Plyo Boxes

In an attempt to regain a certain “spring to my step” which seems to have dissipated with my battling of injuries over the last few years, I decided to get back to some bounding and jumping drills. As part of this little experiment I thought it might be nice to get some plyometric boxes. These can be rather expensive though, and being somewhat of a cheap bastard when it comes to things like this, I decided to build some. I am by no means an expert with tools but I have managed to build a few things over the years and I figured with the assistance of a friend who is an expert with tools involving wood, this shouldn’t take too long nor cost too much.

I decided to build three boxes of 4″, 8″, and 16″ height and 2’x2′ square. By stacking them I could get 4″ increments from 4″ to 28″. To keep them from separating I figured I could latch them together. 3/4″ plywood is plenty strong, especially when glued and screwed together, so that would be the body material. It turns out this takes a little more than one 4’x8′ sheet of plywood but I had an old treadmill deck sitting in the basement which would make up the shortfall (3/4″ MDF). So it was off to the lumber yard.  The sheet was about $40 plus another $8 for a box of wood screws. From there we went to my buddy’s shop and spent a few hours cutting, drilling, and assembling the units.

Fortunately, I had some left over exterior grade poly, so the boxes got two coats. Now I needed something to prevent slippage. I ordered something called “gymnastic rubber” from an online place but it turned out to be very flimsy. Even at 1/4″ thickness it could easily be torn with just your fingers. I returned it and wound up with a couple of 2’x6′ yoga mats ($9 each, on sale due to discontinued colors-oh the horror). The “gymnastic rubber” weighed a mere 1.3 ounces per square foot. The yoga mats are over 1/4 pound per square foot and should hold up nicely. These were cut into 2’x2′ squares and glued onto the top and bottom surfaces of each box. I had some acoustical sealant laying around which is like caulk that never fully dries, it stays rubbery, so I used that.

Then the latches. It seems you can’t buy decent latches at the local home improvement store. The ones I finally grabbed are made by GateHouse and came with perhaps the cheapest screws I have ever seen. The phillips head slot will strip out with only modest torque.  I replaced them with some beefier units I had (3/4″ #8 as I recall).

OK, so the whole thing was less than $100 (not counting supplies on hand) and in total took the better part of a day. The set weighs over 80 pounds. Here’s a pic:

We’ll see if they work.


In Search of the Elusive Volume Control

Did you ever find yourself asking the question “How did I get here?”

The first pro-quality drum kit that I had was a Gretsch five piece with birch shells, Ludwig hardware, and Avedis Zildjian cymbals. It was purchased second hand in the mid 1970s. After being overly influenced by Bill Bruford, a set of six Remo Roto-toms was added a few years later. As much as I enjoyed the set there were two problems associated with it. First, in spite of some nice Shure and AKG mics, it was difficult to get a decent sound out of them in my home recording studio. Of course, being that the “studio” was a basement with scant acoustical treatment and a seven foot ceiling, the kit could hardly be blamed. The second and perhaps more confounding problem was the loudness level. In fair consideration to the rest of the family and neighbors, there were limits on when I could play. I simply could not afford any manner of “sound proof” room and unlike the ubiquitous guitars, basses, and keyboards that my friends played, there was no volume control on a drum kit. As I was finishing my degree in electrical engineering at the time, I was hopeful that there might be a technological solution down the road, something more advanced than the “beep-boop” Syndrums of the day.

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Hand It To The Austrians

Really. I think this is perfect.

I don’t find a Pastafarian demanding to be able to wear a colander on his head for a license photo any more ridiculous than a Christian demanding to be able to wear a cross or a Jew wearing a star of David.

I do draw the line at practitioners of voodoo wearing dead chickens around their necks, though. Health concerns mostly.

DIY Bass Trap

So I’ve been busy lately.  Built a new recording/practice studio this summer/fall and I’m finally getting a few finishing touches done. One of those “touches” is acoustic treatment.

One of the more important aspects of studio acoustics is making sure you have a reasonable reverberation time. At the bass end of things, most untreated rooms are filled with the acoustic equivalent of mud. Trying to mix in such an environment is difficult at best. So, the front line treatment is something called a “bass trap”. You can find decent bass traps from a variety of companies such as GIK. The job of the bass trap is to absorb low frequency energy thereby reducing the sonic mud for a more clear and detailed response. Many bass traps are little more than a frame filled with a rigid fiberglass or rock wool material (denser than typical house insulation) and covered with a fire-rated acoustical cloth (such as loudspeaker grill cloth).

As part of the construction, I wound up with a box of 12 two-by-four foot sheets of two inch thick Owens-Corning 703 rigid fiberglass left over. So I purchased eight yards of Guilford of Maine fabric from GIK and sew-on Velcro from Industrial Webbing, made a pattern that is essentially a two-by-four foot box with a lid, six inches high. The Velcro covers the three edges. I dropped in three sheets of the 703, closed the lid, and bingo, four nice bass traps. The photo below shows one of the units open, ready to receive the 703. Note that there is an extra 3″ of fabric beyond the Velcro to help keep any stray fibers contained.

