The Nuclear Family has been released on Hancock Street Records! Ask for it at your local independent record store or buy it here!

28 December 2009

New mix of new song on website...

... here. Per some audience feedback, the instrumental has come up a bit with respect to the vocals.

22 December 2009

Damn, I've been busy...

The last post was almost a month ago when I had gotten back from Virginia on my Thankgiving break. First of all, the trip was good and my son (the accountant) is doing well. He made it through the snowstorm this week (the way NPR described it, it sounded like people were resorting to cannibalism. And God knows what's happened to that network - they're Twittering, too) and doing well at his first job. He's a good kid and the rest of the family back here in PDX is doing fine.

So musically...

Right before we left for Virginia, I bought a Godin Freeway Five Active bass from someone on Craigslist. It's a killer bass with a nice tone. However, the action was set up a bit higher than I normally liked. I did not have time to reset the action before...

The last performance of AMA took place on 4 December at Macadam's Bar and Grill (and thanks to all of you who showed up). We had a two-hour first set and came back after a twenty-minute break for another fort-five minutes. We played most of the songs we knew, including eight from the AMA repertoire and two of my songs. I'm actually amazed that I could get through a two-hour set without a break! All was not, though, as they say, "all beer and skittles". First of all, the PA system was completely torn down and it took us (as usual) about forty-five minutes to figure out the cabling to actually get sound out of the main speakers, let alone the monitors. The stage was small enough that my amp had to go behind the drummer and keyboard player and there was no room to get back to it easily after they had set up. Since after we got our equipment set up and the PA working, my bass rig wasn't working, I had to crawl back behind them to figure out what was wrong. I finally figured out what it was (not in the main amp at all, but an accidentally displaced plug on my pedal setup) about two minutes before the scheduled start.

That would be bad enough, but remember that 4 December was a Friday. That means I went directly from my day job to the gig. And that means I didn't have time to (as I normally do) set up the parts of the rig I'll be using that night at home, make sure the settings were right, tear it down, and repack it to make sure I have everything and that everything is working right. So, I just took the parts Friday morning, loaded them into my car, and went to the gig. While I was playing, I noticed that my low-end was ultra-loud, but my high-end, even with the pedals' and bass' tone setting maxed out was weak and wimpy. About halfway through the second set, I figured it out. At home, I was using the head I carted away as the low-frequency half of a bi-amped setup and, as such, because I did not take the time to set up the amp for testing before the gig, the tone controls were set for high low-frequency response and low high-frequency response. And, although I'd twiddled the volume knobs on the amp while crawling behind the drummer and keyboard player to figure out what was wrong with not having sound, I did not take time to look at the tone control setup. And, given that, in the middle of a set, crawling behind them to get to the amp was not an option, I just played it the way it was, boomy bass and all.

In addition, the late setup had me in no mood to play, so it took about twenty minutes of the first set for me to get warmed up. This was enough time to make several errors in the first few songs. Finally, I was still getting used to the five-string and, since the action was higher than I normally like, I mispicked quite a few notes and one song I actually started on the wrong string (Note that I recovered once the guitar came in and I noticed the mistake - I have good relative pitch, not perfect pitch. Also note that the day after the gig, I took the bass in to have it set up properly - I have it back now and it plays like a dream).

In any case, modulo those issues, the band did fairly well. A few of the new songs (yes, I learned five new - to me at least - songs for the performance) were actually quite brilliant. And the crowd had a good time. It was a good send off for AMA.

What is left of AMA will be auditioning guitarists - we'll be trying one out on 30 December. I'd like to find one before mid-January so we can start lining up gigs again by March. We'll probably be changing the band name, since the medical tie in is so attenuated and so few of the founding members are left. We'll see.

So, in the meantime, it's back to the studio - Dave (AMA's drummer) is tracking a solo album with his songs 13-15 January and he's asked me to play bass. I've agreed to do that.

In my home studio, I've also started tracking my next CD. This one is going to be an EP with only four or five songs. The working title is of the CD "The Next Opus Brevius" and the song is called "Four Kinds". I cut and rough mixed the instrumental tracks for the first song this past weekend. I'm hoping to have working vocals for in the next couple of days. The family is going to the beach this weekend, so I won't be able to do a final mix before we get back. However, with any luck, I'll have a rough mix of the song up on the Adrian web site before New Years Eve, so you can all play it at your parties!

I've bought a new live microphone. It's a Blue Encore-200. What I like about it is that it doesn't have as great of a distance drop-off as the Shure SM-58 I was using. On the SM-58, you had to eat the mike to get any sound and, as often as not, once I did that, I was distorting (because I have a relatively loud voice). As such, I had to be very aware of where, with respect to the microphone, my mouth was. The Blue is much more forgiving in that regard. You get approximately the same level within six-inch increments of distance and the drop-off is much less pronounced. As such, I can move about a lot more easily and mouth placement is a lot less fiddly. Also, the Blue seems to have more "sparkle" than the Shure has. I'm really happy with it.

Also, as those of you who read this blog are aware, I also play guitar. I've been playing through practice amps at home and because Shiver (the midwest band) is playing a gig in April, I need an actual performance head (I figure I'll use the cabinet with the four eight-inch speaker, but if I can pick up a half stack with twelve's cheap enough, I may buy that, too). I wanted three switchable channels with individual tone and level settings for each. I had a price limit of $1500, so I narrowed down the suspects to:

Egnator Tour Master 4100
Randall V2H
Peavey 3120
Bugera 333XL
Marshall TSL100
Carvin V3
Ampeg VL-503/-1003
Traynor YCS100H2

Also on the list (but above my price range) was the Randall RM100. However, I stumbled across one of these on eBay and won an auction at a price that was well below my limit. The head should be arriving this week. It's a system with modular preamps, so I'll have to pick up a couple of those to flesh it out to it's full three-channel configuration. However, even if I buy those new, I'm still waybelow my price limit.

So, that's about it for now. The voice lessons continue. I'm looking forward to the beach trip and to playing with Shiver in April. More next week.

29 November 2009

Back from Virginia

I had a good time visiting my son. Back, jet-lagged and exhausted, to go through a grueling week of work, two AMA rehearsals, a voice lesson, and an AMA performance. I'll probably post some more tomorrow.

21 November 2009

Wow! It's been

Have I been busy? Not really. I just got over a cold and I've been looking for a band.

To recap, last week I had a cold or the flu or some other virus. It's the second time this season. Yes, it sucked. But I'm over it now.

AMA practiced on Monday. I thought it would be the last one until the Macadam's performance on 4 December (9pm - be there!), but we're all able to get together on 1 and 2 December. So we'll be practicing those evenings. I've had to learn four songs I didn't know before, so there will be new (to me) material being played that evening. This will be AMA's farewell or, as Dave puts it, our DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) performance. An end of an era. Dave wants to find another guitarist. I'd be happy to play with him if we can find one. However, I'm definitely going to record with Dave and I'm not letting the moss grow on me in the meantime.

