Saturday, July 29, 2006

Nothing's ever easy

The computer has been worrying me a bit lately. There have been a couple of occasions lately when instead of starting up like normally, the screen just stayed dark and multiple beeps were heard. According to an Apple support document, this points to bad RAM, but a run-through with the Apple hardware test CD showed nothing out of the ordinary.

I had put a piece of foam behind the computer to dampen the sound from the fan, and thinking this was the problem, I removed it. The issues seemed to stop, though admittedly, I don't restart it often enough to do exhaustive comparative testing. In any case, I noticed a much stranger problem today when I booted it up after having it unhooked since we were having some electricity wires, uh, rewired; it booted with the sound turned to 11, literally. The sound was much louder than I've ever heared it go normally. Playing around a bit with the volume seemed to fix it, but then when I tried to play an MP3 the volume went right back up through the roof.

Tricky.

So I started thinking: what had I done recently, had I changed anything? Yes. I had changed the resolution of the screen. Reboot, change resolution. Haven't seen any of the previously mentioned problems yet.

Of course, that makes no sense that just changing the resolution would have such a drastic effect on the system. But who knows? Changing the resolution also changes the frequency that the screen updates, so maybe the new lower frequence just gave off some "bad vibes"...

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Japanese choir music redux

If you don't know what this is about, here's the previous post about it.

I've now also uploaded the videos to Google video, where the audio-video synchronization is much better.

View video 1, view video 2.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Searching for treasure

I took a slight tumble down the stairs to the basement just now. My foot just slipped out and I fell right on my ass. (Well, slightly more on the right side.)

But that's not what I wanted to talk about.

One of the really cool things about growing up on an old big farm was that there was always a lot of stuff around. Having lots of outhouses meant lots of storage room for whatever, and being far away from the nearest trash-container meant that much of what would in normal cases get tossed away was just put on a shelf, in a closet or wherever.

Like this old breathing protector, for instance.I remember playing with this when I was a kid, and it popped up in my mind again recently. I think I also have a pair of protective goggles somewhere, so with that I'd only need a white coat to have a "scientist" outfit.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Acoustics

I visited a local audio-gear dealer in the week, and found that they had no studio monitors at all in the store! Though they did have a catalogue you could have them order stuff from. There was the previously mentioned Studiopro 3 speakers and the Studiophile DX4, which is basically the same as the Studiopro 4 except for having a couple of extra audio-in connections and being 20€ more expensive. I asked them to check if the Studiopro 4 speakers were available; hopefully they'll be able to get them.

Having investigated a couple of audio forums in search of recommendations for budget audio monitors, I've also come across much info about the importance of acoustics treatment for your listening environment. The most hard-core of audiophiles say that it's just as, if not more important to have the right surroundings as the right audio gear.

One of the biggest names in the acoustics-scene is Ethan Winer (puns about the name being suitable comes to mind), who runs Realtraps, a company making products specifically for absorbing various frequencies.

Here are some pictures from Winer's own livingroom.All those big white things hanging everywhere are various kinds of traps for absorbing problem frequencies.Crazy.
The more basstraps you have in a room, the flatter and tighter the low-end will be. It really is that simple.
Very well if you run the company making them, but regular people probably won't be able to invest hundreds to thousands of dollars in their listening/recording room.

If you have the time/interest, check out the instructional videos they have to see how serious these guys are.

Friday, July 21, 2006

My last glass of aspartame Coke?

Indeed, it seems as if an era has come to its end. The old-style aspartame-sweetened Coca-Cola light has all but disappeared, now replaced with sucralose. I started facing the music and resigned myself to seeing a bottle of the 'new' Coke light being bought. I haven't opened it yet, as I'm having the last of the old Coke light this evening.

But reading up on sucralose, I have found indications that most artificial sweeteners, aspartame and sucralose included, might be bad for your health. So I'm thinking I can take this opportunity to look around for a new favourite soft-drink unless I get used to the new Coke light.

***
A picture from today. I was out observing when I saw this tree with a weird outgrowth.The image isn't that good, there was a ditch in-between, so I had to take it at a distance, but I'm going to go out again and venture out into the forrest and get a better picture.

