South Side of the Sky

Good news: my project for work is going live this week, which means no more working nights and weeks to meet the deadline. I worked basically continually from Thursday morning thru last night. At least it’s a good time of year to be sitting inside in front of the computer. I feel like I’ve made it through the worst of the winter, and the days are getting longer. On the other hand, I’ve been not devoting as much time to music and origami as would have liked this winter, not to mention playing Super Mario Galaxy, and need to make that up. Oh yeah and finishing tiling my 2nd bathroom.

At least I got out on my bike a few times when there was a break in the weather. I find I can tolerate 40 degrees or higher pretty comfortably. And I got my bike fixed up just recently. I originally bought my bike when I moved to California, and Jeannie and I were sharing a car, and my commute was shorter, so I did it on bike. I bought it at Palo Alto Bicycles, which at the time had a little neon sign that said “Google” in the window in the floor above the bike shop, the home of a tiny internet startup. Jeannie and I had a conversation something like this:

I though it was spelled Googol. I wonder what they do.”

“I think they do search or something like that.”

“Sounds interesting, I wonder if I should apply for a job there.”

“Nah, most startups tank. And Alta Vista already owns search.   I’m sure they’ll be gone in a year.   Stick with the job you’re at.”

It was a basic but well made mountain bike (a Trek if you’re curious), that has held up well over the years. No shock on the front, cuz in those days it was a pretty high-end feature. Palo Alto has lots of bike paths and I used to pass over a cute little bridge and by a kind-of farm with donkeys, so it was very pleasant.

So I switched to biking in the evenings after work when it got too dark to skate, and kept it up into November, and here and there in December, January and February. But then I got a flat tire, and not only my tubes but my tires were shot, so into the shop it went. This time it was Pelham Bicycles, with no internet startup on the floor above. They put on new tires, trued the wheels and replaced the brakes and cables. Now it rides as good as new. Of course as soon as I got it back from the shop, I rode it once and it was back to the cold and snow again that very evening. Ah well spring is getting closer. I’m looking forward to taking a few days off to catch up on things, and hopefully getting a day of skiing in before it’s too late, and get a bit of a spring break.

Special Guest Blogger: Lizzy

Today we have a guest contributor to this blog, my daughter Lizzy. She’s been getting into taking pictures and wrote about a few of them. Here you go:

“This is my play-dough heart. On Valentine’s Day Michelle brought pink play-dough from school. I made a heart out of it. Plus we got a lode of candy. Also I saved my brownie.”

“We didn’t have the week off but we had Monday off. But we had a snow day on Friday. On Friday we built a snowman, had a snowball fight and played with our friends on our block. And we also played ice princesses.”


Last Saturday night I had the opportunity to hang out and jam with my friend Erik. It was a good time. I miss playing with other musicians; it’s something I should do more often. I was always playing in one or more bands from 10th grade until Lizzy was born. Hopefully soon the kids will be old enough that I can think about putting together a group or regular jam session again. Meanwhile I practice regularly to keep up my skillz, and I have my recording project and the occasional jam like this to get by on.

Anyway, I mainly played piano and sax while Erik played guitar and piano, and even some drums, and we both sang. We jammed and jammed until we were too tired to play anymore, and then we watched Concert For George to top it off. Here’s a partial list of songs we covered:

Let It Rain (Clapton)
Fire On the Mountain (Grateful Dead)
(some Little Feet song)
Hey Nineteen (Steely and the Dans)
Black Cow (Steely and the Dans)
Home at Last Steely and the Dans)
Oh! Darling (Beatles)
For No One (Beatles)
The Long and Winding Road (Beatles)
Naima (John Coltrane)
Mr. P. C. (John Coltrane)
(drums and sax jam)
Because (Beatles)
You Never Give Me Your Money (Beatles)
I Want You (She’s So Heavy)
Whiter Shade of Pale (Procal Harem)

Ain’t Wastin’ Time No More (Allman Brothers Band)
What Is and Should Never Be (Led and the Zeppelins)
The Rain Song (Led and the Zeppelins)
All Of My Love (Led and the Zeppelins)
All Along the Watchtower (Dylan)
Too Many People (Paul McCartney)
Maybe I’m Amazed (Paul McCartney)
I’m Only Sleeping (Beatles)
Beast of Burden (Rolling Stones)
(some U2 song)
Can’t Find My Way Home (Blind Faith)
Low Spark of High Heeled Boys (Traffic)
Lady Madonna (Beatles)
Waiting Room (Blick original)
Let It Shine (Blick original)

Sour Apple Blues

So around Christmastime I got a new computer, a shiny iMac. I think I’ve mentioned that I haven’t had a new Mac in over 10 years, since back in the says of System 7. But I was seduced by the image of hipsters on white backgrounds poking fun at hapless corporate types, and repulsed by the prospect of running Vista, so there you go. The plan was to make the Mac the new center of my home recording studio. I’ll bet you’re wondering how that’s been going, moving into the new machine and all. Well, let me tell you.

