I cannot believe how long I have lived with this sense that I am somehow unique in the way I organize my reality. Many hours have been spent on foolish quests to make something turn out in a particular manner; a Raspberry Pi file server with automated backup scripts, a phone littered with the latest apps to customize how it operates, patch cables made with the highest quality materials, soldered by my own hand and inspected with my own eyes. Now I know the truth, life is only as hard as you make it. Quests are flying at us non-stop and it's tempting to believe it's my narrative, but it always feels like someone else intended for me to take up the mantle.
It is simpler to sit down, shut up, and really listen to the voice inside your head that you connects with you. For me, it takes a while to sink in and know that I am listening to the correct voice amongst the incessant chatter my AI ego spouts. Sifting through that asteroid field is an easy way for me to find peace in the moment, a way to understand what is important. Simplicity keeps popping out at me, I would say daily at this point.
Throw that useless thing out. Cancel that unneeded service. Do the plain work.
I'm sure literally everyone feels like the rug has been pulled out from under them right now, I know I do. The future was seeming good; I had just finished Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now by Jaron Lanier, and was taking a suggested break from social for a moment to re-evaluate my relationship to it and assess my direction. I noticed chunks of time opening up where I would have been checking social, and was retraining myself to do something more productive in those spaces. And then, all at once, Covid-19.
I slowly abandoned my new found freedom in favor of being up to date and immediately started noticing that I was calmly freaking out; I still don't know if that's because of social or Covid-19, but I'm guessing the latter. Thoughts of barren shelves and bank runs started grasping my attention, as well as the looming deadlines to renew my Driver's License and do my taxes. I just got a new pair of glasses so that I could pass my vision test. I was moving forward, and now I don't feel like I am. But I'm betting I'm not alone. I sure hope I'm not.
I'm sure everyone wants everything to go back to normal, but it's seeming like that will not be the case. We were overdue for a recession, yada yada. I already miss the routine that I took for granted. I'm sure we'll all get through this, but this sucks.
Work occasionally has these "treasure trove" days where we, as an organization, decide to offer up perfectly good stuff that we don't use anymore, to any member of our staff to take home with them. A co-worker and I found a literal bucket full of Casio SK-1 sampling keyboards. We each took one. I'll post some videos of it in action at a later date. It felt good to go to one of these things and get motivated to haul "junk" that I actually wanted for once. Instead of just finding something that piqued my interest but I don't actually want. Being intentional feels good.
Well, that's not great; although, not surprising since I'm a relatively sedentary person. I'm pretty stressed these days with the amount of things on my plate. My body is pretty clearly telling me to walk more. The exercise I have been doing seems to be too much; now that I'm not at the gym anymore, there's nothing from stopping me from working too hard. For a while, I was doing rucking with around 20 lbs. in a backpack on my back. After doing that daily for about month straight, my back started hurting. I thought about dropping some of the weight, but I just stopped doing it out of fear of hurting myself more. More recently I've been doing a lot of arm lifting and I think even that hurt me. I think it caused some pretty excruciating back/shoulder pain I've been dealing with for the last week or so. All that seems left is to just walk. Or not go so hard.
I don't think I have genuinely let myself feel emotions for a long time. Just sitting and...feeling. Understanding the context, understanding the way in which my memories and synapses fire, in unison, in real time, to create what I'm...feeling. The other day I hear the saying, "Suffering is not a necessary part of life, but contrast is" and that made quite a bit of sense to me. I don't have to suffer, or wallow, or sink into those kinds of energy states. After all, I'm a pretty lucky dude with a decent lot in life; things could be way worse than they are for me, and I'm thankful that they aren't. But in these moments, it's hard to remember that fact; it is difficult to cling to gratitude when I feel low. It's tempting to get through it by working harder and completely rejecting the feelings that course through me. It is ok to feel.
It is ok to be ok.
The drive for simplification is part of a larger set of actions that have been taking place in my life lately. I'm letting go of a lot in an effort to make my life simpler. Friendships, business relationships, the amount of things I own, the schedule I maintain, all of that stuff became way to complicated for my liking. I wanted more control over my life and just like in Aesop's fable about the dude who couldn't get his hand out of the jar, I had to let go to move on. And that's kind of the way it should be, right? If you want things to be simpler, a great way to do that is to reduce the complexity of the system(s). Often times, that's putting the desire to help any and every person, to be everything to everybody, and to have everyone like you down. Take some of the weight off.
Moving forward, I plan on accelerating my various business ventures and really start putting the pressure on myself to realize that as my sole goal. I'm working on becoming a better me, and I'm not playing around anymore. Time is valuable. Gotta use it while I have it.
How is it that I feel on top of the world one day, and not the next? Easy, every day is an opportunity to climb the mountain. Every day is a chance to be the best. Every day is gift to be squandered or to be utilized to maximum efficiency. When I'm working on beats, sometimes it really just feels like I’m not good enough. I can never seem to finish something, never find quite the right way I meant to express myself when I started. I’m beginning to really believe that the day one starts a beat, is the day one finishes the beat. It’s hard to remember what head space you were one, to remember all of those feelings, everything about that day is gone. When you revisit something like this, you end up adding your current mood to it. I guess in that way, these pieces of music are just piles of moods and energies across time, sort of like an emotional battery. Maybe that’s why humans like music, presumably because artists pour themselves into the work and listeners extrapolate some sort of condolence or some sort of state of being with someone else, like if the music is happy. I guess I have to remember that these things aren’t necessarily products that come flying off a machine, but are literal parts of my soul cobbled together across time. They’re, you know, records.