I also got myself a Flickr account, where I going to put some pictures. (Seems like the biggest size you can view is 1024x768. If I'd known that I would have resized the images before uploading, thereby saving some of my monthly upload capacity.) If you ever lack motivation to take pictures, just go and explore the Interestingness-section.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

When Nature goes Bad

I was scraping off a wall of an outhouse today in preparation for it being painted, when I spotted a bumblebee.

Bumblebees are friendly, aren't they.

"Hello, bumblebee."

But this came a bit too close for comfort. It started buzzing around me like crazy, and when I moved position it came after me.

"Gah, what are you doing! Get away from me!"

So I started swatting after it with the scraper, eventually fending him off. Turns out they had some sort of bumblebee-nest there in the wall, and apparently they didn't like me banging on the wall.

But not long after that incident I was struck again. I had continued my scraping, though a bit more carefully now so as to not anger the flying bulls. Suddenly, I felt something drop onto my head. Felt like rain, but the sky was clear. Oh crap.

"Dad, is it..?"

"Yep..."

"No..!"

"Bird-shit."

Oh crap.

I took that as a sign that mother nature didn't want me to do anything else for today.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Demons

I dreamt something pretty incredible the other night.

I was back in the upper level of compulsory school (ages 13-15), I don't know which grade it was. One of the class dickheads was being a dickhead as usual, but then I got up from my seat, went right up to him and yelled in his face to "shut the fuck up!" (Roughly translated. I don't recall the exact wording.) Completely without repercussions.

To put that bit into perspective, whenever I've had dreams concerning my tormentors from the past, it always saw me in a state of helpless victimization, so this kind of scene was a major departure from the norm.

It reminded me of "Demons" by Fatboy Slim and Macy Gray.
All of your demons will wither away
Ecstasy comes and they cannot stay
You'll understand when you come my way
Coz all of my demons have withered away
I should search out that CD.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Another candidate

Continuing the search for something approaching decent speakers, I've come across the M-Audio Studiopro line (3 & 4s).

M-Audio Studiopro 3

M-Audio Studiopro 4s
They are both a bit more expensive than the Behringer MS16s (89€ for the Studiopro 3, 159€ for the Studiopro 4s, compared to 68€ for the MS16 at Thomann.de), but I do seem to find more info/reviews for the M-Audio speakers. The 4s' are even a featured accessory for Garageband on the Apple page.

I also found a pair of headphones that looked alright, the Behringer HPS3000 for only 19.30€.If I got the Behringer speakers, I could probably pick up the headphones too for the extra dough, as opposed to blowing it all on the speakers.

Though I've come across some bad reviews for all of the products, I guess that's sort of a calculated risk with bottom-of-the-line equipment.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

A candidate

I've found a pretty good candidate for my speaker purchase with the Behringer MS16's. Affordable, seems to do the job, even though they're far from pro-level. But in this instance the price is what does it. A pair of good-enough speakers at under-100€?

The next step is to see if any local dealers have them, and perhaps I can muster up enough courage to ask to listen to some other speakers too. It would be interesting to see how real studio monitors sound.

The main idea is to find something better than the built-in speakers in the eMac. Which shouldn't be too hard since they're pretty bad...

Saturday, July 15, 2006

New profile image

The old profile image was a bit outdated, so I thought I'd change it to something more current. (I might be able to get it even better, in which case I will change it again.)

***
Yesterday evening I watched The Fearless Vampire Killers by/starring Roman Polanski, a surprisingly funny movie. Seeing that it hasn't yet come out on DVD makes me wish I had taped it.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Sucralose