Today, I'm talking with the Owen Brothers. They're a couple of brothers who moved up from Ashland to try to take the Oregon Rock'n'Roll world by storm. They need a bass player. I have a bass. We'll see how it goes...

And speaking of having a bass, I found a used Godin Freeway5 Active on Craigslist. I bought it. It came with both a hard and soft case, which made the price really good. I can now give Zig his bass back. Last pieces of gear I need are a good guitar amp head (the Egnater Rebel 30 looks really nice) and a 4x12 cab. I'll probably have Jay buy one for me in Kalamazoo for the April gig with Shiver and then I'll ship it home.

I've quit the jazz guitar lessons. They were fighting for time with my songwriting and actually playing. I didn't have time to practice another style, which I probably would never use. The good news is that I've got a lot of music theory under my belt, and it's given me a lot of good information on chord substitution and voice leading that comes in handy even in the pop/rock world. To replace these lessons, I've started taking some voice training. I do have time to sing in the car on the way to and from work. So the week after I get back from Virginia (the family is going there to visit my son who works and lives there - yes, I'm looking forward to it, too), I have practice Tuesday and Wednesday, a voice lesson Thursday, and a performance with AMA on Friday. Then, nothing definite until April.

Finally, I'm learning the Google Web Toolkit and the Google App Toolkit. I've had an idea that would make me fabulously wealthy and I still have enough programming chops to code it. So I'm giving it a shot. We'll see if I can figure it out. I had basic GWT and AT apps running yesterday, but when I tried to combine them, things broke. It was late at night, so I went to bed. I'm back to it after this.

So, that's about it for what's going on with me. I keep on keepin' on. We'll see what happens...

09 November 2009

Future of AMA

As the readers here know, I'm playing bass for a Portland band, Against Musical Advice (AMA).

First of all, we had a really good gig at the Sellwood Public House last Saturday evening. Things went really well, there were people that we didn't drag in who seemed to like us, and there were only a couple of "obvious" mistakes.

However, over the past couple of weeks, the band has been debating future direction. We've been doing OK playing a mix of covers and original material, but the drummer (and one of our main songwriters) seems to be in a more acoustic mode these days. I want to push into a more "punk-pop" realm, while the guitarist, although interested in moving in a "hard rocking" direction is seeming to "not feel the magic" and is wanting to get out entirely (even admitting that he's been phoning it in during the last couple of gigs). Put this together with a female singer who doesn't want to become the front person and just wants to sing a third of the songs and this isn't a good formula for longevity. As such, the December 4 performance of AMA at Macadam's Bar and Grill is likely to be the last. This is disappointing on a variety of levels. First, AMA was coming together as a band and playing good stuff. Second, as the band that got me playing live again (at least in the Portland area) I feel a debt to the guys. Finally, as I've gotten to know the folks, they've become friends.

I'm going to talk to Dave about whether or not we go on without Anil. If so, I may take over guitar and we'll look for a bass player. I don't know if we can bridge the punk/acoustic chasm, though. We might be able to do a hybrid - open hard, take a break for slow material, work in Chrissy's stuff, and finish strong. I doubt we'll continue under the name AMA, though - I think that "Love Jack" is a good name for a band.

04 November 2009

Getting ready to start recording again

Next one will be an EP. Working title: The Next Brevis Opus. I'm going to go more towards a punk-pop sound on this one.

03 November 2009

Finished practicing pre-rehearsal

Learned Little Bones by The Tragically Hip and a new song Dave wrote. Everything else is in my head. I'll probably have to buy a mike cable as my other ones won't be in town until Friday and we practice on Thursday.

A few loose ends

Ok. I've scanned the last few postings and I've gotten a good night's sleep. Here are some things I've talked about lately, but haven't entirely closed on:

1) The CD's arrived. I delivered pre-release copies of them to members of Shiver and friends in Bloomington, Illinois. I will be sending a copy (along with payment for the artwork) to Maren at Linea Forma Design. I will give copies to the members of AMA at rehearsal on Thursday.

2) My fingers are healing fine. I should be in (relatively) good shape for rehearsal on Thursday and performing on Saturday with AMA. Come see us at the Sellwood Public House at 9 pm.

3) I haven't got around to looking at amps yet.

4) The MP3 player works fine.

5) I'll be dropping off copies of the CD to the folks at CD Baby in person rather than via mail (it's about a 15 minute drive from my house, as opposed to a ten minute drive to someplace to get packing materials and a ten minute wait at the PO to have the CD's weighed and shipped. Plus I may get a chance to talk shop with the geeks.

6) I've gotten mixed reports about the streaming audio on the HSR website. Some people seem to be able to play the music, some report they can't. I'm wondering if it's an impatience issue (since it does take a while to initially download the streaming audio flash app) or if some folks don't have flash installed (or the wrong version installed, or...). I still need to look into this.

7) I need to start sending out review/begging for radio play copies of the CD this week.

8) Still waiting for my equipment to get back from Illinois so I can start recording again.

9) Need to start forming Adrian.

10) Probably a "come to Jesus" (no, not literally) meeting with AMA after rehearsal to discuss band direction. Joy...

Still a bit tired from trip. Day job is heating up a bit. That's about it.

02 November 2009

Back from Illinois

With only two cuts on my fingers from the 28 hours of practice over three days. I'm also tired because I probably averaged about five hours of sleep per night over the four nights I was there (don't ask me why I have problems getting to sleep in hotel rooms). I also forgot to send Maren a check for the graphics work before I left (I'll be sending it and a copy of the CD tomorrow, Maren). Anyhow, I'm going to get some rest. More later...

28 October 2009

Ready to head out to Illinois

According to Al, my equipment arrived. That is good. All my things are packed and I'm ready to go. I picked up a cheap little sleazy 8GB MP3 player at Fry's. I'm downloading tunes now. With any luck the thing will work and last me to Illinois. I'm actually looking forward to this trip, a bit.

Put the CD up on CDBaby. Now I need to send them stock when I get back. A very simple process.

AMA's putative leader wants an eMail discussion on the direction of the band. I told them where I stand. I want to do more punk-pop stuff. We also need to practice as a band more. I let them know that, too. I may not be popular next week.

25 October 2009

CDs will be here tomorrow!!!

Oooohhh! I'm excited. My equipment is on schedule to be in Bloomington on Tuesday and I'm on schedule to be there on Thursday afternoon. I'll have dinner with Sandy, Kathy, and Tom that evening and, afterward if it's not too late, I'll go over to Al's and set up my equipment. Otherwise, I'll get up early Friday and set up my equipment.

I went to a music store last Thursday to check on 5-string basses and there was an old Gibson SG in there. I plugged it into a Marshall half stack and got the best "metal" tone I've heard in a while. Since all of my equipment is being shipped, I went home and tried to duplicate the sound with my Johnson J-Station and my bass rig. It turns out that my bass rig is pretty good at clean amplification, so by using the J-Station to distort and tone shape, I can get a pretty decent tone. Given the fact that I have a 2x15 and a 4x8 cab hooked to the biamped heads I don't have to worry about scooping the mids too much. I get a combination of (relatively) tight bass and a nice crunchy distortion up top. I'd ship this rig to use in April, but it would cost me an arm and a leg to do so (two 45 lb. heads, a 80 lb. 2x15 cab, and a 40 lb. 4x8). For what this would cost me to and from, I could buy a 2x12 combo.

