Saturday, November 28, 2009

I was wrong about....

I keep a running list of things I've been wrong about in the hopes of learning from it. These have been foaming about in my head for a while; let's see if I can give them some shape here. In no particular order:

I was wrong about how the internet would "empower" artists and connect them with fans.
Part of this was due to my luck in being an early-adopter of broadband internet, and believing it would have the same dramatic impact on everyone else's life as it had on mine. I'd had some strong first experiences (winning the 100,000th artist slot at, for instance) that seemed to indicate bright futures for musicians on the web. And for some musicians, that certainly was the case.

But scale changes everything, and that's one area I was completely wrong about: scale. I'd initially figured that "real" musicians would find an easier time connecting with purchasers because I'd (naively) thought A) the bulk of the music production community would embrace the technologies (didn't happen), and B) the bulk of producers would actually be professional musicians.

These two assumptions turned out to be horribly false. The bulk of the professional music community balked at first because they didn't see it as a way to actively pay their bills, and they were right about that. My second assumption was turned upside down - "Here comes everybody" - when the numbers of amateur and entry producers dwarfed the professional by scales of magnitude.

With these new scales came bigger versions of the same persistent problems (vaulting work into the public consciousness) invariably attracting the same niche noisemakers and creating only the slightest variation of previous hierarchies. The creative arts tend to drive tight communities. Birds of a feather...

The biggest lesson for me, however, was how it would change the value of live performance. For the longest time, I've (unfairly) judged live performance by my own production standards - a bit like comparing cropdusters to 747's - so I'd naturally underestimated its appeal to audiences. Turns out most people don't care if the music is built on simple, well-tread ideas: they just like how it sounds.

And from now on, that's good enough for me, too.

Photos by Flickr's jancin and gorski.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Why I want Google to be my record company (and you do, too)

The music business as we formerly knew it was predicated on two basic legs: monopolizing the physical distribution structure (and by proxy, maintaining content exclusivity), and an information asymmetry between the record companies and the artists.

This asymmetry took its most insidious form in the famous "double books" that film and music companies used to keep (before corporatisation and Sarbanes-Oxley), allowing companies to misrepresent sales and distribution statistics, thus denying musicians a lot of their due income.

A decade ago, Michael Robertson's tried to level this playing field by providing a means of distribution (mp3's) in addition to hyperaccurate sales and play statistics. This gave artists their first real glimpse at the relationships between listeners/buyers and artists' personal income.

Most record labels today simply do not exist: they are "paper" companies that are nothing more than a legal entity created for the purpose of easing the burdens of transferring ownership of musical works.

From an artist/producer perspective, the ideal record company will offer the following:
  1. Access to global markets
  2. Seamless integration of multiple platforms (mobile, web browsers, ???)
  3. Detailed tracking, reporting and statistical analysis (Analytics for your songs)
  4. Tracking of public opinion (Google Alerts)
  5. Turnkey retail (Google Checkout)
  6. Personal/professional network management (LinkedIn)
  7. Facilitate collaboration (Google Wave)
  8. Targeted marketing (AdSense/AdWords)
Apple has done quite well positioning itself in this space, especially given they've also put a hardware platform into the market, too. Although I personally see the iPhone as a transient platform, it has certainly demonstrated the power of "flat" distribution *and* an ability to open markets for music producers.

But the iPhone (and its near-term competitors) are "now" technologies. The future, in my current view, is hardware independent, and its in our interests as creatives to align ourselves with open frameworks that share this philosophy.

The current major media companies, however, demand exclusivity, which in turn forms the basis for our current conundrum: balancing exclusivity with the need to participate in open systems. It will be up to individual producers to choose how they want to interact with these new markets and technologies, and oodles of good datasets will make it easier to make the right choice.

I want Google to be my record company for these reasons:
  1. Google (theoretically) isn't motivated to lie to me about traffic stats,
  2. Google has no interest in *not* paying me,
  3. Google's interest is in facilitating the highest volume of transactions possible (good for me),
  4. Thus, Google's interested in matching my offerings to consumers at the highest possible granularity (good for me)
  5. Google's platform independence means I can seamlessly offer digital files across hardware, anywhere on the globe, via any channel.
You want Google to be my record company for these reasons:
  1. Ease of legitimate purchase. One-click purchase from web-search results means listeners don't have to set up profiles on multiple services (eMusic, iTunes, Amazon, etc).
  2. No DRM.
  3. All offerings as single selections - no requirement to purchase an entire album.
Photos by Alek Buznik and quack1701.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Pink Floyd: Great Gig...if you can get it

Singer Clare Torry talks about the "happy accident" that resulted in one of the greatest vocal solos in pop music.

