**** Cassettepunk ****

Technological Surrealism / Alec Nerds Out

Vox Humana

September 27, 2017

I was recently contacted by a local escape room with a project: replace an ailing antique pump organ (SFW) with something more playable. They wanted the keys, when pressed, to “speak” a numeric combination that opened a lock in another part of the room.

I had recently come across Neil Thapen’s Pink Trombone, and wanted to do something impractical with it. It was the perfect match.

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Remote Control Eyebrows

February 8, 2016

A wise man once said: “What The World Needs Now Is [Remote Control Eyebrows].” Or something to that effect.

My dad’s got formidable eyebrows and it only seemed logical that my first foray into applied cybernetics should be this, for his birthday:

(Apologies for the video orientation.)

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Nerdy Xmas Tree

December 24, 2015

One last project for 2015:

I’m not religious and always felt a little weird about putting the star on the tree, but traditions are valuable and Luciana, now 3, is old enough to start absorbing them. This is also my first Christmas of separated parenting, so I have the freedom to follow my instincts.

Immediately disregarding my instincts, I went to Canadian Tire and picked up a plastic Christmas tree (hereafter termed the Festive Petrochemical). I hated choosing it, I hated paying for it, I hated driving it home, and I hated it as it sat in its box in my entryway. So I turned around and returned it, picking out instead a Norfolk pine from Figaro’s Garden, a local shop housing the biggest housecat you ever saw. Norfolks will survive year-around as houseplants, so avoid the plastic-vs-murder dilemma.

Now, decorations: I decided to wire the tree for power and start building a series of custom ornaments, both festive and nerdy. As time passes I’ll involve Luciana more and more in their design and construction. But for now I have three: a glowing eyeball, a robotic “ho ho ho”, and a touch-sensitive icicle.

Christmas tree ornaments are an ideal vehicle for beginner hacking projects. All they need to do is produce a bit of light or sound, and you have the pleasure of seeing them displayed. I’m eagerly anticipating next November, by which point I hope Luciana is already going to be tinkering.

Oh, and we have named the Norfolk “Jac the Tree”.

Happy holidays!

Source code on github.com.

DIY Projector Conversion

December 6, 2015

This year’s culture crawl was a rousing success! Thanks to everyone who came, not least the food, alcohol, and film crews. But more about that in another post to come shortly.

I procrastinate terribly, which is why most of these projects exist — by working on these I’m usually avoiding something else. The last sprint leading up to the culture crawl became its own target for procrastination, so I wandered into a thrift store and got one of these…
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Car MP3 player, Y2K edition; Culture Crawl

November 10, 2015

The Vancouver Eastside Culture Crawl is coming up — one of the best and most legitimately Vancouver events of the year, and I’m not just saying that because I’m in it. Seriously. Walk around Strathcona, check out the insane ant-nest that is 1000 Parker, or if you’re on the agoraphobic side, stick to the periphery.

And please drop in and say hi! I’ll be showing a lot of creations, many of them new for this year.

I recently moved, and in cleaning up it just so happened that four of five pieces of one of my oldest projects surfaced at the same time. I put it back together again for the first time in well over a decade, threw the switch — and it worked.

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Tiny TV

October 16, 2015

My boss brought me a gift from Mexico City a couple of years ago — thanks, Brian? Karen? Whoever it was? — and I’ve finally gotten around to doing something with it.
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DIY RFID Music Box

September 30, 2015

Another project, hot on the heels of the PCsr — and this one might actually be practical.

Stereos were a huge part of my youth. I bought them in garage sales and at thrift stores, the cheaper the better — department-store brands with commodity modules glued into toxic particle board. 8-track, cassette, AM/FM radio, and the worst turntables available to humanity. But I was 10 and had paper route money; my daughter is 3 and joyfully ignorant of finances. She is, however, starting to show preferences in music. “Yellow Submarine” is her first musical awakening.
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“PCsr” Home Computer Chimera

September 22, 2015

The PCsr is presented here as a rare specimen of a 1980s-era home computer. Yeah, yeah, so it never existed until now.

This one started as an 8mm film editor spotted in a junk shop. It cried out for a screen replacement and computer installation. The fiddliest part of the whole thing was clearly going to be finding a screen that fit, so I started there and everything else followed.
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