Snowmageddon 2 Aftermath

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Jan 292014

So after all of that frantic forecasting of dire events happening, and predictions of huge amounts of snow burying us all in our homes…

… we got an inch of snow here. And it’s already melting.

I feel bad for the folks stuck in Atlanta and other places further south, that don’t have as much equipment or experience dealing with this kind of stuff, but here it’s a non-event event. Maybe farther east it’s a bigger deal (they got a little more snow than we did), but it’s hardly the “Snow event of a generation” as a certain weather forecasting cable channel hyped it as. The same channel kept saying we were going to get 3-5 inches, when the snow had already moved out of the area.

For the record, the National Weather Service office in Raleigh nailed the event perfectly. Their estimates weren’t as exciting, though, and wouldn’t pump up ratings, so just about nobody went with their more conservative forecast, which was spot on.

Besides, I already had the “Snow event” of my generation in January, 2000, when we got 20+ inches of snow here. The forecast that night? 3-6 inches. So we were all kind of stunned when it just kept falling and falling, and piling up and piling up. It took more than a week to get back to normal.

This stuff? We’ll be back to 70-80% normal by tomorrow. 100% by Friday.

Hardly the “event of a generation.” At least not here.

But if you’re stuck somewhere, it’s closer to the truth, isn’t it?

I’ve been there, too. On my way back to college one spring, I got stuck in Norfolk for one night, then in Charlotte for 3-4 days as I tried desperately to get back to school at UNC. U wound up having to drive across the state on icy, snowy roads in an old rear-wheel drive car that was itching to careen into a ditch. (It didn’t.)

So those stuck out there in this mess have my sympathies.

Snowmageddon Round Two? (Random Stuff Post)

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Jan 282014

Well, we’re all waiting for the snow to start. We’re supposed to get anything from 2 to 6 inches of snow today through tonight, and as I’ve said many times, we don’t do snow well here. I’m staying off the roads today and tonight, so that means no piano class.


If I Can’t Go to the Music School, Bring the Music School to Me!

I’m going to catch up on my Coursera classes: the Write Like Mozart class, and Pat Pattison’s Songwriting class, which I signed up for again last night.

I signed up for his Songwriting class last year, but I didn’t have time to finish it. What I saw, I really liked. He gives a really good insight into how pro songwriters write songs, and how to improve my own songwriting. (Hint: it involves lots of practice, just like anything else.)

I might also watch some Max 4 Live tutorials. That also looks really interesting.

Bitwig Studio

Bitwig Studio is coming out in late March for $399. The part that’s really interesting to me is the ability to run it in Linux. I think that’s a brilliant idea. But from what I’ve heard, there’s no ReWire compatibility yet, so that’s a big minus for me. This is a good preview of Bitwig, and you can find more videos on their channel.

I wouldn’t mind demoing it to see what it’s like, but $400 is a bit steep for me after G.A.S. ate a lot of my money over the holidays.

I probably shouldn’t buy another new instrument until I’ve gotten good at using the ones I already have.

Rewire and Vocaloid Editor

Speaking of ReWire, I finally found a VST that will let me ReWire the Yamaha Vocaloid 3.0 Editor into Live or Cubase. Cool! You can find it here (the site is all in Japanese). Look for this text “V3Sync ReWire Synchronizer Version 1.3.0 をダウンロード” in the middle of the page, click the link, and install like any other VST. Point the Vocaloid 3 editor to the VST, and it should work.

I know you used to be able to ReWire directly from most Vocaloid 2.0 editors. What happened with 3.0? I have no idea.

Piapro Studio is a good alternative now that it’s at version 1.2. Now you can use sound banks from other companies, too, if you register your non-Crypton sound banks at Crypton’s website. I haven’t tried it yet, but I will soon.

Monitor Stand Update

The monitor stand is working really well. I installed it about a week ago, after letting it off-gas for a few days. It adds about 4.25 inches to the height of my monitors, so it took a few days to get used to, but I’m used to it now.

Naturally, just as I say that, I noticed a crack in the wood filler on the right side, near my heater vent. That’s what touch-up paints are for.

Slide Duplicating Project

This is a project I’ve been wanting to get back to for a while. I’m waiting on a Leica Screw Mount to Sony E Mount adapter, and then I may be able to make some good progress on it. I’m going to try what someone did here and remove the FD mount from my Canon FL Bellows, then attach it to my NEX with a LSM to E Mount adapter. That should give me enough focal length to get the duplicate slides in full view.

I hope.

Or I can just throw the whole mess on the copy stand. But I’d rather use a slide copier, because I can aim that at Mr. Sun, and get natural daylight for copying the slides. Artificial light always has weird spectra, even light bulbs that say they are “daylight balanced,” only do so in a way that fools your eye. It does not fool the sensor or the software.