And, speaking of which, I'm looking at the various options out there. I know I don't want a Fender - Anil in AMA uses one and they have the most limited tonal qualities I've ever heard. Steve in Shiver plays a Line6 modeling amp of one sort or another and I'm not necessarily impressed with that (nor do I actually like the company). That leaves me, in my price range, Peavey. I understand why techs don't like them (Peavey puts all their electronics on tight PCBs, so they're hard to mod/repair), but there's also an undercurrent of guitar players not liking them. And I'm not sure why that is. In any case, the Windsor 212 looks like a good buy to me. I'm going to check it out this evening.

24 October 2009

Got streaming audio up on my site...

Actually, I got streaming audio up on the label site and I redirect to the page with my CD release info. If I ever get another out the door, I'll probably re-org a bit, but until then, all is good. I got my hard drive back from the guys at the studio, so I have all of the project files and MP3s. So, all is done until I get the CDs, look at what the UPC code is and set up CD Baby. Then I'll start sending out mailers to my targeted distribution. So that should keep me busy next week until I leave for Illinois.

22 October 2009

Uploaded some MP3s to my website

Go to the "Listen Up" section to listen to them. I haven't had time to set up a streaming service yet, so you'll have to download them for now. "Perfect Day" is my favorite, but probably the least "radio-friendly". However, the other two are good, too, and Daydreams is the one I'm flogging to radio stations (unlikely, but we'll see).

BTW, the main guy at the studio forgot to tell his assistant that I was going to be there today, so the MP3s I've put out there I've made myself. I guess I'll go in tomorrow and get my files. But I'll be happy to have it all done.

Although when you get right down to it, when is it ever all done, this side of the grave? Hell, now that I have the CD, I still need to flog the CD to NW radio stations and indie record stores, set up e-distro and audio streaming via CD Baby, and the biggest part of all, getting a band together and booking dates.

The good news is that I'm getting really good at making lists. I have the names and contacts of all college and alt radio station in Oregon, Idaho, and Washington where there is a chance in hell of getting the CD played, as well as all venues that book acts in Portland. If I can do this for me, I might be able to do this for others, as well. And to think, at one time, I was looking forward to a quiet retirement (not that I'm anywhere near that, anyhow).

Anyway, the funny thing is that I usually get melancholic and depressed in Autumn. This year, with everything that's going on, I really haven't noticed it at all. I'm actually happy in Autumn. Of course, some of my best songs come when I'm melancholic and depressed, so that's a trade-off. Maybe one day I'll be able to tell which was more useful.

21 October 2009

CDs to be delivered next week!

I got the duplication order put in today. The CDs should be back next week in time for me to cart a dozen or so back to Illinois for the various folks there. I should be relieved. However, I'll actually be worried until I get them all back. Anyhow, it was good getting all that taken care of.

Tomorrow I pick up MP3 and project files from the studio and my dealings with them are finished.

I'll spend a couple of days cleaning up the hard drive and backing up all of the data, getting ready for the next magnum opus and updating the website with the graphics and downloads.

So, I can now start to feel a bit of post partum depression...

20 October 2009

Musical actvity update

The CD nears completion. I'll be using Discmakers for the duplication. They have reasonable prices and a local office out here in Portland in the same building as CDBaby with whom they have a distribution arrangement.

I got the final proofs for the artwork today and it should be posted by this evening. I have the masters ready for uploading once the artwork is up there. The rights to the cover on the CD have been secured from the ever-popular Harry Fox Agency. So the order should be placed by the end of the evening and, assuming that I can get through the final check tomorrow, I should be able to get copies before I get on the plane to Illinois next Thursday.

This Thursday, though, I'm taking my last visit to the studio to get the project files for the album. Oddly enough, they need the space on their servers. In addition, they're creating high bit-rate MP3s from the masters which I will also pick up then (yes, I could do it myself, but I'm lazy). After that, it's time to update the website and organize and backup the files (the Sonar files I initially built at home, the Cubase project files that were used in the studio, and all of the intermediate audio files that were created). After that, I'll clear the stuff off my portable HD, clean out my Sonar project files and start over. As I noted previously, I need to start writing and recording again.

Tonight is also packing night. First I drop off my old monitor at Free Geek. Then I go home and get a couple more settings loaded into my PodXt (which is what I spent most of last night doing) and then I pack it all up. Wednesday, I ship the guitars, pedals, mikes, et. al. to Al's house in Bloomington, where I will be re-united with the equipment next week.

Anyhow, I'm looking forward to the end of the week, where I will have little to do.

Found new online radio

I'm listening to idobi. Good playlist, few commercials. Great station. Hadn't heeard about them, even though they've been around since 1999.

I'm also trying to find other foreign alt stations in the English-speaking world that stream their content. I've found a good one in Australia, a couple in New Zealand, and one or two in Canada. Now I need to find some British ones (BBC 6 has some good stuff, but it also has too much old stuff) and some from South Africa. The sad thing is that there seems to be a fair bit of US-oriented cultural hegemony with Weezer, Death Cab, and Foo Fighters in heavy rotation, no matter where you go.

19 October 2009

Little things matter

I got the masters last week. I was somewhat startled that, when I listened through my headphones at home, in one of the tracks the guitars seemed to be gone, and most of the tracks sounded a bit "one-dimensional". Of course, when I listened through the speakers, everything was OK. Which was weird, because usually headphones don't change the sound that much. After much swearing and even calling the guys at the studio to try to figure out what had happened to the master, I finally figured it out. A couple of weeks ago, I had put a Y-splitter into the headphone jack of the I/O box to hook up a pair of earbuds, so I could choose to hear the mixes in that kind of headphone, as well. Unfortunately, in my haste to do this, I grabbed a stereo->stereo+mono splitter rather than a stereo->stereo+stereo splitter. As such, my main phones had been fed by the right channel in both ears, leading to several "gremlins" while listening in the phones that were not evident while I listened on the speakers or earbuds. It goes to show that making sure that things are hooked up right are important.

So, we're back on track with the masters. Everything sounds fine. Are there things I would go back and change? Sure. But that's the way things go. You take your best shot and you put it out there. I also got the initial artwork from Maren over the weekend. It looks great! I had a couple of minor changes, and I had trimmed a couple of the song's lead-ins so I needed to change the timing, but I should be gone to duplication by Tuesday. Almost done...

