The Curmudgeoclast

Thoughts, projects, and ramblings of Dave Astels

Sat 20 April 2019

What I've Been Up To For the Last Year

Posted by dastels in general   

I just made a post and noticed that it's been a year since my last one. This always seems to happen. Good intentions "I'll blog more... really!". Then life happens, I get distracted, and suddenly I see that it's been a year since I last posted. So here we go again.

Quite a bit has changed over the last year. Let's step through the year.

Some of the more recent posts I did make dealt with adding SPI flash to Adafruit's Trinket M0 and adding a bigger SPI flash chip to their Feather M0 Express. Then I got a prototype Sino:bit and wrote a C++ library for it. I wrote a guide for Adafruit about that. That led to another guide, then another, and so on. That was late in 2017 while I was working for Trov full-time.

A little over a year ago I parted ways with Trov and started writing guides for Adafruit full-time. That gave enough to make ends meet, just. I dove into CircuitPython. I'd avoided Python previously in my career, but in the context of microcontrollers for beginners, it matched up nicely with my newish educational focus.

Also about a year ago (early in 2018) I started talking to Hackspace Magazine. We agreed on me writing a two part article on building and programming a simple Z80 system in issues 7 and 8. That went well and we agreed on an open-ended series of articles about basic electronics starting in issue 9. That's about to wrap up after 12 issues. What happens with them after that, I don't know.

Suzanne has settled into her new life as a perminent Canadian resident, is looking forward to when she can apply for citizenship, is volunteering at the local library and museum, and working part-time (which also helps cash flow).

In October I started looking for a better way to organize and track all the projects I was doing for Adafruit and Hackspace. I did some research and stumbled across Bullet Journalling. That led me to BohoBerry and to a guest post Kara did for Brian Goulet on Goulet Pens. I have a history with fountain pens that I'll write about in another post, but with that everything clicked together and I ordered a bright yellow Leuchtturm1917 notebook and yellow Safari fountain pen. I was familiar with the Safari line, having gotten a fountain pen & pencil set from Massdrop a few years ago. I made the intentional decision to go with bright colours as an act of defiance to my black toned everything-else. Other than ink. My primary journal ink is Noodler's Black. One other crucial decision I made was to switch from ink cartridges as I'd always used before to converters and bottled ink. As an experiment, I popped converters into fountain pens I had from previous flirtations and the difference was life changing. Pens that had dry starts and frequent skips now wrote smoothly and perfectly. No wonder I never stuck with fountain pens before.

That was apparently just the push that I needed to start down the slippery slope of fountain pen obsession. Since then I've picked up several more pens and inks and it doesn't look likely to stop anytime soon.

With my new-found interest in fountain pens I decided to get a copy of Michael Sull's The Art of Cursive Penmanship and work on my handwriting skills. I'm also brushing off my calligraphy skills and got involved with a handwriting and fountain pen focused penpal group.

The work for Adafruit continues to deepen and become more rewarding. They truly are a great company and group of people to work with. If you have interest in learning about microcontrollers and making electronic gadgets do have a look at what they offer, both in terms of products as well as free tutorial and project guides.

Finally, I've started doing a bit of conference speaking again. I gave a talk on CircuitPython at PyCon Canada (my talk and will be giving an updated version at the MaritimeDev Conference in June.

So there it is. A year of change:

  • I went from a generous salary at Trov to just getting by (which is improving again),
  • my focus switched from software to almost fully hardware,
  • it also switched from development to tutorial work,
  • I'm working in Python and enjoying it,
  • I wrote a bunch of magazine articles,
  • I'm using and collecting fountain pens,
  • I'm actively working on improving my handwriting skills,
  • I'm hand-writing letters,
  • I'm doing some conference speaking, and
  • I'm making a lot of tacos (including the tortillas).