Archive for March, 2016

i can still paint during blackouts

I can paint during blackouts, I can play with handheld sequencers during blackouts.

Basically, I got bored and started making theme songs for tacky game shows of the 1970s which never existed. None of these were good, of course, but this one was probably the least bad – I figure it’s circa 1977, a slot-machine celebrity-trivia-themed game show involving a lot of guest appearances by Jo Anne Worley and Phyllis Diller.

Oooh, bad luck there. <sad horn> Next contestant, pull that bandit!

Oh right, painting. Yeah, this is probably the last speaker post. I finally connected them up to my Samson amp to test the old-style connectivity, and the little Class T amps I added in are definitely better. Okay, the Samson has more bass, that’s fair. But wow, these miniboard amps are a lot more precise and focused in every other way.

And after the power went, out I painted ’em. These pictures aren’t 100% before-and-after, because I’d already cleaned them up a lot before taking the “before” shots. Yeah. Literal caked dirt filling the foam rings around the woofers. Sound quality aside, just consider that for a minute.

Yeah! This is what I meant on Twitter about looking like they belonged on a stage. Go you, paint!

This post is part of a series on restoring infamous vintage stage monitors. Spoiler: they made good, in the end.

the saga of the infamously terrible stage monitors made good

John Seghers, local sound guy, gave me a set of locally-infamous and astoundingly terrible stage monitors. I mean, seriously, they just hurt to listen to; musicians would cringe when they saw them on stage.

They’d been through a lot of bands by the time they reached me, and came with an amp I was also being given. They were, in fact, more or less the price of the amp – if I wanted that, I had to take these wretched things too, just so John didn’t have to haul them to the dump.

And upon testing, they were indeed hilariously terrible. They totally lived down to their reputation. There was dirt caked in the speaker foam, and they were filled with fibreglass insulation and in one case quite literally a small dead animal. I was looking at a parody of bad stage gear.

But that is not the story. The actual story is how it turned out they were secretly – very secretly – great, just… buried, and muddled beyond all recognition.

They’re back now; for the first time in literally decades, they sound really, genuinely good. But it was a long way home. This is how we got there.

The original back panel – anybody ever heard of this crew?


And this means we’re back online. Have a picture of sakura.

this would normally not cross this blog

We’re up but will probably lose power again this afternoon. Backup sharable post here.

Last night, Donald Trump, Jr., retweeted white supremacist and pro-rape misogynist Vox Day. They are attempting to assert that the “heil” Trumpist photographed outside Mr. Trump’s aborted Chicago rally last night was a Bernie Sanders plant.

However, as is almost always the case, Vox was wrong. The woman he labelled as being the plant is in fact a Bernie Sanders activist, but she was at a different event in another city (and state!) at the time, and there are plenty of photos. One of them is at her tweet:

Vox Day is best known in fannish circles for leading the “Rabid Puppies” movement to rig the Hugo Awards last year. He is also a noted anti-semite, misogynist, rape supporter, racist, and self-described reactionary. A collection of some of his commentary may be found here, and a series of We Hunted the Mammoth articles may be found here.

t0000000bs: let’s try that preamp again with russian aid

Yesterday it was Polish jokes about Soviet technology; today it’s trying a Russian-made TUNG-SOL tube in that ART TUBE MP mic preamp I played with last week. I got advice from Ben Deschamps that I should, because the ART preamp ships with whatever was cheapest that day, and swapping tubes around can make a big difference.

And, hey, I think in this case it rather does. I’d apparently had a best-case low-bidder tube before, so bringing in the Russian didn’t make a big difference in noise level. But the amp’s tonal differences are certainly highlighted.

I should note: I also realised I could bypass the mic preamp stage in my TASCAM completely by going to line-level inputs, as opposed to leaving it in the mic input port at zero gain, like last time. The effect should be similar, but may not be. Regardless of which change mattered the more, I really think you can tell a difference between the preamps now, even in mp3.

The Russian-made tube gives the ART TUBE MP a lot more of what I think of as a “guitar amp” sound. That’s 100% unsurprising, now that I’m typing it out, but it’s still interesting to hear it.

The way that this preamp “likes” mid-bass is emphasised more, I think, as is its noted disinterest in the finer points of higher harmonics. That part of the sound reminds me of the AKG microphones I have, but with more interesting sonic effects down in lower frequencies. I suspect it would get on well with cello, as the AKG200s do.

I don’t know that I’d call the ART “warmer” at the high end – I might call it “less precise” – but it’s certainly a difference regardless. I should try this with the AKGs, later, to see if their similar areas of interest lever each other up a notch, or clash in some unfortunate way. Pleasantly, I have pairs of those, too.