The Coca-Cola company recently changed their formula for Coca-Cola light (aka Diet Coke) in Finland, and it seems in many other countries too, to include the sweetener sucralose instead of aspartame, which was used before.The change in taste is obvious from the first time you taste it. Long story short, it just doesn't taste as good. I found a very good review of the new Coke Light (though in Swedish) that describes very well the issues I have with it.
It's very easy to feel the difference between the two, they taste very differently. The old kind has sort of a sour and sharp taste in comparison to the new, but it also tastes very little of sweetener. The new kind is clearly sweeter, but the sweet taste also brings its evil twin, the unpleasant taste of sweetener. And this is the big question. Is it worth the unpleasant taste of sweetener, just to get a sweeter soda? We say NO! One of the advantages of the old Coca-Cola light is that it isn't so sweet. That way it becomes a better thirst-quencher, and you can drink just about as much as you want. The sweeter the soda is, the faster you get tired of it.
-Fulcola, Coca-Cola light (Sucralose), rough translation
You can probably get used to it, but the current plan is to buy the old kind for as long as I can.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Weeding

I've been going around a bit in the strawberry garden, trying to rip out weeds from there. Of course there is no way I could ever hope to finish such an endeavour, but I've conceded to merely doing as good as I can.

One of the more evil plants I've had the displeasure of acquainting myself with is this (a thistle according to more knowledgeable people):Indeed, it is a plant consisting of pure evil. It is covered in sharp thorns that you will need more than just regular gloves to stop (I suspect you would need dragon-hide gloves to get any kind of grip on them).And the long roots makes it near-impossible to get them completely uprooted.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Gah. (Heat brings bugs.)

Holy moly, it's hot. As soon as you sit down the sweat sticks your ass to the chair.

The heat also makes the flies giddy, causing them to buzz around incessantly. Since the heat gets me off my fly-swatting game, my kill average has gone down drastically. (Just know I missed the same fly three times in a row when trying to hit it.)

A curious thing is that after a long time of chasing flies around, I still seem to "hear" some sort of buzzing even though I'm pretty sure there's none in the vicinity. I guess it comes from having focused my ears for so long for that sound that when it's removed an 'echo' of it still remains. (Perhaps a bit like the phantom limb phenomenon?)

A black bug started to attack me (it flew towards me menacingly), so I had to smack him down and punish him for his insolence.

Sensitive readers might want to stop at this point.

This is where one of my old friends, the electric swatter, comes in. It's probably wrong to say so, but I would be lying if I said it hadn't brought its share of amusement, not to say variety, to my bug-chasing. Due to my long, shall we say, "history", with the black bugs, I always approached their "treatment", so to speak, with great enthusiasm. Even a quick touch of the electric swatter is enough to throw a bug completely off. (After that, you have the choice of either moving on to other appliances or continuing with the electric, depending on your time and the availability of other instruments.) Of course you can then apply it wherever you please on the insect, but most of the time, if you just shock it quickly first, then turn it on its back and put the swatter on top of it, it will then kling its legs onto the swatter. If you then activate it, the bug will clench its legs even tighter onto the conductive bars, making for an easy incapacitation of it.

Now, I don't want you thinking I'm some kind of psychopathic insect-torturer (though I guess some might be of that opinion no matter what), it's not towards all bugs that I hold this great disliking. I'd say that it's up to two factors: 1) how common the insect is, and 2) what level of annoyance the species is in my life. I tend to have a more favourable attitude towards insects that merely stick to theirs, such as bumblebees and butterflies. (Yes, I do realise that this logic is flawed since the insects probably don't make a conscious effort to intrude into my personal space.) Flies are everywhere during summer, and they easily enter the house and prove to be a great source of annoyance, with their all-too-noticable buzzing and trodding all over food-stuffs. The black bugs might be a bit harder to understand for someone who hasn't lived around here, but they are also make their presence known, scratching around inside the walls during night, running around the basement, seeing one or two running for cover as soon as the shower is turned on. You might also have heard about the time I awoke from a nap to find one right next to me on my pillow (which was quite a shock).

Simplify?

There was recently a story on Slashdot about a push for simplifying spelling of words in English to reflect how they're actually pronounced.

No need to say that it's stupid, everyone sane probably knows that.

But in one of the comments was something I found really funny...
The European Commission has just announced an agreement whereby English will be the official language of the European Union rather than German, which was the other possibility.

As part of the negotiations, the British Government conceded that English spelling had some room for improvement and has accepted a 5- year phase-in plan that would become known as "Euro-English".

