deadmau5 MasterClass

Kristin got me deadmau5’s MasterClass in Electronic Music Production as my gift for Christmas. I’ve already completed the entire class, ahead of the recommended schedule, but I think that’s less on me going to fast, and more about the content lacking substance. Overall I really enjoyed the class and learned a lot of new things, especially from the early sessions in the series, but as the class went on, the subject veered away from a focus on actual electronic music production, and to related topics like the music industry, playing clubs, etc., that really aren’t focused on actually making the music.

Also, there was no return to previously covered topics. It was interesting to hear deadmau5’s take on all these topics, but ultimately it was more like a documentary interview than like an actual class.

The class materials that accompanied each lesson were very sparse one to two page PDFs that read more like the notes you find in Bible Studies than actual class materials: “Think about how Joel talked about resolving and listen to this song and think about how it was constructed.” Also, both deadmau5 himself and the accompanying materials veered far too often into “I’m not going to tell you how to do this, because everyone already talks about this online, so Google it.” Sure, he’s deadmau5 and he’s busy and sort of could give a crap, so it’s fine to a certain extent that that is said multiple times in this celebrity run class by him, but it would have been nice if the people working behind the scenes at MasterClass had actually put the effort in to provide more detailed instructions beyond Google for things he mentioned in passing in class. That’s what happens with actual professors and textbooks, but not here.

All that being said, I’m glad I took the class. I’ll probably continue to “retake” the first 17 classes which were really and truly focused on different parts of producing actual music. However, the last 6 class sessions felt like they could have been covered in one session and we could have had more detailed sessions pulling together all the topics covered in the first 17 classes.

Also, I haven’t yet taken advantage of the offered Office Hours, where I can ask a video question of deadmau5 and he’ll answer. So far, I only see 5 of those from any students and I have no idea what the question to answer ratio may be.

As you can tell from this first rather lame track that I made while taking the class, I have a long way to go:

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On this season of The Apprentice…

Image from @niijimaakiichi

Well, it’s 2017, we have a new President and everyone is surprised and disappointed. I’m disappointed in how surprised everyone is and surprised at how the election of this flawed human being hasn’t entirely shattered the liberal echo chamber many of my very intelligent friends have been trapped in for years.

I am not pro-Trump, nor am I a Republican.

I’m also not a huge fan of Democrats and I voted for Hillary Clinton against my own better judgement. Although, I would love to have a female President, I did not believe she was the right option for that honor. I was not with her; I was just firmly not with him, so I swallowed my ideals and voted for her.

Now I wish I hadn’t, because yet again it was proven to me that my vote doesn’t matter. The system is broken. It’s just getting worse.

I wasn’t a huge fan of Obama. He did lots of good things in his Presidency, was by far the best National Speech Reader that we’ve had in decades, but he never delivered on his campaign promise to shut down Guantanamo Bay, his Presidency was riddled with conflicts with Congress that I felt neither he nor the Republicans involved worked to get around, and he perpetuated a Presidency as Celebrity rhetoric and point of confusion that has been growing in this country since Regan was elected.

His smug disdain for the Republicans locking up Congress, mirrored by so many of my very intelligent friends, had a tone of “oh these children, when will they get with the modern program” that every lower middle class supporter of Republicans heard as yet another judgment on them and their life with no real attempt to understand that life. That is what elected Donald Trump.

Add to that, Obama’s participation in multiple media events, mirroring Clinton’s tendency to play the sax on late night television talk shows, accentuating the happy go lucky Celebrity side of the Presidency, continued our path of confusing the American people with the idea that the President is a Celebrity. So of course, a guy who had a long running series of reality TV shows where he was highlighted as the boss of successful companies won the Presidency thanks to votes from disenfranchised lower middle class individuals that feel like they pay for the poor in this country and no one is looking out for them.

The President is not supposed to be a celebrity. The President is supposed to the ultimate servant to We The People. Obama tried to be that, but unfortunately he also paved the way for this current President.

Our current President, is not by any indication the servant we need. He’s just a celebrity. Here’s hoping that just as Obama was drawn more to celebrity over his career that the reverse happens to Trump. Or he gets impeached swiftly, but then that leaves us with Pence. None of this is good.

