Got a new (to me) Roger Linn AdrenaLinn III pedal. For a while, I've been looking at pedals that will let me do several different things: Midi-synced tremolo (like a Gig-FX Pro-Chop), Midi-synced beat slicing (like a Boss SL-20), Midi-synced delay (like a Strymon Timeline), a pedal-operated Midi drum machine (like the Beat Buddy), an amplifier sim (like the Tech21 Character pedals), and a Midi step sequencer (like the Electro-Harmonix 8-Step Program).
And behold, the AdrenaLinn III does all of these things, and then some. So far, I'm extremely impressed for a single box that has all of these features in it. It's got more tricks in its bag than you can shake a stick at.
I just can't be serious all the time. I guess after years of blogging here, I've become accustomed to only writing about things that really irritate me, or things I'm really passionate about. This might lead one to believe I'm an angry stuffed-shirt curmudgeon who disapproves of everything.
But that's the furthest thing from the truth. I'm actually a very laid-back, chilled kind of guy. Anybody who's met me in person knows that... if I were any more laid back, I wouldn't have a pulse.
And yet in my day-to-day life, I don't get to discuss things like theology, economics, politics, music theory, programming, and so on. They're just not common topics of conversation. This is a large reason why I blog about that stuff here. And of course, anybody here is welcome to discuss anything civilly. I relish those opportunities to think and talk about things besides Sportsball and Hunting (the two national passtimes of southern Louisiana). I have absolutely nothing against those things, but I also don't really care about them, either.
I don't want to seem indifferent about everything though. I don't really hate a lot of things. Driving while texting/calling, yes... I despise that with the burning fire of a thousand suns. But I don't hate people as much as I hate seeing the effects of what people do. Sometimes it gets depressing, honestly.
But not to fear! I haven't lost my sense of humor. Maybe I need to post funny cat pics, cause you can never have too many of those, right?
There are times when people (Christians specifically) need to seriously take a look at what they're asking and whether or not it's appropriate. There are, believe it or not, some times when you need to think about Jesus outside of church. I'm seeing a tendency for Christians today to go into "incognito mode" when they're discussing anything not directly church-related. We compartmentalize Jesus and God, so that even mentioning them outside of a church building is seen as "inappropriate" or a "Jesus juke."
But I've heard this so many times, I'm going to step on some toes. This just shows that we have superficial faith. In reality, God is involved in every area of our lives, whether we acknowledge it or not. It would be foolish of us to pretend otherwise. I see this predominantly in Christian circles where people are asking recommendations on some sort of new expensive toy or luxury. We don't ask if it's wise to get something like that. We effectively suppress the teachings of Jesus in order to not offend anyone.
This is comparable to secular consumerism today. Is it okay to demand that our food be ethically treated before we kill and eat it, but not okay to ask if someone's food choices are wise? Is it okay to demand our electricity be cleanly produced (because environment!), and yet pay no heed to ecology when we purchase disposable (and toxic) electronic devices, all designed with planned obsolescence? So it shouldn't surprise me when I see people claim "Jesus is Lord!" and then proceed to pamper themselves with luxury.
Recently, I stumbled across a sermon series by Bill Hybels, called "Simplify." I listened to it, thinking all the while it was going to be full of useful advice on how to simplify our lives... pretty obvious, right? He talks about simplifying finances, simplifying your schedule, simplifying your job, and so forth. For the most part, I was right.
Except that in one of the messages, he says something to the effect of "Don't ask what you should do; ask who do I want to become? And when you schedule your life around that idea, the rest will fall into place."
I can't really explain why, but that little question made me stop and think. What is it that I want to become? Why am I wasting time on doing things that have nothing to do with what I need to be? Why do I do those things?
His talks of calendars and tithing didn't phase me: I already do those things. I fail horribly at using calendars in general, but you know... I have one. But simplifying my soul was something that I hadn't really given much thought. Simplifying my mind is darn near impossible, and there is no such thing as spiritual Ritalin.
The best way to become something is to work exclusively on that thing, until you achieve it. But what is it that I want to be? Once upon a time, I wanted to be a world-famous musician that toured everywhere, and wrote music that impacted people's lives. I wanted to write a game-changing novel that redefined the spec-fiction genre. I wanted to deeply touch people with the gifts that God gave me.
Except that I wasn't. Oh, I'm well aware of it... for better or worse, I am glaringly aware of my shortcomings as a writer and musician. But I was missing the whole point. I was still focused on what I wanted to do, instead of what kind of person I wanted to become.
