Archive for May, 2013

marathon session

Up quite late last night with Leannan Sidhe, working out new arrangements for a bunch of their music, since I’ll be guesting with them in Richland, Washington for six shows, June 29th and 30th. I’ve never done anything quite like this before. They have a BAND VAN. I’m told it’s kind of scary but that’s okay. I’ve never had a band van. ADVENTURE!

Hopefully not this kind of adventure.

At this point it looks like I’ll be bringing the zouk, mandolin, and bodhran, doing a lot of different things on different songs. Oh, and vocals – I’ll sing lead on “Song for a Blockade Runner,” one of mine, maybe some extra vox on “Voiceless,” one of Shanti’s, and co-lead vocals on “King of Elfland’s Daughter,” a duet which is on Leannan Sidhe’s second CD but originated with the early Celtic rock band, Phoenix, back in the late 1970s/early 1980s.

Elfland’s Daughter is a fun song on zouk, I gotta tell you. It’s chorded for guitar, but honestly I like how it sounds here better. I’m borrowing some guitar tricks and figuring out how they sound on my instrument, and it’s different, but kinda bitchin’.

I just wish we had a fiddler to do the solo, but half their band can’t make this gig, which is why I’m onboard at all, and is, in turn, why this song made it onto the setlist, because I have three octaves of vox at my disposal which means yeah, I can do Alec’s part, so suddenly it’s back on the radar. And and and.

Really, it was a fantastically productive session. Hopefully we can keep that up in the full-band rehearsals.

actually quite pretty

If you remember dialup modems, you remember the series of tones you’d hear after the phone connected and the modems on each end of the line started synchronising so they could send data back and forth.

Here is a really quite pretty visual breakdown of what’s happening. Signal analysis can be surprisingly attractive, don’t you think?

Click to magnify

before i set everything on fire

Hey, Minions! I’ve asked this at’s support fora, but I don’t expect an answer. Perhaps I should have them liquidated. Anyway, maybe you’ll know!

iCal has stopped synching calendars correctly with my iPhone 3GS. This makes my phone fucking useless. Okay, not useless, because IM still works, but a whole hell of a lot less useful.

I am syncing via iTunes, not via the cloud; I have the latest patches for Mountain Lion; I cannot upgrade the machine’s OS, because I need Rosetta. The iPhone is running the latest version of iOS Apple has pushed, but this began a couple of patches ago – I was holding off on the latest because of Reasons, and upgraded hoping the upgrade would fix it. It didn’t. I also have the latest version of iTunes for Mountain Lion.


  • No appointments made on the phone, in any calendar, make it into iCal. (I have five calendars that used to sync; all stopped at once.)
  • Old appointments made in iCal before this started happening still sync correctly from iCal to the phone.
  • New appointments made in iCal sometimes make it onto the phone, and sometimes do not. I haven’t been able to detect a pattern.
  • When new appointments made iCal do make it onto the phone, they are correct, except that there is always a second ghost appointment also created, only on the phone, called “New Event.” It will have the same time and date information as the actual appointment, and be listed as the correct calendar, but will contain none of the associated appointment data.

When an appointment does sync from iCal,
it looks like this.

I have tried:

  • Upgrading phone to latest iOS version
  • Desyncing all calendars from phone, then resynching them.
  • Telling iTunes to overwrite all calendar data on sync. (I know this actually happened, because appointments I’d made on the phone which had not synched disappeared after overwrite was initiated.)
  • Resetting phone to factory and reapplying everything from scratch. (This was the most recent action, two weeks ago, was a huge pain.)

None of these resulted in any change in observed behaviour.

What is new in the last few days is that until now, all iCal appointments had been making it to the phone, so as long as I made the appointments in iCal first, I could at least know of them while in the field. Alas, that is no longer the case.

Any ideas? Because honestly, there is damned little more important when trying to invert the Earth’s Van Allan belt than calendars that actually fucking work. Well, okay, you need the reactor to power the kilotesla magnetic field generators. But other than that.

gratuitous cat picture

Mornings are for business and projects, which tends to mean more sitting than afternoons. Fred likes this because it means he can help. With the lying down part, anyway. The lying down part of sitting.

Do you have those traffic reports yet?

Also it’s nice that with the redesign I can post pictures at 640px width without the columns being screwed up anymore. ^_^

yes i do support

A bunch of “Do you support local artists?” people were out in force near Centre House, and the first couple of times I ignored them, but on the way out they have a whole goddamn phalanx of people lined up along that corridor, so it’s like getting past Linebackers for LaRouche or something just to get out and go home. Once we made it through, I realised I really kind of needed to use the washroom before leaving, except that meant going through their artsteroid field of fundraising again, so when the same people came after me a third time I started yelling “I AM THE ARTS!!” and giving them business cards when they tried to press flyers into my hands.

This made them all go, “…whut?” and be confused and crash into each other, and thus we made our successful Kessel run. SCORE! By which I mean access to washroom facilities.

