September 03, 2015

OMFG JUNKYARD JAM BAND IS DONE DONE DONE!!! Hear samples of rad #DIY music projects! Get FREE projects! @nostarch

Believe it or not, my latest DIY book--Junkyard Jam Band: DIY Musical Instruments and Noisemakers--is finally done, and only 30 months late (!!!)  For the past three+ years I've been toiling on a great big book of DIY music projects, and it went to the printer last Friday--all 400(!!!) pages of it!  That's 16 projects, ranging from some quick-kid-fun-on-a-rainy-day noisemakers to full-blown grown-up analog synthesizers and effects.  The web site now has video samples and a full audio table of contents, so you can hear all the projects before you decide to build (scroll down to the bottom of the page for audio samples). Here's a little video taste of what's in the book:

Since the book is going into print shortly (copies will hit shelves in early October), that special Early Bird discount price is going to disappear. If you'd still like to beat Amazon's price while supporting independent publishing (and get the multi-format DRM-free ebook at no additional fee), download the Junkyard Jam Pack PDF, which features the two most popular music projects from my first DIY book, and includes a 30% off coupon code that's good for either of my books. 

  • Get your free Junkyard Jam Pack PDF NOW!

    And, hey: Spread the word! I'm really pumped to have this book out, heading into the world to spread the DIY music love, and a strong kick-off really, really means the world to me. The more folks who are building their own amps, electric diddley bows, synths and sound-toys, the better. Thanks!

  • August 28, 2015

    There Are Many Things Which I'll Always Love...

    ...and the Charles Mingus CAT-alog for Toilet Training Your Cat is most certainly one of them. God bless you, Charles Mingus. God bless you, Nightlife.

    Charles Mingus Cat Toilet Training Program | Charles Mingus: The Official Site

    While we're on the topic, see also and this and this and this and this and so on. Just keep reading until someone yells at you.

    August 27, 2015

    Listen: If We Don't Start Taking Trump Seriously, He Will be President #FACT #NotJoking

    credit: DonkeyHotey

    This excellent and instructive set of posts really concisely analyzes the marketing savvy underpinning Donald Trump's political crazy talk. Consider it mandatory reading for anyone who 1) currently lives and votes in the United States or 2) ever plans to attempt to earn any money in any manner:

  • Clown Genius | Scott Adams Blog

  • Can We Call a Trump Puppet a Trumpet? | Scott Adams Blog

    This analysis aside, here's why I'm absolutely convinced that, if we stay the course, Donald Trump will be President:

    I see smart, political-aware, left-leaning progressives once again doing *exactly* what they did when George W. Bush ran: Bemusedly watching a desperately outclassed clown-candidate fumble every media event like a stumble drunk, and then archly snarking: "Who are all these people that are supposed to vote for this guy? I don't know anyone who would ever vote for him!"

    And *that* dumpster-fire of a President got elected twice--and put tens if not hundreds of thousands of people in their graves. So, howsabout we don't go and do the same dumb, cynical bullshit again?

    Just to be clear: I'm not suggesting you go out, insult and dogpile on pro-Trump folks--'cause that's exactly the way we got Bush elected *twice*; a shrill liberal freak-out is baked into Trump's strategy. I'm suggesting that we really set our minds to trying to understand how it is that folks who are enthusiastic about Trump got to that place, without assuming it's because they are "dumb bigots."

    If you're wondering, "Jeez; how the fuck do I talk to someone who is head-over-heels for Trump?" My experience: Make sure that your side of the conversation only consists of questions. And not thin-ass rhetorical questions like "Why do you love that bigot, stupid?" Real questions, like: "OK; why do believe Mexican immigrants are disproportionately criminal? Is that actually true?" 'cause 10 minutes of googling reveals this table:


    compiled be a *very* reliably Conservative writer, Heather Mac Donald, and based on DoJ National Crime Victimization Survey data. You'll note that, as perpetrators, Hispanics account for 14.8% of violent crime, despite being 17.1% of the total population--in terms of violence, they're actually *underperforming* [insert your own "lazy Mexican" joke here, bigot].[*]

    The point here isn't to zing anyone; it's to compassionately invite them to join you in a place where reasonable humans will begin to properly question how reasonable this American Savior's claims are.

