Thursday, August 31, 2006

Dragonfly on my back

I was out taking pictures yesterday when one of 'em suddenly sat down on my back, right behind my shoulder. This was the best picture I could get of it since I had a really tough time telling exactly where it was. Being on my back and all. Besides, if I had moved the camera over the shoulder it would probably have flown away before I got a shot of it.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Rhetoric

Even though I'm quite fond of criticising things and correcting people, it's not very often that I actually do so. (Which is probably due to some urge for social acceptance, but that's another topic.) I was thinking about writing something criticising, the train of thought running through my head as I went to have a shower, and pretty soon, due to the incredible effect the shower has on my mind, I started thinking about my critique in general.

If there's something I want to criticise, often I tend to prelude it with a foundation of objective writing. Or rather, as I came to realise, a front of objectivity. Because, since the ultimate goal is an attack based on my own bias and opinions, it's not objective.

I say "attack", but it's very rarely that it comes out that way. Straight attack is often the worst way to put something, since it always puts the other side (in a debate, for example) on the defence. And when people start defending something, they will often do so blindly, even if in normal circumstances they would see the fault in it. Instead, I prefer to wrap the criticism up in "sweetener" if I can. Poison always goes down better in the form of candy.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Close encounters with the flying kind

If you have had a look at my Flickr album earlier you might have gotten the impression that I've only gotten pictures of dragonflies airborne. I've now uploaded a couple of pictures where the distance is greatly reduced.

I have actually gotten quite a few pictures of dragonflies "up close and personal", so to speak, but unfortunately they've all been relatively small, the larger ones still elude me.But that's not to say that I haven't gotten close to them. Rather the other way around, that they've gotten close to me! It's happened three times that as I was out photographing a really big one would come right up and almost land on me! The first time one flew straight towards me as I was trying to take a picture, coming right up close and inspecting my right arm. I was so shocked that it came so close that I accidentally withdrew my arm in surprise, scaring it away.

The second and third occurences came pretty close together, so I suspect that was one and the same. I had spotted a dragonfly in the road, and I had moved onto the grass by the side of the road to approach from the side, thereby also getting very close to a couple of trees. Then all of a sudden I hard the flaps of a larger one, getting louder and louder. Before I knew it, it was right next to my right ear! By then I was prepared from the last time, so I managed to stay still, hoping it would land on my head(!), so I could point the camera towards it. Unfortunately, it flew away quite quickly, so I didn't get the chance. It did return to have a look at my left ear too, but no luck getting it on picture that time either. (Imagine the picture that would've made: me with a big-ass dragonfly on my ear.)

Summer is almost over, but I've got a couple of shots I really like. I'll try to sort out the best and put them up on Flickr.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Myoclonic jerks

So last night turned out almost exactly like I thought, except that I almost managed to fall asleep pretty early.

I had gone to bed relatively early, I was pretty tired and for a good while it seemed as if I would actually succeed in getting a good nights sleep. But then, just as I was drifting off, my right arm suddenly twitched, and in seconds I was back into a state of wakenness. Just as I was so close to sleeping mere minutes ago, I now felt more awake than I had ever been during the whole day.

What followed was the usual tossing-and-turning, trying to find a 'good spot', not too hot, not too cold, cursing the pillow for being so uncomfortable, etc. Accompanied with this was the usual line of thoughts that go with insomnia: bad memories, recollections of situations and moments I regret/feel ashamed about. Not a pleasant night. In desperation I went up and got another pillow, and at first it seemed to have worked, as I stopped thinking about weird crap. But as it was, the pillow was a really thick one, raising my head a bit too much. So I switched back to the usual pillow. Better the devil you know, right?

At one moment I looked at the clock and saw that I had been lying awake for more than two hours. How long I lay awake after that I can't say.

Oh, as for the title, that's what the involuntary twitches are called: myoclonic jerks.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

眠い… / So tired...

Alright, today was the first day of the new season. Early rise meant a huge shock to my system which is used to late nights and sleeping in long. Usually I can do well with getting up early if it's just a one-off event, but if I then have to get up early the following day too I have huge difficulties getting up. Anyway, getting up so early has also caused me to feel drowsy and fucked in the head for the rest of the day. No doubt I'll get all perky and when it get's time to go to bed.