Worth it for her last few sentences. The takeaway for producers is this: it can really pay to hire professionals.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Production Music Disasters: Winkers

Imagine: It's 1992. You've been up for 14 hours straight editing footage of winking eyes and female asses. The "director" (and his dealer, the "producer") have requested some background music that's "edgy and hip", but also free. So you flip through a few music library CD's you impulse-purchased when you were at The Wherehouse getting the latest Night Ranger. You open the first jewel case you find, "Techno Loops for Porn". Music that was destined to accompany actual nudity and graphic sex is instead drawing potential....victims....into a trancelike state until they have eyes literally staring out their ass.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The persistent sting of defeat

Oh, what a mesh you've made!
Up till now, I'd considered my expectations to be clearly in the bounds of reason. For example, it seemed reasonable to expect a $200-300 piece of equipment to perform what I think to be the most elementary of tasks: bringing two channels of audio into the same world. In my case, a keyboard and microphone.

From a historical perspective, this really isn't new. Ever since Tom Dowd put his mind to it, mixing together distinct sources of audio has been, well....trivial. It's feature #1 on practically any audio (mixing) device.

But for the producers of digital audio interfaces, this is apparently a Whole New World.

My experience with this began almost two(!) years ago, when I noticed a correlation between my audio interface losing digital sync and the throwing of a nearby lightswitch. Over that time (again, based on the assumption that the interface product was designed/functioning correctly, that my problems were mine alone...) I have replaced UPS units 3 times, replaced wall switches, fuses in the fusebox, purchased gold-tipped, insulated cabling, multiple stage power filtering, and finally, am working through a series of different brands of audio interface.

In each and every case, some minor design flaw (yes, flaws, Lexicon/M-Audio/EMU, et al) renders the unit essentially unusable in some capacity.

For the EMU, it's unusable because it's so sensitive to RF interference, it will drop sync when your neighbor turns on their dishwasher. Useless.

For the Lexicon OMEGA, it is incompatible with some models of HP laptops due to the underlying USB chipset. Useless.

1007091714a.jpgAnd now M-Audio's Firewire SOLO, who's updated drivers actually *remove* the most useful feature of the unit[1] (the ability to have both the mic input and SPDIF active AT THE SAME TIME!! [forehead]), will not sync SPDIF with an external unit when connected to a laptop. The reason they give? The laptop's firewire interface needs to have a Texas Instruments chipset to "function correctly."

Notice M-Audio's proposition: it's not their design - it's my laptop.

Bear in mind that all customer support is predicated on the assumption that the product (and associated parts) are functioning perfectly, and the end user is responsible for the proper functioning of peripherals, etc. Remember the Tier 1 Support mantra: update your drivers.

I'll concede that the design process for these devices are fraught with a million details, each one with their own consequences, and part of design is to determine the best possible set of circumstances (like chipsets, signal flow, etc, etc) for each product. But for users (like me), deferring the responsibility of researching and troubleshooting ("Please visit our support forums on our website for fast answers to the most common questions" chimes the unnaturally cheery voice for the umpteenth time...), and ultimately, the cost of finding out what devices are compatible with their individual setups, is a net time-sink, and ultimately, damaging to the manufacturer's brand.


It appears I'm finally at a point of resolution with my technology, but I'm sure this will be short lived. I fear sooner or later another "gotcha" will make itself apparent in some way, and I'll be back at troubleshooting and "figuring it out" instead of producing.

[1] This issue seems to have been resolved by either rebooting the interface module or clicking the 'reset' button on the software control panel. Either way, it's a crapshoot as to whether or not the device will sync on contact or not. Lame.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

This is the video submitted by Rio to the IOC for consideration as the host city for the 2016 Olympic Games.

I think this is very well produced, and I especially like how the music remains very much in the tradition of Brazilian music, does not stray into caricatures of contemporary styles, and remains positive, open, and upbeat the entire time. In a word: Inviting.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Brain Dump: Lexicon Omega and Sonar7

A number of support forums report issues with integrating a Lexicon Omega audio interface with Cakewalk's SONAR software. In many cases, users will see the playback bar moving, but will see no activity on track meters. Here are two reproducible issues that will result in that symptom:
  1. The Lexicon Omega is connected to a USB 1.0 port (an error window will pop up with a message about channel bandwidth),
  2. The ASIO latency is set to the fastest setting (in this case, move the slider bar one notch to the right)
Also common, the "Monitor Mix" knob - the one that looks just like every other knob on the face, (seriously, Lexicon designers - a different colored knob!!!1!eleven!) it needs to be turned all the way to the right.

This unit is apparently much less sensitive (than the EMU 04040 USB) to the RF interference generated when a lightswitch is turned on or off.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Brain Dump: RF and EMI interference in my studio

Continuing from my earlier posts about ongoing power issues in my studio causing my equipment to glitch out, specifically the SPDIF link dropping sync whenever a nearby lightswitch is toggled.

Turns out that practically every lightswitch causes an RF burst when toggled. One of the pieces of equipment (E-MU 0404 USB or Yamaha M08) is incredibly sensitive to this field, and will cause "jitter" or signal loss between the two units.

