i forgot my favourite picture!


all the ultimates, all at once

(stupid Overwatch addiction. stupid Zenyatta. stupid Zenyatta’s stupid orbs of discord always messing with my D.va. i’ll show him!)

not so much a blogging lockout as a blogging slowdown

SO BUSY! We’ve landed back at the Lair for a couple of days, just long enough to help another supervillain unload gear into her lair – also mountaintop, also geologically active, good choice – and we’re headed right back out tomorrow. Really, it’s kind of a laundry stop more than anything else. Blogging will continue to be sparse for another couple of weeks.

I have a few photos from Westercon 69, though. Bigger on Flickr, of course.

Sunset from a Hotel Window

Society of the Crossed Keys cosplay. It’s from The Grand Budapest Hotel and utterly made my day.

Sometimes, the Gods are Kind, and you have one real pop in a sea of Shasta.

Panorama from a Hotel Room Party

And we’re back

Back up again, after yet another Puget Sound Energy power outage. That’s… six this year? Four during good weather?

I can’t get those atomic generators back up to speed soon enough, I’m telling you. But: we’re back. At least Bandcamp stays up!

On the other hand, George the cat is snoring, and it is adorable.

life with supervillainy: on the road edition

We’re sitting in the hotel restaurant tonight, waiting for our food, when suddenly we are enveloped in stank. Not restaurant stank, either: worst case body stank.

Solarbird: Oh my god. Wow.
Minion Anna: Yeah.
Solarbird: This is… this is bad. And we’re just… swimming in it. I mean, damn, this is…
Minion Anna: <nods>
Solarbird: …somebody has cut some fierce cheese.
Minion Anna: <starts laughing>
Solarbird: What?
Minion Anna: Fierce Cheese is my Cows With Guns cover band.
Solarbird: …well done.

Westercon and Clallam Bay Comicon

Who’s going to be at Westercon in Portland? That’s this weekend! Anna has a share of a dealer table, so you’ll find us at least some of the time in the dealer room – at both conventions, actually, because that’s how it works out sometimes.

To be honest, we weren’t originally planning on Westercon, but a bunch of friends from afar are showing up, so we decided hey, let’s go for it.

About the only new thing here aside from my Overwatch addiction – my username is solarbirdy, surprise – is that I got a 6m long MIDI cable so I could try to get the electric piano’s MIDI output over to the desk.

See, I’d got this keyboard only after I’d bought a very large MIDI-only keyboard controller (because reasons), and said MIDI-only keyboard controller – a Roland A-30 – is nice, but it’s huge and kind of a pain in the ass to set up for small things. I have to get out the ironing board to use as a support, it’s wider than the desk, etc, etc, etc.

But I had some idea that the electric piano’s MIDI didn’t work, and it didn’t when I tried it, but I dug out how to reset its internals, and did so, and that made the MIDI port come back online, which was great, except that also turned on this auto-accompaniment feature which takes away like a third of the keyboard and wow it is terrible, like a parody of piano music, terrible in that oh-god-oh-god-how-do-I-stop-this kind of way, in that either-this-has-to-go-or-I-do kind of way, in that I need to stop this right now or there are going to be detonations kind of way, and I’m just saying we got unnecessarily close to tire explosions before I was able to dig out how to turn that shit off.


So, yeah, basically, it’s been quiet. See you at Westercon or Clallam Bay? Hope so! I may nerf you, but I still love you.

field recording is more than it used to be

This is a good article on field recording. I don’t mean that in a technical sense of the mechanics of field recording – it’s not a DIY or howto article – but in the aesthetics and the artistic intent.

Here’s an example track they included; it’s really neat. Give it a listen.

65 woman-fronted metal bands Decibel can’t bother talking about

This is kind of a guest post, a sharing – with permission – of a list of female-fronted metal bands that Decibel magazine can’t seem to bother talking about. It was assembled specifically in response to both an older article ranking bands, and a more recent idiotic article claiming that “social justice warriors” are destroying the underground metal scene. (Other metal magazines and websites are not impressed either. See also.)