Who do I want to be? What kind of person do I want to be?
I want to be kind. Wise. Thorough. Thoughtful. Cheerful. Generous. Helpful. Excited about life and what God is doing all around me.
So why haven't I filled my life with things that will let me achieve these goals? In all honesty, God isn't as much concerned with what we do, as much as how we do it. I may only be a simple technical writer, but am I cheerful? Am I generous? Thankful?
Sadly, if I hold myself to scrutiny in the mirror, I fall short... very short. I am not nearly as generous and kind as I want to be. I'm not nearly as wise as my wife needs me to be. Not nearly as forgiving as my kids need me to be. And patient? Pfah. Nowhere close. And the answer is, I have taken my freedom in Christ for granted.
This reveals to me two things: 1. God is where all these good things come from, and if I try to be them on my own, I will continue to fail. And 2. I need to live my life in a manner that leads me in that direction, and remove distractions that keep me away. It's not going to happen by me feeling sorry about it. Not going to happen by me saying "I'm just going to be spiritually fulfilled from now on!" Remember: there is no spiritual Ritalin.
No, these kinds of things are only tapped from the unending source: God the Father. Through the Spirit, God gives me the ability to become all those things. But they're only usable to me if I am walking in the right direction. That's not to say they have anything to do with my will! But God is not going to force Himself upon me, I must choose to follow Him and daily ask for my portion of humility and grace. I know God's grace is not dependent on me, and yet for me to utilize it, I must humble myself and accept it for what it is. To become wise, I must apply God's grace generously to my worldly self on a daily basis.
Only then will I become the man that God wants me to be. Only then will I be able to do what I want to do.
Only then will I become who I know I am.
As a creative-type person, I understand when people get picky about what tools they use to create their particular art form. Musicians will obsess over the tiniest things to get the sound "just right." Photographers will spend hours waiting for just the right light.
But why are writers usually just the opposite? They use kludgy writing tools, and sometimes even physical "index card" information management. Wouldn't it be nice if there were a single program that could do everything a writer needed? Formatting, templates, organization, storyboarding, corkboards, revision management, links and information, pictures, exporting direct to publishing formats, and even a full-screen writing mode?
Well, there *is* such a program. It's called Scrivener. It's completely changed the way I write, for the better.
Scrivener was made *by* authors, *for* authors. It's like a tool that plugs directly into your brain and lets you focus on writing. There are plenty of testimonials praising the OSX and Windows versions, but I run the Linux-specific version, which is technically still in beta. It still has more features than a regular word processor, and I've found it has become integral to my writing process.
For those of you familiar with Scrivener, the Linux version is available as a free (for now) Beta. For the rest of you, here's the overview:
For the last few months, I've been really torn about the exceedingly hostile culture towards Christians, specifically in Geeky circles. At first, I pretended to not notice it. The random, unrelated references to "Science" as a proper noun. The occasional comment about despising church. And then, I started seeing actual vitriol flung at people for simply asking questions. It progressed to the point where some people I respected were joining in the fray, participating in character assassination based solely on one facet of someone's faith.
I thought rational people were supposed to ask questions! I was raised to question authority, and more and more, I'm seeing this being frowned upon by the very people who are supposed to be tolerant and open-minded. What this tells me is they're not arguing for atheism because they want to prove it correct; they're not even trying to disprove the existance of God. They're arguing it for their own personal reasons. They are, quite simply, trying to get us to shut up so their own conscious can be quiet.
Atheism has become the very thing it despises... an authoritarian, prejudiced, intolerant religion.
Sadly, modern Feminism is destroying the gentleman. Instead of encouraging women to become more, since the 50's it has mostly slid into the practice of dragging men down. It is becoming difficult to teach boys to be gentlemen when girls are constantly being told they don't need gentlemen. Or men.
Being a gentleman is a lost social grace... when technically they're not needed. If a man serves as a gentleman at all times, when the need arises he will be ready and trained to think of others outside himself.
We have to break the cycle. It has to start somewhere. We must continue to teach and expect our boys to be gentlemen, regardless of what society tells them. That way when things finally (hopefully!) level out and reason comes back into fashion, they will be poised and ready to fill that role in society. They refuse to be victims, and insist on true "correctness" even when nobody is looking.
What is the purpose of a Gentleman? Why are they in short supply, and are they even really needed? The Fierce Gentleman Manifesto breaks a Gentleman down into twenty-one basics, which does an excellent job of explaining. So much so, that I'm not going to try to recreate what they've already done so well. I'll touch on a few of these that are near and dear to my life, however.
