Opening Day in July

24 Jul 2020


My pace on updating the blog seems to have slowed to once a month. I suppose that indicates the plodding nature of life these days. There’s not much to differentiate one day from another. Weekends have blurred with weekdays, but not necessarily in the good way.

Baseball is Back

It seems too good to be true, but baseball has finally started its season. It’s not going to be normal (60 games, regional play, 16 team playoff?!), but it’s something. I didn’t miss sports in general, but I definitely have a soft spot for baseball. Who am I kidding, though? Hockey comes back in a week with its modified playoff format and I’ll probably watch that too…

Update (since I didn’t publish this blog post on time): knock on wood, because the baseball season could all come to an end. Miami had 14 (!) positive tests in a day, leading to all kinds of disruption in the schedule. Clubhouses needed to be deep cleaned, causing a ripple effect. At this point, it’s starting to seem like trying to have a season is a bad idea.

New Toys for the “Adults”

My wife and I have been kicking around the idea of upgrading our cell phones for at least a few months. About a week or two ago, we decided to go for it. The funny thing was, I was initially the one who seemed more into the idea, but then decided to hold off. I thought I’d wait to see what my wife’s new phone was like, but before I even got that chance, she pushed me to just go for a new phone myself mere hours after she ordered hers. I’m glad she did, as it’s nice to have a current generation phone. The screen is similar in pixel density, but much larger. Add to that the fancy-dancy new camera setup and a battery that doesn’t need to be recharged in the middle of the day and I think it was money well spent. And how, these phones weren’t on sale, but at least the cost was offset a little by trading in our old ones.

Music Hobby Item

Early-to-mid-June saw some shuffling of my musical gear. Out went the monome norns & grid, somewhat unceremoniously. The concept of those devices is great, as well as the construction (they look great), but I just didn’t gel with them. There are a lot of really cool and well-designed apps for the norns, but the documentation was often frustrating. Some apps had solid user manuals, or at least tutorials, but most of them could best be described as “Spartan” at best.

Stepping back a bit, at the beginning of June, I finally acted on an idea I’ve had to setup my benjolin to do its thing in the background while I worked. Being based on the idea of chaos, the patterns of sounds that come from it are constantly morphing as the circuits inside influence each other. I found it refreshing to have a device that you could just turn on, twist a few knobs and hear what happens. From that point, I was hooked. Soon after, in mid-June, aided by the sales of my norns/grid combo, I picked up a couple of devices built with a similar design theory. One device – the Ciat Lonbarde Cocoquantus – has been something I’ve had my eye on for years. It seemed a little serendipitous to be able to acquire these synths, and perhaps the timing simply was just right. I spent about a week noodling with the Lorre Mill Double Knot before the Cocoquantus arrived. Like the benjolin, it has somewhat chaotic behavior, but not quite as much, leading to repetitive patterns that need to be tweaked every so often. The Cocoquantus, however, is a different beast. I’ve spent the vast majority of my hobby time with it, since it arrived. It can definitely be something left to play in the background, with the right amount of modulation, but it requires some careful (or careless!) input/curation of sounds into the recording buffers and other setup before that point. After an initial phase, learning the basics of this esoteric instrument, I’m starting to get comfortable with it. I would say I still have no clue what I’m doing, but I’m able to make sounds that I find pleasing and interesting. I can see why so many musicians speak so highly of it. One thing to note with all three of these devices, is that, while they can all be used standalone, they really love interacting with other similar designs (i.e. each other). See below for an example of patching the Double Knot together with the Cocoquantus. Most sounds are from the Double Knot, with a little bit coming from the Coco’s oscillator section. I’m really happy with how this jam turned out, and I can’t wait to jam with them again.

One Last Thing

I’m getting the itch again to enact some change in my life with respect to career. A few years back, I was really making some strides with self-guided training in data science and deep learning. I want to pick that up again, and soon. With the current work-from-home scenario that doesn’t seem to have an end in sight (don’t get me started..), I think I can squeeze enough hours out of the week to devote to online classes and the associated work. I’m looking into the EdX Micromasters programs, but it would probably be wise to test the waters by taking a single course first, to make sure I can maintain a healthy work-life balance. Even though the courses are self-paced, I would hate to dive into a full Micromasters program, only to stumble and struggle the whole way.