Living Outside The Box Born-Again Techo-Geek Renaissance Man


Creativity, and NaNoWriMo

Posted by Jeff Hendricks

fall maple

Fall is coming. That means November, a.k.a. National Novel Writing Month is also rapidly approaching.

For the last few years, I've been trying to work on drafting another novel- a couple of them, in fact- and I haven't been able to put enough time into it to really make a dent in it. I've discussed it before, in fact.

My friend(s) who are single are writing up a storm, and then asking me "when are you going to have time to edit my book?" to which I have to laugh. (I love you, man, I really do.) I don't even have time to work on mine, much less edit other people's. I don't have time to work on my bikes, fix my car, work on my music projects. I certainly don't have time to work on other people's. But they still ask, and I still want to help, because I'm just that kind of guy.

In fact, I've gotten so busy, I've had to slow down my creative freight train (thank you, ADD brain) just in order to get simple things done. Like cooking dinner, showering, sleeping, and other semi-important stuff.

I've been working on outlining my novel plots, which is new territory for me. I generally enjoy writing off the cuff without an outline, but this poses problems for me when I'm trying to bring the story to a close.

I have to be satisfied to just keep thinking about it, taking notes, and when the opportunity presents itself, I'll pull the 100+ hours it takes to actually write the book (not to mention editing it).

We'll see how it goes. I have nine weeks to decide whether or not I want to try to "win" NaNoWriMo again this year.


Music Monday: Software Amps

Posted by Jeff Hendricks

GuitarRig 5

Here's Dweezil Zappa endorsing Native Instrument's Guitar Rig 5. I've used this software, it's actually pretty good, very flexible, awesome sounding, and costs about $200.

There are now several kinds of software amplifier emulators, some of which are 100% free and are just as good. The biggest advantage to using a software guitar setup is that you can not only configure it in ways that a physical setup can't be, you can pack dozens of amps and effects into a laptop and bring them with you. You can also share those sounds with other players!

Zappa hits on a lot of these points, which are true for software setups as a whole. Obviously, some will sound better or have more features than others, but for the most part, they all work the same.

Some things to keep in mind when using a software amp (or any modeler, for that matter):

  • It can be as simple or complex as you want
  • It can do things physical setups can't
  • Just like an amp, it's going to have a unique sound
  • It may not "feel" the same, but that's not bad

Once you get past the idea of it not sounding like you "think" it should sound, you can start playing with the unlimited possibilities, and make something useful with it. Make your own sounds, your own set lists, play with effects and see what you can do. You are free to create!

Is a software amp/effect setup right for you? They're more flexible and cheaper than vintage/boutique hardware. If nothing else, it's a good tool to have in your arsenal. I, for one, have no qualms about using a laptop guitar amp simulator live. And if you try a free one, what have you got to lose?

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Friday Commute: Socially Acceptable

Posted by Jeff Hendricks

If you use Endomondo or Strava, there's Bike Commuter Cabal groups there. Get crackin!



Fridays are Hawaiian shirt days! Well, not really, but I always wear one, so for me, it is.




Caustic 3.1 In Linux

Posted by Jeff Hendricks


As I previously wrote about Caustic 2 running in Linux with wine emulation, version 3.1 of Caustic has come out with loads of great new features. Simply put, it's now practically a full-blown electronic music production program. The Android version is $10 (well worth it) and the Windows desktop version remains free.

The list of improvements is substantial:

  • More instruments per project
  • New instruments
  • New features in old instruments
  • more effects
  • more MIDI functions (yay!)
  • Export features
  • UI improvements

I can't say enough good things about this app. The fact that it runs under Linux is even more exciting, as that wasn't done intentionally, but it works anyway. I highly recommend it.

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Trust In the Lord

Posted by Jeff Hendricks


This post is probably one of the hardest I've ever had to write. I've been thinking about it, off and on, for 9 months.

I've got plenty of family and friends who care about me, but wholeheartedly reject my religion. I'm going on record saying that I can care about somebody and disagree with their lifestyle, opinions and choices. I think there's much more to a person than who they want to sleep with, what substances they use, or what religion they follow. But people are selfish and narcissistic, and sometimes it's easier for them to just shout "Prejudice! Bigotry!" than actually dealing with the issue. If you really believe in accepting the person as a whole, then you need to read this entire post. I just pray that if you disagree, you can disagree without hate, because I wrote this without any malice or hate. It's just a simple observation, nothing more.


My Thoughts On the 2015 Hugo Awards

Posted by Jeff Hendricks


As a (admittedly lacking) science fiction reader/author, I've been following the rumpus surrounding the 2015 Hugo Awards for Science Fiction. Simply put, they're fan-based awards, given to works of science fiction* that exemplify the best talent in the industry.

* Or at least, that's what it used to be. In the last 2 years, we've discovered it was a thinly disguised club who used it to promote works that were neither science fiction, nor the best that the industry had to offer.

Naturally, people were upset about this and pressed back, and so the Hugo Awards ended up burning themselves to the ground instead of letting "unapproved" authors and editors get their coveted awards.

Honestly, Larry Corriea explains it perfectly here.