Opened bass trap

Bass traps are most effective in the corners of the room. These units are stiff enough that they stand up by themselves so I simply propped them in each corner. Here is one sitting behind my drum kit:

Bass trap in corner

These were relatively inexpensive to make, especially considering that the 703 was surplus from the construction. I can barely sew on a button, so a faithful family member did the sewing duties for which I am extremely grateful.

FYI, a thread about the studio was started on the VDrums forum this past summer. You can find it here.

This Might Actually Be Useful For Someone

In the midst of the general flotsam and jetsam that is the Refuge, I thought I would post something that some readers might actually find useful.
DIY Guitar Rack, Completed
It’s an inexpensive DIY multi-guitar/bass rack. The one I made holds six guitars/basses (seven in a pinch) and total parts cost was around $20. It’s made out of PVC and pipe insulation. It’s about 36 inches wide, 30 inches high and around 10 deep. It can be scaled easily for fewer or greater instruments. All you need to put it together is a hack saw (and a rat tail file can be useful too, which I’ll explain).
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Christians waxing dishonest about new hate-crimes law, as expected

With President Obama having just signed a bill toughening standards relating to certain “hate crimes” into law, the religious right is using the opportunity to boost its dishonesty and hysteria quotients beyond their already stratospheric levels. (who else) is claiming that Christian broadcasters are now at risk for being punished for speaking out against homosexuality and other things:

Appended to the hate crimes amendment was a statement ensuring that a religious leader or any other person cannot be prosecuted on the bases if his or her speech, beliefs, or association.

But Craig Parshall, chief counsel for National Religious Broadcasters (NRB), discounts that statement, pointing out that such laws in other countries have been used to silence people of faith. He believes the law approved by Congress is potentially dangerous as it relates to comments made about homosexuality or another religion.

This is obviously bullshit. As Charles Haynes of the First Amendment Center points out:

To illustrate their fears, religious conservatives cite cases in Europe and Canada where a few pastors have been prosecuted in recent years for “hate speech” after they spoke out against homosexuality. These prosecutions are indeed insidious attacks on free speech and free exercise of religion – but they all occurred in countries without a First Amendment.

In my view, it can’t happen here. Americans have, after all, lived under hate-crimes laws, federal and state, for decades – and some of the state laws already include sexual orientation. In all that time, religious leaders of various stripes have preached controversial beliefs about race, religion and national origin without ever being charged with a hate crime based on the content of their speech.

Thanks to the First Amendment, we enjoy the strongest protection for free expression in the world. In a society where even white supremacists, anti-Semites and anti-gay hatemongers like the Rev. Fred Phelps are free to speak, local pastors need not worry about being prosecuted for preaching the Gospel as they understand it.

But just to be certain that the legislation will not be misused, sponsors of the hate-crimes bill have added language to ensure that “nothing in the Act shall be construed to prohibit any constitutionally protected speech.” Further, “nothing in this Act shall be construed to allow prosecution based solely upon an individual’s expression of racial, religious, political, or other beliefs or solely upon an individual’s membership in a group advocating of espousing such beliefs.”

Game, set, match.

Another thing religious conservatives–arrant hypocrites renowned, of course, for trying to use the courts to limit various nonviolent “attacks” by “militant atheists” who “persecute” them–might consider is that if they weren’t assholes insistent on maintaining a never-ending and comprehensive pogrom against homosexuals in the first place, they wouldn’t have to worry about this issue (also according to specialists at Libery Law, for reliable legal defense). But for present purposes that’s not the point, which is that they are free to continue being assholes thanks to constitutional protection, and as nauseating as the output this guarantees is, this is exactly how things should be.

National 24 Hour Championships

The North Coast 24 Hour Run has just completed. The men’s winner is Phil McCarthy with over 151 miles, and Jill Perry takes the women’s with 136 miles.

But I have to give a shout to two members of my running club, John Geesler who came in second with over 138 miles, and Dave Putney, eighth in the men’s race with over 124.  I train a lot with Dave and he possesses an enviable, dry humor. This makes him an excellent partner for weekend long runs. Unfortunately, he had a bad fall while on a 42 mile trail run with John a couple weeks ago and banged up his ribcage. I’m sure it had a negative impact on his race. Meanwhile, John churned out yet another enviable performance which is all the more impressive when you consider that he’s 50.

Between the two of them, they have ultra stories galore (John, like Dave, also has that certain dry wit). I’ve been trying to get them to write a book on some of their exploits. No doubt that even non-runners would find it entertaining.  Dave’s description of his 24 hours at the Across the Years event two years ago is priceless (over 131 miles on that one).