For the recordings linked below, I’m switching between the two basically identical M-Audio NOVA large-can condenser microphones set up side by side and played into simultaneously. The levels are as close as I could reasonably get; it was a bit harder this time, as there were audible differences, and I’m using a bit of light compression as would be used in real life.

Unlike before, since the difference between the two preamps is more obvious, I’m also including a 50/50 mix between the two inputs during one of the repeats in each of these. That produced some interesting qualities, I think, on the octave mandolin.

In both recordings, ART MP tube pre-amp starts; TASCAM follows. Tell me what you hear on your speakers!

Whaddya think, sirs?

i have basically implemented a soviet joke

I have basically implemented a very old joke from Poland about Soviet technology:

A Pole waiting at a railroad platform in Moscow wants to know the time. He sees a man approaching him carrying two large, heavy suitcases, and asks the fellow if he what time it is.

“Certainly,” says the Russian, setting down the two bags and looking at his wrist. “It is 11:43 and 17 seconds. The date is Feb. 13, the moon is nearing its full phase and the atmospheric pressure stands at 992 hectopascals and is rising.”

The Polish visitor is astounded, and asks if the watch that provides all this information is Japanese. “Not at all,” says the man, indignantly. “It is a product of the latest in Soviet technology!”

“Well!” says the Pole, impressed. “That is wonderful, you are to be congratulated!”

“Thank you,” the Russian answers, straining to pick up the suitcases as the train arrives. “But I’ll admit, these batteries are still a little heavy.”

To wit, these self-powered iPod speakers:

iPhone compatible

Okay, they are obviously not actually generally for use as iPod speakers. They’re the stage monitors I’ve been working on occasionally for the last few months, but they are now both rebuilt to be self-powered! They have 50-watt Class T amplifiers built-in, as well as power converters for line voltage. I knew all those spare computer power cables would come in handy eventually.

I did not, despite temptation, add Bluetooth. But I could.

Now it’s time for some burn-in. Hopefully, I’m almost done! 😀

eta: Well, hell, the new amp’s channel 1 got noisy after a couple of hours and stayed that way. channel 2 is clean so far – all of these boards are dual-channel – let’s hope it’s good.

eta2: So far, so good: WE’RE BURNINATING THE AMPLIFY (video with sound)

eta3: With this speaker, they apparently originally tried to put the panel right behind the tweeter horn, where nothing could be inserted. Then they moved it and patched the hole with plywood. I just made it one big panel, with a big blank area.


This post is part of a series on restoring infamous vintage stage monitors. Spoiler: they made good, in the end.

no boom today, boom – oh wait, no, boom this morning, ouch

Okay, so I was looking at the photos of the natural gas explosion in Greenwood that destroyed at least three businesses and two buildings, and The Angry Beaver (right across the street) didn’t look too badly beat up – like, I saw a photo of the front windows being shattered but still in place, and I figured “okay, not as bad as all that, clean up and board up and open for business.” But here’s this, from /r/Seattle:

My boyfriend owns the bar directly across the street (Angry Beaver). We were closing down when the explosion happened. We thought ‘terrorist attack’ and all four of us ran out the back door. I think we are lucky to be alive. All of our windows blew out, bottles flew off the shelves, the ceiling blew out, stuff in the kitchen exploded. Our bar is destroyed. I don’t know how we came out alive, but not a single one of us was hurt. I don’t know what the fallout will be tomorrow, but we have our staff and regulars at our house right now drinking whiskey. We took pictures of the damages. I feel sorry for our insurance.

Hey, yeah, apparently WORSE THAN IT LOOKED. The Seattle Quebecois and Newfoundland trad communities might want to jump in here maybe? I have no idea how, or even how to get that ball rolling, though. Supervillain fundraisers tend to be some variant of “hold the world hostage by taking over the moon,” which isn’t real applicable here.

Everybody pass the word along, so at least everybody knows?

eta: Here’s the Beaver’s ‘closed for now’ post.

eta2: Here are multiple confirmed aid pages for the businesses destroyed or damaged in the explosion.

i love this side of the spoiler wall

Anna and I had a big worldbuilding session last night. Well, not so much worldbuilding – more world plotting, for The Free Court of Seattle book three, the follow up for Faerie Blood and Bone Walker.

A nontrivial chunk of the “how things work” this time is coming from me. I have solved multiple major problems here. Don’t misunderstand, I’m not a prose writer. I’ve tried; I’m not good at it. But I can certainly make lives difficult for characters and I can certainly figure out how to make it make sense; I am serving as executive producer in charge of fucking shit up for Anna’s characters here, and I love it.

