we finally have a stage banner

nwcMUSIC finally has a dedicated stage banner. It even says Norwescon! It doesn’t technically use the “Norwescon logo” (official) as to make it work we had to lose the spaceship, but it’s still recognisably Norwescon, I think.

Last year we were still using one of the wayfinding vinyls, and that was still big enough to show up decently in stage photos, which is, of course, the point. This will show up better. ^_^

Also, with all the nwcMUSIC workshops moving from the unfindable Salon to the more-easily-findable Evergreen, we’ve made new vinyl banners and are upping the ‘wayfinding’ game. I sure hope we get some boost to turnout – the new workshop rooms are a lot bigger. We were overflowing in Salon, but Salon was tiny. Evergreen… isn’t.

As this is posted, we are nine days and seven hours to curtain. Stay on target.

i am made of disappoint

So one of the big events at nwcMUSIC every year at Norwescon is Cascadia’s Got Talent! which is our Gong Show-like talent show. It’s part actual talent show, part parody of talent shows, we have people who come in and demonstrate really cool talents, we give away terrible prizes, everybody has a good time.

For me, as presenter, the terrible prizes are the best part. We have a trophy, we have a trip, we have smaller gifts… and the thing you have remember is that they’re all real and exactly what we say they are. They work. We give away junk, sure; but we don’t give away garbage.

Which is why I was so excited about and looking forward to announcing:


Help Me Make It Through the Night with Jim Nabors

But I always make sure these things work, right? They have to be playable, and in pretty decent condition (unless the condition is part of the funny), so I got it out to clean the disc and make sure it played.


Wait, What?


NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

Son of a bitch.

big floppy petals


Big Petals

I used to post flower pictures a lot back when everybody was on Livejournal; they’re all still up, so if you enjoy that sort of thing, here they are. In the autumn I’d change over to pictures of brightly coloured leaves.

life with supervillainy: shipping balloons

I can’t be the only person out there who looks at these shipping balloons and thinks, “y’know, with the right incendiary or biotoxin, these things could be hilarious,” right?

supervillains need server racks

First: If you haven’t read about the CD release yesterday, you should!

Okay, so. Supervillains, as everyone knows, need computers. Lots of computers. We, predictably, have a lot of computers, and last week, after an… experment… we needed a new KVM switch. (KVM switches keyboard, video, and mouse across several machines at once, so you don’t need so many monitors and such everywhere.)

So we got a new one, and it’s quite snazzy, supports USB and PS/2 both, also switches sound, yadayada nobody cares just make it work.

But what we forgot is that one of the machines is so old, it isn’t PS/2 or USB. It’s 5-pin DIN keyboard, and 9-pin serial mouse.


Nightmare City, 1995. This box is old enough to drink in British Columbia.

Not so bad; we can connect anything to anything, including the arm control nerve in your belly. So 5-pin DIN to PS/2 and good, right? We aren’t using the mouse, of course, because in the server room, GUIs are for the weak. If it weren’t for vi, those minions would still be using ASR-33 teletypes, and thank the gods for vi, because teletype paper is hard to find now.

Except turns out the switchbox has no idea what to do with a 5-pin DIN machine, because it was made in the modern era, not The World Before, or The Olden Times. I can switch to the display, but the keyboard doesn’t work.

Now, the old switchbox partially works – two connections out of four isn’t bad for a failed experiment, sometimes we have… seismic incidents… to clean up – so I try using it as an adaptor for the keyboard cable, since it talked 5-pin DIN just fine, and has PS/2 outputs.

That didn’t work either.

Eventually I figure out that the new switchbox doesn’t actually have any trouble with the keyboard! With a PS/2 adaptor, that’s just fine. No. It needs the mouse cable plugged in. TO SOMETHING. Why? I DON’T EVEN KNOW. So I plug it into the old switchbox’s PS/2 mouse connector and that works and everything is happy, except getting rid of that damned broken box was the entire point, so this isn’t happening.

But! Serial mice worked on 9-pin serial! So I have a henchie order a 9-pin to PS/2 adaptor. But then I discover I already have a PS/2 to serial adaptor! And I plug that in and that works! So I disintegrate the henchie and have a minion cancel the order, since no one must know of my mistakes.

…but then it turns out it works only on the switchbox, and not on the computer, because kill everyone. This machine doesn’t put out enough voltage.