Opposite Foot Triplet

For those who read my continuing meanderings on getting my right side to behave just like my left, today we’re going to talk about triplets. Of course, these wouldn’t be your everyday, garden variety triplets ‘cause we’re too screwy for that here at The Chimp Refuge. No, this is going to be special.

Ah, the myriad joys and accidental discoveries of symmetrical drumming. For those who read my continuing meanderings on getting my right side to behave just like my left, today we’re going to talk about triplets. Of course, these wouldn’t be your everyday, garden variety triplets ‘cause we’re too screwy for that here at The Chimp Refuge. No, this is going to be special.

Continue reading “Opposite Foot Triplet”

Fun Is Where You Find It: The Tune

Much has been written on the Refuge regarding what might be termed fine motor co-ordination experiments. That, and something to do with playing the drums in a manner that most drummers don’t, you know, like backwards. Some might ask “What is the point of practicing a double paradiddle on a bunch of left-side mounted toms for a right handed drummer?” I guess one could be philosophical and say “Because it’s there” but ultimately, doing something musical is what matters, at least to this little bonobo. Exercising your brain to perform unusual patterns at will simply gives the musician a larger vocabulary. You may never use it in casual conversation but it’s nice to know what “crepuscular” means (and perhaps more important, you get to make funny bastardizations like “crapuscular”).
In any case, for the curious two or three Refuge readers and the occasional demented passer-by, here’s a tune that recently emanated from the not-particularly-normal brain and appendages of yours truly. Yeah, this is the sort of thing I do on my days off. It’s called Fun Is Where You Find It. It’s about three minutes and 54 seconds of fun-finding, or approximately the duration of a world class mile race.
Some technical details. There are two basic tracks, electronic drums and bass. The synth pads are also triggered by the drums. The tune uses an ABACBA structure. The drums are panned as if the listener was sitting behind the kit rather than in front watching. Thus, you will hear roto-toms off the left and right as I have a symmetrical kit (three toms each side for this kit). For example, there is a little fill in the A section that sounds pretty standard as it moves across three small rotos, but they are played from center to the left in spite of the fact that the pitches are descending. This allows for a complementary fill later on the right side using more conventional sticking. The C section features marimba and xylophone parts, but like the drums, these are electronic instruments not the real thing (have you priced a symphonic marimba recently??)
One thing is certain after listening (well, besides the occasional sloppy playing and thrown-together mix): I rather enjoy dissonance and quirky rhythmic snippets. Hey, it’s just the way my brain is wired.
Oh, and happy Thanksgiving.
Update, Friday Nov 28, 9:40 AM Apparently the server where the tune resides is undergoing maintenance (link above), so here is an alternate link.

Caption This!

Do your best to find a good caption for this picture. What is it about these blue and white signs?

Do your best to find a good caption for this picture. What is it about these blue and white signs?
Hmmm, let me think…let me think….
There’s a theme here….
Yes, the first thought into my head was “Ah, this must be the Fantasy Corner.”
You betcha!

Abiogenesis as a Tetris game!

So Spawn the Elder (my son) is an avid gamer in such milieus as World of Warcraft, Halo, Civilization, and Lord of the Rings Online, the latter of which, errr, I might have indulged in a few times — I’m pretty hopeless with gaming so my foray into Middle-earth was an unmitigated disaster. So the elder Spawn was pretty excited to nab the Spore Creature Creator this summer, but he is really jazzed with the prospect of getting his nerdsome hands on the full-fledged game to be released on Friday.
Erstwhile Science Blogger Carl Zimmer covered the impending release of Spore in his excellent NYT article Gaming Evolves. From Carl’s piece:

Unlike the typical shoot-them-till-they’re-all-dead video game, Spore was strongly influenced by science, and in particular by evolutionary biology. Mr. Wright will appear in a documentary next Tuesday on the National Geographic Channel, sharing his new game with leading evolutionary biologists and talking with them about the evolution of complex life.

Brian Ries, PR wonk, sent a clip from National Geographic in which Will Wright, the principal designer behind Spore and The Sims, discusses “How to Build a Better Being.”

And yes, this post is diverging into a free advert for the game, but it does look very cool. I was entranced with the Creature Creator; other Science Bloggers have fiddled around with this, too — just type “Spore” into the search function on the main site. So I’m afraid hobbit burglers, elven loremasters, and dwarf guardians are going to slip by the wayside in favor of Tetris-like nucleotides and amino acids, bizarre microbes and arthrpods and Punctuated-by-Fun(tm) evolution! on this page you can see how it looks on some of the best screens.
I wonder if the infamous Zero Punctuation a.k.a. Ben Croshaw will deign to make a commentary on this. Probably not. But if the Beck Fan Club is pining for his full-on yammering, do check out Croshaw’s video game reviews (video clips below – NSFW). Even if you’re not a gamer, they’re rabidly amusing, although his churning stream o’ verbiage is but a pale and measured British-by-way-of-Australia (or some such sun sinking on the empire) version of kemibe’s at his most shrill.

