All posts by NemesisVex

Pre-trip to-do list

  • Burn copies of enigmatics with blanks printed by Mixonic
  • Author and burn Battlestar Galactica and Friday Night Lights DVDs from TiVo files
  • Get as much of my synthesis final project done (although I can continue to work on it with the laptop)
  • Figure out what to do on Maui
  • If the other blanks from Mixonic arrive as expected, burn new Eponymous 4 masters.
  • Hope my mom's Bed, Bath & Beyond order gets here before I leave. Don't get me started on UPS
  • If the last Mixonic order is expected to arrive when I'm gone, reroute the shipment to Honolulu. Evidently impossible
  • Get travelers checks

Don't forget to pack:

  • Electric razor
  • Headphones for audio interface (to work on the laptop)
  • Digital camera, battery pack and USB cable
  • Cellphone recharger
  • RCA phono cord, just in case I can plug the audio interface into a stereo system

Excuses, excuses

I blew $584 in the past three days. It's the cascading spending that accompanies the acquisition of a new laptop.

The first $216 was spent on a USB audio/MIDI interface. The whole point of getting the laptop was to make the home studio more portable. One of things I want to do when I visit home in April is to show how all that stuff has moved to the computer, and the sound card chip on the laptop motherboard isn't sufficient for the applications I run. So I bought an M-Audio Fast Track Pro. A weird driver installation had me thinking I bought a dud, but once I got the driver installed properly, my recording applications ran as smoothly as on my desktop.

The next $238 was spent on a license for Sibelius. At first I thought I could wait because notating all the songs I've done so far is low on the list of priorities. But a new license for Sibelius costs at least $500. I could have gone for a competitive cross upgrade, but I would have to send my Finale installation discs to Sibelius as proof of ownership. As much as I despise Finale, I'm not comfortable with giving up something I own, and who knows if I'd need to fire up Finale for something or other? It's a powerful piece of software, despite the interface's best efforts to spread its hate and lies. I also don't know how much longer I'm going to be riding the academic discount gravy train … I want to take a break from continuing education for a bit. So I went to the online shop from where I bought Sony Soundforge and QuarkXpress (which I haven't even installed yet) and placed an order.

The last $130 was spent on a wireless access point and a wireless card for my desktop. My laptop came with a wireless card, and having to be tethered to a cable for Internet access seemed counterintuitive to the convenience of a laptop. That's a purchase that could have waited as well, but I'm on a spree. Also, I'm sick to death of tripping on the cable that runs from my bedroom to the dining area, where the cable modem router is located. I'm not sure how I went under the assumption I had to get a service upgrade to become wireless, but after actually, you know, doing research, I discovered going wireless meant a relatively mild investment in some hardware. Screw you, Time Warner — I'm not paying a rental fee for equipment I can get at Fry's. So I finally joined the 21st Century and became wireless.

My tax return and my company bonus is pretty much shot now. I paid the first two transactions off immediately. I think I can wait on the last till the savings account recovers some of what it's lost in the past few days.

Huh. My mind just went to a really dark place. Now that I've blown all this cash, I bet my car will need something fixed soon.

Wow, do I feel dumb

I wanted to get some cash from the bank machine before this final night of SXSW music. (Technically, it's not, but I'm not going to any of the Sunday shows.) Imagine my surprise when I discovered I was overdrawn by $900!

I called the 1-800 number on the back of my card to figure out the errant transaction, but I had an idea of what it was. Sure enough, a withdrawal of $1,726 was taken from my account. That $1,700 should have been drawn from my credit union savings. When I set up an electronic payment from my credit card account, I selected the wrong back from which to draw the funds.

So come Monday morning, I have to scramble to my credit union, withdraw the money in question, then scramble to my bank to deposit it.

I'm so smart.

The good news is my laptop has already been shipped. I should get it next week Tuesday.

I will also have …

… a laptop.

I keep telling myself I'd wait till the debt gets paid down a bit more, which is unrealistic given the size of the debt and my employer's inability to pay me market rate for my services. (The gap has closed in the last year, but there's still a gulf of a few $K.)

A few things pushed my hand, however.

First, laptops sold in retail stores are now installed with Windows Vista. I don't want to make the switch until after the first service pack, perhaps the second. My studio software all runs fine with Windows XP, and I don't want to drop money on a machine with an OS that may or may not work with that software. If I wanted a laptop with XP on it, I would have to get it now.

