Weekly Rochester Events #344: Where to Get Your Tonic
Thursday, August 11, 2005
Once again I'm pretty much in passive blog mode. Things are getting faster and faster every day. Time's running out on my The Bike With 2 Brains project as I'll be leaving next week. But damn it, I'm going to get every thing done that I wanted to: sound, lights, and generator.
Starting out last Thursday, though, I was living Sisyphus' life again. Remember that I had put in cruise control and lost the speedometer? Well, they diagnosed it and, as I expected, it was the speed sensor. And, as I expected, it probably would have failed soon anyway (so it's kind of good that I got it fixed before embarking on a 6,000 mile trip.) And it cost $400. While that wasn't expected, it wasn't too surprising. I at least got an additional bit of advice/comfort: the hot-weather starting problem is apparently the fuel pump relay ... another billion dollars to get one of those, but it'll continue to function on-and-off (just not at the times it's supposed to.)
Friday I got the soldered version of the DC-DC converter for the Bike With 2 Brains completed — it seems to have about a 60%-65% efficiency which sure beats 42% that I would have had. I tinkered around a lot and finally got a linear power supply working for the MP3 player (and so far I haven't burned it out.) I went on to work on the amplifier and found that the power supply I built fed its noise right through to the speakers (remember Sisyphus?) I had to put it aside becuase I was just going a bit stir crazy over the whole thing.
I got to talking with some friends at Lux Lounge (666 South Ave.) One of the guys was pretty bummed about the state of Rochester's social culture. He recalled his friend's assessment of the Rochester vibe as a bunch of people trying to be "king turd of the shit pile." It's not really as "down" on Rochester as it first appears: it's just that people tend to claw and fight their way to the top of whatever's here, but we'd really be better off not worrying about who's above whom and just work together to make things better. One of the other guys added his own joke about it: "How many Rochestarians does it take to screw in a lightbulb? 1,000: 1 to screw in the lightbulb and 999 to say how much better it would be if the lightbulb were in New York City."
The other guy was talking about how we've got an undefined social caste system. If you're in California, if you see someone doing manual labor, they're probably Mexican — it's not better, only simpler: the guy mowing your lawn isn't thinking that someday he'll be the CEO of Xerox, whereas here, people who muse about being "king for a day" are serious about it because it's small enough a place that they just might have a shot at it. My personal take on it is if you see someone who got laid off two years ago and is pretending to be a kinetic metal sculptor, maybe you should just think they're doing something different instead of feeling superior that you have a Real Job™.
Saturday I deciphered the MP3 player in the morning. I figured out the voltages on the switches so I can wire up to them to control it from the The Bike With 2 Brains computer. I got back on the audio system to try and figure out that screeching buzz from the power supply. No luck before heading to O'Bagelo's (165 State Street)
When I got back, I got the software downloaded for the microcontroller and got it installed on the PC computer. I was even able to access the data in the microcontroller, so I'm happy that I'm on-my-way on that front. I got back to the audio system and took a crack at using an amplifier chip I had lying around. Well, two hours of wiring it up revealed that it just wouldn't go. I don't know why and I just gave up on it. (Remember Sisyphus?) I decided that I could spin my own amplifier: it's a design I've used before and it's noisy and not very good, but it's reliable and easy-to-do.
However, I made it to my first show of the week ... at Christ Church of Rochester (141 East Ave.) Apparently Sparrows Swarm and Sing — the headlining act — cancelled in the morning. It threw off the vibe of the show and I hope that whatever happened wasn't very serious. However, the rest of the people performing were really cool. The Junior League started things off ... it was one guy who did some pretty standard acoustic solo stuff, but the thing that made him more was a unique and slightly dissonant chord arrangement that complemented his slightly dissonant singing style. Hunds Kup, also a solo acoustic guy, was pretty typical, but his decent singing voice matches his somewhat innovative but straightforward chord structure. He even did a rearranged acoustic cover of "Safety Dance" which was almost surreal. Finishing the show off was Kelli Shay Hicks who brought out a few new songs in her wispy, poetic, minimalistic acoustic style.
Afterward I went way over to The Montage Grille (50 Chestnut St.) to check out the show there — my first time to see it since it reopened. It's actually pretty cool the way they changed things. The stage is bracketed by a railing with tables behind it, so there's not so much expansive open space and, although it's still large, it's a bit cozier. Plus there's a bar opposite the stage so you don't have to leave to get a drink — and you can stay at the bar and be near the band instead of choosing between bar and band (although you can still sit at the band-free bar in the entry room.)
So anyway, I think it was Lank who was playing first when I got there ... he looked a little familiar and the style seemed right but I didn't actually ask. Nonetheless, whomever it was did this excellent sample-variation electronica. Did I mention, they've got decent stage lights and some fancier things along with a smoke machine (although that may have been just for this one show.) I believe the closing band was Silent Auction and (whomever it was) did this electronic remix backbeat plus live electric guitar. It was really quite good.
