Archive for December, 2010

a metal file makes a pretty good plastic saw

So I went back and forth with John at panicStudios about Shout at the Desert vs. the iTunes “Enhance” setting, and he’s in agreement with, well, everybody I can Google, who are all saying, ‘do not play with it, do not mess with trying to work around anything iTunes is doing, turn that shit off on your own machine and forget it exists. You can’t control what people have at home. Deal.’ So I’m dealing. It is amazing how much “Enhance” blurs and crappifies music all kinds, listening on headphones.

I’m also talking with another musician about maybe providing some live instrumental work as backup for a couple of their performances; we don’t know whether it’ll work out, but I hope it does. I don’t really have the kind of instruments they want – they don’t do the same sort of music I do – but they’re kind of fond of some things I can do on octave mandolin, so I’m in the running.

Look, I have more Trash-O-Matic build photos!

input, output, and battery – I’m pleased with that battery cut

This grid will host six setting buttons.

Epoxy set, Round Two

So, what am I showing here? The first picture is the new case, with holes cut for XLR input (mono, balanced, mic level), TRS output (mono, unbalanced, line level), and the battery case from the original toy. The battery case is epoxied into place now, and seems pretty solid.

The second shows the control button grid – the Voice Changer has six various distortion types, and I’m keeping the original buttons. I cut the grid box out of the original toy, sanded off the paint, and recess-mounted it into a hole I cut into the new case’s cover. It’s epoxied into place. I was originally going to surface-mount it, but that complicated an already complicated mess – anchoring the circuit board.

The third photo shows the case assembly right now. I put the balanced-to-unbalanced-signal wire harness on the XLR input jack directly – even preserving the noise-cancellation effects of XLR, it’s trivial – and I’ve got the signal wires coming off that but not hooked to anything yet. The TRS output has wires already soldered in, too, and the battery pack is installed (with recessed external access door out the bottom) and positive lead run to the new power switch you can see from behind on the lower left of the cover.

I’ve made some mods to the circuit board; the old power switch (still mounted) is bypassed, as are another couple of controls that aren’t meaningful if you aren’t using it as a toy – little things like that. Right now it’s mostly serving as a weight, as epoxy sets for the new circuit-board mounting poles. The three screws visible in the circuit board are actually bolts to new mounting poles, to hold them in the right places as the epoxy sets.

I’m pretty sure I’m not going to trust these mounting poles, so I’ll add insulating foam as a back-support to the circuit board, braced against the battery pack. That should help with the button-mashy-mashy.

Originally, I was going to have balanced XLR in and out, and have the output be microphone level, but when I realised I’d have to generate balanced output from a nonbalanced source and reduce the signal because that the onboard preamp would be too difficult to bypass, I decided, eh, fuckkit, line level’s better for noise purposes anyway. Particular with electronics this cheap. XD

You’ve read this far, you must make things. What’re you making?

Trash-O-Matic 68000 LIVES

Remember that noisebox project I had, to take this little sound changer toy I won at a white elephant and see whether I could turn it into a distortion box?

Test Harness

The Trash-O-Matic 68000 LIVES!


It’s noisy as fuck and trashy as hell. I love it. It’s also totally unshielded right now so I do actually want to fix some of that, but nobody cares about that right now. The test harness works! It proves out! Clickie for horrible, horrible mp3! Now I just have to build it for real. XD


The ink hasn’t even finished printing on Dick Tracy Must Die, and I have a new tag in my studio filesystem:


muah ha ha XD


I have a serious, last-second problem.

iTunes’s Sound Enhancer, which is on by default, and everywhere, picks something in “Shout at the Desert” that on every other playback device I can find spends most of its time being an accent noise, and turns it into a continuous presence.

It does so mostly when cranked on headset, which is why I’ve never noticed it before. I have to play it at levels substantially louder than I like to listen to headsets, but levels that many other people consider just fine. Turn off Sound Enhancer, it goes away. Play the song on exactly the same hardware but outside of iTunes, it’s not there. You need iTunes+headset+loud, and then PLEASE ENJOY MY FESTIVAL GEYSER OF 659HZ KTHX.

This is where I hit my head against a wall a zillion times.

What the fuck do I do about this? I can’t ignore it, too many people use iTunes and it’s on by default, so I guess I have to engineer around it. But I want that noise in there! Just not, you know, RANDOMLY BOOSTED THROUGH THE CEILING.


oh now what

Go check out this Wayward Coffeehouse update:

It is with great sadness that we must now report that we have been told that the property owners are refusing to repair the building. Although as far as we know the damage is well within the scope of repair we have no control over this decision.

But we believe in what we created with Wayward Coffeehouse and want fervently for it to continue. We have received your messages of support and encouragement and know that there is a need for Wayward Coffeehouse for the communities we embrace. We are reviewing our legal options in the matter and pursuing other means of reopening. But it is not an easy path.

