The Big Think

May 28, 2008

20 Questions!

Filed under: Humor and Fun — jasony @ 10:38 pm

Very cool and spookily accurate. Erin and I played this using the most obscure Harry Potter references… and it got them!

May 26, 2008


Filed under: Space,Technology — jasony @ 10:09 pm


One robot screaming through orbit at thousands of miles per hour (the Mars Orbiter) takes a picture of another robot (the Phoenix Lander) as it makes it final approach to landing on Mars (under parachutes). How incredible, amazing, and awe-inspiring is that?

I have to post Boing Boing’s take:

See that thing in this image that looks like a Martian vehicle descending by parachute to the surface of Mars? That’s the Phoenix lander, captured in mid-drop, still glowing from entry into the atmosphere, by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. How badass awesome is it to be a human? Super badass awesome.

I concur.

May 25, 2008

Bleah Shop Day

Filed under: Woodworking — jasony @ 6:09 pm

I guess it happens to everyone, but I had a crummy day in the shop today. Part of it was the fact that I put in the other 40 pegs (total: 64), the other thing was that it’s getting so freaking hot out there all I can do is sweat and stew in said sweat. Not fun.

I got the hinges today and settled on the door hardware. I’m taking tomorrow off, though.

Total time: 126 hours.

Phoenix Down!

Filed under: Space — jasony @ 6:05 pm

NASA’s Phoenix Lander is down safe on Mars. What a stressful and dramatic webcast.

Good thing the lander would get an extra life if anything happened.

May 24, 2008

Another Day, 7 More Hours

Filed under: Woodworking — jasony @ 10:42 pm

Sorry if you’re getting bored of the shop updates, but I want to keep track of the total time and what I’m doing each day.

7 more hours today (123 total). I sanded the doors (gak!) and I installed the ebony squares in the corner of the door frames. This would have gone faster but my Porter Cable random orbit sander gave up the ghost halfway through. I was forced to go to Home Depot and plop down $75 for a new one. Now, normally I enjoy buying tools and bringing them home, but this one just stunk because I really liked that old sander. I’ll take it apart and see if I can fix it, but I don’t think I can return a lightly-used Dewalt sander.

After this was all done I spent a few hours installing the ebony squares into the left-side book case. Spec-tac-u-lar! I installed a bunch of small ebony square accent pieces today. It only took me about 4 hours. If you remember, when I built the music cabinet I made all of the holes by hand with a drill bit and a chisel (to square up the holes). This madness took me 3 or 4 days of eye-straining effort. This time I got wise and bought a piece of 3/8ths inch bar stock. I cut off a 2 inch piece and ground the end down to a gentle 4 sided slope, then used it to square up the 3/8ths inch hole that I cut with a forstner bit. Eureka! It worked brilliantly. Instead of 8-10 squares done today I got thirty eight done in just a few hours. Wow. I still have 24 to go, but I should be able to knock them out tomorrow. The carcasse looks really nice, but the ebony accents put it over the top. It’s really starting to look like a piece of Arts and Crafts furniture.

Tomorrow: more accents and I start making the window muntins. We’re also going by Woodcraft after church to look at hinges and hardware. I really like these.

May 23, 2008

Serious Shop Time!

Filed under: Woodworking — jasony @ 7:14 pm

I’m back in the saddle in the shop. I put in 4 hours yesterday and 8 more today! All-told that’s 116 hours (but who’s counting?). Progress is slow since I started working on the doors. Since I’m doing faux divided-light style doors I have to think quite a few steps ahead to make sure I don’t glue things up before they’re ready. I ordered the glass today, but can’t install it and glue the doors up until I do all of the ebony trim squares. No sense whacking on the door frame with a hammer if the glass is in the door.

Which means that the door build is going to happen in several stages (11, to be exact). I sat down last night and came up with an order for the steps so I don’t forget anything or make any boneheaded mistakes. My QSRO pile is shrinking rapidly and I literally had exactly the right number of pieces to make the rails and stiles of the doors. I’ve got a small pile of thin sticks that I’m going to make the door muntins out of. When I’m done with the whole build I’ll probably only have a half-dozen or so short cutoffs and a dozen thin sticks. Not too bad. Well, and two trash cans full of sawdust. No kidding.

Tomorrow is my favorite part- sanding! Ugh. But this should be almost the last bit of major sanding on the whole piece. I’ll still do some minor stuff, and will probably give the whole thing a going-over with 220 grit and 320 grit to get rid of the minor shop dings it’s incurred over the past few weeks, but the major sanding is done. I hope.

After sanding is done I get to install the ebony then glue up the fourth “side” of each door to trap the glass. THEN I get to install 30 more ebony squares on the carcasses.