Great Support

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Jan 252014

I love it when I get great service and support. I love telling stories of, “Hey, this company is really responsive!”

This is one of those stories!

Thursday night, my CPU fan started making a noise I can only describe as “wailing like a banshee,” which is what a bad bearing sounds like.

I emailed support at Arctic Cooling, who made the CPU cooler I use, and in 3 minutes, I had a reply. I just had to give them my street address, and they’d send out a new fan.

The replacement showed up today. Nice. I’ll have to swap out the fan as soon as I can get a chance to pop the computer open.

Also, my extension cable showed up for the Intuos Pro tablet. Fits like a glove. Yay.

Snowmageddon? Not Quite.

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Jan 222014

As I was going to piano class last night, it was snowing like crazy. The local weather forecast wasn’t good. It looked like we were going to get smacked with a lot of snow. So when enough of us had gathered for piano class, we agreed to cancel it for safety’s sake. NC isn’t good at dealing with winter weather.

Of course, by the time I got home, the snow was tapering off, and even though a few stray flakes were falling through midnight, nothing ever accumulated. Oh, well. Better safe than sorry.

More Coursera Fun

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Jan 202014

Prof. Donald Hornstein is a fun lecturer to listen to. I highly recommend his new Coursera class on Environmental Law. If you have any interest at all in the environment or in law, take it. (Even for you lawyers out there– it’s a fun refresher.)

I take my CLE every year at the UNC Festival of Legal Learning, and every year, I look forward to Don Hornstein’s lectures. They’re not just entertaining, they’re also fascinating. He takes a subject that at times can be really dry and breathes life into it.

I also signed up for a class called “Write Like Mozart.” It started a few weeks ago, so I’m already behind. I’m going to have to hustle to catch up, but there’s some really interesting stuff going on there. I’d like to learn more about 18th century voice leading!

Is Paddy the Coolest Thing Ever???

I was sitting here, surrounded by my MIDI gear, when I had a thought that other people have already had. “What if I could use this stuff to edit my photos in Lightroom? Wouldn’t it be a heck of a lot faster?”

The answer is yes, so long as Lightroom doesn’t break the plugin you’re using.

Paddy is a program developed as donation-ware, that lets you use just about any MIDI controller to control the sliders in Lightroom to develop photos. If you’ve used Lightroom for any appreciable length of time, you know that fiddling with the mouse to change levels for all of Lightroom’s sliders is finicky business. Sometimes the sliders misbehave, sometimes the mouse misbehaves, either way, it’s tedious.

What Paddy does is take that tedious, repetitive mouse clicking, and if you have an old MIDI mixer with some motorized faders, you can zoom through editing photos in a snap. The faders will automatically go to the positions of the current photo in Lightroom, and you can just mess around with them as you please. I love the idea of this kind of tactile feedback, as well as the idea of mixing MIDI and photo developing.

This is one of those things I need to put on the “Come back to this in a few months” pile and see how the software is progressing.

All-in Ableton, Reaktor, New Graphics Tablet

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Jan 152014

After spending some time getting used to Live, I had a tough decision to make: Standard or Suite? The 20% off sale was going to end soon, and as much as I like the Intro version of Live, it’s not enough for what I want to do. The difference between upgrades wasn’t much. Max 4 Live is part of what pushed me over into getting the Suite. There are other reasons, too.

Downloading everything took 5 hours or so. My Internet connection isn’t the greatest in the world.


A lot of what I was doing while I was downloading/installing Live was learning how to program in Reaktor. There are a lot of really good tutorials out there on building synthesizers in Reaktor. It’s pretty fascinating stuff. I found a really good five part tutorial here: Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four, Part Five.

Once I’m done getting comfortable in Live, I’ll start learning Max, too. That also looks really interesting.

My Poor Dead Graphics Tablet

After 12 years of faithful service, my ancient Wacom Intuos 2 graphics tablet has bit the dust. I replaced it with an Intuos Pro, the medium sized one. I was tempted to get the large, but the medium is about the same size as my old one.

I love the wireless connectivity. That’s really cool. But I read a lot of horror stories about the wonky USB solder connection, so I took out $3 of insurance on eBay, and bought a short USB connector cable that will connect to the troublesome port. I can just tape the cable down to the side of the tablet, and connect the charging cable to the short cable. That way, I won’t put too much stress on that port by plugging/unplugging the USB cable to recharge it.

You can get the small connecting cable here.

I also like the buttons, especially the way you can lock the tablet down to one monitor or another, which is handy for keeping perspectives right. (The tablet to monitor ratio thing. It can get too weird otherwise if you’re using two monitors.) My favorite button is the one that lets me use the control wheel to change brush sizes on the fly. That’s invaluable.