Help my friend Shanti get her album recorded

Okay, so this isn’t strictly band related, but I’ve played with her so it counts: like me, my friend Shanti is working on her first album. Her music is completely unlike mine – where I’m doing elfmetal, punk, and RAEG, she’s doing laments, harmony, and bittersweetness.

She has some really talented people working with her, too. I’ve heard a bit of the rough cut from her first substantial studio session, recorded just last week, down in Oregon. It’s much better than anything you’ll find of hers online – even her own sample tracks, which were recorded months ago. She’s really brought it up a level.

Intrigued? Over here, you’ll find a Kickstarter project to get the next stages of her project funded. She’s hoping to have the album out by Easter. Go give it a look. I think she’ll make something good.

Benefit for the Wayward on Sunday

It’s late, so I’m going to quote Tony of Vixy & Tony, who posted about their benefit concert this Sunday:

The Wayward Coffeehouse is currently shut down due to damage resulting from a nextdoor fire and its extinguishing efforts. They’re a small independent business, trying to get their place fixed up and reopened. And each day that the laborious process with the insurance companies, the building owners, and the repair contractors drags on, they’re losing money. So we’re here to help!

We’re having a house concert at House Cerulia on Sunday, December 19th at 6pm, with all proceeds going to the Wayward Phoenix Fund! We’ll do an evening of great music, pass the hat, and hopefully have other cool stuff going on…

The Wayward is well known in Seattle geek circles as a great place; run by geeks, home to the Seattle Browncoats, and friendly venue for such bands as Vixy & Tony, Skinny White Chick, and, of course, this past September, the supervillainy of CRIME and the Forces of Evil. And aside from the pass-the-hat (lol, I typed pass-the-hate XD ) around the benefit concert, there’ll be a raffle-auction of various snazzy items! Such as:

  • An Advance Review Copy (ARC) of Late Eclipses by Seanan Mcguire, autographed (release date March 1, 2011)
  • a full set of the first three October Daye books by Seanan McGuire, autographed
  • Jewellery from Unorthofox Trinketries
  • Several Firefly/Serenity related craft items by members of House Cerulia, as there should be
  • A still-in-shrinkwrap Lord of the Rings Extended Edition DVD set that we Criminals, ahem, acquired, and…

    …an advance review copy of Dick Tracy Must Die, put together just for this benefit.

    Come out, if you can. Here’s the Facebook event page. If you can’t, throw the Wayward Phoenix Fund a few dollars directly.

Anna's book is on Google ebookstore now! Buy it! Also…

Anna’s book Faerie Blood is on Google ebookstore now, which means you can also get it at places with Cafe Press machines, in actual paperback! Go! Buy! Read! It’s good. MOVE IT SOLDIER

In band news, while we wait for the mastering engineer: 1) somebody hit the band site by googling for “i fight crimes and the forces of evil and that means you sailor moon.” I wonder what they thought of My Boyfriend? XD 2) Also, I think I’m going to do “Old Black Rum” for the next Trad of the Fortnight – I spent some time rehearsing it yesterday – but I’m going to change some lyrics, because lulz. And 3) last week, at the Norwescon white-elephant gift exchange, I got this toy:

…and some of the distortion effects are actually pretty neat. I like the not-called-a-Dalek-voice one in particular. So I’m gonna hack it into a proper effects box – XLR input, all that crap. I already bought the parts! Pics will certainly follow.

What’re you hacking today?

now we wait

I need to pick and record my next Trad O’ the Fortnight! Got any requests?

Every couple of weeks I pick another traditional song – preferably about piracy, revolution, riot, drinking, one of the classics – and do a simple recording of it as a bonus for people on the fan mailing list. Members get a free download link. It’s easy and fun! (Click here and fill out the form to join!)

It also gives me something to do while John McCaig at panicStudios has the finished album tracks in his mastery little hands, or however that works. It’s a mystery to me, which is why I’m letting a professional do it. XD

I’m going to put some of these traditional song covers up for pay download, eventually. I’m looking for an album cover, and a title, mostly for organisational purposes, since this won’t be an official album.

I’m thinking some sort of photo of antique lockpicking/thieves’ tools. I kind of like this tool:

(Public domain, but credited Shaddack)
…and I could do a lot of work to change the photo around to something more suitable – it’s public domain – but this tool is sadly a bit modern. It’s from the 1950s, and these songs are centuries old, not mere decades! Pfah!

Anybody know of someplace with the right kinds of tools? I could photograph them myself, that’d be easy and fast. I was in an antique store earlier today, but, oddly, they had no criminal implements! Other than an accordion. What the hell use is that?


What do supervillains do on their days off? This time of year, same as everybody else:

Third Batch

Yes, I make my own cards. Photo cards are kind of weak, but I haven’t drawn anything to speak of for a few years, so it’s all I’ve got until I finish the heat ray. And at least photos are easier – I gotta say, once you join the Guild, you end up with a big of card list. And you better not fuck it up! Particularly not the one you send to Satan ClawsHIM.

What do you do for the holidays?

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