The Gardener (The Tallest Man On Earth Cover)
In the summer of 2009 I got a bunch of mp3s from a friend. In this particular batch was an album called "Shallow Grave" from some artist named "The Tallest Man On Earth", a name which I figured (correctly, as it turns out) was tongue in cheek.
The album was intense, raw, organic, overcompressed—all things I loved, and none of which I had previously associated with folk/country/Americana. But that is what was happening. I was immediately drawn in, and have been following Kristian Matsson's music ever since. I always find myself coming back to this first record, and often this song in particular. I don’t know if this story it tells is perhaps intended to be a metaphor, or what. It certainly has a chilling element to it that belies the beautiful folky melody. Regardless, there’s a sense of wistfulness, of resignation to oneself and one’s choices that I find compelling.
Appium 2 is (Finally) Here!
I celebrated the official launch of Appium 2 with a set of webinars hosted by HeadSpin. This talk was presented in order to give a bit of the backstory behind Appium 2's development as well as showcase the set of new features and changes to be aware of when adoping Appium 2.
On the Other Side
This is a song / music video recorded with my brother at Earthtones Audio. While the song has intensely personal and specific meaning for me, I like to think it also says something universal about significant transitions in life (and death): the courage, fear, loss, and hope involved. We recorded this song in basically one day while I was visiting on a short trip. I decided to throw up my phone to capture some video as we were working, and it turned into this really fun way of showing our recording process and visualizing the different parts as they come in and out of the song.
Skinny Love (Bon Iver Cover)
This is one of my favourite songs by one of my favourite songwriters. I still remember checking out Bon Iver's first release back in 2008 and being blown away by so many of the songs. This one in particular captured me. The impenetrability of the lyrics, the loose and jangly guitar tuning, the sheer emotion pulsing throughout. It captured me. So here's my hopefully not-too-skinny homage to this musical love of mine.
The consequences of AI for human personhood and creativity
With the recent and sharp rise in the adoption of AI assistants, particular in fields formerly related to creative work, I felt the need to put forward my thoughts on the consequences of AI usage for human creativity. I argue that while AI assistants embody a huge amount of promise in terms of making creative production easier, there are tradeoffs and dangers involved in their use, particularly for our human faculties that we prize most highly.
Appium 2.0: State of the Union
Here's the AppiumConf 2021 keynote, which happened during the Covid-19 pandemic, making it impossible for us to hold the conference in person. My secret demo for this talk was to produce an Appium 2 plugin for automating Unity-based games! Appium 2 was not yet released and so the rest of the talk was as discussion about the development process for it.
Creatures of Dust? What Are Human Beings in Ancient Near Eastern Thought, and What Are They For?
In this paper, I explore the resonances between the Israelite origin myths of Genesis and the various other myths in the Ancient Near East, primarily Mesopotamia, and attempt to argue for an ideological distinctiveness within a largely similar contextual frame.
Facebook, Virtual Reality Church, and Embodiment: Technology in the Church in an Isolated World
I was a guest on this episode of the Here Be Dragons podcast, discussing theology and technology.
Covid-19, VR Church, and Ordinary Embodied Human Existence
At the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic there was a lot of discussion around the place of church in public life during quarantine. Online-only services started to pop up, prompting the question for many of when church would make the jump to a completely virtual reality. I wrote this article to explore some of the philosophical and theological foundations of VR and what "VR church" might even mean as a concept. Spoiler alert: I'm not bullish on VR church!
I lead the Automation Technologies team at HeadSpin, the app UX intelligence platform. HeadSpin lets you run all kinds of automated, performance, and other UX validation against your mobile, web, or media app, leveraging real-world devices and locations, along with a good dose of AI/ML to give you awesome reports about your app's quality. Previously at HeadSpin, I founded and still lead HeadSpin University, where we feature an extensive web and mobile test automation course I produced called Appium and Selenium Fundamentals. Part of my responsibility at HeadSpin is to continue to maintain and support the Appium ecosystem.
The rising tide: Open source's steady transformation
Together with Matt Germonprez and Sean Goggins, I published this paper in First Monday, a peer-reviewed journal devoted to the topic of the Internet. The abstract is as follows:
Present-Future is Splendour Hyaline's latest release. It consists of 14 songs written and recorded over a period of 11 years. The recording process took place primarily in San Francisco, but spanned my move to Vancouver. It's an indie record with pop rock sensibilities, verging on the epic, with influences all over the place!
This full-length album was recorded mostly at Spareroom Studios in San Francisco, CA (now Earthtones Audio in Forestville). I wrote the songs, sang, and played all the tonal instruments. David Lipps played drums, produced the album, and did all the mixing and mastering. Chris Nyffeler designed the cover art.
Appium: the Next Generation
The Imago Dei vs the Imago Machinae
In which I argue that Christianity and singularity-style futurist transhumanism (a la Yuval Noah Harari, Ray Kurzweil, etc) are fundamentally at odds, when both are well understood.