So anyway, you may disagree strongly with everything I say and think, but please be polite in your responses. I’d like to start participating in civil discourse again and in a public forum, because I see so little of that modeled for everyone else these days. I’ve re-enabled comments on this post and will begin blogging more regularly again.

Reminder: this is my personal blog. All thoughts and opinions expressed herein are my own and no one else’s, and are not reflective of any current or past employers.

Posted in Politics | 1 Comment

Sample The Web Podcast: The Return

Sample The Web Podcast The Return

just a quick mobile recording on an early Christmas gift from my mom, the Shure MV5 microphone that connects directly to your iPhone, iPad, iPod (?!), or computer.

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Korg Minilogue + Arp Odyssey on iPad Pro + Apple Camera Connector Kit = Pretty Cool

After reading about Korg’s new iOS app that emulates their Arp Odyssey, I decided to pick the app up on sale for $19.99 last night (introductory price). It sounds really good. I was thinking “Man I wish I had a good Bluetooth controller to play it, though” (like this one), when suddenly I thought, “I wonder if the USB out on my Korg Minilogue could let it act as a MIDI controller for my iPad…”

I then spent a few minutes digging through drawers to find the appropriate USB cable and my old school Apple Camera Connector Kit (USB version) attached to a lightning adapter, slapped that onto the iPad and connected the USB to the back of the Minilogue. I then ran a stereo mini cable from the headphone jack of the iPad Pro (remember when all devices had headphone jacks? #nostalgia) out to the audio in on the Minilogue. Then, I turned on the Minilogue and turned down all the Mixer controls to 0, so that the Minilogue itself wasn’t generating any sound.

Since I had the sound out on my iPad Pro going into the audio in on the Minilogue, playing the keyboard then resulted in whatever sound was dialed into the ARP ODYSSEi app coming through the Minilogue and passing through all the filters of the Minilogue, giving me all sorts of extra control over whatever sound the ARP ODYSSEi was pushing through. I could also turn up the mixer volume for VCO1, VCO2, and NOISE on the Minilogue to blend the sounds on it with what was coming out of ARP ODYSSEi. I spent about an hour last night just playing around with this setup and it sounded great.

And now I know I can do this with other music apps on my iPad, so I’m pretty stoked.

Also, I’ve been meaning to mention this forever: if you’re like me and you only have so much room for a “music studio” in the corner of a home office or playroom, then I highly recommend getting a Yamaha THR10C 10-watt amp. It’s got a small footprint but gorgeous loud sound with modelling controls to make it sound like various classic amps and to even dial-in and save your own sets, and it has both a Guitar and AUX in with separate volume controls. I’ve been running my keyboard and drum machines on a sequencer loop through the AUX in and plugging my guitar in and playing over it for lots of cool solo-music-man time. Maybe one of these days I’ll actually record something that sounds cool and share it.

Posted in iPad Apps, Korg Minilogue, Music, Yamaha THR10C | Comments Off on Korg Minilogue + Arp Odyssey on iPad Pro + Apple Camera Connector Kit = Pretty Cool

Specifically how the iPad Pro isn’t a computer replacement


I recently grabbed an iPad Pro 9.7, and the new Logitech Create keyboard case for it. It’s nearly the best little laptop / tablet I’ve ever owned, because the way it handles multitasking both works and keeps you focused on whatever main task you should be focused on. Of course, it works best with apps that have been built with multitasking in mind, but you can still switch between multiple apps easily enough where it just sort of works. However, there are unfortunately a few deal-breakers that prevent it from being my new computer.

The main one is that iOS assumes that you never need to connect to physical media. Apple sells both a USB and SD Card adapter, but they’re really only focused on connecting as a way to import images or movies (although the USB connector can also work for connecting MIDI keyboards and MIDI controller devices for music, which is cool).

Unfortunately, that still leaves tons of use case scenarios on the table where you still need to have a regular computer around and an iPad Pro alone won’t suffice. For example, last Wednesday night, I played some rock and roll with my little jam band of friends in Austin. I recorded the entire 3 hour session on my Zoom H4N audio recorder. The H4N is not a wi-fi capable device and saves all it’s recordings to an SD Card. I can use Apple’s SD Card adapter to connect the SD Card to my iPad Pro, but doing this simply opens up an image import dialog and there is no way to see, hear, playback, or copy over the files on that SD Card.

