Build a Cheap Lil Starter Robot with Your Kids


Spent the holiday weekend chilling with friends, and we built a few Jitterbugs (tiny, super-simple, super-cheap robots that run away from light, cockroach-style). I’d totally forgotten how much fun these are.  Here’s a video of my 4-year-old sitting in the closet with flashlights and competing at “reverse sumo” (first person out of the ring wins):

Here’s a set of Jitterbugs built by Stephen Trouvere and his boys, with the addition of LED eyes:

love how those lil guys turned out! For the curious, all we’ve done is built the standard jitterbug, then taken a pair of regular ol’ red LEDs, wired them in parallel, buffered the positive lead with a 100Ω resistor (brown-black-brown stripes), and soldered the free resistor lead to the positive battery terminal, and the negative LED legs to the negative terminal (it’s the same way we wire up the LEDs in the “Switchbox” project in that same book).

Full build instructions are in my first book (which also includes cardboard boomerangs, sock squids that can become Sock Cthulhu, musical instruments, and more).

Prepare Your Brain for RAZZLE-DAZZLE: Pierre Jaquet-Droz’s “Writer”

If you’re at all mechanically minded, you’re going to start our sort of underwhelmed, since the solution seems pretty transparent: Any determined craftsman could get similar results with a homebrew pantograph and template (hell, you could do it in LEGO).

But keep watching.  You’ll get more impressed around the 2-minute mark when you see the mechanism, and more so around 2:40 when you see the cams and realize that the device isn’t tracing letterforms, but rather, in a mechanical sense, understands a series of modular strokes than can be built up in different arrangements to form different letters. Finally, you’ll totally shit yourself at 3:55 because this damned thing—built in the late 1700s—was programmable.

0.o

Absolutely stunning.

Shout-out to this tacky Canadian rapper with his NSFW music video about doing sex with ladies on his hoverboard…

…you and I don’t appear to really have much anything in common, m’man—apart for our mutual love for whatever the hell it is we each individually think of when we think of “Freedom”—but you are a human untroubled by any insecurities of any sort, and I applaud that.

Continue reading “Shout-out to this tacky Canadian rapper with his NSFW music video about doing sex with ladies on his hoverboard…”

The “Millennial Whoop” and the Formula for Comfort Formulae

I’m interested in artistic formulea of all stripes, so my ears perked up when I stumbled across this blog post exploring why it is that every pop song I hear as of late seems to feel the same, even when they sound totally different.  The key: A little earwormy melodic alternation embedded into the hook.  Here’s the article’s kick-out—although the whole thing (which is rife with video examples) is well worth your time:

[T]he Millennial Whoop evokes a kind of primordial sense that everything will be alright. You know these notes. You’ve heard this before. There’s nothing out of the ordinary or scary here. You don’t need to learn the words or know a particular language or think deeply about meaning. You’re safe. In the age of climate change and economic injustice and racial violence, you can take a few moments to forget everything and shout with exuberance at the top of your lungs. Just dance and feel how awesome it is to be alive right now. Wa-oh-wa-oh.

Having read this, I wondered how persuasive such a simply piece of patterning might be. So, in five minutes I sketched out this little tune and, whaddya know, it sounds like the outro of basically anything I’ve stumbled across while tuning across the dial during the last several long summer car trips:

For the curious, there’s literally nothing going on in this song: The left hand is just a straight C Major chord alternating with whatever you call that lazy F Major where, instead of actually moving your hand up, you just skooch your thumb and index fingers up one white key each, so that you pick up F Major’s F and B while keeping C anchored as the bottom note (maybe that’s an “inversion” of F Major?)  The right hand, as per the “Millennial Whoop” formula, is alternating between the G and E two octaves up—i.e., the V and III in a progression where C is the root (i.e., I).  The lyrics (which, depending on your speakers, might be hard to hear without headphones; I’m shit at mastering) are just whatever popped into my head, and the whole thing was recorded using my cellphone.  The only “studio magic” (done in Garageband, and largely without any digital pixie dust) is “doubling the vocals” (see below—which is an excerpt form my book Junkyard Jam Band )—especially important in this instance because 1) I can’t sing for shit (which double-tracking tends to obscure) and 2) the mic on my cellphone didn’t pick up my voice particularly clearly, on account it was sitting on top of my keyboard’s speaker.  Even if it had caught my singing, I likely would have doubled the vocals anyway (which are actually quadrupled by the end—listen with headphones, and you’ll hear two extra voices, slathered in “chorus” effect, that come in on the second round of Oh-ee-oh-ee-oh-ohs), since that sorta lush studio overkill is baked into this running-’til-the-break-of-dawn! summer-hit genre.

 JJB-doublingvox
Continue reading “The “Millennial Whoop” and the Formula for Comfort Formulae”

Even George W. Bush Had His Moments

Imma level with you: That dude was not a PotUS I dug in the least—I spent almost his entire two terms on a travel watch list, bought a house that lost much of its value in the economy he destroyed, watched civilizations crumble and collapse in response to his foreign adventures—but I was still moved to tears of gratitude one night, driving home from the grocery and listening to NPR, when I heard him stand up for American Muslims following 9/11.  He was not a good President, and I have every reason to believe he is not a particularly good person, but he still had his moments.

‘course, by contrast to where we’re at now, GWB was a fucking statesman nonpareil:

and

… and on and on and on.

It doesn’t matter if you’ve been on the right side of every issue since November of 1999—if you’ve voted right and protested right and written the right letters to the right reps and given the right donations to the right charities to do the right things for the right people.  

This, here, today is still the country that we have all made, together, for better or worse.  Like it or not, GWB was my president, and Obama is my president, and whoever—or whatever comes next—will be my president, too.  God have mercy on my soul.