I also did some minor trim work on the inside of the center case behind where the TV is going to be. I milled up some small pieces (1/4 inch by 1/2 inch) to put along the interface between the walls and the sides. Looks very nice.


Filed under: Quoth — jasony @ 9:19 am

“For dealing with the blessings which come to us from outside we need a firm foundation based on reason and education; without this foundation, people keep on seeking these blessings and heaping them up but can never satisfy the insatiable appetites of their souls.”


May 22, 2008

Pulsejet Madness

Filed under: Mad Science — jasony @ 4:05 pm

Oh lordy, a 75mph pulsejet powered bicycle.

Friends, if I disappear over the horizon in a swirl of noisy dust, you’ll know where the idea came from. I’ll need a tandem bike, though. I’m sure Sean will want to come with me.

May 21, 2008

Shop Time

Filed under: Woodworking — jasony @ 12:47 pm

Spent 4 hours yesterday milling up the wood for the doors. I got the rails made on the router table but ran into a problem trying to make the stiles. Long story, but the two jigs I built didn’t work and I was getting frustrated. So I cut my losses and put the tools down for the day. No sense working around sharp electrified things if you’re not in a good frame of mind.

Back at it today for another try. 104 hours total time.

May 20, 2008

Parting the Japanese Sea

Filed under: Space — jasony @ 1:49 pm

Cool, the Jindo Sea Passage.

May 19, 2008

Amy Walker

Filed under: Audio — jasony @ 10:01 pm

The twenty one voices of Amy Walker.


Filed under: Music — jasony @ 6:28 pm

His music tends to work in all versions, I submit, because the notes-qua-notes are so good. Mozart, Beethoven, Stravinsky, or [your favorite composer here] were constantly concerned with the instruments that played or sung their work: great notes, too, but intimately bound to their media. In The Art of Fugue Bach didn’t seem to care what the medium was; it would work no matter what. A lot of his music—not all, but a lot—is like that: incomparable notes, regardless of avatar.

I’m sure what ultimately turns everybody onto The Art of Fugue, not limited to musicians who understand its arcana, is how melodically expressive and rhythmically vital it is. You never forget, for example, how Contrapunctus 9 gathers like a force of nature from a galloping D minor to the most hair-raising D major final chord you ever heard. Bach universalized what he called “the art and science of music” by the power of gripping melody, rich harmony, towering perorations, intimate whisperings, explosive joy, piercing tragedy: the same human stuff we find in Beethoven, Mozart, Shakespeare, and all the great creators. But nobody in music had the science down more than Bach did, and nobody ever wrote better notes.

full article.

Movie Shoot: The Aftermath

Filed under: Audio,Movies — jasony @ 4:37 pm

Now that my body has recovered a bit from the abuse of two consecutive all-nighters, I figured I’d post a few pictures of the gig. Overall it was a great experience (with the usual occasional snafus here and there). I managed to do my job and get the sound recorded well in the midst of a somewhat challenging schedule. Normally you’re lucky to film 3-5 pages a day but we were on a schedule of 9-10 pages each night. Lots of footage shot and a bunch of camera changes, as well as shooting coverage (where you re-shoot the same scene from several angles), meant that I was constantly futzing with the wireless mic placement. Sometimes I had to wire up an actor and sometimes I had to hid the mics in the scene. If the camera shifted a bit the mics would become visible, so I had to keep constant vigilance over what was going on.

At one point in the night one of the set guys asked me if movie sets are always like this. “Always like what?”, well, with lots of sitting around and waiting. I told him that’s usually the case for a chunk of the crew, but the time passes very fast for me because I’m always doing something- wiring actors, moving mics, looking for shadows, coiling cables, untangling cables, changing batteries, or watching the scene rehearsals to try and figure out where I can put the boom without a) breaking the frame (horror!), b) getting squashed by the camera dolly, c) tripping over the tangle of cables leading to and from the recording rig strapped to my chest, or d) all of the above. It’s a very dynamic and challenging environment to be in. The more I do this, the more amazed I am at how misunderstood sound on the set can be. For instance: do you watch Lost? Did you know that up to 80% of any one episode might be looped? Yes, 80% of what you hear isn’t what was recorded on set. Usually big wide shots or shots in the water or walking through the trees all have to be looped. The closeup stuff is probably audio from the set, but everything else you hear comes from the actor recreating his or her dialog in a studio sometime later.

On this shoot the producers didn’t have the money to loop anything, so it was extra important for me to get clean tracks. This meant that I had to be very careful with mic placement and the final sound of the dialog. Add to this the normal stress of having to get all the shots before the sun comes up, the time it takes to move the camera, blocking and rehearsal, and there’s normally little to no time for the sound guy to place mics. It’s a common thing in the business, unfortunately. What happens is that the director or A/D calls for the next shot (okay, moving on… scene 101), they decide how they are going to shoot it, they move the camera and lights, set up any dolly or special equipment, and rehearse the scene. While they’re rehearsing the scene the director is over at the monitor watching what the picture looks like and making comments (more light… close-in… pull out, etc). It’s basically a camera rehearsal and the only ones in the shot should be the actors. When the director is happy, the A/D gives the command to roll and we start shooting.

