Things Unfinished

As long as I can remember, I've loved to make things. Whether I was drawing in a sketchbook, or building tiny shelves for my action figures (both when I was a child and potentially over the coming months), or while I was in college designing clothes, the design, build, iterate, redesign, build, etc process has been core to my life.

Most recently, I've been building my own custom arcade cabinet. The premise was pretty simple: needs to be ergonomically designed for me to use in lieu of a standing desk, must have a 27" display similar to my iMac, must have a beefy gaming rig as it's core, rather than one of these more simple raspberry pi MAME cabinets (because I'm not really into arcade games, I like shooters and strategy, I just really like the idea of an arcade cabinet).

Original Mock Up for the Cabinet done in Autodesk Alias

Original Mock Up for the Cabinet done in Autodesk Alias

I began the design process about 3 years ago, originally out of foamcore, because it's super easy to use and it's really, really inexpensive.

Original Foam Mock Up

Original Foam Mock Up

Same Foam Mock Up 3 years later, with blinders on each side of the display to prevent glare, since there's a 24"x30" piece of plexi across the display area

Same Foam Mock Up 3 years later, with blinders on each side of the display to prevent glare, since there's a 24"x30" piece of plexi across the display area

After a few iterations in foam, I began sourcing materials, estimating costs, etc. Come to find out, you (yes, YOU) can build one of these things yourself for ~$500 (including the display), before you really get into all of the PC stuff. It's a really simple design, and you only need a circular saw, a powered drill, and an abundance of time and patience (drilling 500 little holes for the speaker grills and heat exhaust takes a while and your hands ache after doing so).

Today, the cabinet is mostly finished, as it just needs the front and rear access doors mounted, and either a coat of paint or cut vinyl decals to cover the sides.

Above are some of the images of the build process that I've shared to friends and on Instagram over the last year while finally building the thing. I've got a lot more of stacks of lumber, some ridiculous jenga/tetris skills to fit all of the wood panels into my tiny Ford Fiesta, etc.

Today as it stands (ha, there's pun), this cabinet is in the corner of my living room, mostly completed. All it needs are the above mentioned trimmings and then I'll be ready to begin designing and eventually building the next version of this project, which in true IronMan fashion, I'm referring to as the 'Mark II'. I've also got plans for a Mark III, which is the true, final form for what I've been wanting to build for at least the last 5 years, and who knows, maybe within the next, I'll actually do it.

During this build, I was living up in Rohnert Park, California, just a few minutes from my wife's parents, so they were gracious enough to let me use their garage and renovation space to work on the cabinet when we weren't working on the house.

As you can see in the above photos, there are a lot of stud walls visible, and a non-finished flooring. Ya see, for the last 3 years, we've been working on their kitchen and family room. We needed to replace MOST of the floor of these rooms, level it, and replace the entire rear wall of the house. If you know me in the 'flesh space', you've probably heard me talk about spending my weekends assisting this project where I could (I'm no carpenter, but I can swing a hammer). Originally, we planned on this project lasting about 6 months, and having my father in law, Mike, my brother in law, Peter, my other brother in law, Andy, and Peter's teenage son and step son helping. We thought we'd have a nice little team to rip through stages of the project every weekend for ~20 weeks, and before long, have a really nice kitchen and living room for Mike and his wife, Pam, to retire in, for at least a few years before selling the house.

But, as they say, 'the best-laid plans...' The project has drug on and on, mainly due to Mike's declining health, and Peter and I being the only ones to show up to work on the house, and even then, we both have families and haven't been able to spend every weekend working on the house. As you see in the above photos, this is another project that remains, as yet, unfinished.

So, here's the real reason for this post: Mike passed away yesterday.

For the last 6 and a half years, Mike and Pam have been staples in my personal life. For the last two years, Alexis and I would see them multiple times a week, and usually have dinner with them on Sundays. Right now, I'm still processing the grief, and really doing my best to keep my shit together for the sake of Alexis, since her grief runs so much deeper than mine ever could.

I loved Mike, as a father figure, as a friend. Hell, last week, I spent a Tuesday sitting on his couch whining about car problems and new projects I'd been volunteered for at work. I could list my regrets, but I'm not sure as where to begin, or whether or not it'd seem selfish, as so much of it deals with wanting to share my life and accomplishments with him. I wanted him to see the house I've been designing, I wanted our children to be able to meet him, and he meet them. I'm glad that some of the things on my list were able to be checked off, most importantly that he would be present for his daughter to get married.

Some things make me feel really lucky though, like the fact that for the last two years Alexis and I were living so close, and were able to spend so much time with Mike and Pam. This last Sunday, Alexis and I were up retrieving some of our house plants from their place, and for a few hours, he and I just sat on their front porch talking about things going on and watching planes fly overhead.

I'm thankful for having the opportunity to know such a kind and generous person.

Thanks for taking the time to read this.

-William

Hobby Project: VR Rig - Part 1

For the last few years, I've been watching the slow growth of what's clear to be a modern VR (Virtual Reality) boom. It's clear that Oculus (and Lucky) were onto something a few years back when they launched a Kickstarter for the DK1. Since then, we've seen countless VR start-ups pop up, breathing new life into a once dead corner of the tech industries.