I know the problem is "in the air" because I've run the two units off a battery UPS and *still* have the glitch - it's not the connected wiring after all.

It appears that many manufacturers employ a ferrite bead to deflect the RF interference, although the Yamaha power supply clearly lacks this feature...not sure why.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Out of my many moods

Early this morning, for some inexplicable reason, I suddenly hear (in the way musicians 'hear' music even in total silence) a melody not repeated since my youth..

"..out of my many moods has grown....wanderingman..... catch me if you can.."

..accompanied by an absolutely haunting melody. Wondering if anyone else in the world has mentioned this band or recording, I query the mighty Google, and behold, blogger Cousin Mike has posted the album online.

This is one of the first records I actually remember listening to - to this day I can recall some of the melodies, chords, and harmonies, and the vinyl disc's distinctive green label with a prominent "Capitol Records" logo.

This is exceptional music.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Amazing Timelapse - Kachi Kalion

Timelapse Film - "Kachi-Kalion Trip" from Animi on Vimeo.

Just a wonderful brain cleanser. Enjoy.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Jamba Juice is a Bad Neighbor

At the moment, it appears the tasty pulp pushers at Jamba Juice have stolen (yes, stolen) the work of one of my favorite social conspirators, David Rees. Rees writes the awesome Get Your War On (before that, it was My New Filing Technique is Unstoppable), which was the work that Jamba Juice's soon-to-be-fired ad agency, Neighbor, stole.

The agency will most likely first claim the images are commercial clip art, and not an infringement. This is bullshit - they used the EXACT same clip art in EXACTLY the same style. I'm a longtime GYWO reader, and the Jamba Juice ripoff looks exactly like Rees' work. Exactly.

I'd have thought Rees had struck a deal with Jamba Juice and was now able to bathe in orange pulp or something.

What can you do?

Send an email to Killeen (She knows everything!) at Neighbor, and contact Jamba Juice corporate at 510.596.0100 x5785. Tell them you think they stole someone's work and demand (yes, DEMAND) some free Jamba. Then write David Rees an email and tell him which flavor you got.

via MeFi.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Brain Dump: CalPERS is suing ratings agencies

California’s credit rating, the lowest of all U.S. states, was cut for the second time in as many weeks amid lawmakers’ failure to close a $26 billion deficit that left the most-populous state issuing IOUs to creditors. Moody’s Investors Service said it lowered California’s credit rating two steps to Baa1 from A2 and said it could be reduced further if legislators don’t quickly address the state’s cash problem.
Bloomberg, July 14th, 2009.

CalPERS filed a lawsuit against the three biggest credit-ratings agencies, accusing them of issuing "wildly inaccurate and unreasonably high" ratings on structured investment vehicles that saddled the California pension fund with at least hundreds of millions of dollars in losses.

The suit, filed last week in California Superior Court in San Francisco by the nation's largest public pension fund, ratchets up the unflattering scrutiny of Moody's Corp.'s Moody's Investors Service, the Standard & Poor's unit of McGraw-Hill Cos. and Fimalac SA's Fitch Ratings over their culpability for the financial crisis.

Wall St. Journal, July 17th, 2009.

CalPERS has yet to publish a public statement regarding the lawsuit. The timing, however, is impeccable, and I'm curious what's at stake in this outcome. On one hand, the ratings agencies have a degree of influence on the cost of borrowing money - on the other, CalPERS may have opened the door for legal discovery, a process that typically uncovers all kinds of malfeasant treasures.

I think CalPERS has the upper hand here - the ratings agencies are the ones with something to hide, and PERS has the legal power to uncover it.

What do you think?

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

iTunes and CD TEXT data: FAIL

Filed under: What were they thinking!

The last hour or so has been wasted by banging my head against the wall trying to figure out why iTunes (and Windows Media Player, for that matter) wouldn't recognize the track information I'd burned to the CD (a dataset called CD TEXT). What's *completely* annoying as a music producer is that iTunes ignores by design(!!) this basic set of data. It's a lot of information, and I hate (HATE!) systemic redundancies, especially "there's GOT to be a way to do this!" timewasters like this one.

I cannot fathom, other than OMG PIRATZ!1!, what the engineers were thinking when they ignored even the option to import CD data from the CD TEXT fields.

FAIL for shame, Apple.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Groove Addicts behind The Goode Family

Following up on my post about music licensing and television royalties being the primary economic engines for producers, here's a video clip from Groove Addict's YouTube channel giving a bit of insight into how they produce the unique sound of ABC's The Goode Family.

Top Gear Goes Home

BBC America's Top Gear visits Inyokern, California.