In 2018 I founded Cloud Grey, the Appium-focused consultancy, to meet the need of large companies trying to be successful with the tool. Especially in large and complex testsuites or organizational structures, it's easy to wind up with a sub-optimal Appium setup. Cloud Grey offered training, testsuite architecture, and a host of other services to enterprise clients. In my role as founding principle I also advised key companies in the industry.
Appium: the Next Five Years
I maintain Appium Pro, a (formerly) weekly blog and newsletter focused on mobile test automation topics. I started writing Appium Pro in early 2018 along with the founding of Cloud Grey, and it has become the definitive resource for Appium how-tos and tutorials on the Internet. HeadSpin acquired AppiumPro in 2020.
What is technology? Do we even know?
I was a guest on this StackOverflow Podcast, where we discussed open source community health, the philosophy of technology, and music. I played a bit of live music for the show, and the full version of the song I played is also available online: When There Was Still Code to Write (Ukulele Version).
The Philosophy and Future of Automation
As someone who works as a professional in the field of software automation and automation tools, I wanted to apply some critical philosophy of technology to the specific topic of automation. This SauceCon 2017 keynote talk was a perfect opportunity for such reflection! It culminated in a completely automated performance of a song I wrote with Appium driving various instruments including a text-to-speech synthesizer. Kind of spooky, actually!
Farm-raised versus wild: Sustainability in corporate open source
StarDriver Enterprise: App to the Future
My first foray into the philosophy of technology was via the work of Albert Borgmann, and specifically his book Technology and the Character of Contemporary Life. His ideas were so powerful and fruitful for me that I wanted to get to know them more intimately as well as to make them more easily accessible to non-philosophers. And so I set out to blog through each chapter of his book, summarizing and explicating the important points. Ultimately, this work even opened up the possibility to meet the man himself, and to have the wonderful opportunity to interview Albert at his home in Montana.
A blueprint for irony? Open source software and the Device Paradigm
In 2015 I attended the annual conference of the Society for Philosophy and Technology, in an attempt to learn more about the field of philosophy of technology. I gave this paper at the conference, discussing Albert Borgmann's "Device Paradigm" in conjunction with open source software.
Internet of Nothings: Technology and Our Relationship to the Things in Our World
This was my first opportunity to give a presentation at a tech conference that wasn't about a technical topic. Instead, I got to share some of my thoughts (and worries) about the place of technology in our broader lives. In this presentation I tried to elucidate the concept of the "Device Paradigm" and explain why it mattered to us as practitioners of technology. It was also fun to build a realtime demo where attendees could write how they're feeling and have it float across the screen, while I performed an original song written for the event!
Yield! How ES6 Generators and Monocle-js Can Bring Async Into Line, Literally
Before there was
await in JS, we had a brief moment of freedom from callbacks using
generators! Here is my contribution to that syntactic conversation.
Appium: Mobile Automation Made Awesome
In this presentation, I showcased a pretty risky live demo, involving playing a song I'd written with a backup band consisting of mobile music apps automated by Appium.
Appium: Automation for Mobile Apps
This was Appium's formal debut on the world stage (not counting the demo of an early incarnation of the idea that became Appium, which was demoed at SeleniumConf 2012).
I helped to start (with Daniel Conrad) this social recommendations company. Rather than giving people a list of business to try, we approached the recommendations problem with the idea that recommendations are highly relative to someone's needs and desires. So we built a mechanism for succinctly stating those desires in the form of a question which people answered---these answers were recommendations which were reused around the site.
A lexical-functional analysis of Swahili relative clauses
This is my MPhil thesis for my degree in General Linguistics and Comparative Philology at Oxford. It gives an overview of Swahili syntax, along with the linguistic theory of Lexical-Functional Grammar, and uses this theory to propose a new model for analyzing relative clauses in Swahili. Ultimately I argue that the conceptual resources of Lexical-Functional Grammar offer a better explanation of relative syntax than previous work was able to achieve.
XSMA: A finite-state morphological analyzer for Swahili
This is a major paper I wrote for my linguistics degree. It details a computational morphological parser I wrote, designed to parse Swahili words into their morphological components. This parser was a relatively complete, and yet relatively minimal model of Swahili's morphology.
This album is the result of a lot of experimentation with composing using electronic instruments and the exploration of more subtle emotional landscapes. Before this (and still, really) I did not have much experience with electronic music, certainly not "techno" or "EDM" or "house" or any of these sub-genres. But I had a keyboard and some synthesizer software so I got to playing around. I wrote these 5 songs over the course of 2-3 years, and still come back to them from time to time (particularly the first track). I'm now doing a bit more electronic composition again, and will hopefully be producing more instrumental electronic music soon!
