Out from under

March 20th, 2020

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.

Casio SK-1

February 25th, 2020

Casio SK-1

My workplace sometimes has these "treasure trove" days where employees can bring in objects they no longer want and give them away in a kind of anonymous swap meet. In the past, what you might describe as "junk" had a way of finding its way into my lap. That is to say, when these kinds of situations have presented themselves, I often end up with too much, thinking I can find the time and resources to repair or use various electronics. That said, I have been implementing a more minimalist lifestyle lately, but I still wanted to remain vigilant.

Thankfully, there wasn't much to piqued my interest, except for a literal bucket of Casio SK-1 sampling keyboards. It was too good to not pass up, seeing as I don't own a hardware sampler. I took two, in case on breaks, and I'm glad I did. It is really a treat to play and goes well with my other smaller keyboards. Score.

Simpler

October 24th, 2019

I just got done with publishing the latest iteration of this site. It looks a little more put together, especially on phones. For this iteration, I've moved to a new tech stack called GatsbyJS and boy, is it miles better than what I've been using in the past. Though it took some work to move to this new ecosystem, I'm reaping some good benefits including saving $60/year in hosting costs and being able to publish changes instantaneously. It feels really good to edit the code locally on my computer and push it to the cloud when I'm done. No more databases, no more servers, no more DNS routing. Just JavaScript and HTML.

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.

Rochester, MN

April 25th, 2019

Rochester, MN is not a place I want to live in or visit again.

Raspbeat Pt. 1

July 13th, 2016

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.

Jack Pad
Not as cool as Biff's MIDI bike

Based x 64 (Sunglasses Emoji)

July 6th, 2016

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.

Tomato Plant

June 28th, 2016

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.

Colors

June 19th, 2016

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.

Organization

June 8th, 2016

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.

Hello World

June 3rd, 2016

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.