Where the money is right now

Maman also made sure that MTV credited him so that people would know exactly who to call when they heard the tune — a shrewd move that ensured the song would continue to pay dividends long after the first airing.
The bottom line is that connecting with music supervisors is more important than ever. They're the ones who are going to get your songs on TV and commercials, and that's where the money is right now from upfront fees and royalties.
Elie Maman in Mix Online.

A couple of years ago, I posed the question: Are ad agencies the new record labels? My answer today is "Not really". Ad agencies answer to their clients, and to have an in-house label would create a potential conflict of interest (a point driven home by Eric Korte in this clip). I would say, however, that ad agencies have complemented (or co-opted, depending on how you look at it) one traditional function of record labels, which was the testing and "breaking" of new music.

Critics can bemoan "selling out" all they want - this is the reality for music producers and artists.

Last point: the detail about getting an onscreen credit being the trigger for royalty payments. IANAL, so I'm not sure if that's actually a devil-in-the-details fact, but nonetheless, I urge all music producers to have an entertainment attorney in their camp.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Garibaldi paints a mouse

Long time acquaintance David Garibaldi recently signed with a certain Mr. Mouse, so he can now use these icons in his show.

Absolutely outstanding work, David. To paraphrase another character, you're in a whole new world. :)

Sunday, June 21, 2009

The Poop Toilet

Virginia's Toilet / Virginia Gardiner / The Bathroom Reinvented / Dwell from gary nadeau on Vimeo.

Virginia Gardiner is a design student in London. She's working on a zero net-energy system of waste management/conversion/output based on human excretions. This is very important work, and while a bit hard to......digest....really interesting thinking.

Hat tip to Gary Nadeau who sent me the link.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Oh How I Love The Wierd

According to 'internet sources', The Doors keyboardist Ray Manzarek plays on this. Mr Yankovic, you have my complete admiration and respect.


A bit overwhelmed at the moment . Too many pots on the stove, so to speak. Having a lot of trouble figuring out "What's the best thing I can be doing right now?"

I think I take on too much because it excites me, but I get bogged down once in a while with details because details don't really feel like accomplishments. Coming up with a great idea? Accomplishment. Feeling stupid because I can't figure out some of the details to make it work? Not such a good feeling...

I've got "projects" all over the map - developing a web concept, trying to finish compositions for my library, finding more work, *closing* the deals, cleaning my studio/closet/equipment bins, backup my data(!), the list goes on and on.

On some days, the goals seem obvious, but recently, they seem almost like distractions. I have five hundred things to do, but only enough time and resources to complete two. Four hundred ninety-eight undone things weigh heavily on me.

How do *you* cope when overwhelmed by "gotta do's?"

Thursday, June 11, 2009's Dave Olson

Dave Olson (a dood I follow on Twitter) talks about (Disclosure: is using cues from my music library.)

Friday, June 5, 2009

Brain Dump: Lake Berryessa, California

Lake Berryessa by Telstar

Lake Berryessa, CA (Google Maps) is one of the state's largest freshwater reservoirs, and until 2008, was one of Northern California's most popular recreation areas. Monticello Dam, at the lake's southernmost end, provides electricity to PG&E's customers, and water to the Solano Irrigation District (food.) Due to California's ongoing drought, however, reservoir levels continue to decline.

Lake Berryessa's 160+ miles of coastline hosted over twenty resorts (only a few are open now, and under a temporary agreement, at that...). Of specific interest is the Spanish Flats resort, which is my personal favorite, and the impetus for all this research.

Spanish Flats operated under a (fifty year) lease agreement with the Bureau of Reclamation, and that lease expired recently. According to an inspection report prepared by BoR, many of the resort's basic infrastructure and services (like, sewage treatment, potable water, electricity, etc) were highly stressed or in poor repair:
There is one evaporation pond. The pond is oval, approximately 45’ wide and 150’ long. Weeds are prevalent throughout the pond. There was an excess amount of algae and odor observed during our inspection. The mister spray system has been disconnected, possibly due to the high winds at this location and the potential for human contact by the wastewater. The maintenance man did not know where the pond inlet was located. A plugged AC pipe was the only potential inlet pipe that we could find. The wastewater retention pond is undersized for the current resort wastewater is not disinfected, and the potential for human pathogenic contact is very high.
Napa County prepared a good summary (PDF) of some of the issues with Spanish Flats (at least, in the County's eyes):
Commercial services in these communities have diminished since the 1970s, even though the lake itself and shoreline areas leased by the BOR to concessionaires continue to attract recreational users year-round.

...under-utilized parcels zoned for commercial use, and others zoned for multi-family residential (affordable or workforce) housing. Property owners have not shown an interest in building-out these permitted uses, perhaps due to infrastructure costs.

