Book Review: The Murder on the Links

The Murder on the Links by Agatha Christie
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Another good book in the Hercule Poirot series, although this one isn't quite as brilliant as some of the others I have read. My real issue with this book isn't the mystery at hand. That follows the fairly standard Hercule Poirot "whodunit" formula with twist and turns. For the most part, this was a solid enough entry with that respect, although I did find myself parsing out who the murderer was fairly early on. 

My major issue with this book had to do with the Hastings character. His bungling of major points of evidence throughout the story broke much of the illusion for me. The fact that there was no legal repercussions for someone who lost evidence and then at a later point, potentially harbored a murderer really just doesn't make sense.

I did really enjoy the Giraurd character, mainly because it was fairly evident that he was meant to be a crude version of Sherlock Holmes. It was a nice jab at the two famous characters from this genre.

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Reading: I Really Enjoy Hercule Poirot

I may have mentioned this before online, but the past year or so I have had a really hard time getting into books. One would think with the pandemic in 2020, that last year would have been the ideal time to really get some good reading done. Unfortunately, I really struggled last year to get into anything very deep. 

I was having the same trouble through the first couple months of this year as well, and Megan suggested that I may be in a bit of a rut simply with the types of books I was trying to read. Now, I typically like to read fiction, fantasy specifically, that will give me a bit of escape. I have been just trying to read the same type of thing over and over though and not making any real ground. While talking it came to me that I should dive back into some "whodunit" murder mysteries. I read some Hercule Poirot by Agatha Christie and Sherlock Holmes stories a few years ago and I really enjoyed them, way more than I would have thought. In fact, Murder on the Orient Express has become one of my favorite books. 

I decided to pickup book #2 in the Poirot series, "The Murder on the Links". So far it has been a delight to read, and I have to laugh at the subtle stabs at Sherlock Holmes that seem to exist in the book.

That brings me though to a website that I want to recommend to everyone. If you have an ereader, I highly suggest you check out Standardebooks.org. It is site that takes public domain books, many of them from Project Gutenberg, re-formats them and puts a cover on the ebook. It is a really nice site and while it is not nearly as comprehensive as Gutenberg, there is a really nice collection of some common books there. I have linked below some books I have picked up there that I have already read and really enjoyed. 

Poirot Series (Books 1-3)

Sherlock Holmes (Books 1-8)

Martian Series (Books 1-4)


D&D: Artbreeder.com - AI Generated profiles for D&D and other cool art

I came across what has to be one of the coolest website I have seen in a long time. It is called Artbreeder.com and it utilizes AI to morph and merge images together. You essentially input two parent images and it will create an offspring. There are several categories on the site that you and select from, so I presume the the AI system has been tweaked for each one to get the best results. As you can see from the image above, where I have the portrait system selected, there are some sliders for various features you can select. 

The results are algorithmic, so you don't have any control over the creation. This isn't drawing, but it is an easy way to get an endless amount of good imagery. I have found the portrait mode to be very useful and something you can easily kill a few hours just going down the rabbit hole on. 

The only quirk I have found with the portraits at least, is that they tend to favor very "soft" female features. You also have to pay a fee to upload your own images, which is understandable, if unfortunate. 

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. 


The Decline of Harley-Davidson

If you have read the news in the motorcycling world lately you will have seen the headlines about the declining state of Harley-Davidson. Articles have been popping up everywhere for months about the company's poor financial outlook. There is a measure of angst going around as some people are using this as a measure of the health of motorcycling in the United States. It may be true that HD is the largest US seller of motorcycles, but their declining sales may not be a measure of motorcycling as it once used to me. 

The HD condition, as I will call it, it largely a product of their own making. I would not call myself a fan of HD, but I am not a hater either. I can respect the sort of "mechanical" nature of their motorcycles. I personally am not a huge fan of bikes with tons of gadgets on them, electronics, and all that. With the exception of their top of the line bikes, HD has remained true to that image. However, their image overall is precisely what I think their largest problem is. They have spent decades cultivating a cultural identity and biker image. Up until recently that has largely been a boon for them, creating a "fraternity" of sorts for motorcyclists to rally behind. With that fraternity though has also been the creation of a mentality that "you're one of us or you aren't". 

One of HD's (and motorcycling in the US') biggest problems is the age demographics of riders. HD riders are old, as are the riders across the country in general. Those individuals tend to be able to buy a $15000+ motorcycle, but in order for the industry to stay healthy you need to get younger riders into the market. 