Our teacher also indicated that there will be a kanji-quiz tomorrow to see how much we remember, meaning I now sit with JFC, currently rehearsing the first ~250. And after that it's the next ~250. Gah.

Something new for this year is that there's a new building we have classes in. Which is sort of a drag since there's no piano there...

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

The two ways of making music

In making music, you might say that there's a slider that you place yourself on, with the two extremes being (attempting) originality and full-blown rip-off. Personally, I get a better feeling when I try to craft a song myself rather than just taking a chord sequence from some other song, but I'm expecting that feeling to eventually fade and possibly be replaced by cynisism as I realise that almost all possible catchy chord progressions have already been used, re-used and recycled.

Of course, going into rip-off land is a bit dangerous, but chords and bass-lines seem to be safe areas.

But for the aspiring composer, it does present somewhat of a dilemma: try to do it from the ground up, or search out previously used catchy chord progressions and work with those? I think I would try to place myself somewhere in the middle, perhaps with some strays towards knowingly ripping something off if it's suitable. (But taking melodies is a no-no. That's lawsuit-land.)

I came across this neat video clip that tells of how a single 6-second drum sample from the 60's was re-used in, well, just about everything.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Preparation

Just a couple of days now until the Japanology starts again. A bit crap that I didn't get anything done this summer, but those are the breaks. Oh, well, in any case I've watched some Japanese TV-shows (unsubbed), so it's not like I've completely ignored it.

I am now in "preparation-mode". I've got an appointment to get my increasingly long hair cut tomorrow, after which it will be a bit easier to handle/fix; important when we have those morning-lessons and I wake up late and have to do everything in a hurry.

Something else I've done is to enter some verb-charts from the Oxford Starter Japanese Dictionary into a spreadsheet. I took the opportunity to test Google spreadsheets at the same time. Neat, but a bit slow. It makes up for it by not being Microsoft, I guess. (Besides, Excel pukes out shit when you try to enter Japanese.)

Something else I've done is to put a bunch of new kanji into JFC. I haven't started yet, because trying to learn from it is pretty bad. I use it almost exclusively for rehearsing the kanji that we've already gone through in class, meaning I've got something to build on. Being confronted with a big slab of ~500 new kanji that you haven't gone through before is a bit uncomfortable.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

One week

Wow, just one week until the next school-year starts. Another summer gone with little results to show from it. Seems to be sort of a tradition for me to get nothing accomplished during summers, but hopefully I will be able to break that tradition.

I think the main problem is staying active; I remember in the beginning of the summer I had grand plans for all the things I would do, and actually started a bit, but as time went by I was drawn down into the ususal lethargy. I would ask for a kick in the behind if I thought it would help, but unfortunately I am as stubborn as a mule when it comes to some things.

***
From the comments to a recent story on Slashdot.
Is this [good] news or not... It could be a trojan horse... (in the Greeks bearing gifts sense...not script kiddie sense)
-mresev
Just a note, the original Trojan horse was a gift bearing Greeks, not the other way around :)
-Red Flayer
It was Greeks bearing a gift bearing Greeks. And if a few of those Greeks was carring presents, say birthday presents to give to somebody after the battle or something, then it would be Greeks bearing a gift bearing Greeks bearing gifts.
-Mr. Slippery
And if instead of a horse they had built large wooden bears, it would be Greeks gifting bears.

Plus, with the proclivity of Greeks to be naked, you could end up with:
Greeks gifting bears bearing Greeks being bare bearing gifts.
-Red Flayer

Monday, August 14, 2006

Presents and cake

There was a small event on Saturday, in celebration of, uh, me.

Some presents were recieved and chocolaty cake was eaten, and a phenomenon of nature was observed. It happened whilst we were sitting in the garden, relaxing. It was pretty warm, but with some cool breezes. Suddenly a very strange sound was heard, and Mr. Kong produced a yelp in astonishment (which of those came first, I do not remember). Looking out to the field, we all saw a small tornado out there in the middle of the golden barley! Incredible!

