to program the computer? Without going into nerdy details, the answer is--emphatically--yes. Stated simply, the tool you use to approach a problem directly shapes how you perceive the problem.

If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. - Bernard Baruch
As a musician, this concept had immediate implications. Might the tools I use to create music directly shape my conception of music? Any multi-instrumentalist will immediately tell you that this is the case. Play a piano for ten minutes. Now play a guitar for ten minutes. Now play a clarinet for ten minutes. I guarantee you that you just saw the world (musically speaking) in three completely different ways.

As an electronic
musician, this concept had even further implications. Might the software I use to create music directly shape the music I create? For the last 4-5 years, I've been a Pro Tools user. I loved it. It did what I wanted to do, and it did it well (besides the fairly regular crashes). In time, though, I started hearing about some new software called Ableton Live. It was supposed to be pretty revolutionary; I was reading some very positive feedback about the software. So I checked it out.

Let me say--emphatically--that it has changed my life. Live has changed the manner in which I approach the creation of new music. In Pro Tools' defense, it is very good at recording music. If you know what you want to record, and you know how you want to record it, Pro Tools is your go-to; its editing abilities are unmatched (don't take my word for it, just listen to any Top 40 radio and you'll hear the kinds of turds it can polish). But I'm more interested in creating music--in starting with a seed of an idea, and allowing myself to see where it will go. This is where Live shines. It is operating under a different paradigm than Pro Tools. Pro Tools is meant to operate like a virtual multitrack tape recorder; you hit the record button once, you play some music, and then you hit stop. Your music is laid out on the screen, left to right, in the order you recorded it. Very linear. Live, however, uses loops. You are presented with a grid of open slots, any of which can hold an arbitrary-length loop. You can layer, stack, rearrange, cut, chop, mix, dice and (insert any other verb) to your heart's content. It's very freeing. When you have something you like, you press the record button and it will record it all to a more linear form, just like Pro Tools. It's magical.

After working with Live for around a year now, I find it interesting--and useful--to go back to the Pro Tools world. Like I said, its editing capabilities are amazing. If you've ever had to comp eight vocal takes into a cohesive track, Pro Tools' playlist feature is indispensable. Try doing that in Live.

The point of all this is that the tool you use changes the way you do the job. Sometimes the job dictates the tool. Other times--and these are those important creative times--the tool dictates the job.

20080205

If a blog falls in the woods...

A cursory scan of the post dates on this blog will show that I've only just recently started blogging in earnest. Digging slightly deeper will show that this blog had been around for nigh on two years without a single post. Why was that?

If I may posit a hypothesis, it's because I tend to think too much. About everything. I mean it. Everything.

We've all come across those two guys in the coffee shop, tirelessly pontificating on the most inane of subjects. The ones whose conversations play out like a glossary of terms from an Intro to French Philosophy course. I mean, don't get me wrong, I'm as much a fan of post-structuralist debate as the next ego inflated academic, but these guys take self-aggrandizement to a new level.

Anyway. It seems those two clowns have taken up residence in my rationally thinking mind. "But what's the point? Nobody will read your blog." "It's so narcissistic; who do you think you are?" "Why a blog? Why can't you just write it in a journal like every other self-absorbed introvert?" Ad nauseum.

The point I am failing to make is that for two years I have allowed the peanut gallery to stop me from producing anything. Having posed a list of questions for which there are no possible right answers, I have been frozen in a state of inaction. I've recently come to accept, however, the Zen of Carmela Soprano--that "more is lost by indecision than by wrong decision."

And so here we are. Writing. Participating in this new literary paradigm that is The Blog. Publishing our personal thoughts, wrapping them up into bite-sized morsels, dropping them into the collective unconscious of the Interweb. Why? Not sure. Stopped caring. Just taking part in it.

I have an operating philosophy (what a more ontologically-rigid mind might call a belief) that everything I read (or hear, for that matter) comes to me only when I am ready to understand it. Maybe a little too Be-Here-Now-ish, but it works. Sometimes I try to force a book too soon, and it is only years later that I return to the book with a new set of eyes, finally prepared to wrap my head around the content. That being said, I wish I had stumbled upon this post by Steve Yegge a lot sooner. Mr. Yegge is a prominent voice in the computer programming community; he's a very polarizing blogger--the kind you either love or hate. In the post, he addresses--very well, I think--many of the unanswerable questions that plagued me for so long. He has brought closure to many of my reservations about blogging. If you have any interest at all in the "why" of blogging, do yourself a favor and check out Steve's post.

And then you can write about it in your own blog.

20080204

On the other hand...

