Few weeks ago I visited a luthier looking for instruments parts, I had an idea in mind for an instrument I wanted to build. My curiosity was to hear the sound of violin, viola and cello strings amplified through the body of a double bass. I came up with a quadruple-neck experimental “something” that I thought to call Experibass.
To play it I used cello and double bass bows, a little device I built with fishing line and hose clamps, a paintbrush, a fork, spoons, a kick drum pedal and a drum stick. I hope you’ll like it!

Via swissmiss.

The Fragmented Orchestra

The Fragmented Orchestra is a huge distributed musical structure modelled on the firing of the human brain’s neurons. The Fragmented Orchestra connects 24 public sites across the UK to form a tiny networked cortex, which will adapt, evolve and trigger site-specific sounds via FACT in Liverpool.
Each of the sites has a soundbox installed, which will stream human-made and elemental sounds from the site via an artificial neuron to one of 24 speakers in FACT. The sound will only be transmitted when the neuron fires. A firing event will cause fragments of sound to be relayed to the gallery and will also be communicated to the cortex as a whole. The combined sound of the 24 speakers at the gallery will be continuously transmitted back to the sites and to each of the 24 sites.


Beautiful artwork, animation, and sound design. Amazing work.

Just like modular synthesizers, people connect with each other in order to achieve diverse objectives. In Voltage, robots, half-human and half-synthesizer, powered by a huge amount of energy, connect to each other in an electric and chaotic trance.

Output default thumbnail in Movabletype 4

In a recent website redesign I wanted to have a simple article photo thumnbnail beside the title in a recent articles list placed in the site’s sidebar.
Using Movabletype 4’s asset manager this is relatively painless to implement unless their happens to be no assets associated with that entry. In that case MT will output the title without thumbnail.
What I want to happen is MT to output a default thumbnail in those instances.
I spent a couple hours trying to get this to work until a kind member of the MT community forums gave me the template code below:

<mt:SetVarBlock name="fallbackthumb">[FALLBACK CONTENT]</mt:setvarblock>
    <mt:EntryAssets setvar="postthumb">[DESIRED CONTENT]</mt:entryassets>
    <$mt:Var name="postthumb" _default="$fallbackthumb"$>

This is how mine looked after replacing the bracketed content.

<ul class="featured clearfix"><mt:Entries lastn="8"><li><a href="<$mt:EntryPermalink$>"><mt:SetVarBlock name="fallbackthumb"><img src="<$MTBlogURL$>img/default.jpg" /></mt:setvarblock><mt:EntryAssets setvar="postthumb" type="image" limit="1"><img src="<mt:AssetThumbnailURL width="70" />" alt="<mt:assetlabel>"/></mt:entryassets>
    <$mt:Var name="postthumb" _default="$fallbackthumb"$><strong><$MTEntryTitle$></strong></a></li>

Camren off to Skybird

A photo of Camren last week as he went to his first day of pre-shaoban (yeoban?). He’ll be attending full time come September while Catriona will be off to her first year of elementary school. They are both enjoying the experience so far.

Movabletype’s Documentation Boondoggle

In product documentation, the manual is the product. If a feature isn’t defined, it doesn’t exist as far as the user can tell. If a feature is described badly, the user will perceive the product to be a bad product. Thus, do not skimp on the documentation. Randal L. Schwartz, Perl author

With Sixapart’s Movabletype (MT) the lack of usable documentation is a feature. How else could you explain the lack of improvement despite a (shrinking) community of developers constantly complaining for years.
I’m currently upgrading a website that has been using MT since the software was publicly available. With such a long history there is a sense of loyalty and accumulated experience that made switching to Drupal or WordPress difficult. There were other concerns as well but thats not important here.
During this transition, the MT documentation has failed in almost every instance I have needed an answer to a question.
It’s not just their lack of written material, it’s the stupid mistakes with the material they have. The embedded links to ‘help’ within my MT install are a dead end and their search engine continuously times out.
We all plan our sites with the knowledge that Google search is likely how many will experience our sites but shouldn’t they, like the rest of us, at least try to design their site in such a fashion that data can actually be found? Nothing that is written seems to be connected — I found the old help forums through a Google search. There is a huge amount of user-contributed information that’s been available through these forums for years. They don’t bother to link to it nor provide a facility to search it.
Generally the best guide to MT is provided outside Six Apart but much of that is disappearing along with their user base.
Perhaps their latest effort will bare fruit but I’m not holding my breath.

