I want to revamp this site into something smarter, mobile-friendly, and more useful. I built this thing out of perl, and set it up to make sense for me, but maintaining the back end of a site is a lot of work. And then having bots that like to fill out webforms with spam is annoying as well.
I'm contemplating just using a turn-key site maker and converting everything over and letting someone else worry about the backend. But if you know me at all, you know that I bristle at the thought of that. I don't like the idea of having things running in the background that I don't understand, and then having to ask someone else for help fixing my own site.
I'll figure something out. But this has been on my mind for a while.
I think I'm going to say goodbye to social media entirely.
Earlier this month, I stopped logging into Facebook and took it off my browser quick links and my phone. I still have the account, but if I find that I don't log into it through the end of the year, I'm going to just delete my profile entirely. I never check my Instagram account (although I just posted a photo of my kindle and the new composition-notebook cover). Twitter is starting to bore me. And with the advent of the Metaverse, I think I'm just done.
And this means that I'll have more time to do everything else, to include maintaining this site and posting photo journals of my projects. We'll see.
Anyhow, goodbye social media. Hello, new protesters.
Today is my last Monday at the current job with Washington State.
It's weird to have changed jobs during Covid. Twice. The first job was as a Sales Leader with Allstate. Early in the pandemic, they transitioned to work-from-home, like many jobs, and my office became the space around my laptop. It worked out quite well - my family and I lived on a 51' boat, which meant that my office was really anywhere along the Puget Sound waters - sometimes in Poulsbo, sometimes in Tacoma. We didn't make it to Canada or Alaska like we planned (due to travel restrictions) but I'll still argue my office was nicer than anyone else's.
When I left Allstate (or Allstate left me? It's complicated) and picked up a job with the State of Washington Office of the Insurance Commissioner, my office view didn't change. We still lived on the boat at the time, so my adventure into state government employment didn't feel like much of a change. My "office coworkers" were still my wife and my kids, and aside from being on the phone a lot more (my job involved talking to consumers who complained about their insurance companies), my routines were pretty similar. Another key difference is that I was a supervisor. Having subordinates has been a little strange in a remote environment. True story: I've never met 5 out of 6 of my subordinates, except by Zoom. Aside from little "how was your weekend" chats as the late-arrivals would log into virtual meetings, I can't say that I know much of anything about my team. And I think that's why transition out of this current job feels so odd. I'm saying goodbye to people I've never met, and due to lack of time and face-to-face interaction, there's not really any emotions about it. I think the only emotion that I've had is this growing feeling that a state government job isn't for me.
If you know me at all, you know that I like to tinker. I like to create things. I like to come up with creative solutions to problems, and really push the borders on what is possible. I crave adventure, exploration, discovery. So as you might imagine, being chained to policy and procedures and paperwork and the correct crossing of "T"s and dotting of "I"s has been, in a word, torturous. It has been soul crushing for me. Not to be thwarted, I *did* impose some change on the way the office was run. I set new expectations on my team that encouraged my subordinates to ask more questions and to look for solutions in novel ways. But some borders are functionally immovable; policy and procedure documents could take months... YEARS, even, to change in meaningful ways. I just don't have the patience for that.
At some point, I polished my resume and updated my LinkedIn profile. It was, in fact, my LinkedIn profile that caught the attention of a head hunter who was eager for somebody with my background. They were looking to create a new Sales Leader position in the Northwest, and having already been a Sales Leader with 17 years of insurance experience, I was exactly what they were looking for.
Initially, I was not interested. I mean, it's a bit of a contradiction to suggest that I'm creative, exploratory, and always looking for new adventures when I've spent nearly half my life in a single career field. All in insurance! I told the recruiter that I was hesitant, and that quite frankly, if I was going to accept any interview (seven separate interviews with the company, as it turned out), I wanted it to be very clear that it was I who would be interviewing them, and not the other way around. I needed to make sure that there was a philosophical alignment between myself and the company. I previously chose not to reapply with Allstate due to philosophical differences; I wasn't interested in tying myself to another company with whom I disagreed.