And the best part is, see… the last album, Bone Walker – we’ve been calling it the soundtrack for the series, but people assume it’s really for the first two books, since that’s what’s out. And I’m quite sure readers who listen to “Something’s Coming” think it’s about the start of Faerie Blood, book one. We encouraged that a little bit, I admit, putting it at the start of the album.

But the reality is, these assumptions are wrong. “Something’s Coming” in particular is serving multiple masters. I’ve been saying “thematic spoilers ahead” since the beginning. I’m pretty sure that washes off people, but you’ll find out how much foreshadowing I did in book three – and how much of a “related work” (in the Hugo sense, as in eligible this year, aheh) Bone Walker (the album) really has been.

I cannot wait for that to happen.

I mean, obviously, I have to – wait, I mean – because Anna’s only in outline mode now. But… yeah. I know how this all goes down, you don’t, sorry. This is gonna be so great. 😀

i really needed that (festival du bois 2016)

We took off north for Maillardville and Festival du Bois, having missed it last year, partly because Anna loves Quebec traditional music, partly because I just like festivals, and partly just to blow this joint.

Let’s be honest: when the supervillain thinks the crazy is getting a bit thick? The crazy is getting a bit thick.

On the way, thanks to the Elfquest fandom revival as of late, I finally got Anna to take a picture of this street sign near the festival that I’ve been meaning to shoot every time I’ve been by it:

If this means nothing to you, that’s okay, the Elfquest fans will like it

We didn’t really have goals – there were bands Anna wanted to see, but mostly I just like the show, by which I mean the festival. I like festivals, particularly ones that are in that little sweet spot of busy and energetic without being swarmed by too many people for the space.

We did play for several hours on Saturday – a few during the day as sessioneers, then another couple at the afterparty in the musician hotel.

2016 Session Musician Pin, Festival du Bois, Maillardville, Coquitlam

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not a French traditional music player, I don’t know any of it, and I’m mostly there on Anna’s coattails. But I’d had the sense to bring along my mandolin – which in this environment is very quiet – so I could fake it about half the time, only getting loud when I’d figured out what I should be doing. Plus I was surprised to discover that in fact I did know one or two of these, so that was a nice discovery.

That didn’t stop me from hiding under the table during the evening jam. I was playin’! I was just playing very quietly as I tried to pick these things up. 😀

I think of the performances we saw, MAZ – an EDM-traditional fusion band with some jazz influence – was the most surprising. I like how they are reinterpreting this music. Réveillons was fun too – Richard Forest showed up a lot at the sessions, as did Lisa Ornstein. And I met a really nice new fiddler there too – Jocelyn Pettit. She’s got an album! And, of course, Anna’s large session crowd.

We also brought up a bunch of East-Coast Girl Scout Cookies that our friend Angela had bought, making us her COOKIE MULES.

Then on the way back, this happened:

What Could Lay Behind This Innocent-Looking Cookie Box?


If this was 1923 and Victory Boulevard was still the only improved road north from Seattle we would be on this shit. COOKIES NORTH! CIDER SOUTH!

(fructose and ethanol)

I need a smuggler accent. I keep trying to go into pirate. That really doesn’t work.

Anyway, that was fun, and if you’re in BC, or close enough, you should go to Festival du Bois next year. It’s small but everybody’s relaxed and happy and they have maple ice candy, which is fantastic.

Which reminds me, actually, that was one of the little fun highlights, because there’s part of making that candy which involves smacking beds of crushed ice with a paddle, and that’s loud, and we were right next to them, so they would work in time with our playing, just like they would’ve and should’ve, since some of these were also work songs. It was one of those yes this this is right moments where small things fall together to make a moment of nice.

And that’s really what I kind of needed.

eta: Anna has a bunch of photos on her writeup over here.

and there we go: we are (not) all SF

Hate to be the bearer of bad news, but a con we were going to appear at as Music GoH this autumn – We Are All SF Con, a first-year on the Washington State coast – just alerted its GoHs and attending pros via its Facebook group that 2016 is officially off. It won’t be there; we won’t be attending.

I had heard some things a few days ago that led me to believe this was pretty likely, so I am not surprised.

If you know you’re going to have to cancel an event, this far out is a much better time than closer in, so this is the smart thing to do. They’re talking about giving the con another go in 2017; hopefully it will be on the smaller scale that I advised when they were first starting to put this together. Also, I think they need more work on their intra-committee communication, but, hey, a year and a half isn’t out of the question. These are solvable problems.

Our condolences to the concom and staff who had been working hard on pulling off the always-difficult first-year fan-run convention. Better luck next time, everybody.

Return top

The Music