Anna said I should’ve been asking, “Do you support local supervillainy?” She’s right, of course.

thanks for testing

You guys found three bugs! One of which is in Bandcamp’s code, and I’ve forwarded it to them, the other two were in my code and are fixed! The funniest one was probably ‘administrator comments on posts are rendered in black on black and thus invisible.’ Some might say that’s for the best, but I fixed it anyway. XD

You guys who found bugs want Minion buttons? Email me where to send them. 😀

Anyway, I did another round of tightening up and such last night, particularly on the Music page, which is hosted over at Bandcamp – I have less control, but not zero. In addition to the bug fixes above, here are the latest changes:

  • Music page borders now look like rest of website
  • Music and Blog pages now both have candy buttons in the banner like the rest of the website
  • Music and Blog page identifiers and menu placement are now consistent with rest of site (moreso on some browsers than others, because of reasons)
  • Blog page banner no longer a .gif (had been because legacy reasons), now same .jpg as rest of site
  • Minor element positioning improvements in blog

We should be pretty stable now for a while. If you see anything else, please let me know – thanks!

a strange condition

So at Folklife there was a guy carrying around a sign, “Kick me in the balls for $20.” And I was going to leave him alone but today it was down to $10 and he had some people aggressively shilling for him so when one of them came over to me while I was walking by, we had this conversation:

Solarbird: So where does the $10 come out?

Shiller: No, you kick him in the nads, $10!

Solarbird: Yeah, I get that, how hard to I have to kick him to make the $10 come out?

Siller: No, you give him $10!

Solarbird: But the sign… <points>

Then the guy shilling got mad and walked away which is really too bad, because I have a whole bunch of questions about this whole procedure, like, how did $10 get in there anyway? And if it was $20 yesterday, were there also $20s in there? And where did they go? And honestly, this sounds like some sort of medical condition, and he really should get it looked at, because while I’m no more fond of the American health care system than anyone else, I really have to say that for once this seems like kind of a self-correcting situation, because if you have a condition that makes your body spit out co-pays, that’s a pretty good start. “Yes, I have insurance.” <BALLKICK!> “Here y’go.”

Then Anna wanted to know whether this is related to the condition where you hit somebody ’till candy comes out, and that made me realise: My gods. It’s the tooth fairy. What is her plan?!

a thorough going-over

The band website has been kind of a mess for a while, partly because I kept adding things in weird places that I thought might work but didn’t, and partly because it has always been an assemblage of parts. The blog is a locally hosted WordPress, the video page was just my YouTube channel, the music page was at least partially integrated but is still really Bandcamp – things like that.

Basically, it was a mess, and entirely out of hand. And I read an article a few weeks ago on focus of presentation on your main band page, and decided to do something about it. It’s not so much a redesign – because it isn’t – as a better and more complete implementation of the existing design.

Originally, I just wanted to fix the front page. But then YouTube threw its new page format at me, and that doesn’t work with what I do. And one of my blog readers told me they turned off stylesheets to read my blog(!) because they simply can’t read white on black, and I’ve heard people say they had trouble with that before, and it all kind of snowballed.

So I pulled a couple of style elements from the blog and brought them over (particularly in the left bar), and hammered the other parts of the blog into looking like the rest of the site, made a videos page that’s not on YouTube, updated just about everything for consistency, and, well, take a look at it, will you? Does it render reasonably on your machine?

One big advantage of the new blog format is that I can post wider pictures without breaking the columns. Yay!

I’ve tested it on a couple of browsers and it’s fine so far, but I don’t have every browser or OS. From here, it looks a lot more consistent and frankly less goofy a presentation, but it’s still new code and parts of it could be broken.

And I’m still not sure what to do on phones. On phones, WordPress flips over to Carrington, which is a mobile-specific standard format, which is a a lot easier to read but… not attractive. Also I don’t know how to get the social-candy-icons stuff to show up over the banner on the blog page, because WordPress. I do know how to get them to show up on the Music page. I haven’t done it yet, but will – it’ll be tedious, and can wait until after Folklife is over.

Anyway, give it a look, if you get a chance. Does it work on your machine?

spaceship disaster simulator

This is epic – it’s a spaceship disaster simulator built into a caravan. Lots more details at the link, but here’s the video:

hugely busy again today but have a desklamp

I made a desklamp out of an LED bar and a reasonably-weighted vertical USB extension:

Run from computer

My system and its external wireless adaptor* are connected to a power switch box. When I shut down the system, I also turn off the power to the CPU and the power to the external wireless adaptor via this switch box.

Lately I’d been forgetting to turn off the power switch box, and thus, the adaptor. It wasn’t much power wasted – no more than a nightlight’s worth – but it bothered me.

Separately, I’ve lately been grabbing my battery-powered LED sheet music lights and using them as desk lamps for electronics work at this very desk, which uses up their batteries.

So: two solutions at once. USB extension cable with vertical port plugs into the unused back-of-system USB hub, which is separate internally to the system USB port my sound interface lives on. Computer doesn’t even have to be on to use the lamp; just turn on the external power switch box and the CPU’s USB ports get power without ever starting the CPU itself. So if the light is on, I know I’ve left the power box on again and need to turn it off.

Most of the time, the lamp lives behind the left monitor, where it’s out of the way but throwing enough light on the desk to serve as an indicator. But really I’m just pleased with how it looks, so you get a picture. ^_^

Oh, zouk part for the finale tunes set is about, oh, 50% done. Enough to have a yellow tag, not orange. Lots of timing edit work to do – because tunes on zouk are stupidly hard, particularly at 300 notes per minute (150bpm, but everything’s eight notes). So y’do what y’must.

*: External adaptor necessary because the Linux realtime** kernel works well only with a very limited number of network drivers, none of which are wireless because of reasons, and using essentially any Linux or WINE-translated wireless driver will defeat the RT kernel’s quasi-RT scheduling. So I use a supported card, which I then connect to the wireless adaptor. It’s crude, but effective.
**: Yes, yes, I know, it’s not really realtime, it’s … sorta realtime. Realtimey-wimey. (Real timey-wimey… ish.)

Return top

The Music