But I didn't want to put it on the credit card, and while I have the funds in my savings account to cover it, my balance would once again hover around the spot it has been for the last few years. The tax return and company bonus gave that balance a boost, and I don't want it blown in one purchase.

So I stopped by the credit union to take out some SXSW spending cash, and while I was there, I asked about a loan. Without disclosing any figures, the interest rate on the loan is significantly lower than my credit card. And I could negotiate the terms of the loan to make monthly payments manageable.

So I applied for the loan and got it.

Today, I signed the paperwork for the loan, then went home and ordered the laptop through my office's employee discount program. It's a Dell Latitude D620 with Windows XP. Nope, not the laptop of choice for home studio work, but then again, I have a Dell desktop, and it's produced everything by Eponymous 4. I'm not at the point where I'm going to gig with the thing, so I don't mind.

Perhaps the poorest excuse for such an extravagant purchase is the fact I may not have access to a computer for the entire week I'm at home in Honolulu. In my past visits, my brother would let me use his desktop, but that computer has since died.

I've never carried a laptop on a plane before. I'm going to have to rethink my luggage situation.

I have …

After work today, I shopped for a small bookshelf to squeeze between my bed and one of my keyboards. I guess there isn't much of a market for bookshelves no wider the 20 inches, because Target, Home Despot and Wal-Mart had nothing.

Target came close with a wooden CD storage unit that was about 17 inches wide, but I wanted something with a bit of breathing room.

I had some DVD shelves I bought from Bed, Bath and Beyond in mind as I went from store to store. After applying a bit of logic — if Bed, Bath and Beyond had what I wanted before, then they might have what I need this time — I headed there and found a foldable metal shelf that was 13 inches wide.


I set the shelf up — nearly getting my fingers crushed by the moving parts, as I took it out of the box — and moved the music books from the bookshelf in my living room to the bedroom, where all my music equipment is located.

I'm not sure why I didn't think of this sooner. That's not exactly true. Just about every corner of the bedroom has been optimized for space, and in order to accommodate the shelf, I had to rearrange things. I didn't feel like figuring that out just yet.

But I finally got off my duff when I realized I didn't want to put away some new reference books I bought for my studio software. What was the point of lugging them all the way into the next room if I'm going to need them at some point? Rather than bringing the books to the shelf, I decided to bring a shelf to the books.

And now all my music books are in the same room as my equipment. It's made a difference, too. As I was stocking the new shelf, I ran across some scores that I'd love to hear again.

Ah, how I love when inspiration and efficiency meet!

I want …

I was pretty ambivalent about things I wanted to get during Christmas. I was fine with what I had. My birthday is coming up in a month and some change, and I'm feeling covetous.

Currently, I would like …

  • A laptop, preferably with Windows XP. I don't want to switch to Vista until the first service pack. XP-installed laptops are no longer sold in stores, and I'm not sure how long they'll be available through work.
  • A bigger apartment. I was playing spatial relationship games in my head trying to figure out how I could fit a small bookshelf into my crammed bedroom. I'm almost at the point of getting rid of my bed and sleeping on my futon, which truthfully is a lot more comfortable than my bed.
  • A small bookshelf. I want to move my music books and owner's manuals into my bedroom, where all the equipment resides anyway.
  • A license for Sibelius. Because Finale is full of spite and anger.
  • A stand mixer. Because I have to make my own malasadas, dammit.
  • Keyboard cases for my Korg and Kawai. I'm not actually going to start gigging or anything.
  • Mastering Regular Expressions from O'Reilly publications. For work.

Do I need them? Will I get them? Not right now. Eventually. Or so I think.


I placed an order for Quark XPress and Ableton Live at an online retailer for customers in academia. I figured all these night classes I'm taking ought to qualify me for some student discounts on software, right?

According to the site's order status page, my order is still being processed and hasn't been shipped. But when I came home from work this afternoon, I saw a UPS slip on my door. Oooh! Perhaps they managed to get my order to me after all! (That doesn't reflect too well on the accuracy of their online status page.)

So I called UPS to arrange a pick-up, and I headed over to the delivery center all the way across town to pick the package up.