I'll be transparent on my experiences with VR to date: I haven't had the chance to really 'jump in' in the ways, or the depth, that I'd like. I'm a huge proponent of Apple developing something akin to the Samsung GearVR, and even went as far as to purchase an iPhone 6S+ in December 2015 so that I could start trying out the Google Cardboard software that had been released onto the iOS App Store. But that being said, I still haven't had a chance (to date) to immerse myself in either the Oculus Rift or the HTC Vive, which are the big boys in the VR market (Yes, I know all about Playstation VR, but I have little interest in purchasing a console at this point).

Since I wanted to get started in VR the right way, a few months ago, I began slowly ordering parts to build a small VR rig at home. And before actually spending any money, I had to do my homework and decide what hardware I was going to purchase, and what stipulations I'd be held to on this build:

  1. Low Budget PC (~$1000)
  2. Which headset to go with: Rift or Vive?
  3. What sort of play space would I need: desk area or full room (informs which headset)?

I knew that all in, I'd be spending about $2000. This allowed me some flexibility on the PC hardware in case prices went up, and would allow me to have enough left over for the Rift+Touch or the Vive.

A friend suggested that I browse pcpartpicker.com to checkout some completed builds and see if any of the projects were in line with my end goal. I ended up finding a few that were close to my idea, and used them as a starting point for my rig.

With a good idea in my head, I created a list of parts that I'd be ordering:

With my list in hand, I began ordering parts. I knew I could order various bits from different sites and get a better deal/cheaper price, but as far as I've seen in the last few years, no one beats Amazon's return policy, which actually came in handy (upon arrival of the EVGA SuperNOVA 650W Power Supply, I'd noticed that the box was missing the shrink wrap. Upon inspection, I found most of the cables missing, and had it immediately replaced).

The rest of the parts were ordered and installed without incident, though due to budgetary reasons (vacation plus the holidays), my build was reduced to a lower priority, and therefor took a few months longer than I'd expected, but by the end of February, we were up and running.

(I should point out that the day of the initial test-run of the build, I had forgot to run the CPU power from the PS to the motherboard, resulting in an hour of pulling my hair out trying to figure out why the damned thing wouldn't turn on. So, lesson learned: make sure everything is plugged in.)

First impressions: this is the little beast that could. I kicked on a few of my long time favorite games (Elite Dangerous, Unreal 3 Black Edition, various Blizzard games) and maxed out the settings. Everything is slick as warm butter, and I'm really happy with the results thus far. I'll be running through a few additional games looking for FPS performance to make sure I have a solid 90FPS at all times, and will include screenshots below.

Onward!

Whew, it's been a busy few weeks (hence the lack of any proper updates.

As anyone who follows the NSFW podcast knows, I've been hard at work getting stuff recorded, edited, and uploaded over the last month or so. Hell, today I FINALLY finished linking all of the notes for the latest episode, It's Just Rocket Science, where I sat down with my good friend Sam, and talked about his history with the Space Tourism Society, and other related endeavors. It was a lot of fun.

Over the next few week's, I'll be posting new episodes, and linking as much relevant info in the show notes as possible, since I think it's important to be able to reference the various different subjects. Coming up, I've got a chat with my friend John Adams (@netik) about Information Security, which links nicely with my RESIST blog. I hope to have related content posting around the same time.

Thanks for stopping by to see what I'm up to. Honestly, I've been trying to finish a few projects (VR PC Rig, PC Arcade Cabinet build), and will have some nice updates about them once they're finished.

Oh, and before I forget! Over the month of April, I'll be moving house. I'm taking measures prior to the move to ensure that the podcasts are still posted weekly. After we get settled, I should be able to catch up on some recordings as well as some sleep. Wish me luck!

Quiet Thoughts: The Best Years of Our Lives

October 1999, somewhere outside Chicago

October 1999, somewhere outside Chicago

There's been a feeling in the back of my mind for a while, for years actually, when I think back and reminisce about my youth (specifically, high school and early college). I remember a feeling of excitement, passion, and confidence. I would frequently be out with friends, at all hours, for what felt like days at a time. We'd be out at local concerts, or bookstores, or in diners until 3am, drinking coffee, arguing politics, and laughing, while dreaming about what our lives would become. Maybe this feeling is just me being nostalgic for the energetic optimism of youth. 

I remember being told to soak up those years, since it was likely they'd be the best of my life. I scoffed. I actively said, "Fuck that! This years suck!", and looking back, I couldn't have been more wrong. They were good, even great at times. We all knew each other so well, we would finish each others sentences. We'd sing, dance, kiss, and fuck. We'd cry, scream, fight, and hate.

We didn't know that those days would be fleeting because we were experiencing them in all their depth and intensity. I think we knew in the back of our minds that it wouldn't last, but our naivety had not yet been tempered by age and wisdom.

I remember being 17, laying on the lawn at a friend's house. It was summer, and it didn't get dark until really late. So we'd just sit outside and talk. Wait for other friends to arrive. Then maybe go see some bands play, or goto the movies. I remember the faces of people I've not seen or spoken to in what has been or feels like almost decades.