The new batch of millennials coming into the market don't appear to embrace the current image that HD has cultivated. Many are turning to sports bikes or adventure touring bikes. Another large sector seeing a resurgence is the café racer, "hipster", city rider. Brands like Roland Sands, Icon, and others are tapping into a new style for younger riders. Just about every manufacturer from Kawasaki, to Yamaha, are now releasing "vintage" styled bikes that appeal to a younger crowd. 

Coupled with increased pressure from a "new" US brand in Indian Motorcycles, it makes you have to wonder how HD is going to respond and if HD can respond. The market now has more options and more sub-groupings of biking identity then it ever had before. No longer are biking communities split largely between sports bike riders and cruisers and with that growing division comes a smaller slice of the pie for HD.

They have spent such a long time cultivating the image that they have, I am not entirely sure they can attract a different audience with women, younger riders and a different demographic without alienating those individuals who have been with them for decades and spent tens of thousands of dollars with them. HD may finally find itself in a position where it has to cede its dominate market presence over the coming decade.

  

Journey into Modular Synthesis - Part 3: Sequencers

Modules - Sequencers

Ok, so here is things will get a little crazy. As I mentioned before Modulargrid.net has a nice portion of the website where you can build your synth. Better still, you can see what other people are building.

So here is what I have laid out so far. 

Crazy right? There is almost $3,000 worth of modules laid out in that rack matching what the Mantis can hold. So what exactly do I have going on here? Let's break it down and I'll explain what I know so far about how this can work. Keep in mind that these may be acquired over months if not years. 

The first two items that I really should probably get is a sequencer. One or both of them may end up changing as I continue research on sequencing techniques and what I may want to get out of a sequencer. I am currently trying to find out more information about CV/Gate sequencers, which are small little sequencers that can be manipulated with other cv/gate data. 

Stillson Hammer Mark II

So the first module is the Stillson Hammer Mark II. Two things are immediately attractive with this sequencer. 

It features up to four tracks of sequencing with CV/Gate. That right there allows me to get the multiple tracks I need to get a groove sort of setup. The analog sliders also make for quick sequencing capabilities. 

Ilntellijel Metropolis

The second sequencer is the IIntellijel Metropolis. At first glance you might think that these things basically look the same and they are in fact very similar. 

The Metropolis only has one track which it can sequence, but it utilizes a unique feature with the 8-stage switches on it. It is hard to describe and best if just shown in the video below where you can see how unique it is. 


Sequencer Alternatives

So both of those sequencers are very cool, but they are also very expensive, around $600 each. As you can see from the rack posted at the top, they also take up a ton of space. There are all sorts of cool alternatives out there. Unfortunately I am at a loss on exactly how to use them. Here is a quick list of the ones that have caught my eye so far though. 

TipTop Audio Z8000 

This is another super popular sequencer. It is a bit cheaper, but works on a grid matrix.

Malekko Heavy Industry Voltage Block

Very cool because this one can be easily "stacked" with the Varigate 8+. 

The list goes on with problematic sequencers, euclidean sequencers and cartesian sequencers. I'm sure there are even more.




Top 10 Summer Songs

Megan and I had a conversation the other day about our top summer songs. These are all songs that I have some sort of particular memory or connection to summer. Perhaps it was a cool summer night, hanging around a campfire, going to a rave in a warehouse or something else. 

So in no particular order, here are mine. Let me see your favorite songs in the comments below. 


Katy 180 - Sixteen Candles

This first one hopefully no one will know except my high school friends. This was a local high school band and they put out a fun album. Several good songs on there, but this one is a personal favorite that I am uploading directly to my blog here. 


Blink 182 - Dammit


Southern Sun - Paul Oakenfold


Superdrag - Sucked Out


Spacehog - In the Meantime


Soundgarden - Burden in My Hand


Daft Punk - Around the World/ Harder Better Faster Strong


Basement Jaxx - Where's Your Head At?


The Mighty Might Bosstones - The Impression that I Get


The Chemical Brothers - Block Rockin' Beats


Bonus Song

John Digweed - Heaven Scent

I'm gonna throw a bonus song in here, in particular this scene and track from the movie Groove. This whole vibe is very emblematic of some of the warehouse and Goa Trance parties Megan and i used to go to. This movie in particular just puts a huge smile on my face so go give it a rental.