I've noticed over the last year or so, with GamerGate and now the Hugo Awards, that being a moderate in these areas is ineffective and counterproductive. Not wanting to hurt people's feelings ends up backfiring 99% of the time, because the people you're trying not to offend don't care if they offend you.

So as believers, do we simply smile and back away? Do we take our toys and go play in another sandbox? Or do we put our foot down, insist on playing by the same rules, and beat them at their own game?


Monday Motivation

Posted by Jeff Hendricks


As of yesterday, I weighed 165 pounds, which means I've lost approximately 10 pounds in the last 6 weeks. I think I'm going to focus on nutrition and building muscle mass at this point. Even though I could probably lose a bit more weight, I think I would be better served by increasing my strength and endurance, now that I'm within a few pounds of my ideal weight.

Here's some music to get you moving on this Monday morning.


Upgrading The Trucker

Posted by Jeff Hendricks


I'm stuck here. I'm debating on what to upgrade on the Beast of Burden. It has to be sturdy, reliable, inexpensive, and functional.

My Surly LHT is currently using Tektro V-brakes and Tektro R520 levers (which work well). It has 7-sp downtube shifters which are problematic for shifting while sprinting through intersections. It has a custom built (by me) dynohub front wheel and a 7-sp cassette rear wheel (still rolling well). Cheap Shimano Deore/Tourney derailleurs (which work well).

I guess my real dilemma is that I want to get the bike lighter, and modernize it somewhat, but without having to buy a whole new drivetrain. I don't really need more gears. I want to be able to commute on it, and use it for group rides. This will require me to get a separate wheelset... keep the dynohub for commuting, and a lightweight set for charity group weekend rides. I can just strip off the rack and lights, and ride it with light wheels.

Do I just upgrade shifters and keep it 3x7? Future wheels can use a cassette spacer. I'm okay with that. But that requires going to mini-V brakes, which rules out fenders and fat tires in the future. (I won't do cantis or Travel Agents... they just suck. Too complicated.)

It's cheaper to keep using 7 speed gear, and it works. But I don't like the downtube shifters for riding in traffic, and I can't find decently light/sturdy 26" road wheels. This will probably require custom wheels on my end. I'm wanting something that nobody makes.

Do I custom build some wheels and go with 9/10sp shifting? Too much cost for the shifters/cassettes/chains.

I think for now, as long as I can get 7-speed parts, I will stick with 3x7 or even 2x7 and just replace wheels as needed. I have a complete new 3x7 drivetrain waiting to go on the bike, I'm just wanting better shifting. There's at least 4 companies still making 7-speed cassettes, and 2 that make shifters. And they're cheap compared to the 9/10/11 speed stuff.

I think I'll use some bargain-bin 26" mountain wheelset for road rides for now... I have a pair of Vuelta Zerolite Comps in 26" I can use. Not superlight, but aero and very cheap. Lighter than the old MTB/dynohub wheels. I will need another set of 26's with knobbies to put on the Klunker.

I'm sure some of you are thinking "You're an idiot, just get another road bike and be done with it." I wish I could. But I've already got 2 bikes, and I don't really need a third. I want to prove the LHT really is a "do-all" bike. With the right parts, the LHT can be a sub-20 pound bike. I'd be happy with 25 or so. Can I lose 5 pounds off the bike just by swapping parts? Very likely. If I can get it to 25 pounds in group ride trim, I think it'll be perfect. Don't care what it weighs when I'm commuting, as I'm carrying 2 panniers anyway.

Can I do it for cheap? A 25# LHT using 7-speed parts? It's the perfect balance of functionality, retro, and cheap.

I'm going to find out.


Blood Pressure Check

Posted by Jeff Hendricks

After a month of riding my bike to work, my blood pressure has dropped from 140/90 to 110/80, and I think it will keep going lower.


While riding mountain bikes with my Scout troop this past weekend, I did manage to drop my bike's chain, causing me to smash my left knee into the handlebar. I've got a nice fat knot the size of a golf ball just above my kneecap!


Perfection Is The Enemy Of Creativity

Posted by Jeff Hendricks

Square Peg in a Round Hole_0565

For a lot of people, the desire to be creative has been stamped out of their daily thinking. It never crosses their mind that they have the time or the ability to create something.

For me, the realization of this happened when I wrote my first book, during NaNoWriMo. One of the tips they give is to "lock away your inner editor" and just write whatever comes to your mind. And for people like me who have high standards of quality, that works, surprisingly.

Why is this? It's because of the fear of our output being "not good enough" from only the first draft. We look at our incomplete musical or graphical or literary first drafts, and think "this really sucks." But if you stop there, that's the end of the story (pun intended), and nothing gets created.

Freedom to create comes when you lock away your inner editor long enough to get past the initial aversion. Even if it's bad, a written book is closer to publication than an incomplete one. A song with all the parts there is closer to being "finished" than one with a well-mixed intro and nothing else.

You can't edit or polish something that isn't there. Worry about perfection after you've actually completed something. In some cases, you'll realize that the end result probably doesn't need that much fixing anyway. You get better with it over time.

So quit double-guessing yourself, put aside the fear, and finish something. Anything, even if it's bad, is better than not creating at all.

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