What exactly the sound was I do not know, I'm guessing it occurred when it was formed. It sounded almost like a small house suddenly and quickly crashing in on itself; imploding, perhaps.

In any case: presents. I got a special issue of the Studio magazine concerning home-studios from my brother, and from my sister I got the Collateral DVD. I watched it yesterday, and it was really, really good. It was interesting to see Tom Cruise in a bad-guy role. It wasn't until the ending credits that I noticed that it was directed my Michael Mann, the same guy who wrote and directed one of my favourite movies ever, Heat.

***
If you haven't yet seen Boards of Canadas first music video, do yourself a favour and check it out right now.

Friday, August 11, 2006

What to become when you grow up?

I actually had this question asked to me not long ago.

And to be honest, I have no f-ing clue. I can honestly not see what line of work I would fit into. And there's no obvious continuation after the education I'm going for (Swedish & Japanese); well, perhaps translation, but most of that would probably deal with technical terminology that would require deeper studies.

Besides that would be, I guess, some sort of writing gig, which in practice means journalism. Which would probably suit me since I really love the sound that deadlines make as they go by.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

OK now

Alright, so 5 minutes after I'm sitting giggling incessantly at a noob-post over at Jpopsuki.

I am officially in need of getting wasted.

You might say that I'm absolutely in need of getting wasted!

Birthday blues

Today was my birthday. It is now twenty-four years since I was born. And I'm feeling blue.

Just for the usual reasons really, no money, no job, no education, no plan, spending my life as a parasite.

You might think that I could somehow take advantage of my language skills to get a job, but the sad fact is that knowing 3+ languages isn't very unusual here. If I was in Japan I might get a job at one of the numerous eikaiwa schools. Though I would probably be a very boring teacher; I'd just find out as much as possible about the most effective ways to teach English pronunciation, the placement of the tongue, etc.

For the record, I think it's a bit silly that the words "pronunciation" and "pronounce" aren't spelled more consistently. I always want to put a "u" in "pronunciation".

I think the worst part is that I've become so entrenched in the way of life here. I feel like I'm so invested in my little hole here that I'd panic if I would be forced out. I probably would panic. I'm so unsure of myself that I don't know whether to laugh or cry. (No, wait, it's the latter.)

On second thought, the worst part is that I keep making excuses for myself; I keep procrastinating over everything, thinking "well, I can live here another year", pushing things of, then thinking "well, it's too late to look for a summer-job now, maybe next year".

***
I cut some of the hair that was hanging over my ears. That's a bad sign, isn't it? Cutting your own hair...

Oh, and if you've got a high-paying, low-effort job for someone without education or prior work-experience, give us a ring, will ya? (Though no heavy-lifting jobs since I'm a shrimp. Cheers!)

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

A slight threshold

I'm in a particularly foul mood.

This mood comes mainly from having so little money.

Found a good pair of speakers and thought that was it, but no. Need a new sound-card. Then I find out that the quality of the sound-card I was looking to buy isn't really that good, the nearest in features being more than twice as expensive.

So the choices would then be taking a chance with possibly low-quality hardware, or waiting even longer, dropping more money into this, which now seems to have evolved into a thing. Which bullet to bite?

Part of me wishes that I could just drop this weird idea of making music. But believe it or not, it is quite fun.

Edit: I now realize that it was gear blindness. Symptoms include obsessively checking hardware specs and prices on webstores. I have decided to lay back and see what the funds build up to.

Monday, August 07, 2006

From the cutting-room floor

I added some pictures taken of dragonflies in midair to Flickr. I'm particularly fond of "Gotcha!"

Taking pictures of dragonflies is pretty difficult, even more so when they're flying. I've taken literally hundreds of pictures trying to catch them. (Well, around 200, anyway.) Of course, about 95% of all those are just crap, failed attempts or unclear. Some I have a really hard time deciding whether to keep or not; the following is one such image.Not really so clear, but zooming in just right/below of the centre, it starts to appear.In the end I decided to toss it. There's just too much other stuff around it that steals the attention.
***
All purchases have been postponed until the budget can hold both the speakers and an external Firewire sound-card. The Behringer is probably the most affordable of them, so it seems as if it will be that one.

