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living in the Appalachian Mountains of Virginia


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@winduptoy@merveilles.town


the last decade has had me chasing dollars and building software for the web. with the new year approaching, I am finally ready to lay it down, say no to new clients, diving deep, and exploring new areas where my skills can have a greater impact. electronics design, low-level software, and art practices interest me most right now. I have finally learned to separate "me, the freelancer looking for work online" from "me, the human being," which facilitated the creation of this site.
- november 2022

personal log




under development


smolserv

an AVR-powered finger server. extremely low wattage. no Linux or other operating system to configure or maintain, just a small device about the size of a pack of gum with ethernet and a SD card slot: just plug it in and you're self-hosting.


smolsync

an extension of smolserv, it provides a self-hosted, low-power, low-complexity sync solution for a family. a simple protocol provides rudimentary CRDTs and synchronizes data between clients.


smoltalk

an extension of smolsync, it provides a low-complexity encrypted messaging server for a family; a low-tech alternative to XMPP.


APRS jetpack

an AVR-powered backpack for Baofeng and similar radios that cheaply adds APRS functionality.




notable projects


lichen

an ultra-lightweight web CMS based on gemtext

https://lichen.sensorstation.co/




about me


in the early 2000s I stumbled upon Design It Yourself by Ellen Lupton at the bookstore, my first exposure to the world of design. nothing in my household had ever been explained as "designed" nor was design casually questioned, leaving me to believe that the products and images surrounding me were handed down from on high. exposure to this book let me see that humans were behind the magic, and I could do it too. around the same time my dad, an engineer, introduced me to electronics in the form of a BASIC stamp, the Arduino equivalent of the time. I read the manual and completed all the learning circuits and programs, which gave me just enough electronics foundation to get in trouble and enough programming foundation to say "yeah I can probably do that" to whatever software problem presented itself.


from 2007 to 2012 I worked for a local video studio doing production assistant work like hauling lights, stands, and electric (minimum wage) while also becoming their primary After Effects guy (also minimum wage).


I ended up going to design school where I met my future wife. the next decade had us working together and apart at various agencies, startups, and internet companies doing design and, primarily, web development. outside of web work I studied graphics programming and game development on and off, which sharpened my skills with lower-level systems programming and memory management. I did a small stint at a company building animation software.


we married in 2018. my wife is an ambitious gardener, naturalist, and she shares her work on her website.

tickfoot


I ride the mountain service roads and dirt trails of Virginia with friends on my Yamaha XT 250. the best part of riding a motorcycle is when you go a few months without doing it: hopping back on the bike is a swift, full-body reminder of what it means to be alive, something that's easy to forget from time to time.


we bought our first house in 2020. every year we have steadily improved our modest back yard to include less lawn, more garden space, and more native plants. we recycled an old shipping container as a garage for garden tools, bicycles, and motorcyles.


for the growing season of 2021 we decided to try farming full-time as we were becoming more interested in health and food sovereignty. we expanded our backyard gardens and leased a plot of land for the season. we wrote a report on that experience:

farming.report.2021


during this time I became interested in dramatically simplifying the most complex things I depend on and embracing low-tech: "simplicity is the ultimate sophistication," "simplicity is the prerequisite to reliability," and "if you can't fix it, you don't own it" resonate with me. my primary focus is carrying these ideas throughout my work. open source used to be my guiding compass, but since the Linux kernel, to give one example, is essentially untractable for a mere mortal like me, I have moved on to studying Forth and writing assembly.


in 2022 I obtained a technician-class amateur radio license, but am hesitant to post my callsign online and doxx myself.



treading lightly


                 
      + ^ +    _________.~,
    -{ . . }- (______ ,    *~~~~ 
   -{ . + . }-    (__ ,
   -{ + . + }-    (__ ,      
   -{ . + . }-     (______,~~~~
   -{ + . + }-        
   -{ . + . }-   the only way
   -{ + . + }-   to win
   _{_______}_   is not to play
  [___________]
   \         /
    \_______/
     \_____/

growing and preserving our own food is important in taking ownership of our nutrition and the health of the planet. we farm with hand tools and without chemical pesticides and fertilizers. we have joined a small local cooperative with a group of friends that supports one another in implementing alternative agricultural infrastructure.


my wife and I share a single small car, a rare decision for our part of the world. this saves us a significant amount of money (maintenance, fuel, tax, insurance) while causing only a mild inconvenience once or twice per year. working from home, or structuring our lives so that we don't have to work (i.e. building someone else's dream) makes this an easy choice.


we bought a very modest house in a low-income area without a mortgage, which has made all the difference. working hard and being thrifty comes with many sacrifices, but becoming free from monthly rent or loan payments makes it possible to dig deep and find more meaningful work and play.


we have no debts and we pay with cash wherever possible. when cash isn't an option, we try to write a check. the card networks that charge a percentage of each transaction are a parasite on society and we try not to support them. even if the retail "price" is no different between cash and card, the cost of card transaction fees and "cash back" is accounted for by the ever-increasing price of everything.


we go to great lengths to avoid being tracked, marketed to, and information being sold. we started using dumb-phones, deleted Google, social media, and SaaS accounts, and self-host whatever we need. we choose open source software whenever possible and max-out our ad blockers when on the web. we use dumbphones that minimize the data collected on us. we subscribe to zero subscription services.


my current computer has a Celeron CPU, with which I am able to accomplish all of my work (including high-end web dev) by being selective about the software I use and create. I refurbish and recycle computers for anyone local who needs one, and I help them move away from Google, Apple, Microsoft, Facebook, SaaS, etc. to become more independent.


by aggressively pruning insignificant junk and opting for simple and open formats we were able to consolidate all of our important digital posessions onto a single small SD card. as encrypted backups these are easy to distribute and hide in multiple offsite locations, are easy to carry in a wallet, are cheap to make and replace, and require no internet connection.