I helped to start (with Brad Wolfe) this company designed to bring creativity and inspiration to online engagement. We encouraged people to add their own creations to the community; along with each creation was its "backlight", i.e., the story of what inspired that creation. We built an amazing community of people and a library of inspiring content. We were also a part of the 2008 fbFund REV accelerator class.
Songs of Hope
In 2007-2008 I spent about a year living and volunteering at the Tumaini Children's Home in Nyeri, Kenya. Part of my efforts there involved facilitating music programs for the kids. It turned out there was a robust culture of songwriting---kids would create vocal melodies and lyrics and sing these songs to one another (mostly in the form of Christian worship). I worked with a number of these kids to add backing music to their songs, and recorded them. The resulting album was a really interesting mix of original East African folk melody (sung in Swahili or Kikuyu) and whatever influences I already had. All proceeds from the release of this album went/go to Tumaini!
Vocal melodies and words were written by the Tumaini kids. I did vocal harmonies, instrumentation, and album art (aww yeah matatu!)
For about a year in the mid aughts I lived and volunteered in Nyeri, Kenya, working with kids at the Tumaini Children's Home. Part of what I helped with there was the development of a program called 'Hope Runs'---designed to help these Kenyan kids connect with one of their national sports and work towards scholarships and the like based on running. We worked with local coaches to give the kids access to running training and helped them participate in events. This is a video I made to promote Hope Runs. It's a sort of 'day in the life' of how things used to go there!
I wrote this album while on sabbatical at Schloss Mittersill, a castle in the Austrian alps not far from Kitzbuhel. The castle used to be an intentional Christian community (in some ways not unlike a monastery) devoted to retreat and study. It's now a hotel! Anyway, this oddly titled album was inspired by NT Wright's Christian Origins and the Question of God series, an important work on the origins of the Christian religion within its historical and cultural contexts. The album is thus accompanied by a tiny essay.
The process of writing and recording these theologically-oriented songs was magical, and unlike anything I've experienced before or since. Playing on an old piano in a grand castle hall, or singing vocal lines in a stone chapel in the castle wall, my breath frosting in the midwinter night---unparalleled! Sadly I just had a set of SM-57s and a cheap USB-powered digital audio unit, so I couldn't do full justice to the physical and spiritual context. But the songs themselves, despite being super stripped-down arrangements of piano and vocals, remain powerful artifacts of that sabbatical for me. Downloads coming soon! Cover design by Chris Nyffeler.
Hope: A Sliver, Like the Moon
In many ways this 6-song EP was Splendour Hyaline's first record that I was really proud of. We originally released it in 2006, but the version linked above were remastered and re-released in 2014. I was doing a lot of exploring in my songwriting, and we put together a pretty hard-hitting EP I think! This record even got reviewed in a print edition of Paste Magazine, back when print magazines were a thing. The reviewer compared us to Pedro the Lion / David Bazan, which is pretty fair given that he remains one of my biggest influences!
As per usual, I wrote the songs, sang, and played the musicky bits. My brother David did the drums and the mixing magic, and designed the album art.
Regarding Present Fears
This little collection of 4 songs was composed of two re-recordings from Splendour Hyaline's first album, plus two new tracks. Originally released as the "Splendour Hyaline EP" to basically nobody, and containing some songs which went on to be on the "Hope" record, David and I remixed/remastered these and re-released them in 2014, with some additional instrumentation. It's basically the oldest music I've made that I've felt comfortable actually posting on the internet (though maybe I'll get brave and upload Splendour Hyaline's first album for archival purposes someday). Cover design by our bud Chris Nyffeler.
Enaselvai: A Sketch of a Constructed Language
Given my love of Tolkien's fictional languages, it was only natural that I (like many other nerds) ended up creating constructed languages ('conlangs') of my own, though none of them ever became very complete. The most fleshed-out project was a language called Enaselvai, which has some pretty obvious affinities with pre-existing natural languages like Latin. I even wrote this paper about constructed languages and the structure of Enaselvai. You can see some of the script I created for its writing system in the attached image!
Observation Selection Effects and the Fine-Tuning Argument for Cosmic Design
There is a class of arguments for cosmic design which aim to put the design hypothesis at better than chance by pointing at apparently finely-tuned aspects of our universe (without which "higher" life forms like ourselves, or any life at all, would not exist). A common objection to such arguments says that, given our lack of non-finely-tuned universes to compare against, design inferences are barred as a result of an observation selection effect. This paper attempts to defeat that objection (while, it must be said, not offering any additional support to the fine-tuning argument itself).
Splendour Hyaline's debut! 12 songs of acoustic indie rock with some drums (no bass guitar, mind you!) This incorporated basically everything I'd written during my undergrad years at Stanford. It also represents David's and my foray into sound engineering, production, mixing, etc... And it had the quality to match! Some of these songs are still very dear to my heart, of course. Sadly, it's not available on any of the streaming services, since I'm not brave enough / don't think anyone cares! Cover art by David Lipps.