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


Building a (Big) Cosplay Prop

Posted by Jeff Hendricks

My oldest daughter is really (I mean really) into Cosplay. Usually this takes the form of dressing up as a favorite character from an animated show or video game. We're both fans of the show RWBY from Rooster Teeth, because it has great music, a great story, and some really fantastic visuals and fight scenes. I even did an article on "Becoming The Character" for one of their characters, Sun Wukong. (I'll be re-publishing that soon!)

One of the best parts about the fight scenes in RWBY is that they all have weapons that are both melee and powered ranged weapons, i.e. every weapon "is also a gun." Somewhere along the line, we decided to build an actual weapon prop. I've been wanting to test my chops building one, anyway. After watching guys like Volpin Props and Punished Props make some amazing stuff, I wanted to see if I could pull off something even halfway impressive.

Prop scale reference

The first order of business was deciding which character's weapon to build. Doing Ruby Rose's (the main character) scythe/rifle would have been doable, but it would have taken a LOT of work, and my daughter didn't want to cosplay as Ruby (just yet). Plus it would have cost a lot to build! And it's HUGE. If you make it even somewhat realistic looking, it will weigh fifty pounds and nearly be impossible to realistically carry.


There were plenty of characters that use simple gun/blade combinations, like Blake or Ren. But those could be recreated with what are essentially just modded Nerf guns. She and I finally settled on building Magnhild (a play on the mythical Norse god Thor's hammer) while she would dress as the character Nora. This would be both a challenge to build physically, and a challenge to use simple and/or inexpensive materials.

First, I had to figure out what scale this thing was going to be. According to this render from the show, and adjusting the scale for my daughter's height (she's taller than the character in the show), we figured out the hammer would end up being right at six feet tall if we built it to scale for it to look right.

I started scrounging the internet for still shots of Magnhild in action, and thankfully, the RWBY Wiki had them in spades. With a little bit of magic and some manipulation in GIMP (a free graphics program), I was able to take some shots of the hammer at different angles and scale them to where I could measure them.


New Directions

Posted by Jeff Hendricks

At one point, I actually had a topic schedule here at Outside The Box. I had different topic categories to write about for each day of the week. I did that for a couple of months actually, until work got the best of me, and I had to drop a few of the balls I was juggling.

Through no fault of my own, I'm going to end up with quite a few more hours of time to write in the very near future. The question remains: What should I do with this unexpected windfall of time?

I think this will be an excellent opportunity to write about some topics I've been itching to dig into. Hopefully, I'll be able to keep politics out of it- I have no interest in discussing the current elections. I will however cover things like projects I'm working on, culture shifts (and how that affects us), and movements in the tech industry.

I will also be working on setting up ways to sell my work, so I can keep bringing quality content to you, my loyal readers and friends!

Besides writing fiction and blogging, I'll be working on publishing non-fiction e-books and making music (under Creative Commons) for people to use in Podcasts or Youtube videos. I'll also be working on projects at home, for business.

If you're interested in letting me help you with my creative talents, let me know!

Filed under: Creativity, Music No Comments

Hard Decisions

Posted by Jeff Hendricks

One of the most difficult things I've had to do is choose between two good things.

Sounds like a good problem to have, right? "Do I take the Ferrari, or the Lambo?"

But I really need to explain.

I can't become a full-time published writer if I'm fiddling with music stuff, or building things, or even restoring my old car. Could I even carve out more than an hour a day to write? Is that even possible?

I am stretched to my limit as it is, really. I can't do anything without it cutting into something else on my calendar. I'm double-booking myself in hopes that one of the engagements falls through. I'm on borrowed time.

Time management schemes only work to a certain extent, especially when there's things to deal with like unreliable vehicles, conflicting work schedules, unplanned emergencies, drama, and a full-time job. There just isn't enough time in the day to get everything done in a timely manner, no matter how much I shuffle things around.

I feel like my days have been short-sheeted. I keep trying to pull the covers to one side, and it uncovers me somewhere else.
So how do I get rid of some of these projects and responsibilities? Guess what? It takes free time- which I am already short on. Something has to give.

I could leave my projects sit, untouched, for months and not be worried about it. But that's not an option, because the stuff piles up and clutters the house, making it difficult for everybody to get things done. Not to mention it clutters my thought process! But it takes more time and energy to cleanse them from view.

