Aaron Giles

About Me

2021 Year In Review

Ok, well, 2021 was a year, that’s for sure. Life has changed pretty significantly this past year, due to several big events. The pandemic continued, I got to make some more music, read a lot, and wrote some stuff. Let’s see what we got.

Life Changes

It seemed a bit strange to lump the “big stuff” in the Other category at the end, so let’s mix things up a bit this year and begin with impactful life events, of which there were several, for good and ill.

Claude Noyes, 1929–2021

Sadly, we had two deaths in the family this year (neither of them directly COVID-19 related). In March, my father-in-law Claude Noyes died at the ripe old age of 91. His health had been in decline for quite some time, but the final days leading up to his passing were still unexpected. Claude was a colorful character, very academically minded, and always happy to rant on about some historical nugget. I was glad to be able to travel to Rochester, NY for his memorial service in May.

Linda Giles, 1949–2021 (with me)

And then at the start of May, my mother Linda Giles passed away suddenly. She was just 71, though not in the greatest health due to diabetes exacerbated by a lifetime of smoking. She was always an avid reader and loved to work in the garden, though her health impacted both of those activities a lot near the end. Our family has never been great at communicating, so we’d only talk infrequently once I moved across the country, but it was always easy to reconnect when we did.

One positive thing to come out of this was an excuse to get me and my three siblings and our kids all together in the same place for her memorial in Toledo, OH August. Our son finally got to meet the full complement of his cousins all at once, and I had the opportunity to reconnect with family and friends. Despite the somber occasion, we even managed a day trip to Cedar Point to let the cousins have some fun together. It ended up being our only family trip this year, unfortunately.

Latte (left) and Louis (right)

On a more uplifting front, this year we decided to adopt two young cats, after being cat-free for 15 years. When our previous cats died back in the mid-2000s, we opted not to get any more because it seemed my wife was allergic to them (along with a lot of other things). After many years of allergy therapy, she got re-tested, and apparently now she is free of cat allergies! Much to the disappointment of our son, she still tested as quite allergic to dogs, but these two little critters have been an uplifting and fun addition to the family. They are both males and came from the same home, though they are not related.

My war-torn Microsoft badge

And the last significant life-altering news is that I took the plunge and quit my corporate job!

Honestly, I have nothing but good things to say about Microsoft as a company to work for, and the people I worked with there were great. But I have long wanted to strike out on my own, to work on smaller projects and explore new avenues that didn’t have a lot of financial upside. A few years ago I came up with a plan to make that happen, studiously saving my pennies and keeping our living budget reasonable, hoping that I’d be able to take the next step with confidence. And then finally, on December 3, I bid farewell to the place I worked for over 18 years. We’ll see what comes next!

And with those big ticket items out of the way, we turn to our regularly scheduled list of stuff that I did this past year.

Music

So singing happened more this year, but we’re still pretty far from normal.

My biggest higlight by far was putting together the Summer Fling Singers 2021 Concert. This concert was special to me because I not only got to perform a full Josquin Mass setting, but I also managed to secure one of my favorite directors to coach us through it. It was a bumpy ride to get there, but we made it!

The group started rehearsing as usual in August, but we were looking apprehensively at the trending numbers from the Delta variant of the COVID virus, and soon decided that we couldn’t safely continue. At that point, I had thought all was lost, but our coach encouraged me to rethink the possibilities, and we came up with a plan to rehearse into the fall and hope for the numbers to improve. By late September, it was looking like mid November might be a possibility, so we booked the concert for then and managed to pull off a late Fall Fling!

In addition to my Summer Fling, I also did a second virtual sing with Sine Nomine Renaissance Choir, participating in the winter program “The Lonely City”. This program was super enticing to me because it featured settings of the Lamentations of Jeremiah, one of my favorite choral genres, as evinced by the 2017 Summer Fling Singers concert I put together. I opted out of participating in later virtual sings mostly due to time and not finding it as fulfilling as real in-person singing.

Speaking of live singing, at St. Margaret’s we were able to resume more regular singing in the summer and fall (fully masked), and have been singing regularly at church services since then. It’s been quite nice to be singing consistently again, even with those pesky masks in the way. We sadly only got to do one Christmas Eve service, but it was still a step up from the previous year, so I’ll take it. Also I have no idea how we had the energy in the past to sing all that music twice!