I’m not so fond of the feel of the surface of the Intuos. It feels… weird. I prefer the feel of my old Intuos 2 better. I’ll get used to it.

Monitor Stand is Done!

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Jan 142014

It only took a month to finish it, but the monitor stand is done. It’s five feet long by one foot wide, with a couple of one by fours supporting it in the middle, and two screwed-together one by fours on each end. It’s sturdy as heck.

Painting it is what held everything up.

It’s been so ridiculously cold here that it’s been too cold to paint. I’ve been using spray paints, too, and they’re even fussier about having temperatures well above freezing.

I started with a simple grey primer, then added two coats of black satin, but it just didn’t do anything for me. It looked very “meh.”

Then I remembered an old woodfinishing project from years gone by. I finished a small 3-legged table with a nice black top, and faux stone legs. The faux stone effect came right out of a spray can.

So I went looking for more of that stuff. It’s been at least ten years, but I figured I could find it somewhere. I did. It was at the last place I checked. It’s a muted Black/White/Grey faux granite look that’s kind of muted. It also needs to have a clearcoat sprayed over it, so it will hold up better with time.

It took me two days to apply the paint, and one more to apply the clearcoat. Now it’s sitting in the garage, off-gassing. I’ll leave it alone for a few days, because I don’t want the house to stink, and I like my brain too much to melt it with the various chemicals in the finishes.

But it looks smashing! The faux-stone spray hides anything I may have screwed up well.

And it’s not made out of cheap MDF that will sag in a year. It’s made out of good old southern pine.

Would it have been cheaper to just buy the stand on Amazon? Well, yeah. It would have been faster, too. But my stand looks really cool, is a custom fit to my desk, and won’t sag. The finish has a rough bumpy stone feel, even. No regrets!

Piano class has also started up again. I’m still terrible at piano. When I get the stand in place, I should be able to practice more.

Also, Push is still fun, although I’ve been using it so much, my fingers are starting to hurt from thwacking the pads so much.

Push or “What Happened to Today?”

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Jan 102014

I went with Ableton Push. I saw countless videos, read a lot of stuff on all kinds of forums, read all the marketing info, and in the end, I decided on Push over Maschine, mainly because 64 > 16. Well, not just that, but the scale mode in Push really excites me.

Maschine looks like something I may get down the road, especially because it’s really good at tweaking Native Instruments’ Komplete programs, and it has a really nice patch browser.

My Push showed up today, so I installed Live, started messing with Push and Live, and subsequently lost track of several hours just messing around with the scale mode in Push using a plain piano patch.

Oh, about Ableton Live: that’s a nice piece of software there. I had a lot of fun messing with it, too. I like how the tutorials are merged in with the software from the get-go. It made me feel like I could make music right from the start, or just perform with it. Everything feels easy.

I’m still trying to decipher everything about Live and Push, and that’s going to take a while, because I have a ton of other things to do, but I’m excited.

Also, my music composition class starts up again tomorrow. I need to start getting back into composer mode, and get rid of the holiday-induced G.A.S.

The monitor stand is progressing, too. I went and touched up some of the areas with wood filler in them, and sanded them down. I’ll start spray painting the whole thing black this weekend. Primer first, then black.

Reason Book and Other Stuff

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Jan 052014

I’m starting to finally feel better. Well, except for the coughing that comes out of nowhere. I’ve heard that this cold takes a while to get over. Yay.

My Reason book showed up today. It’s huge! The type is kind of small, but the way it’s laid out, if it was published traditionally, this would easily go over 1000 pages. As it is, it comes in at around 356 pages or so. Lulu did a great job binding it, and color really makes a big difference– there are a lot of illustrations, and each one is sharp.

I haven’t had time to read the whole book yet (I just got it!), but I’m looking forward to spending some quality time with it.

Push or Maschine? Argh!

I’m still looking a lot at Push and Maschine as well. I’m leaning heavily towards getting one of them to speed things up. Since I’m not only using Reason, but also VSTs, I’m looking for something that will improve my workflow. I’m also looking for something that will help me come up with wild and crazy ideas.

Maschine has some nice features. It integrates really well with Komplete, and has an awesome preview method. But it looks like it’s geared more towards sampling, and I’m not really into that. I’m more into straight composition and using instruments, in which case Push looks much more attractive.

Push supports Live and Live Suite instruments natively, but Komplete and other third party VSTs don’t have that kind of deep support. I understand why. There’s also a third party solution that lets Push owners tweak the heck out of it so it’ll work better with third party VSTs and other DAWs as well.

I’m very glad that Ableton didn’t turn Push into a black box you can’t tinker with. I think it’s good that they welcome third party software. If anything, it should help sales.

I’d say the only bit I’m not looking forward to is configuring everything. Whoa. I sound like I’ve bought it already. I’m still thinking. It’s a lot of money.

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