So, courtesy Ian, let’s go down this list of 65 female-fronted metal bands of at least equal quality to their d00d counterparts. Why don’t you know the majority of them? Editorial choice. Period.

From A to F we have: After Forever (symphonic metal, Netherlands), The Agonist (metalcore, US), Amaran (power metal, Sweden), Amberian Dawn (symphonic metal, Finland), Angtoria (blackened symphonic metal, Sweden), Arch Enemy (death metal, Sweden/Germany), Asrai (gothic metal, Netherlands), Astarte (all female black metal, Greece), Ava Inferi (art/doom metal, Portugal), Battle of Mice (post-metal, US), Battlelore (power metal, Finland), Beautiful Sin (power metal, Belgium), Benediction (gothic metal, UK), Birthday Massacre (Hot Topic metal, US), Blood Ceremony (doom, US), ChthoniC (black metal, co-vocals, Taiwan), Delain (pop-gothic metal, Netherlands), Diathra (doom/gothic metal, Belarus), Doro (power metal, Germany), Eyes Set to Kill (metalcore, US), Eths (nu metal, French), Epica (gothic progressive metal, Netherlands) Evanescence (pop-goth metal, US), Eyes of Eden (symphonic metal, Germany), Fairyland (symphonic speed metal, France)

F to L: Firebrand Super Rock (heavy metal, Scotland), Forever Slave (symphonic gothic metal, Spain), Gallhammer (terror-doom/black/crust metal, Japan) The Gathering (Progressive metal, Netherlands), Holy Moses (thrash, Germany), Kittie (alt.metal, Canada), Flyleaf (nu metal, US), Hammers of Misfortune (doom, US), Iwrestledabearonce (spazz metal, US), I:Scintilla (industrial rock/metal, US), In This Moment (metalcore, US), Jarboe (unclassifiable, US), Jex Thoth (extreme doom, US), Julie Christmas (alternative metal, US), Kylesa ( female guitar/ vocals, sludge, US), Lacuna Coil (pop/death metal, Italy), Landmine Marathon (death metal, US), Leaves’ Eyes (symphonic metal, German-Norweigan), Lita Ford (glam metal, US), Ludicra (shared-vocals/black metal, US),

And finally, M to W: Madder Mortem (progressive metal, Norway), Made Out of Babies (post-hardcore/noise metal, US), Melencolia Estatica (one-woman black metal, Italy), Nashville Pussy (camp peckerwood metal, US), Nightwish (symphonic metal, Finland), Octavia Sperati (gothic/doom, Norway), Otep (nu/feminist art metal, US), Penumbra (gothic-progressive metal, France), Pythia (heavy metal, UK), Rolo Tomassi (mathcore, UK), Saros (death/doom, US), Sirenia (symphonic metal, Finland), Subrosa (unclassifiable, US), The Devil’s Blood (Satanic classic metal/rock w/ female vox, Netherlands), The Project Hate MCMXCIX (Sweden, melodic death/art metal), Tristania (symphonic doom/goth metal, Norway), Unsun (pop-goth-metal, Poland), Within Temptation (symphonic metal, Netherlands), Walls of Jericho, metalcore, US).

You’re welcome.

pickup chamber with animated spectral analysis

I’ve been playing with that ‘added pressure adds bass response’ idea, for use with these piezo pickups. I made a little wooden chamber that would let me add light pressure, as with the bridge pickup design. It would be held down with a clamp for testing, but would isolate that pressure from the piezo itself.

Anyway, I made a bunch of recordings, two for control, and eight with a range of pressure in the chamber. The controls were made with the pickup taped to the front of my zouk with double-sided tape (standard attachment), and with the pickup directly clamped to the front (also a standard attachment) and come first and second in the recording. The other eight were with the pickup in the test chamber, with increasing amounts of pressure on the crystal, applied by inserting paper as seen here:

With thin cardboard and two sheets of paper

Note again that the clamp is not adding pressure to the disc in any way.

Audio samples in a single mp3, here. There is some extra noise in these recordings; I was trying the modular approach again and that’s the result. I think the TRS connectors are inherently noisy. But that’s a separate matter.