I don't have solutions yet. I just know where I need to go, and hopefully will be able to document how I get there.

Onward, and upward!


FOMO Strikes Back

Posted by Jeff Hendricks

I like riding my bike. I like writing. I like playing music.

But my not-so-dark secret is that I'm an adrenaline junkie. I'm always looking for something cool and new to do, or learn, and watch, or whatever. But I think I put too much emphasis on what I'm doing. My life, for what it is, has been a whirlwind of activity, for decades.

I haven't written anything here in over a month. Most "writers" would look at that as abject failure. I'm tempted to, as well. The truth is, I've been very very busy. Mostly, doing good things... sometimes, just chilling and trying to unwind my warp-speed brain.

So I'd like to get back to writing, at least a little.  I don't know how I'm going to balance writing with fitness, or work, or remodeling, or anything else I'm going to do.

I've got a lot of good writing topics in mind, and considering the political/spiritual landscape we're in, there's no dearth of things to write about. Some may be technical, some may be opinion, some may be just plain crazy ranting.

But I think I'm in a place where I need to ramp my brain up for writing again. It will, however, require scaling back something, somewhere. I'm not sure what will give yet. I'm already behind on some things. It will not be an easy thing to do.

Probably the first thing I need to do is scale back surfing social media again. I need to figure out a centralized writing solution, as well... which will probably mean using Google Drive... and I need to organize it. It would help to have writing tools that can go with me. Not going to the point where I have it on my phone yet, but that might work.


I'm getting back in the habit. Expect some writing tomorrow, and we'll see how long I can ramp it up and keep it going. Who knows? My ultimate goal is to write enough on my novels to get one or more of them picked up by a major publishing house. If I can do that, I think my life accomplishments will be pretty much complete.

Stay tunes, faithful readers. We're in for a wild ride.


Finding My Way

Posted by Jeff Hendricks

I've been thinking a lot lately about dissatisfaction in life, and wishing I could do more than I already am. But I'm 42, have 4 kids, and I work 45+ hours a week at a (mostly) desk job. I don't have a lot of time for adventure or excitement.

I'm always looking for something exciting to do, whether it be tinkering with electronics, or bike commuting, or writing a novel, or producing podcasts... whatever sounds exciting, I want to do it.

But I can't do everything I want to. I just don't have the time and energy. (This is kind of a recurring theme on my blog...)

As a dreamer, I'm always trying to balance the reality of modern life with my heart's desire to be an adventurer. Really, I love a good adventure. In fact, you could say I live for those moments, when I'm going down a road I've never seen before, or learning something new. There's a cloud of mystery, a rush of endorphins that comes from doing something exciting and new.

Eventually, I stumbled across an article on Vocations from Art Of Manliness (which seems to be a recurring theme for me). And there were questions there, about how to discover your passions.

For me, passions were something that I've had stamped out of my life repeatedly. I'm passionate about a lot of things... but only things that are monetarily useful are allowed in today's society. As you might imagine, this isn't a great environment in which to find your Passion.


Homemade MIDI Filter

Posted by Jeff Hendricks

One of the goals I wanted to do with my guitar stage setup was to be able to control everything the Adrenalinn3 pedal does with two different MIDI foot controllers. This is interesting at least, challenging at best. You can't just combine the output of two pedals, because the Linn doesn't know which pedal the commands came from, and even if it did, it doesn't know what to do with them.

I looked into off-the-shelf pieces to do this, and there were a few that were close, but none of them could do what I needed without custom ROM hacking. I wasn't really interested in that (for time constraints) so I looked into something simpler, easier, and definitely cheaper.

Enter the humble Arduino. This amazing little piece of technology takes a cheap microprocessor and packages it into a board the size of a credit card, with a voltage regulator, and input/output pins. The tools to program them are free and (mostly) easy to use, and they even make DIY add-on kits that let you expand what the board is capable of.


Wanted: Swiss Army MIDI Workstation

Posted by Jeff Hendricks

One of the goals of my guitar setup is to be able to use it in 3 different configurations:

  1. Hardware only
  2. Hardware/software
  3. Software only

Ideally I'd like to be able to exactly the same things with each, but hardware costs money! A lot of money. For instance: a hardware looper that syncs with MIDI clock starts around $400. That's more than what I paid for my whole laptop! It's becoming increasingly obvious to me that dollar for dollar, software is the way to go.