October 2004, Lower Nob Hill, SF

October 2004, Lower Nob Hill, SF

I remember being 22, brand new to the bay area, and truly alone for the first time in my life. The first time I walked from the Montgomery St. Muni station, up Market Street, to O'Farrell, and then another few blocks up, to check out an apartment I might be able to afford on my own, only to see, for the first time, what real homelessness looks like. It was in that moment, that I feel I experienced what being an adult was like. The awesome power of uncertainty, fear, and loneliness. I walked all the way back to Montgomery, filled with doubt and confusion. What had I done?

I remember being 27, spending my free nights in some local bars and clubs of San Francisco, trying to find some semblance of those connections I felt a decade prior. I met people who were all amazing in their own rights, but few who I would be able to latch onto, tell my deepest secrets, and share my darkest fears. I'd fallen in and out of love more times than I care to remember, been cast off by persons whoI'd convinced myself were all that I needed in my life, and watched as more and more relationships withered.

March 2010, SOMA, SF

March 2010, SOMA, SF

It's only now that I recognize that I'm really bad at being prescient for my own future, regardless of the volumes of planning I undertake. I also realize that life has a way of surprising you, that the days you assumed would be clear and bright would end up being dark and stormy, and to be sure, the inverse occurs as well.

You could ask, if you were capable of going back in time and giving yourself advice, would you do it? Part of me says yes, I'd sure as hell go back and tell myself to invest every spare penny until I was 25 into AAPL (Apple, Inc.), because holy crap. But at the same time, I'm not sure I'd trade some of the relationships I've had for the vaguest potential ones that could have been. Oh, and I'd be sure to kick my own ass a few times. For sure.

What I'm getting at is not that I'm trying to be necessarily nostalgic, but that I try not to hold onto any regrets or second thoughts, knowing that every moment spurs our personal and shared timelines into an unimaginable future, where anything is possible, yet will only unfold in one way. And that might not be even remotely as we dream it will be when we're 17.

Thanks for reading. 

 -Wm.

The Grind.

Whew, what a (nother) long week.

I've been working on scheduling this week for the NSFW podcast, as well as putting together a new set of prints (as well as some of my favorites from last year). I like these graphics because they're colorful and asymmetrical, rather than the uniform geometric repeating patterns we see all the time. Along with the garments, I've also added them as actual art prints, so they can be hung as the fine art I've intended them to be.

I hope you like them as much as I do! Let me know if there are any older prints that you feel I should rerelease!

It's been a long week...

Earlier in the week, I was bursting with excitement and energy, ready to take on the world, and then... reality set in and I spent four solid days focused on my day-job. Hence the lack of updates throughout the week. 

But never fear! Episode 001 of the NSFW podcast has been recorded and is scheduled to go live tot he public at midnight Sunday morning. If you're a subscriber on the Patreon page, you have an opportunity to check out the episode RIGHT NOW.

Oh! And one last thing! Thank you to the few people who've pledged their support this week. It really means a lot to know that I've got friends who want to see my projects succeed. Thank you so very much!

PATREON!?

After spending a good portion of the last few years thinking long and hard about how to create different avenues of income, I've decided to try to monetize *myself*. To that end, I've created a Patreon page, going live Dec. 31st, 2016.

If anything, this will hopefully allow me to change my own perspective of my online presence, and what sort of career I've wanted to get out of it. I mean, I always seem to take things more seriously if I'm getting paid to do it, so hell, why not? Right?

This Patreon page will most specifically be attached to the new podcast I'm launching, NSFW, which goes live Jan. 1st, 2017, but will also include updates with new music, writing, digital art, and fashion that I've been working on in my abundant free time. Some of the perks going along with being a Patron or Subscriber are monthly art prints that I'll be sending out and discounts on some of the products that I'll be posting online in the future.

So, please I implore you, visit the page, and become a patron of my endeavors. I really want to be able to spend more time making things that people love.

NSFW: A Podcast

I've been debating the launch of a new podcast for a while, wherein I wanted to talk about more than fashion, tech, gaming, etc. So, I've been discussing the idea with a few friends and I'll be launching a new Podcast called NSFW early in 2017. Like, with any luck, the first episode will land January 1st.

Why did I decide to name a podcast NSFW? Well, I wanted to open up the theme to be really a no-holds barred style discussion about anything from the above mentioned subjects, to sex, politics, religion, or whatever else came to mind. The idea literally started as "The stuff you can't/shouldn't talk about during Thanksgiving dinner" (primarily in light of this latest election cycle).

I hope the idea turns into something great and that I can make it into a weekly project.

What a Year

I'll admit, it's been some months since I've updated the Blog, or uploaded any new products. Honestly, the good weren't getting much traction, and I had to focus on my life AFK.

Moving forward, I'll be uploading new designs as I have the time to work on them, and as I develop new styles and products.

Note: A lot of customers, as well as me, have had issues ordering products from Live Heroes. I'm leaving the links in place in case anyone wants to purchase these older designs, but moving forward I'll be using a new supplier for any printed products.