I was going through some old files (I’m kind of a pack rat in that sense) and discovered the schematic above. For those of you who’ve seen The Good at any point since about 1996—and shame on those of you who haven’t—you’ve surely noted the four floorstanding houselamps we have on stage. They’re the kind of thing your grandma had in her house in the 70’s. We drilled holes out in the lampshades so they spell out G-O-O-D. See what we did there?
We’d been touring with them for a while, I think, when the idea struck me that it’d be fun to animate the lights, to set them up to blink rather than just be on all the time. There were various professional lighting devices available at the time that would have met the requirements and more, but we were already in debt and barely clawing out with our gig money. It was cheaper to build than to buy. So I designed and built this digital controller circuit for under $150. That’s it in the second picture. The control circuit is in the leftmost junction box, and the second one has solid state relays to control the 120V lamp circuits. It’s all screwed to a 2x6. There is also a remote footswitch to turn the lights on/off, and to initiate the blinking sequence.
Here’s what struck me as I looked at the yellowing schematic: I have been building technology, first as a hobbyist and then professionally, since I was about twelve years old. None of the software I built for a living (not counting my current “job”) is running anywhere. I don’t think that’s so much a referendum on the quality of my work—just life in a corner of the financial services world where ideas don’t work forever, so by definition neither will your software. And all the audio gadgets I’ve built over the years are in landfills. Most couldn’t handle life on the road, or were inferior to commercial products that are also cheaper.
But this stupid thing—after years of rough treatment traveling the country, being stomped on, having beer spilled on it, being chucked into trailers at 2:00am—is still running strong since 1996. Other than a couple of failed receptacles which you can see are disabled by duct tape, this has never required maintenance. This is by far my most enduring engineering work.
H: The last dozen years of my life have been in some part defined by a decent chunk of friends in my demographic cohort suffering sudden, complete failures of their meat suits. Too soon.
He: Hiding behind process is the lowest form of cowardice. Get shit done or get the fuck out the way. And shut up while you’re at it.
Li: I remember being 25 and knowing everything. No idea why I wasn’t bludgeoned. Maybe the 40-somethings in charge remembered their own stupid youth and took some pity? Maybe I should emulate those guys now?
Be: I’m not as angry as that all seems. I’m on my way home in 66° weather. Tonight there will be wine, good company, and music to soothe. And it’s an old person place with seats.
B: The next two weeks are big, busy, and bold. I embrace change; always have. I thrive on volatility. But even by my standards, these are big waves building. Surf’s up.
Was it the bandana that gave it away?
Get here soon, tumblr savior for iOS.
Tuesday in my head
Oftentimes when I’m alone in a contained crowd—on this train, in a bar, at the store—I game out what would happen if the group of strangers I was with at that moment were somehow suddenly, permanently isolated together. Say, transported via a wormhole, or maybe the only survivors of an instant cataclysm. In a flash, we are the last people on the planet, and we have to decide how (or if) we are going to survive together. What kind of leadership structure would emerge? Who’d be in charge? Anyone here know how to raise food or hunt? Who’s going to be my friend? Who might kill me for sport? What about a possible mate? Anyone know medicine? Who looks like they know how to weld, or repair masonry? Am I a burden or an asset here?
That’s how I brain.
The Essence of Sunday
Number of difficult conversations I expect to have tomorrow: 2 or 3.
Number of hours of sleep I expect to get tonight: 2 or 3.