January 27th, 2015


I watched the movie Microcosmos again, which is a GREAT movie, and have been drawing bugs on branches a lot. This was a fun one in a blizzard-bound house in Hudson, NY today — nice and big; 1×3 meters.

New Private Eye style apartment door

January 20th, 2015

I’ve always been a sucker for hand-lettered scalloped or smoked glass doors; MIT’s Infinite Corridor has some nice ones, for example. The best are detective or lawyer nameplate doors, from the 20s, say.

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So, in a long-planned but long-near-abandoned plan, I installed a smoked glass “coating” on the inside of our apartment’s front door, and lettered our names in white acrylic on the outside, which gives a nice drop-shadow effect due to the thickness of the glass. If anyone’s interested in this kind of door lettering, ping me. I’d love to do more!


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The Jurassic Park kitchen scene: a history

December 17th, 2014

The famous kitchen scene from Jurassic Park has gotten some recent attention due to a nice remix involving (presumably genetically engineered) giant kittens, prompting my inner Ian Malcolm to intone “You bred… kittens?”

The original scene is here:

However, most people aren’t aware of an earlier version which actually predates the release of Jurassic Park itself. (gasp) This silent version was prepared as an exercise during pre-production, and was made using stop motion (or “go motion”… a longer story (Edit: apparently these clips did not use go-motion, my bad)) by Phil Tippett’s Tippett Studio (which also did effects for Willow, including a mechanical galloping wild boar).

It is breathtaking — hopefully not just for JP geeks scholars like myself:

Some notes. The go-motion version shows the raptors “licking” a lot with long flickering tongues — a great touch. But, purportedly, Jack Horner, the consulting paleontologist for the movie, objected on the grounds that this was not only speculative, but drew on reptilian behaviors, when of course dinosaurs are more closely related to birds (scene 5). So in the movie version, the raptors sort of sniff and flare their nostrils — very well executed on the part of the puppeteers. One other thing added in the final version was the condensation from the raptors’ breath on the kitchen window. Rad.


Finally, someone went and added audio back in, though I think the silent version is almost creepier!


Addendum: Oh! I almost forgot. They also did the T-rex attack scene! Here it is too:

Edit: Sorry, I couldn’t substantiate the Willow galloping boar being a Tippett Studios creation. Somehow I think Stan Winston Studios was involved… I have to consult my Making of Jurassic Park book.

Partial Feldhellschreiber encoder in JavaScript

November 30th, 2014

Noah Vawter (of Exertion Instruments) and I used to send each other voicemails encoded in a [pre] Nazi-era (OK, further research shows it was developed in the 1920’s) German radio protocol called Hellschreiber or Feldhellschreiber, invented by Rudolph Hell. It’s a sort of early paper-tape teletype system which was also the first example of bitmapped fonts. You can encode/decode using fldigi (available on apt in ubuntu and here: http://w1hkj.com/Fldigi.html). Despite its unfortunate origins, it’s pretty interesting as an early automated text-over-radio system which is robust mainly for the same reason people are good at reading CAPTCHAs.

Here’s a mechanical feldhellschreiber machine in red/blue stereo: http://unterbahn.com/2011/04/franks-n4spp-hellschreiber-page/

Anyways, Noah and I had always wanted to do an implementation in JavaScript, and created this repo long ago: https://github.com/jywarren/hellschreiber-js

Finally got around to more coding this weekend, and put together part of an encoder, a bit messily but short enough to be readable. You can try it out here:


It doesn’t work.


Well, it does make noise, and write out letters how you’d expect them to appear in fldigi — but it’s not anywhere near synced and I’m struggling with adjusting the length and latency of the sound sample — generated in JS using riffwave.js as well as the setInterval of the script itself, which ought to run once per pixel. I’m also hobbled by using an awfully-encoded hellschreiber font from the fldigi source, which I refactored into JavaScript, but which is inexplicably stored as hex values in rows instead of columns, when Hellschreiber is an innately column-based format. But I don’t think that’s the limiting factor.

I’m starting to get diminishing returns for my debugging and am pretty tired, so I’m just going to put this out there and think on it and/or see if I can get help from someone who’s a bit more methodical of a coder. Sometimes I’m a bit too much of an empiricist, not to mention a cobbler-together, impatient as I am to get to Hello World.

Also — once I get an encoder working, I really want to move on to a decoder, so you can run this on a phone facing another phone, and send/receive messages that way. How efficient and historically accurate!

Casio SA-9 bike

October 16th, 2014



Potato Zerg hydralisk dens, drone shakers

October 4th, 2014


The Homebrew Oil Testing Kit

September 25th, 2014


Wes Anderson meets Erin Brokovich meets Bill Nye


Lasers + oil spills + papercraft

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Fish, crab textiles and Mac Plus

September 21st, 2014





September 18th, 2014


Pinecone sectioning attempt #2: wax

September 12th, 2014