I also ran spectrographic analysis on each recording, and combined those into a single animated gif that cycles through the recordings in order. Here’s the key for both. The gif is repeating, so each frame is labelled in the upper left.

 1: taped to top
 2: clamped directly to top
 3: in chamber, no paper
 4: in chamber, thin cardboard (0.46mm)
 5: in chamber, cb+1 sheet  (+0.11mm)
 6: in chamber, cb+2 sheets (+0.21mm)
 7: in chamber, cb+3 sheets (+0.31mm)
 8: in chamber, cb+4 sheets (+0.42mm)
 9: in chamber, cb+5 sheets (+0.52mm)
10: in chamber, cb+6 sheets (+0.63mm)

You’ll note in both the graphs and the audio that bringing in the chamber at all, even with no additional crystal pressure, caused a big drop in high-end oversensitivity, and boosted the low-end. That was interesting; I have suspected for a while that the crystal side of the disc would actually be better as a source-facing element, but there are physical issues to doing that, since the wires have to attach on that side.

Adding pressure continued to boost low-end response through test 7, without inhibiting high-end response. After that, I think additional pressure began to overcome the benefits, and you see a return to a more midrange-heavy sound – though in all cases, I think it’s better than either traditional mount.

This is consistent with tests made in the bridge pickup from last week, and reminds me of a diagramme I saw of a period crystal microphone that implied the crystals themselves would be set up forward-facing.

Anyway, data! And lots of it, for lots of your crystal/piezo experimental needs.

on the (dis)united kingdom: brexit, scexit, and irexit

I was up all yesterday and last night watching votes come in on Brexit, and I’m as surprised as the next supervillain, or, for that matter, the next Briton who has been googling exactly what is the EU, anyway? after the vote.

I posted a bunch on my old LJ/DW account pair, which you can read here if you want, but that’s just tracking financial reaction. I’m really thinking about just the UK, at the moment, and what happens politically now. In that, I’m assuming in this that the EU manages to stay together without the UK, which will certainly be the number one project of everyone over there for the next five years.

Scotland will treat this as an abrogation of promises made in 2014 to entice it to stay in the UK. A big one of those was continued and certain EU membership.

Scotland, of course, voted overwhelmingly – and across all of the country – to stay. Northern Ireland voted soundly to stay as well, but less overwhelmingly, and doesn’t have a recent close referendum on leaving. Both the SNP and Sinn Féin have called for new referenda on separation, and everyone’s treating the Scottish call more seriously – including, I note, the Scots.

But I’m not sure that’s the right analysis. I think it’ll come down to borders.

The biggest question in both cases comes down to free movement. Within the EU, you have free movement; border controls are not really a big issue for Europeans.

But outside the UK, there are, of course, plenty of border controls. If those controls reappear, I think Northern Ireland tells the UK to fuck off. The smart thing for Sinn Féin might be to wait ’till those border controls start showing up.

It won’t be like this, because that’s Africa and the racism is fierce.
But it’ll be controls of some sort, and this is the image to use.

And if those border controls reappearing are part of Scottish independence, I can’t but wonder if that means the Scots will stay.

Scotland and England have had free borders for a very, very long time. In the last vote, that was brought up, but you’d’ve had EU co-membership, making the issue moot. In a new vote… not so much.

So I think they might well have it backwards. Irish reunification, yes; Scottish independence, no.

And, of course, across all of it, ample chances in destabilisation. Supervillains and day-traders, be on alert, opportunity goddamn knocks.

it’s not a lair, really, but…

This building isn’t a Lair. It’s not. It might be a retirement villa for the successful supervillain, though – I know I’d be happy to have it. But no matter how you classify it, it’s lair architecture, in oh so many important ways.

And it’s unremittingly lovely, and I want to stress most strongly, this is not a drawing, this is a real, actual, extant place, no matter how much it looks like some 1960s futurist vision, possibly in space. This exists.

This, like the previous, is also actually real.

So is this.

Here’s the listing. When that goes away, here’s an article that I hope will last longer. Lots more photos. Enjoy.

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The Music