One thing that didn’t go so well in 2021 was my lute playing. For some reason, once I got my own instrument, I kept finding excuses not to play, and eventually stopped my lessons. One factor I think is that the luthier got me all stressed out about temperature and humidity, so I kept the lute in its case rather than having it out and handy. I really do want to get back to it, so I’m thinking that maybe I’ll let it try living outside of its case for a while next year and see what transpires.

I finished my 6th year as a board member of the Greater Seattle Choral Consortium, and my 3rd year as treasurer. Still trucking along, but starting to think about when I might be able to relinquish the treasurer job sometime in the not-too-distant future....

And once again, not much of note in terms of composition or engraving, although I did put together an edition of Josquin des Prez’s Missa Ave Maris Stella for the Summer Fling Singers concert. That edition needs a bit more polish before it’s ready to release, but it should be relatively easy to complete in the coming year.

Programming

I continued to work from home this year, though by late summer things were opening up enough that I felt comfortable coming in one or two days each week. This was a bit of a blessing, as being home was highly distracting, especially during the summer when the kid was home yelling at his friends over the Xbox. Thankfully, school resumed in person in the fall, and things got quieter.

On the emulation front, I continued my work emulating the Yamaha FM chips. I had originally started with just the OPN, but eventually realized how feasible it was to extend things to the other common Yamaha chip families. In the end, I created a standalone library called ymfm, which I released to the public under a BSD license.

MAME is now using this library for its Yamaha emulation, but I was happy to see several other projects out there also adopt it. One of the most helpful has been DefleMask, a chiptune tracker who now uses ymfm for its FM emulation and has helped me quash a number of subtle bugs.

The full PSR-60 layout

One other cool thing I got the chance to work on in MAME is emulating a few classic synthesizers that used variants of the Yamaha chips. I started with the Yamaha TX81Z, which was a MIDI-only driven unit, then moved on to emulate the PSR-60/70, which were full keyboards with lots of buttons that I painstakingly assembled into layouts that you could click on. With the help of another internet synth-head, we managed to reverse engineer and dump the ROMs for the drum samples, emulating yet another Yamaha chip.

After working on all the Yamaha things, I decided to take a break and clean up some old code I had written years ago in MAME. This ended up being the 3Dfx Voodoo emulation, whose code was a terrible mess. I reconstructed the code in modern C++ and then came up with some ideas to make it run better on top of just being cleaner. So score one for taking the time to revisit old code!

After that though I decided to be done with MAME for the forseeable future. I was prototyping several system-wide enhancements, but I could see the writing on the wall that my approach clashed too much with the current project direction, so I decided it was best for me to set that work aside and focus on my own projects. Don’t worry—I have plenty of ideas, many of them emulation-related!

Web Development

2021 was a light year for web work.

I made a couple of small enhancements to my rehearsaltracks.net site, and added a few new pieces. The Patreon page went live this year, but I haven’t been pushing it super hard because it’s been difficult to see how to grow it. I do have a couple of ideas to work on in the coming year that may make it more appealing, however, so maybe that will help me move it forward.

After I left my job in December, I started revisiting the vast collection of postcards that had been sent to me back in the 1990s for my postcardware program JPEGView. I have some ideas for what to do with this, so I started work on cataloging them in preparation for a major scanning operation. Keep an eye on postcardware.net for updates or follow this twitter feed.

Graphic Design

Not too much in the way of graphic design this year, though since Summer Fling Singers did hold a concert, I at least got the chance to do a flyer and program. That’s really about it though.

Other Stuff

This year certainly had its ups and downs in terms of calorie tracking. I started off the year a bit on the upper end of where I wanted to be weight wise, so I knuckled down and by Spring was doing well, but then managed to gain most of it back (and then some) by the end of the year. Hopefully next year I can keep things a bit more steady. I just wish I didn’t always have to work so hard at it!

I continued in my efforts to watch older sci-fi/fantasy TV series that I previously missed and wanted to see, but also jumped in to see several new releases as well. This year, I managed to watch or complete:

On top of this, I read. A lot! Goodreads had a thing where you set a goal for how many books you wanted to read in the coming year, so I tentatively set it at 25. By July I had already blown through it, so I upped it to 50 and ended up a 52 total. Here’s this year’s GoodReads page. And my own summary:

 

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