    Anyway, the Big Picture: Let's maybe stop being Trump's strawman, ok?

    photo credit: DonkeyHotey



    [*] Since my regular readers seem to deeply enjoy my penchant for footnoted fact-based poindexterity, here's a fun set of tidbits:

    1) While Hispanics lag behind in committing violent crimes, they are victims of 17.7% these crimes (as calculated from Table 5 numbers in the 2013 DoJ Criminal Victimization bulletin)—about what you'd expect, given that they're 17.1% of the population. All that said, does my data disprove Trump's claim? Clearly, no: "Mexicans" are a small subset of "Hispanics" and "undocumented Mexicans" an even smaller sub-set of that. Can we expect differences in behavior among these groups? Maybe, but if anything undocumented immigrants appear to commit violent and property crimes at a *lower* rate than their naturalized peers.

    2) As part of his "We need a wall and Mexico needs to pay for it!" spiel, Trump repeats the conservative canard that: "[The Mexican government has] even published pamphlets on how to illegally immigrate to the United States." In case you're wondering, here's the pamphlet in question. My Spanish isn't superfantástico, but this comic book clearly begins by telling people that the safe way to immigrate is through official channels with appropriate paperwork, and warns that unofficial crossing is both dangerous and illegal. It goes on to describe the dangers of crossing the desert, forging rivers, being victimized by human smugglers, and then being victimized by employers once you are across the border illegally. It strongly discourages using false documents, lying to American law enforcement, fleeing law enforcement, being armed in any way, or breaking the law in any way. If you get in trouble, the pamphlet advises, you have certain rights, and should contact the consulate. The pamphlet closes with: "This [guide] does not promote crossing [the border] without legal documentation required by the United States government; its objective is to make known the risks and to inform about the rights of migrants regardless of their legal residence." It's a pretty run-of-the-mill government document. It was published 11 years ago and "thousands" of copies were distributed; at the time it was published, even folks of a seemingly anti-Mexico persuasion found the idea of using this as an "invasion blueprint" laughable: "But as a survival guide for Mexicans seeking a better life in el Norte, Guía del Migrante Mexicano fails miserably." As near as I can tell, it hasn't been in print in ages; in fact, the only place you can find it online anymore is on White Nationalist websites, as an inflammatory example of the immigrant invasion, or whatever.

    Nonetheless, this historical footnote is prominently featured in the platform of a 2015 U.S. presidential candidate, where it is characterized as a guide to "illegally immigrate to the United States."

  • August 25, 2015

    Go Grab Your FREE Copy of @nomediakings's ANGRY YOUNG SPACEMAN *NOW*!

    Angry Young Spaceman was the first real ebook I ever read (on a Palm IIIx, no less). Several close pals read it at about the same time, and it had a *huge* impact on how we framed our 20s at the time. It's a real gem, from a really swell guy (who's now doing some really fun films, including Ghosts with Shit Jobs and Haphead; check those out, too).

    No Media Kings Launched 15 Years Ago -- FREE DOWNLOAD of ANGRY YOUNG SPACEMAN

    August 19, 2015

    "You Are Safe Here"

    Vi Hart's Guide to Comments - YouTube

    The thing I really like about this "How to Deal with Haters" video is that she never says "haters"; Vi treats these critics with the dignity that they are denying the folks they criticize, and that is both classy as hell and tremendously valuable in terms of personal growth and the path toward compassion. You can do a lot worse than being more like Vi Hart in this regard. Watch. Listen:

    (See also this four-point "How to compose a successful critical commentary"; been meditating on this quite a bit lately)

    August 13, 2015

    Transposed Horror Scores Sound Chintzy, Vaguely Uplifting

    "Creepy" music is generally in a minor key; upbeat music is in a major key. Shift something like "When the Saints go Marching In" to a D-minor, and it sounds like a hebraic dirge (which I rather like). Shift horror themes to a major key, and you get this:

    The transposed X-Files theme sounds like the intro music to a Japanese educational program, while Nightmare on Elm Street could easily sub as the intro music to a low-rent Hallmark Xmas drama.

