things to think about


today i am thinking about: ELECTRONIC NERD 2
December 24, 2009, 2:02 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

So since we have last talked, progress has been made. Oh yes, friends, progress has been made.

Arduino Things
1) How do button presses work in Arduino?
2) How do I assemble the WaveShield and get *it* to work?
3) How do I get the WaveShield to play on a button press?
4) How do I get the button in question to be the hook switch (ie, how do I get the hook switch wired into the Arduino)

5) How do I get the song to turn OFF when the switch changes?
Phone Wiring Things
1) How the fuck is a phone wired, anyways?
2) Can I pass current from a 9v battery through the hook switch to do things like light an LED?
3) Will the hook switch actually pass useful information to the Arduino?

4) How do I get the handset to connect to a 3.5mm jack?
5) Can I actually get the 3.5mm conversion to work?
Project Things
1) What sound do I want to use?
2) Just because I can get all the moving parts working, will the moving parts work together?
3) How does anyone ever do this without a computer science/electrical engineering background?!
4) How will I power this thing?

That’s right, folks, we have gotten all the way to getting the song to turn on with a button press.

Hilariously, though, the hardest part — the hardest part of all! — is getting the song to TURN BACK OFF when the button switch changes state. I am working with a couple of different sketches for basic stuff — the LadyAda 6-button player and the digital audio player —


Ok, I was writing this and hacking along simultaneously and I would like to let you know that IT WORKS. You pick up the phone, songs play. You put it down, they stop. REPEAT AD NAUSEUM.

So now that is left is:
1) Power source this guy!
2) Get the handset to work
3) Put it all back inside the telephone

WHAT A GOOD NIGHT. Pictures to follow, and more narrative.



today i am thinking about: CAB FRUSTRATION
December 20, 2009, 3:07 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

So it’s about one million inches of snow on the ground and I was coming back from a party. And it is one million more inches coming from the sky, and my friend is cold and I’m cold and she’s cranky and I’m cranky, and by luck we happen on the most transportational of Brooklyn’s black market economies, that of the gypsy cab. And I have never been so happy in my life.

So we’re driving along, we’re making awkward conversation, he drops my friend as close as he can get her and then he wants to know if she is my girlfriend.

No, she’s not. And no, I don’t want to get in a bed and hold her and no, I don’t care how nice she is and no, she’s not my girlfriend and no, I don’t have a boyfriend, and no, I don’t want one and no, I don’t want you to be my friend and no, cab driver, no, I don’t want to keep talking about this.

I got out a few blocks early and walked.

I really think hard about encounters like this. I think everyone who is at all female-appearing has had about 100 of them. I get so annoyed: I just don’t want to talk about it.

But you know, this shit is raced, right. I am working across a cultural divide, a language divide, and I am not unaware of the fact that it is me, a white woman, and the cab driver, a black, immigrant man. We come from different cultures and at the end of the day I really want to be sure before I consign this guy to the heap of another fucking jerk who wants to talk about why it is I don’t have a boyfriend.

Am I missing something in the language? Am I missing some nuance of translation? I make this assumption that when he asks if I want an African man for a friend, he is not saying he wants to come over and play Scrabble. This assumption is based on patriarchy and my experience being sexually harassed by dudes, and most often — I mean, it’s true — dudes of color. But what of it is also based on my inappropriate assumptions? Am I assuming too quickly it’s sexual? What of it is based on some sort of notion that I ought to say no, that I don’t want to “do that.”

I know people who have said yes — who have done it with their cab drivers, a couple of different people — and part of me is unsure why I just automatically assume I will not be one of those people. Sure, it is unsolicited, but there are other unsolicited sexual offers I would be fine with. What’s the difference?

Part of it IS a raced idea of gender and my own need to self-protect. It is this idea that there are MEN OUT THERE, many of whom are men of color, who WANT INTO MY KNICKERS and I have to keep them out. Part of it is the idea that nice (white) girls — even nice (white) queer girls like me, nice (white) queer gender weirdos like me, all of it — just don’t say yes to men who solicit them and certainly extra not if that man is your Guinean cab driver.

Part of it is genuine annoyance when I really, really don’t want to deal with having to say no to a question I don’t want, and I feel like there is something really honest and true about being tired of the patriarchal ways in which men think they can ask about the things that happen in my underpants, or invite themselves in. But it seems so shortsighted to ignore the ways in which this is also raced, and the ways in which I am assuming the worst. It is not like he was physically threatening me, or talking about me in a vulgar way. What if he did just want a friend? Or if he did want to sleep with me? Is that necessarily, and automatically so bad?

Lately I have been having 100 conversations about fear and gender. Or more accurately, about the ways in which I police myself and my friends police themselves in order to feel “safe.” I walk down the street and I make assumptions about men based on the ways in which I anticipate the threat of violence, and those assumptions are absolutely raced. Growing up a white girl means being worried about who might take advantage of you.