- We renounce status-seeking in favor of a purpose-driven life.
This means we derive our value, our worth to society, from our accomplishments (and following a higher power) and not from what others think of us. Even if nobody notices, we will strive to do our best.
- We give up divided attention so that we may practice Presence.
This is something I constantly struggle with. It means we are always focused, and present in the task at hand, even if that task is menial or spiritual. "Presence" is the mark of someone who is mature and knows what their purpose is, and what is going on around them.
- Morality is our daily habit: we exercise generosity, maintain strong determination, make diligent and sustained effort, give selfless Love, tell the truth in all cases and all ways, discipline ourselves, show tolerance, seek wisdom, practice renunciation, and cultivate equanimity. Despite what modern society tries to tell us, morality is not relative. If morality was just an artificial construct, then there would be no purpose for courts or any kind of justice system, because anything you feel is right would be right. This is obviously not the case, therefore a true Gentleman strives to not only be moral, but hold the higher ground. It is not sufficient to merely meet expectations, but we should strive to be more, for the sake of everyone around us.
These are not the only ways we can improve ourselves, but for someone striving to be a true Gentleman, this is a very good place to start. At the very least, we can acknowledge that there is more to being a man than just existing. And I challenge you, men of the world, to step up and be the examples that the rest of the world desperately needs.
Jesus Christ was an excellent example of a true Gentleman. He had passion, purpose, focus, compassion, and respect. Most importantly, he did so without compromise. I know we can't all meet his lofty example, but the fact that we strive for it sets us apart from the rest of the world that just doesn't care.
As a result of Rural Bike Commuting: It's Not The City, I've had a few people ask me to clarify some of the equipment choices I've made to accommodate the longer distances. My choices certainly don't reflect everybody's, and there will always be bike commuters who do things a bit differently, even if their routes look very similar to mine. But with that in mind, here's a few things I've learned.
If you're commuting long distances, you're going to want a bike that's efficient, sturdy, flexible, and comfortable. It doesn't have to be a race bike (in fact, there's plenty of reasons why race bikes make terrible commuting rigs) but as long as it's strong and comfortable, it'll work. The more braze-ons it has, the more things you can do with it, and the more versatile your bike will be.
For commutes of 10+ miles each way, on rural (rough) roads, you will want to consider a bike made for long-distance riding, like a touring or randonneur bike. (*NOTE: in some cases, bikes labeled as "cyclocross" or "gravel" bikes will work, but sometimes they won't. More on this later.) Most touring/rando bikes have drop bars for more comfortable hand positions, but you also want to balance that with a somewhat upright riding position to be able to function in traffic without losing visibility. Drop bars give you the best of both worlds; you can ride low in the drops for long windy stretches, or ride on the tops/hoods for in town.
Some great bikes are out there that are trouble-free, solid, and relatively efficient. The Surly CrossCheck is a universal favorite, for obvious reasons... it's adaptable, comfortable, durable, and reasonably fast. Despite being labeled as a "cyclocross bike" it's more suited to light touring and commuting, which is exactly what we're looking for. The Straggler is basically a disk-brake version of the same bike, if you're more comfortable with disks. There are plenty of others, also, but be warned!! Some bikes marketed "go-anywhere, do-anything" are really racing bikes, not true utility road bikes. They are made for recreational weekend warriors, not commuters who ride to work with racks and fenders. If it doesn't have eyelets or bosses for a rear rack, it's probably not meant to be used as a commuter. Caveat Emptor. Some good examples of bikes for long-distance commuting:
For someone who's been using the internet almost since its inception, I've collected quite a large assortment of usernames and passwords over the years. I think something on the order of 150+ of them, not including the ones that have gone defunct, or actual local network passwords.
How does a professional geek handle hundreds of passwords? Here's a quick primer on how I do it, with a few suggestions on general password security, too. I've used two programs in the last year to get a handle on my password/username combos; LastPass and KeePass. One is a web-run business; the other is a free, open-source program. I'll explain a bit about each one, and how I decided to use them.
Here's a short demo of using a 7" Android tablet to control MIDI effects on a laptop. TouchOSC is a cool little app that lets you make custom control surfaces, with sliders, buttons, knobs, and X-Y pads, and you can assign them to any parameters. With a hardware OSC to MIDI bridge, you can control any MIDI device with it, too. Very slick. In this video, I'm using PureData to convert OSC to MIDI messages on the laptop. I can then route them back out to control external devices, or control effects on the laptop. (Sorry for the noise, was just trying to demo the MIDI functionality)