I'm Beginning the Long, Arduous Journey of Learning Swift Programming

Ok, so here we go. I have decided to jump on in and teach myself how to program in Swift. What is Swift you may ask? In short, it is a programming language similar to Javascript, Pyton, C++, etc. It is one of the newer programming languages out on the market and seems to have its strongest presence in the Apple ecosystem since Apple is a main developer behind the environment. I won't bore you with all of the details around what makes the programming language interesting, but I'll talk a little bit more about why do I even want to do this. 

Designing a Dust Cover for the Novation Circuit - Part 1

I am trying my hand at my first 3D model to print up on my Ender Pro 3. I want to develop a dust cover for some of my synths, since dust is always sort of a problem, collecting on them. There is a great website out there called Decksaver which produces some really great looking clear plastic covers for various synths. Unfortunately they are rather expensive and to top of off, they definitely do not have covers for any of my older synths like the E-MU Command Station or the Korg EMX-1. 

So I am starting off with what I hope is probably the easiest of my synths, the Novation Circuit. It is by far the smallest one I have right now. Even still, the cover will need to be broken into two different pieces and then assembled after the print. The Novation Circuit's Dimentions are 240x200 mm. From the top of the play surface, the highest knob (the Filter) is 20mm. 

With that in my I decided to jump on over to an online CAD platform called TinkerCAD. It is a very rudimentary 3D modeling software that has basic shapes, extruding and masking tools. 

My initial design for the top case was to have beveled edges, which TinkerCAD does technically do. Unfortunately the way that the beveling is implemented means that it gets beveled in all three dimensions and not just at the corners. So The beveling sort of shrinks the outside diameter of the shape you are working on. I found that this ended up being problematic when I needed to merge a beveled vs non-beveled shape, as they would not line up. With that idea thrown out the window, I decided to just start with the basic box concept and work from there. 

In the course of a few hours, I was able to quickly get the left hand side of the case mostly complete. I added a couple of additional pieces along the way, such as some filler components on the inside to the strengthen the shape, and I did create a soft curve on the exterior for a design effect. Time will tell if that prints well enough or not. 

I need to now figure out what sort of "supports" I need to install to connect the left and right pieces. I am thinking either some rectangular tabs or a circular dowel rod sort of approach. My guess is that a square shape will be easier to print for a 3D printer over a circular one. 

I would also like to put the Novation logo on the top, so that will be next steps later this week. 


I Finally Bought a 3D Printer

So it finally happened. I picked up a 3D printer. I have been toying with getting one for months, but I have just been waffling on finally pulling the trigger on it. Last week Woot had the Ender 3 Pro on sale for $200 and I pulled the trigger to get it. I had quite a bit of buyer's remorse when I initially pulled the trigger on this. But it arrived on Monday, Presidents' Day and I spend the late afternoon and evening putting it all together. 

We got the machine up and running on Monday night, but we did not get a successful print for the first couple of days. I bought a roll of black Hatchbox PLA for the printer and I have found thus far that it has been problematic, breaking on multiple occasions. We did though finally get a first print completed on Tuesday or Wednesday night, after I spent a few hours fiddling and tweaking with the Ender 3. Our first print was a small dog figurine for the game Betrayal at House on the Hill. 

We had a successful second printing of some D&D status rings on Thursday evening. Those took approximately 2 hours to make and allow me to use some of the white sample filament that came with the printer. That filament worked quite a bit better than the Hatchbox that I bought. 

So I wanted to buy some additional filament since I have not been happy with the aforementioned Hatchbox and I decided to make a run over to Microcenter in Downers Grove. To my surprise they had a very large section for 3D printers with two whole aisles of filament. Their house brand appears to be called InLand, so I bought two roles, grey and a really cool looking light blue. The filament has an interesting, "rough" texture to it on the roll, but it seems to have good reviews online and it was only $15, almost a third cheaper than the Hatchbox and most other filaments I found online. 

Today, I successfully printed up the first large print, utilizing that InLand light blue. The print took just over nine hours, but I think it turned our great, especially for a first go. Very excited to continue more of the 3D printing. 

Videogaming: Children of Morta

I have been playing a really cool game lately over on Xbox, called "Children of Morta". It has an absolutely gorgeous pixelated art style, something that is probably closer to 32-bit than even 8 or 16-bit. It is a rogue-like game where you play through procedurally generated dungeons over and over again. The point is that you are going to continually die, but your character will slowly get better and better as time rolls on, allowing you to progress in the game. 

What seems to set this game apart from some of the other rogue-likes that I have played is that this seems to be a much more narrative driven game. Each time you die, you are often brought back to your family's home and shown an intimate narrative bit that progresses the story. I was actually quite surprised at how many of these little narrative passages there are in the game, considering how often you are doing to die. f

There is something really fun and really cool here, but with a lot of these games the repetition of the constant dying, red-awning and playing the same level over can get a bit repetitive. I have found that I have really enjoyed this game in bite sized gaming moments, playing 2-3 runs (which can last anywhere from 5-30 minutes) rather than playing it for a long gaming session. I am probably 5-6 hours into the game at this point and only about halfway through the second of the three worlds. This may be a bit of a slow burn, but it is very good.  

Book Review: Binti


Binti by Nnedi Okorafor
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a really an interesting novella and deserving of all of the praise and awards it has received. I haven't read a good sci-fi book in quite a while an this one does a really great job of focusing on what I think sci-fi's strongest point really is, cultural critique and not science.