The band played Friday night at a little wine bar in Sellwood. Burdigala is a great little place that usually has acoustic acts. I was initially concerned about fitting in the space provided. The performance area (I won't call it a stage, as there was no separation from the audience) was small and half the space was taken up by a baby grand that the piano player who usually plays on Friday and Saturday uses. The good news is that the grand was in tune, so we had our keyboard player use it rather than her electric piano (and the grand did sound great). The space was small enough and the volumes were low enough that we didn't need to amp it. Our drummer brough his electric kit and I brought a 1x12 amp to play bass through. It didn't have a great bottom, but I was able to get a great disto tone through it. We actually got a larger crowd than we normally get at Sellwood, the band played well, and (I must ultimately admit) I had a really good time - much better than how I thought it would turn out when I first saw the place (of course, my delight was put to a strenuous test Saturday morning when I had to get up in time to get the dog to the vet by 8:20).

AMA is coming together. I am cautiously optimistic for the future. Dave (our drummer) sent me a song yesterday that blew me away. I love the melody and the words are great. It sounds modern, it's upbeat, and I can't say enough good about it. Of course, this reminds me I need to get back to writing. I have about four partial songs that I've gotten to various stages of mis-repair, but none finished. I have one other one complete that I need to record.

Also on Saturday I got a new LCD monitor for the DAW computer. It replaces an old 17" CRT monitor, so I now have a 22" 16:9 monitor and a 17" 4:3 monitor on the system. I played about with Sonar in the new setup and the track view is so much bigger with the new monitor, it's not even funny. It's really nice. Plus, it was only $170 - to me that's amazing.

I'm also playing about with Renoise again. It seems to be really good for doing drum and bass/electronica sorts of things. However, that sort of thing isn't quite right for the band (either of them). So I'm going to try seeing how well it does with standard drum samples to build a straightforward rock sort of track. The editing interface is much better than trying to use my MIDI keyboard or manually editing piano roll views. Anyhow, I'm having a ball with the program. And maybe I will come up with some electronica stuff.

I need to start looking for the members of Adrian. Of course, it would be easier if I understood what my roll would be - singer, singer/guitarist, or singer/bass. Oddly enough, I'm becoming quite enamored with playing bass. However, what I'd really like to do is to sing some songs while not doing anything else and switch off between guitar and bass for other songs. So maybe I need to find a guitarist and guitarist/bassist (or two of the latter). Plus a drummer and keyboard player. Anyhow, I'd like to get Adrian together by EOY and start performing in 1Q10.

So, yet again, I'm busy. The good news is that I have nothing I have to do other than getting my guitar equipment shipped to Illinois this week.

09 October 2009

Tired of Waiting, But I'll Persevere

The mastering was supposed to be done last night. I haven't heard back from the guys at the studio who are supposed to be uploading the tracks to an FTP server for me to download. Anyhow, I am now in the ugly stage known as waiting. It tends to make me anxious and irritated.

Anyhow, in the meantime, I've gotten the band website, htttp://, and the label website,, set up and ready to go. The only thing that's left is to get the cover art so I can finish the page for the release and to get the email for each site set up (joy, joy...).

I've also got a "one sheet" ready for the release. Sooner or later, I'll have to get one ready for the band, as well. I've been talking to people about playing in Adrian, but no firm commitments yet. I'm going to talk with a guy next week who also writes his own stuff and my idea is to set up a "I'll sing yours, if you sing mine" sort of deal. I don't know how we'd deal with the name thing. I figure if I book the place, I'll book it as Adrian and, if he books it, we'll book it under what he wants to call it. In any case, if this works out, this would take care of the two guitarists. Now all I need is a bass player, a keyboardist, and a drummer.

08 October 2009

An Interesting New Band

OK, so I read music blogs. They tend to range the gamut from gear to geeky (OK, so it's not much of a gamut, but...). Anyway, the other day a blog that I read linked to an article on music theory analysis of pop songs - in this case, All the Single Ladies by Beyonc(e') (sorry, B, I ain't gonna look up the HTML for an accent grav(e')). OK, the article was good - this song is a lot more complicated than a superficial glance would indicate. However, the real gem in the blog post was a You Tube video of a version of the song done by the north SF Bay band Pomplamoose.

Pomplamoose's members are Nataly Dawn and Jack Conte (look up your own damn MySpace links in Google). Their music is best described as quirky (which I like). Maybe it's that, being a part-time bass player, I gravitate towards bands that prominently feature the same or maybe it's just that they look like they're having so much fun when they do their video songs. In any case, their music is fun, light,and pretty easy on the ears. Give them a listen and, if you happen to be in SF on November 13, pop in to the Brainwash Cafe and give them a listen. I'm pretty sure the harmonies that Nataly sings on the videos won't be there, but the music itself is worth listening to, harmonies or not.

No CD Yet

As of Thursday AM, the CD mastering isn't finished yet. Again, I hesitate to ask the guys at the studio to rush, but I'm anxious to get things finished so I can send the CD for duplication. I'd really like to have completed disks by the time I get back to Illinois during Halloween weekend and we're coming close to where that will no longer be possible. And so... we wait.

I purchased a copy of Renoise and I'm learning how to use it. I will soon be the master of the techno beats (which I'm sure scares the hell out of everyone out there reading this). Perhaps the next album will be electronica! OK, just kidding. However, the program does seem to be easier to use to trigger drum samples than with Sonar. As for the UI, well... it sucks.

But now - a rant. To be honest, I haven't seen a single DAW/music editing program that didn't have a UI that sucked rocks. This is problem with most niche markets - the geeks that initially build the stuff organically grow a UI that makes sense to them and ultimately the usability converges to a sub-optimal point that everyone gets used to. Since there is not enough money to fund real usability research, the UI just accretes over time around this low point. Throw in the fact that most of the companies producing this software want to lock in their users with proprietary data formats (and better yet, knowledge about the key strokes and commands that drive the software) and it's no wonder that things don't get better. I've seen this in electronic design systems, in medical record systems, and now in music software. In short, software sucks and it's not going to get much better anytime soon.

Ending the rant and getting back to the main topic again, yes, Renoise's UI sucks, but it sucks less than doing the same thing in Sonar. I like the vertical tracks and the simplicity of adding samples. If you're slicing beats and samples, it's really good. Of course working with the final tracks in the context of a completed song means exporting the rhythm tracks from Renoise and importing them as audio tracks into one's DAW, making the process of modifying them after the fact somewhat clumsy. Oh well, it's fun learning something new and playing with a new system.

I didn't re-catch my cold. That's a plus. However, stress at my day job has my neck acting up a bit. I called the doctor and got a few Vicodin tabs, but by the time I went in to see him (actually, the gal who was subbing for him while he was out) my neck was feeling better after a day or two of rest. So if it doesn't get better over the next few days with Aleve as an anti-inflamatory, we'll get a prescription for Feldene or Voltarin, and if that doesn't help, on to physical therapy. I'm hoping that it doesn't go that far though, since when I get to that point, PT doesn't work and so it's on to surgery for another ruptured disk. So I'm taking it easy this week, watching my ergonomics, and not pushing around heavy weights. I need to be in good shape by the end of next week when AMA practices on Thursday and plays on Friday. Two weeks after that, I'm back in Illinois, with another three-day marathon practice with Shiver (our last before our performances in April and June of next year).