After returning a call from my mom, I finally opened it up. I saw Quark XPress, but I didn't see Ableton Live.


I've been working on the Lite version of Live, and it's extremely limited in what it allows you to do. I think I finally hit on a way to perform Terry Riley's In C as a one-man performance. A bit of background: In C is considered the piece that ushered in the minimalism of Steve Reich and Philip Glass. It's essentially a big sheet of paper with 53 motifs. An ensemble of any size and instrumentation plays those 53 motifs in sequence, but each player can decide how many times to repeat, when to start playing and when not to play. The alleatoric nature of the piece yields some terrific textures.

As a way to get familiar with Ableton's session view, I programmed the maximum of tracks with the maximum number of scenes available in the Lite edition with the first few motifs from In C. Now if I only had the damn full version I order more than a week ago, I could get somewhere with it.

But at least I've got Quark with which to make my album covers. I didn't know the founder of Quark is gay.

Fuck you, oak pollen

This morning, I saw a light yellow film on my windshield. I took it as an ominous sign. When the weatherman announced the allergy report this evening, he mentioned the first appearance of oak.

Oh diety, just kill me now!

I'd better start overdosing on my Zyrtec.

The new green jacket (it’s actually blue)

People who know me know about the green jacket.

Every winter, the jacket comes out, and it's on me just about every day of winter. It's the perfect jacket — a windbreaker with comfortable body lining and nylon in the sleeves. It's thick enough to keep me warm in 50-degree weather, light enough to carry when it gets slightly warmer, flexible enough to layer with a sweater or a larger coat for freezing weather.

I received the green jacket as a gift from a friend in Honolulu right before I headed to New York City for a year-long exchange program in 1992. It would be the first time I would encounter winter on the Mainland, and the jacket proved its mettle. Since then, the green jacket has been a permanent fixture in my winter wardrobe.

For the past three or four years, the jacket has been showing its age. I've gotten bigger, and it's gotten smaller. I've tried to find a replacement, but I always fail. All the jackets I would try on could not achieve that trifecta of comfort, weight and flexibility. Inevitably, I'd go back to the green jacket, rueful of the day when it would no longer suit my needs.

Austin is starting to warm up now, so there was no need for me to shop for winter clothing. But last night, I had 1 1/2 hours to kill between the end of my synthesis class and the start of the Austin bloggers meeting.

I thought I'd spend a good portion of it having a leisurely dinner at Star of India, but I decided to head into Stein Mart instead, just to peak at the jackets. After a few minutes of flipping through the racks, I found a jacket that had potential. I didn't bring my green jacket into the store with me since the evening was so pleasant. I went back to my car and brought it into the store to compare.

I hung the contending jacket on my fingers to judge the weight, and it was noticeably heavier than the green jacket. Demerit. Then I tried it on.

The fit was surprisingly good. So I made further tests. I fished out numerous sweaters to see how well it accommodates layering. Verdict: Incredibly well. (Yes, I decided to look for a sweater while I was at it.) The jacket came in blue and a gray-ish brown.

After an hour of trying things on in various combinations, I opted for the blue. That leisurely dinner at Star of India would have to wait for another time.

I won't really know till next winter whether I've found a suitable replacement for the green jacket, but I'm wearing it now, and it doesn't feel awkward. It's actually quite comfortable.

After 14 some odd years, I may have finally found a suitable successor to the green jacket.

The shopping list

During my trip home to Honolulu in April, I'm going to hit up Book Off and Hakubundo for the following CDs and DVDs:

  • Tommy heavenly6, Heavy Starry heavenly
  • Chara, Union (although I might track it down on JPOPSUKI first)
  • Sasagawa Miwa, Mayoi Naku (ordered w/ Vola and the Oriental Machine)
  • Shiina Ringo, Baisho Ecstacy
  • Shiina Ringo, Heisei Fuuzoku Daiginjoo (released on my birthday itself)
  • Tokyo Jihen, Shuraba
  • Tokyo Jihen, PV DVDs
  • Tomosaka Rie, Murasaki (very slim chance since the album is out of print)

I'm also going to keep my eyes out for …

  • Supercar, P.V.D. 10th Anniversary (also a slim chance)
  • UA, Turbo
  • UA, Nephews
  • Quruli, Tower of Music Lover

This list will be expanded as more titles come to me.