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    Speaker building update V: FINISH HIMMM!


    2011 - 10.12

    So I’ve been enjoying the fruits of my labors for quite some time now, by holding on to these speakers I built for my brother.  Last weekend we worked out dates for me to come visit him in NYC and deliver the speakers, so they’ll soon have a new home.  I’m excited to give them to their rightful owner…. but I would be totally lying if I didn’t admit that I’ll be very sad to see them go as well!  These Scanspeak tweeters are detailed and exquisite as can be.  I’m probably going to have to build something to replace them because I know I’m gonna miss these so bad when they’re gone!  Plus, they’re GREEN.  I mean, how often do you see green speakers?  Shown above is a view from the backside; I mounted the terminals vertically, with positive on top.  That will make it easier to figure out which is which in a dark corner of a room.  I also offset them to one side so they’d be easier to reach.  Since this is my third major speaker design, I took a metal-ink marker and wrote “JB mk.III” and LEFT, to denote that the L-pads should face the listener (so you can always check their setting with a glance)

    Anyway, they turned out pretty kickass, and the last thing I need to do to them before they’re ready for a plane ride is to take some PVC pipe adhesive and cement the flared ports so they cannot come apart.  Since you cut them to your own desired length, they need to be glued together before they’re “finished”.  As you can see in the below picture, looking through the woofer opening and into the cabinet, the adhesive sort of melts the plastic a little; when I wiped the excess away, it left a little grungy residue behind.  These are the little secrets that only the speakerbuilder will ever know.

    I also thought it’d be nice to post an image of the crossovers mounted inside the cabinet.  As you can see, I’ve got some sheets of foam about 1.5-2″ thick that go over the walls of the cabinet to dampen the internal reflections.  I took a small piece of that and put it underneath the wooden backplate of the crossover before screwing it down into the bottom of the cabinet, so that it should never rattle when the volume gets bumping.  For anyone who’s curious, these crossovers are pre-built ones made by Parts Express, and have a 12dB slope at a frequency of 2.5kHz.  Obviously you can get better materials (more $$$) and go nuts on crossovers, but I believe the money is better spent on quality drivers; plus these things were on sale at the time and it was too hard to pass them up for $25 a pop.  Bam, done.

    ‘Late Nite Chill on the Lake’ downtempo mixset


    2011 - 10.09

    Servin’ up another mixset to add to the list of original content around here; I call it the “Late Nite Chill on the Lake”. This is another byproduct of the Bill’s Boat Cassette Project, only unlike the previous two “Cactus Vinyl Funk Mix” and “BOATCHASE!” this one is a descendant of the mix which was imprinted to ferromagnetic tape, labeled “Heady Downtempo”. The tape was version 1, this is version 5. Click on the image below to stream it from the music player on the navigation bar!


    This mix is intended to be something you’d put on after a long day of cruising around on the lake, tubing, drinking, goofing off, enjoying the sunlight and the fresh air. The sun goes down, you turn on the running lights, pop open one last brew (or maybe the second or third to last), and slip this tape into the deck. Or this could be what you put on the stereo after you get back to the lakeside house after a day on the water. In any event, it’s the soundtrack to the end of a long day of good times.

    Tons of artists suffer from the desire to keep tweaking their works ad nauseum, to the point where one begins to wonder, “Will it ever be ready”? This mix was suffering from the same nagging feeling that I could still improve it, but finally I decided to just shove it out onto the stage and say okay, OCD adjustments OVER, this is it. Some of the neat tweaks you guys might appreciate knowing about:

     the sounds of the Mediterranian Sea can be heard between tracks 2 and 3. I recorded these on MiniDisc in 2004. Finally I put them to use here.

     the very start of the mix begins with the sound of me taking a cassette out of its plastic case, opening my cassette deck, putting the tape in, closing the door, pressing the power button, and hitting play.

     the end of track 1 and the beginning of the last track were run through my Glass Nexus effect pedal, providing a large reverb and some delay. On track 1 the effect starts out light and gets progressively thicker; on the last track the effects start out thick and fade back into to clean. I tried using the software reverbs on the PC and they just weren’t cutting it–the Glass Nexus has an awesomely realistic ‘verb.

     some of the chatter (in French) before the last track I recorded at Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris from 2005. There is also a really cool sound effect that I included, which plays through the airport preceeding any announcement over the intercom.

    update: the people have demanded a tracklist, so here she be:

    Tracklisting:
    1. Global Communication – “5:23”
    2. Leggo Beast – Bizzare Love Pentangle
    3. Tipper – Everything Is Everything
    4. Visit Venus – First Man On The Moog
    5. Tom Middleton – Astral Projection
    6. Blue Planet – Chaser
    7. Bonobo – The Shark
    8. Swag – Aug Munch
    9. The Karminsky Experience – Departures

    As with before we’ve got a 160 kb/s mp3 for download, and a luscious, rich FLAC file for your audiophile needs. Put this on after dark, and kick it.