In the meantime, I'm trying to rustle up a band locally to play the songs on my CD (and some that are too new to be on the CD). SO, yet again, I find myself busy, busy, busy...

30 September 2009

Almost Done

I've got some of the artwork back for the CD and it looks great (Thanks Maren!). On the other hand, Lee from the studio wrote and let me know that the mastering is still being worked on and probably won't be finished until next week. Oh well, I know how projects can drag on. And I'd rather that they spend the time getting the stuff to sound right than they rush it. Of course, this means that I can't post the couple tracks I plan to until next week...

Plus, I feel like I'm coming down with the cold again (at least my sinuses do).

26 September 2009

Almost Over the Cold

This is the first day I've felt human since last Sunday. The cold is almost over - I still have a bit of a runny nose and chest congestion, but at least my head doesn't feel like it's wrapped in cotton and I don't have to take decongestants to be able to breathe.

Work this week has been dreadful, not because of the work part, but because of having to work through a cold. Other than that, things are going well. We have started working on iteration 3 of MNAC 3.5 and all seems well with the world. Actually, since it's the end of the quarter, everyone's working on getting their MBOs done (myself included). I have one more thing to finish by next Wednesday (preferably, by 2:30pm Monday, when my weekly one-on-one with my manager happens) and I'll have completed everything. This will be the first MBO I have gotten 100% on in the past three quarters. Amazing...

Thursday evening, we made tweaks to six songs. This is the end. The changes are now so minor that even those changes didn't take more than an hour and a half (most of which was listening to songs before and after the change to make sure that I wanted to make the change and that the change was OK). Of course, we spent another hour after that trying to figure out why the final song kept trying to be output in PCM, rather than in straight bits, but we finally got that sorted out, I got my CD and got out of there.

After listening at home, one song needed two more tweaks (which I told the engineer about via email, trusting him to make those changes). As far as I'm concerned, the tracks are ready for mastering. The last session should be next week, where I'll hear the final mastered versions and get the tracks. I'm working with the graphic artist now, giving her the go ahead to do everything on the insert, tray card, and CD except for track sequence and final liner notes. She's going to clean up the ADRIAN logo, too, and give it to me in final layout. So, with any luck, by the end of this coming week, I should be ready for duplication.

That's about it for this week. Just waiting for folks to get back to me. I'll restart my jazz guitar lessons this week. I have a couple songs in my head that need to get into the box. I want to beta test the latest version of Melodyne. Other than that, I'm still looking for a good five-string. While I was looking for one on Craigslist, I saw an ad for a house for sale in SW that has a recording studio on the property that I'll probably go look at.

21 September 2009

I have never...

… had a cold come on so fast. Saturday before the AMA gig, I was feeling fine. During the job up until towards the end of the second set, I was feeling fine. During the end of the second set and while we were loading out, I noticed my throat was sore – I chalked it up to the singing. Sunday morning, my throat was really sore and I was starting to feel congested. By Sunday afternoon, I was out of it with a full-on cold. I’ve gotten to the point where my throat (mostly) isn’t hurting anymore and I’m barely functional, but my sinuses are running like Niagra Falls.

And now the politicians in my state have decided decided to put pseudoephedrine behind the pharmacist’s barrier (Why don’t they just do something that doesn’t inconvenience me, like making cooking meth a capital offense, huh?), leaving only phenylephrine or diphenhydramine as a replacement, but the first not only costs more, it also isn’t as effective and the second puts me to sleep (which is why I take it around bedtime).

Bitching about this shows I’m obviously in the cranky portion of my cold. Hopefully that will pass soon. As long as I keep myself medicated (I still have a few old pseudoephedrine tablets lying around), I'm doing OK enough. I hope that I can get past this by Thursday, when I'll probably have the last mixing session for the CD.

16 September 2009

A Very Busy Week...

I didn't make it into the studio on Sunday evening, but I'll be there making tweaks to the final five tracks Thursday evening. If that goes well, we can also do the final tweaks to five of the six we've we got to the pseudo-final state last time. The sixth song we tweaked last time (Perfect Day) seemed to have had the drum track omitted on my take-home mix and, as such, I won't be able to finalize that until next time. So the goals for the next few days are to do the final mix on the last five songs and get take-home copies of Perfect Day and these songs. I'll listen to them over the weekend and then one more set of tweaks and on to mastering. With any luck, we'll have this thing in the can and ready for dupe by the end of next week. I've narrowed down the duplicators to two choices. One is local, but the other one costs less. I'll need to pick by the middle of the next week because I need to get the design templates to...

... the graphic artist who is going to help me with the artwork for the CD. I worked with Maren from Linea Forma Design while I was at UxComm. There's not a lot left to do - mainly clean-up/formatting work based on concept art/liner notes that I've already done and getting it into the form that the duplicator will accept. Even for small jobs, though, working with someone you know and trust is important. I was also planning on making tee shirts and baseball caps, but having 250 CDs in your closet is enough storage without also taking space for additional clothing.

In the meantime, I'm working on the website for the band (Adrian) and my label (Hancock Street Records). Everything but the online shopping portion is ready. Most of you have probably gotten here through the Adrian website already and it's not going to change much (I'll be adding lyrics and a page for the new CD). The label site is going to be more extensive. I hope to also flog AMA's music through it and perhaps one or two other local bands. We'll see how that goes...

I also practiced with AMA last night in preparation for our performance Saturday night at the Sellwood Public House. We've added about a dozen new songs, including a half dozen of our own, four of which are debut performances (the other two AMA had performed previously, but they're new to me). The only drawback to this job is that we have to drag the equipment up to the second floor (of course, there is no elevator). So, anyhow, come on in and see us on Saturday night - 9pm.

12 September 2009

Final Mixes Half Done

The week before last, we completed rough mixes of the new CD, The Nuclear Family. After listening to them, there were substantial changes for most of them (including cutting new/re-comping vocals for about five of the eleven tracks). We made changes to six of the tracks Thursday evening. I took home the "final" mixes for these tracks and now I only have a (very few) tweaks for them. There is even one song for which I have no more changes. We are converging to completion.

If I get confirmation of availability, I'll go into the studio tomorrow evening and we'll finish the main changes for the other five tracks and put the minor tweaks into the six we've got at a "final" state for a "final final" state. All of these mixes will come home with me, I'll listen, get minor tweaks into the remaining ones and then we'll go to mastering (which should not take more than one more (albeit long) session.

As such, I now have to put the tracks in some order for the CD. I have a couple of choices... I can go with a thematic order - I noticed that the songs I've recorded have an order based on the arc of a relationship, from new to broken. This has a certain artistic appeal, but it ends up having too many slow songs together and has some of the less good songs go towards the front, while some of the better songs get buried towards the back. As such, I'm probably going to stick with the second option, which is a standard ordering having a good intermixing of fast/slow songs with the very best songs going towards the front and less good ones trailing back.