First of all, I’ve been really busy lately, working 60+ hour weeks for a product launch at work, plus a couple trips. So it’s been taking a while. I didn’t really have time to do much over the Holidays other than plug the computer in and tour some of the built-in apps. I don’t even have email on it yet! And then I was in the middle of a song (The Nine) which I wanted to finish before I switched my rig.

But a couple of weeks ago I finally got around to it. I successfully downloaded, authorized and installed PT 7.1 on the Mac. I use an MBox for audio I/O, and the ProTools upgrade was free, and worked just great, and the DigiDesign website was about as painless as you can expect that sort of thing to be. To give it a test drive, I recorded 2-track demo of She Came in Thru the Bathroom Window. Voice and piano, recorded live, which was kinda cool cuz I’d never tried singing and playing at once before; I usually overdub the vocal. I had the Rhodes in one input and the mic in the other, and it worked fine. With the wireless Mac keyboard I can start and stop the music sitting at the piano. Only problem is I have to turn around to see the screen, but for pressing play it’s great.

Now the current version of PT is 7.4, and I have no idea what’s new in last .3 revs. I’m told there’s a lot better MIDI support for things like time stretching. I wonder to what extent I can move files back and forth between my 2 machines now. Also, PT is officially not supported for OS 10.5, but it seems to work just fine.

Next I installed SampleTank, but PT couldn’t see it. I thought maybe it’s because I haven’t loaded any samples yet, or maybe I need to authorize it, I dunno. So then the project veered off to cruising IK Multimedia’s website and getting in touch with their tech support. After a couple weeks of back’n’forth, I learned that my version of SampleTank (LE 2.08) doesn’t work for Intel Macs, although it’s not clear what the issue is. IK want me to pay $300 to upgrade to a new version of SampleTank, and it’s not also clear how compatible it would be — how much work it’d be to import my old songs with the same patches and everything. So getting to the bottom of that and deciding if I want to do the upgrade is a whole research project.

I figured before I went too much further I’d see how the Mac likes my MIDI interface. It’s a MOTU MIDI Express XT, and MOTU’s web site says it’s plug and play for the Mac, and shawnuff I can see it in the list of USB devices. But when I bang on the keys of my synth, PT doesn’t get the events. So now the question is what software do I need to get ProTools to talk to my external MIDI interface? I’m pretty sure there’s no OMS anymore.

I found drivers for the XT for Mac OS on the MOTU web site, so that seem like a good place to start. Then I discovered the Audio and MIDI settings panel in the Mac OS. Unfortunately when I open the midi panel, it said it couldn’t load due to an error. It suggested I uninstall any recent drivers and try again. I did this but got the same error. Debugging this will be a whole nuther research project.

So in light of this I’m now thinking of installing Parallels or VMWare and running my whole music rig in XP, since I know everything works with that and I have all the software, drivers and everything. This kinda make the whole new Mac thing seem like a waste and failure, but I guess I can still cross over in time, once I get the MacOS issues worked out. Still it’s gotten to the point where it’s holding me back from working on new songs, so I just want to get back to making music. So for tonight I’m going back to my old laptop, and maybe I’ll be in XP via BootCamp on my Mac next weekend. At least I’ll be able to look at 24 tracks of faders on the widescreen display.

Caribbean Blue

You might think all I’ve been doing this winter is working extra hours and complaining about the cold. But no! Last week Jeannie and I managed to sneak out for a long weekend getaway to Nassau, in the Bahamas. Four days of lying on the sand, sailing sailboats, swimming in the ocean and pools, eating lots of seafood and drinking fruity rum drinks, and checking out aquariums full of sharks and manta rays and exhibits on pirate history. Aye me hearties!

We stayed at a place called Breezes on Cable Beach, which was very nice. The flights were smooth both ways. It was a much needed break, and our return to the winter is mitigated by a warm spell this week.

Here are a handful of pictures. A full gallery will be put up at some point in the future.