…but a USB wall-charger most certainly does, which is how I ended up with my computer’s mouse cable plugged into the power strip in order to get the keyboard to work.


There, I Fixed It.

Some days, supervillainy IT is just kind of dumb.

mine to love: shipped at last

Last year, I spent a lot of time engineering my first project largely for someone else. Leannan Sidhe’s first album, Fragile Dreams, had come out in 2011 and been well received. In 2012, she’d got the money together to put together the follow-up and counterpoint, Mine to Love, the darker opposite to the light first album.

Now, I know Shanti, Leannan Sidhe’s bandleader and songwriter, and I’d helped her a bit with her Kickstarter project. But there weren’t any plans for me to be involved in the project for real, other than occasional moral support. It was all going to be recorded and produced in Oregon, at Alec’s PhantaSea Studio, and mastered by his brother Doc, at Endless Creations.

But we’d played together a couple of times, and she’d even started her Roses and Ruin live/live-in-studio side project at my place, and I designed the album cover. So once a few Real Life Things happened – the normal sorts of budget issues, the problems of commuting 360 miles(!) round trip for recording sessions – she came to me, and asked if they could do some recording in my studio. The gas savings alone would salvage their budget.

I didn’t own the vocal mic she had been using in Oregon, and, for that matter, my mic supply was pretty small and specialised at the time. But she was able to throw me some advance money, all of which went to MOAR MICROPHONES, all of which I’ve continued to use elsewhere. So my studio got another level up opportunity. And I’d never stepped up on a major project like this before, not one involving other people – particularly other people in large numbers. I admit it: I was pretty nervous.


Shanti’s preferred vocal mic, the Oktava MK-319

So I started learning about miking other people, and other instruments, and more other instruments, and still more other instruments. And about juggling schedules (and cats – all events involve juggling cats, but musicians are the cattest cats of them all) and getting people to agree to things and editing and pulling out tricks and making guesses and other guesses that actually work and occasionally diffusing creative differences and feeding people who are sugar-crashing and and and.

I’d always been a good editor; I became a really good editor. Alec called some of my edits phenomenal. I’ve been told I have a good ear; I got a better one, at least in some ways – Mickey told me this was the first time a recording of his guitar sounded like his guitar sounded to him. I became very well acquainted with the term “audio fatigue.” I got good at working with people hundreds of miles away and upped my Dropbox account to Pro status, because I needed to. And the Big Board (and Big Book that goes with it) became a Big Deal.


Project complete

Along the way I started making suggestions. Not all of them were taken, but a lot were. I ended up on a couple of tracks, “Voiceless” and “Once More,” where in the latter case I’m everything but the voice. And I got first mix on four songs, which … it’s kind of a resume thing, where even if everything you do got redone, it still means you got to set the tone. All to the taste of the artist, of course, but nonetheless: first to set the tone.


The dual monitors got their first big workout, and it was good.

And now, here we are. The Kickstarter backers have had their copies for a while, the pre-release concert – a while ago at this point – went over well. I wish I had good photos, but I don’t, so have this bad one, gussied up with too many iPhoto effects:


Leannan Sidhe Pre-Release Concert

I’ve wanted to point people at this album for a while, on several occasions, often when talking about production tricks. Other than the core band members, of course, I probably worked as hard on this album as anyone, and while that work was technical, it was also creative. Just in a different way.

But it’s been delayed, because reasons; it simply hasn’t been available to anyone else. Now, it’s out, and I finally can do that pointing. I wish I could point people at “King of Elfland’s Daughter” in particular, because it’s great, but for copyright reasons it can’t be streamed. So go buy the thing, it’s well worth your 99¢. I’m not even on that one and all I recorded were vocals and cello so it’s not even me tooting my own horn.

I think everybody involved learned a lot on this album. Some times good, some things necessary, some things difficult, but learned nonetheless. The production was, occasionally, troubled – and not just from studio-splitting – aad the result is dark, but strong. Even though it’s not the kind of music I do myself, the skills I acquired have already been used and heard on “Kaiju Meat” and will certainly be heard further on Bone Walker. All of these are gifts for the future.

But for now, what matters is that Mine to Love is finally out to the public. Given it a listen. See what you think.

woah, it came out!

Remember Mine to Love, that album I co-engineered last year at Supervillain Studios, and ended up playing on too? Leannan Sidhe’s second album? It’s finally out! It came out today! I didn’t know! SURPRISE!