I understand that this raises the question of "good song"/"less good song". Let me state that I don't think there is a real stinker in the bunch. I like all of these songs well enough to have spent a good amount of time on each of them and, in the final analysis, all are listenable, all are well performed (or at least as well as I can), and all are good songs. However, to paraphrase Orwell, "All songs are equally good, but some songs are more equally good than others." So, in placing the tracks on the CD, the "more equally good" stuff will go at the front, while the merely "equally good" stuff will be towards the end. However, note that this ordering is produced by taking into account what I think folks will like and discerning listeners might find songs that they actually like better towards the end. In short, listen to the whole CD and you decide.

Anyhow, we're in the home stretch with the CD. I plan to engage a Photoshop jockey this week to compose the final layout of the CD artwork (with track ordering). With any luck we should be ready for duplication sometime around the end of September. Woot!

P.S. I already have three new songs in the works. Come to the AMA performance at Sellwood Public House on September 19 to hear one of them.

03 September 2009

Trying out Melodyne

As many of you know, my vocal skills are somewhat lacking. I would characterize my skill level as "backing vocal" quality. Although I am working to improve and I do sing lead for one or two songs with whomever I'm performing, for the CD, I needed to use pitch correction technology.

Right now, I have Auto-Tune Evo, which is the industry leader in this technology. I realize that I'm still a novice at using the program (basically just moving notes up and down and removing correction on tones that were overly corrected because I still don't understand correction curve editing very well), but the results still don't thrill me. I find there's a subtle distortion in the processed vocals, even when no correction is being done. As such, I'm going to give Melodyne a try. I'll keep all of you posted...

31 August 2009

Change of Venue

The September 19 performance at Macadam's Bar & Grill has been canceled. The owner decided he could make more money showing a PPV WWE cage match instead. According to the other guys in AMA, this is not the first time something like this has happened. As such, we'll be at the Sellwood Public House that night, same time - 9pm.

Of course, this means we get to haul equipment up the stairs again. Ahhh! The joys of being in a band...

Getting Ready for the CD

Since we're getting to the end of the line as far as mixing goes, it's time to start working on the promotional stuff. I plan to get t-shirts made while having the CD's pressed and start selling them at gigs and on the new website, which I have initially set up on Google today. I'm probably also going to have to set up a Myspace music page (something that I have been avoiding because I don't care much for Myspace, but it seems to be the lingua franca of the music world - sighhh).

Other than that, it's just back to work...

30 August 2009

What a Weekend

... capping off what a week. Let's start with the week, OK?

At work, a crisis with Volkswagen in Shanghai. Essentially what we needed to do to localize results from our scans slowed down the processing afterward to a crawl. We were able to put in a simple fix that improved the performance of this processing step by a factor of 60. That we were able to do this tells me that we didn't do a great job of performance testing before the last version of the product was shipped. We need to (and will) do better in the future. In addition, we found a synchronization issue in our logic (and produced a fix) and fixed two other defects. With any luck, the "patch that never ends" will finally get shipped out within the next two weeks and I can breathe again.

On top of all of this, I spent two nights in the studio this week mixing the CD (eight songs down, three to go) and I re-started my jazz guitar lesson. So, come Friday afternoon, I was really looking forward to the weekend, and all I had on my plate (beside the regular household stuff of getting ready for the week) was to listen to a song that one of the guys in AMA wrote (and give feedback) and listen with a somewhat critical ear to the rough mixes for the CD and make notes about minor tweaks. Plus, I also wanted to get a haircut. A weekend of happiness and bliss (not to mention an opportunity to sleep in on Saturday morning) lay before me.

However, it is now Friday evening. Let's examine the note on the message board via which my midwestern band communicates. It states that our next planned rehearsal is scheduled for the weekend of October 17. Now watch me recoil in horror as I have (two days ago) confirmed with AMA (the Portland band) that I would be available for a gig on October 16. Also watch as I mention this to my other band and watch me cringe with shame because the practice date had always been October 17 and not later in October as I had remembered. Now to be fair, the October date was set in June at a practice that I was unable to attend and, after a few brief messages flitting across the message board (which I was unable to read in real-time because my email relay from the board had gone down), the practice was always referred to as "the October practice" with no mention of actual date, so it was completely understandable... OK, the reality of the situation was that I fucked up. This is why a portion of my weekend time (soon to be limited as the reader will shortly see) was used to set up a Google calendar having all of my musically-related commitments (and any other large chunks-of-time commitments) listed. The reader may now follow along with my hectic musical life here.

So while my bliss is rapidly disappearing in a sea of panic, unbeknownst to me, my daughter (who is staying overnight at a friends house) is jumping on a trampoline and manages to sprain her ankle. Of course, she does not want to cut short her visit, but I am informed at ~9pm about not only the sprained ankle, but also that, due to a commitment that her friend has, I must pick her up at 9am Saturday morning. So much for sleeping in. I go to bed in a rather dark frame of mind around 12:30am.

I am awakened by my alarm clock at 7:30 am, get up, shower, and feed and walk the dog. I call my daughter at 8:30am and she tells me that her friend really doesn't need to do what she thought she had to do and that I should pick her up at 10am. Of course, the fact that I have been deprived of a potential hour of additional sleep does not register in my daughter's fifteen-year-old mind, as the universe (which revolves around her, of course) was unimpacted. So at 10am I pick up my daughter and am alarmed that her ankle has become rather swollen. I take her home, put a couple of ice packs on her ankle and call the doctor. An hour later I am called back by the doctor who says to bring her in (yet) another hour later. An examination and an x-ray later, my daughter is in a compression bandage and air cast and I have purchased a $42 pair of crutches (something that I am unlikely ever to get any additional use of, as no other member of the family regularly jumps on friends' trampolines). Of course, it is now also 2:30 pm and I have done nothing that I had planned to do this weekend. I go get my hair cut in a bitter frame of mind.

Now to spare the reader the boring details of the reminder of the weekend, let me simply state that I listened to my AMA co-members song and made a couple of suggestions, the midwestern band has regrouped and we will now practice Halloween weekend (understandable, as we are monsters of rock), the Google calendar is now set up, I have dropped my wife and daughter at a play, and I have a few moments to breathe (or more precisely, to blog). I have not listened to any of the rough mixes and I have had no additional time to practice.

So I'm still a bit behind and I am certainly not sure what next week will bring. I know that on Tuesday, I'm back in the studio mixing again. If we have a long night on Tuesday, we will have another night or two of tweaking the roughs and then mastering. After that, I need to start working on getting the cover art and CD images ready for duplication. With any luck, by the end of September, the CD will be ready to go. Of course, I still have to deal with all of the stuff from work. Some folks are being recalcitrant about particular server changes and I'll have to hold the line. Iteration 2 (of 3) of the next release continues. Iteration 3 will be re-planned based on customer feedback. The patch that never ends will (hopefully) bet put to bed (and out the door next week). I'm in the last month to finish my MBOs. So it's never-ending fun at the office. We'll see how it goes...

