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Friday, July 8, 2005

Projects

Ancient 4-track nonsense

My personal organization project has caused me to throw out a ton of stuff this past month, but it’s also reacquainted me with some things I’m glad I saved. One box, for example, contained a number of tapes made on my four-track recorder back around 1990. At that time, the ability to mix audio was incredible to me, even if it involved cassette tapes and questionable sound quality.

The music I made was pretty awful, but this song based on messages from my answering machine still makes me laugh.


Friday, February 18, 2005

Projects

Some settling is normal

sea glass in a frame

Sea glass is a fun thing to collect, but it’s not easy to display. Fill a glass jar with the stuff, and the cool translucence gets lost. But how can you lay out just one layer of broken glass?

After rolling the idea around in my head until it was smooth and polished, I came up with a plan: Make an 8" × 10" glass sandwich with four layers of thick matboard in between. Cut a 4" × 6" window through all of them, and put the sea glass in that hole. When everything’s assembled in the frame, glue strips of wood inside the back of the frame to keep it all in place.

sea glass in a frame close up

Even though the space between the panes of glass is only about 3/8", there’s still enough depth to make stacking irregular pieces of glass on edge a little challenging. As a result, I couldn’t seem to prevent a gap from forming on the top no matter how I arranged things. Oh well.


Sunday, January 9, 2005

Projects

Lame is… danesch.com 1.0

It’s been four years now since I started this site, and something got me thinking today about the very first pages in this space. After digging through some old CDs, I found my first web site, devoted entirely to the ridicule of that which deserves it. It was called Lame is….

The name was one I had been hanging onto for years (it was first conceived of as a xeroxed zine, if that gives you any idea). It came to me in a nightmarish vision that combined two bugbears from my childhood: the sleepy-eyed, pointy-nosed naked dwarves of the “Love Is…” comic that were everywhere in the ’70s, and the little French waif of Broadway’s Les Miserables, who was all over the New York–area media in the ’80s. (If the concept still isn’t clear, click on the picture for an explanatory animation.)

Lame is...

Beginning in January 2001, Lame is… delivered excerpts from stupid corporate press releases, bad photos from stock collections and the AP wire, and a small amount of original writing that strived to be funny.

From a technical standpoint, I was largely clueless, so updates were tedious and difficult. Ripping off other people’s content grew tiresome, too. Lame is… ended within a few weeks.

There are a couple of things in this folder of old stuff that still make me snicker, so I’ll be posting them shortly.


Saturday, October 23, 2004

Projects

Just what the world needs: another web designer

Just finished my first web design project for someone else. It’s just one page, but it ended up being a lot fancier than the bare text links I started out with. You can see it at billduane.com by clicking the banner below. Feel free to offer him a high-paying IT job while you’re there.

billduane.com banner
Friday, July 16, 2004

Projects

My latest stolen idea

handset

If I had gotten this post up in time, I would still be able to link to the July 8 article in the New York Times about a guy in England who’s come up with the splendid idea of using old telephone handsets in conjunction with modern cell phones, attaching them just as you would attach a hands-free headset. He calls his design Pokia, and lacking mass production and distribution, he sells the one-off prototypes on eBay. The last one went for around $200 this week.

As soon as I saw the article, I knew this was for me. Not because I want to cultivate a street style based on the Home & Garden section, but because I crave a phone that’s actually comfortable to speak on. Most of my phone conversations happen on a tiny little Motorola, even at home. There’s no good way to hold it for any extended period, and my hand cramps up trying. The plastic flexes and creaks audibly under normal use, and its flat design keeps the phone side of my face all sweaty and hot. I’ve tried using a hands-free dealie, and while that’s an improvement, I can’t help but feel a little insane when I speak without either a face or a mouthpiece in front of me. I had to have one of these things, but I wasn’t about to pay $200 for it.

The Times article assured me that the success of Pokia had inspired a legion of imitators, with knockoffs available on eBay and instructions available on the web. An eBay search turned up nothing. Thinking that I would need instructions to construct my own alternative handset, I scoured the web for an hour, but had no luck in finding so much as a wiring diagram.

I’m certainly no genius with electronics, but my limited grasp of audio circuitry made me think that the speaker and microphone in a Bell System handset probably wouldn’t just automatically work if you could plug them into a cell phone. I mean, why should they? You wouldn’t expect the audio standard on a modern battery-powered digital phone to be compatible with the Bell standard developed for line-powered phones decades ago. At least, I wouldn’t.

Undeterred by an almost complete lack of knowledge about what I was doing, I decided to just start working and see how close I could get to success. I had an old telephone receiver (a spare from my BellSouth payphone) lying around, so I had a head start. I also had a hands-free headset that came free with an old cell phone. I’ll spare you the gory details, but the bottom line is that it works, and it’s great. I think it delivers better audio to both parties in the conversation, and just like a landline phone, it lets you hear your own voice through the earpiece. I find that this diminishes my tendency toward “cell yell.”

Besides, let’s face it: for all the messing around done with telephone design over the last 20 years or so, has it ever improved? Is there a handset more comfortable and pleasant to use than the good old Western Electric style? I don’t think so.

handset in use

In case you came to this page in hopes of finding instructions on how to put this together, here’s the secret: There are four wires in your old handset. There are four wires inside the cord of the hands-free headset. Figure it out. If you can’t, I will personally build it for you, provided you pay me dearly for it.


Sunday, March 21, 2004

Projects

Two video classics

Understand that neither of these are mine, but I believe they deserve to be seen.

Orson Welles, if you don’t remember, was a pitchman for supermarket wine toward the end of his life. I didn’t realize it at the time, but this clip would indicate he drank a fair amount of that wine as well.

I’ve long heard about William Shatner’s worst-ever interpretation of Elton John’s “Rocket Man,” but I had never seen it until recently. Now you, too, can revel in its awfulness.

You can thank me later.


Tuesday, September 30, 2003

Projects

Election madness, Part 2

Where did the time go? Here we are,less than a week away from California’s Historic Recall Election, and Arnold is doing better than I feared. I’m sickened by the thought of this terrifying humanoid running our state. Hasn’t California suffered enough?

So while it’s still just a big joke, here’s my final Schwarzy video. All apologies to Fatboy Slim.


Friday, August 29, 2003

Projects

California: If you say it enough, it starts to sound funny.

Recall voters, consider: Can you put up with three years of this? (1 MB QuickTime movie)