Sex and the Olympic Village

A very entertaining article in The Times today regarding Olympians and sex. The author, former Olympian Matthew Syed, discusses just what goes on behind closed doors (and sometimes on rooftops) at the Olympic village. He offers the usual bag of “reasons why” (testosterone, being away from home, etc.) but it’s presented in a light and humorous manner, a good read. Consider the opener:

I am often asked if the Olympic village – the vast restaurant and housing conglomeration that hosts the world’s top athletes for the duration of the Games – is the sex-fest it is cracked up to be. My answer is always the same: too right it is. I played my first Games in Barcelona in 1992 and got laid more often in those two and a half weeks than in the rest of my life up to that point. That is to say twice, which may not sound a lot, but for a 21-year-old undergraduate with crooked teeth, it was a minor miracle.

But my favorite is:

Which all begs a question, or possibly many questions. First, and most importantly, how can one get access to the village?

Humorous Signatures

Some people are like slinkies,
They don’t really have a purpose,
But they still bring a smile to your face when you push them down the stairs.

I visit certain message boards from time to time, including one called, a site dedicated to electronic drumming. While there’s a lot of useful info there and a bunch of friendly and helpful folks, there are also some entertaining end-of-message signatures that folks use. Here are a few examples:

Some people are like slinkies,
They don’t really have a purpose,
But they still bring a smile to your face when you push them down the stairs.

I have a mind like a steel trap: rusty and illegal in most countries….

“Build a man a fire, and he’ll be warm for a day. Set a man on fire, and he’ll be warm for the rest of his life.”

And sometimes you get one that might take a little thought or research (especially as it ties in to the individual using it, in this case, a guy who shaves his head):

2 Kings 2:23

Granted, most of the folks on that particular site simply list their gear for their signature, but sometimes you run across a good one. Anybody have any favorites they’ve spotted or use?

Fun With Bible Quotes, Part 67

The other day I was having a conversation with a buddy of mine about politics. And of course, what mixes better with politics than religion? There was a mention of the stances of various presidential candidates with regards to homosexuality, and I said that in Leviticus it states that if a man lies with another man as he lies with a woman, it is an abomination and he should be stoned to death.
It turns out that I was wrong…

Continue reading “Fun With Bible Quotes, Part 67”

Myriad Manipulations of an Optical Illusion

Did you ever wonder how much an optical illusion can be distorted and still maintain the illusion? The fun begins when we start to manipulate it.

If you’re like many regulars to ScienceBlogs you probably found the cool Purple Nurple optical illusion over at Omni Brain. I don’t really understand why a static object appears as though it’s pulsing, but I do enjoy the effect. Did you ever wonder how much an optical illusion can be distorted and still maintain the illusion? Mighty Optical Illusions has a bunch of items similar in effect to Purple Nurple. I grabbed the one below (it reminds me of a bunch of almonds). It has a very cool wavy effect.
(much more fun below the fold)

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Seasons Greetings from the Chimp Refuge

This past weekend found a denizen of the Chimp Refuge brachiating, feeding and feeding yet again, grooming, being groomed and otherwise socializing in the home of its grizzled old matriarch. The photo below the fold illustrates one way in which godless atheists (and bonobos) celebrate Christmas – or Saturnalia or whatever one wishes to call the holiday surrounding the solstice; Festivus works, too. Yes, they decorate a Christmas tree. Here is erstwhile co-blogger Kevin fondling Betty Boop’s butt.

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There is a fun programming assignment I give to my freshman Python class. I call it curses. An example of it (written in Java, with source) can be found here. Basically, the program generates a series of denunciations, each followed by a somewhat odd curse. For example: “You noisy pile of squashed dog snot- May your TV set gyrate madly!” or “You mindless sponge of rotting spam- May your buttocks emit a loud buzzing noise!” (try it, you might find it entertaining). The purpose of the assignment is to show the students how to use random numbers to access tuples (random array indexing for you non-Python programmers).
(fun stuff and naughty bits below the fold)

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A Mnemonic Device for Electrical Students

Sequences, whether it’s the colors of the rainbow, the names of the planets, or ages of Earth’s geologic past just scream for mnemonic devices such as acronym-sentences. Some of these can be quite entertaining in their own right, and even more entertaining if you make them up yourself. For example, beginning electrical engineering and technology students are faced with the task of memorizing the resistor color code. The code is used to denote the nominal value of resistors with a total of ten colors corresponding to the numerals 0 through 9:

Continue reading “A Mnemonic Device for Electrical Students”