But I'll never completely eliminate hardware, and I don't think I should. It's not that I don't think software is reliable: my laptop runs effects for hours without a hiccup. But you still need hardware for interfacing things together. Controllers, pedals, mixers, etc.

So I guess the question is, what's an acceptable mix of hardware and software? If I say hardware only, I know exactly what I'd need to buy, and it wouldn't be cheap.

For effects, i.e. amplifier models, delays, etc. I've got it covered in hardware. That's easy, and I can control everything without a laptop. Everything syncs to the MIDI clock (delays, drum machine, etc.) and everything works. I'd still like to be able to use the Master Control to select drumbeats and the ART pedal to control effect presets... but because of the way the Linn handles that, it will require another piece of hardware to insert Bank Change signals so the MC will only switch drumbeats. Not ideal, but doable.

In order to control the Adrenalinn's drum and effect presets with two separate MIDI controllers, it requires injecting "bank change" messages into one of them to change the A3's preset mode. This isn't very complicated, except that there's currently no piece of hardware that will do that. However, for about $30, I can build a hardware MIDI filter out of an Arduino Uno board, and it looks something like this: (This is the actual MIDI board I will be using with my Arduino)


Proof Of Concept: Live Looping

Posted by Jeff Hendricks

As I wrote about last week, I'm usually inclined to flit from one project to another. The problem with that is that I rarely get to finish anything. I spent more than an hour working on arranging and testing my music gear last night. Was it productive? Well, yeah, I think so. But was it critical? No, not really. Why did I do it, then? How does that fit into my vision of getting things done?

Honestly, I don't know. There's a reason for it, of course, and it's one of those things that I will have to do eventually. Why did I work on it instead of other things? I don't know. It was forefront in my mind, and I had to get those ideas out, so I just ran with it.

Where am I going with this?

Basically, with all the things I write about coping with ADD, you'd think I'd have a better grip on that stuff. And then I get an idea, and I go all Doc Brown and stay up working on some mad scientist thing that may or may not ever actually get used.


Goals And Dreams

Posted by Jeff Hendricks

I was having a discussion this morning with a coworker about advancement in the company. I had to explain to him that I wasn't interested in all the corporate classes and stuff on advancement, because my chances of promotion here are so close to zero as to not be significant. That's assuming I'd even want promotion, which I don't.

He replied "Don't you have goals and aspirations?"

I replied "I do, just not here."

Of course I have goals and dreams. They just don't involve working here, at a global mega-corporation. I could give plenty of reasons why I'm not interested in corporate advancement, but I think it would be better to explain what I do want to reach for.

What are my goals and dreams? World Domination? Immortality? Orbiting Space Lasers?

No. Interestingly enough, I've already achieved most of my dreams. When I stop and think about it, what I really want is to expand on what I've already done. Become an author? I've done that. Become a professional musician? Done it. Public speaker? Done that. Mentoring my kids and other young adults? I've gotten to do that, and am still doing that.

What I want, more than anything, is to be able to do those things to the fullest of my ability. I want to be able to throw myself into these passions with the time and energy I feel they deserve, not second-hand leftovers once my day job is done with my brain. There isn't a day that goes by that I don't daydream about what could happen if I were able to put 100% of my energy towards writing, or music, or mentoring/fathering. I'm always wishing I could follow my passions more.


New Podcast: ADD Masterminds

Posted by Jeff Hendricks

As if I didn't have enough to do already, I somehow got talked into starting up a new podcast. Yes, that's right, I co-host a podcast now.

Every now and then, you run across people that think a lot like you. And in some cases, the more you talk, the more you've got in common. Running into John was kind of like that. He's got a heart for music like I do, he's a dad, a writer, a musician, plus he's Canadian, eh? Such a nice guy. How could two guys like us end up taking over the world?

So anyway, we decided to do a show based on the random topics our brains come up with and just needed to be discussed. Plus plotting for World Domination. So, here you go: the ADD Masterminds podcast. Don't take it too seriously... we're having fun.

May God have mercy on our souls.