Archive for March, 2013

my norwescon schedule

Pretty much all this:

Okay, but really:

  • Opening Ceremonies (music and snark), Thursday, 7pm
  • Find Your Instrument, Saturday, 2pm
  • Cascadia’s Got Talent! (presenter), Saturday, 3pm
  • Making Art with Someone Else’s Art, Sunday, Noon
  • Introduction to the Irish Session, Sunday, 1pm

Plus, I’m MCing concerts.

Got to go, robot went berserk and is on fire, and dammit, I just put in new carpet. See you at the show!

t minus three

Three days left of prep for nwcMUSIC 2013/Norwescon 36. Everything is a little crazy and I am up to my ears in making support material.

There are particular work items I’ve been dreading. The MONSTARRS OF NERDCORE poster inspires particular ph33r, despite having the idea.

See, I always do big banner posters for each night’s concert sets. They get changed out every morning. I’m used to that. But this big nerdcore event needs a separate poster, because it’s DIFFERENT and UNIQUE and a ONE-OFF and a SPECIAL SNOWFLAKE and and and I haven’t drawn much lately. Plus, my old Wacom tablet doesn’t work with any actual computers I actually currently own, because it requires a physical PC serial port on an actual PC motherboard, and believe me, I have tried and failed to work around this.

But Monoprice has these kind of shockingly cheap tablets for cheap. So I got one, and jeezum crow that’s better. Somehow, I’d forgot how much tablets improved drawing.

Click to Embiggen

It’s big – 11×17. I’m really happy with how it came out. Here, have a massive print-resolution MONSTARRS OF NERDCORE PDF. Suitable for framing!

Anyway, lots more to do. Will you be there?

also extending some commentary elsewhere

The second ‘reverb trick’ they’re talking about in this article isn’t explained very well, I don’t think, because the critical element is kind of tossed out there in a side comment.

That critical element is the compression. If you just follow their steps – take a synth track, add reverb, record the reverb separately, put that in a second track, looped – you don’t get anything that’s hugely different to just adding reverb.

But if you do all those things, then also add a bunch of competitive compression – by which I mean, have your intermittent signal (the notes of the synth, when struck) close to the maximum output volume your compressor allows, which causes the compressor to scale back other simultaneous, continuous sounds – you get that interesting effect where the notes have very little immediate reverb, but between the notes, the reverb effect pops back up. It’s like the note is played without reverb, then after the note is over, the reverb pops up, delayed just a bit.

That effect is what’s adding the second implied beat, the semi-syncopation which livens their sample track up so well.

It’s an interesting application of side-chain effects. I think this is one to use sparingly; it’d be awfully fatiguing after a while.

the bard college

So in my recent Skyrim re-involvement, I decided I really ought to do the Bard’s College plotline, and, well, turns out two things:

  1. Do not fuck with bards. The shit they go through to get into that school? Oh god.
  2. That school is a level-ramping machine, across all skills. Seriously, you finish a quest, and it’s like THOOM. THOOM. THOOM. THOOM. THOOM. as reward. Not much cash, but hel-lo, skillfest!

Tho’ really what I wanted to happen is the game to bring up a dialogue saying, ‘TURN ON YOUR GUITAR HERO CONTROLLER NOW’ and make you learn songs. Or maybe, ‘No microphone? SUCKS TO BE YOU. Upload your performance NOW.’ Obviously this would never happen, but I think it’d be hilarious.

Anyway, don’t fuck with Skyrim bards, even if maybe the school should spend more time teaching them more songs and less about, I dunno, quelling the undead.

that was a lot of fun

Hooo, that was a lot of fun! Thanks to the Dread Captain Marcos, our guest villain last night, and Jeri Lynn Cornish, our hostage du jour, and most of all, The Cosmic Ray Show for having us all on!

The show is already archived, by the way. Click on the link above and you’ll find it. We’re the final guests, so about 15 minutes before the end of the show, if you want to skip ahead. Or if you’re into space exploration – like Curiosity Rover and all that? Watch the whole show.

I haven’t talked much about DIY day lately, but setting up for this appearance gave me a great chance to use my art degree in a set-lighting environment, and it’s led to a DIY opportunity!

Here are two pictures. One is four days ago; the other was today. The physical setup of the room is unchanged – the angle of the camera is a little different, but not that much.

Basic front lighting

Improved front lighting

According to everyone who has seen both today, the bottom shot is better; I of course agree. It has more depth to it – it’s less flat, more 3D – there’s better presence, and what you can’t see here is that performers pop off that second backdrop WAY better – there’s no fading into the background here.

What do you think the difference is? If you guessed less light, that’s not it. If you guess a lot more light, actually, that’s not it either. Total lighting amount is unchanged; no fixtures were replaced. Camera settings? Also unchanged.

Two things are different. One, I have a glare shield around the webcam. I made it with white cardstock. It keeps ambient light from the side of the camera from affecting the image, and by doing so, boosts contrast:

The 5ยข Anti-Glare Shield

The second is that I warmed the light in the foreground by putting sheets of gold paper behind the light sources, and specifically cooled the light in the background by putting sheets of blue paper behind those light sources, all off camera. The primary line-of-light is not tinted at all, but the first and brightest sets of reflected light is all warmer (in front) or cooler (in back). This also increases visual contrast.

Just as importantly, this also creates an optic architectural layer; it divides the space into two spaces, a bit, in your brain, which makes the more distance space be processed as further away in your head. This is how architectural layering works in physical objects, too; a small room can be made to feel larger by putting a divider into it, one that you can see around – say, a stub wall coming down from the ceiling, or a bar, or an archway. Your brain will see two spaces instead of one; it will treat the second as further away, making the whole stage feels larger.