...Within the next few years, the BOR will negotiate new concession agreements for resorts within its jurisdiction, potentially changing the character and clientele of some of the resorts.
One of the companies BOR is negotiating with is Pensus Group, a company that manages several lakeside resorts all over the US. (including a resort on Lake Powell, which as you can see from this series of NASA images, is not doing too well...) Pensus was actually awarded a contract, but objections to a legal stipulation requiring all site upgrades to be removed (like water piping, roads, sewage, etc) have impeded the development process:
More recently, resort owners have been told they must remove every improvement made to the properties since the original contracts were signed. This includes buildings, water and sewage systems, and even the blacktop roads through the resorts.
Lucero said before a new tenant can take over the resorts, the current properties must be cleared. Pensus, for example, plans to build hotels, day-use areas, restaurants and other improvements, he said.
Source: Danny Bernardini, The Reporter, Vacaville
A question that comes to mind has to do with eminent domain. Specifically, could the State of California make an eminent domain claim to Lake Berryessa, thus relieved the Federal Gov't of management/policy/oversight, and returning it to some degree of local control? Would that benefit the state and citizens demonstrably? Would it be worth the effort and frustration? Wikipedia says:
The U.S. Supreme Court has consistently deferred to right of states to make their own determinations of public use. For instance, in 1832 the Supreme Court ruled that eminent domain could be used to allow a mill owner to expand his dam and operations by flooding an upstream neighbor. The court opinion stated that a public use does not have to mean public occupation of the land; it can mean a public benefit.[3] In Clark vs. Nash (1905), the Supreme Court acknowledged that different parts of the country have unique circumstances and the definition of public use thus varied with the facts of the case. It ruled a farmer could expand his right-of-way (here an irrigation ditch from a river) across another farmer's land (with compensation), because that farmer was entitled to the "the flow of the waters of the said Fort Canyon Creek... and the uses of the said waters... [is] a public use." Here in recognizing the arid climate and geography of Utah, the Court indicated the farmer not adjacent to the river had as much right as the farmer who was, to access the waters.[4] However, until the 14th Amendment was ratified in 1868, the limitations on eminent domain specified in the Fifth Amendment applied only to the federal government and not to the states. That view ended in 1896 when in the Chicago B. & Q. Railroad v. Chicago case the court held that the eminent domain provisions of the Fifth Amendment were incorporated in the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and thus were now binding on the states. This was the beginning of what is known as the "selective incorporation" doctrine.
But that doesn't fully answer the question: Can a State invoke eminent domain and seize property *from* the Federal Gov't?

And why would we go through all that trouble?

Thursday, June 4, 2009

This one time....

Really engrossing look at a music academy in South Africa. What strikes me is how similar these kids are to the ones I experienced when I attended summer music camps. I'm not sure what that says about humans with intrinsic musical aptitude, if it says anything at all.

If nothing else, you get some good 'this one time, at band camp' stories.

Part II.

The Beatles and a video game

I'm a sucker for The Beatles.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

The HBO Dance

A testament to the power of music, and specifically the classic music that accompanied practically every HBO movie for 20(?) years. What a profound and interesting phenomenon.

For more background, watch this video on the making of the HBO Feature Presentation introduction sequence.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Aretha Franklin - Today I sing the blues

Via Baby Grandpa comes a fascinating bit of music history.

The sum of the story is probably better told by Ile Oxumare, but I'll summarize quickly here:

One of Aretha's first labels tries putting her voice into several genres of music - 'molding the artist' if you will - but, ultimately, Aretha switches labels and goes on to huge stardom.

This first label then takes this earlier recording, strips all the music, and re-records with 'up-to-date' styles, using some actually talented musicians in the process. The result is this album.

Tracks 2 and 4 are really treats. This is something you're just *not* going to hear anywhere else. A few megabytes of disk space is all you need.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Vendor Client Relationship

So true.

via DangerousMeta.

In the wild: Lindsay Wagner Meditation Music

Earlier this year, I was approached by producers at Allplanet Interactive to create some "Enya-like" music for a CD project they were working on.

Not knowing who the end client was (but I do trust the folks at AP), I submitted some samples and a bid sheet, thinking they'd simply license a few existing music library tracks and be on their way.

Instead, I received a phone call from Lindsay Wagner (yes, *the* Lindsay Wagner), asking if I'd be willing to compose music to accompany her guided meditations, creating an incredibly unique, signature collection for her.

Umm, YES!

Five weeks later, after countless emails, phone calls, late night listening sessions, and unknown quantities of chai tea, "Open to Oneness" was approved for manufacture, and is now available via her website.

This collection represents a different sound and style than any of my six existing listeners may be familiar with, and it took a bit of opening of my own mind and heart to compose. I encourage you to open your own heart and mind and give this collection a spin.

Blast from the Past: Simon Wilkinson

Years ago I was a regular in a community called FutureProducers. Another member was Simon Wilkinson, aka TheBlueMask. I recall thinking rather highly of his work, and made a point to bookmark him.

Time has passed, and though we've fallen out of touch, I checked in with him today to find that he's had some great luck, with one of his cues being placed in national promos for FOX's seminal series, "24."