The only way for me to get that audio onto my iPad is to first upload it to a computer, then either sync it over iTunes or load it onto iCloud or some other cloud service so I can access it via the iPad.

This is just one failed use case, but there are many others. We all have lots of data backed up on multiple storage devices that aren’t in the cloud and aren’t images. Currently there is no way to connect that data to an iPad Pro without going through a computer.

This is stupid. Apple, you need to fix this if you are serious about making iPads the future of computing. If it’s just marketing and you’re too busy thinking about building connected cars, then you can ignore my recommendation that you fix this and allow the ability to access external storage and all data types via some sort of file manager.

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Home Office in 2016 (now with more kids!)

For a solid stretch of years, I worked almost exclusively from a home office, both while working at Netscape, during the first part of my time with Mahalo, and then for the early Crowd Fusion years up until we landed The Daily as a customer and I was often working out of the NewsCorp building in downtown Manhattan, and eventually, we had our own offices. I would work from home from time to time during the later years of Crowd Fusion and the beginnings of Ceros, but these were when Jackson was just a baby so there were lots of moments like this one:
It's bring baby to work day!
Jackson sleeping in a baby bjorn or some sort of sling, while I gleefully typed away at my computer, working, and thinking smugly “Man, I’m such a pro-dad and multitasker!”

Fast forward to today. Jackson is 6. Darcy is 2 and a half years of total attitude. And it’s summer time so they are often home. And I’m now working for YouEarnedIt remotely from Dallas for a good percentage of my weeks (although I am down in Austin quite a lot too). However, despite two kids and summer time, the home office thing is still working rather well so far (knock on wood). Why?

Things needed for a successful home office

A room of one’s own

Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own in the highly politicized backdrop of 1929 England specifically addresses what a woman needs to write fiction in an essay that concisely thinks carefully through the subject. I highly recommend it. However, ever since I read the essay in college, I’ve seen having a room of one’s own as being a requirement for any focused endeavor, especially any creative endeavor. All of that is to say: you need your own room if you’re going to work from home.

Mine isn’t even closed entirely off from the rest of the house, and even though it is summer and the kids are around more than they’re not, it’s been working out very well.

A good headset

We use Slack quite a bit at YouEarnedIt (we even have a YouEarnedIt Slack integration that works quite nicely), but we also sometimes have Google Hangouts and phone calls and even Slack with audio sessions. In those scenarios, it’s best to have a headset that works and is wireless and affords you with some freedom of movement about the house. I got this wireless headset and it works nicely. I can get up and walk over to get a drink of water from the kitchen and it still keeps a strong signal. It also does a good job of filtering out the noise from around the house for both me and the people on the other end of the line. Only in circumstances where there’s someone mowing right outside my window or Darcy is screaming bloody murder is there really anything heard through the mic. And the best part: just flipping up the little mic arm mutes it whenever I’m not talking.

A variety of places to work from

I have a desk. I also use a laptop, so I can go sit on the back porch or move to a back room for an important call if the kids are being raucous. I also have both my laptop and monitor on stands, so that I can either remain seated and be looking up at a good angle for my back, or stand up and look down a bit. This stand sits under my laptop when I am at home, and when I travel, I can fold it up and it fits in my bag alongside my laptop, so I can have a similar set up wherever I go. I also have an Apple Wireless Keyboard and Trackpad that I use with this set up.

Most importantly

Good work life balance is important when you work from a home office. 10 years ago when I did it, I very much couldn’t stop working. Now I can. Maybe it’s just because I’m older. Maybe it’s because I have two kids and I realize that they are more important than anything else. When I visit the YouEarnedIt offices in Austin, we take breaks, we eat lunch, everyone leaves work at a reasonable hour. Just because I’m at home doesn’t mean I shouldn’t be doing the same thing.