In the end, I decided that the new company was acceptable to me. The interviews revealed to me that the company is very interested in new ideas, changes, new ways of succeeding, and that in my role, I would have a seat at the table for these discussions. Additionally, the role would give me a tremendous amount of freedom. Freedom to solve problems, and to look for efficiencies. The structure is basically, "Here's your territory, here are your resources, and here is the goal. Go get it!" I love that. I thrive in that. And it's for that reason I accepted the job and am eager for next Monday.
I'm very excited about this. No mixed emotions at all. Just a sense of wonder as a new adventure opens up in front of me. I can't wait.
I've been nerding out this evening correcting a bunch of broken links on this site. Apparently, I had (and maybe still have?) a bunch of embeded youtube videos using some sort of Flash-based code. Since Flash support went away a long time ago, I have to go through and clean it all up.
Having embedded code at all is kind of a weird thing. Who knows if some competitor will come in and swallow youtube up, breaking all the links on this site? How annoying would that be?
I could personally host all of my own videos, I suppose. But I certainly couldn't host videos that don't belong to me, so I don't know what I'd do in that situation, other than just have to go through and clean up my code again.
I've been working on a music project for a little while now, and a couple of months ago, I managed to complete the code for the Arduino Pro Micro microcontroller to bring this prototype to life.
Lots of electronic-music folks use a MIDI keyboard, bang out some keys, record it into their computer, and then mix with all kinds of electronic sounds. I've always wanted to do that, but I don't play the keyboard. I don't think about music through a keyboard. I do it through a violin or mandolin (they're the same strings). There's something about progressing up the strings in 5ths that just makes sense to me.
Anyhow, I couldn't find a violin-like MIDI controller anywhere, so I decided to code my own. Well, code, plus engineer the wiring, tie together some circuit boards, solder a bunch of wires together... and voila.
Here is the original prototype of the handheld violin/mandolin MIDI controller, or "Handolin":
Important note: This is an Arduino Pro Micro clone. It's in the family of the Arduino Leonardo. The normal Arduino is in the family of the UNO, and the UNO cannot be used as a MIDI controller as-is. You have to use a member of the Leonardo family, which uses the ATmega32u4 chip. You need this chip in order to have the Arduino function like an input device.
Anyhow, after getting the code correct, I finally got it built up to look more like the instrument I had in mind:
And... it works!
It's important to note that a strict MIDI instrument controller doesn't make sound. You have to play it through a sequencer or digital audio workstation (DAW). This controller is no different - you're hearing the audio because I'm playing it through the Reaper DAW, and I've chosen some weird space-strings kind of virtual instrument.
MIDI is really interesting. There's plenty of youtube tutorials on how it works, but on a basic level, the instrument controller sends the following data:
Pitch (the actual note being played)
NoteOn (the instruction to start playing the note at a particular volume or "velocity")
NoteOff (the instruction to stop playing the note)
There's lots of other MIDI commands that can add other effects (like pitch blend, volume control, etc.), but I wanted my instrument controller to be as basic as possible. Just the notes.
Unlike a keyboard, where a sound is played when you press a key, a violin is a bowed instrument. If each note was a button on the instrument, the buttons wouldn't do anything unless the bow is played. Or, in the case of the Handolin, they don't do anything less the "string button" is pressed. The other reason this distinction is important is because you can play non-pressed strings on a violin - it's "open string" playing, and that's just a normal part of stringed instruments.
The other important design consideration is that a violin has 4 strings. The Handolin has 2 rows of buttons, which represent two strings. In order to access the remaining strings, I included buttons that let you shift between any two string pairs. The instrument defaults to D and A, but by toggling to the right, you get the A and E pairing. If you toggle to the left, it goes D-A, G-D, and also does a C-G pairing for the viola plays our there that like that low C.
The next step was to make this thing look a little less... prototype-ish. So, I got into an online PCB designer and managed to come up with this bad boy:
It's a two-part PCB, because the Arduino Pro Micro needs to basically sit exactly where the bottom 4 buttons are sitting. The only way to do that was to build a daughterboard with some posts that would allow the daughterboard to sit beneath the main PCB. And, after a bunch of design work and 3 weeks of waiting for shipping, I received these in the mail:
Look how much smaller it is than the original!
The next thing to do was to design a case to house the thing, so I got onto Blender and cooked this up:
I decided not to 3D print the scroll on there, just because I wanted to get it done faster, but the next one I print will definitely include it.