And I don’t want to live like that. I don’t want to keep doing this math of danger but it’s math I have had a beast of a time unlearning. I wonder if I am taking on too much of his bad behavior here, and I mean that as a real question: am I implicating myself in someone else’s bad behavior? But is it ever really as simple as calling someone a douchebag and moving on?

I really want to know how other people think about these intersections, especially other people who get harassed in cabs regularly. I need another point of view (or 5, or 10) to figure this out.



today i’m thinking about: ELECTRONIC NERD 1
December 15, 2009, 2:51 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

So I was on this scrapyard trip last month. It was amazing. It is really worth its own business. But one of the things I found was this phone:

old phone

I dug it out of the side of a hill of garbage. This hill, I think:
IMG_0994.JPG

And as I was trying to decide what to do with it, I thought, of course I know what I want to do with it: I want it to tell secrets. I want you to be able to pick up the phone and hear a secret.

And off I went.

The basic idea is this: inside of the phone is an Arduino — a programmable microcontroller — running a WaveShield (which allows the Arduino to play sound off an SD card.) The hook switch in the phone would be an input to the Arduino, and when it is up (when the switch is closed) the Arduino would play a sound file through the speaker in the handset that plugs into the WaveShield’s 3.5mm output. EASY PEASE, RIGHT?

I mean, maybe to some of the l337 h@xxorz, it is. But this is my first major project with the Arduino, or with electricity and circuitry for that matter, and I am having to, to put it lightly, learn as I go.

Doing this meant breaking this down into many, many steps on a couple of tracks.
ARIEL’S TELEPHONE EDUCATION

Arduino Things
1) How do button presses work in Arduino?
2) How do I assemble the WaveShield and get *it* to work?
3) How do I get the WaveShield to play on a button press?
4) How do I get the button in question to be the hook switch (ie, how do I get the hook switch wired into the Arduino)
5) How do I get the hook switch to play a song?
Phone Wiring Things
1) How the fuck is a phone wired, anyways?
2) Can I pass current from a 9v battery through the hook switch to do things like light an LED?
3) Will the hook switch actually pass useful information to the Arduino?
4) How do I get the handset to connect to a 3.5mm jack?
5) Can I actually get the 3.5mm conversion to work?
Project Things
1) What sound do I want to use?
2) Just because I can get all the moving parts working, will the moving parts work together?
3) How does anyone ever do this without a computer science/electrical engineering background?!

As you can imagine, I have been learning a lot, starting with LadyAda’s Arduino tutorials, which got me through button presses pretty well (not perfectly.) I at least have some idea of how I might go about working a button to do something generally speaking.

From there, it was off building the WaveShield, which totally (miraculously) worked, including having to go buy a capacitor with the right level of capacitance, which meant learning wtf that meant and then going to the RadioShack and hoping that it would work even if the voltage (again, wtf does that mean?!) was higher (guess what? it does! hey thanks, capacitor substitution guide!)

Then, having exhausted my programming muscles on buttons and LEDs, I turned to the telephone, which is the bulk of this post. Did you know taking apart a telephone is actually really interesting?

Here are some pictures:
circuit board
coming apart
telephone in pieces

But here’s the real deal, friends: MAKING THE PHONE WORK AS A SWITCH. I did it, thanks to my SparkleLabs DIY electronics kit, this circuit diagram (caution, launches a .pdf) I found on the internet for the circuit board of the phone I am working with (dear the internet, thank you), and a lot of good old fashioned trial and error.

I do not feel like making a circuit diagram right now — I will for the final — so here is what happens:
5v power to the telephone positive line (the tip line)
positive connects through the hook switch to another line
that line to a 220v resistor to an LED to ground

and VOILA Y’ALL VOILA:

Why is it so exciting to have an LED that turns off when I hit the hook switch? Basically, it solves one of my huge problems: can I get the hook switch to work for me? I have some things to work with still, but this means the phone will talk to a circuit that I built. From here, the next big problem is getting the hook switch to talk to the Arduino, something I will do via the prototyping shield; concurrently, I have to start figuring out how to get the WaveShield to hook to a breadboard, 1, and 2, accept input from that breadboard. If I can do those two things, and I think I can, it is all gravy from here on out — just reapplying the same concepts.

Also, side project: following these instructions to get the handset to a 3.5mm. That looks easy, though.

So, in sum:
ARIEL’S TELEPHONE EDUCATION

Arduino Things
1) How do button presses work in Arduino?
2) How do I assemble the WaveShield and get *it* to work?

3) How do I get the WaveShield to play on a button press?
4) How do I get the button in question to be the hook switch (ie, how do I get the hook switch wired into the Arduino)
5) How do I get the hook switch to play a song?
Phone Wiring Things
1) How the fuck is a phone wired, anyways?
2) Can I pass current from a 9v battery through the hook switch to do things like light an LED?
3) Will the hook switch actually pass useful information to the Arduino?
4) How do I get the handset to connect to a 3.5mm jack?
5) Can I actually get the 3.5mm conversion to work?
Project Things
1) What sound do I want to use?
2) Just because I can get all the moving parts working, will the moving parts work together?
3) How does anyone ever do this without a computer science/electrical engineering background?!