The book is told from the perspective of Binti, who comes from a tribal heritage. It is not explicitly stated where she comes from, but it is presumed to be Africa. The book covers quite a bit on topics of race, cultural differences, and family values, all while tying these anchor points back to a much larger story that expands to an interplanetary conflict. Binti is an very smart and very strong female lead character. She is known in her world as a "Harmonizer". The book never explains precisely what this is, but it is a topic that becomes important to the story as it progresses. The challenges she face progress through the novel and flow through her progression from leaving Earth to traveling to another planet. The story does a really interesting take on transferring her challenges from very relatable ones (i.e. a family not wanting her to leave her tribal land, expectations of woman and marriage) to the broader intergalactic problems, which she must deal with. 

To say any more probably would give away the story. This is simply really well told and at under 200 pages can be read fairly quickly.

View all my reviews

Videogaming: #MyDecadeOnXbox - AbleAmerek

TrueAchievements.com has a cool little summary of a users' past decade on Xbox. It is a cool little insight into my past decade playing Xbox. I am a bit surprised that I have been playing for ten years on Xbox to be honest. I actually think I picked up my 360 back around 2009, and that data is just this list. 

So take a look at this cool little infographic. 

Heilung - What a Great Show

Megan and I went to a great concert last night to see Heilung. Heilung is a sort of folk Scandinavian pagan band. I discovered them on Youtube about a year ago by accident. They were somehow recommended to me through Youtube's recommendation system, and I stumbled into watching an entire concert by them. 

They are doing their first US tour right now and Megan and I jumped at the chance to see the show. We thankfully got tickets and they sold out very quickly. So fast in fact that the show changed venues from the Vic to the Riviera Theatre. 

So the show was a 7:30 show and Megan and thought we would get there early, around 6:00 to get in line. Little did we know, the line extended around the block on three sides. Thankfully we got in pretty early and Megan grabbed some fantastic seats in the balcony. 


So the show started, and it was just as good as we hoped it would be. So enough of all the description, I'll just post some photos and videos. 

Want to hear more of Heilung? Here is the video that I originally saw them on: 

You can also check out their music over at Bandcamp. https://heilung.bandcamp.com


My Year in Books - 2019

I feel like this year was an "off" year for books. Looking back on the year, I don't feel like I was really excited for anything that I read. The vast majority of the books I read this year were in audiobook form. Sabriel was perhaps the book that I enjoyed the most this year, surprising me in how simple and how good it was. It is basically a folklore fairytale that was just a pure and enjoyable read. 

As part of our book club at work (which I think has died now), I read quite a bit of other novels including The Alice Network and A Gentleman in Moscow. Those books were good, but I never was truly captured by them. They served their purpose as book club reads to broaden my horizon, because they certainly were not books I would have read otherwise, but I can't say I was truly drawn into either of them. 

I started reading the Dervish House a few weeks ago, a book that has been sitting on my Kindle for years now, and it unfortunately did not spark my interest in reading. I have slogged through on to the second chapter and it unfortunately just seems a bit too heavy of a book for me right now. I think I will have to come back that that one. 

The Witcher on Netflix right now has in fact sparked my interest in reading again. I have been devouring that show this past holiday week and it has spurred me to get back into the books. I loved the Last Wish, the first book in the series and this show as sparked me to not only go back and read the books, but to also go and finish the Witcher 3 video game.  

OurHome App: What a cool way to track house chores

Megan and I recently came across a cool app that we are using to keep track and manage our chores and other tasks around the house. I have been struggling for a while now on divvying up household tasks. I have admiringly been frustrated as I feel like I am spending my days off doing more house chores than Megan. 

I have always used Omnifocus for my own task planning and project management. While I have used it for my own chores and errands as well, it seems to be a bit overkill for just managing chores around the house. It also unfortunately does not have a  good way to share tasks with other people in a shared in environment, and it is pretty expensive for an iOS app. 

After some searching online a few days ago I came upon the OurHome app, which seems like it perfectly fits the bill. It is originally designed for families to assign chores to kids, but if you read the reviews online it appears that there are a lot of couples using it to just manage their household. They even have a special FAQ section for that. 

OurHome  has the basic "to do" list and tasks list for chores, which is what we are using it for right now, but also has some really cool features that expand upon that that make it perfect for chores and house tasks. 

The app features a really nice "autofill" feature that will suggest different types of chores. You can also peruse their "suggestions list" for various household tasks that you need to get done. You can also assign tasks, setup reoccurring schedules and more. One really great feature is that you can have tasks that are setup to "always be available" everyday. Something simple, like making the bed is available once and can be done by whomever gets to it first. It is very quick to make a task, assign it to yourself, spouse of leave it open for anyone to do and then just move on. 

It follows the GTD metholdogy that i like to use whereas you need to get something out of your head as soon as you think of it, otherwise it'll be forgotten or take up previous headspace. 

One other thing that I like about the app is you can assign reward points for tasks as they are done. It defaults to a number of points associated with how long it takes to complete a tasks. 15 minutes = 15 points. This is a feature primarily aimed for kids, as they complete their chores, they accuse points which they can then cash back in to mom and dad for rewards, like a allowance, a trip to the movies or something. 

I don't quite know what we are going to do with this yet, but Megan and I both think it will be fun to setup some sort of rewards for each other that we can cash in. 

There is also a calendar feature for shared events, a grocery list and a message center for group chats. All, very cool features, but I'm not quite sure if we will end up using those. Time will tell I suppose.