    Riding In An Ultralight Seaplane — WOW!


    2011 - 09.01

    So there we were, chillin on the SS Advanced Manoeuvres, drinking High Lifes and getting down with some funky jams, when off on the horizon this weird plane appears. I say to my buddies, Q: “is that a seaplane?” A: “why yes, it appears that it is.” The mystery plane comes in for a closer approach and yep, it’s a bright red seaplane with yella pontoons. Awesome! Then he comes in for yet another pass, this time REALLY close. After buzzing the boat, we watch this guy circle around the lake and ask “is he about to land that thing?” Spoiler alert: yes.

    We’re anchored in a shallow part of the lake where most pleasurecraft tend to congregate due to the nice sandy lakebottom, along with maybe 5 or 6 other boats. The red seaplane touches down not too far away and pulls up alongside another vessel not far from ours. After debating it for a little while, we decide to go over and talk to the guy.

    His name is Donny and we chat it up for maybe a good 10-20 minutes or so. He says the plane runs off of normal gasoline just like you’d get in any gas station, and tells a story about how he flew it all the way home from Florida once. That’s sort of extreme, considering that it probably qualifies as an ultralight aircraft, and I doubt the top speed is really all that fast. After a while, I can’t resist asking any longer; “so uhh… what would it take to get you to take me for a little spin on this baby? I can toss some gas money your way and I’ve got a sweet camera that can capture a video for youtube.”

    Answer: yeah sure, go grab your camera. I could always use some extra gas money.

    My buddy Cody rolls his eyes in some combination of astonishment and admonishment; “John… I can’t believe you.” All I can say is “aww man!”

    So I hustle back to home base and retrieve the gear, hop on this seaplane and shoot this video (be sure to hit the 1080p HD!:)

    Aww man is RIGHT.

    Earlier this year I flew in a single engine Cessna and it was definitely way cooler than a commercial jet. Being able to see forward really changes the experience. Single engine planes are really a whole different world compared to airline travel. Flying in this ultralight seaplane was like the next level of coolness beyond that–you can easily look down on either side of you. For someone afraid of heights, this thing would probably be terrifying. Me, I do have somewhat of a fear of heights, but when I’m strapped in tight, as on an amusement ride, it doesn’t bother me. The whole thing was over before I knew it, finishing with an exceedingly smooth landing. I thought that touching down on the lake would feel rough, but no, it was actually softer than a large jet landing.

    So yeah. That was really something else. I wasn’t paying too much attention to where the camera was pointed; pretty much just gawking at the world below and trying to take it all in. Donny and I both had headsets on, so we could chat while we were up there. Right after we took off, he’s like, “hey, do you mind if I put on some reggae while we fly?” And I was all, “oh man, this is the life.”

    A day to remember.

    The BBCP: Bill’s Boat Cassette Project


    2011 - 08.23

    Ever been jealous of a present that you’re giving to someone else? This tape collection is totally like that.

    My buddy Bill acquired a boat some time back, and since I knew I’d be chillin on it with him over my Wiscotrip this summer, I wanted to bring along some hot jams. Deadly hot jams. As detailed previously, being able to provide the proper musical playback format involved getting a cheap tape deck and makin tapes. And here’s the results:

    The tapes:

    “70’s Cactus Vinyl Funk” Mixtape / “So Funky It Hurts!” Mixtape
    “BOATCHASE!” Mixtape / “Modern Funksters” Mixtape (not shown–it’s in the player!)
    “70’s Vocal-Funk” Mixtape / Donny Hathaway: Live
    Orgone: Cali Fever / Orgone: Killion Vaults
    Greyboy / New Mastersounds
    Carlos Santana & Buddy Miles: Live (Sides A & B)
    Curtis Mayfield: Superfly (Sides A & B)
    “Heady Downtempo” Mixtape / Scientist Dubtape
    Easy Star Allstars: Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Dub Band (Sides A & B)

    Click on the linked titles to Listen!