After yesterday's post, I thought it might be useful to add a pinch of good old fashioned cynicism. From two more of my favorite people:

"Anyone who is capable of getting themselves made President should on no account be allowed to do the job." - Douglas Adams


Richard Metzger: "If you were elected President, what's the first thing you would do?"
Robert Anton Wilson: "Resign"

20080202

Reassurance

I support Barack Obama in the 2008 presidential election.

That being said, I do spend a certain amount of clock cycles wondering if I've just been caught up in a trendy candidate. Obama's approach to the young, internet-savvy generation is leaps and bounds ahead of any other candidate. The support I see for him sometimes reminds me of the hype that often accompanies new bands. Hype that is carefully orchestrated by shills.

My mind has been put slightly more at ease, however, after reading this article by Lawrence Lessig.

A disclaimer: I am an ardent Lawrence Lessig devotee. Like, big time. His views on copyright and its negative effects on creativity are the best I've read. His work with Creative Commons is inspiring. Discovering his talks on Google Video was a turning point in my life. I respect this guy. Like, big time.

In the article, Lessig discusses his support of Obama. He contrasts Obama's platform with Hillary Clinton's; calling attention to Clinton's recent opposition to free presidential debates. I was suprised to learn that Lessig actually knows Obama; his confirmation of Obama as "the real deal" is reassuring. And while I do disagree with his belief that "Barack is going to win this one easily," his hopefulness is refreshing.


20080129

Sexy.



I really don't know what to say about this.

Other than Richard Stallman is my hero.

20080125

NaN


I just checked the weather on the local news station's website; apparently it currently feels like NaN degrees outside. For the non-nerds reading, that's Not a Number. As in: does not compute. Welcome to Iowa. The irony of the situation is that 18 degrees is the highest we've seen in the last week; it is certainly a welcomed respite.

Despite this apparent glitch in the matrix, after 25 years in this state I feel that I've finally come to terms with the hellish abuse that is Iowa weather. Honestly, I've got no problem with the blast furnace humidity that exists from late June to early September. If you've ever hauled 600 pounds worth of amps and guitars into a windowless Phoenix coffee shop in mid-July, you know that any complaining about Iowa summers is feeble, at best. You also learn why native jungle dwellers are never wearing any clothes.

No, it's winter that has consistently deflated my balloon. This shit can really bring a soul down. I've never experienced Chinese water torture, but I imagine that it effects a similar madness as three months of Iowa winter. Apparently, the key to successful water torture is randomly timed drops. Too uniform a cadence, and it's not as effective. I think this correlates nicely with winter. It's the randomness that gets you in the end. Three days of nicer weather, and you're on top of the world. Everything is great. And then SLAM! you're inundated.

I'm getting better, though. This too shall pass. My brother has started a habit of not receiving any anesthetic before oral surgery. Some might call it masochism; he calls it learning that pain is as much an idea as it is a sensation. This outlook has informed my approach to winter. You've got to come at winter with an unflinching determination. You've got to look the motherfucker in the face and explain to it, in no uncertain terms, that it's your bitch. Suddenly, then, it doesn't feel as cold outside. Dress in layers, invest in some nice gloves and a scarf, and you'll be fine.

A gut full of Jameson doesn't hurt either.

20080123

this guy is smiling for a reason...



I'm not a bike guy.

Or, rather, in the spirit of Korzybski's general semantics, I have never exhibited traits that would typically be attributed to a "bike guy".

I've always filed bike guys in in the same drawer as photographers. Great to talk to individually, but avoid groups at all costs. I suppose that's unfair; nothing is as bad as a group of photographers.

I have, however, seen the light. The bicycle light.

I blame John.

You see, John recently lent me his Gary Fisher single speed (a nice bike). I'd never ridden anything as light or as nimble. It's graceful. It's got one gear; there's no shifting. Upon seeing this, I was dumbfounded; how would I ever make it up a hill? You just do. It's a thing of beauty.

I'm not sure why John lent me the bike. It's not a disposable bike. It's not a cheap bike. It's not a bike you lend to someone as prone to alcohol-induced memory lapses as me. It was--to be sure--a generous act of faith. I can't thank him enough.

I'm not sure, but I do have my suspicions as to why he did it. I think these bike guys are on to something, and they want to share it. Like a Taoist that doesn't proselytize, but simply acts in a manner that others might emulate, I think John is spreading the Good Word in his own way.

So now I'm building my own bicycle. Like the yuppie in the picture, I'm the proud owner of a 1973 Schwinn Continental. I didn't pay a damned dime for it; some hippy left it in my backyard. It's going to be, in the inimitable words of Ms. Hilton, hot. A single speed. With a coaster brake (yes, just like you had when you were four). No brake cables to route. No shift cables to run. No derailleurs, no tensioner, no kickstand. A bare frame and two wheels. Perfect.