Congrats, Simon.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Retailing MP3's on Amazon

Anyone retailing their music on Amazon? I found a service called CreateSpace that will apparently help get one's Amazon store online, but I want to know if anyone else is using it and how they feel about it so far. I'd love to think people out there would buy tracks (for listening, not licensing) - maybe even enough to buy some groceries.

What say ye?

In the wild: Library cuts

MovieSet is using a couple cues from my music library as beds in their ongoing behind the scenes film blog.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Help: Electrical Problems

I need some help from the electrical and journeyman geeks out there. As previously documented, I'm having some ongoing electrical issues in my office/studio. It seems whenever a switch is thrown, either in my unit or an adjoining one, a noise spike of some kind travels down my electrical wires. The momentary glitch is sufficient to cause my audio system to drop sync, resulting in annoying (and time consuming) digital noise.

I really need some insight here. Theoretically (and this has been tested in a basic way) the power systems in each unit are physically isolated. I cannot see how this can be the case, because I can document voltage spikes when a neighbor flicks a lightswitch on and off. Shutting off overall power at the junction box seems to indicate the systems are indeed isolated.

At some point, these lines are physically connected, I just don't know where. But it has to be in such a way that a light switch (or in some cases, ceiling fans) causes a noticeable spike/dip in line noise/voltage in an adjoining system.

What can I do to mitigate this???

Photo by ajft.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

In the wild: Not As Good As You Think

NAGAYT Final Trailer from Nicholas Tucker on Vimeo.

This is the trailer for Not As Good As You Think: The Myth of the Middle Class School, a doc project that commissioned an original soundtrack from me. I accepted an invitation to see the doc's San Francisco screening, an experience that can be harrowing for any artist (if they care about their work). In my experience so far, the 'exec' screening is maybe a dozen people, more if there's cast there too. Imagine my surprise when I see almost two hundred people in attendance (on a Tuesday night!!). I was happy to see the attending audience respond well to the screening - I may have heard clapping, too.

A few interesting things I learned tonight:
  • Renting a theater (sometimes called "four-walling") can be inexpensive...from just a few hundred dollars (ok, so it's for Wednesdays at ten in the morning...) to a nice pile ("thoouuuuuusands" intones the manager) for a weekend or holiday night.
  • When screening in said theater, ALWAYS have a 1/8th stereo-to-RCA cable.
  • Amtrak really needs to have people with better English skills piloting their coaches around. I got love for my lately-naturalized brothers and sisters. Welcome to your new home! Repay the kindness by making sure your English is game-tight when it comes to the responsibility of dispensing specific information (like, bus departure locations grrr!!!?@$@?) That way, I'll never stand you up, Amtrak.
  • Amtrak is absolutely the BEST way to travel between Sac and SF (the Capitol Corridor).

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

This song is for you

This Song is for You (mp3)
(c) 2009 Jeremiah Jacobs
All Rights Reserved.

Guitars by Jeff J Findley.

Reviews in the comments. If you want to post on a site that needs a shorter URL, use this one:

Photo by steena.

Students can license music too

Photo by: Brent Weischel

As I'm watching the demo-reel channel on Vimeo, I'm struck by how many members are using unlicensed (obviously!) music in their demo reels. I'm all for having emotional attachments to music, and can even empathize with the impulse to pay a kind of tribute to those works by incorporating them into my own. However, I'd like to see more directors reaching out directly to composers and musicians rather than simply co-opting a favorite Radiohead song.

In my opinion (and I'm willing to hear other voices here) a director looking to establish a unique impression on viewers is better served with completely original music, versus something better known. I'm sure there are exceptions, but I think it's in everyone's long term interests to establish productive artistic relationships. It's also easy - the days of artists being unreachable are long gone.

What say ye, directors and producers? Do you prefer to obtain music without interacting with musicians? Too much time/work to produce? License?

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Brain Dump: Digital noise with SONAR Producer Edition

da boardI'm still having issues with digital noise (or static, depending on how you interpret the sound) and dropout on my SPDIF connection.

I know for a fact I've got serious electrical problems, and I'd love to be able to afford a power conditioner just to see if that solves the problem. My Yamaha synth (M08) seems to be stable - it appears the EMU 0404 USB is the problem child. I did recently update the hardware drivers for the EMU, but that has not changed its behavior.

The main symptom is digital noise (static, or crackling) that occurs randomly during SPDIF recording (done in realtime from the keyboard...). It seems the EMU unit is dropping digital sync for some reason - my suspicion is noise in the AC power. The killer is I can't hear this until I playback the recorded track.

Usually, I just cycle the power on the synth and the 0404, and I can continue recording without problems....until the next AC pop comes over the lines...

..but this is really annoying. And time consuming.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Brain Dump: Aphids and Artichoke Plants

Spring gardening I attempted to deal with an aphid problem on my artichoke plants, and tried a couple "organic" methods. One one plant, I used a simple mixture of vegetable oil, dish soap, and water. That plant survived.