    Some of it is taped directly from vinyl, others are recorded from the PC, where I’ve got a nice retro-wamrth compressor/limiter program that brings out the detail on those tracks. As you can see, there’s a definite genre theme here with a heavy amount of funk. That’s what Bill digs the most, and also I wanted to stay centered there so the whole collection would have its own ‘vibe’, as the soundtrack to the boat. The two exceptions to the funk theme would be the Heady Downtempo/Scientist Dub mixtape, which I envisioned as something you’d want to put on while floatin on the lake after the sun’s gone down, and the Easy Star, which is just such a killer record I had to throw it in.

    There’s a veritable cornucopia of killer jams here, a substantial portion of which will eventually get posted on the site. Stay tuned for the full lowdown.  In the meantime, check out the SS Advanced Manoeuvres

    Makin’ Mixtapes!


    2011 - 08.16

    So since I got this cassette deck, I picked up a box of high-bias blank cassettes and I’ve been taping some hot jams direct from the turntable. Interesting thing about cassettes; since your recording time is limited, there is maybe a bit more pressure to make sure that every song which goes onto tape is a badass track, worthy of ferromagnetic imprinting.

    I had forgotten how making cassettes track-by-track is fairly labor intensive–you can’t really walk away from the deck for more than a couple minutes at most. There is something rewarding about finishing a tape though–one where you think to yourself, damn, every song on there is tops, and I’m pretty sure I nailed the order too. This tape’s got FLOW, baby!

    I just completed one that’s a combination of two double LP Orgone releases. If I don’t say so myself, the track listing is AWESOME.

    Side A: Cali Fever
    1. Cali Fever
    2. Time Tonight
    3. Lookout
    4. The Cleaner

    Side B: Killion Vaults
    1. Cruel Intentions
    2. Wanting Wondering
    3. Shopping Spree
    4. K. Irin
    5. Counting On You
    6. Done Deal
    7. Dark Falls

    Total playtime: only 40 minutes.  Make it count!

    Since these cassettes didn’t come with stick-on labels, I used metal-ink pens to label them, then put transparent tape over the writing so it can’t get scratched off. I’m pretty sure that should keep the labeling in mint condition for the life of the tape.

    And–AND–I’ve got three little mini-mixes that I whipped up for these tapes. After the goods have all been delivered, they’ll be posted on here. Stay tuned for that in the latter half of August.

    Primo Vino Art: Jargon


    2011 - 08.15

    I’m actually off on vacation in Wisconsin at the moment, but through the wonders of technology, I’ve arranged for a series of posts to happen while I’m away.  Mostly bringing the primo vino series up to date, since I have a backlog of pictures to post!

    We’ll start with this one, called Jargon.

    I love the sentiment on this bottle.  Some of you may be disappointed that I only post superficial descriptions of the wine featured in primo vino art.  Well the reason for that is because I think a lot of wine descriptions are at best vague, or worst, a bunch of flowery nonsense.  But someone else has already gone way deeper into this that I care to.  Check out this guy’s diatribe for a good laugh (it’s a pdf, FYI)

    Anyway, onto the art

    Cloudy Sky Timelapse: A Taste of What’s Ahead


    2011 - 08.12

    As mentioned before, a goal of mine is to start getting into timelapse photography. In the words of Carl, “Recently, we’ve waded a little way out, maybe ankle-deep, and the water seems inviting.”

    I’ve done four different night-sky timelapses, each getting progressively better. I may yet post one of them, but I haven’t so far. I’ll lead off the timelapse posts with this short clip I compiled from around 300 photos of the clouds a couple weeks back. For those so interested, the exposure was 1/500th at f/8 with ISO100. This was actually done with the T2i that was briefly in my possession.

    More imporantly, the exposures were about 15-20 seconds apart (I don’t recall precisely, but it was inside that range). You can see how fast the clouds move! I had no idea they shifted so quickly. For my next attempt, I did the exposures 6 seconds apart, and that showed the cloud movement much more fluidly. I’ll post that one later when I figure out why the rendering always seems to come out choppy. I’ve had some rendering issues with these…

    Anyhow, here is my first, tentative step into the world of timelapse! It’s The Moment Of Genesis baby!… the instant when a once far-off dream makes its first step into being REAL. Gotta love the energy that comes off of a thing like that. Bodacious!