And since there’s actually more light, the people in front (once there) really pop forward. Again; bright foreground, darker background, more depth.

It still doesn’t look like a huge environment, but it looks a lot less cramped, and gave the video compression software a better chance not to do horrible things. Having looked at the stream a bit, compression still did some weird things, but the result is far better than tests we ran against the original lighting setup. The lighting shift didn’t change the visual world of the shot; it improved it, in subtle but meaningful ways.

And that’s basically just 12 sheets of creatively-placed coloured paper. Lighting is fun!

live webcast tonight

Tonight’s the night for The Cosmic Ray Show and our guest appearance! I hope you can make it. 8pm Cascadian/Pacific, 11pm Eastern. I’ll be dragging along a couple of hostages as backup chorus, too, which I need to do much more often.

I was doing some testing last night and my shiny new hidef webcam? It’s a Logitech, and seems pretty cool so far. Except Google+ DISABLES IT INTENTIONALLY ON STARTUP. Along with all other Logitech webcams on OS X. They say in their FAQ that it’s just on 10.6.7 and earlier, but I have a later version of the OS than that, and they’re doing it here, too. I just want to punch them.

(Seriously, I have to unplug it and plug it back in. I can’t even turn it back on unless I do. I don’t know what the hell they’re doing to it.)

So, yeah, mmmmm standard definition, because Google Hates Macs And Also Logitech. I get the former, given the whole Maps kerfluffle, but not the latter. OH WELL.

See you tonight!

a mess with a purpose

My studio is currently a total disaster zone. Cables everywhere, stuff piled up in strange places (but not on top of each other, at least not in bad ways) – really, it looks like this:

That’s all to make this illusion, out the camera atop the laptop screen:

…which is, in turn, what you’ll see on The Cosmic Ray Show on Tuesday, March 19th, when we’re performing.

Of course, people will be involved, so you’ll have folks standing behind those microphones, such as, you know, me. Also Jeri Lynn Cornish and Marcos Duran, both doing guest appearances on backup vocals. So it’ll be all populated and stuff.

But yeah, I set it up in “TV studio mode” yesterday, for tech rehearsal. It’s the most complicated in-studio live setup I’ve ever arranged and I’m just going to rehearse and practice in this mode until then, so I don’t have to screw with it and get it wrong later. Everybody has earbud monitors, everybody has mics, we’ll get a recording out of it as it’s webcast live, straight off the interface into my Zoom. We made a couple of minor adjustments during the dry run last night, but things went well.

Assuming it works as well as it has in testing (yeek), this should be pretty cool. I hope it doesn’t look too cramped. This was as visually large as I could make it without having to rip out the desk and my entire recording structure, which, yeah, let’s not.

It’s supposed to look like my studio and informal. But I have to tell you, this much ordinary day-to-day naturalistic setup is a whole hell of a lot of work to fake. I’m not the first to make that observation, but after five hours of futzing yesterday, I have the right ot say it again.

See you Tuesday, right? 8pm Cascadian/Pacific, 11pm Eastern, 12:30am Newfoundland.

and because of the ddos

Since we had the DDoS attack on Monday and Tuesday, if you couldn’t get to the podcast URL? That’s why. Here’s the link again: The Geekmusic Podcast, Episode 1.

That’s the canonical URL, so I’d like it if people use that. But if the problems return, this is the YouTube URL.

ddos attack or merely incompetent engineering

We’ve been having trouble the last few weeks with apache runaways on our webserver. We thought it was related to the dying hard drive – it’d throw a read error, maybe apache would freak out and go crazy, maybe it would pull bad data of the swap partition, we didn’t know; we were guessing.

Now, that drive was dying – hard, we barely made it to our scheduled replacement downtime weekend and getting back online by Sunday took lots of work – so none of that time was wasted. But we went down under similar circumstances almost immediately.

So this time I was on watch, with a bunch of utilities running, when it happened again.

We were under what amounts to a smallish DDOS attack. I don’t have the right kind of counting software, but I estimate it was northward of 10,000 requests per minute, mostly of GETs on random points throughout and that invoked php. It was coming from a range of machines in Israel and Europe.

That all looks pretty standard, except for the part where they all go back to the same ISP. So now I’m wondering whether it’s less DDOS attack type intentional and more DDOS attack type incompetent websweeping software under development.

I’ve sent mail, but they’ve had a business day to respond, and haven’t.

Anyway, we handled it, via blocking and tools. Seeing one of these in progress – there were actually two separate rounds – was kind of exciting. The great part is that we stayed up throughout. They didn’t take us down, and while we were dropping a lot of requests, we never fell off the net. If this is affecting anybody I’d be really surprised, but if it is, let me know.

hey look a podcast!

As promised, The Geekmusic Podcast premieres today! We preview Norwescon, ask Hello, The Future!’s Nicole Disker, Rai Kamishiro, Death*Star, Klopfenpop, and Starlight’s Stephanie Weippert what all this geekmusic stuff is about anyway, play two songs from each, and have a healthy dose of DIY, ’cause that’s just what we do.

Episode One, The Geekmusic Podcast

Here’s the podcast page. It has YouTube embedded, and also direct links there, to Soundcloud, and to a direct Dropbox download link. I’m linking the page instead of those things because Dropbox gives me no statistics, and if people download it directly I! Never! Know! But I can count things here. ^_^ But here’s YouTube.

I really do want to hear what people think works, what people think needs fixed, and who and what people you’d like to hear in future episodes. So, go listen and send me feedback! I’ve never done a podcast – or even any radio segment this long, I always did music and sports. What do I know? XD

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