On this plant, however, I tried adding a bit of vinegar and mineral oil, and as you can see, it completely burned this poor plant. The aphids have not least not in their previous numbers, but the plant's growth has been seriously inhibited.

Live, learn.....etc.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Brain Dump: Controlling aphids in your garden

Aphids: What I've learned so far:
  • Aphids love my artichoke plants.
  • Keep your plants dry by watering the ground, not the plants
  • Don't water during the afternoon (if you can avoid it)
  • A solution of 1 cup veg oil, 1 tsp dishsoap, 1 tsp vinegar, 1tsp wood oil. I dissolved this in water (enough to make the difference in a spray bottle).
  • Spray on affected area.
  • The ants and aphids will die in minutes.
I'll let you know how this goes.
Photo by wwigins.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Blogger templates and Google Analytics

Quick note to myself: when updating Blogger templates, don't forget to re-insert your Google Analytics code...otherwise it looks like nobody visits you. Ever.

Monday, March 16, 2009

In the wild: NYT Opinion Online

Some of my cues have made it to the NYT's Opinion section on their website.

I'm still quite fond of the novelty of seeing/hearing my work 'in the wild', as it were...

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Wanted: DIY WiFi soil meter

I'm trying to put together a basic soil sensor: moisture and pH, that will report it's data via wifi/twitter. There are some commercial options, but I want a DIY version (for the sake of experimentation.)

Basically, I want to install a probe in my garden soil that periodically measures temperature, moisture, and pH, then sends that data via wifi to either an email, twitter, or some electronic means, where I can do historical collection/analysis.

Adding a GPS later down the line would be neat if the system were to be distributed.

Big picture: a Google Maps mashup with probe locations and realtime soil data, as well as trending (ala Google Finance.)

Any ideas?

update: Botanicalls has a great kit, but how can I make it solar/wifi?

Friday, March 13, 2009

Brain Dump: BizAdSplash Pyramid Scam

This is a general research brain-dump, and otherwise completely unrelated to my normal blogging topics.

This is regarding a company (currently) known as "". BAS is an 'auto surf' scam, and should be avoided by everyone. Same goes for any company who's 'business model' involves 'click for cash' schemes.

First, let's understand what we're talking about. A Ponzi scheme (or pyramid scheme) is defined thusly:

A Ponzi scheme is a fraudulent investment operation that pays returns to investors from their own money or money paid by subsequent investors rather than from profit. The term "Ponzi scheme" is used primarily in the United States , while other English-speaking countries do not distinguish colloquially between this scheme and other pyramid schemes.[1]

The Ponzi scheme usually offers abnormally high short-term returns in order to entice new investors. The perpetuation of the high returns that a Ponzi scheme advertises and pays requires an ever-increasing flow of money from investors in order to keep the scheme going.

The system is destined to collapse because the earnings, if any, are less than the payments. Usually, the scheme is interrupted by legal authorities before it collapses because a Ponzi scheme is suspected or because the promoter is selling unregistered securities. As more investors become involved, the likelihood of the scheme coming to the attention of authorities increases.

The US DOJ has already determined the following businesses were Ponzi schemes, and has successfully convicted at least one of the operators, Andy Bowdoin.

AdSurfDaily/ASDCashgenerator/Golden Panda

You can view the DOJ's website here. The DOJ is offering remuneration to victims of these companies.

The "business model" for these companies was essentially the same: promises of high payouts for buying into an advert system. As with most Ponzi's, the first people "in" were paid, spoke highly of the program to recruit others, then fell apart months later as the operation scaled beyond a crash point.

The connection to catch here is Golden Panda. From the Georgia Secretary of State, we find out Golden Panda was closed in September 08, and had been registered to a Mr. Clarence Busby.

Clarence Busby is believed to be the founder of Golden Panda and Biz Ad Splash. (Update: A BAS rep has indicated Busby is not a founder, but an "advisor.")

Biz Ad Splash has been in business for exactly two months (their system went live 12/25 according to several internet forums.) (Note: Yes, I recognize the difference between being incorporated (Sept 08?) and 'operational', which is what I mean in this case.)

The company is allegedly incorporated in PANAMA, but as I cannot locate a SINGLE email address, phone number, or article of incorporation, I cannot verify this.

This lawfirm is handling a class-action lawsuit against Mr. Busby, his associate Andy Bowdoin, and their (former) companies. (Specifically, attorney Lisa Fialco is handling the case.)

This group has been tracking the case(s) against Andy Bowdoin's companies. The history of these men is just unbelievable. (Patrick Pretty's work is pretty thorough, IMHO.)

It seems they target church groups with pretty startling regularity.

Bottom line: if anything even sounding remotely like this "business model" comes your way, do not get involved with it.