In the first year, "s" will replace the soft "c". Sertainly, this will make the sivil servants jump with joy. The hard "c" will be dropped in favour of "k". This should klear up konfusion, and keyboards kan have one less letter. There will be growing publik enthusiasm in the sekond year when the troublesome "ph" will be replaced with "f". This will make words like fotograf 20% shorter.

In the 3rd year, publik akseptanse of the new spelling kan be expekted to reach the stage where more komplikated changes are possible. Governments will enkourage the removal of double letters which have always ben a deterent to akurate speling. Also, al wil agre that the horibl mes of the silent "e" in the languag is disgrasful and it should go away.

By the 4th yer people wil be reseptiv to steps such as replasing "th" with "z" and "w" with "v".

During ze fifz yer, ze unesesary "o" kan be dropd from vords kontaining "ou" and after ziz fifz yer, ve vil hav a reil sensibl riten styl. Zer vil be no mor trubl or difikultis and evrivun vil find it ezi tu understand ech oza. Ze drem of a united urop vil finali kum tru.

Und efter ze fifz yer, ve vil al be speking German like zey vunted in ze forst plas.
-How English becomes German

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Latest musical offering

Ourmedia seems to be having some problems, but the latest piece is available directly from Archive.org if you want to risk exposure to it. In a rave review by my brother it was called "repetitive".

In any case, I have some serious confidence issues when it comes to piano-playing in general, and composing in particular. I know I've just started, but when I find something I enjoy I just want to become really good really fast. (I also feel a bit of the same with Japanese, but not as much as the progress there is guided.)

I think one of the biggest problems I have is when it comes to filling out a track with other instruments and effects. Usually it ends up with just adding bass and some random synthesizer sounds, but I know that that's not enough. I can hear that it sounds 'empty', sort of, compared to commercial music, but I don't really know what to add...

Another problem that comes with adding more instruments to the mix is that you have to carve out a place for them using the EQ-settings. And I have no abilities when it comes to that, not to mention that I wouldn't be able to hear everything with the in-built speakers on the computer. I've gotten the impression that a good pair of monitor speakers go for about 500€ or so. Of course just about anything else would be an upgrade from the built-in ones.

And while we're on the subjects of wants, I would also want a keyboard (for future gigs, ha ha, like that would ever happen), since I don't have a laptop I can load up with Garageband to take everywhere, a golden car and a rocket horse.

***
I suck at chess, that's just the way it is. The only game of chess I remember winning was against my cousin who was probably half my age at the time. Back when I was ~11 there was some sort of tournament in school. I lost the only game I played, and that's probably the highlight of my chess-career. Today I tried again with the same result.

It reminded me of the end of WarGames.
[after playing out all possible outcomes for Global Thermonuclear War]
Joshua: Greetings, Professor Falken.
Stephen Falken: Hello, Joshua.
Joshua: A strange game. The only winning move is not to play.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Disaster strikes

It might sound strange, but sometimes I make food. Granted, mostly it's just box-food where all the ingredients are supplied and you just add ground meat or something else, but still.

I did this today, and turned on the oven in preparation for my sausage gratin. What I didn't expect was that the oven was used as a temporary food-storage. By the time I noticed, the porridge in the cup had gotten some extra cooking and the plastic ladle had been significantly reduced. Like so:Scraping off whatever molten plastic from the bottom of the oven was not, repeat, not amusing.

I was a bit worried that the fumes from the remaining plastic would affect the food, but so far I'm still at good health.

Monday, July 03, 2006

卒業タイム / Graduation

So Saturday was my sister's graduation party, congratulations!

Which meant lots of cleaning and preparation as we were having a load of people over. I was designated Head Assistant and Chief of Napkin Folding. I used my l33t f0lding-skillz and folded the only thing I know: the simple lotus flower-thing I had learned on the Japanese culture evening some months ago.We had lots of cake and cookies and stuff. Oh, and doughnuts, of course, courtesy of my brother.Though we didn't find the recipe he had planned on using, the end result was still quite delicious (especially newly baked hot ones).

***
Believe it or not, but I have actually a new piece of music to share with you. Unfortunately, Ourmedia is having a bit of problems (again), so I couldn't upload it at the moment.