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diary

Vocal session and lost headphones

While rushing off to a vocal session today I dropped and lost forever my only pair of decent earbuds on hand. I was planning to get some listening in while riding the BART (the timing of the song I was to sing on was incredibly tricky), but I instead ended up staring into space for 1.5 hours lamenting my loss. WAH!

But I suppose the moral of the story is that last minute rushing around is bad… Somehow I invariably end up forgetting something or losing something on the way.

Looking on the bright side… I suppose it’s a good time to upgrade!

I did get to try out an old vintage Neumann M49 microphone during the recording. Didn’t get to AB it with anything else so all I can really say is that I sure liked the way I sounded on it… on that particular system of course, which is pretty hard to be conclusive about at all. Oh well.

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diary

Libraries

I love libraries! I even used to work in one. I used to hang out there pretty much all the time. It was FUN AND EXCITING! Libraries are filled with many great things! And by things, I of course mean DVDs.

Anyway I have been walking around a lot lately and discovered TWO libraries in my area. I checked out the small selection of DVDs at one of them and picked out “The Pillow Book.” I just watched it and all I can say is…????! And that is all. Not recommended.

Libraries are still great though…

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diary

Adventures in homelessness

I’m back in San Francisco!

After a brief period of homelessness and wandering aimlessly on the streets of San Francisco, I’m also no longer homeless. For the moment, anyway.

Whilst getting some stuff out of my storage today, I dropped my guitar and dented it quite badly. Doh! I now have a hole in my heart (literally… my guitar is shaped like a big pink heart).

I still have a box of unwashed laundry from 3 months back in my storage. I decided to leave it be for now… lalala…

And the toilet obsession continues! This one is tentatively titled “Public Toilet.”

There’s even toilet paper! At least I think that’s toilet paper.

Yes this is ART, baby…

Stay tuned for more…

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diary

And this is why I need my camera with me at all times

I didn’t have my camera… but I did have my cell phone…

Take that, DuChamp! You can’t touch this…

toilets

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diary

Manga kissa

Somehow living in SF has made it even more difficult to survive Tokyo’s stifling hot summers. I couldn’t have done it without ice cream, coca-cola, and the occasional air conditioned space. This trip I spent quite some time in air conditioned manga cafes, a.k.a. “manga kissa” or “manga kissaten” in Japanese.

The manga cafes in Tokyo are way more than just cafes with comics… they’re also combination internet cafes equipped with internet/tv/game terminals and ps2s. You can check out games and dvds in addition to manga and magazines. And if that isn’t enough, I’ve even seen cafes with dart boards and pool tables.

The setup of your personal area in a manga kissa can really vary. There’s the standard library/classroom setup (a chair in front of a small desk), there are somewhat more private cubicles, and then there are private booth options. Booths can be large enough to share with friends and come in various types: regular chairs, couches, mats, or massage chairs. One cafe I went to in Akiba had futons with pillows in a tatami room, and another had a large tatami floor “family room” for groups of 3 or more. Some places allow you to close your booth for complete privacy… aside from the security cameras overhead to make sure you don’t steal anything!

The cost is generally something like 200-400 yen for the first half hour and then an equivalent pro-rated amount in 10-15 minute increments. The price always includes free coffee, tea, and soft drinks… and sometimes free soft serve ice cream! (Sadly, the machine I tried was broken.) Most have more substantial food or snack options, and I never had a problem bringing in my own food.

A complaint I had which only applied to one of the cafes was the nasty cigarette smell! There are a lot of smokers in Japan and of course all manga kissa are indoors with air conditioning. Although every cafe had a non-smoking section (it may be a requirement) this one had only a very tiny area situated right next to the smoking section! Ugh!

Quite a few customers must spend their nights here as there are always reduced rates for a certain number of hours late into the night until the extreme early hours of the morning (places are usually open 24 hours/7 days a week) and they all had shower facilities and blankets. I personally would definitely not mind spending the night in one of those tatami/futon rooms!

I have decided that for my next trip (hopefully during either spring or fall), I will backpack around and spend every night in a different manga kissa. Whee!

Categories
diary gear music

Recording and engineering

Yep, I’m working on some new song recordings and this time around I’ll be sharing engineering duties with my collaborator, which means that I am still doing much of it myself for pretty much the first time ever (oh YAY!). Aside from the fact that I don’t know what the hell I’m doing (but hey I AM some kind of engineer, right? Pfft, I can figure this out!), it’s frustrating to have to make do with my extremely limited equipment and severely underpowered computer (a 1.5 GHz Powerbook G4 with a mere 1GB of RAM… sigh). Well I don’t really have any good software plugins anyway. And who knows, it may be interesting! I stand by the philosophy of “as long as it sounds good to me.”

