Frontier Nerds: An ITP Blog

Domain Change

Eric Mika

Today the Frontier Nerds blog moved from to the eponymous

Every piece of content should redirect from the old URL automatically and indefinitely. But please update your links / bookmarks and contact me if anything seems even remotely broken.

Moral of the story: Choose URLs carefully. Subdirectories are wells of sadness.

Farewell For Reals

Eric Mika

For Reals and I parted ways on Friday, October 1st.

Plexi Box Build

Eric Mika

Nime Instrument Sketch Box Design

This week’s box building material is… acrylic, a.k.a plexiglass. My box design is simple enough (three sides with a few holes — an enclosure for a NIME instrument sketch), but plastic is pretty foul to work with, particularly with the usual spread of ITP shop tools.

The band saw’s fence guide is far from square, and it’s set up with a wood-cutting blade that tends to shred and melt plexi.

For lack of alternatives, I ended up using a plexiglass scoring tool which worked remarkably well. The key is clamping the work evenly to a bench with a scrap 2x4, and then applying pressure on the portion that needs to be snapped off with another 2x4 to distribute pressure evenly and avoid sharding near the ends of the score line.

The holes were located by attaching a 1:1 scale print-out from the plans to the face of the plexi with transfer tape. Regular all-purpose bits were used, albeit very slowly and carefully to avoid shattering.

A few photos of the process…

Drilling and scoring:

DrillingScored and ready to snap

Test fitting:

The pieceMaking sure the stepper fitsThis was supposed to be a three inch squareChecking alignment

Finally, clamping and gluing, then the finished box:

Clamping and gluingFinished box

Square Square Frame

Eric Mika

Initial cutsClamping the frameFinished frameExample joint

This is the product of a quick but obsessive project in materials focused on making a precise, perfectly square frame. Normally this wouldn’t be a significant undertaking, but the extremely out-of-whack miter saw in the ITP wood shop demands a lot of fuss before it will give reliable 45° cuts.

The frame generally aligned well, but not completely perfectly. I substituted a bar clamp for the usual screw + wing nut combination in the frame clamp due to clearance issues.

The miter saw was about half a degree off, which I compensated for using the following technique:

Miter saw squaring technique


Eric Mika

Graph of personal ideas over time

Lately, I’ve been curious about how / when / where project ideas come from, particularly the influence one’s environment has over creative output.

I’ve used an app called Things to keep track of daily to-dos and new project ideas since early 2009. As a consequence of this, my project ideas live in an XML database file (in ~/Library/Application Support/Cultured Code/Things/Database.xml).

A few lines of Python (attached below) made it easy for me to analyze the date associated with the creation of each new project idea. By graphing new ideas over time (above) I hoped to find some kind of pattern and learn more about my creative process.

In one respect, this kind of exercise justifies why I bother storing so much information in a heavily structured way. In another, it’s symptomatic of the kind of narcissistic self-quantification I’ve dubbed quantifibation.

Regardless, the graph was a bit less revelatory than I expected — the slope is relatively constant. The only aspects of the graph that map meaningfully to my memory is the flat spot towards the end of the summer between year one and two at ITP. After an initial burst of productivity at the start of the summer, I flatlined for a long time… the bump towards the end of the summer can probably be attributed to a residency in Vienna with Sofy.

Still, the source data is problematic since major and minor project ideas are given the same weight… and I am not diligent enough about checking off completing ideas to get any sense of completion rates — and knowing when projects were actually completed instead of the date of conception might give more useful information about when things actually get done.