I’ll post more about it tomorrow, but my favourite song on the album (which I’m not even on) is King of Elfland’s Daughter, which isn’t streamable because of copyright reasons. Just go buy it, it is worth your 99¢, trust me here.

Here’s a player for the entire album other than that track:

aw yeah, new bass lines

Recorded new bass last night. Been a while. Feels good, despite beng off practice so much over the winter. I’m a better bassist despite that than I was when recording Dick Tracy Must Die. I like bass, as you can tell, since I have some of the most hyperactive bass lines ever.

Move the fuck over, Primus, I got rawk to do. \n/


The rightful order has been restored… for now.

progress, if incomplete

Some of the problems I outlined in the afternoon post yesterday are cleared up, or at least accounted for – plugin status being saved and loaded is working, the asterisk cycling thing is seen by other people and also can be made to go away, loss of synchronisation when changing playlists during playback has been reproduced by dev and they’re interested – but the plugins are still problems. But I can work with this now.

Which means, I finally got to hear some percussion being done by one of our guest artists properly embedded into a mix, and wow, I am totally excited about this track in ways I wasn’t before. :D I left some space intentionally for this to be brought in, but knowing ‘a thing will go here’ is not the same as ‘an awesome thing is actually here.’ And the awesome thing that’s awesomeing around in this mix now is pretty awesome.

Because it is. :D

Also, lots of Norwescon stuff, including this year’s new stage banner, which still isn’t huge but is the largest we’ve had – and we’ve never actually had a dedicated stage banner before, we just reused the concert directions. I thought I’d fix that.

Now if I can just fix those damned plugins…

the various problems

Here’s a copy of the the problem summary I posted to ardour.org. Good news is the playlist switching has already been reproduced, and isn’t related to the plugins; also, the strange asterisk behaviour has been seen by someone else, too. But the other problems? Not yet. Help?


A problem I thought was project-specific isn’t project-specific after all :(

I have multiple problems that all appeared at the same time, after getting MIDI going in Ardour. I don’t know that getting MIDI running caused the problems; I also did an apt-get update/upgrade that brought in newer versions of Calf plugins which does not preceed the first occurance of the problems but does seem to be involved in some way.

First: on loading many projects, I get a nontrivial pause, during which time disc space is shown to be 0h 0m 0s remaining, and the title bar project name alternates between askterisked and non-askterisked. This cycle of asterisk/non-asterisk appears to repeat the same number of times as I have Calf plugins plugged in across all tracks. So if I have an assortment of tracks N and a total of 10 Calf plugins across all tracks, it will cycle 10 times.

Pulling all the Calf plugins and plugging them back in again (same places, same setting) with LV2 versions makes this problem go away.

ALSO: projects with tracks with Calf (LADSPA) plugins don’t play, and LADSPA Calf plugins seem to be misbehaving; I get anywhere from muted to noise to distorted play. Replacing them with LV2 Calf plugins (I think – the ones not marked LADSPA) makes this go away as well. (Note: I have two copies of most of the Calf plugins (and have for some time – honestly I don’t know why, but the old ones go back to Ardour 2), some with (LADSPA) after the name, some without.)

Swapping plugins out is a bigger project than it may seem, because I have never, ever had presets load for me, despite having the subscriber version of Ardour. Checking the store, I see that the presets are _saved_, but they don’t get loaded. I don’t know why.

Now, once I do this, and have things playing and sounding right again, and no delay at startup, in these projects, I have very slow response to the record button (1.5ish seconds) and swapping playlists on tracks while playing results in that track going silent for 1.5ish seconds, and then resuming play, delayed from the rest of playback by the same amount of time.

Video of example here.

That video quality is pretty weak; I can record it again with a desktop video recorder. But since Ardour is running output through my external interface and everything else uses the built-in motherboard sound, it wouldn’t be as useful for this case, because of no sound.

When playing that video, note the fiddler dropping out for about a second and a half, while the other playback continues; then the fiddle comes back in, picking up immediately where it left off, delayed from the rest. I did it twice; the fallback is cumulative.

On projects not (…yet…) affected, and until a couple of weeks ago, I could change playlists more or less instantly; I would do this to audition phrases and the like during comping.

This collection of problems has rather kicked my workflow and progress on my current projects in the knees, so … anybody? Help?

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