Over the course of the last several months I have learned several things:

  • 2″ tape is awfully heavy!
  • Metric Halo’s Mobile I/O ULN-2 is way better than my old M-Audio Firewire 410. Considering the price difference it damned well better be! The pres sound really nice, however the stepped gain control knob is annoying. There’s something really nice about a continuous gain control knob. Oh well. I wish it had TOSLINK connectors in addition to coax and AES. And hmm I also wish it had separate headphone and monitor routing control. And while I’m at it I wish it were smaller and lighter than it is (it’s not quite 1U and is about 4 pounds). Anyway, other than all that it’s simple and easy to figure out and use. I like the meters up front. The software mixing console is nice and simple too… though I did find a couple of quirks that thankfully don’t affect usability: when you click on the block diagram it will continue to darken with each click and you can only fix this by quitting and reopening the console application; also you can’t get the console window back if you close it but don’t quit, unless you quit and reopen. Weird.
  • Ableton Live 5 is great for assembling loop-based music, but only REALLY nice once the samples are all nicely cut and faded perfect loops. The good: manipulating samples through warping and playing with the beat markers can make for some really cool sounds. The bad: not being able to do any fine-tuning/destructive edits within Ableton (I suppose rendering a sample is an okay workaround); not being able to snap to zero crossings (Ableton lets you fade the start and end points, but it’s something that’s either on or off); not being able to crossfade adjacent audio edits in the arrangement view. Hmm. I guess it’s REALLY not meant to be an editor. Complete takes are good anyway, right?
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diary www

Spam

Recently I’ve been getting daily doses of spam posts to my BBS (hey thanks, spammers). I finally got fed up and integrated captcha into the scripts… and sure enough, no spam so far. I’d prefer to use something like Akismet for this but the captcha was a quick hack for now.

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diary music www

Warning to musicians: CdBaby’s Hostbaby service is a huge rip-off!

Hostbaby is CdBaby’s hosting service. They advertise it as “web hosting for musicians” on the CdBaby website, and it’s such a horrible service that I can’t bring myself to even provide a link to it from here.

Considering the free open source CMS (content management system) options out there, the fact that the whole point of a CMS once installed and setup is to allow users to do their own updates (meaning that CdBaby people spend little to no time doing any actual work on your site since the setup process is likely automated), and coupled with all the free hosting options out there, $20 a month for Hostbaby’s basic CMS (no e-commerce or video) and limited hosting plan is OUTRAGEOUS! I can’t believe a company whose supposed philosophy is to HELP small-time independent musicians make money from their music would turn around and overcharge them by so much! Yes, every musician and band should have a web presence. Granted, reliable hosting will cost a bit more than nothing. But charging $20 a month when MySpace is free (and has video too now, though many people still use YouTube) should be an indication that this pricing is way off! And $10 a year per domain is at cost? Yeah right!

It makes me even angrier when I think of CdBaby ripping off some poor unknown starving musician who automatically goes with HostBaby because s/he sees it advertised on CdBaby’s website, and doesn’t know of any other (fairly-priced) option. And CdBaby has that whole “indie” rep thing going on which makes them seem more trustworthy to such people, which in the realm of websites and hosting is totally false. Come on, Derek Sivers, don’t be a hypocrite and abuse your responsibility to help independents! Lower your hosting prices to a few bucks a month and give musicians your CMS for free. Or offer the CMS + hosting for free and do something else entirely for revenue, like integrating the CdBaby store into the e-commerce portion of the CMS.

Anyway, I recommend that all musicians out there just avoid this nasty Hostbaby thing entirely. If you’re looking for a professional website the best thing to do is to hire an independent to customize a website or content management system for you (which WILL cost you, but if you find the right person it will actually be worth it, and it will be CUSTOMIZED), and host it somewhere for really cheap (there are a billion hosting companies out there, many quite reliable, and hosting itself is just getting cheaper and cheaper). Honestly with the exposure and popularity of MySpace you’d actually even be WAY better off there than with some crappy Hostbaby CMS/generic template design, and as an added bonus you’d save all that money. Just keep your CDs on CdBaby to leverage their advertising/distribution channels (which is really what they’re good for), but link back to your website and also consider selling your CD direct on there using a cheap payment service like Paypal or Google Checkout for a price slightly less than CdBaby (since selling a CD on your personal site means you don’t pay CdBaby’s markup).

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diary www

YouTube

I really love YouTube. I’ve mainly been watching music videos (they even have Japanese TV music programs) and more recently anime episodes. The quality isn’t the greatest but it’s bearable, and their streaming speed is decent (though not fast enough to stream longer videos continuously as it should). But of course the key here is accessibility and having such a massive collection all in one place.

But what I wonder is… how on earth are they making any money?

I really just don’t understand some business models…

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diary

My blog

I have a problem writing in this blog. I start writing a post only to realize that I probably shouldn’t post it after all. So what is the problem?

I’m a very opinionated person. I have an awful lot to say pretty much all the time, and I value my opinions enough to think that other people ought to hear them. I have no problems saying these things when I’m around certain people or in an appropriate forum. However a very public blog on my official website that serves as both my personal site and my professional presence on the web is NOT the appropriate forum for expressing my honest thoughts and views.

Being professional. You know what I mean. The word that comes to my mind is “stiff.” For example, when it comes to being a programmer there’s nothing to be gained by offending anyone or being anything less than an efficient, well-oiled machine. So I keep those opinions to myself.

Society stifles creativity. You have to worry constantly about how your actions and words affect other people. Everybody is sensitive. I am not and cannot be the same person in front of everyone I know in my various personal and professional circles. I don’t know how other people can be the same person all the time… unless they are just quiet and unassuming all the time. But I really don’t think anyone is actually ALWAYS like that.

So when are you being true to yourself? There are times when I deliberately present a very different personality. I used to wonder… who is the real me? But now I believe that I am always me and always have been me. These other sides of me just take over in different situations. But nothing’s wrong with that. People are multi-faceted and irrational. They can strive to be some ideal, but everyone knows that no one is perfect.

Sometimes a person needs anonymity in order to truly express themselves. Either that or they need an outlet outside of the confines of normal society…

Blogs? I choose music.