    (via slate.com)

    July 06, 2015

    Jam out like Jack White: Build Your Own DIY Single-String Electric Guitar and Amp

    tl;dr: Get your free Junkyard Jam Pack download NOW! Go build an amp and an electric diddley-bow guitar!

    OMFG! I've gotta a new book coming out SOON!

    I've got a new DIY music-&-noisemaking book coming out at the tail end of this month. Here's a sneak peak of the sorta stuff in there:

    To celebrate the new book, we've put together the Junkyard Jam Pack: Full, DRM-free PDFs of a couple of the most popular music projects from my first book.

    *BONUS* The Junkyard Jam Pack includes a coupon code for 30% off either of my DIY books!

    Click here to download the Junkyard Jam Pack! Click this little button below to share the Jam Pack!
    Click other things in other places to do other stuff!

    June 22, 2015

    A Pretty Solid 5min Explanation of Neural Networks, Genetic Programs, and AI as "Thinking Machines"

    My 9-year-old has been pretty concerned about consciousness and the evolution of intelligence and AIs and such recently (for the non-childed: this isn't humblebragging; my kid is indeed a weirdo besought with weird worries--because of Nature and Nurture--but this brand of light-weight epistemological crisis is pretty much developmentally on the ball among humans).

    Anyway, without malice aforethought (or any real forethought at all), I let him watch half of this X-Files episode where a building-maintenance AI murders a dude, and that sorta made things much worse, in terms of his growing terror about what is and isn't knowable--esp. know that I'd compounded the problem by introducing the possibility that an autonomous building might try and kill us if it felt even the least bit threatened.

    So I showed him this video, which gives a much more complete sense of how academically interesting--but largely trivial--modern autonomous AIs are. It's a very concise, but nonetheless enlightening 5-minute primer on neural network AIs and genetic programming. We watched it a couple times, he groked it, I asked if it seemed threatening, and he agreed that MarI/O could not hurt anyone--with the proviso that this was because they'd hooked it up to a Nintendo. If they'd hooked it up to something else . . .

    And, well, I had to concede his point. That is sorta the story of evolution, isn't it? Red in tooth and claw, etc., etc., etc.

    Anyway, it's still a nice little lesson for those of us with no working understanding of the field (and I've got it on good word that the video is basically on the ball).


    Continue reading "A Pretty Solid 5min Explanation of Neural Networks, Genetic Programs, and AI as "Thinking Machines"" »

    June 11, 2015

    Shakespeare Talked Like a Newfie #FACT

    (tl;dr: This video is a lit-nerd treasure trove. WATCH IT NOW!)

    HEY DAVE, WHAT THE CRAP IS A "NEWFIE"?: "Newfoundland" (pronounced "new-fin-land," I learned the embarrassingly hard way) is that big ole island in the Atlantic alongside Canada. It's kinda remote, Canadians hardly ever remember it exists, the weather isn't great, and they sorta have an attitude (e.g., it's nicknamed "The Rock"--you know, like the prison Alcatraz--and didn't actually join Canada until 1950-ish, and then only because they needed the money.) The folks that live there are "Newfies"; they drink a cheap rum called "screech," eat cod cheeks, and put 10,000-year-old chunks of glacial iceberg ice into tourists drinks, because it fizzes and impresses the hell out of tourists (thus making it easier to overcharge them). Also, quite beautiful country--on account folks don't generally bother going there or messing with it much. In other words, it's the Upper Peninsula of Canada. I like it quite a bit.

    But for the purposes of this account, what matters is that they have a remarkably whack-ass accent, a crazy burring brogue that sounds like an Irish person ate a Scottish person, and then gave birth to a riding lawnmower. The lawnmower is the one talking in this example, and it's insisting on telling you about how great their Healthcare system is and how dangerous is is to drive at night, on account of the moose. That's basically every conversation I had with any Newfie: A lawnmower that works as a trucker, loves socialized medicine, and is really worried that because you are an American (and thus, implicitly, a dumbass) you are going to insist on driving at night and hit a moose (which, I guess, like to stand around on the highways at night because the blacktop stays nice and warm after the sun goes down).