    (Yes, I did just say bodacious)

    SETIstars Infographic


    2011 - 06.26

    So recently I was contacted by the SETI team regarding a sequel to the infographic I had produced a couple months back.  As many of you may know already, they’re trying a new way of keeping the Allen Telescope Array running: crowdsourcing.  There’s a new website over at SETIstars.org where anyone can go and give funds specifically for the restarting of the ATA. It’s a savvy move in the age of kickstarter, microloans, and grassroots funding.  And it’s pretty awesome to think that, well, if the people who should be paying for this won’t pay for it, fine, we’ll do it ourselves!

    I hope the venture is a big success.  It’d be reaffirming to see the citizenship of planet Earth as forward-thinking enough to collectively grok the profound implications that discovery of other intelligences would have.  It would be invigorating to know that we realize this meaningfully enough that we, as single individuals, would band together to sustain this important work.

    In the large scope of things, it’s not all that expensive either.  Just for perspective: the 1st infographic so far has seen over 40,000 views (just the flickr version, nevermind the ones I cannot track).  See the bottom of this new infographic to see how much 40,000 people would need to spend apiece to keep the ATA in action…

    There is a slightly-higher quality version available at flickr, as well as a whopping 11,749 pixels-long monstrosity of this new graphic combined with the original.  Anyone is welcome to use or repost this to their heart’s content.  All I request is a link.  And that you can chip in at least a fiver to SETIstars! Anyone can swing that.

    Also, I got a lot more creative with the background this time around.  Check out the remnants of Kepler’s supernova, comet NEAT, and the Andromeda galaxy!

    Special thanks to Phil Plait, Jill Tarter, & John Girard.

    Lastly, if you’re really into this sort of thing check out some other space-musings on the site

    Kepler Space Telescope Exoplanets visualized (great video comparing sizes and orbits) – video

    “oh, by the way” (a reminder of just how large the universe really is)

    Putting Things In Perspective: NEAT!

    When I’m Feeling Down, These Are Some Things That Bring Me Back Up (a roundup of inspiring projects)

    the microcosmologist frontpage

    Doesn’t it make you hungry?


    2011 - 06.18

    Ah, the classic Weber.  So simple, but so tasty.

    Analogue Fetishism, Stage One: GO TEAM VINYL


    2011 - 05.29

    So a couple weeks ago, I acquired something I’ve wanted for years, and have been waiting a long time to purchase: a turntable! It’s a Pro-Ject Debut III USB. This puppy is decidedly unassuming in appearance, but instead has got all the pizzaz where it counts: fidelity.

    There’s something great about playing records. Maybe it’s the nostalgia associated with the format that you used to play on your parents stereo as a little kid. Or the enjoyment of physically moving your music around, touching it, and having to place the tone arm on the vinyl, instead of clicking a mouse, or pressing a button. Vinyl is the most tactile medium of music playback, moreso even than it’s analog brethren the cassette tape. For these reasons I think it has an emotional appeal to it that makes other mediums seem… sterile by comparison.

    There’s something intellectually appealing about it as well; the waveforms reproduced by the speakers essentially come from a physical drawing on the record. There’s no sampling rate, there’s no digital to analog converter trying to smooth out a bar-graph of 1’s and 0’s to reproduce the original signal. Sure, you could make a successful arguement that with the sampling rates of common digital formats, the difference is imperceptible between a signal that is pure analog versus a signal that has been converted from A to D to A again. But still. It’s neat to know that the song you’re hearing is (at least for analog-recorded source material) EXACTLY the original waves.

    Another intellectual appeal to the format is that it requires your interaction. You can’t set up an eight-hour long playlist and then go do something else while the music plays. Often when an LP reaches the end of a side, I remember my friend Craig Bauman yelling from the kitchen to the partiers in the living room “GO TEAM VINYL!” to express his displeasure that no one had jumped up to flip the record yet.

    Vinyl also makes it tedious to skip tracks, or to jump around on an album. You put on a record, and you listen to it straight through. In this way it forces you to check out songs that might not have grabbed you on the first or even tenth listen. I’ve had an interesting experience with this idea on Orgone’s double LP “Killion Vaults” which I listened to for months in mp3 format, before this turntable arrived and I was able to play the vinyl copy. Now that I am forced to listen to the tracks in the intended order without skipping any, there’s totally several cuts that I had skipped over before that are starting to grow on me now!

    Last, vinyl is hip because it has its own sound. The tone-arm, the cartridge, the different masterings of vinyl recordings versus their compact disc brethren… all these things impart a unique flavor that isn’t present in the digital-only version.

    Reviews of records are forthcoming…..