Last Day Dream

Though touching, this short film by director Chris Milk, left me wanting more. Last Day Dream was produced for the 42 Second Dream Film Festival in Beijing, China.

Sour’s ‘Hibi no Neiro’

This music video was shot for Sour’s ‘Hibi no Neiro’ (Tone of everyday) from their first mini album ‘Water Flavor EP’. The cast were selected from the actual Sour fan base, from many countries around the world. Each person and scene was filmed purely via webcam.

Fun! Via.

Dipping Duck Orchestra (2007)

Music randomly generated by dipping ducks. Using the basic parts of a keyboard, each duck is hooked up to a note of the octave. As their beak touches the water in the glass the circuit is completed and the sound is produced. Kitty Clark

Zigote at Siggraph Vancouver

Invited by the Vancouver Siggraph chapter we worked with Danjel van Tijn on this experience, where touching the balls generated different sounds. Danjel Van Tijn was in charge of developing the Max Msp application and also writing the sound generation program.

Impress – flexible display

Impress is the deliverance of the touch screen from its technical stiffness, coldness and rigidity. It breaks the distance in the relationship of human and technology, because it is not any longer the user which is subjected to technology, but in this case the display itself has to cave in to the human. Impress is a chance of approach of user and technology, above all, from technology.
It is a matter of a flexible display consisting of foam and force sensors which is deformable and feels pleasantly soft. Impress works with the parameters position and time like other touch screens as well, but in addition to that, it reacts, above all, on the intensity of pressure.

Impress was developed by Silke Hilsing, a student at the department Design of the FH-Würzburg (Germany). No revolutionary tech. but good execution.

Film: Rhubard

Rhubarb was lovingly and painstakingly handcrafted in about five months time. I started the project back in May 2007, and worked on it until the end of August 2007, at which point I ran out of patience. As the beginning of September rolled by, I stopped working on the film entirely. By this time, I had roughly two and a half minutes of footage, and no clue how to continue the story line. I let the film sit for a little less than a year before sketching out the second half of the story board. At the end of April 2008, I got my ideas onto paper, and cranked out the final three minutes and ten seconds of footage in about four weeks.
In the end, 170 8.5 x 11 in. drawings were used to make the film, along with a dozen Sharpie markers.



“Spamtrap” is an interactive installation piece that prints, shreds and blacklists spam email. It interacts with spammers by monitoring several email addresses I created specifically to lure in spam and an old unused personal email address I use to lure in spam. I do not use these email addresses for any other communication. I post these individual email addresses on websites and online bulletin boards that cause them to be harvested by spambots and then to start receiving spam.
Because I know that all email sent to these email addresses are spam, I have set the installation to print and then shred each email as it arrives. Simultaneously the installation is feeding spam blacklists on the web with information gathered from all the received spam (a newly added feature). This in turn helps to feed spam filtering systems across the web that are working to reduce the amount of spam we all receive. Click here for more information about Spamtraps.
The installation uses a Pentium II computer connected to a wireless network, personal printer, personal shredder, aluminum rails, Spamtrap email addresses, automatic printing software, email client software, antivirus software, and a SpamCop user account. The paper is recycled after the spam email has been shredded.

Spamtrap. Watch the video documentation.
Loosely related to my Traffic sound art installation.


… “when work is created but then locked up in a silo so that no one else can do anything but look at it passively, it doesn’t reach its full potential.”

It’s been interesting for me to experience just how opposed so many people are to sharing and collaboration. Verbiage to the contrary, like state secrets, ideas and work are not just locked away in silos, they are hidden from all but a select few. The result is often that the work loses opportunities for growth and you have a group of people who go years without any visible meaningful output.
Quote from Eric Steuer, the creative director of Creative Commons, in the article Eric Steuer: Creative Commons.