Audio equipment porn

So, the decision seems to be made, as long as the budget is up for it. Along the way in researching this stuff a lot of potential problems have come up that would require obscene amounts of money to work out, but you've got to work with what you've got. Or in this case, what your budget allows.

One problem with the nEar 05s is the lack of bottom, meaning it doesn't do good in playing frequencies below ca. 75Hz. In one way that sucks because those are the frequencies that give the song the 'umph'. In another way not so bad since it's also those frequencies that has the possibility of causing the most problems. Untreated walls and corners often enhance the bass artificially, muddying it up, causing the bass-tones to all sound alike.

Another problem is cabling. The only way to connect them from the eMac is the headphone out, which I've read isn't the optimal connection. The volume may have to be boosted to near-full in the system settings in order for the signal to get strong enough. A solution to that problem would be an external Firewire audio-card such as the M-Audio Firewire Solo.Or a cheaper alternative, the Behringer F-Control Audio FCA202.Of course the Behringer lacks preamps, but considering the generally low prices of Behringer products, you could get the Firewire box and a preamp for less than the cost of the M-Audio Firewire Solo... Of course all these things lie in the distant future.

I've also considering getting a harmonica, while I'm ordering things. Only about 4€ at "the T-store", and it won't affect the shipping price (whic is flat-rate). The only question there is, which key to choose?

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Final two?

Again with the speakers.

I think I've narrowed the field down to two potentials. The M-Audio Studiopro 4s, and the ESI nEar 05s. They're roughly in the same price-range (a difference of about 30€ at Thomann.de), but the nEars don't have RCA-in, only 6.3mm TRS (I think that's the same chord as most guitars, for those more familiar with it from that) and XLR. The audio-out on the computer is a regular 3.5mm headphone connector, and 3.5mm -> 2xRCA are common; to hook up the nEar 05s I'd need a 3.5mm -> 2x6.3mm, and those have prooved very tricky to find. It seems my best bet would be a 3.5mm -> 2xRCA and then a couple of RCA -> 6.3mm adapters. But that does seem like a roundabout way to connect them.

But the extra 30€ does seem to give me a bit more bottom, [according to the manufacturers] the Studiopro 4s go down to 70Hz, while the nEar 05s go down to 60Hz*. I've read feedback that they're both quite good for their price-range, but I've seen a bit more praise for the nEar05s than the Studiopro 4s.

But the Studiopro 4s also have an extra headphone jack, meaning I can easily attach a pair of headphones without pulling out/plugging in wires.

It might be that the nEar 05s are a bit better, but I'm leaning heavily towards the Studiopro 4s, since they seem a bit more suited for my setup (ie. easily connectable, requiring only one power-cable).

*The information is a bit split here. The product info pages states 60Hz while the downloadable manual states 33Hz...

Update: After further reading, and finding a list where the ESI nEar 05s ranked pretty high, my previous conviction of getting the Studiopro 4s has been shaken.I found the list on some German forum (translation via Google), no idea who did the test... But if that list is even somewhat accurate, that would put the nEar 05s quite high on the price-to-quality scale!

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Library

I saw a cute girl in the library today and did nothing. It certainly seems to be part of my modus operandi to not do anything when confronted with cute girls. I could see how that could confuse people.

I even had a chance at starting an interaction when she sat down at the computer next to the one I was sitting at, trying to remember what George Harrison was called, whose name I had temporarily forgottten. In fact, my gut reaction was to just ask her if she knew what the guitarists in The Beatles was called, but being me, I suppressed it.

(Oh, by the way bro, I did remember those books.)

In any case, what I was going to say was that I really like libraries. They're so calm and quiet, filled to the brim with information.

I'm brought to mind a scene from Good Will Hunting.

You wasted $150,000 on an education you coulda got for a buck fifty in late charges at the public library.



I'm considering doing some changes to the markup. Usually when I start a new topic in a post, I separate the topics with a centered line of three stars, but I've been thinking of using something else instead, like the line you see here above this segment, perhaps.