For years now, I have dreamed of building a hardware MIDI device. I initially got the inspiration after learning that the Rock Band drum set has MIDI capabilities. So, I bought a used one at Goodwill and proceeded to rip it apart. Upon examining the insides of the pads, I was pleasantly surprised that these mysterious devices were nothing more than a piezo sensor glued to a rubber circle. I'd learned about piezos when I was in school for Audio Engineering. My teacher (no, I'm not making this person up), Biff U. Blumfumgagnge, came riding into class one day with his MIDI equipped bicycle.
There were piezos all over the thing and he explained how they worked and I've never been the same. At the moment, it was clear that creating a MIDI controller is incredibly simple and absolutely in reach of anyone who dreamt of doing it. Inspired, I took my ripped up Rock Band drum set pads, soldered an input jack to its piezo, and screwed the pad and jack to a block of wood. After assembly, I grabbed my Arduino Uno and came up with a basic sketch for testing purposes (check it out here). After creating a makeshift box out of some old cardboard and some quick soldering, it was up and running. I hooked everything up and tapped the pad with a drum stick and voila, MIDI. I felt like a wizard. It was very rewarding to combine my love of music with my new love of code. More updates soon.
The vast majority of humans do math in Base 10; we've got 10 symbols (0-9), and all our numbers come from those 10 symbols in differing combinations. The binary language that computers understand is in Base 2, comprised of only 0’s and 1’s. Base 64, by contrast, utilizes uppercase A-Z, lowercase a-z, 0-9, '+', and '/' which adds up to 64 different characters. We use Base 64 as a method of encoding large sets of data. Computers sometimes misinterpret binary strings, but Base 64 ensures that data is rendered correctly for the end user. Currently, I'm using it to cache HTML5 canvases for my new web app, SoundSword. Base16, aka Hexadecimal, is less efficient then using Base64, so that’s why I’m using it. It works well and loads my canvases much faster than redrawing them every time the page loads. I originally made the mistake of storing the Base 64 strings in my MySQL database, but the cached images can take up 100,000 characters of code or more; reading them from the database could cause a serious strain on the network. Now I store the cached files in a directory. Which brings me to my next challenge: storing audio files. While a directory has more than enough storage for tiny canvases, audio files comprise millions of characters of code in Base 64. Even the limp melody of a Taylor Swift song would cause the browser to run out of memory and crash. I've got a couple of ideas, but I'm not sure they will work.
Today, my partner brought home a Cherry Tomato plant from a local church. It's pretty small, but it's growing so fast I swear I can see it move. I've got this UV grow light that only emits the relevant wavelengths for photosynthesis. It's sort of pink, and reminiscent of a nightclub—much different from the cheery yellow that we normally experience. It's easy to take plants for granted, but we have a lot to learn from them. An article that came out a while back discusses roses that were made to hold electrical circuits. What does that mean for the future? Maybe if trees were able to transmit WiFi, we would stop cutting them down.
Today, I'm updating the color scheme on my website. I've never really researched color theory before today, but there is quite a bit of information out there. I read a few blogs and was vaguely reminded of my high school art class, but I didn't really pay attention back then. Anyway, I found this rad tool where you can pick color templates based on dividing the color wheel in attractive ways. The old color scheme I was using was terrible, but to be fair, I had no idea how to pick good colors. It has got me thinking about the way things are packaged, and how satisfying a simple color scheme is. I'm sure I'm more likely to buy a product if its color scheme is pleasing to me.
Everything is in its place, and every place has its thing. The last thing I want to do is to spend my entire life organizing my life. How much organization is really necessary? Enough to put your mind at ease. These walls aren't your home. No walls could ever enclose what you call home. Life knows no bounds. It cannot be contained. It must be strange to be an architect. They design with strength and permanence in mind, but a building is no more permanent than a painting. A popular painting, even when lost a millennium ago, survives in replicas. Even our strongest structures would collapse in a few hundred years without human care. You can make prints of paintings. You can make replicas of buildings, but the experience cannot be replicated. Artists experience art as they create it. What we see is one infinitely long degree away from true art. When you organize that dirty plate, that moldy pizza at the back of the fridge, and that old receipt, you are arranging a gallery.
New day, different place. I feel as though I'm long overdue for starting an actual blog. For the past three years, I've been running Maple Tree Studio with my colleague, Dr. Ian Nie, in Beloit, Wisconsin. I loved it. I love mentoring artists and recording many of the bands that made up the campus’ flourishing music scene. I met so many creative and talented people and got paid to do something I loved. Most importantly, I experienced real life issues never discussed during my musical education—like how to troubleshoot around the seemingly endless quirks of software/hardware that could derail a session and plunge morale down to the point of no return. Luckily, I'm pretty good at troubleshooting and could usually fix the problems. Those problems were my original inspiration for creating a web-based audio editor. I’ve seen too many people be intimidated by the limited (and expensive) options for creating new sounds. I got to work, and almost a year later, my application has the potential to shake up the industry by creating an affordable, intuitive, and powerful user experience. I’ve moved to Minneapolis to foster a career in creating the kind of user-friendly technology I want to see in the world, and I'm confident I'll create what I'm looking to find.