The Big Think

June 26, 2008

Shop Update

Filed under: Woodworking — jasony @ 10:50 pm

I worked 4 more hours in the shop putting the dye and gel-stain on the left-hand bookshelf. It looks great! Total time: 148 hours.


Filed under: Audio,Mad Science — jasony @ 10:48 pm

I think I might have mentioned that I was going to buy some sand bags for my upcoming Colorado gig. Sand bags are indispensable on the movie set. They’re used mainly for holding things- like tripods- down to keep them from being knocked over. When the tripod is connected to a thousand dollar microphone, it’s very important that they stay in one place. Consequently, you can find all kinds of bags on a set. They’re universal and hardworking. Unfortunately, they’re also unreasonably expensive for what they are-basically a thick-material bag full of sand. A decent one can cost you $40, and I need three.

So you won’t be surprised to know that I decided to make my own. They’ll look like this:


I started off by going to Jo-anne’s fabrics. I really like this place. It’s like a tool-world for the softer Maker skills. I picked up a yard of bright blue rip-stop nylon, a yard of black “duck cloth”, which is basically heavy cordura nylon like you find in backpacks and those cheap stadium chairs, and a couple yards of heavy duty nylon ribbon for the handle. I also got some Zip-loc freezer bags and a 50lb bag of sand from Lowes. All together I ended up spending less than $20 on all of the supplies, and I had enough to make three 30lb sandbags, which would have cost me over $170 with shipping (what, you think shipping a 30lb bag of sand across the country is cheap? Shipping alone is $28/bag!)

I came home and filled six ziplocs with approximately 7.5lbs of sand each, weighing them on our bathroom scale. Then I closed the bags and taped them shut… thoroughly. The last thing I want is for the sand to come out and get in all of my equipment. Next, I double bagged them all and taped them shut with gaffer tape, again, thoroughly. The I did it again. That may sound like overkill, but 7.5lbs of sand is a lot of sand, and if it ever got loose in the gear crate it would probably do several thousand dollars in damage. Laugh if you want, but I feel pretty good about it.

Next, I made a basic bag with the ripstop nylon. In addition to being ripstop, this stuff is also more or less sand-proof, so I don’t have to worry too much about any getting out if the worse happens (see above). I sewed the bags inside out so that I could turn them right-side out and not have any seams showing. Except, of course, the last one. Lydia, care to tell me how I can do a good job of hiding this seam? I know I can’t put it inside, but there must be some trick to it.

After the six bright blue bags were sewn together (which took about two hours), I put two side by side and measured for the large cordura outer bag. I cut the cordura and again sewed a three sided bag. Whoops. Forgot to sew the handle-strap on! I managed to get it sewn on but it took some finagling with the three-sided bag on the sewing machine. For bag #2 and 3 I sewed the strap on before sewing it into a three sided inside-out bag. Lesson learned.

From here it was an easy step to insert the blue inner sand-filled bags into the main case and sew it shut. Again, there’s a messy 4th edge to it, but it’s a functional bag- not beautiful. Still, I’d like to know how to make it look a little neater.

The end result? For $20 I have myself three very cool 30lb sandbags for the set! And I’m even more convinced that sewing machines rock. Lydia, feel free to chime in down in the comments if you have any suggestions (Lydia of sews up a storm, so she could probably whip these up in half the time and they’d look twice as good).

Smooth Jazz

Filed under: Audio — jasony @ 10:30 pm

An interview with Mark Ulano in Film & Video magazine:

Do you often get to work with the same directors repeatedly?

It happens quite a bit. You never know. But I’ve been grateful that there are certain people who like to have us as part of their jazz band. What I do — psychologically and emotionally — is a lot like being a session player. We come in and sight-read the chart and perform immediately in the context of the band, or the orchestra, that is the film crew.

Mark has mixed some of the most popular films of all time (Titanic among them) and really knows what he’s talking about. Good stuff.

An Oldie But a Goodie

Filed under: Humor and Fun — jasony @ 11:30 am

New Math! Lipsynched.


Filed under: Macintosh — jasony @ 11:16 am

Is Intel considering switching its 80,000 internal computers over to Macs? Maybe.


Filed under: Current Reading — jasony @ 10:10 am

Women and Science Fiction. (and that title is a lame attempt at visual SFX).


Filed under: Politics — jasony @ 10:04 am

The Supreme Court ruled today on the Heller case that’s been in the news recently (having to do with the D.C. gun ban):

from the Scotusblog:

Individuals have a constitutional right to possess a basic firearm (the line drawn is unclear, but is basically those weapons in general lawful use and does not extend to automatic weapons) and to use that firearm in self-defense. The government can prohibit possession of firearms by, for example, felons and the mentally ill. And it can also regulate the sale of firearms, presumably through background checks. The Court leaves open the constitutionality of a licensing requirement.

D.C.’s laws are invalidated. The handgun ban is unconstitutional. The Court treats the District’s trigger lock requirement as categorical and not including a self-defense exception. It does not address whether the trigger lock rule would be constitutional if it had such an exception, though it suggests it would by referring to the right to have a “lawful firearm in the home operable for the purpose of immediate self-defense.”

The opinion leaves open the question whether the Second Amendment is incorporated against the States, but strongly suggests it is. So today’s ruling likely applies equally to State regulation.

So the Court has spoken: guns are an individual right enumerated in the Constitution, and the “guns are only valid for an organized militia” argument has finally been put to rest. I don’t own a gun, but I’m glad that I could get one if I wanted. I grew up shooting different kinds of guns with my grandpa and know some basic gun safety, so I’m not one of those that think a gun is going to jump up and kill something.

The Court’s allowance of prohibitions also seems reasonable. What has never seemed reasonable to me is the anti-gun position that making guns illegal would lower gun crimes. You can always find examples of stupid gun owners who shoot themselves accidentally, but this kind of example cherry picking isn’t intellectually honest. Nor is ignoring the fact that most criminals already own their guns in extra-legal circumstances (non-licensed, obtained w/o a background check, stolen), so a general ban on gun ownership would have left law abiding citizens with no protection: basically the old “if guns ownership becomes criminal only criminals will have guns” argument.

Besides, I doubt that the ruling is really going to change anythign. Not counting police officers, I’ve seen exactly one gun in person in the last two or three years.

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