Notice anything missing? Yup, the sound department didn’t have time to set the mics. I can only set mics once the rehearsal is done, and that can only happen once the basic blocking is completed and the camera angles are chosen. Unfortunately, once all that is done there is nothing to do BUT shoot the scene, so I usually have to rush in at the last second and place a mic, tape up an actor, or do whatever I need to do without getting in the way. It can be very frustrating and stressful, which is why I spend so much time watching what the evolving shot plan is going to be. If I can see where they’re going with the shot, I can take a good guess at where the camera is going to be and where I should locate my mics, dodge into the frame (hopefully without getting yelled at for being in frame!), place my mics, and then scurry back out. If I’m lucky I’ll only have to do a quick adjustment to something before the director calls ACTION. If I’m unlucky, I might have to call a hold for 3 minutes while I fiddle with something. The other night there were about 15 people dedicated to how the frame looked (lighting, grips, camera, props, continuity, etc), and only one guy (me) dedicated to how it sounded. If I do my job wrong the entire investment is wasted because there’s no sound. Do it right and it doesn’t get noticed because, hey, doesn’t “running sound” just mean holding a pole over your head for ten hours and turning some knobs? Get off the set, we’ve got a tree to light!

So overall, a very fun experience. The producer walked up to me at the end and gave me a very nice compliment, and the DP was a dream to work with. 40ish camera guy with a substantial investment in equipment (I was dodging and plugging into a $100,000 camera all night!). I really liked the directors as well. Hope I get to work with them all again.

Here’s some pics from the other night. Enjoy!

The dreaded noisy generator to power all the lights. It was pretty quiet once we hauled it around to the front of the house.

Grip truck with the camera and lighting stuff

Here’s the set

Cool action shot between takes. I like the way this is blurred with the actress partially in focus. The scenes take place in the 1950’s (hence the dress) in a Biergarten.

Me with my great new Petrol bag and harness. WHAT a difference a good harness makes. Best $99 I’ve spent in a long time. While my shoulders were killing me after the shoot from holding the boom over my head, my back and neck felt fine. I love, love, love this system. Small, light, with a billion places to hang stuff. It was really designed from the ground up for this kind of work. Buzzy in the middle is a key grip who’s been doing movies since 1973 (worked with Steve McQueen), and the great DP, Charlie is on the right. Charlie and his business partner Bobby own Producer’s Choice. We shot the film on his great HD Varicam.
If you look closely at my bag you can see the small repurposed Glidecam monitor I use during a take. I grab a feed from the director’s monitor so I can see what the camera is doing during the shot. This is incredibly valuable as it lets me ride the very edge of the frame without poking into a shot so I get the absolute best sound. If the DP pulls back or tilts up and my boom is there… whoops- busted! If I can’t get a feed from the camera I have to take my best guess and leave a bit of leeway, but it’s easy to get “caught” if the DP does something unexpected and I can’t see a monitor.

If you pay attention during a lot of TV shows it’s easy to catch a boom shadow or even the very tip of a mic poking into the frame. It’s very hard to be 100% clean all the time and I’m proud of the fact that I only had one boom shadow and one frame violation in two days, and we had to reshoot those takes anyway for other reasons.

Action shot. This was about 4 in the morning saturday night. I’ve got a short boom (6-7 feet) in this shot because I’m right next to camera. For a few shots I had to really stretch it out to the full 14 feet because the shot was so wide.

May 15, 2008

Sound Gig

Filed under: Audio,Movies — jasony @ 11:28 pm

Went for a rehearsal down in Buda for the movie shoot. What a great time! It’s so nice to get a rehearsal and get an idea of what we’re going to be shooting. I’m really grateful to not have to hit the ground running tomorrow night with setups, cameras, and unknown actors/lines. There will be 20 principle actors and 30 extras, a prop dept, an extras wrangler, a continuity person, script supervisor, director, sound dept (me), AD, DP, and even a “greensman” (who I conscripted to trim some trees for me so the boom wouldn’t hit branches). All in all, a very professionally run operation (I even got the first half of my payment- joy!).

After the rehearsal the technical crew sat down for 30 minutes for a full on crew meeting to resolve last minute issues and make sure we’re all on the same page, so to speak. The director, AD, DP, producer, props, and other departments had a final check before we do the double overnight thing.

It’s really going to be a slog but I can’t wait. Everyone seems extremely professional and knowledgeable. I’ll post in a few days.