The First Twenty

Catching up with an acquaintance today, the conversation turned to productivity, specifically talking about email. I'd lamented that I have a somewhat low retention for information during busy spells. Then he shares with me something he learned from one of his mentors. He calls it "The First Twenty."

"The First Twenty" describes the first twenty minutes of your day after waking up. Many of us impulsively check our email/Twitter/Facebook within minutes of waking, and this is actually a pretty dumb thing to do. It's better, says my friend, to wait at least 20 minutes before beginning mental tasks. It gives your brain time to wash out the 'sleep serum' in your head, and become completely awake before having to deal with memory or process.

I'm told it's really one of the easiest habits to get into, and he swears by it.

What say ye, faithful reader(s)?

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Reliable Hard Drive? No such thing.

Hitsville asks: "..I need a reliable 1TB ext drive..Anyone have a recommendation?"

I have the Western Digital MyBooks around my studio...I like the eSATA connections.

In my experience, hard drives suffer about the same failure rate across the board. The difference in impact to your life has to do with your backup plan. For a TB of data, the only really economic plan is to duplicate. Simply stated, buy two.

My techie friends are welcome to chime in.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Software by Subscription

You know that $800 software package you just bought? Yeah, they came out with a new version recently - and you only need $400 more this time to get it. The version you paid for and actually 'own?' Well, they went ahead and fixed all the flaws with that product, and now you can have the REAL product you paid for - only a %100 markup.

How about this?

I bought a car last year. New model. Lots of features. Some I don't use (self washing windows?). This year, the manufacturer came out with the new model, and much to my surprise, they've decided to include windshields on the new ones. Apparently, many of their earlier customers complained about the wind. Oh, and the engine actually starts in the newest line.

They're not upgrading the previous models, though, but customers can buy a new model for retail price. And they're discontinuing support on the old cars (as a cost savings to ME!).

It's time for software-as-subscription. I cannot justify the expense of buying Adobe's suite every year, seeing as how I use the products in about 5% of my projects. Dreamweaver is open for about 10 hours a month.

So I'm looking for a service that allows me to pay-as-I-go for software use. I want the latest, patched, software every time i open it. I do NOT ever again want to be confronted with a popup reminding me the version of software i BOUGHT is now obsolete. Software is a black-hole money sink for many businesses - if not in upgrade costs, then in support costs.

The technology is off-the-shelf to distribute this service (Drupal?), so it's really just a question of management inertia. I predict the first company in this space will win. (Google Docs?)

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

FF to 3:27 to hear a cue from my library "Dark Theme" used. Runs for almost two minutes.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Not an Atheist - an Alltheist

An idea that's been in my head for some time - thought I'd drop it here and see what the reaction is.

For a great while, I've been uncomfortable with the term "atheist", specifically the inherent negativity of the concept - a denial of an assertion (in this case, the existence of "God" in a Judeo-Xtian sense of the word). In some ways, to assert a negative is an intellectual fail-safe: because a negative cannot be proven in logical sense, asserting a negative frees one from the burden of logical defense.

While I may not subscribe to any singular religious ideology, I am certainly comfortable with the reality that other human beings do. And I'm secure enough in my own convictions I'm not threatened by the presence of someone who may not share those same convictions.

So I needed a new idea - a new word or concept that communicates how it is I can balance seemingly disparate (and fundamental) concepts. Hence, "alltheist."

An Alltheist is someone who accepts unconditionally and without reservation the possibility that God exists in all forms simultaneously.

It's a much better concept, IMHO. An Alltheist is accepting, encompassing, and inclusive. All the things an Atheist is not. And, being a new word, it comes without the cultural baggage of "atheist."

Note: I see the Urban Dictionary has an entry for "alltheist", although I find their definition to be a derisive dig about a social phenomenon, as opposed to my lofty and highfalutin philosophical motives.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Where do dead passwords go?

What happens to your login password when you cancel a membership on a website?

I know that in some places, data retention laws require the user/pass to be stored for some period of time.

I'm curious about the overall safety of user information when in this state of limbo - unuseable and inaccessible to the entities who presumably created/own that information, but of great interest to parties of less-than-benevolent motives?

Any sysadmins out there care to comment?

Friday, January 2, 2009

Screaming in a datacenter

Apparently, screaming at your hard drives will cause a change in their performance.

In other news, sound carries 'energy.' Who knew?

Scratch off gently with coin.

I see this phrase on lottery tickets and the now-ubiquitous gift-cards. I wonder what it says about our relationship with hard currency and a perception of value. Think about it: your physical currency (in this case, coins) is reduced to mere implement. Implicit in this suggestion is the idea the coin has less value than the series of numbers beneath the 'security area.'

I've yet to see a card who's suggestion was "Rub with fingernail" or simply "Scratch off". Is this verbiage deliberate? A natural consequence of economic realities?

What say ye, faithful readers?