Tag: made by me

Some thoughts after jukai

Jukai is the Japanese word for the zen ceremony of “taking the precepts”. Basically you vow to take sixteen precepts seriously in your life after some time meditating with each of them. And on the surface they’re kind of weird and dumb. Do not kill. Do not lie. Do good. Why would anyone care to devote so much time and energy to these basic and obviously good things and what does that have to do with zen?

Central to my commitment and enjoyment of zen is the notion that there’s nowhere to run, nowhere to actually escape the demands, responsibilities, and bullshit of life. Meditation is meant to bring you here–in all its complexity and regardless of circumstances. Bowing and chanting too. Part of jukai is sewing a complicated bib, called a rakusu, by hand. There’s you and you’re sewing a rakusu. For hours. You don’t pay anyone else to do it, no prayers will whisk away your frustration at your lack of skill, and sewing it drunk will not make it more fun.

So taking up these confusing and vague statements during meditation is a great way to watch yourself squirm under moral imperatives. Should we do good? Of course! How do we do good? That’s a much messier, much uglier answer.

Zen is also constantly pointing to the deep intimacy of our relationship to everything. Taking the precept of not stealing reminds us that we’re on stolen land. Taking the precept of not misusing sex reminds us of all the terrible violence against women only now coming to the mainstream. Taking the precept of not killing reminds us that the apparent agency and safety of some relies on the exploitation and murder of brown and black bodies. Whether we like it or not we’re deeply implicated in all of this.

So taking these vows and being part of a community that is dedicated to both exploring and holding others accountable to these precepts is a great privilege. Let’s get to work.

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Adding switches to the Fostex X-12 erase head

I’ve been making cassette tape loops recently, which necessitates disabling the erase head while recording. Constantly placing and removing a tiny sliver of tape and aluminum foil over the erase head got tedious quick. I’ve added 4 switches to turn on or off the erase head for each of the four tracks.

Here is an article that goes into more detail. It only posits the wiring though, and after some more research I learned that ideally there is a dummy load so the voltage that would’ve gone to the erase head doesn’t go somewhere else, potentially messing with biases.

SO. Ground wires to the erase head (black on the Fostex X-12) were left in place and the SPDT switches are also wired to a separate erase head that is taped inside the case. Here’s my crappy diagram of the erase head wires:

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Circuit bending an old crappy Radio Shack pedal

I picked this up at a yard sale thinking it was maybe an actual reverb pedal, but when I tried it at home it was just a very short delay pedal, which I already had. So it sat on my shelf for a bit before I remembered that I have the tools to alter electronics, sometimes for the better.

The first step was to desolder the sliders on the board and replace them with pots. I also sacrificed the battery bay (because 6 AAs??). Then I had plenty of room for knobs and switches.

Bending this was pretty straight forward, in that if I found a bend I’d usually incorporate it. Bends on somewhat simple hardware have a way of interacting that’s impossible to discover without soldering.

Here’s the plate once I drilled (too many) holes:

And here’s the board once I soldered it:

Designing the face plate on a computer and gluing the printout to the metal was a first for me. In retrospect, since there are many ways bends interact, I’d make the face plate without labels to make it a little more exploratory and experiential. I’d also use thicker paper.

The original sliders live on as the bottom row of knobs. I found two distortions and an actual reverb (two other kinds of pedals!!) as well as a couple sometimes-useless others. Have a listen! (The initial sound is the dry signal.)

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CD40106 keyboard thing

This is an instrument I built recently using the CD40106, a hex Schmitt trigger integrated circuit. It uses only two of the available six Schmitt triggers on the chip. While researching this chip (and a few others) I was a little overwhelmed by the possibilities so I decided to keep it simple (for now) and build something uncomplicated and fun but still challenging.

The case is made of 4 hardy cardboard panels fit into the outside wood blocks’ grooves. There’s hot glue, wood glue, and super glue in this thing. The white keys and buttons underneath were from toys. The bottom cardboard panel is attached with a single screw and has a 9V battery box (also from a toy). Here’s a picture of the back and bottom.

And this is what it sounds like!

Switches and knobs from left to right: on/off, LFO triangle or square wave, LFO rate, LFO mod amount, pitch, volume.

Here‘s a link with a great video about this chip and some schematics. And here’s my own schematic!

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Circuit bending the Casio PT-100

angle2

I’ve had this keyboard lying around for years (I don’t remember where or when I got it), and after my first bend I wanted to dive a little deeper.

After experimenting I read the writeup at tablehooters and found the chord modes, rhythm select, and sustain mode. I find the prospect of adding functionality that exists in the hardware but simply wasn’t built into the keyboard really exciting. I couldn’t really add more keys and the extra tone selection seemed convoluted. I also read the noystoise article which hinted at a tone select function but couldn’t find it for the life of me. I did discover a fill button which I added on the far left. [Continue reading…]

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I opened up a gifted keyboard and found an alligator clip and a potentiometer still in the case. So I started poking around and had a lot of fun! This is my first bent keyboard. I really enjoyed making this and I’m currently working on another more ambitious project.

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I’ve been the organizing force behind a choose your own adventure story with each branch or choice written by a different person. If you’re interested in contributing send me an email. It’ll be a zine and online when it’s done!

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Dichotomous thinking

I was reading a letter in the MOFGA newsletter the other day that sounded to me like some ignorant old man complaining about organic hydroponics: “There isn’t any soil in hydroponic production.” Yes, that’s the idea. And, “Big money is presently invested in ‘vegetable factories’ and ‘vertical farms’ where production is hermetically sealed in huge warehouses filled with LED lights and nutrient pumps.” It’s implied that all these things are wrong, but it’s never mentioned why they’re wrong. And then I see the letter was written by none other than Eliot Coleman who literally wrote the book on small scale organic ag. [Continue reading…]

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Notes From the Undergrads (story)

“Holy shit, guess who fucking messaged me today”
“No idea”
“Elaine. fucking. Bunter”
“That brainy bitch from psych?”
“With the gloves”
“She’d wear green gloves every day”
“Even in the summer”
“And put her hair in three pony tails”
“I know!”
“Winter gloves in the summer”
“Anyway, get this”
“What?”
“She’s getting married”
“FUCK! To who? Don’t fucking tell me it’s Jordan Stein” [Continue reading…]

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Sean’s Gloves (story)

Where the hell did his gloves go? There was an anathema of things going wrong and things going right. Earlier that day he’d been pulled over for speeding–the third time this week–on account of a wily, suspiciously hard of hearing mechanic who, upon handing our hero a large list of tasks performed or needed to be performed on his truck (brake fluid streamlining? Initial response system upgrade? Flester bolts tightened?) with an exorbitant number at the bottom, seemed a bit too confident exclaiming “She’ll really run now!” and now his speedometer was entirely unpredictable and incorrect, Sean guessing there was maybe some kind of exponential relationship between the wheels and needle with no real way to tell. [Continue reading…]

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