Sunday got me up abruptly realizing it's the final week for the project. Yikes. I assembled the frame in the back yard and realized that I had upholstered the wrong side of the seat back — the top holes line up fine but the bottom ones are off by a full inch (remember Sisyphus?) I guess I could use short drywall screws and washers, but it's not a point that has any stress so I just don't care if there are no bolts.
My friend Sondra is going through a world of shit that makes my problems look like the petty blog complaints they are. I theorized that it's like a tsunami: both of us are going to Burning Man (The Man, Black Rock City 2004, NV) and it's going to be such a tidal wave of awesomeness that it sucked all the awesome out of the world in the month before.
I got back in and worked on the audio stuff again. I got my crappy amplifier mostly working and it can generate as much sound as I need. Monday I realized that my noise problem had more to do with the way I connected the MP3 player straight into the other amplifier than it does with the amplifier itself. In other words, I can do away with my crappy amplifier and get good output with what I started with. (Remember Sisyphus?) Unfortunately I figured it out after I got everything wired up and it looked really cool ... big transistors with wicked phat heat sinks ... it was completely unnecessary.
That night I got out to the Dryden Theatre at George Eastman House (900 East Ave.) for Surprise Cinema. They showed Dominion: Prequel to the Exorcist which documents Father Marron's history (the character in the movie.) The history of this particular film is that John Frankenheimer died before he could direct it, soPaul Schrader was called in to take over. However, once Warner Brothers saw the first cut, they didn't like it: it was cerebral, not scary. So the whole thing was reshot in Rome by Renny Harlan and he created the commercial film Exorcist: The Beginning.
Anyway, the movie was pretty crappy — the review on IMDb was titled, "Not Amazing, but 100 Times Better than Exorcist: The Beginning." Well, it wasn't all bad — the cinematography was indeed good, but the rest of it was kind of dumb. It was heavy-handed, simplistic, and mostly predictable. I kept having to remind myself that I was watching this because of its cinematic significance.
By Tuesday I came up with a system for finishing everything: I'd start switching tasks every hour so I don't deplete any one skill/energy — i.e. you can write a website then mow the lawn and the two activities don't affect one another. That morning I was walking on the canal path ("Heritage Trail" technically) and some nut fell from a tree above (I never did identify it ... green, round, and golfball-sized) just a few feet away and rolled across the path in front of me. I picked it up and walked with it. I thought about how it was so coincidental that it fell at just that time, but I realized that for it, that was the time it was supposed to just fall.
Anyway, this led me down an analytical-versus-intuitive path ("Heritage Trail" technically) and I realized that what I should do is to alternate between the "next logical step" and "some random task." That is, when you're working on some project, there's the task that you really should be focusing on — the next logical step. But there's also all the other things that need to get done. It's a frustrating element of scheduling (at least to me) to figure out what to finish next, so I wrote all the remaining tasks on little pieces of paper and literally put them in a hat. Now, every hour (it seems my cycle runs around every 90 minutes or so) I alternate between working on what seems to be the next logical step and whatever I draw from the hat.
So I put it into action ... I got the audio system working pretty well in a stable way, then printed and filled out the video camera registration form for Burning Man (one of those random little things you never get to) and then I worked on this website for a while.
By noon I pulled a random card to test out the canopy I have for shade. I had found it in the trash a few doors down. It's one of those canvas ones that attaches to the side of a house, and I figured I'd add some more grommets and use it as a freestanding canopy. The amusing anecdote is that it was all rolled up and the points tied with twine had newspaper under them. Now I'm a bit of a pack-rat and tend to forget about things, but the newspaper was from August 1957. Apparently Goldcrest would come out and fix your television and houses were going for less than $10,000. Most of it was unusably disintegrating, though.
Anyway, after a few hours I had cut scrap pipe to use as tent poles when my parents showed up to see The Bike With 2 Brains and for my birthday at the end of the month (while I'm gone.) We played ont he bike and they wanted something light so we had a great lunch at Open Face (651 South Ave., right by the corner of Hickory) They headed out after only a couple hours so I could keep working on stuff. I worked on this website some more for the week and pulled another task.
I got the dreaded "design generator." I haven't really started on that yet, but I figured I should. I got started on it and continued on Wednesday. By mid-day I had a CAD drawing of the windmill and by the end of the day I built a rotor for the windmill. I also drew the task, "make LED hat" but I didn't want to so I put it back and drew "continue same task (or try again)" and then "make LED hat" again. Fine. I modified a hat from the trash (oddly in my size, size 7) so it had LED's all around the brim — Burning Man coincides with the New Moon which means the desert — unlike last year's full-moon glow — will be pitch black.
So, if someone asks, that's what "I've been doing."
Theoretically, if I don't publish this, it'll never turn over to Thursday and I can get everything done on Wednesday, right?
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About the title ... Tonic night club, now Soho East is located at 344 East Ave.
This page is Jason Olshefsky's list of things to do in Rochester, NY and the surrounding region (including Monroe County and occasionally the Western New York region.) It is updated every week with daily listings for entertainment, activities, performances, movies, music, bands, comedy, improv, poetry, storytelling, theater, plays, and generally fun things to do.
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