26 August 2009

A Post of Subtlety and Sagacity

For all who want to know about the Common Lisp EVAL-WHEN form...

19 August 2009

Back in Oregon

I am back in Oregon after spending last Friday through Monday in Illinois. I was back there to attend my thirty-fifth high school reunion (and it was great seeing everyone who was there) and to practice with Shiver. I stayed (and practiced) in Bloomington and drove over to Quincy (and back) for the reunion.

I also found time (don't ask me how) to visit my high school German teacher, as I normally do when I'm in the area (Hi, Sandy!) and was able to re-connect with my high school Physics and Math teacher (and it was nice seeing you, too, Joyce).

My schedule looked like this (all times are approximate):

Thursday 6a-5p - Fly in to O'Hare, get rental car, drive down to Bloomington
Thursday 5p-6p - Check in to hotel, call Sandy
Thursday 6p-8p - Set up equipment for practice

Friday 8a-9:30a - Meet Sandy for breakfast
Friday 10a-8p - Band practice

Saturday 8a-2p - Band practice
Saturday 2p-3p - Shower, get dressed for reunion
Saturday 3p-6p - Drive to Quincy
Saturday 6p-10p - Attend reunion
Saturday 10p-2a - Drive back to Bloomington

Sunday 8a-9:15a - Search for Joyce's antique stall at Interstate Center
Sunday 9:15a-9:30a - Actually talk to Joyce
Sunday 10a-4p - Band practice
Sunday 4p-5p - Pack and load equipment (mine and others)

Monday 8a-9a - Take equipment to UPS store for shipping
Monday 9a-11p - Drive back to O'Hare

So that's it - how I spent my wild weekend. After ten hours of practice on the first day, my fingers were shredded, so I had to tape them for the next days' practice. Will I do this again? Probably. The good news is that (at my advanced age) high school reunions are only held every five years, so I won't have that in future trips. It was good to get together for practice.

The band is coming together, so I don't think we'll suck in April. We'll have another rehearsal in Bloomington at the end of October, and then get together right before the performance in Kalamazoo, Michigan in April. Anyhow, that's how I spent my weekend.

11 August 2009

Music and My Life...

Another issue that has come up since I stopped posting on my original blog has been my re-insertion into the music scene.

Again, let's go back a few years (thirty-five, to be precise). I am a Freshman in college at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. Across the dorm hall from me are two guys named Alan and Lyle. They have a band in their home town, Abingdon, Illinois and they need a guitar player. I play guitar. I've been playing guitar since I was ten years old or so and I played in bands in my hometown. So I figure I'll do the hour-long drive to get to where they practice and, during the summer of between my Freshman and Sophomore year in college, I am in their band (Shiver) with Alan, Lyle, Jay, and Steve and we play a few gigs around Galesburg, Illinois. After that summer, everyone goes back to college and, since many of us are going to different schools, we don't get back together.

That autumn, I join a jazz-rock band called "All You Can Eat" and we play a few gigs during my Sophomore year. At the beginning of my Junior year, I meet up with Alan and Lyle again and we decide to start a new band. While heading up to Bloomington to buy our old PA system from the keyboard player from Shiver, we notice that there is a band playing that night named "All You Can Eat". I go there and am mightily irritated that, when the guys in that band came back for the school year, they didn't see me in the dorm (I having moved to an apartment) and that they didn't ask around for me. But, in the end, it sucks to be them, and Alan, Lyle, and I start interviewing for guitarists and vocalists. Before we find one, my sister Emmy decides to get married and wants us to play at her wedding. We drag the keyboard player back from Bloomington and enlist Lyle's brother as a second guitarist and play Shiver's last gig in Decatur that Spring.

Over the Summer, Lyle, Alan, and myself find a guitarist (Chris) and a singer (Joel) and we form a band (whose name I forget) that plays a few jobs around Champaign. This was a pretty good band. However, Chris had decided that he wanted a female singer and also decided that he didn't want Alan or Lyle, either. He also had the place where we practiced (making him the de facto leader) and immediately fired Joel and Alan (with much consternation from myself and Lyle) and brought in a friend of his to play bass (whose name I forget) and a female Singer, Jenny. In the Autumn of my Senior year, we played jobs as Sunsinger around the Champaign area. However, you must recall that Chris did not want Lyle. This was because he had another friend who had an incredible looking drum kit, but no rhythm whatsoever.

Chris finally kicked Lyle out and brought in this drummer, who as I noted, had no rhythm. As such, the next practices were disasters and I left this band in the early Spring of my Senior year. Sunsinger tried to go on, but had a monumentally bad performance at a charity event that was broadcast on radio. This cooked their goose as far as future hiring went and they disintegrated soon afterward. Because I was already working a full time job and was entering graduate school, I decided that my band life was over for the time being. And the "time being" stretched to about thirty years, during which I would pick up my guitar occasionally, but never seriously.

About two years ago, one of the guys from Shiver (Steve) locates me on LinkedIn and we reconnect via email with other members of the band. We decided to do a reunion on the 4 July weekend of 2008 in Bloomington. While waiting for that to happen, we all practiced and I seriously got back into music - seriously enough that I bought DAW software (Sonar - about which I'll talk in another post) and started recording songs that had been kicking around in my head for the past thirty years (and writing a few new ones, as well). Shiver got back together on that 4 July weekend and practiced for three days. We had planned to play at Alan, Lyle, and Steve's 35'th high school reunion which was to be held in June of this year. We practiced again for two and a half days this February in Kalamazoo, Michigan. The high school reunion gig fell through, but we're scheduled to play this coming April in Kalamazoo. So I'm going back to Bloomington this weekend to attend my 35'th high school reunion and to get in another practice session with the guys. We'll practice one more time in October and then for a couple days in Kalamazoo before the April gig. And that's what's happening with that band.

However, during this time, I still had the songs I'd been writing and recording at home. I decided that putting out a solo CD would be a good thing. I worked on the various instrumental and backing vocal parts in my home studio from May of last year through June of this year. I have gone into the studio to track the lead vocals and will shortly be in the studio to do the final mix and mastering. I expect the CD (titled "The Nuclear Family") to be out sometime in September or October.

In order to promote my music, I've joined a local band that plays about once a month, in which I play bass and do some singing. We also do a couple of my songs. Since one gig a month is not really enough for me, I am also planning to form a band that will do my material. I'll keep you all posted.

That's about it from the music side of things. I'll post more later as I have more information on this aspect of my life.

10 August 2009

Let's Start With the Thesis

As promised, I will tell you about what's been happening in my life over the past two or so years in the next few posts. The Master's thesis is almost certainly the most significant, but least useful of these events.

Let's go back to 1980...