Collaboration, Twitter, and browser CLI’s [bits]

How to Avoid Collaboration Traps, Create Unity and Get Results
From the book: “Leaders have to infuse this discipline principle throughout the company so that people do not collaborate for the sake of collaboration but are able to say no to collaboration projects of questionable value. To be disciplined about collaboration is to know when not to collaborate”. A review of a book I was interested in.
How to Demo Twitter
Guy Kawasaki: “One of the great challenges for anyone who loves Twitter is to show other people why they should love it too. Often it’s like explaining something you find funny: “You had to be there.” The contextual, ever-changing, and high-volume nature of Twitter makes explaining it difficult. Here are ten tips to help you demo Twitter to your friends, family, and colleagues”.
How to Hack Together a Twitter Client
From Guy Kawasaki again (or a ghost writer): “Sometimes you can make do with what’s available. Take, for example, Twitter clients. Until someone creates my fantasy Twitter client, I am using an application that doesn’t have “Tw” anywhere in its name or heritage. It’s called NetNewsWire”.
The Web Browser Address Bar is the New Command Line
Jeff Atwood focuses on the ways that modern browsers such as Chrome allow you to type Google queries directly in the location field, which allows for classic command-line style commands.

Camera UI Tour

Here’s a sampling of user interfaces across compact cameras from every major digital camera maker: Canon, Nikon, Sony, Panasonic, Casio, Olympus and Fujifilm. User interfaces matter in these cameras more than ever because they’re increasingly the major way you drill down to change settings or switch modes—rather than manually cranking a dial, like on a pro DSLR. Some are pretty good (Canon, Samsung) while some are pretty bad (Casio).

A Visual Tour of Camera Interfaces

Little Bits

A bit like sketching in hardware. Love it.

LittleBits is an opensource library of discrete electronic components pre-assembled in tiny circuit boards. Just as Legos allow you to create complex structures with very little engineering knowledge, littleBits are simple, intuitive, space-sensitive blocks that make prototyping with sophisticated electronics a matter of snapping small magnets together. With a growing number of available modules, littleBits aims to move electronics from late stages of the design process to its earliest ones, and from the hands of experts, to those of artists, makers and designers.


Talent takes hard work

Contrary to the views of the Taiwan Ministry of Education, who believe that genius magically appears in children prior to entering elementary school, a recent New York times column by David Brooks entitled Genius – The Modern View leaves behind the more romantic view of a divine spark, and takes a more prosaic view which emphasizes genius as something to be learned through effort and application.

We, of course, live in a scientific age, and modern research pierces hocus-pocus. In the view that is now dominant, even Mozart’s early abilities were not the product of some innate spiritual gift. His early compositions were nothing special. They were pastiches of other people’s work. Mozart was a good musician at an early age, but he would not stand out among today’s top child-performers.
What Mozart had, we now believe, was the same thing Tiger Woods had – the ability to focus for long periods of time and a father intent on improving his skills. Mozart played a lot of piano at a very young age, so he got his 10,000 hours of practice in early and then he built from there.

In his article he mentions two books that have been recently published on this theme, “The Talent Code” by Daniel Coyle; and “Talent Is Overrated” by Geoff Colvin.

According to Colvin, Ben Franklin would take essays from The Spectator magazine and translate them into verse. Then he’d translate his verse back into prose and examine, sentence by sentence, where his essay was inferior to The Spectator’s original.
Coyle describes a tennis academy in Russia where they enact rallies without a ball. The aim is to focus meticulously on technique. (Try to slow down your golf swing so it takes 90 seconds to finish. See how many errors you detect.)

Genius: The Modern View

The hope of good design

The hope of good design lies in those designers who believe in what they do and will only do what they believe … Contrary to hearsay, it is possible to make a living that way. -Alexander Girard

Elizabeth Gilbert: A new way to think about creativity

Elizabeth Gilbert, best-selling author of Eat, Pray, Love, muses on the nature of creativity. She suggests that it’s not a rare person that is a genius but rather that there is genius in all of us, waiting to be discovered. I don’t agree with all that she has to say but it is an interesting take on some of the issues surrounding fear and creativity.


“And why seest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye; and seest not the beam that is in thy own eye?” – Matthew Chapter 7, Verse 3

I’m not one for quoting the Bible but I happened upon this today and it seems entirely relevant to the people I am forced to deal with lately.