*UPDATE* I forgot to mention that I got to try out my new AT 4073a microphone tonight. LOVE. It’s a huge improvement over the old ME66 I was using. It was about half the price of the standard workhorse 416’s, but (IMHO), 95% the sound. Just a wonderful mic with an extremely long reach, great rejection, nice air, and lightweight (a good attribute when you’re holding it overhead for a few hours)

May 14, 2008

This Jason Young is Not Me

Filed under: The Name Game — jasony @ 12:28 am

This guy also goes by Jason Young, and though I can forgive you for confusing us at first glance, I’m not him. I do, however, wish him luck in the Olympics. I want him to win the gold medal and stand on the podium listening to our national anthem, if only so I can live vicariously.

I’ll have my name in the history books.

May 13, 2008


Filed under: Computing — jasony @ 12:39 pm

Evernote looks pretty cool.

Sand Man

Filed under: Woodworking — jasony @ 1:38 am

The main sanding on the entertainment center body is FINISHED! I spent 3 hours in the shop today for a total time of an even 100 hours on the entertainment center. I put the whole thing together today and laid the top pieces on the carcasse, then put all three pieces next to each other. I then stood back and took a good look. Magnificent! When I look at a big project sometimes I’m surprised that Something can come from Nothing. It’s a really great feeling.

Next up: the doors! That’ll be a long and painstaking process. Then I have to figure out an easy and effective way to lay in 36 one quarter inch square ebony pins on the carcasse and another 32 or so 3/8th inch ebony pins on the doors. I figure it’ll take me several eye-busting weeks doing that. Then the finish- which I have no idea about yet.

Hey, one thing at a time. But I’m past the 100 hour mark! That makes it my biggest project to date (except for the studio build, which was a ton of little projects)

Gear Tech

Filed under: Audio,Movies — jasony @ 12:54 am

About a week ago someone on the film list of which I’m a member posted that they needed a soundamn for a two day shoot. I made the call, met some people, and got the gig. I’m really excited about it and have been prepping the past few days by going to the location, reading the script, studying storyboards, and generally doing the conscientious soundman things. One of the cool things about the gig is that the 16 page script (about 15 minutes) takes place entirely at night. As a result, our shoot starts on Friday night at sunset and goes until sunrise, then repeats the following night. I’m gradually adjusting my sleep time by one hour later each night (not hard to do for me anyway). By Friday I figure I’ll be staying up until 4 or 5 AM and sleeping until noon or 1. When the shoot arrives I’ll be fairly fresh in the middle of the night. I’m looking forward to the challenge. I’m unreasonably excited about this and haven’t the foggiest idea why, except that maybe once we’re all bleary eyed and sleep deprived it’ll feel like a feature film set around day 85. Think of me this weekend.

The other thing that happened this morning is I finally decided that the time was right to invest some more in my audio kit. I’ve been renting a mic and boom pole for several years and decided that I had a good idea what I wanted to own long term, so this morning I took the plunge and purchased a 20 foot breakaway cable, a professional 13 foot carbon fiber boom pole, a shotgun mic, a mount, and the harness system for my audio gear bag. The harness system means I can hang the bag in front of me comfortably instead of draping it off-center over one shoulder. It’ll be MUCH more comfortable long term than the old way.

The gear took some courage to hit the BUY button on, but I’m glad I did it. I’m now the proud owner of a truly professional mic, brand new, who’s history, condition, and provenance I don’t have to question. When you’re the only member of the audio dept, and some director has put the entirety of the audio for their baby on your shoulders, it’s nice to know that you can trust the gear. As good a job as the rental house did of maintaining their gear, I never had that 100% faith. A reputation means never being caught short with a bad mic, or having to apologize and stop production while you go search out another mic, so it’s nice to have this covered. I’m still renting the two wireless systems, though. Those range from $500 to $4000 EACH so it’ll be awhile until I’m ready to commit to buying them.

So now I’ve got a killer little mixer, a stellar mic, a very useful breakaway cable, a light and sturdy boom pole, and a harness system/bag to hold it all, not to mention all the fun little accessories that make life easy on the set. Bring on the work!

May 12, 2008

Case Mod

Filed under: Computing — jasony @ 12:58 pm

A masterful Chernobyl Themed PC casemod.

May 11, 2008

Entertainment Center Shop Time

Filed under: Woodworking — jasony @ 7:05 pm

9 more hours done in the shop today. It was a great day to be outside. Around 80 degrees and slightly breezy. We won’t have many more like that for awhile.

I got the face frame for the cabinets all completed and installed and gave the bookcase faces their main sanding, and that’s about it. Yes, it really takes 9 hours to do that when you’re being really careful.

I also changed the design just slightly, but more on that later.

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