I am in grad school at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, working on an MS EE degree. My proposed thesis is on mixed-mode digital/analog simulation and all of the programming is done. All I have to do is to write the thesis. However, in my personal life, all is not well. I am working the equivalent of a forty hour a week job while doing another twenty to thirty hours a week of work on my thesis topic. As a result, my first marriage is breaking up and I want to try to make a fresh start with my wife without the additional hours of my additional work weighing me down. In the industry, the (as it was then called) Computer-Aided Engineering market is booming and people are being hired just out of school with (what seemed to me at the time) princely salaries. I am offered a job with Tektronix in Portland, Oregon, and having fallen in love with the area, I move out there (and still my here) with a promise on my lips to my thesis adviser (Professor Jacob Abraham, now of UT Austin, and still a prince among men) that, of course, I would finish my thesis. A year later, my divorce is final and I have not finished my thesis. This state was to remain unchanged for the next twenty-seven years.

Fast-forward to 2004...

I've made it through the dot-com bust relatively unscathed and the industry is picking up a bit again. I'm getting to the point where I'm thinking of teaching again (I taught EE as an adjunct instructor back in 1983, when folks still thought I was going to be finishing my thesis, and I enjoyed it). However, checking around, I find that the entry level teaching degree, even at a community college is an MS. I start thinking about going back to school. In addition, I am also getting to the point in my life where I'm trying to put behind me some of the regrets I've had in the past. One of the largest was my inability to finish my thesis. To make a long story short, I enroll in the Oregon Graduate Institute of Science and Technology) in the "Adaptive Systems" Program in the CS department and finish my required classes in about a year and a half. In a fit of insanity, I ask the head of the Adaptive Systems Lab (also, in the end, a prince among men) to be my thesis adviser.

It is now sometime in 2005-2006...

Time has not been kind to OGI. Having over-expanded in the dot-com boom, it is now in dire financial straits and is forced into a shotgun wedding with Oregon Health and Sciences University (our state's medical school). From this point on, all research needs to have a biological tie-in. This is not great for me, as I really have little interest in biology. My adviser, having seen the writing on the wall a few months before me, has started working with a team at OHSU investigating the signal processing capabilities in the neurons of the electro-lateral line of the Mormyrid fish. More precisely, he has noticed that perhaps, when one creates the equations that describe the statistical behavior of ensembles of neurons whose learning rules are of a certain form, one might be able to find a closed form solution for the moments of the equilibrium probability distribution of the neural weights. This points an arrow back to some of his earlier work showing that approximate solutions for the equilibrium distribution can be wildly wrong and that alternative formulations such as this one (and more importantly, his prior use of perturbation equations) should be pursued (of course, with the use of copious NSF grants). The main thesis point I prove over a period of about three months in the winter of 2006-2007. The remainder of the year is spent attempting to understand (a) biological neural models, (b) statistics, and (c) why anyone would give a rats ass about this (other than for the copious NSF grants). I eventually figure out (a) and (b), but remain perpetually unenlightened about (c), finally producing a thesis entitled "Exact Moment Dynamics for Spike-Timing-Dependent Plasticity" which is critiqued endlessly by my adviser over the rest of 2007 and beginning of 2008.

By this point, my current wife is getting increasingly cranky about the lack of progress on the whole "graduation" part of this process. I have spent approximately $30,000 on this endeavor so far and must continue to enroll in at least one credit of "Thesis Research" (read ~$600) for each additional term I remain in school. The wife is understandably getting nervous that I will be working on this forever, or until the School of Engineering is shut down (Did I also mention that with every passing term, the headcount and facilities of the School of Engineering is shrinking?) and I am left at the mercy of remaining faculty who understand Biology, but not statistical mechanics. She gives me an ultimatum - finish or quit. Luckily, with a final heartfelt talk with my adviser (Did I mention that he is a prince among men?), we agreed that my thesis *with final minor edits" was fine and we set up a defense for August.

To make a long story short, I defended my thesis in August and got most of the readers' signatures I needed to pass my defense, including that of one professor who left for Massachusetts the day after I presented my defense (I did tell you about the shrinking head count, no?). However, one reader wanted a minor edit so I was not able to get his signature until September 2008 (which required that I pay another $600 for another unit of "Thesis Research") and, in the meantime, the school had changed the format of the form on which one got the signatures for the defense. More worryingly, I needed the signatures of one professor not associated with OGI/OHSU to graduate. One of the professors was associated with Portland State University and OHSU when he agreed to read my thesis. However, a week before I finished my edit/got the signature, this professor was laid off from his PSU appointment and, as such, was only associated with OHSU and no longer qualified as a non-OHSU reader.

This leads to the final, knuckle-biting part of the story, where I submit the thesis with the old defense form, and with the signature of the now non-non-OHSU reader, having been assured by my adviser that, of course, this was alright. It is getting to November and I have still not heard whether or not I had met the qualifications for graduation. I go to the graduate studies office and ask the woman there if there was anything else I needed to do or if anything was missing. She let me know that this was her first time she had done this (Did I mention the loss of head count in the School of Engineering?) and that she did not even plan to look at anything until after the Fall term had ended. Of course, by mid-February, nothing had happened, I still had received no notification and, understandably worried, I inquired again. She said that it shouldn't be more than a couple more weeks. Finally, at the end of March, a "Graduated in December 2008" appeared in my unofficial transcript. They still didn't send me my diploma until June.

So that's how someone who had no interest in Biology or Statistics ends up with an MS Comp Sci focused on Biology and Statistics (two fields in which he still has little interest). Having been a software development manager for the past ten years or so (mainly in the areas of computer security and system management), I was under no illusion that this would help to advance my current career whatsoever. I am also no longer enamored with the notion of teaching. I have met enough academics in this troubled period to understand how insecure their positions really are, how petty is the institutional infighting, how draining is the constant begging for funds and, in most cases, how thankless their work is. I have no desire to attempt to make their lives more difficult by adding to the pool of potential instructors. In the end, I met a few more people who I liked a lot and I closed out some unfinished business that had been hanging around for twenty-some odd years. If there's any grand insight to be gained from this experience I guess this is it: "If you hang about the computer industry for thirty odd years, you get to be good enough in things you're not that interested in to be able to do almost anything."

Not an edifying lesson, but oddly appropriate...

Start of New Blog...

OK, it's been a really looooonnnnng time since I last posted in the original IJ blog. There are probably two questions that readers are asking...

First, why the hiatus?

I was busy. I mean, really busy. In the time since I posted, I have completed my MS CS (thesis here), joined a local band, recorded a solo CD that should be out real soon now, practiced a couple of times with my original college band (we should be playing next April in beautiful Kalamazoo, Michigan) and kept up with a job where I've put out two major product releases and three patches for the product I am development manager for. I have just caught my breath and I feel it's down for the next wave. So I've been busy. I hope I have time to blog now. I'll post more about all of this stuff later. I promise...

Second, why not continue to maintain the blog on my own site?

See point one above. I am moving as much of my life off the website as possible. I no longer want to play sys admin on my own time. To understand how serious I am about this, I'm also moving my family off their Windows boxes and onto Macs as their systems need updating. I'd much rather focus on writing and recording music and working on personal programming projects. I'll probably keep the ftp server going and my email (for now), but maintaining the blog software locally was a pain in the ass I didn't need. Again, more on this stuff later.