I’ve noticed after the past 3+ years of working at Chaotic Moon in an office, I now have a little voice in my head now that I’m working remotely again that is slightly neurotic, feels slightly like “what am I missing right now,” and tries to push me towards being hyper-available online. It’s been an odd struggle for me to adjust to, given that I’ve done remote work like this extensively in the past. Fortunately, the YouEarnedIt team is great, and I feel very connected even when I’m not onsite, and they’re used to several of our YEI family members, like Chris Rice, our VP of Engineering, working remotely.

The important thing in hybrid work scenarios like this, I find, is to treat everyone in the office like they are remote, and everyone who is remote like they are in the office. Everyone communicates better with that in mind.

In any case, it’s odd how 10 years changes your perspective on things. This isn’t a deep post, but it’s something that I’ve been thinking about, so I thought I’d share.

Posted in General, Personal, YouEarnedIt | Comments Off on Home Office in 2016 (now with more kids!)

Back to a focus on product with YouEarnedIt…

I just updated my LinkedIn profile with the news that I’m joining YouEarnedIt as Chief Product Officer.

About 3 and a half years ago, Kristin and I moved from New York to Texas for me to start working for Ben Lamm at Chaotic Moon. It’s been a fun ride, I learned a lot, and I got to help a really amazing services company grow from good to great, building an amazing development and quality assurance team along the way. This past summer, looking at the growth of our business and what was needed to take the next steps in growth, the management team at Chaotic Moon, under Ben Lamm’s leadership, decided to sell to Accenture.

This is natural. Businesses evolve and change and need different things as they grow. I’ve had over 12 years of success helping build startups into successful small to midsized companies. I’ve worked my way out of previous jobs in the past, helping a company grow, and while that’s not what happened here, it became clear to me, after losing Alex, and then after Ben left Accenture, that I wasn’t finding the same joy in my work that I used to. Also, in a larger company structure like Accenture, the development and QA team that I built at Chaotic Moon had more room for growth without me there. It was time for me to start thinking about moving on.

So I did, and I have.

Joining YouEarnedIt as Chief Product Officer

Thanks to Guthrie Bunn for the half pound solid brass bottle opener going away gift #youearnedit

I’m overjoyed that I was able to reconnect with Autumn Manning and the YouEarnedIt team. Several months of conversations with Autumn and team culminated in a job offer from them to join as their Chief Product Officer. I’m excited to begin nurturing this already great product into a growing positive force in today’s workforce. From a recent press release, about YouEarnedIt’s new Slack integration and latest mobile release:

YouEarnedIt is a SaaS HR technology platform that redefines the way companies engage with their employees. By providing tools to connect, reward, reveal and report in real-time, YouEarnedIt is able to consolidate employee engagement initiatives into one, easy-to-use mobile platform for teams of all sizes. Since launching in 2012, YouEarnedIt has delivered its flexible software to small enterprises and Fortune 500 brands across several industries.

YouEarnedIt also recently received an investment from Motley Fool to grow their development and product teams, so it’s a great time for me to join the company to assist with that growth. I’ve always tried to position myself in businesses where I think I’m not only helping the business grow, but where the business itself is helping make the world a better place. I think YouEarnedIt’s mission of creating happiness at work is the first business opportunity I’ve had that fully aligns with that “life betterment” focus. I’m also excited to leave the services business grind behind and return fully to a professional focus on product.

Not only that, but the team at YouEarnedIt is a great group of happy people doing good in the world. I was fortunate enough to make some time one night during my last trip to Austin to hangout with my new team and they all welcomed me into the fold with open arms for some fun festivities, including some team-building time spent breaking out of an Austin Panic Room, and some good old-fashioned arm wrestling!
Team Brute Force YouEarnedIt

A little friendly arm wrestling with Chris Rice @youearnedit #iwon #chipower

A photo posted by C.K. Sample III (@cksample3) on

If all that sounds amazing to you, you should know that we’re hiring! Check out our YouEarnedIt job postings here.

Kristin, Jackson, Darcy, Misha, Thatcher, and I are all staying in Dallas, but I will be traveling down to Austin regularly now, and we’re all excited about what lies ahead. Stay tuned…

Posted in Alex Johnson, Chaotic Moon, Chaotic Moon, Personal, YouEarnedIt | Tagged , , , | Comments Off on Back to a focus on product with YouEarnedIt…