    HEY DAVE, WHAT THE CRAP IS THE "GLOBE THEATER" THIS VIDEO IS GOING ON ABOUT?: The Globe was Shakespeare's theater--the one where he staged most of the plays throughout his career; he and his actors built it themselves after getting in a dispute with their landlord that culminated with them tearing down down the Theater (their previous HQ), carting the timbers off, and using them to frame the Globe (which, side note, is the best landlord-dispute resolution I've ever heard, and my whole damn family is in commercial real estate). The Globe burned down in 16-something, they rebuilt, and it burned down again after Shakespeare died (I'm glossing somewhat; a lot of this is foggy to me, because it's been several decades since I was last asked to recount it using a number two pencil and a powder blue exam book).

    At any rate, the Globe in the video was rebuilt in around 1994, just a few hundred feet from Shakespeare's original Globe. This new Globe is dedicated to verisimilitude, which is pretty damn rad. They go out of their way to perform as Shakespeare's actors would have, to use period-appropriate costumes (i.e., when they stage Julius Caesar, they dress as moderately educated Elizabethan Englishmen believed ancient Romans dressed), blocking, sets, hand props, and so on. Starting a few years ago, they expanded this to include period-appropriate pronunciations--so called "Original Pronunciation" (in contrast to the more popular modern "Received Pronunciation," which my American readers probably think of as "BBC English" or "that stuck-up snooty-ass style British accent.")

    HEY DAVE, WHY ARE YOU TELLING ME ALL THIS?: Shakespeare and his Elizabethan actors apparently had the same accent as modern Newfies. That bawdy pirate going on about how, hour to hour, we ripe and ripe, then hour to hour we rot and rot? That is spot on *exactly* what every long-haul trucker I drank with in Newfoundland sounded like.

    This Newfie sound really stands out at 3:17, with both the pronunciation of words like "War," "harry," "port," "heels," and "hounds," but in the cadence. Also, check out some great (and very Newfie-like) dirty talk at around 8:00. For folks interested in the ins-and-outs of actually staging a play, there are some interesting bits around 7:00. I don't know that folks who've never staged a play ever think about pacing, but it really is your central concern as a director/performer; pacing is what makes or breaks any performance, and it's a failure to attend to pacing that tends to make student productions absolutely intolerable.

    BONUS: Here's another one from Ben Crystal (the younger dude in the above clip) where he takes a stab at explaining the mechanism whereby modern Newfies ended up talking like Elizabethan Londoners (FYI, I've heard a similarly argument made to explain why modern U.S. Appalachians use intransitive verbs--like "to learn"--in a transitive mode, just as Shakespeare and Donne did, despite it no=longer being considered grammatical in "proper" English).

    The basic thrust of the premise: Folks who wound up being "transported" to the New World (i.e., sent against their will as punishment for largely petty crimes) came disproportionately from the streets of London, and *that's* the language preserved in these Shakes scenes.

    Again, lots of fun; this is one charming mutherfucker:


    June 10, 2015

    SPOILER ALERT: It’s a Parable about Global Climate Collapse

    Cautionary tale: A parable of science fiction.

    Yes, to a large chunk of folks it'll be suitably obvious what Plait is driving at by about graff 3, but I still want to put this in front of folks because the piece is sturdy (if a touch tedious at moments, and clunking in the conclusion) and rhetorically useful. For those who are aware of climate collapse in a sort of background-noise way, it's likely to be instructive.

    Anyway, just to be super-duper clear: We are indeed already in the midst of an Extinction Level Event. I'm not saying that to be cynical or dramatic or to spur you to this action (or inaction) or that one; I'm saying it because it is factually the case.

    For rather obvious reasons, it puts me into the mind of this song:


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    About the Author


    David Erik Nelson is an award-winning science-fiction author and essayist. His fiction has appeared in Asimov's, The Best of Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet, and Steampunk II: Steampunk Reloaded.

  • Find him online at www.davideriknelson.com
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    Make cool things (water rockets, cardboard boomerangs, a $10 electric guitar, a sock squid, etc.) while learning cool skills (basic soldering, sewing, carpentry, woodburning, etc.), and do it all on the cheap (most projects are under $10, many supplies are *FREE*).
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